The king now heard another noise, something closer, louder and in the room! His hand unconsciously reached for the cord to his bell. He searched in the darkness. Where was it? Where had it gone? Where had it been? Within a split second, his hand had touched something else: something warmer than the still air and with solid form.
He gasped, trying to scream but no words could escape his throat. It seemed an eternity of wondering…waiting. Yet slowly there was a light: dim at first but growing steadily from the darkness itself. A form slowly grew out of the light. It was that of a man, nothing more, yet terrifying, nonetheless.
How had he gotten past the guards? Who was he? What did he want? Again the king struggled to speak, but it was to no avail. As the form grew denser, it placed a finger to its lips to show its desire for silence. The king ceased his efforts to speak, for it seemed he no longer could recall how to do so. The form walked about the room, his feet causing faint echoes to multiply in the king’s head. The king seemed now almost completely incapacitated by this. He placed his hands over his ears and closed his eyes.
Suddenly able to speak the king boomed, “What do you want from me?” into the stillness that was everywhere but within him. “Why are you here?” he continued.
His words caused the figure to look up towards him smiling. His teeth glowed behind transparent lips! “You have come seeking contentment as all men do, but you do not yet know how to find it or how to keep it,” the figure said, lips unmoving.
The king shuttered for it could not be.
The figure went on to say, “Why great king did you not listen to me? I offered you the world, but you would not follow my orders and for what? The Myth lives even if you deny it.”
The king then came to himself; a ghost without a body cannot harm you. “But my son,” he retorted, “he is dead.”
“Ah, but the Myth lives!” the figure boasted.
“Impossible!” replied the king incredulously.
“The future is never absolute. By telling you that which is not certain I was taking a risk. Your actions have changed the course of history for Arden,” the figure explained.
“What do you mean? How can a man do that?” the king asked, now looking around for his robe. “Only what was meant to be has transpired.”
The form, still smiling, laughed under his breath. “Of course, you are of a small mind. Be content to know that another has been chosen to rule at the time of your death,” it said.
“Who?” the king exclaimed.
“Who controls the waves that roll to shore? What use is a fire that burns no more? Where are the flowers before they grow, and when the sun sets where does it go?” the figure replied.
The king stared, baffled. Next, he spoke, “You may think you are clever, but I know where the Sisters are! They…”
“Will be dead by morning?” the spirit interjected. “Not likely. Remember all those preparations you entrusted with your advisor Ramoth? Well, it’s not his fault, but what if something, or dare I say, someone, was overlooked? Perhaps one, just one child was accidentally misplaced? Who knows?”
“You are trying to confuse me, but I will not allow it! Ramoth will vouch for himself when I have the time for it, but for now, I must be on my way. Even six dead Sisters is better than all living. Even if one of them is destroyed, the myth will be no more! I am not as afraid of you as you may think. I am the most powerful man alive. And you? You are some transparent fool. Tomorrow at the sun’s rise I shall go to the fortress in the Venom Mountains. I will go to Faverly and destroy them all!”
“Go right ahead. Perhaps that is what I desire,” the figure said.
“Lies, all lies to distract me from my course!” the king insisted. “Begone! You cannot stop me! My holy men shall rid you from this castle tomorrow! No, this very night!”
With that, the king clumsily pulled the cord next to his bed. Before long a small fleet of servants were in the room trying to make sense of the king’s ramblings. The king was soon out of bed, arms flailing. He demanded to see his wife, who soon appeared of her own accord to comfort him. The whole castle was awakened within a matter of an hour as all were needed in the preparations.
The servants ran from this place to that, except for Ramoth himself, who sat behind the meek desk set in the corner of his chamber. His eyes were beginning to blur the words that he could see only by candlelight. In one hand was a response from Cavner, a mining country, confirming the authenticity of some jewels delivered to the castle. In his other was a ring: silver washed in gold.
He turned his attention from the page to the ring, which he rolled between his large fingers making it seem small by comparison. The candlelight reflected off of the tiny filigree wrapped around the band. It was intended, along with a few other small, jeweled pieces, for the wife he never had. His remorse in never spending time apart from his job to find one weighed heavily on him. Yet as before, the ring was soon back in the bottom drawer of his desk as he pulled out the clean sheet of parchment that was needed to send a reply to the country of Cavner.
He started the letter, read over what he had written and then groaned at the site of it. He seemed unable to think clearly and seeing as this letter had sat unanswered for the last few weeks, he decided to leave the task till morning. He began to prepare for sleep, removing his robes slowly and taking care to place each so that it would not wrinkle.
Before he could finish, a light knock presented itself at the door. Again he groaned as he clumsily returned the articles he had just removed to his shoulders and walked to the door. It was Kayla, the queen.
“Ramoth, the king has gone mad! He speaks rubbish of going to find his sisters and destroy them,” she said as she rushed into the room.
“His sisters? You mean the Sisters of Faverly?” Ramoth asked.
“Perhaps that is what he meant,” Kayla replied. She seemed distracted by his state of undress.
“Then I must go! I must stop him!” Ramoth said as he turned from her to hasten to the king’s chambers. The slightest whimper from the queen’s lips was all that was needed to draw him back to her. He froze in his tracks, turning towards her now to see she was holding back tears. “Is something the matter?” he asked tenderly. Slowly he walked back to her and took her hand in his.
She looked pleadingly into his eyes and said, “Please don’t go, Ramoth. The king is in such a rush; He asks for only his army. Let him go.”
“You expect me to stay when he plans on killing seven innocent girls?” Ramoth asked in surprise.
“I knew you would not be pleased with the idea, but I did not tell you his plans so that you could chase him down!” Kayla scoffed.
“But why then?” Ramoth asked.
“Ramoth, this is our only chance!” Kayla said as she took his hands into her own. “If the king does leave tonight then we have the perfect opportunity to run away together. We can say we are going with him when in reality we are running as far away as we can.”
“But Kayla, you speak nonsense! We would surely be caught. Besides, you cannot expect me to throw away the last years I’ve spent saving them, only to let them go now!” Ramoth said as he motioned to go.
“Oh, you fool,” Kayla lamented. “It has been so many years that have now elapsed since you rode off with those infants to Faverly. Why make the time any greater? Simply think on it. What are sixteen years in the breath of your life? Why sacrifice all the years of happiness we could have to make the last worth it?”
Ramoth looked at her tenderly and said, “What joy could I have knowing those girls died because of my selfishness? I was there for all those early years. I watched them grow and learn. If only you could appreciate that! It was the king that kept us apart. He sent me a dozen different places to keep me from returning all these years just so that we could not be together.”
“Those little dogs are lucky to have been spared the famine in their fortress all these years and to have lived as well as they have lacking noble blood. Let them die,” Kayla said as she turned away from Ramoth.
“Kayla, what has come over you? Why do you hate them so?” Ramoth asked, his large hands leading her back to him.
“It should have been them years ago! Not my little boy, but my husband…” She trailed off for a moment, her eyes searching the floor. “Do you not see all I have given for nothing? My son is dead, and my husband no longer even wishes to look at me. How then can I now lose you too?”
She broke into tears then, falling to the ground at the thought of her only child taken for no reason. Ramoth lifted her and carried her to the bed so she could rest on its edge. He sat next to her, his arm around her. Her tears slowed after a few minutes, and she again looked at him.
“Kayla, it was just a senseless accident. Forget about it,” Ramoth tried to assure her.
“Forget?” the queen asked. “It has been so long since you left for Faverly, gone for years trying to make their lives better while I remained, wandering the halls thinking of our love while my husband remains estranged to me. And yet it seems as if no time has passed between us at all. Why can we not have a second chance together?” She searched his eyes, hoping for a response.
“Hush my dear and think not of such things,” was Ramoth’s reply.
“Why not?” she implored, looking deep into his eyes.
“You know why. The king would have my head for it! Once I was foolish and young. Forgive me for that. Now come, I must go to him and convince him to stay,” Ramoth said as he again went to leave.
“Have my words no sway? Stay with me! I need you!” she begged, wrapping herself around his arm so he could not leave.
Ramoth turned back and looked into Kayla’s eyes. He whispered to her, “And they need me. The seven of them do weigh out just us two.”
“And what if you go and cannot change his mind?” Kayla pled.
Ramoth shrugged and said, “Then I must go with him and try to sway him there.”
Kayla looked away and lamented, “Then, either way, we cannot be together?”
“Kayla, either way, you belong to another,” Ramoth said as he removed her arms from his.
“That is not how you felt before,” Kayla called after him as he left.
“Silence. Be away from here, as I must be away,” Ramoth said as he hurried to the king’s private chamber.”