Prologue

Original Written Work
Characters: Tenotaka, Shayari, Rannon, Islinn, Rylerion
Summary: On this dark night, no life must be brought into the world. Yet an old king struggles with the choice to set tradition aside out of love for his son.
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A cool wind, with a taste of snow, whispered across the beaches of the small island, a reminder of the winter that still held the land in its clutches. Between narrow towers it soared, through an ancient city cloaked in twilight. Despite the approaching dusk, only a few specks of light could be seen inside the slender buildings; the wind might as well have whispered through a ghost city void of life.

This night no lights burned in Kayalana; no living creature wanted to draw the attention of the powers that be upon their home; none wanted to tempt fate on this night when no gods were watching, when time stood still

Through the muted gloom, there was still a sound to be heard in the waking city. The cry of a woman cut through the silence, drowned the quiet moaning of the wind.

From a window high above the city glared a defiant light; what good was concealing darkness when wails of such anguish echoed from the chamber within? If dark powers searched a sacrifice they needed only follow the sound of the woman’s screams. Better, then, to meet them in brightest light, than skulk pitifully in darkness.

In a magnificently decorated room, close to the illuminated chamber, three men waited in the soft light of a single candle. It barely lit their faces and surroundings, but millennia of tradition were not easily defied, even on a night like this. In the shadows they waited, silent, each apparently lost in his own thoughts. Every time a groan was heard from the chamber beyond, their eyes flickered towards the door, and every time it remained closed their eyes moved on, grazing each other only to hastily look away.

The tallest man, neither oldest nor youngest of them, seemed to suffer the most, from the screams as well as the ominous silence in between. Whenever the anxiety in him grew too strong he would rise and pace impatiently back and forth, like a predator in a cage, only to then sink hopelessly back into his place, his head leaned into his hands. None of the three spoke, but they all knew this waiting would have been long over, had this been any other night.

But this was no ordinary night ruling over the capital of the ancient kingdom, the crown of the waters; it was New Year’s Eve, the night standing between the old year and the new, a night outside time and beyond the care of the gods. A night like this the spirits of the dead came to judge those of the living, and Fate walked the earth to mark her own.

***

The stars wandered slowly as the night passed, two-colored moonlight washing the waves far beneath the tower with its blazing window. The tormented moans grew weaker and more feeble, until even the hissing breath of the wind seemed stronger.

Still the three men waited in the room next door, with silence wrapped as a thick shawl over lips and ears. The most agitated of them seemed to have lost his strength as his wife’s sobs subsided. No longer he stalked the room, but sat quiet, his forehead leaning against clasped hands, as if in prayer or deep meditation. By his side the youngest man sat, his piercing gaze fixed on their father, as if with his burning stare alone challenging the old man to speak.

The dark night seemed endless. But despite the long time that passed, dawn was still not close enough. Long before its lavender light touched the horizon the woman in the room beyond fell silent. In a race against time, no mortal could hope to win.

“You can end this, Sati-rama.”

For the past hours the youngest man’s stare had never left his father’s face, and now he spoke for the first time the words his eyes had all along expressed. The old man didn’t move, seemed not to have heard. Silence unfolded again, heavy and choking, seemingly unbreakable. Then, slowly, the grizzled man looked up, looked at the broken, still shape of his oldest son.

“If you don’t act now, they will both be lost.”

The younger brother voiced what they all thought, gave it the merciless firm shape of the spoken word. His eyes still fixed on the face of his tormented son, the old man distorted his face in indecision.

Father.

As if this one, harshly uttered word was more persuasive than any of the previous, the old man finally turned his head to meet the younger man’s eyes. Soundless words seemed exchanged, that ceaseless conflict compressed to fill only the second the eye contact lasted. Then the old man straightened, indisputable authority in every gesture. With a single nod he gave his consent.

***

The soft light of dawn filtered between the spires and towers, delivered the city from the cold grip of the long night. Shayari, crown prince of Kayalana, held the hand of his exhausted wife. Still it was warm and alive, still her heartbeat pulsed through it. They had been in time, and both his beautiful wife and newborn heir were whole.

Behind him his father and brother stood silent, thinking the words none of them had yet spoken; a child born this night must not live. It was the law, the code, unbroken tradition. It was a challenge flung into the face of fate to bring life into the world on this abysmal night, an invitation to certain grief.

Such a child must not live. But with a single nod of his head the old King had allowed the law set aside for the sake of this child. Out of love for his son, he had been merciful, that both child and mother might live, and already he brooded on what his arrogant decision would bring about.

The young woman squeezed her husband’s hand hard, and she wept. For her newborn, beautiful son had opened his eyes to behold the world into which he had been born.

And they were black.

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