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p. 07, OCGS- A Crowned King & Other Things


Page # 07

A Crowned King & Other Things

Mihai blushed as she sheepishly bowed, the woman never learning how to take such adoration easily.  Her gold and chrysolite crown glittered with flashes of blinding diamond white, sapphire blue, ruby red, and jade green, radiating the woman’s face so that it appeared to emit its own divine glow.  And the iridescence of the woman’s silken satin gown, with its woven, purple lace and kingly, royal-purple flowing cape gave the impression that one the Cherubs had arrived from the outer-worlds to gather with them.

For the longest time, the crowd, including Ardon, stood transfixed, their breathing of silent excitement being the only sound filling the chambers.  Eventually, with a great deal of effort, they began to queue up to offer welcome to the new king.  As with the others, Ardon found himself shuffling along to get into the long receiving line so that he, too, could offer up his salutations, a decision he was quickly going to regret.

 How he managed to do it Ardon never could quite figure out, but Zadar had wiggled his way past the crowd and was the first to gather Mihai’s attention.  He, unlike his more reserved brethren, swooped down into a graceful bow while grasping the woman’s hand up in his.  Still bowing, he looked up and into Mihai’s eyes, uttered sweet salutations, and then kissed her hand.  Mihai blushed again, thanking Zadar for his tender kindnesses.  Zadar then stood up and advanced his attention upon Mihai’s escort, demonstrating an equal affection for her, setting the precedent for all the others to follow.

It was when Zadar turned his attention away from Mihai that Ardon noticed the woman’s escort.  His face paled as he groaned silently within.  ‘That woman!  Why her?  Why tonight?  What deviltry has delivered her to this doorstep this eve?  And why was she placed as the King’s escort on this important night?’  And worse, he wondered why the fates had placed him in such a dangerous place at this moment.  There was no escape, not so close to the front of the receiving line.  He must suffer and endure whatever indignities were to be heaped upon him, hoping only for indignities.

One after another, Mihai passed along the line, the men courteously following along in Zadar’s stead, the women bending in a curtsy and then tenderly kissing Mihai on the lips.  This was followed by offering the same salutation to Mihai’s escort, one RachelOchranNohah, an acquired name, RachelOchlah, meaning ‘little charming ewe’, being her birth name.  She preferred to be called ‘DarlaUmehahAstrni’ or ‘Darla’, she never offering a reason why.  Few outside the military ranks knew this woman, and the few who did cared little to be in her close company.  For many of them it was most disconcerting to see her here… and with Mihai.  So it was, for many this formal recognition of Darla was little more than protocol.  Still, there were some in the crowd whose love and care for this girl was real and genuine.

night torch- P1290732      After PalaHar’s greeting, Mihai reached out, hugging the man.  Before standing back,  she kissed him tenderly on the lips, saying,  “My Lord PalaHar, it is so good to see you.”  She lowered her voice.  “The world grows dark, my Lord, and I see little light to guide my path.  It is such a pleasure to know that Mother’s torch-bearer is with us tonight.”

     After some small chitchat, PalaHar turned his attention to Darla.  Following his formal welcoming, he leaned forward, kissing her in the way Mihai had done with him.  He then drew Darla close in a hug, whispering quietly in her ear as he did.  “Child, your journey has yet to begin.  The night will become black with evil madness before the sun shall shine upon us again.  You… you, my dear little one, must become the star that leads us through that wicked hour.  Your valor shall prove to become our rallying cry… our deliverance.”

2-041, Darla as a star      To say that Darla was confused would be a great understatement.  She stood back, searching PalaHar’s eyes for answers.  There were none found.  Hesitantly, she thanked him for his kindness, wishing him success in his many endeavors.  Then, releasing his hand, she took Mihai’s, leading her to the next anxious greeter standing in line.

     Ardon waited uneasily, his nervous anticipation growing with each of Mihai’s advancing steps.  Darla, being busy in her attempt to act appropriately as Mihai’s appointed escort, paid little attention to those in line, her being so focused on the moment.  She did not even notice Ardon until she turned to introduce the new King.  Her smile melted away when her eyes finally took recognition of him.  It was quickly replaced by an angry frown and piercing stare filled with malice and hatred.  The room went dead silent.

Ardon froze, he not daring to move or speak, watching Darla’s fingers involuntarily constricting into tortured fists, only to open and then close again.  The hair suddenly went up on the back of his neck, his ears picking up the growing insect-like staccato rising up from deep within the woman’s throat – the last sound heard by so many of her adversaries.

Mihai, fearing the worst should time delay the coming moment, awkwardly stepped forward and in front of Darla, posturing, “My dear Lord Ardon!”

2-042, slightly innocent smile 3c     She faked an innocent smile, the scent of a growing tempest flaring her nostrils.  “My dear Lord Ardon.  How is my Lord doing tonight?  It is such a pleasure to be graced by your company, your wise counsel at this eve’s council being deeply appreciated.”

      “My Lady, I am doing splendidly.”  Ardon stammered, nervously glancing toward Darla, sighing in relief at seeing her forced composure.  “And you… you do look so beautiful this night.  May I offer to you whatever services I have available to me?”

Mihai thanked him, pressing his hands with hers while placing a gentle kiss on his lips, she adding, “The day may well come when I call out to you for them.”

Mihai’s interruption had gathered its magic to the moment and saved Ardon from a dangerous, possibly life-threatening encounter.  Darla had fought down her ‘madness,’ regaining quiet control.

Just how Mihai and certain others tolerated this creature was beyond him.  This was not the first time he had witnessed it nor, he feared, would it be the last.  As Mihai continued on with her pleasantries, his mind flashed back to the day of his return to Palace City just after Mihai’s attempted murder.

There he was, consoling Mother, he leaning over her, they hugging each other, lost in the cries and wails of lament, when little six-year-old Darla entered the room.  In a vicious, blind rage, the girl screeched and lunged forward, tearing and biting at the ‘monster’ attacking her mother.  It took weeks for the wounds to heal and many more for the scars to go away.  It pained him, even now, just recalling that attack.  Although the event was almost six millennia ago, it appeared to Ardon that Darla never forgot, her hatred for him only growing until, again, after the Great War he had been confronted by her, only to be saved that time by Euroaquilo.  No!  The girl was a menace and a danger!  Why Mother put up with her was beyond his understanding, and why she had been invited here – on this night – was even a greater mystery.

2-043, Darla vs. Ardon     Mihai backed away, making room for Darla to step forward and receive her official salutations from Ardon.  She, though, did not move, her icy stare boring into the man.

     For his part, Ardon politely bowed, acknowledging Mihai’s escort.  “My Lady, may all be well with you.”

     Darla remained motionless, glaring at Ardon.  Mihai finally gave Darla a nudge with her arm, whispering, “Mother will be most displeased to see her favorite daughter acting so rudely.  Do your part.  Or is it shame you also want to deliver upon me?”

     Moved by Mihai’s scolding, Darla stepped forward, arms stiff at her sides.  She bowed ever so slightly and in a most formal way replied, “Your Counsel…good evening.”  She turned away, not even looking Ardon in the face, stepped behind and around Mihai and tugged on her elbow to go.

Mihai looked apologetically at Ardon, addressing him as ‘Lord’ and wishing him well.  She then excused herself, following Darla’s direction, and advanced on to the next person.  Soon the room was again filled with the quiet chatter of private conversations while Mihai and her escort continued to receive the long line of well wishers.

2-043b, Ardon's uncomfortable seat      As soon as they had distanced themselves from him, Ardon slipped from the crowd and retraced his steps to the quiet, safe world of his perch.  From there he pondered the life and history of this madwoman who was so bent on his destruction.  Ma-we had shared it with him, oft repeating it through the years, but still he was more troubled by the way she fussed over the girl than for the reasons why.

     He had heard it all, and not just from Mother.  Unlike the other children, Darla had no pleasant memories to cling to.  Her world was torn apart while she was but a babe, when Ma-we permitted the child to nurse at Mihai’s breasts while she convalesced after Asotos’ attack.  Mother found it so therapeutic for her daughter that later, after Zadar was born, she offered the job of wet-nursing him to Mihai also.  For three years, until the age of six, Mihai acted as mother and nursemaid to little Darla.  All the while, the child’s increasing nightmares and panic-filled fainting spells were largely ignored, Ma-we believing the girl had suffered a great emotional shock because she had been nursing Darla when Asotos attacked Mihai, she falling 2-044, Ma-we collapses with baby Darla2 to the floor, Darla crashing headlong into it after being dropped by her.  Ma-we had repaired the physical damage and believed the child would eventually outgrow the emotional trauma.

      Indeed, it may well have been Ardon’s entry onto the scene that saved Darla from going hopelessly insane.  Much to Ma-we’s dismay, when she discovered the demons growing in the girl’s mind, it was too late to cure her.  But at least they could be suppressed –for a while, anyway – until a cure might be found.  Yes, Darla had been thrown onto the altar of fire and blood from the dawn of her memories.  Violence and terror were her earliest companions.  Only long after her gaining adulthood had others come to truly fathom the evil buried within her mind…fathom, but not understand.

So why did Mother allow her most dangerous child the freedom she did?  Ardon puzzled.  True, the child needed love and attention, something Ma-we and Mihai always showered on her.  She drew so close to Mihai that the girl refused to leave her bed until the growing sensual emotions that were waking within her forced Mother to make other arrangements for her.  It was understandable that she acted in such a way.  She had no companions who willingly shared their lives with her.

Ardon remembered well, he living at the Palace for many years after his return.  Oh yes, there were still the parties and gatherings, fewer and less attended, but visitors there were aplenty.  Zadar was always the center of attention while Darla would often stand silently in the corner or slink off into the shadows to seek solace with imaginary friends.  Euroaquilo’s willingness to take Darla under his wing and provide loving companionship not only eased the girl’s heart, but also introduced her to the realities of war.  Here, Ardon believed, was where Darla’s madness worked to her advantage, and he wished she would remain there until her cure was accomplished.

Ardon did not hate Darla.  He was ridden with a deep inner sadness concerning her.  Still, one was to consider the welfare of the people over one person no matter the cost to that being.  At least that was how Ardon viewed matters.

2-045, Zadar protects Darla 5      And then there was Zadar, the youngest of all the children.  Darla loved him from the start, acting as much his protector as she did for Ma-we.  And Zadar?  As he grew in stature and manhood, his devotion deepened for his sister to the point of what some came to view as worship of his older sister.  To this day it was wisdom to not criticize her while in Zadar’s presence.

    And the things Mother allowed Darla and her other children to get away with bothered Ardon so.  The last time he was almost attacked by Darla, the last time she had spoken to him, some forty years before, the woman had been in a drunken stupor.  At least tonight he had smelled none of the strong drink on her like he had Planetee.

Why Mother put so much trust in Planetee he did not know.  True, she was an Ancient, but there were limits and responsibilities.  More than once he had witnessed that woman crawling up the Palace steps, reeking with the stink of strong wine and vomit.  Never once had Mother turned her away, much to Ardon’s disgust.  Planetee was one of Mihai’s closest councilors and confederates in war.  He feared so often for Mihai’s well-being because of her.  Still, Planetee was a force to be reckoned with, and he felt he was not up to that task.  He turned his attention back to Darla.

It was true that Darla lived in a world of satanic madness and pain that was not of her making.  And it was true that Ardon’s unkempt appearance and long, disheveled hair caused some of Darla’s actions.  Still, the woman should be watched more closely, especially in a gathering like this.  Who knew if the serious matters discussed this night might not bring out the monster in her anew?  He must remain alert to the possibility. He must act as the peoples’ protector if no one else would.

At that moment a fellow councilor called to him.  He stood, smiling, and extending a hand, sauntered over to the man.

 *    *    *

And the book continues with more in Of Councils Great and Small between the pages of

The Chronicles of Heaven’s War: Book 1- Sisters of the Bloodwind

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Also enjoy pages:

Section One- Destiny’s Road, p. 02, 03, 04

Section Two- Of Councils Great and Small, p. 06, 07, 08

Section Three- Legend’s Heroes, p. 10, 11, 12

Section Four- The Forges of Hell, p. 14, 15, 16

Section Five- The Silent Tombs,

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 Prologue,

Destiny’s Road 1-0011-0021-0031-004, 1-0051-0061-0071-0081-009,

1-0211-022, 1-0231-024 & 1-025

Of Councils Great and Small 2-0262-0272-0282-0292-0302-031,

2-0322-0332-0342-0352-0362-0372-0382-0392-0402-0412-042,

2-0432-0442-0452-0462-0472-0482-049 & 2-050

Legend’s Heroes 3-0513-0523-0533-0543-0553-0563-0573-058,

3-0593-0603-0613-0623-0633-0643-0653-0663-0673-0683-069,

3-0703-0713-0723-0733-074 & 3-075

Forges of Hell 4-0764-0774-0784-0794-0804-0814-0824-0834-084,

4-0854-0864-0874-0884-0894-0904-0914-0924-0934-0944-095,

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