This is a short snippet from the book I'm working on. I'm torn between two titles: 'Luminaire' or 'Crystal Rose.' Decisions...decisions!
Mira heard August’s hooves clatter over the cobbles as he galloped into the courtyard. She rushed out of her room and hurried down the stairs. She opened the front door as Zatao climbed the steps towards her. She waited until he reached her; then clasping his outstretched hand she asked. “Did you find the prophet? What did he tell you?” Her eyes searched his face, he looked tired and worried.
Zatao put an arm round her shoulders and led her into the castle. “In a month we will be at war. But worse than that, we have a spy in our midst!”
Mira’s hand flew to her mouth as she attempted to stifle a gasp. “A spy—”
Zatao said no more as his servant Merton arrived. Removing his gloves and jerkin he handed them to him. “Run me a bath, Merton and leave out a change of fresh clothes.”
“Yes my Lord; and what time should I tell cook to serve the evening meal?”
“Eight o’clock sharp. We will eat in the main dining room.”
“Very well my Lord,” Merton said and hurried away.
Zatao turned to Mira. “Have you seen Aldrin today?”
“No I haven’t. What do you mean there’s a spy here?”
“I can’t say anything at the moment; we will discuss it over dinner. Do me a favour, find Aldrin and tell him his presence is required this evening. As a family we have serious issues to discuss.” As he gazed at Mira’s upturned face, his expression softened. Cupping her chin he kissed her on the forehead. “Did you discover anything in your time of quiet?”
Mira nodded. “You were right when you said, Irene is in danger.” She frowned and twisted her fingers. “However, not only Irene; so are we.” Her eyes widened in fear as she looked up at him.
Zatao pulled her into his arms. As he embraced her he could hear the prophet’s words ringing in his head. If you trust the one who is above all, you will come through unharmed. Holding her by the shoulders he eased her away and stared into her eyes. He could feel her hands trembling as she clutched his wrists. “Don’t be afraid, Mira. If we stick together as a family we will come through this. Now go and find Aldrin. I will see you both at dinner.”
“Don’t say too much over dinner,” Mira advised. “Remember the servants!”
Zatao nodded, “Don’t worry, from now on caution must be the watch word.”
As Mira hurried away, Zatao sighed, his heart felt heavy…sluggish. Squaring his shoulders he took a few deep breaths and gazed around the opulent hall. Ornate hangings adorned the panelled walls. In the middle of the room a large table occupied centre stage, the dark wood enhanced by the thick red carpet covering the floor and the winding staircase. In the centre of the table a sweet smelling floral arrangement perfumed the air.
Zatao studied the large oil painting hanging above the fireplace. His father stood in regal pose, his gloved hand resting on the ornate hilt of his sword. In the trees behind him could be seen the faint image of a stag. Zatao moved closer and stared up at the painting. His father’s strong but kindly face peered down at him.
Zatao sighed and rested a hand on the mantle. “I don’t know what to do father. How do I resolve this situation?” He lowered his voice. “It seems we have a spy in our midst.” His dark eyes narrowed…his blond eyebrows met in an angry frown. He stared up at his father’s face, and felt a strange nudge to turn and look at the family crest hanging above the front door.
Resting against the mantle he studied it. Engraved above the image of a white stallion and a stag were the words, ‘When power and strength are divided; when wisdom stands alone. Then falls the mighty kingdom and the stag will rule the throne.’
Unity, he thought. We must remain united as a family and me personally. As he thought of the stag, power surged within him…his heart raced…adrenalin coursed through his veins. With a low growl he clutched at his chest and stood tall, fighting the ascendency of the stag within him. Gradually his pulse slowed and he regained control. He turned as footsteps approached.
Merton bowed low. “Excuse me, my Lord, I have run your bath.” He could see sweat glistening on Zatao’s top lip and forehead. Not wishing to draw attention to his master’s obvious distress he lowered his eyes and indicated towards the stairs. His voice faltered as he advised the Prince to take his bath while the water was still hot.
Zatao nodded and swept past him. Taking the stairs two at a time he hurried along the passage to his suite.
Merton’s heart sank as he watched him go. It had been a number of years since he’d seen his master in this state. And then it was due to the kidnap of August his master’s stallion. Looking up at the portrait of King Asa, he put his hands together as though in prayer and rested them against his lips. Over the past few hours heaviness hung over the castle like a cloud and it bothered him. His worried sigh echoed around the vast space. “Something is wrong…very wrong!” he muttered to himself.