Arrow docked in Lunza just before sunset and they went ashore just as the first
stars began to twinkle into life in the heavens. Although the smells could
occasionally be said to be similar to those they had experienced in Atlar, they
were definitely not so harsh to the senses, in fact the strongest scent of all
was that of night-blooming jasmine. Oil lamps burnt like little yellow
suns along the stone quay, adding the slight scent of burning oil to the perfume
of night scented plants. Under the nearest of these lamps stood three dark
coaches, each with a pair of patient horses, obviously awaiting their arrival.
The party broke up into three groups and Manator, Kirene and Jarin left the dock
in the first carriage, it's iron rimmed wheels dancing a rhythm across the
cobblestones of the quay. The windows of the carriage were glazed, but it
was hard to see very much out of them other than the wet pavements recently
washed by a fall of rain, yet as they traveled Jarin soon noticed the hypnotic
effect of the street lamps which were uniformly placed along the route and the
town they passed through seemed far more clean and civilized than Atlar had
less than half an hour and perhaps it was only a few minutes, they arrived at
the tallest stone wall Jarin had ever seen and although he craned his neck he
was unable to see where it ended against the starlit sky. A pair of great
gates were set in huge stained timbers fixed into the granite block wall with
bolts whose heads were the size of a man's fist, but they opened almost without
any noise at all to allow the carriages through. Someone, maybe the
gate-keeper, said something to their driver which Jarin missed understanding and
then they were traveling through a park, the road still lit by a uniform row of
street lamps, only now they threw their arcs of yellow light onto the well kept
green carpet of extensive lawns.
journey after the wall took less than twenty minutes for now Jarin was paying
attention to time. When their carriage came to a stop the door was
opened and they were helped out in turn by uniformed servants in front of the
greatest building Kirene or Jarin had ever seen, where more uniformed servants
stood in carefully chosen order holding torches to illuminate their arrival.
The other carriages arrived immediately behind them and put down their
acquaintances from the ship. They alighted on a cobbled pavement before a
wide flight of steps, which they climbed with their way lit by servants carrying
torches before them, until they were ushered into the Palace itself.
course Jarin could not compare it to any memories of other buildings save those
he had seen in Atlar, but it was obvious even to him that this was a palace.
The ceilings were no less than thirty feet high and the craftsmanship was more
than human hands could truly be expected to perform without many years to
perfect such talents. High above them the ceilings curved dome-like to
meet where decorated bosses held the hooks from which great crystal covered
chandeliers were hung. Immense gilt framed mirrors were everywhere and
paintings in similar frames hung on the walls between the mirrors. The
crystal chandeliers were evenly spaced along the entrance hall and the corridors
which led from it and they were crowded with the hardest and therefore most
expensive of candles, for they gave off no smoke at all that Jarin could see.
Beautiful carpets hushed what would have otherwise been the clatter of shoes on
the polished marble floors, whose mirror like hardness ran alongside the carpet
runners. Manator called aside a servant no sooner than they were inside
and bade Jarin and Kirene to follow the man to what were to be their rooms while
they stayed in this place.
we see you again tonight?" Jarin asked, as Manator began to walk away
in the opposite direction with the others, who had only now caught up with them
in the corridor.
will be soon enough, Prince Jarin. Take Kirene and enjoy the benefits of
civilization, eat well and rest my young friend, for from now on you will have
many duties to attend to." Manator waved to them as he resumed
walking, calling back over his shoulder. "From now on you will have
little time to yourselves my friends, so enjoy what time you have while it is
available to you."
did he mean by that?" Said Kirene, as they followed the servant
through what appeared to be miles of marble floored corridors.
have no idea but let's enjoy what time we have as he said and worry about what
he meant by it tomorrow." Jarin replied, wishing desperately that
their guide would walk slower so that he might have more time to examine the
portraits they passed on their journey through the corridors of their first
could have written a book about the luxury they found in their apartments, but
after dining, bathing and loving, he doubted if he could have held the pen to do
so, he was experiencing such exhaustion and contentment.
* * * * * *
The Last Prince of Royal Blood
Prince Jarin, the last of the Royal Blood of the House of Natan and Asiga, he
had been treated like Royalty for the first time in his life from the moment he
had boarded the Arrow and there was no doubt that he thoroughly enjoyed it.
A servant came to wake them the next morning and informed Jarin that after
breakfast he would be summoned to appear for his first meeting with the Council
of Guardians. True to his word another servant did come for him only a few
moments after Jarin had washed and dressed and had enjoyed the finest breakfast
he had ever seen. Jarin had taken it for granted that Kirene would
accompany him, but his guide brought with him two young women to "be with
the Lady Kirene", as he put it and so she was separated from him for the
first time since they had given themselves to each other on the forest floor.
Could it truly be only so few days past, Jarin wondered, as he kissed her softly
on the lips and followed the man from the room.
servant led him a walk of no less than ten minutes through a maze of seemingly
endless corridors before they finally arrived at their destination.
Uniformed retainers then opened the great doors which stood before them and one
of them announced in a loud voice to those inside, "The
Prince Jarin of Natan."
the man stood aside holding the great door open and Jarin entered the Great
Hall. Even as the doors closed behind him he experienced his first attack
of stage fright in his young life, for no less than a hundred faces looked back
at him from tiers of seats in that semi-circular amphitheater. Manator,
understanding what was happening, came to his rescue immediately. Had he
not done so Jarin might have stood there for some time in that daze. The
Guardian General took his arm and led him to a great table with two chairs
behind it facing the crowd. As they got to the table the audience began to
clap their hands. Applause which grew from a quiet patter to a tumultuous
roar that at the end was accompanied by cheering that could have sounded no more
sincere had Jarin just performed a minor miracle. It ended quickly when
Manator raised his hand and then he and Jarin were seated facing the largest
number of people Jarin could ever imagine being with in one room at the same
waited until the last noise had echoed out of hearing before he stood up in
complete silence and faced the assembly. All around the hall stood guards
in the most handsome uniform Jarin had ever seen. Brass faced steel
helmets with plumes of dark blue, carefully tailored dark blue tunics edged in
silver braid and dark blue trousers tucked meticulously into black leather boots
that shone like polished jet. They were, Jarin was to learn later,
dressed in the uniform of the Royal Guard of Natan. They wore swords and
carried pikes, yet on Manator's slight wave they left the chamber in uniform
step with almost no sound and the great oak doors were closed behind them by two
servants who left the room as they performed the act of sealing that great
assembly. Then Manator spoke to those gathered before him in a quiet yet
authoritative tone, "Gentlemen,
fellow Guardians, we are gathered in this hall to witness the real beginning of
the great task we have all worked on for so many years. Prince Jarin knows
a little of the Plan, as do each of you, although you know only that part which
was entrusted to you to develop and organize and almost nothing more. . ."
paused for effect, his elegantly tailored gown and white hair glistening in the
morning light, "Now
you shall know the all of what each of you presently know only a part of.
This day is in itself an auspicious one, for as you all know this is the Day of
Remembrance for the founding of our Order. I will ask Lapetar to explain
to Prince Jarin how the Order of Guardians came into being."
nodded to an old man seated at the very front of the assembly. Lapetar
stood slowly and Jarin realized that he was probably in his eighties, yet his
eyes sparkled with that inquisitive intelligence normally reserved for young
Jarin I bid thee welcome. To describe our Order I must explain that most
people believe that the Order of Guardians is many thousands of years old,
Prince Jarin. . ." Lapetar smiled, ". . .and
we have been known to encourage that belief." That
remark provoked laughter which rang around the chamber, taking away some of the
solemnness that had overawed the young prince until then. "Yet
it was only three hundred years ago that a young peasant boy called Rolon tried
to plow the ground, right here. . ." He pointed at the
floor with a bony finger ". . .and discovered a marble
slab in the middle of the field he was working and the more he plowed the furrow
the more slabs he unearthed, until he had driven his poor old horse more than a
mile northwards. Then he turned to the east and plowed for almost another
mile before the slabs came to an end. Well young Rolon was no fool, even
though it took him time and a days plowing to realize that he had unearthed a
mystery, so to speak. So, like the good young Lunzan he was, he went to
his Prince and told him of this wondrous find."
looked at Manator, received a nod and sat down before he continued. "These
days he might have had to wait a month to get an appointment but in those days
Lunza was the poorest of places and his Prince had been known to work in the
fields along with his subjects when the need arose. So the two of them
went the next day and surveyed what Rolon had discovered. Imagine if you
will two young men and later the whole population of that poor place, poking the
ground with sticks and then diligently spading away more than a square mile of
turf and brushing away the soil to find themselves stood on a huge paved
platform. A while later they found the entrance, a slab of black marble
obvious amongst it's cream colored fellows, which after a few weeks the young
prince summed up the courage to have lifted. A short time after that they
went down into the great archives, which they found housed acres of libraries,
rooms crammed with strange objects and machines that none of them could
describe, let alone operate. To those poor uneducated people the place
that they found they could only compare to a wizard's storehouse. Imagine
my Lord how that discovery must have affected those uneducated men. What
fears they must have felt as they went down the steps into a gloom that was
suddenly and terrifyingly lit with light as bright as day itself, for so it is
and always has been by mechanics we do not even begin to understand. To
cut a long story short, the Prince became the first Guardian and found out how
to operate the staff. . ."
held up his own staff, just like the one Manator always had with him and for the
first time Jarin noticed that every other Guardian present had one also.
for that was the Prince's name, realized that what they had found was too
important to let anyone know about until he had learned more about it himself,
for although young he understood how such a discovery could in fact threaten his
position should others discover and covert what they had found. And so he
set fire to the few ships in the harbor before they could sail and perhaps
spread the news before he was prepared and had his men burn the plague fires on
high ground around the island, so that no foreign ship would put into the port.
That is how it began and as more was learned so the people of Lunza became the
Order of Guardians and today, beneath our Palace, more than nine tenths of the
treasure they found is still not fully understood, yet it has allowed us to
attain a level of civilization and knowledge that have given us peace and
prosperity for all of those three hundred years."
smiled and tapped the desk top in front of him, continuing, "You,
Prince Jarin of Natan, are the first to know what I have explained to you today,
who was not born of the Order of Guardians. It is secret knowledge but I
am informed by our Guardian General Manator that we are well able to trust you
to keep it so Sire."
stood, bowed to Manator, then to Jarin and sat down again to a muttering of
approval from the rest of the Guardians seated around him. Manator
remained in his chair as he nodded to a large man, not much older than Jarin but
who also had white hair. Jarin realized at that moment that the hair color
was not natural, but the art of some hairdresser and for some reason he felt
very relieved at the knowledge.
Manator said without standing and the large man stood, bowed to the Guardian
General and began his turn in helping the education of the Prince of Natan.
Jarin, I, like my fellows, have never had the time to take more than a passing
interest in the affairs of the outside world of Khanlar itself. We spend
all of our time in study, attempting to unravel and understand what we have
found in the vaults beneath us and learning from the great store of knowledge we
guard; therefore when Prince Zorigan of Asiga founded the Brotherhood, we
admired him and we wished him well but little more. He came to us many
times in fact looking for information and for knowledge, but as we do to all, we
refused to take sides or assist in the obvious change he was planning for
Khanlar. We watched your people put up a brave challenge to the dogma of
the Church and we watched your armies try to defend the great civilization you
were attempting to build. I am ashamed to say we merely watched as your
Alliance was beaten into the dust and destroyed. . ."
shifted a little uncomfortably, then continued. "I
and my predecessors before me have had charge of an obscure room at the farthest
edge of the Library and it was some months after the Brotherhood was defeated
that I came upon a small book that had been ignored until that day, probably
because it was not impressive like most of the great books in the archives".
was well bound, but did not seem very important, until I began to translate it.
Then I realized that it might just be the most valuable document any of us have
yet discovered. It is called "The Stages of Evolution in
Civilization" and we were able to learn much from it, in fact you could say
that it has changed the very philosophy of our Order for all time. It
would appear that Khanlar is in a very early stage of this evolution towards
it's potential as a civilization and that the Archives were placed here to be
ready for us when this time came. It explains how Religious Dogma is in
fact the enemy of man's search for knowledge and that such mono-cultural
tradition is always threatened by any advances in science, knowledge or
civilization. A war such has just happened will always be the result of
trying to control this evolution. It also explains why at first the Dogma
and Tradition will always prevail, but it also describes with careful
explanation that during the few decades that follow such an uprising, brought
about by man's basic and undeniable need for more knowledge and freedom, great
leaps towards civilization can be made. Leaps in philosophy and
understanding of the human intellect and intuitive reasoning such as these
periods bring forth in people, can in fact change the very fabric of a culture
that has endured for centuries in a just a matter of months."
lifted a small black volume above his head with his right hand so that everyone
could see it. "I
took this book to the Council as soon as I realized what it was and a dozen of
our most knowledgeable people were put to work with me so that we might learn
investigations proved that this period in Khanlar's development is most probably
going to prove to be one of the most important moments in Khanlar's journey
towards the Future. You will never be able to comprehend the dismay this
fact brought to us all when we first realized the truth we had learned, for we
realized that it was too late for us to do anything to assist the great change
that the Asigan Alliance could have created. We believed that all of those
of the Royal Blood of the Brotherhood had been eliminated and we had already set
ourselves to finding some way to replicate what had happened in Asiga and it's
neighbors when some months later a man came to Lunza and asked for an audience
with the Guardian General." Kayarin bowed slightly to
Manator, before continuing, "As
always we kept him waiting for a few days while we had him observed, but at last
he was seen by one of our people. His story changed everything. He
explained that he and three other survivors of the Army of Natan had rescued you
and taken you to Havor's Holding after the disastrous Battle of Mang. We
investigated what he had told us and found it to be true, but during that period
of time the man had meanwhile died of the coughing sickness, joining his already
deceased comrades. We believe it was his knowledge that he was dying that
prompted him to share his secret with us. It was a secret he could have
shared with no-one else in the circumstances and in it's telling your rescuer
brought to us a new hope. Just knowing that you were alive, a Prince of
the Royal Blood, we were able to take advantage of the situation Fate had
presented us with. It was of course safer to leave you where you were
then, for travel in those early days could well have meant your discovery and of
course this delay gave us time to prepare. In turn it also gave you time
to heal, for when we found you, we also discovered your loss of memory.
Now however, the Guardians have reached the point in their plans where only your
presence can bring everything to fruition."
stand at the gateway of great changes in Khanlar, for we live in a time where
the circumstances of time have created in this Universe every factor necessary
to take a gigantic leap forward in civilization. Prince Jarin, welcome.
We shall soon witness great things!"
the Guardians applauded Kayarin or Prince Jarin or both, they did indeed applaud
as the young Guardian took his seat again.
Manator rose to his feet and adjusted his sash before beginning to speak.
much has changed since Kayarin found his little book my brothers that we have
now without doubt found a purpose which actually has very specific time limits,
something we have not known for many centuries. Always there was a young
mind absorbing from the old, learning and being taught, ready to take on the
task of unfolding the wonders of the archives in our charge. Yet were we
not always secure in that we had no reason to fear anyone and with such an
esoteric and academic charge we had no reason to believe that time was anything
other than the room within which we labored, secure in the knowledge that we
merely provided with our lifetime just another link in the chain that connected
the past and the present with the true understanding of the knowledge we guard,
for use sometime distant in the future. I have worn this golden sash for
twenty four years, therefore I am well placed to confirm the changes in our ways
these last few years. We work with purpose now. There is more
organization now, rather than administration and we can already feel the
exhilaration of our challenge, call it our mission if you will."
lifted a hand and the wall behind Jarin became like a great lamp. Light
poured from it and then color, until at last a huge island appeared on the wall,
as a bird flying over it would see it. Like the product of great
witchcraft the wall was alive. The seas moved showing the currents of it's
power and small lights glowed with differing intensity all over it, some
blue-white, some more yellow in color and others with the solidity of amber.
There were mountains and rivers, forests and cultivated fields, great grass
plains to the west and rocky barren lands in the north east. On an island
off the north eastern coast a small square of red light, unnoticed at first,
came to Jarin immediately, it was a map of Khanlar and the square of red light
was the Guardians Palace on the island of Lunza in which he was now watching
this drama unfold. The other lights were obviously cities, towns, hamlets
and villages, perhaps even holdings, the brilliance of their glow showing the
number of souls living within them.
Jarin watched the map with wonder one Guardian after another rose to speak, his
comments made more effective as the places he talked of began glowing brighter,
the areas he described staying lit while surrounding areas dimmed. Jarin
heard of bands of outlaws made up of ex-soldiers of the Brotherhood who had
recruited homeless peasants and runaway slaves that survived by sabotage and
stealing. As the years had passed the skirmishes and battles these
hopeless remnants of a once proud Alliance were forced to fight in their battle
for survival, had become a way of life that had plunged much of Khanlar into an
economy of anarchy.
heard of the state of Khanlar, town by town, Nation by Nation, industry by
industry. A picture soon began to form in Jarin's mind of the harsh
control directed by the Church, for that great governing body obviously
recognized that it was indeed being threatened and challenged by small bands of
dedicated and most often desperate, men and women. Piece by piece, speaker
by speaker, the situation in Khanlar was explained to Prince Jarin and he began
to feel that perhaps there was a way that he could do something for his people,
his ex-comrades and eventually for all of Khanlar.
his future seemed to have been planned and set into motion by unknown forces,
with him no more than a servant to Fate's commands. However this time he
was more than just a pawn and his contribution might change the future of
everyone involved, willingly or not.
was almost dark before that first great meeting ended and Jarin staggered back
to his rooms. He felt as if he had been out hiking for no less than two
weeks and he understood why it is said that mental exhaustion is far more
damaging than the physical kind and when he rejoined Kirene he was convinced.
A servant served them a dinner of cold meats, fruits and cheeses while he was bathing and they ate before they were able to relax and compare notes on the days events. Jarin's story took no more than half an hour, for he could only explain the highlights of what had happened; Kirene however took nearly two hours to tell him of the beauty and wonders she had seen with her guides. She talked of the Palace and it's gardens as Manator had talked of the Great Market. She described in detail the walks, the strange exotic plants, the beauty and the marvels of engineering and machinery she had had explained to her, but in the end his own exhaustion made him halt her commentary and insist that they retired, before he went to sleep in his chair.
* * * * * * *
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