The young Gamilon prince’s footsteps echoed down the empty hall. To his relief, no one else had seen fit to wander this part of the palace. Though, truthfully, he needn’t have worried about being followed. No one ever seemed to be around these days – at least, no one was ever around him, or so it seemed to the blue-skinned fifteen-year old. Only Masterson, his faithful shadow was ever anywhere to be seen. His brother Deun on the other hand, couldn’t seem to get away from the attendants, the tutors, or their father and those cursedly boring meetings.
Deun was being put through extensive training in preparation for the day that he would take the throne and become Leader Deun II of Gamilon.
His father had always favored Deun over him. In the recent years things had begun to get worse. Ever since his mother, Queen Talonka’s death, his father had shunned him. Sometimes it seemed as though his father actually hated him, or perhaps the Leader did not care if his younger son existed at all.
He hung his head and continued plodding along until he came to the end of the far wing of the palace where his parents’ room used to be. After his mother’s death, his father had refused to stay in the old chambers. In fact, he had moved all the way to the opposite side of the palace and into the guest’s suites.
Even after almost five years, Leader Deun I had not gotten over the death of his beloved wife, and he had chosen to take his grief out on his younger son whose only sin had been being born with a partially white left hand, a fluke birthmark just like the one his mother had. Even covering the imperfection had not gotten him back into his father’s good graces.
In reality, he probably should have been shipped off to some far-away planet – perhaps a new colony or something else suitably unassuming where the unwanted royal son could live and die in obscurity without ever revealing his heritage – and especially not his blood right to the throne if anything should ever happen to his brother. Or if something more… sinister were to take place; but that would never happen. Deun was not capable of something like that.
According to the tradition of the royal line of his people, the Leader and his Queen only raised up one heir. This purportedly prevented family in-fighting and united the people around the single heir. His very existence broke with that tradition. He had asked his mother once about why she and his father had kept both he and his brother instead of spiriting him away somewhere... or worse. Queen Talonka had told him that she loved both of her sons and that she would not wrong her own flesh and blood simply to follow a tradition.
Some days the second-born prince wondered what it might have been like if he had been the elder twin. If everything had been different by a matter of minutes, his whole life would have changed completely.
The teenager stopped abruptly as a door, forbidden to him these past several years, filled his field of vision and he stopped in front of it.
Memories swirled in his head like waves crashing over the breakers. Before her death, the Queen had not allowed her sons’ education to be parceled out to private tutors. She had taught them herself, often in this very room, especially in their younger years. Many things were made easier by the fact that the brothers were the same age. There was only one lesson to prepare, and sibling rivalry kept the boys from ever getting too far behind in anything. Throughout his academic career, he had bested his elder brother, not so much to impress anyone as to prove his worth to his father…
Quietness swathed the secluded pocket of the palace in its comforting embrace as he reached out and punched the seven digit sequence he had found hidden in his father’s current chambers, into the control panel inset in the wall beside the long-sealed door.
The hiss of the door opening broke the silent embrace with a surprisingly violent force. The prince took one last look around to make sure he was alone before darting into the musty room and resealing the door behind him.
The former royal chambers looked exactly as they had five years ago. Nothing was out of place. The only difference he could see was that there was a thick layer of dust almost everywhere and the sight almost made him cough.
Why had his father not even allowed the servants to come and air out the room? What secrets lay here that his father wanted to remain buried so badly that he would cut off all memories of the only woman he had ever loved?
He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and read what was written on it for the hundredth time before stepping carefully, and quietly first one step then another until he finally reached an old plant, at least, he thought it was a plant, though how it could still be alive he did not know. He whispered something almost inaudible to the organism and received his answer.
A portion of the plant melted away, revealing a shallow recess within the heart of a very unplant-like machine. In the little pocket, a small device lay waiting, just where his mother’s letter had promised it would be.
He picked up the device and the recess melted closed again. He crossed the grand room and settled onto the bed, stirring up a thick cloud of dust that sent him into a bout of coughing. Following his mother’s instructions, he set the device down in front of him.
He almost fell off of the bed in surprise and shock when an image of his mother sprang forth from the tiny mechanism. The sight was so powerful that he reached out his hand to touch her beautiful face. He almost wept when his hand passed through her and the raw grief from five years ago nearly crushed his heart afresh.
“Desslok, my dear son, I hope you are well and that you have been able to let go of the bitterness that I have no doubt rose in your soul after my death. I have prepared this hologram for you in the event that I am not able to tell you this story in person. I pray that you never have to find it.”
Hearing her voice again after so long overcame his adolescent ego and he failed to staunch the sudden flow of tears – the first he had shed in many years.
“Desslok,” the prince was jerked back to reality at the sound of his name.
“I know your brother Deun is to inherit the throne; it is his right as the firstborn. But I wish to leave you an inheritance of your own – one that even your father does not fully know about.”
Desslok’s forehead wrinkled as he raised his eyebrows, intrigued and strangely comforted by his mother’s posthumous gift.
“The inheritance I leave you is the legacy of my family – the followers of Guardiana, and how I escaped their fate. Much of what I must tell you will not be easy for you to hear, my son, and some of it you will not believe. To tell you this history, I must begin at the beginning… with a prayer that shaped the universe.”