“Sir?” Masterson looked over at Desslok in confusion as the prince waved a hand in front of the hologram, signaling it to stop.
The image of Talonka nodded in recognition of his command.
“I just can’t do this right now, Talan.” The prince said. “I have to figure a few things out before I finish this.”
“I see.” Masterson said. “Does this have anything to do with your hesitation earlier?”
The prince looked away, but nodded reluctantly. “It is not my mother whom I doubt. I know she would not lie to me. It is myself whom I hold in question…”
“No wonder he’s acting so strangely.” Masterson thought.
“How do I know I’ll do what she intended for me to do with this information? Will I even understand it the way it was intended to be understood?” Desslok let his head come to rest in his hands. Then, he laughed quietly. “How do I even begin to process all of this…?”
“The way you always have, my friend; one piece at a time.” Masterson said.
“One piece at a time…” Desslok echoed, then sat silently for a moment before declaring, “Well then, let’s go and get one of those pieces, shall we.” The prince abruptly stood up and walked purposefully out the door, a look of determination reignited in his eyes. Masterson tagged along close behind, not sure where the prince was going, but sure that it would be interesting.
Masterson was not disappointed. The teenagers wove their way through the halls and passageways of the palace, working their way downward through the many levels that separated them from Desslok’s goal. They arrived at the door of the secure cell block below the ground floor of the palace.
“What better place to keep your enemies than under your feet?” one of the early rulers had said.
Upon seeing the prince, the attending guards saluted and backed away from the door, allowing him full access to everything.
Desslok motioned to one of the guards to let him go into the cell block. The guard quickly obeyed, and Desslok and Masterson were soon walking down a narrow hall between two rows of well-lit cells, each one housing only one prisoner. There were so many captives here – some had been in residence since before the Queen’s death five years ago.
Masterson continued to follow the prince, watching the prisoners carefully. The admiral’s son nearly ran into the prince when Desslok suddenly stopped and turned to peer into one of the cells. Then the prince turned and summoned one of the guards to let him into this particular cell.
“Sir.” Masterson protested.
Desslok held up a silencing hand, and the look on his face told Masterson to say no more.
Masterson nodded his capitulation but slipped into the cell behind the prince when the guard had opened the row of bars and the force field that kept the prisoners doubly encased.
After motioning the guard to leave, Desslok turned and stared into the far left corner of the cell, letting his gaze burn into the face of the man that sat on the cell’s single chair. It was the amulet-wielding Guardiana follower.
“How did you get in?” the prince’s question was subtly infused with venom.
The prisoner, without looking up, laughed. “You of all people should know, highness.” The zealot smirked. “Did they send you here to ‘find out’ what traitor let us in?” he laughed again. “They are fools – the lot of them.” The prisoner stood. He was tall. His light blue skin seemed to glow with a fervent radiance as his eyes began to smolder. “Now, give us what you promised.”
Masterson looked first at the Guardiana follower, then at Desslok, confused.
“I promised you nothing.” Desslok spat.
“Give us what is ours!” the zealot yelled, flying at the prince and pinning him to the wall by his neck.
Masterson exploded into action, drawing the concealed weapon he had started carrying a couple of years ago, just for such cases. But as the admiral’s son raised the barrel of the gun towards the prisoner, he saw that the prince had beaten him on the draw.
Desslok had a knife pressed up against the zealot, ready to slip between his ribs and into his unprotected heart.
“Do that,” the prince croaked, an annoying smile spreading across his face, “and I take you with me.” To enunciate his point, Desslok pushed the tip of the blade into the prisoner’s flesh, just enough to leave a tiny patch of red on the zealot’s shirt. “And if I fail to kill you,” Desslok continued menacingly, “he won’t.”
The prisoner looked up to see Masterson’s weapon pointed at his head.
The man grunted, releasing his hold on Desslok and stepping away.
The prince rubbed his offended throat while looking disdainfully at the zealot. “Now. Let’s get this straight, shall we.” He glared at the prisoner. “I. Owe. You. Nothing.” He enunciated each word, still holding that awful grin.
“You are a liar then.” The Guardiana follower growled. “What’s to stop me from revealing your secret?”
The prince chuckled. “You seem to have forgotten something.”
The prisoner glowered.
“You are in my prison.” The prince said, “And in my prison, I make the rules.”
The zealot uttered a few unrepeatable labels at Desslok.
“What did you expect anyway?” the prince continued, ignoring the prisoner’s foul language. “I am no pawn of yours.”
“That is not what you said last time we met, prince.” The zealot spat out the title mockingly.
“Last time we met I was not the same person I am now.” Desslok said cryptically.
“You are still the crown-prince, Deun the second, son of Deun, son of the great ruler Desslok, the second of his name.” the Guardiana follower’s words rolled off of his tongue, more elegantly than either Desslok or Masterson would have guessed.
Masterson hid his surprise at the prisoner’s revelation and continued to play along with the misconception.
“What if I am?” Desslok shrugged, giving no indication that anything was at all amiss. “I am still entitled to change my mind, am I not?”
“No!” the zealot suddenly bellowed. “You are not! You made a bargain, prince! Fulfill it!”
“Yeshin!” Desslok thundered, startling the prisoner. “That is your name if my… sources are not mistaken.” He let the last bit fall threateningly, allowing the zealot to draw his own conclusions as to what “sources” the prince was referring to.
“My name is of little value.” Yeshin replied bitterly.
“Now, what was I supposed to do for you again?” the prince baited.
“You are a petty child who does not understand anything!” Yeshin rumbled. “I will tell you nothing more, no matter what you do to me!”
Desslok feigned indifference. “Very well.” He turned to Masterson, “Come.”
The prince and his friend walked back to the cell door, summoned a very frightened looking guard to lock the door, and left the cell block.
“That mesaperet shakarim!” Desslok exploded once he and Masterson had returned to the prince’s quarters. “He was the one! My own brother?!”
Masterson said nothing, knowing better than to try to step in on this particular storm.
“My father must know about this.” The prince seethed. “All of our lives are now in greater danger than they ever were before.” He turned to Masterson. “I must see my father.”
“But he will not see you, sir. Even the guards have orders not to admit you.”
“Then I will make him see me.” Desslok countered. “There is always a way to do what must be done.”
“Very well, sir.” Masterson nodded.
Getting in to see the Leader was not as simple as it sounded. There were official channels to be bypassed and guards to get around. Thankfully, the Leader did not spend all of his time in places that warranted the presence of more than a few guards.
At this hour, the Leader was in his own quarters – the same ones that Desslok had managed to break into and rifle through several months ago to find that combination. However, even with the circumvention of the security, getting inside was not their biggest problem; staying inside would be.
Desslok and Masterson waited quietly around the corner from the Leader’s suite, waiting for the right moment to set their plan in motion.
“What?” the prince whispered, trying not to draw the attention of the guards stationed at his father’s door.
“Once we’re inside, how will we keep him from throwing us out again?”
“Leave that to me.” The prince replied.
There was a moment of silence before Masterson broke it again.
“What?!” the prince asked, a bit more irritated this time.
“When did you know he thought you were your brother?”
Desslok was silent for a moment, thinking back to the incident in the cell before saying, “When he heard my voice and didn’t look up.” The prince, still looking away from Masterson, let his head drop just a little in a sign of hot displeasure. “No prisoner I’ve ever seen intentionally ignores his visitors – however unpleasant they may be. The curiosity is too much. The only reason he would have had not to look at me was because he thought he already knew who I was.” Desslok turned his fiery gaze towards his friend. “Obviously my brother forgot to tell his new compatriots a few key facts about himself.”
The prince abruptly turned and stuck his head around the corner.
“Come.” He said to Masterson. “They’ve gone. The next watch will be here soon; we must hurry.”
The two teenagers flew down the hall, making it to the door within a few seconds. Fifteen seconds later the prince had the door open and he and Masterson disappeared inside. The door shut behind them a few seconds before the new guards turned the corner and took their posts on either side of the entryway to their ruler’s chambers.
“This is beginning to remind me of that history of yours.” Masterson whispered.
“But thankfully we are not walking into a shêd’s lair.” The prince replied quietly.
The two were silent as they navigated through the ridiculously luxurious set of rooms that Leader Deun had claimed for himself. The floor itself shone like gold and there were thick green curtains hanging from the occasional windows. The organically shaped furniture seemed to flow into the walls and floor, creating the perception of unity and harmony – far from the true state of things. There was even what appeared to be an indoor garden area, complete with a colossal fountain, also encrusted with gold, which could be used for bathing purposes.
As the pair continued to travel through the small wing they noticed more aspects of the architecture. The larger rooms’ high ceilings arched upwards, coming to one elegant point in the center of the residence.
Without warning the prince ducked into a small nondescript, dark room, unceremoniously dragging Masterson with him.
As they stood silently, Masterson began to hear the whirring of a maintenance bot. It remained in the area only long enough to carry out whatever programming had sent it here in the first place. Then it disappeared again to wander around looking for something else to do. Once the droid was gone the two continued on their way.
It was not two minutes later that the two came upon the Leader. He looked uncharacteristically relaxed seated on a comfortable couch, drinking something purple that was probably highly alcoholic; however, the moment was soon broken.
“We have a traitor in our midst, father.” Desslok stepped forward as he said it.
The Leader whirled towards the voice, “Deun, I didn’t –” he stopped short when he saw the glove. “You.” He looked away from his younger son. “Get out of my sight.” The Leader turned his back on the young man.
“This cannot be ignored!” the prince insisted.
Silence enveloped the room as the Leader fastidiously ignored his son while still holding his drink absently in one hand.
“Go ahead.” Desslok sneered, “Turn your back on me now as you always have in the past… but know that in doing so you condemn yourself to death.”
The prince’s words seemed to strike something deep within the Leader, but despite that, he still did not turn around.
“Deun is a liar.” Desslok said, letting his voice drop about fifty degrees in temperature.
“He is the one who told them how to get in.” the prince continued coldly, knowing that his father knew exactly who he was referring to.
The Leader merely walked to one of the windows set in the opposite wall.
“He will kill you.” Desslok stated. “He will kill us all.”
“You,” said the Leader, “are a fool. Your brother is infinitely loyal to me. Whatever he has done, I know it is for the good of the empire.”
The prince felt like throwing something or letting loose a few choice words. Instead, he exercised what little self-control he had left and did neither, at least not right away.
He clenched his teeth, trying to stay silent. But he failed.
“Die then.” Desslok spat. “When he kills you, remember what I’ve said, father. Remember, and weep as the shêdim consume your mind and bend your will to their own before they slaughter you like a poor, dumb beast.”
“Well, that was certainly an effective means of getting us expelled from your father’s presence.” Masterson said as they stepped through the door into the prince’s residence. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen guards appear that quickly before.”
“He deserved every word of it.” Desslok stated flatly.
“Perhaps.” Masterson admitted, “But he is still your father, and your ruler.”
“And he is unfit to be either!” Desslok countered.
“Adonai chose him, sir. Fit or unfit, he is still anointed. Even King Shauwl, with all his failings was still looked upon by his successor as the chosen king until the time appointed by Adonai.” Masterson gently reminded.
“You spout the Torah to me, yet you are a follower of Yeshua.” The prince shook his head, albeit less anxiously now.
“Mashiach came to fulfill the Torah, not to destroy it.”
“And that is why you hold it is such high esteem, yes, I know.” The prince said, knowing where Masterson was going with this train of thought.
“The Torah shows us our failings. It shows us that we cannot make our own way to God – that we cannot earn eternal life because we ourselves are imperfect.”
The prince just looked at Masterson, the way he had many times before just prior to telling his friend to keep his religion to himself. This time was no exception.
“I’ve had enough of your Faith for one day, Talan.” The sharp reply came.
The rebuke clearly saddened the admiral’s son, but he did not protest. Instead he nodded and said, “Very well. I shall return tomorrow then,” and left the prince’s quarters.
Desslok sighed and shook his head as the door closed behind Masterson. It had always been a point of contention between them. Masterson always wanted to talk about his religion. The prince preferred reality. The trouble came when Talan insisted that his Faith was reality. Desslok could only stomach so much of that at a time. He was doing quite well to have digested this much of his mother’s history without a respite. Thankfully not every other sentence was about her Mashiach.
The prince walked over to the couch that he and Masterson had vacated earlier and sat down on one side of it again, signaling the hologram to continue from where it had left off.
The image of his mother appeared again, leaving the bitter taste of memory in his mind once again. This time however, the prince was taken aback by the words that came from Talonka.
“Whatever he has said to you, it was most likely warranted.” she said.
The prince stared at her, dumbfounded. How did she always know? Even now that she was dead she knew.
“Go.” His mother commanded, “He is now just as much a part of this as you are. I will not continue unless he is here as well.”
Suitably rebuked the prince left his quarters to fetch Masterson.
“I thought you had had enough of my Faith for one day.” The young Talan said with folded arms and a raised eyebrow.
“I had.” The prince’s expressionless face began to give way and he looked at the floor. “She made me come to bring you back.”
Masterson hid a grin. The queen knew her son better than the prince had guessed. “So she will not continue without both of us present?”
The look of annoyance on Desslok’s face made Masterson chuckle.
“There is nothing at all amusing about any of this.” The prince stated.
“I am sorry, sir.” Masterson wiped the grin off of his face, but his brown eyes lost none of their amusement.
“You are infuriating, Talan.” The prince said.
“I know, sir. I believe you’ll find it duly noted in my job description.”
The prince gave him a “you are utterly insufferable” look before walking back out of the Talan residence with Masterson now suitably in tow.
Upon the teenagers’ return to the prince’s quarters Talonka nodded to each young man in turn before continuing her history.