When they reached the Paladeia, all they could see was blind, shining lights around them. It was as though they were in some kind of paradise in the afterlife. The architectural designs were innovative but had the essence of the palace design one millennium ago, when it was still rooted on the ground. The light was striking, but once they adjusted their eyes, it felt gentle and warm, a contrast to the sight below in the city. To put it simply, the Paladeia was a masterpiece of art.
They were going to slowly admire the carvings on the walls and the statues of past monarchs, but they were interrupted but a faint but sharp cry of pain. The two quickly ran and weaved through the palace’s corridors and rooms.
“I wonder what could that be?” Faresoenn asked.
“Just shut up and help me find my way! I’ve never been here before and it seems like we’re just following the sound!” The other, Nasition, replied. He indeed never came here, but he felt there was an emergency that needed their help, even though they were messengers from the dead king.
The sounds led them through massive hallways, narrow corridors, rooms of every kind of decoration for whatever purpose that may be, until it led to the Chambers of Av-Panthleu, the living quarters of those of pure royal blood.
Just as they prepare to open the massive door, a Guardian of the palace blocked them. He wasn’t as well trained as Faresoenn nor Nasition, but he was determined to stop anyone who dared to enter. An electric pike in his hands threatened to demobilize them.
“Who goes there? You have no permission to enter here! The queen is giving birth!”He cried. The guard sounded no older than a recruit in the army, but his face was stern and he towered above both Faresoenn and Nasition.
“Wait, what?” Nasition cried out, “MOVE OUT! NOW!” With that, he charged and burst through the door. However, right when he stepped in the Av-Panthleu, he flinched, and fell face first to the ground, lifeless. Behind him, the guard stood still, still holding his pike.
“Good,” The guard muttered, “Now where’s the other one… huh?” Faresoenn was nowhere to be seen. All that’s left is a small dagger carried by all bodyguards of the king.
Huff, huff. The shallow breaths carry Faresoenn as he tries to find his way through the Av-Panthleu to where the queen is giving birth. He can hear screams but he can’t find the exact room. I must be getting close. These sounds are getting louder at my every step, he thought. However, he also heard footsteps. Quick, hurried footsteps. Guards. They must’ve been aroused by the ruckus that Nasition and I caused. Faresoenn now rushed through corridors. It must be here, but where? Just then, when he passed a wall, he felt that the sound vibrations were the loudest here. Here? Then it must be a secret entrance! He frantically searched for some kind of button in the walls. Meanwhile, the footsteps are getting closer, with the soldiers’ boots now clearly rhythmically almost chanting from nearby. Come on, come on. Why isn’t there some kind of button? Faresoenn thought, but then an idea passed him. The ring and the word vhosta! He quickly grabbed the king’s ring from his medicine pocket and held it up against the wall. Then the words came from his mouth, “Vhosta,” He whispered. The wall slid past to allow him in and shut just as a platoon of guards turned and entered this section of the corridor.
“My queen!” Faresoenn shouted. What he saw was a great pool of blood, staining the ground and the queen’s bed. Beside the queen were a doctor and few servants close to the queen. They were holding a baby boy, newborn and weak. A simple blanket weaved by the queen herself was wrapped around him, giving the baby warmth to protect him from this new environment.
“Who are you? Are you the intruder that barged into the Av-Panthleu?” The doctor demanded, and he was answered by a stun dart to the neck, paralyzing him and made him pass out. The servants quickly formed a ring around the queen, and the one holding the baby quickly gave him to the queen.
“My queen Macrera, please listen to me! Your husband, the king, has sent me to deliver a message to you!”
“Please, my loyal friends. Let him come. I believe him. Come, messenger. What did the king say?” a voice hoarsely whispered. The ring of servants quickly dispersed and the queen came into Faresoenn’s full view. Her body is frail and she’s shivering. Her skin is pale, much like the marble floor. Blood staining her gown seemed like she’s been fatally injured, and her facial expression shows that of death.
“My queen, you should know the king has passed away, ”Faresoenn began.
“Continue, please. I know a coup d’etat will come, so that’s why I have hidden myself ever since I am in pregnancy,” Macrera gasped.
“The king has entrusted me and my friend to escort you and leave this palace. The nobles should know a room like this. He said this...” and Faresoenn delivered the message which the king Stasibel has entrusted him to retell to the queen. When he has finished, Macrera ordered all servants to leave, and painfully handed the child to Faresoenn.
“My good friend, I’m afraid I’m too weak to leave. My time has come. Please, take this child away to safety, wherever you deem fit. In the name of my family Isthilm, I bless this child to be great and have protection wherever he goes. I have already accepted my fate to follow my husband.”
“Please leave! This is a sovereign order from the Achien command! Leave now!”Macrera shouted with what strength she has left, but then gasped and spat out blood, “Please, leave. For the sake of your king and queen, leave.” Her voice has diminished to just a whisper. With shivering hands, she handed the small child, whose eyes are still closed, skin still wrinkled and wailed to Faresoenn. Her finger delicately touched the baby’s forehead and whispered, “Goodbye, my child. Before I go, I must name you. You will be named Avalel, Hope of the Royal House.” With that, her eyes closed and her arms slumped.
“A peaceful passing in a turbulent time,” Faresoenn solemnly said. Tears were welling up in his eyes and when he bent forward to kiss the now dead queen’s hand, one teardrop fell on the queen’s finger and slowly traveled to the ground, where it rests as a cold, small puddle.
“Hello, little Avalel. The empire’s fate rests on our shoulders now,” Faresoenn quietly spoke to Avalel. Avalel wailed, but amongst that loud noise, Faresoenn thought he heard footsteps. “Shh,” he whispered, “Don’t make a sound, little one. Uncle Faresoenn’s going to take you to a place far from this chaos.” With that, he wrapped Avalel with a thick blanket resting beside the queen and dressed him with clothes prepared by the servants, and quietly snuck out of the room. He quickly darted through the corridors, and soon found the exit of the Av-Panthleu. However, the footsteps were closing in, so Faresoenn quickly dove behind a large statue near the exit. Soon after, a squad of guards marched in.
“The queen is dead,” one said. So they must’ve found out about the room, Faresoenn thought.
“Blood has been found near her deathbed. We questioned the servants, but they refused to talk. Should we threaten them?” Another asked.
“I have threatened them with torture and eventual death already,” A third, presumably the leader, replied, “One has decided to tell me what she knows.”
“Have you got any answers or things we can report?” The first asked.
“From her information, we now know both the king and queen has hidden a secret to the entire citizens of the empire: the queen has been pregnant for this entire nine months and has recently given birth to a child. Male. It explains her absence in many official matters these past months,” The third explained.
“What? What should we tell our Sovereign?” The second worriedly asked, “For this means the line of Achien monarchs has an heir!”
The guards quickly quarreled and argued amongst themselves. Some argued they should go search for the child, while others insisted they ask the advice of the Sovereign. In the commotion, none of the guards noticed Faresoenn slipping out, carrying a small bundle in his hands.
“Good. I should change out of my king’s guard clothing in case I get recognized and stood out among others,” Faresoenn muttered. He has successfully snuck out of the palace there’s still a long way to go to escape the city. He found a heap of clothing that someone must’ve left there and quickly covered his armor with it. A cape and hood disguised himself from the public and he slowly made his way out of the city. Once past the bustling and advanced city, the winding rivers that cut past it, and the sea that lies behind it, what lays in front is a vast forest. It was the single reason why the city of Achien hadn’t spread its boundaries beyond the plateau. For this was the Tarevuen, the Cursed or Forbidden Forest. It was once grassland and was sparsely populated, but in an apocalyptic event, maybe a battle, that happened many years before, all traces of settlement were lost and the people retreated to the region that is now Achien. The grassland was then abandoned, and trees replaced the lush grass there. It was there which Faresoenn went, where there was only one settlement: The Haven of Foresters. The foresters were a presumed extinct group of people, allegedly wiped out centuries ago. However, they had still one stronghold, and even though they were far from their power in ancient times, they still flourished and built wooden tree houses, near yet away from Achien sights. Faresoenn was once a forester himself, and it was there where he spent much of his childhood, and now he has decided to return there to raise up another child, Avalel.
“Well, I’m back,” he sighed and made his way into the center of the forest.