Chapter 25 - The King and Queen of Ilyia
May 15, 1645
The Goddess of Health and Patroness of Healers
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
I’ve never believed much in the Old Gods. I grew up thinking they were just stories that my mother told me. But here I am in front of a temple for the first time. A man with so much to lose that he is already willing to change what he believes in.
I reached for the cart and brought out the young sheep with the best wool in all of Ivaris. I dragged it towards the temple and placed it in front of the priestess. “How do I do this?” I asked her.
“You bring the sacrifice to the altar, my Lord. And then you slit the throat and let the blood sacrifice flow. As the blood flows, you pray to the goddess and ask her whatever you want. And then all we can do is wait...” the priestess explained.
I raised the young sheep on my shoulder and placed it on the altar. Then, I withdrew the dagger from my belt. I raised it high and with a swift motion, I slit the sheep’s throat and watched as its white wool slowly became red.
“Goddess, heal my queen. Give her your magic and heal her from what ails her. Give her back to me in excellent condition and I will cherish her always. Give me more time with her...” I prayed and then stepped back from the altar.
The priestess nodded at me and I turned back and walked swiftly towards my horse. Malcolm was holding the reins in his hand with a somber expression. I looked around me and noticed the black banners that were hung on every balustrade.
I reached over and tugged until all the black banners were on the floor. Then I faced the frightened citizens. “Cease your mourning for the queen still lives! She breathes and fights! You dishonour her by thinking she is dead when she yet fights to live!” I shouted and saw the villagers’ looks of disbelief.
Without another word, I swung up on my horse and Malcolm and I galloped back into Ravenswood. I really did not want to leave Adrienne for even one second but I did so for the sacrifice...
Gods, please don’t let me come home to a dead wife...
When we got back to the palace, I rushed to Adrienne’s room. A great surge of relief flooded me when I held her hand once more and found her still breathing. I kissed her forehead and settled myself beside her bed again.
“Hey... Err... I did something for the first time today. I sacrificed to a God...” I told her. I just wanted to speak with her and it’s alright with me if she didn’t reply. It’s alright as long as she’s there...
“Come back to me soon, my queen...” I whispered and kissed her forehead once more.
“Aiken...” an unfamiliar voice called out. Instantly, I was on alert. My hand on my sword as I scanned the room for the intruder.
“Who’s there?” I hissed as I looked at the corners of the room and flipped the curtains aside. “Show yourself!” I ordered.
“I can’t... You know why I can’t... I’m trapped in Ilyia...” the voice replied. It definitely sounded feminine.
I laughed. I must be going crazy. Now, I’m hearing voices. Keras!
“No... It’s me Aiken... Lai... I received your sacrifice. I’m afraid I can’t do anything. I can’t heal Selene for I’m trapped here.”
“What?!?” I cried. Is this real? Am I really talking to the goddess? And then she’s telling me nothing can be done for my queen! Oh no... Please no...
I fell to my knees. “Goddess... Please... I will give you anything. Just please help my queen.” I pleaded.
“I would like to. I really would. You know Selene’s my friend, right? But I can’t for I’m trapped here. But you could. You can help her.” came the reply.
“Me? How?” I asked.
“Use your power.”
I laughed harder this time. This is really it. I’m losing it. I’m going crazy. My queen is dying and I am going crazy. I’m hearing voices in my head and thinking that I could help her. I slumped to the floor and placed my head in my hands.
“Wake up, Seth!” I shouted as I pinched myself.
“You’re not dreaming... Aiken... Remember what you are. Remember who you are. Remember what you can do.” The goddess chanted.
“I am a King! A conqueror! A warrior! I have no power inside me to heal my queen. I am useless!” I shouted in reply.
“You are a god. You are the God of Warriors. You are our King. Ilyia is yours. You have the power to heal, to fight. You have the power of the sun on your hands. That’s who you are.” The voice said.
I laughed another bitter laugh. Me, a god? Aiken, the revered patron of Ivaris? What nonsense is this?!? I laughed once more.
“You will understand one day. But for today... I would just have to show you... One day, you will know the whole story and then you will remember.” The goddess replied.
Suddenly I felt energy fill the air and then a burst of blinding white light. When I next opened my eyes, I wasn’t in our bedchamber anymore. The first thing I saw was gold. Everything was golden...
“My Lord, you are being summoned by the King.” A servant said. We were in the training fields of the King’s Golden Army and we were doing some battle exercises. I tossed the sword to Argyll, my second-in-command. “Keep practicing. I’ll return as soon as I can.” I ordered. “Alright.” Argyll replied and he continued sparring with his partner.
I straightened my clothing and followed the servant to the King’s chambers. I expected that he would like a report of what happened during the last battle with Azrael.
“Please sit, son.” Rashad said and indicated the chair at the foot of his bed. He looked weaker today and he looked like a frail old man. Gone were the traces of the regal King from before. I sat in the chair. “You summoned me, my king?” I asked.
“Yes. But first, call me Father. You are my daughter’s consort now. We are family.” He said. I smiled. “Yes, father.”
“What happened with the battle with Azrael?”
“His forces are growing stronger. Also... He has converted the other gods to his cause. He has promised them more power. He promised that when he takes the throne, he will split the power of the sun and give some to them. There are others who remain loyal to you but Azrael threatens and kidnaps them. I also fear that there is a traitor in our midst.” I explained.
The little color left in the King’s cheeks faded away and I instantly regretted the bluntness of my words. “I am sorry father.” I told him. He patted my hand and smiled at me. “Don’t be, dear boy. I know you are doing your best.” The king said. His words were filled with pride.
“Thank you...” I replied.
The King sighed and then regarded me once more. “I cannot do this anymore, Aiken.” He said.
“What do you mean, your highness?”
“I said call me father.” He said and then continued. “I cannot be King anymore. I am useless. I have made many mistakes in this life and they are consuming me. I miss Elune. My mistake with her will forever haunt me.” He said sadly.
I didn’t know what to reply to the King’s statement so I just listened. “When Elune was gone, I wanted to follow her. I wanted to return to the Cosmos with her and woo her there. Maybe there we could be together. I’d do everything right this time. But then again, there was Selene and she was so very young. I didn’t want her to grow up without any parent and the responsibility of Ilyia on her shoulders.” The King’s face brightened at the mention of Selene’s name.
“...But now she’s all grown up. And she has you. And I’ve never seen her happier. Aiken... With your permission, I would like to name you as my successor. You shall be the King of Ilyia and my daughter, your queen.” The King said.
His words hit me like a blow. The implications of his words were another blow. He was stepping down the throne. And he mentioned the Cosmos. It meant that he wanted to fade away and was now leaving Ilyia to me.
“I... I don’t know what to say... I know nothing about being king!” I argued. “Aiken... What you are doing right now. Fighting battles, keeping the citizens of Ilyia safe, accompanying my daughter to court, making sure that everything runs smoothly in my absence, making decisions about the kingdom... That is what a King does...” Rashad said.
“Father... No... Selene would be devastated.” I pleaded. “She will understand. She knows how much I miss Elune.” The king sighed.
“This is a big decision...” I said.
“Yes it is. One that is necessary. One that will keep both Ilyia and my daughter safe. If I crown you king, the power of the sun transfers to you and Azrael wouldn’t be able to have it. You can use it to keep Selene safe for she is the key to Ilyia. And you can use that power, mix it with yours and banish Azrael for good.” The king said.
I know in my heart that he was right. His words were right and they were true. If he crowned me king and gave me his power, it will be secure in my hands. I also realized that the king trusted me a great deal for he not only gave me his daughter. He was also giving me his power and his kingdom now.
“Aiken... Please... Take this burden off of me. I want to rest. I want to go back and find Elune. You are a great man, Aiken. You shall be a great King. Have no fear.” The king said to me with a sad smile.
“I will think about this, father.” I replied. He nodded and I went out of his room
Three days later, the gods were gathered in the Golden Palace. The palace was gleaming as the servants worked hard to make everything perfect. Today, I will be crowned as the new King of Ilyia. Today, my whole life is going to change.
I wore the golden robes of a King today and a cloak of ermine was wrapped around my shoulders, as befits my station. Underneath the robes, I wore white breeches and black boots which were polished until they shone.
My sword was tucked at my side and also the dagger that Selene gave me. I looked up and saw Selene standing beside her father. She was smiling at me. She didn’t know her father’s plan to fade away and return to the Cosmos, the land of our creator. All she knows is that her father trusted me and wanted me to carry on the management of Ilyia.
My confidence lessened a bit when I thought of how devastated Selene will be when she finally knows the truth. But her father begged me not to tell her for he wanted to explain to her himself. I honoured his last wish.
I willed myself to be calm. Then, the trumpets flared and the gods and goddesses present in the room all stood up and turned to look at me as I walked down the long golden carpet. I walked tall and proud just like how a king would. Selene smiled down at me with tears in her eyes. I approached the foot of the throne from where Rashad sat and knelt in front of him. He stood up and removed the crown on top of his head.
“Today, I pass on the leadership of Ilyia. Today, I crown a new King and it will symbolize the dawn of the new era!” Rashad shouted and the crowd cheered with glee.
“Aiken, God of Warriors, Leader of the Golden Army, I now bestow upon you this crown which symbolizes Ilyia, the land of the Gods in its entirety. Do you swear to always exercise wisdom in judgement, to fight for the land and its interests and to protect its citizens?” the Kign asked.
“I swear.” I replied and the King placed the crown on my head.
The King placed his hands on top of my head and closed his eyes. I felt the warmth from where his fingers touched me. I closed my eyes as the feeling of energy being transferred overwhelmed all the senses in my body. I stopped myself from crying out as I felt as if every nerve ending and cell on my body was on fire.
More energy poured into me and it took all of my control and concentration to will my new powers to obey me. The energy being transferred slowly trickled and died. I opened my eyes and saw the King sway on his feet before he regained himself.
He unsheathed his sword and then first tapped my left shoulder with its point and then my right.
“Arise, Aiken. God of Warriors and the Sun. King of Ilyia.” He said. I rose and turned towards the crowd and everyone knelt and bowed their heads towards me.
Rashad smiled at me as he clasped his daughter’s hand and led her towards me. I motioned for one of the servants to take out the box. Inside the box was the new crown I’ve had Lira, the blacksmith of the Gods, fashion for her. No one has ever been crowned queen of Ilyia so there was no crown that matched King Rashad’s crown.
I gave Lira the most beautiful gems in my possession and asked her to fashion a crown that matched mine and place the gems there. When the crown was delivered to me, I was overwhelmed by its beauty and how perfect it would look when Selene would wear it.
I took Selene’s hand and led her towards the throne opposite mine. She sat and looked at me with tears of joy in her eyes. I picked up her hand and kissed it before I opened the box and retrieved the crown. “Selene, Princess and Key of Ilyia, my consort and my bonded. I now crown you, Queen of Ilyia.” I declared and then placed the crown on top of her head.
She smiled at me and squeezed my hand and I saw a lone tear slide down her face. I walked over to my throne and sat. A hushed awe fell over the crowd as the new king and queen sat on their thrones. Selene’s brilliance combined with mine cast the room in a beautiful ethereal glow.
In the mortal world, this day was known as the day that the sun and the moon shone side by side. It was not an eclipse. It was the day when the sun and moon were together in the heavens. Their beauty and brilliance complementing one another.
The vision faded and when I opened my eyes again, I was back in my bedchamber. My first thought was Adrienne. I rushed to her side and checked if she was still breathing.
Her chest rose and fell and I was relieved. I slumped over the edge of the bed and placed my cheek in her hand. Memories of the vision came back to me and I had no idea what they meant. Who was Aiken and why is the goddess telling me that we are the same? Why was she asking me to remember?
“You see, Aiken... You are the King of Ilyia... The power of the sun is in your hands. You’ve always had the power to heal for it is needed by warriors in a battlefield. You can heal her.” The goddess spoke to me once more.
“I don’t know how!” I shouted with frustration.
“I will help you remember....” she replied.
Ilyia, the Land of the Gods
“So you and Aiken were married... What happened next?” I asked Selene. We were still in this beautiful meadow and she still continues to show me visions. Honestly, I still have no idea what all of this has got to do with me.
“Patience. We’re getting there.” Selene replied. Then she took a deep breath and continued the story.
“Aiken and I were married and we were happy... Then one day, my father called me and told me that he was going to retire and crown Aiken king. Of course, I was very happy! I was ecstatic! The coronation ceremony was so beautiful. That same day, Aiken also crowned me as the queen of Ilyia and then we sat side by side in the Hall of the Golden Palace where the Gods all knelt before us...” Selene told the story and then trailed off with a hint of sadness in her voice.
“I’m thinking everything didn’t end happily?” I prodded.
“Yes... I had no idea that my father wanted to fade away and go back to the Cosmos...”
“What is the Cosmos?” I asked.
“The Cosmos created everything. It created us gods and also the different realms. It created the humans. It is where everything goes. When a mortal dies, their souls is returned to the Cosmos to await the time when they will be reincarnated into the world once more... When a God fades away, his essence and his energy is returned to the Cosmos...” Selene explained.
“Why did your father want to return there?”
“He missed my mother. His guilt overwhelms him a bit more with each passing day. Then came the day when he can’t handle it no more. That was the day he decided to pass the crown to Aiken... He couldn’t rule over Ilyia anymore and he decided that Aiken should take over... But I did not know any of this until the day came that my father said goodbye.” By this time, tears were running down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry...” I said and touched Selene’s hand. The moment our skin met, a jolt of electricity shot down my spine. She looked as startled as I. She composed herself and wiped away her tears.
“I was so heartbroken when my father chose to fade away. But I can’t stop him... He’s been through so much already. And he lived in the shadow of the man he was before. I can’t have him living his life like that. He said goodbye to me and told me he loved me. He said that I’ll always be his brightest star...”
Selene’s tears flowed again and I don’t know why but I felt this twinge in my heart. It was as if I felt her pain and it was as if my brain was struggling to recall something... I saw flashes of pictures in my mind but they made no sense...
Selene looked at me and inclined her head. “Don’t worry... You’ll remember everything in time.” She said with a sad smile.
“I know how difficult all of this must be for you... Are you sure all of this is necessary?” I asked her. She nodded. “All of this is necessary. Maybe it will help you remember. Maybe it will help you accept me.” She replied.
I had no idea what she was talking about. I opened my mouth to question her but she continued her story.
“My father leaving me was the most difficult thing in my entire life... Well... I had no idea that it was only the start.” She said. Her words were filled with despair. It sounded so sad that I didn’t want to listen anymore.
“With my father gone... Azrael became more insistent with his evil deeds. He destroyed cities, kidnapped Gods and forced them to do his bidding. The mortal world nearly crumbled to dust with all the wars he created. Also, he got so frustrated that the power of the Sun was passed on to Aiken... His obsession now turned over to my husband. He threatened everyone and said that no one was safe... The whole of Ilyia was thrown into despair.” Selene continued.
She took a deep breath and stood up from the rock where we were seated. She walked over to the river and gazed upon her reflection. She looked so forlorn that I felt an echo of her grief inside my own chest... It was as if I’ve felt everything before...
“I hardly saw Aiken anymore. He was so busy that he didn’t even have time for me. I missed him. I missed him terribly... When we were together, he would tell me he missed me and then we’d make love but I felt as if he was farther and farther away from me... He was king and I was queen but our bond was falling apart. Yes, he’d call out to me when he was in the battlefield. He’d ask me how I was but I was afraid to be the first one to call out to him.”
“What if he was fighting at that very moment? What if I distracted him? What if he had an important meeting with his generals?” Selene answered.
I remembered that Seth, my husband, was a king too... Does he have the same problems? Did he also carry too much burden? Did he think about me? Then I laughed and mentally slapped myself for being stupid.
This was where I differed from Selene. She loved Aiken and Aiken loved her. The King I married wanted me because of a betrothal his beloved parents arranged. And it was his way of honouring their last request...
He was surely not thinking about me...
“I would be nothing but a burden to him... And he already had so much on his shoulders. I didn’t even know how to tell him about our baby...” Selene was sobbing this time.
I went over to her and laid a comforting arm on her back. I tried too sooth her with words but she still cried...
“What happened?” I asked.
She raised her head and I had the last glimpse of her tear streaked face before I was engulfed by a bright white light.
I was in my chambers and there were bolts of cloth, ribbons and buttons scattered over my bed. I was trying so hard to sew clothes for the baby. Every color of fabric was here yet I found myself partial to the golden color grew up in.
So far, I’ve finished three dresses if it is a girl and three overalls if it is a boy. My hand drifted down to my belly and I absentmindedly caressed it. Would my child be a boy or a girl? Hmm... I think it would be a boy. I just have this strong feeling that I’m carrying my husband’s heir and the first prince of Ilyia.
My hands were sore and I’ve pricked myself many times over but I tried harder to continue. I want my child to have many clothes just like I did when I was younger.
Suddenly, a knock sounded on the door. “Your highness.” The voice said. I recognized the voice instantly, it was Argyll, Aiken’s second-in-command. “Enter.” I replied.
My heart beat faster when I saw his face. Aiken wasn’t beside him and it was enough to throw me into a panic. “Where’s Aiken?” I demanded. Argyll glanced from left to right as if he was very nervous.
“He was captured, your highness.” He replied. My knees crumpled and I fell onto the floor. Argyll strode towards me and helped me sit on the bed. “W-what happened?” my mind was still numb after the last words he delivered.
“Azrael tricked him and captured him. We tried to take him back but Azrael was too powerful.” Argyll replied. “No... Not Aiken... No!” I constantly denied that Aiken was captured. He was the best! He was powerful! No one could best him in battle!
“I’m sorry, your highness... We did everything we could.” Argyll replied.
“No... Take me to Azrael! I’ll bargain for my husband. I’ll give him anything he wants! Just not Aiken... No... Please not Aiken....” I said without thinking. I can’t let Azrael capture Aiken... I won’t let my child grow up without its father!
I slumped on the bed and tried to gather myself. Aiken needed me... It was I who always needed him and he was always there for me. Now, it is he who needs me. I have to go to him.
I walked to my closet and retrieved a cloak made of furs. “Take me to him.” I told Argyll as I fastened the cloak around me. “No! I can’t do that, your highness! It’s dangerous!”
A blast of my power hit Argyll in the chest and he flew a few feet backwards. “Take me to him, now! That’s an order!” I shouted. Argyll flinched and then he slowly stood up. “Yes, your highness.” He replied. His face showed his disapproval of my plan but I didn’t mind him. All I know is that I have to go to my husband. I’ll do everything I can to free him... Even at the cost of my own life...
“May I?” Argyll asked and indicated my hand. I took the hand he offered and I felt his energy gather around us. I closed my eyes and prepared my body to travel...
Aiken needs me and I am going to him...
I am going to do everything for him...
He is my king and my husband...
I love him...