The Threshold Child

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Chapter Twenty-eight: Lives in a Prism

Her brother proved to be right about his wife’s reaction to their arrival. Wren’na was a flurry of movement as she put together a meal that would feed twice their number. Adesina tried to offer to help, but Wren’na quickly shook her head.

“No, no! You have had a long journey and deserve a rest. You can have a look around the house, or E’nes can show you where you will be staying. As soon as supper is finished I will draw you a hot bath.”

E’nes smiled ruefully and gave a small shrug. Adesina knew it would be futile to argue, and so decided to explore her brother’s home.

The arched doorway came to a gentle peak, and the door itself was carved with a beautiful woodland scene. Adesina was amazed by the care that went into every small detail in the city of Yavar. The main room had a fireplace and several comfortable chairs. There was a table where Wren’na was setting up for the meal in the back corner, two strange looking instruments propped up against the wall and an easel with canvas and paints.

Adesina’s wandering then took her upstairs. There was a small study with a desk strewn with maps and papers. There was also a small painting of E’rian hung on the wall. Adesina wondered how much the painting looked like her mother during her life. When Adesina had seen her in the Dreams, she was much more brilliant, much more lovely. However, that might have been the influences of the spiritual realm.

There were three bedrooms upstairs. One for E’nes and Wren’na, one for guests and one that was set up with a crib. Adesina was staring at the small bed in disbelief and didn’t even hear E’nes walk up behind her.

“What do you think? Does it meet your approval?”

Adesina gestured to the cradle. “Are you going to be a father?”

E’nes smiled wistfully. “Not yet. But we hope to have a child soon.”

He beckoned for her to follow him to the guest room. “This is where you will be staying. There is warm water for washing, and Wren’na asked me to tell you that supper will be ready soon.”

The room was set up similar to her room in the High City. There was a bed, a desk and a wooden screen behind which she could change her clothes. There was a beautiful painting hung on the wall that depicted a wild lily on the edge of a forest stream. It seemed so real that Adesina felt she could reach out and touch its pedals.

Her eyes drifted to the window. The sun was getting lower on the horizon, giving a warm glow to the city. They were in the northern section of Yavar, which was more residential than the part of the city they entered. The houses were modest and idyllic, with well-tended gardens and occasional domestic animals. Groups of children were running up and down the lanes, shouting and laughing and singing.

The sound of mothers calling their children home to supper and yells of joy when those children saw their fathers arriving home filled the golden air. Lanterns along the street were being lit, and birds were trilling their evening songs from tree branches and rooftops.

Adesina sighed softly and went downstairs to join her brother and his wife for supper. An enticing combinations of scents met her, making her realize how much she had missed Jelana’s cooking. E’nes gave a prayer of thanks, and they began their meal.

The tradition of giving a prayer to some sort of deity was something that Adesina had noticed about the L’avan. She knew that there were several different cultures that believed in higher powers, but it surprised her that an advanced race such as the L’avan indulged such beliefs. She had never brought the subject up for discussion, though. She didn’t want to offend them with her strong sense of skepticism.

The meal was filled with simple, pleasant conversation. E’nes and Wren’na always included Adesina, but did not require her to speak if she was disinclined. Adesina had anticipated feeling like an outsider in her brother’s home, but that wasn’t the case. Wren’na welcomed her into the family without reserve, treating her as she would her own sister. Adesina felt that, given time, she could truly belong in a place like this.

That night, when Adesina went to bed, she couldn’t help but compare the warm contentment she felt now with the dissatisfaction she had felt every night in the Shimat fortress. There was something radically different in how the L’avan chose to live their lives, and it affected her more than what she would have thought possible.

She wanted to belong to these people, and she was willing to work to make that a reality.

Adesina wasn’t surprised to see Ravi sitting downstairs speaking with E’nes the next morning. Even in a place he deemed safe enough for her to wander around on her own, he never felt comfortable leaving her alone for too long.

Wren’na walked into the main room, carrying a loaf of fresh bread. She set it on the table along with a small bowl of butter. “Good morning, Adesina. Did you sleep well?”

With a nod, she replied, “Yes, thank you.”

E’nes cut the bread into thick slices, putting them on three plates. Wren’na went back into the kitchen to fetch a jug of chilled milk before sitting down for the meal. The bread appeared to have some sort of fruit baked into it, and it was still warm enough to melt the butter that was spread on it.

As they ate, Ravi told Adesina about his evening. “I returned to the Rashad lands to pay my respects to Rajan.”

The young woman’s brow furrowed. “Who is Rajan?”

“He is the leader of the Rashad,” E’nes explained.

Ravi nodded. “The Rashad do not have a conventional form of government, but every generation a new leader is born.”

Adesina was amused by how simply he stated it, as if it were the most rational thing in the world. “How do you know when the new leader is born? Who decides?”

Her brother laughed softly. “It is fairly easy to tell.”

Wren’na gave her husband a look of gentle reprimand for his teasing. “Most Rashad are born with yellowish fur and blue eyes. The leader is always born-”

“With black fur and golden eyes,” Adesina finished for her, staring hard at Ravi.

She had assumed that his coloring had some sort of significance, but she had not anticipated something like this. Adesina was bothered that he had never mentioned this to her. Ravi looked completely unaffected by the sudden revelation of his secret.

“You never told me that you were the future King of the Rashad.”

Ravi almost rolled his eyes. “Not a king. The Rashad are not a monarchy.”

She gestured impatiently. “Still.”

He shrugged. “It does not matter anyway. I will not be leader of anyone for many years.”

“It seems I am surrounded by secret royalty,” she muttered moodily.

Her guardian gave her a significant look. “Just because we are born to a certain task does not change who we really are.”

Adesina knew that comment had just as much to do with her as with himself. She didn’t know whether to scowl or smile at him. She settled on changing the subject. “What are the plans for today?”

E’nes shifted uneasily. “Well, I have been summoned to a meeting with the king. L’era has offered to show you around Yavar while I am gone.”

Adesina studied her brother, searching for the source of his discomfort. “Who is L’era?”

“She is L’iam’s younger sister. You saw her yesterday, I believe. I am sorry that I cannot spend the day with you, but I promise to make it up to you.”

She shrugged, amused that he embarrassed over something so simple. “I understand the necessity of duty, E’nes. Do not trouble yourself.”

After breakfast they walked back to the palace, where a group of people were waiting on the stairs to the entrance. Adesina recognized L’iam, his sister, Sa’jan and Ri’sel. The two other men were strangers to her.

L’era stepped forward eagerly and introduced herself. “I am so happy to meet you, Adesina. I asked my brother if I could show you around while the men talk about their boring matters of state.”

Adesina wasn’t sure how to take such a statement. L’era’s voice was teasing, but her expression was somber. It wasn’t until a dazzling smile broke over her lips that Adesina knew to smile in return.

L’iam turned to speak to Ravi, who was at his customary place at Adesina’s side. “Would you be willing to join us in our meeting, old friend? I know it goes against your inclination to leave Adesina unattended, but I assure you that my sister will not take her anywhere dangerous.”

The Rashad smiled ruefully. “Adesina has the uncanny ability to find danger in the most unlikely places.”

His young ward started to protest, but Ravi smiled and overruled her sputtering. “I will join you in your meeting if you wish.”

Adesina was going to say something rude and sarcastic about Ravi’s state of mind and opinion of danger, but Ravi looked at her with such a sweet mixture of affection, teasing and genuine concern, that she could do nothing but scowl faintly.

L’era grabbed her hand. “Come on. There is so much to see.”

The princess had the whole day planned out. They began in the marketplace, where the travelers had ridden through the previous day. Adesina, who was only used to the Square in the High City, was amazed by all the noise and motion.

Each merchant’s stand was brightly colored and had lavish displays of their products. The sellers laughed and joked with each other, heckling the customers of other dealers good-naturedly.

Performers stood along the streets with bowls or baskets set out in the hope of payment. There were jugglers, acrobats, fire-breathers, singers, puppeteers, dancers, musicians, actors, animal trainers, and many others. The visitors to the market alternated between inspecting the carts and stopping to watch a show.

Adesina was sorry that she had no money, but she soon found that there were advantages to being in the company of a princess. Many of the vendors gave them small gifts when they perused the booth. They were given packets of almonds roasted with sugar and cinnamon, small jars of spices, bangles for their wrists, handkerchiefs edged with lace, and so forth. Most of the things pressed in her hand did not interest her, but she was pleased with the idea of passing them on to Wren’na.

When they stopped at a cloth merchant’s kiosk, a beautiful blue fabric caught Adesina’s eye. It was the color of the sky on an early winter morning and shimmered as if sprinkled with moon dust. It was smooth to the touch, similar to satin but lighter in weight. L’era saw Adesina admire it and pulled out her purse. Adesina protested as soon as she realized her intent, but L’era would not hear it.

“I am going to have a formal gown made for you. Every girl needs at least one.”

L’era ignored the sounds of Adesina trying to reason with her and began speaking to the merchant, who also happened to be a dressmaker. She gave a description of the style she wanted while the merchant did a quick sketch. Then she threatened Adesina into holding still while the merchant took her measurements.

After that, Adesina suggested moving on to a new part of the city. She didn’t want to run the risk of L’era buying her anything else to accessorize the new dress.

From the market they went west, exploring the city moving clockwise. They came first to an enormous library. The building was made from a greyish blue stone and looked as if it had been designed to emulate the flow of river. There were a number of large stained glass windows, all of which had water themes depicted.

L’era pointed all of these features out and explained, “It is symbolic of the flow of knowledge.”

When they walked inside, Adesina was completely stunned by the sight before her. She had never seen so many books in her entire life, and that included the immense Shimat library. Her time in the High City had taught her that books were actually a rare thing. She had always assumed that the whole world used books as casually as the Shimat. Adesina soon learned that books were an expensive luxury in which most people did not bother to invest.

Here in Yavar the walls were covered in volumes, freestanding bookcases stood in orderly rows across the floor and there were ladders to reach the books that were placed higher up. A grand staircase to the back of the building indicated that there were other floors such as the first one.

Adesina wandered among the endless tomes, touching their spines and reading titles. There was also a much greater variety of books than in the Shimat library. Here there were volumes on plant and animal life, trade and economy, ship building, astronomy, mathematics, weaponry, history, maps, architecture, music, art—the topics just went on and on. In the Shimat library, most of the books had to do with one’s training. Everything else was considered unnecessary.

From the library, they went on until they came to another large building. This one was built from a slightly greenish stone, and had a variety of plant-like designs carved into it. They didn’t enter this building, but L’era explained its purpose.

“This is the school for our children. We also have a university on the other side of Yavar, for those who wish to expand their knowledge further.”

L’era briefly went over the subjects that the average L’avan child was taught; explaining that when each child reached a certain age, they chose a profession and had specialized training from that point on.

She smiled fondly at the building that had seen many generations pass through. “Even my brothers and I attended school here, even though my father could have hired tutors. He wanted us to have a relatively normal childhood. He says it will help us to relate to those we intend to rule. That is why we went to school with other L’avan children, chose professions for which we were trained, or are training, in my case.”

Adesina looked at the sunny young woman standing next to her. “What are you training to become?”

L’era smiled wistfully. “A teacher. I have always wanted to teach children.” She shrugged, “Perhaps I will have the opportunity to do so before my royal duties begin.”

Adesina couldn’t help but amused by this unusual statement. The princess wanted to be a teacher. Wasn’t it always the other way around?

“What about your brothers?”

She gave Adesina a sideways glance before answering. “They both went into the military. L’iam wanted to teach as well, but Father suggested doing military training first. He said it would be more useful to a L’avan prince in the long run.”

They continued their circle around the city, coming across a number of shops for various artisans, patches of houses, and many beautiful and elaborate gardens.

Adesina preferred the L’avan gardens to the ones found in the High City. The L’avan seemed to believe that gardens should grow of their own accord, with as little interference as possible. Like the market, there was a sort of organized chaos to the parks. The grass was longer, the trees were not pruned, flowers invaded each other’s space, and there were no official paths. L’era said that beyond weeding and watering, the gardens were left fairly well alone. Adesina found them much easier to enjoy than the rigid gardens of the High City.

They also passed by a couple of hospitals, which Adesina studied with interest. She had never seen an entire building dedicated to the healing of the sick and injured.

L’era pointed out the university when they came to it. Like all the large public buildings, it was made from stone rather than the wood used on houses. It was a black marble with silver stars scattered over its surfaces. She asked Adesina if she wanted to go inside.

“There is a museum in the history department of the university. Perhaps that might interest you.”

Adesina agreed, and they walked up the sparkling stairs. There were students studying, experimenting, debating, reading and asking questions of their teachers everywhere Adesina looked. Those who were not too preoccupied to notice their passing eyed them in curiosity. L’era took no note as she gracefully led the way to the history department.

The museum itself was quiet and filled with numerous glass cases. The first things that caught Adesina’s attention were the ornate suits of ceremonial armor lined against the far end of the first room.

She counted eleven of them, all made of silver with gold accents. The elaborate scrollwork varied on each of them, giving them each distinction while also making them look like they went together. The gauntlets of each were a different color, and Adesina wondered how they had altered the metal to give it such distinct tones. There was gold, silver and bronze, but there was also black, red, brown, purple, green, orange, dark blue and light blue.

L’era led Adesina closer, so she could inspect the incredible detail that had gone into the armor. Each suit also had a beautiful ceremonial sword with a hilt that matched the gauntlets. Adesina wished that she could touch the stunning workmanship before her, but the glass separated her from the armor and weapons.

“These belonged to the founders of the L’avan: L’aslo, Ed’mon, So’phus, Za’far, Cre’sin, M’os, B’osli, Na’cum, O’nan, Gi’tel, and Kay’l,” the princess said, pointing to them in the order that Adesina had observed them.

In a small room off to the side, Adesina spotted another suit of armor. This one was made completely of gold. The ceremonial sword was likewise made of gold, with a hilt of the purest white. While the other suits of armor bore slight signs of wear, this suit looked as if it had never even been touched.

L’era spoke in a reverent tone. “This was made for L’avan himself. He never wore it, but it was dear to his heart.”

She frowned. “Who was L’avan?”

Her guide paused thoughtfully. “I suppose you could say he was the father of the founders.”

“The founders were all brothers?”

L’era laughed softly. “Not literally, but brothers in a cause. L’avan adopted them and raised them. He taught them everything he knew and passed on his great work to them. It was he who discovered the Spirit Lands, where he found the Serraf and the Rashad.”

Adesina was completely lost. “What are the Serraf?”

“They were women of great power. The sons of L’avan later married them, and it is through their bloodline that we received our gifts. The Rashad were their guardians, and followed them here to our world. They have protected our race ever since.”

A frown wrinkled the brow of Adesina as she took in this new information. “Where are these Spirit Lands?”

The princess shrugged. “Only L’avan knew.”

Behind the suit of armor was an elaborately woven tapestry. It depicted a white haired man who wore a white robe and had light radiating from his being. Adesina assumed that this was L’avan. There were eleven warriors in their ceremonial armor on bended knee before him, and eleven angelic women standing in the background. Each of the women had purple eyes, and each of the men had the varieties of hair color that Adesina had seen among the modern L’avan people. Beside each of the Serraf stood a Rashad, one of which was black with golden eyes.

At the bottom of the tapestry there were several lines of flowing script that Adesina didn’t recognize. She knew that they were written in L’avan characters, but the words themselves made no sense to her. L’era saw her puzzled expression and explained.

“That is written in an older form of our language. One that is not spoken anymore, save in certain ceremonies.”

“What does it say?”

L’era suddenly looked wary. She tried to keep her tone unconcerned, but Adesina could sense her underlying tension. “Oh, nothing of importance.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Then why keep it in your museum?”

Her guide turned and began moving back to the entrance. “Because it is the only likeness of L’avan that survives to this day.”

When she saw that Adesina wasn’t following her away from the tapestry, she gestured impatiently. “Let us return to the palace. The men should be done with their meeting by now. We can go ask them what was so important as to make them neglect you on your first full day here in Yavar.”

The young princess rushed her companion back to the palace, not stopping to point out any of the interesting buildings along the way.

When they arrived, L’era continued up the stairs and through the hall that led to the throne room. At the far corner of the throne room there was a door that led to the rest of the palace. Adesina followed L’era through the door, down a hallway and up a set of stairs.

This section of the palace was still lovely, but not nearly as awe-inspiring as the throne room. It actually felt like someone lived there, which lent a more comfortable atmosphere. The walls and floors were made of wood, which was worn smooth from generations of use. There were tapestries hung on the wall as well as paintings and scrolls of calligraphy. Every few feet there were alcoves with windows, pieces of art, vases of flowers, or skillfully carved wooden doors.

L’era came to a large set of doors at the end of the hall, where two crimson uniformed guards stood at attention. L’era greeted one of the guards with a loving squeeze of the hand. He had a sweet countenance, which oddly contrasted the weapon in his hand, and Adesina guessed he was about L’iam’s age.

L’era introduced him proudly. “Adesina, this is No’am. He is my dava, or as you would probably say, my betrothed. No’am, this is Adesina, sister of E’nes.”

No’am bowed politely to Adesina, and she inclined her head in return. L’era waited for this exchange before addressing No’am again.

“Are they finished with their meeting?”

He nodded. “Only just. You may go in.”

She grasped the large iron handle and pulled, revealing a spacious and comfortable room. There was a long table in the center of the room, surrounded by several wooden chairs. The king sat at the head of the table with eight others in the chairs nearest to him, and Ravi sitting right next to him.

Adesina recognized only half of the men sitting at the table: E’nes, L’iam, Sa’jan and Ri’sel. Of the ones she didn’t recognize, there was an elderly woman and a scholarly man, both of which were dressed in green uniforms, a man dressed in white robes with a large book on the table in front of him, and a young man that could only be L’on, L’iam’s older brother and heir to the throne.

He had inherited his father’s aggressive features and strong demeanor. He wore the same blue uniform as his brother and father, and had a thin circlet of twisted gold resting on his brow.

Everyone looked up at their entrance, and got to their feet when they saw who it was. King L’unn beckoned for them to enter. “L’era, Adesina. Come in, please.”

L’era went to give her father a kiss on the cheek. “I am sorry to interrupt. No’am said you were finished.”

He put a reassuring hand on her arm. “Yes, we are finished. I must give audience for a few hours today, but afterwards we shall have supper.”

The others were gathering their things to leave. E’nes leaned over to murmur something to L’iam, and the movement caught the king’s eye. He glanced at Adesina before addressing her brother.

“E’nes, would you and your family honor us with your company this evening?”

Her brother was surprised by the invitation, but not at all unwilling. He looked at Adesina briefly, but when he didn’t see an objection in her expression he nodded. “Of course, your Majesty. We would be pleased to join you.”

King L’unn looked satisfied. “Just after sunset, then.”

E’nes bowed, and Adesina hurried to follow his example. Together, with Ravi, they left the meeting room and made their way out of the palace.

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