Chapter Twenty-nine: The Prophecy
As they walked, E’nes asked Adesina about her day. She went over a few brief details, but she had something more specific in mind for their discussion.
“Are you familiar with the museum at the university?”
His expression was a bit too careful to be natural. Adesina knew the answer immediately, even before he spoke.
“Oh, did L’era take you to the museum?”
Adesina’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, but I did not get to see much of it. She seemed in a hurry to get back to the palace.”
E’nes smiled. “She never stays away from her family for long.”
She decided that she would have to try a more direct tactic. “There was an interesting tapestry behind the armor of L’avan. I could not read the writing on it.”
He nodded uncomfortably. “It is written in an old language. Few speak it anymore.”
“What does it say?”
There was a long pause while E’nes collected his thoughts. “I could not translate it for you,” he hedged.
Adesina’s lips tightened in irritation. “But you could tell me what it says.”
Ravi chuckled quietly and E’nes sighed. “Yes, I could.”
She felt her temper getting the better of her. “Why is everyone so anxious to keep it a secret? Are you afraid that I will turn the information over to the Shimat?”
E’nes was horrified that his sister thought he viewed her in such a way. “No, of course not!”
“Then what?” she demanded.
His voice became pleading. “You will know in time, Adesina, but now is not the right time. Please, be patient. I promise I will tell you everything as soon as I can.”
She looked to Ravi for an answer, but she could tell by his expression that he wasn’t going to say a word. She fixed her eyes straight ahead and silently fumed that she was tired of being treated so cautiously.
When they arrived, E’nes turned Adesina over to Wren’na to prepare her for supper that night. Wren’na sent E’nes on some errands and then set to work on pinning Adesina’s hair up in an elaborate mass of twists and braids. She was weaving in a string of tiny pearls with a bluish tint when E’nes returned. He was holding an elegant cream-colored dress that had belonged to their mother. He handed it to his wife and then left the room.
“This should fit you better than anything I own,” Wren’na said in satisfaction.
There were some minor alterations that had to be made. Adesina had a similar build to her mother, but they were not exact. Wren’na’s hands flew as she stitched and hemmed. There were also some modifications to the fashion to make it look more modern. Adesina held still as Wren’na worked.
After a few minutes of small talk, Adesina asked casually, “Are you familiar with the museum at the university?”
Wren’na nodded, unable to speak with several pins held between her lips. Ravi gave Adesina a reproving look, but she ignored it stubbornly.
“There was a beautiful tapestry behind the armor of L’avan, but I could not read what was written on it.”
Wren’na frowned thoughtfully, removing the pins one by one as she went on with the alterations. “I believe that is the Prophecy of the Threshold Child, but I am not certain. History was never my favorite subject.”
Adesina felt a wave of disappointment. “So you do not know what it says?”
She shook her head. “I know I should remember, but I do not. I only remember that the Threshold Child is to be the one to save our people from destruction.”
An uneasiness filled Adesina’s chest, weighing it down. “What kind of destruction?”
Wren’na shrugged. “I do not remember the details of the prophecy.”
The hairs on the back of Adesina’s neck stood on end. Suddenly, she didn’t want to know what the tapestry said. Something deep down inside of her told her that she would be sorry if she heard those mysterious words.
She was searching for a casual way to introduce a new subject when E’nes came back into the room.
He had changed from his Protector uniform and was wearing a dark green tunic with lighter green embroidery. His fine features gave him a noble look, and his upright stance conveyed confidence. Wren’na looked at him with adoration in her eyes.
“Almost ready?” he asked.
Wren’na nodded happily as she surveyed her work. “I believe so. Adesina, you look beautiful.”
Her brother gave his agreement. “You look just like Mother.”
She tried to appear flattered, but she felt more uncomfortable than anything else. She hated wearing dresses, and didn’t know why she couldn’t just wear her uniform.
Wren’na led her to a full-length mirror so she could take a look at herself. Adesina also thought that she looked a lot like their mother. She almost didn’t recognize herself.
The style of her hair was elegant and the dress was stunning. The cream color complemented her skin tones, and the satin material shone in the lamplight. It had a fitted bodice, which showed off her figure nicely, and the flowing skirt and flared sleeves made her look more liquid than solid.
Adesina rarely thought of herself as a woman, and concerns about physical beauty had fallen by the wayside just as often. However, she was strangely pleased by the lovely young woman gazing back from the mirror, in spite of the uncomfortable feeling of the dress. For the first time in her life, she felt like something beyond a Shimat.
Wren’na hurried from the room to make preparations of her own. Adesina and E’nes waited for her in the main room downstairs while she changed. She returned with her hair pinned up in a manner similar to Adesina’s, only with pale green ribbons weaving through the twists and braids. Her dress was the same pale green as the ribbons in her hair and the material shimmered faintly. It was gathered and ruffled along the edges, making her look like she had stepped into a piece of foamy sea tossed by the wind.
E’nes proudly took both of their arms and led them down the twilit streets to the palace, with Ravi following close behind. They were met at the palace by servants in grey livery and shown to an ornate antechamber leading to the dining hall. There was quite a group milling around, waiting for the arrival of the king. Some of these people Adesina recognized, others she did not.
They were greeted by the royal family. L’era, in particular, was excited to see them. She linked arms with Adesina and whispered in her ear, “I am so happy that you are here. Dinner with military leaders and Father’s head counselors—I would have been bored to tears.”
She was dressed in a gown of deep violet and wore an elegant diamond necklace. Her abundant golden hair was heaped up in curls and held in place by two silver combs. On her forehead rested a silver circlet in the shape of intertwining vines.
L’iam was also wearing a silver circlet, but his was twisted like his brother’s golden one. This was the first time Adesina had seen him wearing anything other than his uniform. He was dressed in black, with a crimson sash draped across his chest, and the black ribbon he constantly wore still fastened around his neck. The sash was tastefully decorated with various metals and ornaments. Adesina thought he looked exactly as a prince should: regal, handsome, with a warm expression on his face.
His brother was dressed the same, but with a deep blue sash that was more highly decorated. He sat next to his mother, speaking to her in a low voice. The queen sat reclined on a chaise, looking beautiful and delicate. Adesina wondered about the state of health of the seemingly frail woman. It appeared as though everyone was going out of their way to act as if nothing was out of the ordinary, but she was still treated like an invalid.
The doors were flung open to admit the king. He was dressed to match his sons, but his sash was a pure white and had more decorations than the both of theirs combined. He surveyed the room, and noted that all of his guests had arrived. With a smile of satisfaction, he spread his hands in a gesture of welcome.
“I am pleased that you could gather to join me and my family for supper. Shall we proceed to the dining hall?”
The dining hall had been set up to accommodate their number, but it looked capable of holding a much bigger group as well. The walls were hung with vivid tapestries and there were a number of white marble statues lining the edge of the room. The ceiling was painted to emulate a starry sky, and the long table was decorated with wreaths of flowers and other sweet smelling plants.
Servants led each of them to the places they would be seated. Adesina was surprised that she was so close to the king. He sat at the head of the table, with L’iam on his right and L’era on his left. Adesina was seated next to L’era, and there was an empty place next to her where the chair had been taken away. Ravi took his place here, looking completely at ease sitting at a dinner table.
E’nes and his wife were next to L’iam, while Queen Ta’mala and L’on were at the other end of the table, helping to entertain the guests seated there. There were enough people at this dinner party that Adesina doubted that she would have been able to speak to the other guests at the far end of the table without shouting.
The first course was placed in front of them by the legion of servants. Adesina noticed that Ravi was not served and leaned to ask quietly, “Are you not going to eat with us?”
He smiled softly. “No, Ma’eve. The Rashad rarely dine with others.” When he saw the questions in her eyes, his smile widened. “Do not concern yourself, dear one. It is not a matter of importance. It is simply a matter of preference.”
Only slightly mollified, Adesina turned her attention back to the people around her. E’nes and Wren’na were talking to a wizened couple sitting next to them. L’iam and his father were discussing the problems that had been brought before the king while he gave audience.
It was Adesina’s understanding that there were Law Keepers who took care of the everyday matters, but when something couldn’t be settled by them, it was taken to the king. L’era listened with interest, occasionally posing questions or making comments. King L’unn listened to everything his two younger children had to say, as if it held as much importance as anything offered by his heir or counselors.
“How many of the herds have been affected?”
“Almost one third.”
“What can we do, father?”
King L’unn shrugged sadly. “I do not know. I would hate to order a hunt to thin out their numbers, but I do not know what else can be done. The Rashad are focusing their forces in the Pass, and I cannot ask them to do otherwise. Especially with what has been happening with the southerners.”
L’era frowned in concern. “Perhaps the packs will move on in time.”
King L’unn smiled at his daughter’s optimism. “The winter will only drive them farther south. Then all of our herds will be picked at by the beasts.”
L’iam noticed that Adesina was listening and explained. “There is a rather fierce pack of northern wolves attacking our cattle.”
She nodded, noticing that the king’s eyes had fixed on her as well. He acknowledged the servant placing the second course in front of him, but did not waver his gaze. When he spoke, it was in a quiet voice.
“What do you think of the L’avan, Adesina?”
Her reply was worded carefully. “I have been pleasantly surprised.”
King L’unn raised an eyebrow. “Surprised?”
She smiled faintly as she answered. “The Shimat led me to believe that the L’avan were a power-seeking, tyrannical cult.”
He nodded grimly. “Yes, well, that seems to be the most common opinion among our neighbors.”
Adesina’s voice was slightly challenging as she posed her question. “Why do the Shimat hate you so much?”
King L’unn leaned back, looking at her thoughtfully. “Because we are the only people free from their influences. If they discredit us, they remove the danger of us exposing them for what they are. Or, at least, of anyone believing us.”
She frowned. “Why do the L’avan stay isolated so far north? Why not join the rest of the world and show them that there is nothing to fear?”
His expression became sad. “In the time of the founders, our existence was widely known. Even back then, we lived separate from the Kingdom of Sehar, and so we were treated with hostility. The persecution grew greater with every passing year. Eventually, it was decided that it would be safer for our people to create a bit of distance between ourselves and Seharans.”
Adesina shook her head. “Why not simply strive to overcome the hostility? Create friendships between yourselves and others?”
The king merely nodded, but L’iam said softly to himself, “Someday we will.”
Adesina looked at him in curiosity. “What do you mean?”
It was apparent that he had not meant to speak aloud. He glanced at his father apologetically. “Well…”
“We have been promised that things will not always be this way,” the king finished for his son.
She didn’t understand. “What do you mean?”
An uncomfortable silence followed, which was only broken by Ravi. “Tell her, L’unn. It is time.”
The king did not appear nearly as certain. “Are you sure, old friend?”
Ravi inclined his head. “L’iam?”
The prince’s eyes flickered before settling on Adesina. There was a hint of resignation in the tone of his voice as he spoke. “There was a prophecy given by L’avan, the father of our race.”
The uneasiness that Adesina had felt back at E’nes’s house returned full force. Her chest constricted, and she had to remind herself to breathe. Nervous tension, like electricity, shot through her limbs, giving her goose bumps. She looked over at her brother, and saw that he had his eyes fixed on them in anxiety. The rest of the table seemed oblivious to the sudden shift of mood.
“L’avan spoke of the persecution and trials we would have to endure as a people, and he spoke of a ‘gilded prison’ of our own making. Then he prophesied of the one who would save us from our slow destruction.”
Almost against her will, Adesina asked, “What did he say of that person?”
L’iam’s eyes were deep with the strong mixture of emotions he felt. “He said, ‘Look, therefore, to the advent of the Threshold Child. One who is of this people yet not of this people. One who bears all gifts, Dreams as friends, sees as the enemy and shall be called the bird of prey. This is the one who stands on the Threshold of a New World. This is the one who will save my children from the slow destruction of their atrophy and lead them back to the light of their purpose.’”
King L’unn studied her intently. “There is only one person in the history of the L’avan who has filled all of these requirements.”
Adesina felt ill with the slow realization that had been coming on since she had first heard of the prophecy. Now, hearing the words she had wished to avoid, she knew exactly who they were talking about.
They were talking about her.