"Arrogant pride and self preservation are as alike as identical twin sisters. They even claim the same parentage. The true test of their identity is their purposes and goals. One seeks to promote self through deception and deceit and always at the expense of all others, never counting the cost, never regretting. The other seeks to preserve self through wisdom, skill of body and mind, always willing to pay the highest price.
“Which sister will be your companion, my son? Look past her beauty and into her heart for that is where you will find her truth.” Tuvon’s kind but stern voice rattled through Kalest and would not be silenced as he walked the stone halls of his Keep known to all of Taragondia as Opallace Proper. To Kalest, it was home. It was filled with bitter sweet memories of family, love and loss. Today added to the bitterness of loss.
The trouble with Erbonia looming in the future made him miss his father, King Tuvon, and his mother, Queen Kurtushan, even more. He would give anything for their council. On the other hand, he was not so sure they would love to see him or specifically, the man he had become. At this moment, he wasn’t sure he could stand being with himself.
He felt as though He Who Has No Name had abandoned him long ago and now intelligence was escaping as well. He was a Du’etten after all. The race of men under the great marue Du’at was the caretaker of knowledge. Du’ettens were legendary as persons of hope and promise whose very named means intelligent. Then why was his intellect fleeing from him like a thief in the night?
“Coward,” Kalest berated that part of himself that should have prevailed. “Unreliable coward,” he mumbled against his own frustration.
He reflected on his actions towards the Erbonian Princess and the reason for the ominous problems coloring his future darker than ever before. He reacted without purpose and reason which was a dangerous thing. His head and heart were now at odds. Calla was the recipient of one of his greatest moments of weakness and it filled him with shame. Many would pay the price when war ravished this land he loved so dearly for that weakness.
Calla, princess and priestess of Erbonia and heir to her father’s throne, was a guiding light to her people. She was also the one person he knew with every fiber of his existence, to be his closest friend even though he could not admit to that truth at this moment. She had come to Opallace with an offering of peace for their nations whose treaty had been abused to the point of non-existence.
In return he interrogated her, treated her as an unwanted guest, ignored her, and at best insulted her. Then, as a final blow, he threw her out as though she were a thieving beggar. His inner battle began to roll into a full war. Ironically, he now longed for her wisdom and wondered if she would be in the dream-walk world they shared.
Part of him knew he would never see her again. It was easier before he knew who his best friend was in the waking world. Why did she have to pull their friendship from the shadow world of dream and fantasy and throw it into the ugly light of this world that has no mercy?
He could not tell if it was pride or self preservation that had dictated his actions. “My dear marue Du’at, what advice would you have for your wayward son?” Kalest asked into the cool of the night but his personal doubt over shadowed his thoughts. “And what would the great marue, one of the seven keepers of the world, have to do with me?”
He had lost track of time as the sky was beginning to pale with the morning’s embrace. He began to wonder if any of the good people of Opallace were aware of all these untidy events that had taken place under their noses. The immense crowd that had gathered to enjoy the King’s feast in honor of Princess Calla had to have had a few unplanned spectators for the unpleasant and unexpected event in which he evicted his royal guest without ceremony.
The King continued to brood over which twin sister it was that held his heart captive. His consciousness constricted a little tighter as he set his jaw and entered the main banquet hall. The man who had bid the King a good night the evening before was in the center of a small circle of people who were being entertained by his animated story. Kalest checked his countenance and sauntered over to stand against the wall, listening to the man’s tale.
The number of guests had diminished significantly in his absence. Others around the hall were in small groups engaged in various activities and discussions including a lively game of knives. A few were sleeping at tables and in chairs against the wall by the hearth. The fire continued to sizzle with the aroma of seasoned meat lingering in the air. Candles danced excitedly in the darkness. In all, the hall was relaxed and peaceful.
“‘And why should that be my concern?’ asked the bear. I looked at him and said, ‘Because no one can bear it when momma gets upset.’”
A few shook their heads at the ridiculousness of the story while some laughed. Kalest stepped up and placed his hand on the man’s shoulder as the crowd began to disperse. “With such bad stories, friend, I should have you thrown in the stocks.”
“Now that is something momma really couldn’t bear. Even Ru’kai steers clear of her. He’s scared she might try to take over.” He laughed at his own wit.
The two men walked over to the table and engaged in light conversation and a new round of refreshments. The man had much to say and Kalest needed something to engage his thought. It was a good match for now.
Calla wasn’t able to sulk, she was fare past that now. She was far past the safety of Opallace proper as well, walking a small foot path that lead her west in a winding shadowed area of rock face. This section of cliffs felt older than the great trees of Ir’bon that surrounded Father’s Keep.
In a detached rational clarity, she began to analyze her situation as she made her way through the winding path that led down the mountain. Maybe part of her had faced the reality and made a quick retreat into wisdom. Maybe part of her found the childishness of her silly tirade to be fruitless and it was time to grow up and face reality. Either way, she knew a few things that were painfully obvious. A princess should be happy to be surrounded by the security of her family and Keep with a sure path laid out in front of her. Her father had arranged for her to marry Shardan. He was King Yadil’s Captain and trusted man. He was also twice her age and the list of incompatibilities were longer than the tallest Nilor tree. Still, she should have been happy to serve her people and make a good life for them.
She wondered if Shardan had come looking for her yet. It is in his nature to be out of sorts when his ‘property’ runs off without his permission. As well, her father would be beside himself for her refusal to obey the traditions of their people. How could she explain that she has wanted more? She wanted a chance to create the perfect solution in which everyone would be happy – except Shardan but that was a small price to pay. He would never be happy since his unkind heart was the source of his trouble.
To add to that, Calla was the priestess of her people and keeper of the dream-walk. In all, she was a legend of the Du’etten bloodline of unusual birth. She was one of many who strove for the hope promised when the fall of Taragondia destroyed creation’s purpose. These facts justified her actions so many weeks ago. Now they seem confused and weak. To add to that, the desires of the heart have voices that scream so loud they are impossible to ignore. This is especially true when your Du’etten blood sings within your very bones unceasingly about these desires. Your ironclad will demands to be followed to whatever end you might find.
Calla had left home with youthful hope and visions of grandeur as her closest companions. Hours flew into the days and then the days turned into weeks which opened up their embrace to months. The exuberant hope she had once felt was now a crushing depth of foolishness. There seemed little hope left no matter what path she chose. The bleakness of her life with Shardan was more real than any other path before her.
She could return home and face her father’s wrath for ignoring his edicts and protocols that were older than her family’s rule. She could make her own life amongst the wild paths of Y’lim and Shadow Valley between the old land passes in the land of Pennor and let Princess Calla be lost in the wind. Part of her wondered if Father or Shardan would ever stop looking for her. She also entertained the idea of Shardan becoming King without her by his side. It wasn’t hard to picture Lord Elteel’s short and wretched life coming to an end at the hand of his trusted Captain during an unexpected battle. Shardan would get power with or without her.
She thought about the one path no longer open to her. The one she desired to walk but because of her own arrogant and fumbling attempts at diplomacy it was lost.
Calla had never been away from home for so long. She missed her father although he was a stern warrior with little time for the soft touch of fatherhood. Two months had come and gone and she had nothing more than failed ambitions to show for it. Maybe he would welcome her back with open arms. Maybe she could return home and all would be forgiven and forgotten as life in the dark Keep returned to normal.
She wanted to sit and talk with Mistress Kathy and absorb words of wisdom for her brokenness. She longed for Master Marty’s healing music to calm her inner turmoil. She thought about the two who served so faithfully in her father’s Erbonian Keep and did so with little reward. “It is the simple things that bring the greatest pleasure,” Kathy would encourage her with tales of mystical beings who served the invisible on with no name. The creatures had names but she could not recall them. “I am afraid children’s stories will not help me now.” She spoke to the image of Mistress Kathy conjured by her mind as she walked. It amazed Calla that these two people held so firmly to that which they could not see, could not touch, and had no proof of.
“I have need of encouragement, my good people.” Calla spoke as she reflected on their belief in He Who Has No Name and the seven creatures that serve him. One who had rebelled against the Nameless One and was no longer welcomed which hit a nerve Calla didn’t want to dwell on. Their belief stood strong and often dictated their actions. It was this quality that made them such an important part of Calla’s life. She longed for the faith they lived out each and every day but Calla needed things she could hold. She needed to be able to have something to face and fix. “So much for fixing this,” Calla reflected on her feelings as she walked the dirt path through the garden of Opallace Proper towards the gate.
Then she thought about the place that served as her abode for such a short time but had become a big part of her. The open and willing acceptance from the Opallian people touched her heart. Vans, the sweet handmaid, made her feel trusted and cared for. Grund, in his own rough way, gave her respect that did not exist amongst her own people. Kalest she missed most of all even if he was King of Opallace and her father’s enemy. He was her only true friend, at least for her part.
Kalest was a man of many noble characters and admirable qualities including being true to his word. The sting of his last statement to her was still as fresh and strong as the moment when he threw her out of his Keep and demanded that she never return. She wondered that if she broke her neck on this traitorous terrain if Kalest would celebrate or mourn.
As King, he had the right to remove her from all Opallace. As her dream companion, he overstepped a line that even the love of friendship would have a very hard time mending.
As one of the three great Taragondian powers, his actions could easily be the spark of war. She was grateful that there were no witnesses to carry tidings to her father. Her regret would always exist but that was her secret now.
“When given the conflict between what you want and what you do, the most unlikely path always seems to be that which causes the greatest change. Yet it is that very thing which we choose.” Kalest quoted his great grandfather as the two men continued to exchange thoughts on various subjects.
“Ah, the great Utrah, Grandfather of peace and all that is Opallace. Surely you can’t expect me to compete with that, My Lord? Even if I had a full nights rest, I am no match for the Du’etten and his kin folk.” The man offered with a yawn.
Kalest smiled and bid the storyteller a good day as the man found need for rest and parted the Keep and the King’s good company.
This left Kalest without distraction so he stood in the darkness of the corner of the room. The volatile feelings now morphed into hostile images as he silently reflected on his final encounter with the all too lovely dark princess of Erbonia. The reality of his one true friend being gone from his life was something he couldn’t grasp.
The deepest part of his intelligence knew he had made a grave error but he could not get his heart to agree. The inner war had changed. A new battle washed over him and he had not prepared for this. His companion of mistrust screamed louder than his intelligence.