The next evening as the streets of the city filled up with glow lanterns held by Shrkai from throughout the region to see the enthronement of the new Grand Chancellor, Millorny was being helped down from where he was still hanging by his arms. His eyes rolled inside of fluttering eyelids, as his head fell to the side, his limp neck unable to support its weight. Sweat and moisture from the dripping stalagmite ran down his face through the dark black stubble of beard with a few grey mixed in. He was held by two strong Shrkai soldiers, as his limp body fell from its previous mount. His bare feet dragged more than walked, as he was guided away from the stalagmite he had been hanging from for days.
Outside the underground lair where Millorny was being half carried, half dragged from his former imprisonment, a procession of priests in bright-colored robes led Trajev up the steps of a pyramid mound. On both sides of them hundreds of priests stood and bowed as the procession made its way passed them and up the mound where a gathering of the highest priests and the members of the high council sat behind a circular stone table with a ritual stone placed in the center.
Life started to slowly return to Millorny’s limp body, as he was led through the natural corridors and toward some carved steps leading upwards. His numb feet reached up one step at a time, more guided by the assistance of two of the soldiers holding him on either side, than by his own power. Three other armed soldiers led the way up the curving stairs, until reaching a large door at the top where another soldier stood on the opposite side looking through a small window in the door and opened it when the group got near.
Patrah was dressed in his colorful official robes standing with two of the highest priests on either side of him near the ceremonial stone set in the middle of the circular table that Trajev was being led toward. Patrah being a neutral advisor of the council was chosen to be the official person to enthrone the new Grand Chancellor. He stood behind the stone altar with his right hand gripping an ornate staff, as Trajev stood before him and they looked into each other’s eyes.
As Patrah stood poised to enthrone the new Grand Chancellor, Millorny was led through the doorway into a chamber with closed doors in a circle. Millaney leaped from her cot! She heard the door open and saw them lead her father into the chamber and toward one of the cell doors. She ran to the locked cell door of her tiny prison cell and put her face as close to the small opening in the door as she could.
“FATHER!” she screamed out of the opening with tears swelling in her eyes. Millorny heard his daughter’s cry and turned to look her way. He summoned all the strength he could and stood on his own shrugging off the two soldiers holding him up. He took a slow, careful step toward her. The soldiers near him looked at each other, but gave no indication they were going to try to stop him. As he took another shaky step toward the cell his daughter was in, one of the soldiers reached out to catch him should he fall, but Millorny looked at him and smiled with cracked, blistered lips.
“Let me go alone please.... I promise not to escape.” Millorny tried to laugh, the corners of his lips lifting briefly, as he swayed from side to side, as if he were intoxicated. The soldier nodded to him, and he took another shaky step toward his daughter.
The full bright green smooth glowing moon representing the God Lunarri and the cratered dark red quartered blood moon representing the god Crimsonna were in equal distance in the darkened night sky above the step pyramid. Patrah nodded to one of the priests near him and handed his staff to another, as he accepted a long, heavy necklace from the priest with both hands. Trajev bowed before him and lowered himself to a single knee, as Patrah brought the necklace toward his neck. The large golden pendant on the end of the necklace was a depiction of the five main deities of the Shrkai faith. Three oval loops one of green, for Lunarri, one red for Crimsonna and blue for Tarleena looped together with two gold circles representing the sun goddesses, Zeganna and Norganna at the center.
Patrah eased the necklace toward the neck of Trajev, as Millorny walked toward his daughter in the prison chamber. A heavy tear dripped down Millaney’s cheek, as her father reached her cell door and braced his shoulder against it with his face a short distance from hers in the small opening in her cell door.
“Everything will be alright.” Millorny said to her in a surprising convincing manner, as if he truly believed it to be true. Millaney reached her hand out the tiny opening and ran her fingers over his smiling lips.
“I know Patrah. I know,” she said in the softest possible voice and held his unshaven cheek in her hand. Millorny smiled. He knew the name she and Sarnay used to call their great grandfather was not really his name, but a Shrkai word meaning beloved, or great father.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t have been there for you when you were growing up. You’ve blossomed into such a beautiful, brilliant young lady.” He reached into a pocket in his trousers and pulled out Millaney’s blue bow that fell from her hair as she flew on her dragon. “I uhh picked this up for you.” He handed her the bow. She pulled it in and held it in her hands. “Never change who you are, no matter what anyone tells you, especially me.” He made a weak attempt at a smile and Millaney held the blue bow in one hand and reached out again to touch his cheek with the other. She just stood watching him with her hand caressing his cheek and her lower lip quivering and a tear dropping off the corner of her jawline. She knew he was soon to die. What really hurt was she could think of no way to help him. She could only hope that their friends had a plan in place to rescue him despite the overwhelming odds.
“I should go to my room now,” he pushed himself off the door and Millaney grabbed at his face with the one hand she could reach through the opening in a feeble attempt to pull him back to her and through the opening if she could. Millorny reached his hand up to hers and gently pulled it free and kissed her palm. “I’m not going far. Perhaps they’ll let us have breakfast together.” Millorny smiled and released her hand and stepped backwards even as she thrust her arm out of the opening reaching as hard as she could for him. One of the soldiers stepped forth to aid him back toward the other cell door which had been opened for him.
Millaney pressed her face up against the opening her lips curled and bright teeth exposed, as tears streamed down her cheeks. She watched as he was led into the cell and lay down on the cot. The soldier looked her way briefly, as he closed his cell door and departed leaving two soldiers standing outside his door. Millaney tried desperately to see her father through the opening in his door, but she could not even if it had been brighter in his cell, the cot was out of view. She turned around and slid her back down the door and sat looking at the opposite wall of her room. She tried in vain to retract the tears that now flowed down her face, but crossed her arms over her knees and lay her head down burying her face in her arms.
Patrah lowered the necklace over Trajev’s head and rested it upon his shoulders. Trajev stood and grinned at Patrah, who bowed his head and stepped back. Two priests carried over an upholstered high-back throne chair, as another handed Trajev a gilded staff. The priests also bowed and backed away, as the new Grand Chancellor looked out over the multitudes of onlookers spread out on the sides of the temple pyramid and filled the streets of Shrkai city.
Millaney awoke sitting on the floor hours later. Her back was still against the heavy wooden door, as she lifted her head from its resting place on her knees. She looked around the small room she sat in. With only a trace of lamp-light drifting in through the small window in her door, she could see only the small cot, one chair and a pile of straw set against the far wall for her to relief herself in. She had never been so alone before in her life.
She lifted herself up from the floor and turned to look through the window in her door. She could see two armed soldiers sitting together at a small table stationed just outside her father’s cell door. She tried to look into the small window in his doorway to see if he was sleeping, but all she could see was darkness in his room. She stood there leaning on the door with her open palm pressed against the rough wood hoping he was alright.
Elsewhere in a bright lit corridor with smooth stone walls with carved columns and arched supports with pointed peaks Trajev walked toward his newly acquired council chambers. He ran his fingertips across a stitched tapestry with purple fringed edges marveling at the depiction of the city he lived in, as he approached a huge smooth polished door with a servant standing near. He smiled at the servant who opened the door for him and dropped his long cape after entering his room. The servant caught the cape and gently folded it and placed it in a tall wooden wardrobe. Trajev walked through the room, as the servant went to open a cover on a frihar lamp. Trajev walked over to the side of his cushioned bed covered in a purple bedspread and sat on the edge, as the servant lifted the lid on the lamp brightening the room. Trajev caught the glitter of a small coin sitting on a shelf near his bed, as the room was illuminated by the greenish glow of the lamp. He reached for the coin not noticing the servant standing nearby looking toward him. He lifted the coin mesmerized by its shimmer and remembered when Ralomar gave it to him not to far back. Humans aren’t all that bad. he remembered him say, as he tossed him the coin. they gave us this.
Trajev kicked off his sandals and lay back on his bed holding the gold coin in his fingers. The servant backed out of the room, as Trajev got comfortable on his bed laying on his back staring up at the gold coin. He had never dreamed of becoming the grand chancellor of all of Shrkai. At a young age he started in the priesthood and a life of servitude. Ralomar had promised him he could get him appointed and the promise of more gold to come. As he turned the coin in his fingertips, it slipped from him and dropped to the floor. He threw his legs over and placed his bare feet on the polished stone floor, as the coin rolled toward the wall. He followed the coin reaching for it, as it passed through the wall.
His chamber room vanished. Trajev found himself outside the building in the bright daylight even though darkness had already set. The city was nowhere to be seen. He was in the middle of the dessert with the coin rolling along the hard-packed soil toward a tall mesa in the near distance. Without stopping to question his sudden change in scenery, he chased after the glistening gold coin. He reached out for the coin several times, but was never quite able to grasp it, as it eluded him at the final moment with a sharp turn to the left or right. He soon chased the coin all the way to the base of the mesa and stopped to catch his breath thinking his chase must be over.
A brisk wind blew at Trajev’s robes and his long white hair whipped behind his neck. He bent down to retrieve the shimmering golden coin, when it evaded him yet again and mysteriously swirled upward in the now strong winds. Not to be outdone, Trajev reached up for the coin, as it floated upward just off the surface of the steep mesa. With winds now howling around him, he climbed up the side of the mesa chasing after his new obsession with gold. I must have it he thought. It’s my time now. I’ll not let this slip away! He continued to climb up the tall mesa that stretched out higher and higher into the sky with the coin dancing in the wind just out of his reach. The coin would occasionally land on a ridge of the mesa, but before he could grasp it, the wind would again lift it further up the ascending mesa wall mocking his feeble attempts to retrieve it.
For hours he climbed up the mesa until he passed through thin moist clouds in the dogged pursuit of a single gold coin. Again the gold coin landed on a ledge. With his feet on a lower ledge and one hand holding a trunk of a narrow tree growing out of the mesa wall, Trajev reached out for the coin yet again. His fingertips were just touching the cool metal, but he was stretched out as far as he could and pushed the coin away rather than pulling it in. He lifted his leg and stepped up onto a narrow foothold in the stone with soil crumbling out and down the mesa. He lifted himself up just enough to finally grasp the coin yet again in his fingertips. He looked upon the shimmering metal and was about to put it in his robes when a gust of wind blew it free from his grasp.
The coin flew upward to the top of the mesa just a short distance away. He lowered his head and clenched his hand into a fist. Trajev pulled himself up to the top of the cliff and saw the coin lying on the flat ground of the high mesa. He walked toward the coin and reached out to pick it up, but yet again the coin mysteriously rolled away toward the center of the mesa high up above the clouds. He trudged forward determined to have his coin back. The coin rolled and weaved until it reached the very center of the mesa, then stopped. The wind died down at the same exact instant. Trajev stood with the coin lying quiet and still at his feet, then reached down to reclaim his obsession.
The moment his fingers touched the coin, his reality changed dramatically. The top of the mesa transformed into a huge marble mansion with tall columns supporting the roof and a sparkling fountain of water. A young female Shrkai servant dressed in a bright colored dress brought him a tray of food and wine. He looked to see that he was dressed in even more elaborate purple robes than he was at his ceremony and servants were all around tending to his meticulous estate. He nodded to the servant, as he grasped his challis of wine and walked over to sit on a cushioned curved bench where another servant fed him striped berries from a basket. Trajev smiled, as he accepted the offerings and even caressed the cheek of the servant serving him the berries.
He looked out passed the elaborate mansion and saw something unusual. He shrugged off the insistence of the servants to remain seated and walked toward the edge of the high mesa. For some strange reason he now viewed the mesa from an outside perspective. He could see the huge mansion on top in the center of the mesa with its multitude of servants, but he could see that the mesa wasn’t a mesa at all. Beneath his mansion were about a dozen other mansions all on the same level, the top level of what he thought was a mesa beneath his mansion. These mansions were equal to his in every way except on a smaller scale. Each of these mansions also had a master being pampered by servants and tall columns holding up their roofs, only the roofs of these mansions were the floors and grounds around his mansion. Looking below these dozen mansions he now saw the thousands of smaller homes that supported them, only these homes didn’t have columns holding up the roofs, but the people themselves held up the roofs on this level. Thousands of Shrkai stood near each other standing, but with knees bent holding up the enormous weight of the mansions above.
Trajev squinted his eyes, as he looked at the lowest level. He saw what he thought were worms wriggling in the compacted soil of the bottom level. As his focus become clear he could see that they weren’t worms at all, but people. Thousands of people held up the bottom layer of the mesa beneath his sprawling mansion high above the clouds. Looking even closer he could see that they weren’t Shrkai people at all, but the people from the northern regions, thousands of men women and children cramped into the final narrow layer. Gasping and struggling to free themselves from the unimaginable weight of the layers above, still clinging to life was the humans, elves, dwarves, dagnaars, chelonians and wiefings of the northern region.
As Trajev’s focus narrowed on this bottom layer, he took sight of a small human girl laying beneath her mother who desperately tried to keep the weight from crushing her child. The child smiled at Trajev as he looked at her now so close he could see the whites of her crystal gold-colored eyes. “Did you catch your precious coin?” the small child asked of him with her soft but sarcastic voice.
Trajev woke up in his chambers. He fell out of bed on his knees and arched his back, as his stomach painfully lurched in dry heaves. He opened his hand and saw the gold coin pressed into his palm. He threw the coin across the room and sat with his back against his bed.