A J Thompson | Andrew Thompson, Rockhampton Australia

The Second Son of Arasti, a short story by Andrew Thompson

The Second Son of Arasti is an excerpt from my novel, "Prophets."

©2005 Andrew Thompson

Arasti groaned in his sleep, annoyed beyond words at the buzzing intercom beside his bed. Tonight had been one of the few times during the past year that he'd actually managed to get to sleep before midnight, but it seemed that the world wanted his nocturnal lifestyle to continue unchanged.

He fumbled for the lamp switch then pressed the intercom button.

"Yes Grakos," he muttered irritably to his Captain.

"My apologies Lord King, but you have a visitor."

"A visitor at this hour?  Are you insane?  Send them away!"

The unseen soldier floundered. "With respect Lord King - it's your son, Prince Karelia."

Arasti sighed heavily then lowered his feet to the floor. Karelia had never visited like this before, and Arasti found his mood changing from annoyance to worry.

He tied his discarded loincloth around his waist, not bothering to reply to Grakos. The man was useless. Not one Palace Captain had proven worthy since Lotoff's departure last year.

Unconcerned for needless formality, he padded barefoot through the cavernous Sacred Chambers. The invisible security shield ceased its gentle humming as he approached the mansion's foyer. He stepped out into the night and beckoned his son to climb the short staircase. Karelia approached then offered a respectful half-bow.

"I apologise for waking you Father, but I had to see you."

Arasti waited for his son to join him on the hard-backed mahogany bench. "Talk to me."

Karelia cleared his throat. "I'm leaving for Erstinaya. From there, I'll trek inland to Vena Cleft."

Arasti groaned aloud. "Your loyalty to Zanaes is commendable, but no, I won't allow it."

"Why not?  You're immune to the haak, so I am too. If it will make you happy, I'll take a vial of your blood with me so Vena can make a serum."

"It's not the haak that bothers me."

"Then what is it?"

The King reclined as best he could on the unforgiving seat. "You know my reasons."

"The Kung Tai?"

"Aye. You only have six weeks to prepare. I won't risk your ascension over some foolhardy trek to the Alps."

Karelia drummed his fingers on the seat then stood in favour of pacing the marble tiles.

"With respect father, it's my ascension - not yours, and I choose to risk my ascension. Zanaes is my Consul and friend, and if my presence in Vena Cleft can aid his survival at all, then any risk is worthwhile. I didn't come here to seek your support - I came to say goodbye."

Arasti's dark eyes locked on those of his proud son.

"Then I'll say it again Karelia - only six weeks remain before the cusp of the second eclipse. The timing was set before you were even conceived, and it can't be changed. It's a day over which I have no control at all, and  the most important day you'll ever live."

Arasti leaned forward to cup his son's chin. "Do you understand Karelia?  Do you know what will happen if you don't commence the Kung Tai with Lord Ogron on that day .... "

The Prince barely nodded. "Aye father, I know the law. You'll be ordered to slit my throat, and the Faith will demand that a new heir be bred from my harvested seed."

Arasti flinched as though he'd been punched, but he couldn't deny his son's words.

With the greatest effort, he remet the brown eyes of his sole surviving son, whose birth he could still recall with such clarity.

"Karelia, I love you without limitation, but .... we're Creatures of the Faith. As such, I couldn't oppose the Faith when Danos and Zanaes were sent away, and I can't oppose it now. If I over-rule the law whenever it suits me, the people will revolt. Crown and Faith must co-exist, or the empire won't survive."

Karelia lowered himself down to kneel then took the King's hand.

"I love you too Father, but do you think I would want to live without honour?  It is my duty and my heartfelt wish to go to Zanaes. If I fail to return by the cusp, then I'll stand before you with pride to receive my sacred death. I'll stand before you truly a man, knowing that I followed the only path my spirit would allow."

He brushed his father's brow with his fingertips.

"I know you Father. I know the way you think and the way you feel, and I am proud to be so like you. And I understand that you'll have no choice but to enact the Faith's decree. But armed with all this knowledge, nothing has been said to change my mind. If I must die, then I must die, and it will be no-one's fault but mine."

Defeated, Arasti cupped his face in his hands, a sob of anguish rising from his throat. Karelia's heart sank as he watched his shattered father weeping like a child. He quickly wiped the tears from his own eyes, then brushed his father's brow with his lips.

"I love you," he whispered, then ran out into the night.

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