Chapter 3: A Beautiful Vision

A pair of eyes peeked over a grey balustrade: Xander stole a glance at the opulent terrace garden of the Royal Palace. His eyes flitted from one blossoming flower to another, searching for a most beautiful and ethereal. His heart whispered, She has not yet arrived, but she will, soon.

The boy turned and sat down on the open portico above the Royal Kitchen. He untied a small muslin bag that sat next to him. A juicy apple, succulent almonds, a large piece of walnut, and ripe dates stared back at him; the boy’s morning companions. He removed the apple and took a bite.

While chewing on the fruit, he thought of the first time he had seen her. Many moons had passed, but it felt just like the present. The first sight of her visage, the warmth of her smile, the blinding beauty of her unblemished skin, and the delicate curls of her hair… they filled the boy with rapture. The moment was etched permanently on his pure heart and innocent mind.

Xander swallowed the piece of fruit and quickly turned to the terrace garden. Once again, the blushing flowers greeted him, but not her vision. The boy’s eyes shifted from the palace to the kingdom that stretched below him, until the edge of the horizon. Behrouz was decked in a field of yellow and gold: flowers and decorations of Nowruz.

The faint echo of anklets, sounding like a distant dream in the silent morning air, pulled Xander’s eyes back to the garden. His heartbeat quickened. He placed the half-eaten apple on top of the muslin bag and crept closer to the balustrade.

A gentle breeze flowed past the flowering blossoms, as a prelude. When the sunlight slanted across the garden, out she stepped, Princess Hadiyeh.

Xander’s eyes widened, he felt his heart thump through his chest. The most beautiful vision of Behrouz stood in front of him. Clad in a golden robe, Princess Hadiyeh stood at the centre of the garden. The soft morning light embraced her porcelain skin, creating a halo.

For a moment, Xander felt like one of the fabled kings he had heard about: legendary lovers who moved heaven and earth or even drew blood for their queens. The princess was without a crown, but she did rule his world, and his heart. The boy made himself believe that he too would anything for her. He would pick up a sword and defend her, if he had to.

When the sun rose above the Royal Palace, Princess Hadiyeh gently raised her hands above her head and brought them together. She then closed her eyes in reverence to the rising sun. Xander leaned closer and gazed at her eyes. A birthmark was etched on her left eyelid. The boy felt that the birthmark was a secret only he was privy to. No one else in the entire kingdom would ever know about this secret. Just him, Xander, son of Bahrayni, the Royal Cook.

That very thought pricked the boy’s carefully constructed fantasy. He sighed and lowered his eyes. Someone like me can never be with a person of royal lineage…he reminded himself…Lucky will be the man who will have her hand in marriage…I can but only witness her from afar…His mind whispered.

The faint echo of anklets pulled Xander’s eyes back to the terrace garden. The princess had finished her morning prayers and was heading back inside the palace. Her golden robe sashayed across the freshly cut grass.

Hadiyeh’s feet were marked by a faint shadow that circled the terrace. Xander traced the shadow to the sky: A bird of prey roamed the clear blue. A slight shiver ran up his spine. Was the life of the princess in danger?

To be continued…