Chapter 4: The Voyage
A black steed galloped through the cobbled streets. Its shiny coat glittered under the afternoon sun, perched high in the sky. Cyrus leaned forward a bit and felt the rush of air. The king was riding his favourite horse on his way to the docks. Its footsteps rang loud and clear. The people heralded it as a warning sign. Most stayed out of the streets, while the few who were there bowed their heads as their king rode past them.
Cyrus whispered, “You are faster than the wind,” to the steed. The animal galloped, heeding its master’s command.
When the docks came into view, the king pulled on the reins to slow his horse. He saw a port where silent, empty ships lay in wait: The harbour had been cleared for the king’s departure. Two columns of men made their way to the largest ship that was docked. Dark Red sails hung loose from its mast, embellished with images of a silver sword. The wooden figurine of a warrior rose from the ship’s stern. Intricate carvings ran alongside its shiny brown veneer.
The ship was ready for its journey across the sea.
The thick wooden hull of the ship cut smooth across the rough sea waters, spraying a fine mist across the sails and on the rows of bare-backed bodies, grunting, rowing oars, and driving the vessel forward. The oval ship was the lone spot on the vast fabric of the sea.
Cyrus stood at the very front of his ship, unafraid of the wind or the water, just like figurine of the warrior on the stern. His deep eyes were fixed on the endless blue ocean that stretched all around him. Cyrus felt all his emotions and ambitions melt away in the emptiness of the sea. All he could sense was his calm breath coursing through his body. The king closed his eyes and relaxed his grip on the stern. For a moment he thought about the futility of the blood that had been spilled to create his empire. It had not left him satiated. Cyrus wanted more and more. He thought himself to be a mere puppet dancing to the strings of his desire. His conscience echoed, How many more lives will it take for you to feel fulfilled?
The thought crashed and raged against the walls of his mind, like the waves of the sea. But soon, it abated. Cyrus was filled with a profound silence, where he felt liberated from the shackles of his life.
A tall, thin shadow crept towards him. “My King,” the voice whispered.
Cyrus opened his eyes.
“I have been battling a question in my mind for a while,” the shrill voice continued.
“Speak what is on your mind, Ginger,” Cyrus said as if it were a command.
“I respect the queen and her opinions. But…,” the voice trailed.
The king turned to face the tall, thin man standing near him, “You are a trusted aide,” Cyrus placed his hand on the man’s slender shoulder, “Speak your doubt.”
Ginger took a breath as if trying to acquire courage, “My King, should only the two of us visit this foreign land? Would not taking the five generals of our vast army be more wise?” He finished and lowered his head.
The waters crashed and raged around the ship’s hull.
“My man, I understand your concern,” The king’s voice softened, “And I have deliberated on this ever since I got the invitation seven suns ago. I think the queen is right this time,” Cyrus turned his gaze towards the open sea. The freedom and spirit of the ocean reminded him of his queen. “We have fought many a battle together haven’t we?”
“Yes, my King,” Ginger replied without raising his head.
“And we have shed a lot of blood, haven’t we?” Cyrus brought his palms in front. The mist sprayed across the palms, cleansing them.
Ginger, I believe the time has come for peace.
Ginger knelt with one knee on the polished wooden floor, “My King, you have my loyalty, whether you choose battle or not.”
Cyrus placed his hands on the slender shoulders and pulled Ginger up, “You do not need to say what I already know.”
“I am grateful for that, My King,” A hint of emotion echoed in Ginger’s voice.
Cyrus turned his attention back to the sea. His eyes searched for the first sight of his destination — the land of Behrouz.
“I have another query, My King,” Ginger cleared his throat.
Cyrus let out a loud laugh, “Just like my queen’s heart is filled with love for me, your mind is filled with questions.”
“I apologize if I interrupted you,” Ginger lowered his head.
“Speak your mind,” came the command.
“Why do we dock in an isolated part of the kingdom? Shouldn’t we head to the main harbour?”
The king was silent. He gazed at the changing hues of the water caused by the clouds streaming across the sun.
“I want to taste and feel the land I am stepping on,” Cyrus replied, his eyes fixed on the clear horizon, “The untouched portion of the land will allow me to feel its heartbeat, its nerve. Many a foot has stepped on the main harbour. The identity of the land is lost there.”
“And that is why you are my King, and the King of Kings…Your wisdom is unparalleled,” Ginger bowed and stepped away.
Cyrus felt one with the sea again. The sound of the crashing waves filled him with peace.
In the distance, a spot of land emerged from the horizon.
To be continued…