Chapter 5: The Bird of Prey
The tip of a silver sword pierced the earth’s crust. Cyrus gripped the gold encrusted handle and stepped up from the stairway embedded in the jagged rock. The ocean waves broke against the boulders, spraying his broad back with a fine mist. Ginger followed close behind; his lithe body moving nimbly up the steep staircase, matching Cyrus step for step.
The King of Kings placed his right foot and took his first step on the soil of Behrouz. From the corner of his eye, he saw the white sails of his ship drift back in the direction of his kingdom. Ginger climbed up the last step and stood behind his king.
Cyrus knelt on the ground. The silver blade reflected his deep blue eyes. He took a pinch of the soil, and placed it on his tongue. Images of vast, fertile fields and fattened livestock flashed before him. As the soil melted in his mouth, he tasted the freedom and joy the land was blessed with. The king felt a familiar desire rise in him. An open landscape lay in front, seducing him with its untold riches.
“My King,” Ginger’s voice pulled Cyrus out of his reverie, back to the present.
“Would the ruler of this land know that we have arrived here instead of the main port?”
“If he is a true king, he will know how and where another king arrives,” Cyrus’ deep voice echoed, “We will soon know.”
“There is something in the distance,” Ginger pointed his lean finger to the horizon.
A thin cloud of dust spiralled, growing larger with each passing heartbeat. The king tightened his grip on the sword, ready to battle, if it was foe. Ginger too removed his sword and stood near his king.
Cyrus wondered for a moment whether it was a folly to have arrived in an unknown land with only his trusted aide by his aide. But his queen had persuaded him to attend the feast alone. Reward their invitation with your good faith, my king. That is the way to peace, she had said.
The hazy silhouette of a chariot came into view: Two white steeds broke fast across the land, driving it forward. A white flag fluttered in the breeze.
“They come in peace,” Ginger observed and placed his sword back in its sheath.
A wry smile broke across Cyrus’s face. He plucked the sword from the earth and placed it in the sheath.
The chariot came to a halt near the king’s feet. The rider bowed, “King Piruz welcomes the King of Kings to our great kingdom. I have been sent to take you to the Royal Palace.”
“Why did King Piruz himself not come?” Ginger asked the charioteer.
A moment of silence ensued.
“Speak up rider!”
The King of Kings ordered in his deep voice, which echoed across the land.
“King Piruz is at the palace, preparing to receive you. That is the reason he could not come,” the rider replied.
Cyrus stared into the rider’s eyes, the most transparent mirror of the soul. Not finding any trace of false truths, he stepped into the chariot followed by Ginger.
The rider whipped the leather reins bound to the steeds. The wheels set in motion.
Xander’s hands trembled a bit as he placed the ornamental cup on the reflective wooden surface. After placing it, he moved it to the left, then to the right, before settling in on a spot. The boy was arranging the table where Princess Hadiyeh and her cousins would sit. Xander had accompanied his father to the dining room of the Royal Palace.
The father observed his son’s nervous disposition, “Boy, why are you excited in the presence of no one?”
The words startled Xander, who was not expecting his father to notice, “Baba, I am excited about the grand feast tonight,” the boy replied, trying to mask his true feelings.
“Son, are you trying to hide the truth from me?” the father pressed.
“No baba, why would I do that?” Xander replied with all the calmness that he could muster, “I have heard that all the great kings of the land will be here,” the boy said, hoping to distract his father.
“That is true, yes. For the first time in our history, the king has invited our neighbours. It will be a special occasion. King Piruz is going to make an announcement. And you know what boy…”
Xander had a smile on his face; his trick had worked. “What baba?” He asked
“The King of Kings will be attending too,” The father’s voice reflected a sense of deep pride.
“Who is that?” The boy’s curiosity was piqued.
“His name is Cyrus. He is known as the King of Kings because he has never lost a battle. Never,” the father replied, “King Piruz has invited him as an act of goodwill. Our king wants to have peace with him.”
“What kind of a man is Cyrus?” the boy asked, placing ceramic candle holders on the main table.
Bahranyi stroked his chin, “No one knows much about him. Except for the fact that his kingdom is as vast as Behrouz.”
“Do you think he too would want peace with us?”
“I think so. But why do you ask?” the father asked Xander.
“What if he wants war?” the boy placed the last candle holder at the end of the long table and looked at his father.
Bahranyi was silent.
To be continued…