And he shall cross the water to the Prophesarium. And there he shall learn. And through learning ascend to take his place as our Saviour.
And the seas shall be calm and he shall feel seasick. Yea, though his stomach shall be like unto a house plagued with mice: full of scampering and with gnawed foundations.
For he shall fear what he is yet to learn of himself. For even heroes fear the unknown and to the true hero the greatest unknown is his own heroism.
The boat dipped and bobbed on gentle undulations of blue. The sail fluttered in the occasional energetic gust, as though the wind was having a day off and doing only just enough to keep the maritime traffic moving in the bay. The surface was a blanket sequined with sunlight.
Picturesque. A picture that told a thousand words or more – and wove them into one big fat lie. Nothing had happened here. No great disaster. No homes and lives ruined. The city carried on as normal out here past the shorefront.
This was the district, Falcon reasoned, on which Xandria’s reputation for beauty and majesty was built. This was the area that inspired artists and storytellers. And this was the part where her wealthiest and most august citizens resided.
The opulence had him leaning over the side.
Although he had to own up to a pre-existing unease, there before his disgust, before he had stepped on board. Before he had chartered the boat.
Hired for nothing, of course. Apart from the guards barring his exit from the city, the natives remained eager as ever to please him. Extending him every courtesy and hospitality even in the midst of their misery. Somehow that made him more ill than all the grandeur of the islands slipping by either side of the sailboat.
Hand on the tiller, the boatman smiled and pointed at the graceful parade of pyramids and palaces, temples and libraries, observatories and museums. He named them for nobody Falcon had ever heard of. Ancient individuals who might’ve been gods or kings, figure divine or merely historical. Grand as they sounded and grand as their namesake structures were, the sights became a slow stream, running into each other just as the channels between islands formed the arteries of one single bay.
“There stands the Royal Palace of the Great Cloepatra, Our Queen, Our Majesty.”
Falcon wondered at the greatness and majesty of a queen who could reside in her ivory tower while her people suffered disaster.
Her tower was not literally ivory, as it would have required more elephants than the continent could muster. But the stone that made up the smooth slopes of her pyramid had a pale tusk-like complexion. The structure was truncated, a plateau on top, with shimmering rivers running down the middle of each face, between enormous tiles inlaid with golden hieroglyphics relating some tale too epic to be read in the single passage of a slow boat. Giant statues of Gyptian gods stood guard all around the pyramid’s base amid a garden of palms.
The boatman steered a wide course around the island and Falcon wondered if there was some sort of exclusion zone enforced. Then he understood as he observed a trireme the size of a whale, her hull ornamented with carved hieroglyphs and trimmed with gold, pulled out from the docks on the other side of the island. Her three rows of oars dug deep in perfect synchronisation, propelling her rhythmically out into the channel. The current she stirred rocked Falcon’s hired sailboat.
“Our great Queen, she goes to the people! To visit them in their time of need!”
Okay, thought Falcon, so she wasn’t the aloof and uncaring monarch he had imagined her to be. But he doubted she would mingle properly with the rabble or dirty her sandals amongst the mud and ruin.
“What about the Prophesarium? How much longer – ?”
“There!” The boatman pointed and grinned. “There she stands! The Prophesarium Of Xandria!”
Falcon felt inclined to ask if there were any other prophesariums anywhere in the world. But the sight of the building silenced the cynic in him.
Here was a pyramid of tiers. Garden terraces stepped up and up and up to a peak crowned with a gold and blue globe. Marble and variegated mosaic walls decked with rich greenery and blossoming shrubs. Every tier a fountain of plant life and colour. More beautiful than the Palace of Cloepatra and Falcon wondered that her Majesty tolerated such a structure as so close a neighbour.
Still, here he hoped to find answers.
And if there was truth to be discovered somewhere within this great edifice, well, that was more important than any monarch.
[To Be Continued…]