Hurrying through from the west antechamber and into the foyer as if his feet were on fire was a young man named Adán. He was bedewed with sweat as if he had run through the rain. And on his lips he had important news to divulge, but barely enough time to divulge it.
“My Lord!” exclaimed Adán, “I have troubling news.” Then remembering his manners, Adán knelt down before his king, and bowed.
Adán had dark brown hair and tan skin like any other who lived in Sotoria. His chin was strong. His brows were thick. And though his face looked gaunt, and his body thin, he was agile and wiry, and much stronger than he seemed.
Lord Sunai looked into Adán’s blue eyes, and greeted him with a sour, knowing face. “I know, Adán.”
A wrinkled and decrepit old man, the king was frail. He stood with a hunch and shuffled with a limp, but was too stubborn to walk or support himself with the aid of a cane. Moreover, his hair had faded from his scalp and found a place to grow long on his chin, though the beard still had mahogany shoots woven in between the grey fibres.
The old king motioned to the statues around the room. The gods. The guardians. Adán had found the king staring into the eyes of Naariah, a goddess of peace.
“I know,” repeated the king. “Many will die this night. But not all is lost.”
“My Lord, I fear many already have died! Have you not heard the screaming? There must be over a hundred men out there! We must go now while we still can.” Adán grabbed the king’s arm to rush them away, hopefully far from the temple, and the warriors who had breached its outer walls.
But the old man kept his feet stuck to the green tile like the root of a tree.
“Please, my Lord, time is of the essence,” Adán insisted.
“Were we to leave now, they would simply hunt us down. And before long we would be captured or killed. And it almost certainly will still be raining. I’ll stay here… to slow them down.”
“But it is you they have come for—”
“I think not,” disagreed Lord Sunai. “I am an old man, and will soon be dead. I think it is my daughter they are after.”
“They wouldn’t dare touch her!” said an outraged Adán.
Lord Sunai chuckled, “Some people are much darker than you or I. I’ve asked the gods as much.”
“And they responded?” Adán asked quickly.
The king paused, “In their own way. Some of them still have a soft spot for mankind.”
Adán’s ears tingled when he heard even more screaming; those cries are not far off from the temple, thought he. “Please…” he begged, “they are coming. If the three of us leave now, we can reach the palace before night’s end!”
“I strenuously advise against that,” the king said gravely. Then he put his hands on his ward’s shoulders, and pointed to the headless statue of Idris on the wall furthest from the altar.
“Yes,” replied Adán, wishing his king would move faster, but he noted the deluded war god standing and brandishing his sword.
“Have patience,” Sunai said like a mind reader, “beside him?”
“Garín. The god of traitors.”
“Yes, Adán! And he whispers into Idris’ ear. Though Idris has yet to move as well, Garín was in a far different position only hours ago. And it took some prying, but Naariah has just revealed what this means, though she was very circumspect about it… There is a traitor in our house.”
Adán looked on at the statues, and wondered, should I be more afraid that the shouting outside is beginning to die down or that Naariah’s and Garín’s heads are indeed both turned from their regular positions?
“Now go,” continued Lord Sunai, “you cannot sway me to leave with you.”
“GO!” barked the king. “And bring my daughter with you. Get as far away from this place as you possibly can. And bar those doors behind you,” said the king, pointing out the doors from whence Adán had come.
Reluctantly Adán obeyed, and bowed as he left. Tears welled in his eyes as he closed the doors to the antechamber, not hearing the last words Lord Sunai ever spoke to him.
Then like a lion, Adán raced through the wing, down hallways and finally to an alcove, where Lord Sunai’s daughter had been put to rest for the night.
She was a small girl, the little dove. Only three days old. So calm she was. So quiet. A virtue blessed upon her by the gods, no doubt. Her skin was still pale, but her cheeks were pink.
Adán reached into the sleeping infant’s crib, wrapped her snugly in wool and cradled her in his arms. Worriedly he looked around, before finding a cape, which he tied around his neck and lightly draped over the princess to stop her getting drenched by the rain. Then he ran again, as quickly yet as gingerly as he could to the rear entrance of the temple.
It was a cold summer’s eve, as the water poured down in sheets as thick and as crisp as ice. He saw the hind gate, untended by guards though not held by intruders, and scampered toward it. Only the sound of his sloshing through mud could be heard.
The baby subtlely cooed, so to soothe her Adán softly breathed, “Shh… Stay silent, Shazelle. I’ll get you out of this rain yet, young one. Don’t worry. I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”