A Short Story Prequel
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Short Story Prequel
Copyright by Rita Durrett 2017
Published at Shakespir.com by
Gilcrease Publishing, LLC
A Short Story Prequel
Shakespir.com License Statement
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
“There you are. I searched all over the palace. I even asked the King, and then realized you’d be at the stables. How’s she doing?” Princess Khatori trod slowly crossed the paddock, careful of her designer boots. She made her way to the corral. Both hands rested on her hips and beads of perspiration glistened on her forehead.
Her young husband, Prince Phaeton Anerez` stopped grooming his sorrel mare and watched his pregnant wife with concern. The maternity outfit highlighted her beautiful face while hiding the extra weight of the child she carried. Her normal grace gave way to what he might now classify as a waddle. He noted the clenched jaw and labored breathing. “She’s fine. It’s you I’m worried about. I thought I told Dad where I’d be if you were looking for me. I guess he forgot. This war is taking a toll on all of us, but it has hit him the worst. Why didn’t you page me? I’d have found you immediately.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t need anything,” she paused and grinned, “except you. I figured you were busy.” She pulled her shoulder-length blond curls up off her neck for temporary coolness and sat on a nearby bench so she could watch him as he worked. “Is it time for her to foal?”
“Soon. It will be a race to see which of you delivers first. How do you feel?”
Khatori rubbed her protruding belly. “Tired. My feet are swollen, and I feel old. I’m not twenty yet, and my back hurts, I can’t climb steps, and I can hardly breathe. I will be so glad when this baby gets here.”
“Awe, come closer. You need a hug.” Twenty-one year old Phaeton easily climbed the fence rails between them and lightly jumped down on the other side as he waited for her.
The couple embraced for a long kiss. The horse stuck his head over the top rail and nudged their heads.
“Cut it out, Acacia. You’re so jealous.” Phaeton took an apple from one pocket and a knife from the other. He sliced off a piece and handed it to Khatori.
She held her palm out with the slice of apple on top. The horse gently took the bite. As the Prince and Princess prepared to repeat the process, the horse tried to nibble the Princesses’ fingers.
“You silly horse. Wait a minute. I’ll give you a bite.”
The couple laughed as the horse whinnied and pawed the ground.
The sound of Prince Phaeton’s wrist monitor buzzing interrupted the fun.
“Don’t answer it, Khatori pleaded.”
“You know I have to.” He put an arm around his wife and pulled her to him as he talked into the electronic piece.
“Phaeton,” he answered as he held his wrist to his ear.
“Yes, sir. I’m on my way.”
Khatori had listened in silence but could stand it no longer. “Please stay. You have a wife and a child on the way. You need to be here to protect us.” Khatori pleaded with her eyes as well as with words as she wrapped her arms around his chest and clung tightly to him.” You are the future King. You can refuse to go.”
Phaeton took her hands in his and stepped slightly back. His dark hair hung below his eyebrows and threatened to fall into his troubled eyes. “That is exactly why I must go. Corasias is our country. The people are my people. Our people, Khatori. I must try to save them. I fight for you and our future child. I fight for our country’s noble past and our future. I know you wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tears rolled down her cheeks. Sobs shook her slender shoulders. “I know,” she whispered. “Go.”
A few minutes later Prince Phaeton boarded his Personal Travel Vehicle, PTV for short, and followed his call to duty.
Princess Khatori retired to her room to pass the hours reading. Her mind lacked the power of concentration, so she resorted to playing intense, deep, and haunting music loud enough to drown out her fears. It worked to an extent. Then nightfall forced her to mute her solace when the rest of the household retired to bed.
Visions of crashed fighter planes and dead or wounded infantry filled her dreams. The faces were never clear enough for identifying her beloved Prince, but tears soaked her pillow as she hugged it tightly.
Khatori’s eyes opened to rays of the east sun shining into her bedroom. An hour or so of sleep followed by half-awake, half-asleep dreaming had pretty much filled her night. Her full bladder insisted it was time to get out of bed, so she did, hitting the buzzer on her nightstand as she slid off the massive piece of furniture.
By the time she returned from the restroom her lady butler stood inside the bedroom door. Dressed in a sleek, form-fitting uniform, her muscular body gave Khatori a sense of comfort to know the woman was ready at a minute to handle any situation. “Good morning, Rhome.”
“Morning, Ma’am.” She waited for her instructions.
“Have you seen or heard from Phaeton this morning?” Khatori knew the household staff would know if he had returned.
“No, Ma’am. He has not made it back.” Rhome watched the Princess’s face. Stress was the last thing her highness needed to deal with at this point in her pregnancy.
Khatori sighed. She knew worrying about Phaeton and his safety kept her from sleeping. It is what it is; she thought as she walked to a nearby window.
“It’s beautiful out today. Who would believe we are a country at war. Rhome, come over here.”
“Ma’am? Is something wrong?” She hurried to Khatori’s side.
“No. Come look! Right there.” She pointed to a corner of the palace rose garden. “There is a gorgeous yellow rose.”
Rhome walked to the window and allowed her gaze to follow the direction the Princess pointed. “I see it. What a beautiful sight.”
“I have a sundress about that color. See if you can find it, Rhome.”
“Yes, Ma’am. It will be on your bed when you finish showering. Buzz for me if you need anything.”
Showered and dressed, Khatori asked to have her breakfast brought to the patio. As she ate a searing pain traveled across her belly, not just once, but several times. Highly uncomfortable, she decided to wander out to the rose garden. It didn’t take her long to find the yellow rose. It was even more beautiful up close. She leaned in to inhale the fragrance. The pain returned, worse than before. It hit again, so hard that Khatori passed out and fell to the ground.
Rhome immediately pushed buttons on her wrist communicator and contacted the palace.
“Your Majesty,” The King’s personal butler opened the door after the barest of knocks, something he would never ordinarily do. “Princess Khatori is very ill. They found her in the rose garden. A medivac mobile unit has been called.”
“Thank you. Notify me when medivac arrives. Is the nursing staff with the Princess?”
“Yes, Sir. She is stable.”
“Has the Prince returned?”
“Thank you. That will be all for the moment.”
King Anerez` touched his wristband unit. Contact came within seconds.
“Commander Staid, as soon as that town is secured release Prince Phaeton to fly to the Nissacle medical center. Notify me when he leaves. Tell him I will meet him there.”
King Anerez` instructed his personal butler to make arrangements for his PTV to pick him up at his private entrance to the palace. Within minutes he boarded the miniature jet and strapped himself in for a speedy ride to the medical center. Two bodyguards accompanied him.
“Do we have our forward and rear guards?” he asked on one of the service men.
“Yes, Sir. We are ready for flight. ETA is eight minutes.”
“Thank you.” The King turned his head to gaze out the dome covering and watch as his PTV covered the distance between the palace and the hospital at high speed.
The Royal PTV landed with little fanfare. Medical staff met it upon arrival and escorted the King to Princess Khatori’s room.
As he stood at Princess Khatori’s bedside the King didn’t like what he saw. Skin as white as the linens and very shallow breaths told him the Princess struggled to hang on to life. His son had not arrived. That fact also concerned the King. The Malabar were becoming more aggressive. The battles were getting harder and harder to win. His country fought daily to survive.
“Dad. How is she?” The young Prince charged through the door, oblivious to everything except his wife.
The King struggled to present his son with a positive countenance. “She’s a fighter.”
The Prince looked at his dad for several seconds before staring down at the delicate figure in front of them. He reached for her hand, his own shaking. “Khatori,” he whispered.
She gave no indication she heard.
“Khatori,” he spoke louder.
This time her head slowly rolled toward his voice. Her eyes fluttered and finally stayed open. “Hi.”
He barely heard her word and leaned in, kissing her cheek and then brushed her lips with another.
She sighed. Her eyes fluttered, closed, and then opened again. “Is she beautiful?”
His eyes didn’t leave her face. “More beautiful than anything I have ever seen,” he said, speaking of the mother. Tears spilled from his eyes.
Her ice-cold hand went limp in his. Her eyes closed and did not reopen. The beeping monitor at the head of her bed became a monotone hum.
“Khatori,” he spoke roughly. “Look at me.
Medical staff filled the room. The King’s arm around his son guided him into the corridor. “Leave them to do their work. Walk with me.”
Father and son stoically walked the length of one hall, turned and walked half way down another. King Anerez` brought his son to a stop in front of a glass window. “There is your daughter.” He pointed to a tiny infant snuggly wrapped in a blanket.
Hands in his pockets, Prince Phaeton stared at the baby, his face blank.
The son turned to look at his father.
“You must raise her to be strong, smart, and capable. She is the future queen of Corasias. That may be very hard. She is a part of Khatori, and every time you look at her, you may be reminded of your loss. The hurt will never go away, but in time it will fade. Your attitude will make the difference.”
The son sighed, closed his eyes, opened them, turned, and walked back down the hallways to his wife’s room. The medical personnel were gone. A sheet had been drawn over her face. He gently removed it, kissed her cheek, and took hold of her hand. “I’ll do my absolute best to look after our daughter. She will be everything you were and more. I won’t let you down.”
Prince Phaeton squared his shoulders as he turned and walked out the door, the King by his side.
The two men made arrangements for Princess Khatori before returning to the palace.
The country of Corasias mourned her passing with flowers left by the palace fence and thousands of citizens attending her State funeral.
Prince Phaeton mourned in silence, as a walking statue, attending to business as usual.
“I’m worried about my son,” said the King. He had entered the nursery for distraction from his tormented thoughts and now stood watching as Rhome rocked his granddaughter.
Rhome patted the infant’s back as she rocked. She studied the King before replying. “I think he will be okay. He jumped into this little one’s care with both feet. Every time she cries he jumps to check on her. I am constant answering questions and showing him what to do.”
The King chuckled as he reached a hand out to caress the back of the baby’s head. “She won’t want for attention will she?”
“No, Sir, she won’t. She is much loved. Have you seen all the gifts she has received?”
“No, but I’ve heard accounts of the stacks and stacks of baby items. The generosity of the Corasias people warms my heart, but I know this war has put most in financial difficulties. I hope they are not giving more than they can afford.”
“Probably not, Sir. You must also remember this is a way they can show their love for the Prince, Princess and their future Queen.”
“True. Thanks for the reminder.”
A light tap on the door interrupted their conversation.
“Come in,” said the King.
Prince Phaeton strode through the door and approached Rhome. “I thought she’s might be sleeping. That’s why I knocked. I hoped I’d get here before she went back to sleep, but I didn’t make it.” He gently patted his daughter’s back.
The King put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Let’s leave these two and go into the library to visit.”
“Okay, but I’ll be back, Rhome,” he promised.
The two gentlemen had barely settled into their chairs before Prince Phaeton asked, “What do you think of the name Tori Sinne` Anerez`?”
The King paused before answering his son. “Sounds strong. I like it. I take it the ‘Tori’ is a nod to her mother.”
“Yes.” Said Phaeton. The word caught in his throat. His heart hurt constantly. The tiny girl sleeping in the other room helped, but nothing erased the feeling of devastation left in his life.
“I’ll have the birth certificate legally filed,” said the King.
“Thanks. You do know that Rhome has taken over Tori’s care? She won’t let anyone else do much at all, including me. I have to fight to give Tori a bath.”
King Anerez` chuckled. “Rhome will do a good job. You won’t have to worry when you are away.”
“Speaking of away, I spent most of the morning in the briefing room with four of your top generals. Things are heating up. There is a band of rebels hiding out in the mountains between here and Nissacle. They are gaining more Malabar recruits every day. We are going to be forced to put more men in that area. I’m going to increase the air force training schedule. I’ll be gone a couple of weeks. Don’t let Tori forget me while I’m gone.”
The King gave a hearty slap on his son’s back and then affectionately rubbed it. “Don’t worry. I’ll spend plenty of time with our little girl. I’ll tell her all about her ornery daddy.”
Phaeton chuckled. “Thanks, I think.”
Happy Birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Tori. Happy Birthday to you. Now blow out your candles, Tori. Get all five of them with one breath.” Rhome nodded in approval as Tori took a deep breath. She looked around at all of the children waiting eagerly for the Princess to blow out her birthday candles. Varied and as unique as their backgrounds, they represented local bakers, mechanics, medical personnel, lawyers, and children of the castle staff. Tori’s best friend, Rayel, was the son of the King’s head Aerospace general. Children from families with no money played side by side with the wealthiest in the land. The people of Corasias admired the Prince and adored Princess Tori. They were loyal. As the war with the Malabar became worse, the people of Corasias rallied behind the King and the royal family.
A whinny sounded from the other side of the palace. All heads turned as it sounded again. Shortly, Prince Phaeton appeared from around the corner. He was leading a small pony by its bridle. The Princess clapped her hands. A big smile spread across her face. “Who does he belong to, father? Is he mine?”
“Yes, my love, this is Socks. He is for you. You must feed, water, and curry him. I will teach you how. You will not eat in the evenings until Socks has been fed.”
King Anerez` and the Prince had seen to it from the very beginning that the Princess knew what it meant to be responsible.
“Tori gently rubbed the nose of her horse.” I promise to take care of him. Can we take turns riding?”
“Yes. The stable hands will help your guests take a short ride and then it will be your turn.”
“Thank you, Daddy. I love you so much, and not just because you bought me a pony.”
“I know you do, Princess, and I love you.” The Prince hugged his daughter tightly to his chest. “Your grandpa and I are going to go inside and talk while you and your friends ride.”
The Prince turned to one of the stable aides, “Don’t tire Socks. Just allow short rides then show Princess Tori how to brush him down and ready him to be stalled.”
“Rhome, you and the nursery staff keep a close eye on the children while they take turns riding. We wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“Absolutely, Sir. We have it handled.”
King Anerez` and the Prince joined four of his generals in the logistics room. It was obvious from all the maps spread out on the table that they had been working for a while.
“Sorry, Gentlemen, we had a very important event to attend. My granddaughter, Princess Tori, turned five today and she had a party.”
“We understand, Sir,” said General Malon.
Prince Phaeton smoothed out one of the maps and studied it before asking, “How far have the Malabar advanced in this area?”
“That’s our weakest front, Sir. They have infiltrated the lower canyon. Our men have been steadily fighting them back, but they return with reinforcements.”
“How populated is the area? Are bombs out of the question?”
General Malon stepped forward and drew his finger around a spot on the map. “The city of Nissacle is heavily populated. The Malabar are using shopping centers for their strongholds. We know where they are but can’t pick them off without endangering surrounding neighborhoods.”
“They are getting too close. General Malon I’ll give you a week to see what can be done on the ground. If you haven’t overpowered them by then, I will personally lead an air strike. We must not allow a closer advance.”
“Yes, Sir.” The General knew better than to argue with the Prince; besides, the man was right. They could not allow the enemy to come any closer.
Prince Phaeton rolled up the maps. “Gentlemen, it’s late. I’m going to retire. Tomorrow will start before daylight for me.”
The military men dispersed, knowing the job they had been given was nearly impossible, but also aware they had to succeed.
Nearly a week had passed since the King, his son, and his generals had met to discuss war strategies. He had a meeting with them scheduled for this morning and had taken the time for a hearty breakfast, knowing the meeting might be a long one.
“Good morning, Grandpa.” Tori joined King Anerez` on the patio.
Rhome placed Tori’s breakfast try on the table while the Princess hugged the King’s neck. He put his arms around the young girl and squeezed her to him then rubbed her back. “Good morning, Sweetheart. How are you this morning?”
“I’m great! Rayel and I are going to ride today. Can he ride Soria while I ride Socks?”
“Of course he can.” The King looked up at Rhome. “Did you get permission from Captain Vieux?”
“Then all is fine. You two have fun. Be careful.”
“We will. I think we will ride in the Maytoa valley,” said Tori as she took a bite.
“No, Ma’am. You will not ride that far. A five-year-old must stay closer to the stables, even if she is an excellent rider.” The King chuckled and gave Rhome a wink.
“She will not go that far, Sir, and two stable hands always accompany them. She is safe. I promise.”
“Okay. I won’t worry. Thanks, Rhome, for keeping an eye on our precocious young lady.”
“You are welcome, Sir. It is my pleasure. I love Tori as if she were my own.”
“I’m finished eating,” said Tori. “There’s Rayel and his dad. Can we go?”
“Certainly,” said the King. “Come see me when you get back.”
“Okay.” She was gone, with Rhome following close behind.
King Anerez` joined his son and General Malon in the strategy room. “Good morning, gentlemen. What are the updates for today?” He shook hands with his general before he draped his arm around his son’s shoulder and gave him a short hug.
“Dad, the ground forces haven’t been successful in dislodging the Malabar from the city of Nissacle. I’m going to lead a squadron in and do pinpoint bombing of two of their strongholds. It’s dangerous, but that’s the least destructive to the city and general population.”
“I don’t like it.” The King shook his head from side to side. He leaned on the table, hands on either side, supporting his upper body weight.
“It won’t do any good to stare at the map, Dad. We’ve been doing that for a week. There’s no other way.”
King Anerez` turned to his son. “Take care of it. Get in and get out. Do as little damage as possible to all but the strongholds. Annihilate them. We don’t want them coming back.”
“That’s the plan. I’m leaving for the base tonight. We’ll carry out the strikes first thing in the morning.”
The King slapped his son on the back. “Hit ‘um hard. Get back as soon as you can.”
“Where’s Tori? I want to tell her bye before I leave.”
“She’s out riding with Captain Vieux’s son Rayel. I’ll tell her for you.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow evening.”
The King startled awake to a persistent tapping on his bedroom door.
“Come in.” The King tied his robe as he slipped his feet into slippers.
His private butler entered, followed closely by General Malon. The butler stepped aside.
“Sir, I have bad news.” General Malon stood in front of the King, dark circles under his eyes, his face pale.
“What is it, Malon?”
The general’s gaze never left the King’s face. “Prince Phaeton has been killed.”
“No!” he gasped. The King put his hand out on the near table to steady himself and sat. “That..that can’t be.”
“His squad flew in. My eyewitness reported everything going as planned. Then one of the other planes suddenly became surrounded, being attacked from all sides. The Prince flew to intercept and drive off the attackers. He succeeded in allowing the first plane time to move out of harm’s way, but another Malabar plane joined the fight, and his own plane sustained a barrage of enemy fire. It crashed. The Prince could not have survived the crash. Our planes destroyed the attackers and bombed the targets. The mission was a success, if you can call a mission where we lost of Prince Phaeton, a success. I’m so sorry, Sir. He died a hero if that’s any consolation, Sir.”
The King didn’t speak. He lifted a hand slightly and dropped it to his thigh.
The general quietly left the room.
Later that morning Rhome held Tori’s hand as she walked her into the study. King Anerez` sat in one of the high-back padded leather chairs. He held his arms out, and Tori walked into them.
“Hi, Grandpa. Did you need me?” She looked around the room. “Where’s Daddy? Isn’t he with you?”
The King drew in a long breath and let it out slowly. He hugged Tori to his chest before speaking. “Tori, I have some bad news to tell you.”
“What happened, Grandpa? Did something happen to Socks?”
“No, Honey, not Socks. Tori, your father had to fly his airplane in an extremely dangerous place. He rescued a pilot that the Malabar were trying to kill. Your dad saved that man, but the Malabar killed your father.”
Tori sat without moving. She turned her face up to look into the King’s eyes. “Daddy is dead?” she asked. “He’s never coming home?”
The King pulled her to his chest and hugged her tight. Tears ran down his cheeks. “Your father is never coming home.”
“He didn’t come see me before he left! He didn’t tell me ‘bye.” Tori shoved herself out of her grandfather’s grasp, climbed out of his lap, and ran out the door.
Rhome stood quietly by the King’s side.
“Let her go,” he said. “She need’s time to work it out.”
Rhome looked at the King with understanding, walked out, and quietly closed the door.
Twenty minutes later a stable hand asked to see the King. Rhome walked him into the King’s study.
“Sir, the Princess took Socks without asking anyone. She tore off riding as fast as she could toward Maytoa valley. She is an excellent good rider but is young and inexperienced. I would have sent someone for her, Sir, but I didn’t think she’d listen to any of us. She appeared to be extremely upset,” said the worker.
The King looked at Rhome. “She’s good friends with Rayel. Contact the Captain and see if he will allow Rayel to go with a couple of our stable hands to get her. Maybe she will listen to him.”
“Yes, sir. That’s a good idea.”
Twenty minutes later Rayel sat on Soria, the King’s horse. The animal outweighed and stood several hands above the other horses in the stable, but was easy to control.
Rhome stood by Rayel’s left leg, petting Soria’s neck and talking quietly. “Prince Phaeton has been killed in an accident. Tori is upset. We need for you to ride into Maytoa valley and find her. Talk her into coming back home. Drake and Kilmar will go with you but may stay back while you talk to Tori. Be careful. Don’t take any chances. Ask for help if you need it.”
Rayel held the reins loosely, and Soria trotted smoothly across the pasture, accompanied by the two stable hands on their horses. No one spoke. Each concentrated on the terrain and their stead’s path. They covered ground quickly. At the top of a crest, Rayel reined in his horse. The other two did likewise. All three scanned the horizon, looking for Tori.
“Is that her over there?” asked Rayel, pointing to the east, at a tree line.
“It looks like it. Head that way.”
The three took off again at a steady pace. They covered the ground quickly, but the rider in the distance appeared to be going just as fast. They made a diagonal path, trying to come out ahead of where she would be. As the riders closed in, they realize she had stopped. The two men slowed as Rayel continued and joined the Princess.
“Tori.” He stopped his horse several yards away from Socks and the Princess.
She turned and faced him. Her tear streaked face a testament to her pain. “Rayel, Daddy is dead.”
“He didn’t tell me goodbye.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure he thought he’d be back.”
Her shoulders shook as she sobbed. “I hate him!”
Rayel didn’t say anything.
“I hate him for not telling me goodbye.”
“Tori, can we go back to see your grandfather?”
“I don’t want to go back. Daddy isn’t there.”
Rayel had waited a minute before he spoke. “Your grandfather doesn’t have anyone. He wants to see you. He’s afraid something will happen to you, too.”
Tori sighed. Minutes passed before she finally replied. “Okay. I guess we should go back.”
The four riders returned to the stables in silence.
Rhome met them at the corral. She helped Tori climb down from Sock’s back and turned the reins over to one of the hands. “Thanks, Rayel. Do you want to come see the King or go on home?”
“I think I’ll go home. Tori probably wants to talk to her grandfather.”
“Bye, Rayel,” said Tori. “I’ll see you.”
Tori walked with Rhome into her grandfather’s library.
“Hi, Grandfather. Sorry I made you worry.”
Rhome closed the door and left the two to talk.
“Come sit on my lap, Tori.” King Anerez` held out his arms.
Tori walked into them and hugged his neck. “I wanted to tell Daddy goodbye.”
“I know. I hurt, too. I want him to be here with us, but that will never be.”
“I can’t quit crying.” Tori wiped a tear from her cheek.
“It’s okay to cry. You will run out of tears one day, a long time in the future.”
“I will never forget him.”
“No. You will not. You will remember his laugh, his smile, how it felt when he hugged and kissed you. You will remember little things you did together and big things that happened in your life.”
“Like when he brought me Socks for my birthday?”
“Yes, exactly like that. We won’t forget your daddy, Tori.”
She sighed and hugged his neck. The two sat together for a very long time before King Anerez` put his granddaughter to bed.
Tori woke with a start. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest. “What was that?” She slid out of bed and padded down the corridor to her daddy’s room. It wasn’t until she pushed the door open and took in the view of the massive empty bed, pulled drapes, and dark lamps that she remembered. “Oh,” she mouthed, the sound barely escaping her lips. Her little body shivered as she pulled the door closed and shuffled her house-shoe clad feet on down the corridor.
Upon reaching her grandfather’s room, she anxiously pulled the handle and peered inside. “Grandpa!” she called as she ran toward his bed. Equally as massive as her fathers, she was not able to climb up without assistance. She slammed into the mattress near the King’s head and patted his shoulder.
King Anerez` opened his eyes immediately, ready for an emergency. “What is it, Tori?”
“Can I get in your bed?”
“Sure. Come on up.” He turned on his lamp, reached down and lifted the young girl to his bed.
“There’s buzzing in the sky,” she said.
“Buzzing?” The King listened. “Yes. I hear it. Those are planes.”
Tori’s face lit up. Her eyes glistened, and her mouth formed a beautiful smile. “Daddy’s plane? Is it Daddy?”
A lump formed in the King’s throat. “No, Sweetheart. It isn’t your Daddy. He’s never coming home. Those planes belong to other pilots. I’m not sure why they are so close to the palace. I should probably go talk to my advisors and find out. Would you be okay sitting here and reading a book?”
Tori shook her head up and down.
The King got out of bed and found a children’s book on his bedside table for her. “When you are through reading, buzz the staff. I’ll tell Rhome you are here. She will come get you for breakfast.”
King Anerez` dressed and left Tori in the middle of the bed, her nose buried in the book.
The walk down the corridor depressed him. His thoughts involved the fact that his son had been killed, and that his country was in danger of being taken over by the evil Thomar Malabar. Thormar did not care about the people. His only motivation was power and money. The thought of his beloved citizens of Corasias being under the thumb of Thomar disgusted King Anerez`. He would fight to the death to keep that from happening. The fact that those planes were flying within hearing distance meant the possibility was becoming more likely every day.
The King walked into the busy command center for the Corasian armed forces. Computer screens, from massive to desktop size, were positioned around the room, each controlled by someone.
He couldn’t stop his eyes from looking at the desk where his son usually sat. A blank screen stared back at him. If Corasias is going to be in the hands of an Anerez` leader after I’m gone, I must do something to protect Tori.
King Anerez` closed his eyes for two seconds and then looked around. He found who he had been searching for and quickly strode across the room. “Good morning, Dane. I’m glad I found you here.”
“Good morning, Your Majesty. How can I help you?”
“You are my top intergalactic commander. I need for you to do a little research. Find a planet where I could hide my granddaughter for a few years. This war is going to get ugly. I’ve already lost my son. I couldn’t bear to lose Princess Tori, too.
“I can do that, Sir. I already have a couple of places in mind.”
“Look into it and get back with me this afternoon. Thanks.”
“Yes, Sir. I’ll report back in a couple of hours.”
Captain Dane Vieux left the room. General Malon approached. “Good morning, Your Majesty. We have more developments.”
“I was afraid of that. Tori and I heard the planes this morning. They were close to the palace.”
“Yes, Sir. We had reports of bands of Malabar assassins headed this way. None were found, but they are very skilled. We have men on the ground as well as in the air. You have nothing to fear, Sir.”
King Anerez`eyed his general. “For all of our sakes, I hope you are right.”
“I have business to take care of elsewhere. Page me if necessary. I’m available at a moment’s notice.”
The King spent the rest of the morning working with Rhome, making plans.
Captain Vieux and his wife, Laurenda waited nervously for the King. When he pushed upon the door to the library, they both stood.
“Please be seated.” King Anerez` indicated two comfortable chairs around a small table. He took the third. He glanced at Laurenda. “I didn’t expect you to accompany Dane. To what do I owe this pleasure?”
Laurenda shifted uncomfortably. “I let my husband explain. He can do a better job.”
“Your Majesty, my wife and I have spent the last few hours in deep thought and discussion. We have a plan we’d like to share with you.”
“Go ahead. I want to hear it.”
“We found the perfect planet for Tori. It is in a nearby Galaxy. The people are similar to us physically and mentally, though our planet has advanced to a greater degree. They breathe oxygen and drink water. Our ships have used the planet for refueling and picking up food supplies many times. It is set up as one of our outposts.”
“So they are friendly to space travelers?”
Dane grinned. “Not exactly. They are pretty much in the dark as to space travel. We cloak and avoid contact with Earth beings. However, our planet has had a great deal of influence on their civilization. I’m pretty sure some of our citizens have colonized areas of their planet and intermingled with their people.”
The King raised his eyebrow. “Yet they don’t know we exist?”
“Not on a widely accepted basis.”
“So what’s the plan? If they don’t know about us, you can’t just take Princess Tori there and entrust her to their care.
Dane glanced at Laurenda. “Through the years Corasias space explorers have built a large, underground facility in a small community on a planet called Earth. We propose taking that over and setting up a base similar to the palace strategy room upstairs. Apartments were built there for occasions when extended spaceship repairs were necessary. Our family and the other workers would live there. They are comfortable.”
“What about Tori?”
Dane shifted in his seat and glanced at his wife before continuing. “We would put Tori on the doorstep of an Earth family. They would take her in as theirs through a little mind manipulation on our part. Our son, Rayel, and several of his close friends would be in charge of watching over her. Since it is an intergalactic law that no one interferes in the workings of a non-participating planet, the Malabar couldn’t attack. I don’t think they would even suspect she had been put there.”
“Sounds interesting. How would you pick a family?”
“That would be an easy job. We would look at the type of home, number of other children, jobs, community standing. The tricky part would be making sure they got to keep her. We might have to do a little mental manipulation in that situation, also. Nothing serious, just convincing.”
King Anerez` sat in thought for several minutes before replying. “I think you have a plan. When can we put it in action?”
“We are ready to go. We will pack at your command.”
The King stood, waited for them to stand, then shook their hands. “Let’s do it. I will prepare Tori for the trip. The sooner, the better. How about in an hour?”
“It can be done. We will pick her up within the hour.”
The couple left, and King Anerez` buzzed for Rhome.
“You needed me, Sir?”
“Do you have Tori ready for the trip?”
“Yes, Sir. Why can’t I go with her, Sir?” Tears welled in Rhome’s eyes. Her hands clenched in her lap.
“No. I’ve already told you. Not this time. Send the Princess to me.”
“Yes, Sir,” she barely got the words out.
A few minutes later Rhome returned, Princess Tori by her side.
“Hi, Grandfather. Did you call for me?”
“Come here, Sweetheart.”
Tori walked into his arms, and the King sat her on his lap. “I have something for you.”
King Anerez` took a ring from his pocket. “Your father had this engraved for you. It was going to be a Christmas present, but I decided to give it to you early. Isn’t it beautiful? It has been in the family for a long time.”
Tori turned the ring around and studied the green stone circled with diamonds.
“There’s writing inside. It says, ‘To my daughter, Princess Tori Sinne` Anerez`’‘.
Tori looked up at her grandfather, “Oh. That hurts my heart. Daddy was going to give it to me?”
Her voice broke, and tears spilled down her cheeks. “I will keep it forever.” She held the ring in her fist and hugged it to her chest.
The King patted her shoulder. “There’s something else.” He shifted her body so that she was looking into his eyes. “I’m going to say some things to you. You won’t remember them. It will be alright. I love you with all my heart and would never do anything to put you in danger. You must trust me.”
“I do trust you, Grandpa. Go ahead and say it.”
King Anerez` opened Tori’s fist and took the ring. He rubbed it, looked straight into her eyes, and said, “Tori, you will remember nothing of your life here on Corasias until the day you return. Be happy and feel loved. Enjoy your life on Earth.” He put the ring on her finger.
Tori blinked a couple of times and looked at the man in whose lap she was sitting.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Tori. Let me walk you to the door.” King Anerez` held tightly to the little girl’s hand as they walked out the library door and down the long, marble-lined corridor.
Captain Vieux and his wife met him at the massive entrance doors. King Anerez` turned his granddaughter over to them and waved goodbye as they loaded into the transport.
Tori looked around, fascinated with all of the new sights. She waved at the older man who stood on the steps waving. The lady beside her reached over and clicked Tori’s seat belt together. A young boy sat across from her. He didn’t say a word as they took off and traveled a short distance to another ship. Everyone got out and boarded the new spaceship. She was a little nervous and wondered where they were all going.
Within five minutes she had snuggled down in a comfortable seat and fell sound asleep. The spaceship zoomed into the dark voids of outer space, Earth bound.
Readers, thank you for choosing to read Destiny. I hope you enjoyed it. Please take a few moments to leave a comment by following the link (or copy and paste) then entering Destiny by Rita Durrett. Thank you very much!!
You will be excited to know that the following books are full-length novels that continue to follow the now eighteen-year-old Tori on a wild and sometimes scary adventure as she first learns what her destiny holds for her, and then accepts the challenges and responsibilities involved in reaching that destiny.
Destiny Revealed [+ https://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Revealed-Book-Rita-Durrett- ebook/dp/B00LKA4CJ4/ +]
Destiny Fulfilled [+ https://www.amazon.com/Destiny-Fulfilled-Book-Rita-Durrett-ebook/dp/B00LVV2M4O/+]
Princess Tori Anerez` is born into nobility on the planet of Corasias. Her life is complicated by misfortunes from the very beginning. She is too young to realize the consequences resulting from an overnight attack close to the palace, but that action by evil assassins sets her destiny.