The Forgotten King – Chapter 13, Part 3
November 19, 2018
Zaric walked purposefully down the hall, without hurry and careful not to make a sound. His palace had been built to be used and every room was occupied; he didn’t want to wake anyone. He didn’t even carry a candle. The moonlight came through a row of large windows to his left and he knew this place too well to need any other light.
He came to a room at the end of the hallway and stopped. Everything was silent around him. He looked back down the corridor, but it was still and lifeless. Slowly, he opened the door, stepped into the room, and turned the knob as he closed the door to keep it from clicking.
Unlike the hallway, this room was lit brightly. Candelabra were mounted to all four walls at regular intervals, casting an orange and yellow light onto every surface. The room was bare, except for a long, plain wooden table standing in the middle of it. Helen lay on the table, covered with a thin blanket. A middle-aged woman sat next to her, staring at Helen’s face with too much intensity to notice anything else as she pressed a damp cloth to Helen’s forehead. Zaric stood for a minute, leaning against the door as he looked at the table. Taking a deep breath, he walked forward.
“You may wait outside,” he said to the woman, who jumped a little at the sound of his voice, then nodded, silently stood, and left the room without question.
Zaric stepped next to the table and looked down at Helen’s face, which was just as pale as it had been when Neil had handed her to Zaric, though all of the dirt from her journey had been washed away. She had been changed into a new white gown, intricately embroidered with flowers and ivy. Small white flowers had been woven into her clean hair, evidence that the women he had asked to take care of her had decided to make the most of their time while waiting. He would have been surprised if they hadn’t, knowing the women as well as he did—they beautified everything they could. These beautiful touches did nothing to assuage the shock that went through him as Zaric heard Helen’s stuttered breathing.
Zaric took both of Helen’s hands in his. In a rush, a warm current of air began to circle through the room. The candelabra seemed to be lit with sunlight, which danced off of the walls and floor and ceiling, as if the light was alive. Smiling down at Helen as he channeled his energy through his hands, Zaric lowered his head, placing his lips close to her ear. “Helen,” he whispered. “Helen, wake up.”
Nothing happened. Zaric straightened his back and watched Helen in patient expectation. Then, her breathing stopped. For half a minute, Zaric waited for the breathing to continue. When it didn’t, he called out in a commanding voice that sent a wave of energy throughout the room as the sound reverberated against the walls, “Helen!”
It began with a slight movement under her eyelids. Her face gradually lost its paleness, the color pulsing from her cheeks and soon spreading to her forehead and neck, then over her entire body. Suddenly, Helen gasped and opened her eyes wide, as though she had emerged from deep water. She blinked rapidly, her whole body tense, then locked her eyes on Zaric. Laughing, he raised her hands to his lips and kissed them. Gently, with one hand under her back, he lifted her to a sitting position. She looked at him, confused, then glanced around the room, finally resting her eyes again on the king. She put her hands on his face, not quite sure that either of them was real. Tears welled in her eyes and she laughed. “It’s you,” she half-exclaimed, half-whispered. “It’s you.”
Zaric laughed again and tears filled his eyes as well. Helen put her arms around his neck and placed her head on his shoulder. “I knew we would find you,” she said.
“You’re safe now,” Zaric told her. “And I’m glad you came. But I’m sorry I had to wake you. We haven’t finished needing you yet. I know you’ve done quite a lot, but I’m afraid there’s still more work to do.”
Helen pulled away and nodded. Then, filled suddenly with concern, she exclaimed, “Neil! Is he all right? Where is he?”
“Neil’s fine,” Zaric assured her. “He’s the one who brought you here.”
“May I see him?”
“In the morning. But now, I need you to tell me how you feel.”
Helen put her hand to her throat, her memory reconstructing all that had happened before being awoken by Zaric. She felt nothing that could make her believe she had been shot with a dart—not even a trace of the tingling she so well remembered in her arms. Yet she keenly remembered standing at the gateway and seeing Siri in front of her, holding a reed. Her body felt no pain now, but her mind still knew the sharpness of the sting of the dart’s point and the fear the poison brought as it coursed through her body.
“Was I dead?” she asked.
“Not quite, but nearly.”
The thought was strange and unreal, and it paralyzed Helen’s understanding. “For how long?”
“Less than a day,” Zaric answered.
Helen looked at his face, so full of peace and goodness beyond anything she had ever imagined. Although she didn’t understand, she knew by looking at Zaric that it wasn’t necessary to understand. “I feel hungry,” she stated. “Very hungry.”
“Well, then, let’s find you something to eat.”