"Saphira?" High King Angarian mused while his solicitous blue eyes shifted from Lord Orinian to his Cyborg agent Atrey and back again. "A daughter of Reikan? I wonder where that old bastard might've squirreled her away all those years. His significant other was Lady Julianne, who divorced him after the slipshod insurrection. The ill-faithed woman chose exile, and left for Earth. That's about as much as I know about her."
They had sat down in a Royal Longue, where the bright midmorning sun was shining in through large, round windows, bringing out hues and shades in the smoothly elegant, dominantly white furnishing and adding gently saturated depths to the calming blue walls which displayed hints at sea-inspired murals. The exquisite rays glittered, fractured and decayed into green in the water of an aquarium were the most brightly coloured, exotic fishes were indolently swimming about. This lofty place of lenient and comfortable less-is-more elegance was quite a bit more casual than Angarian's formal office and the king had offered light refreshments which they enjoyed while Atrey reiterated to the king what she had told the Tarondan Lord the day before.
"Reikan told about his daughter when he was heard almost immediately after his capture," explained Atrey as she fearlessly met the eyes of her King. "According to him, Saphira was prophesied to banish a big threat to the Seven Cosmoses about four standard years in the future. Consequently Reikan appealed he would have to be pardoned to enabling him to teach her how to fight, naturally unmanageable when in prison."
"Sounds to me rather a condemned man grasping at straws, than a sighter telling of possible futures," Angarian snorted. Orinian had to stop himself from rolling his eyes, it was evident the King knew very little of, or cared very little for how sighters worked – or perhaps he was just letting his mind be clouded by his old aversion of the former Lord Reikan of Ursain.
"Sire, he was under hypnosis when telling this," Atrey elucidated. "95% of all sighters perform their divinations and receive their visions while being hypnotized or drugged. It's no secret that very few people can accomplish a true sighting during normal conditions. The Celestian brain, as with most thinking specimens, is simply too preoccupied with external sensations through the normal seven senses to be able to reach those channels which are receptive for the imprints in the time-space flux and able to see possible futures or past occurrences. Not to mention evaluating them. They need to shut down most interference, like sights, sounds, smells, electromagnetic currents and further on - to quintessence on the flux. Often only doable under altered conditions."
"What you must take in mind, gentlemen, is that Reikan was not put under hypnosis because of sighting reasons," Atrey went on. Angarian was now studying her intensely. No matter how used he was to Cyborgs these days, he still felt a certain discomfort upon viewing a person who didn't move an inch in her relaxed, contemplating status. Most people tended to shift position, blink or scratch themselves somewhere now and then. Cyborgs did neither; they had no need for these little ticks. Atrey was akinetic like a statue.
"Reikan was under because you were questioning him," the king stressed matter of factly. "To ensure he was telling the truth. Common procedure of criminal investigation."
"Of course," Atrey avowed. "However none of the jail personnel knew the man was a sighter. So no precautions for that aspect were taken. We were completely startled when Reikan fell into sighting trance and began talking about common occurrences."
"How accurate were they?" Orinian asked. At the same Queen Colombina slipped inside, closing the hallway door silently behind her. Without a word she came over and seated herself in one of the vacant chairs, the silk of her blue tunic whispering faintly as she arranged it gracefully over her long legs. The king gave her a silent nod of a greeting and Colombina nodded back, a gentle smile gracing her red-painted lips, her countenance lighting up, dark eyes twinkling. Orinian observed the royal duo thoughtfully; it was obvious that they had found a low-keyed, down to earth love after all those years. Who could have thought....?
"The sightings were correct enough," Atrey commenced after a courteous acknowledgment to the queen. "Upon investigating them I found them coming close to a probability of 80% - at least in those parts I've been able to analyze hitherto. Including the economic recession we've just emerged from and which is still plaguing Earth, Nibiru, Xanadu and Avalon Occidenta. Add to this the assassination of president Dekarmon in Elasastia."
"So how about Reikan's presumed daughter?" Angarian probed.
"That's the focal enigma, Sire. I've been trying to locate this Saphira now for quite some time. First I thought her to be a biological daughter of Reikan, but I found no records of earlier marriages of his, in spite of his age of almost 200 years. Neither any indication that he should have sired a child otherwise. So I began looking for disciples. Women who could've been his children in spirit rather than flesh and blood. But there were none of that kind either. Reikan was not the teaching kind, the one to take youths under his wings. He left that for others in his county. For instance his younger brother Calen, the alchemist – the present lord of Ursain."
"You're talking about Reikan's daughter Saphira?" Queen Colombina suddenly cut in and Atrey glanced over at her.
"Yes, the presumed daughter Saphira," the Cyborg replied. "The one I've failed to locate in spite of years of tries, and am now beginning to believe to be non-existent."
"Oh she exists all right," the Queen said in an arid no-nonsense voice, yet her lips twitched in a barely concealed jollity. "She's the daughter of Lady Julianne. They live on Earth in a place called England."
"I know what England is," Atrey confirmed. "A part of United Kingdom, an island kingdom of Western Europe. They speak English, a deviation of Commonspeech, spiced with local lingua and without the Curzulian tenses."
"Yes," the Queen confirmed as she brazenly tasted some sparkling wine out of her husband's glass. "Most probably the language made Julianne choosing that part of the world. However the English language is common in many other places on Earth including on a large part of the Atlantean double-continent. The one the humans these days refer to as America, the demise of Atlantis having been reduced to nothing but legends with these fast-living people. But I digress. Reikan and Julianne's daughter was born just about a season before Julianne became exiled from Eralda and left Lealia entirely. Julianne brought her young daughter with her to Earth, where she was named Sarah."
"Sarah?" Orinian raised a brow. "As in Lord Abraham's wife?"
"Yes," the Queen nodded her head. "Sorry to say, it was probably not to commemorate your late nephew, more a way of making the girl blend in, Sarah is a rather common name in these parts of Earth. Saphira would be more – well, exotic. Since Julianne wished to hide, it was better to give her daughter a neutral name. I've been keeping an eye on the two of them from time to time, primarily because I felt responsible for them. I've even visited Sarah a while back, and held a short interview with her, trying to probe how much she really knew about her origin. Which turned out to be very little of significance. She's not even aware of her status as a Celestian."
"Wait a moment here," Atrey cut in. "A season before Julianne was exiled, My Queen is saying? This denotes that the girl is less than four years old."
"Yes, 15 of the Earthly years to be more exact," Colombina replied.
"I was looking for a mature woman," Atrey went on. "Someone about ten Lealian years of age. That should explain my failure."
"But how can we expect someone as young as her to take on whatever has come through the spatial fabric?" king Angarian looked more worried now with this knowledge at hand.
"Perhaps this heralded battle won't take place until years in the future," the Queen guessed. "Perhaps it won't even be a battle in our belligerent nous. Don't forget that whatever came through to our realm is probably totally alien. We're even referring to it as the Alien. So how do you defeat something so outright different? Probably by fighting in a way we do not comprehend now. Yet presumably possible for this four cycles old girl to grasp. In any case we need to locate the Alien." Now Columbina directed her attention to her husband. "Angarian, I came here primarily to tell you that the Voidwalkers have arrived. They've been lodged in the Western Palace Wing by now and are establishing themselves as we speak. I'm here to ask you when you may be able to receive them."
The king stretched his neck and rolled his shoulders, aiming to gain time. Sure, he had invited the Voidwalkers to Whitehall, to receive help with locating the Alien. But even he couldn't hide the discomfort when thinking of these strange, more or less creepy humanoids. The Voidwalkers had a habit of constantly slipping from your mind, you forgot about them even if they were in the room, you lost sight of them as if they were truly indiscernible and you disremembered their features the moment they left. In some cases you almost forgot they had even been there. All this happened since they didn't really exist in the real, fourth dimensional space, but primarily on a level next to it, slipping in and out of through declensions in reality as easy as smoke whirled through openings in a structure. Thus they played tricks on the brain, which defended itself by choosing to disremember their presence.
"Tell me about them!" the king urged and Columbina reached inside the inner pocket of her thin, gray satin jacket to retrieve a note paper. She folded it open in her lap and dipped her eyes to brief over her scribblings.
"The man is called Antolas; he's been in the business now for a bit more than ninety Lealian years. I've, uh, jotted down his appearance the best I could. Tall, fair-skinned, green eyes. Thulean of origin like most of his kind. He's a pro, at the prime of his career. The best there was according the Royal Recruiter who sent them here. He has brought with him his daughter. Cleanthia is still a novice, still in training. Looking a lot like her father, from what I could make it. Her mother was a Regular. A Lealian woman, from the Republic of Neltra. This makes the girl something as unusual as a Voidwalker cross breed. Most probably she became included in the package because our Recruiter believes that she, with her mixed race status, could have some new angles to contribute with."
"How old is the daughter?" Atrey asked, facing the Queen, who looked up at the Cyborg.
"Twenty Thulean years, that's roughly five of ours."
"Then she ought to befriend Saphira," Atrey reasoned. "That can be useful; the girl will probably be petrified when the veils covering her future get torn aside."
"Al right," the King decided to bite the bullet. "I'll see them within three hours from now, I'll send a servant." Then he turned to the others. "The Royal sighter Sarmonian told me to invite Julianne for this year's Hallow Ewe, however he couldn't perceive why. Now we know it. Saphira is apparently on her way already, and that should make some of our difficulties easier to deal with. Atrey, thanks for your valuable contribution in this matter!" he then dismissed the Cyborg agent, who stood and left the room.
When the Cyborg closed the door behind her, the king turned to Orinian.
"Will you have the time to lunch with the Queen and I? I've invited Queen Sarentona, who arrived early this morning. She's a bit jet-lagged but she accepted the offer. I hope we may engage in some more pleasant subjects than the dire matters at hand for a while. Just to rest our poor brains."
That was something Orinian found delightful and agreeable, and he accepted the offer with a placid smile pulling at the corners of his lips.
When Julianne had finished, Sarah sat in silence, taking her eyes from her mother and trying to deliberate on the scenery as it went by, but she was too overwhelmed to actually focusing on anything passing by out there. Seconds felt like minutes. Then minutes stretched too far in both directions, into memory and distress. Her mind was in turmoil, it had been quite a lot to take in during such a brief period of time. Umbrianna had been partly right and now Sarah understood that what she reminisced of her father and their mansion had not been from England or even Earth, but over in this unfathomable realm which was called Eralda. Where they were going now.
As if her thoughts had triggered it, the carriage began rolling faster and faster until they were heading straight into the air! With a gulp, Sarah closed her eyes and took a firm hold of the armrests. The vertigo pitching her stomach and lacerating her mind was definitely one of the scariest feelings in her life. It wasn't like flying to Spain two years back; a trip in a plane had felt quite different, quite safer. They hadn't been half as vulnerable inside that large and air-tight machine as they were now, in this small, old and suddenly very rickety-feeling carriage.
She was almost certain she had fainted because when she opened her eyes the carriage had halted on a rocky outcrop. Her mother opened the door on her right hand.
"Final stop," she smiled, "all passengers off!" But her smile, Sarah noted, failed to reach the eyes. Instead she appeared quite edgy, hard-strung nerves all over the place. They disembarked and without further ceremonies began walking, something that surprised Sarah a lot - her ever-polite mother had forgotten or neglected to thank their driver.
But as she turned to look, she noted that the whole equipage was gone, as if it had never been there.
"Mother," she pulled at Julianne's arm, making her halt and turn around.
"Darling, I'll answer all the questions you can think of, no matter that I know they are plentiful. But later. Now I must concentrate on where we're heading, because I have to make sure I make the correct impression after all those years. There are no second chances for these things, you know."
Sarah didn't, but she kept her mouth shut nonetheless. The air was very thin and chilly so she stayed close to Julianne as they continued the ascent on foot, up narrow stairs cut out in the hillside. As she glanced to her right, she noted a myriad of glistening lights, like a blanket of sequins - a small town residing within a valley surrounded by blunt and bluish, snow-capped mountains partly obscured by small, elongated clouds.
"That's Elefteria. The capital of Eralda," Julianne offered upon noting Sarah's gaze. "It's not even one tenth the size of London, but mesmerizing nevertheless. That would be for another visit."
So they were going back later! Anew, Sara felt excitement stir within her.
Night was beginning to fall, careered from the far side of the skydome and only birdcalls and the sounds of wind whistling through branches interrupted the silence. The breeze ruffled flower petals and dandelion fluff floated in the cold air like small vessels bound for arbitrary destinations. Sarah was a bit riled that she hadn't thought to bring something warm. She was starting to feel small again and she wasn't sure whether she liked it or not. Craning her head, she noted that quite a handful of stars were out already, peeking out between ranks of cumuli, even though the sun had yet to disappear in the west. On the eastern horizon a large and copper red moon was climbing. Or was it another sun? It shone so bright it was almost impossible to tell.
Suddenly, a golden glow filled all her senses and she felt surprisingly light and happy. The very next moment a high and ornate iron gate appeared before them and it opened to let them in. This gate also carried that coat of arms with the dragon and the swords, thus Sarah understood that they had now reached the goal of their journey. Whitehall, where this enigmatic king dwelled. Sarah turned to see if there was anyone who operated the gate, but she spotted no one, it seemed completely automatic, or at least managed from a distance.
Julianne led them through and they come upon a number of complexes which formed what looked like a small village. It was certainly richer than any other town Sarah had ever been to, even if its size was a far cry from Chelsea, let along London. But it was posh to say the least; this gated society with opulent villas with large and elegant gardens and with fancy vehicles parked in the driveways in front of the houses. They didn't look like any cars she knew, and she wondered what kind of vehicles they really were. She wished she had felt safe to ask her mother, but that would certainly have to wait.
As they passed through the surprisingly empty streets, Sarah felt that the place stretched on and on. Towers started showing over some of the buildings and gradually Sarah realized they were coming upon one of the greatest structures she had ever seen. Even larger than the Wembley Arena where she, Doris and Lydia and Lydia's mother Renée had gone to see Justin Bieber the same spring. All this wealth made Sarah feel quite out of her element and she wished to cling a little more to her mother, something she tried stringently to not show.
When they rounded one last corner they were finally able to behold their radiant destination. As if born of the wind and the rain, an elongated but low cliff rose from the surrounding land. Crowning this vertical structure was a fabulous palace. It blazed in the dazzling light of the setting sun, a gigantic Fata Morgana lit all over with golden, pink and purple floodlight, subjugating the gathering dusk, sparking white fire from white stone and proclaiming a vain triumph over the surrounding lands and destiny - an imaginative explosion of beauty and colour.
Instinctively Sarah reached for her mother's hand and yet was she ambivalent about the fact that the grip she got in return was firm and sure. This was the Whitehall Palace, no doubt about it! Too late to go back now. Her life was about to change forever, she was intensely aware of it.
It only took them minutes to walk the bricked way leading across pastoral lawns and up to the entrance of the large structure, where a broad staircase took them up to a magnificent portico. The doors of the palace made a grinding sound as they were opened, obviously operated from afar as well. Sarah felt her stomach twist. Just beyond those doors awaited the rest of her life.