The Day Before The Feast

Chapter 11|6 mins read

T he large mirror reflected a split image of the king of Behrouz. Piruz was lost deep in thought, wondering what he could offer the King of Kings as a peace offering at the feast of Nowruz. He had heard about the fearsome reputation of Cyrus and his penchant for acquiring new land. Behrouz was a sea away from the reach of the conqueror; however, that could not rule out the possibility of attack. Piruz had always preferred peace as the way forward. He had been able to stretch the borders of his own empire by enticing the other kings to be a part of a grand civilization. But if war came calling, he would be left with no choice but to battle. The king glanced at the large mirror, and gazed at the split image reflecting back.

A gentle breeze flowed through an open window into the king’s chamber. It was a secluded room that occupied a corner of the palace, with a view to the kingdom that stretched beneath. Piruz often came up here when he wanted to contemplate. The chamber was Spartan: the only occupants were a couple of cushioned chairs and a short table. A roll of paper sat on the table with a quart of black ink in a crystallized container next to it. A sharpened feather tip lay straight, below the paper and the ink. If the king ever wanted to write down his contemplations, he had everything at hand. Piruz’ fingers ran gently on top of the feather. The king had not yet come up with a peace offering.

The scent of the late evening breeze stirred him. Piruz got up from his cushioned seat and walked to the open window. The sky was splashed with pink as the sun dipped below the horizon, signalling the end of another day. The night would be a special one – the eve of Nowruz. From the window, Piruz could see beads of light brighten on the street as the sky darkened. Under the twilight sky, Behrouz was awash with hues of gold from the flowers and incandescent yellow.

“King Piruz…”

“General Hateem,” The king recognized the voice. He turned towards the visitor. A soft shaft of light streaming from the window lit up the general’s visage.

“My king, we were to discuss the arrival of King Cyrus tomorrow,” Hateem stepped inside the room.

Piruz was silent for a moment. The general wondered if the king had forgotten about it.

“Ah, yes,” Piruz finally replied, “I did want to talk to you. Come over to the window.”

The general strode quickly towards the king. A long sword, buckled near Hateem’s waist, clinked softly in the silence.

“I have been contemplating,” Piruz gazed out of the window, “I would like to extend King Cyrus a peace offering at the feast. We will have wine, good meat, our irresistible biriyani…A good time to make peace with a ruler who could be a rival.”

“Your thoughts are valid, King Piruz, but I would like to disagree,” Hateem stood at the window, facing the king.

“Why do you disagree?” Piruz’ voice reflected a hint of surprise.

“My king, I think peace should be last recourse, when everything else has failed and we have lost. Not the first offer, especially to an ambitious, and perhaps a bloodthirsty king, like Cyrus. Behrouz has nothing to be afraid of, you can trust my word for it. We should meet him like equals. A peace offering will make us look weak.”

“Only the strong can offer peace.”

Both men turned from the window to see the queen enter the chamber. Her visage lit by a candle encased in a transparent glass vase. The soft yellow light spread across the chamber.

Only the strong can offer peace, and only the strong can accept it

The queen placed the glass vase on the short table, “It is the weak who are intent on spilling blood.”

“My queen,” Piruz smiled, “I have been waiting for you.”

“My apologies,” General Hateem half-bowed, “It is not my intention to label the king of Behrouz or the kingdom as weak.”

“General, you do not need to apologize,” The queen sauntered towards King Piruz, “You must speak your mind when you feel the need to. After all, you are an integral part of Behrouz.”

“I appreciate your sentiment, my queen.”

“The king and I arrived at the decision of a peace offering together,” The queen stood next to Piruz, “We feel that it could benefit Behrouz.”

“My opinion is that King Cyrus is a man who may respond only to strength,” General Hateem shifted his gaze from the queen to the king, “We will be the perfect hosts, and then send him back where he came from. If he casts an eye over our kingdom, then,” Hateem gripped his sword.

The queen took a step forward and placed her hand on the sword, “General,” she smiled, “You are ready to wage war when there is not even a battle.”

“Mother, i am sorry to interrupt.”

The eyes in the chamber turned towards the princess.

“But the palace decorator is searching for you.”

“Hadiyeh, my child, sit with us for a moment.” The queen cast a glance at King Piruz, “There is something I wish to talk to you about.”

To be continued...

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