Chapter 20|5 mins read
Hadiyeh stepped into the terrace garden and paused. A broad figure stood in the garden silhouetted against the rising sun. It took her a moment to realize that it was their guest of the night, Cyrus. Hadiyeh’s instincts told her to return to her chamber. She turned and took a step, but then remembered Afsoon’s advice, “If that man’s words have caused you grief, you should stand up to him and ask the reason for his words.”
Hadiyeh composed herself and walked towards the King of Kings.
Cyrus turned towards the soft echo of the anklets. His face did not betray the slight surprise he felt when he saw the princess approach him. “Behrouz looks majestic from up here,” The king’s words greeted the princess, “Do you come here often?”
“Yes, King Cyrus,” The princess replied with a slight bow, “In fact, I perform my morning prayers here, thanking the sun for the gift of light.”
“I must apologize then,” Cyrus said in his deep voice.
“What for?” Hadiyeh was intrigued.
“I have interrupted your prayers, and more importantly, your solitude as well. I will take your leave now,” Cyrus strode past the princess.
Hadiyeh’s courage was failing her. She wanted to ask him the reason why he had denied her hand but the king was walking away. “King Cyrus,” The princess called out, mustering all the nerve she had.
The king paused.
“There is something I like to ask you…With your permission, that is…,” Hadiyeh took a step towards the king with her hands clasped firmly together.
“Of course, princess,” Cyrus replied, facing Hadiyeh. He had not expected the beautiful young princess to engage with him.
“Last night,” Hadiyeh began, “When my father offered you my hand…you declined…May I know the reason why?” Hadiyeh looked at the king, searching his eyes for an answer.
“Princess, the reason I denied your hand is because I already possess many hands in marriage. My heart, though, belongs only to my queen,” Cyrus’ voice softened, “I fear your beauty and the immense potential your life holds will be wasted with someone who will not fully appreciate you. Besides, there is someone who already loves you with his entire heart.”
“Who are you talking about?” Hadiyeh’s words revealed her curiosity.
“I am sure a woman of your knowledge and wisdom will be able to identify who I speak about. One clue, I can give you. He was present at the feast last night,” Cyrus turned from Hadiyeh and began walking towards exit.
The words of the princess halted Cyrus once again in his stride.
“My wisdom and knowledge are infantile when compared to yours, but I do feel that your words hide the real reason for your denial.”
“Your perception belies your age,” Cyrus said, a smile etched on his lips, “Behrouz will have a bright future under your reign.”
Hadiyeh’s attention shifted from Cyrus to the two figures who stood at the entrance of the garden. “King Cyrus,” The princess bowed, “Have a safe journey back to your kingdom,” With an air of grace, Hadiyeh walked towards the exit.
The two figures approached the King of Kings. “The king and queen of Behrouz,” Cyrus greeted them, “I am humbled by your kindness and generosity as hosts. And I must add,” He addressed the queen, “That you have raised a fine young woman. The princess is as wise as she is beautiful.”
“Now we are humbled by your kind words, King Cyrus,” The queen replied, “Your ship has arrived and is docked in the harbour. Before you leave,” She handed over a small satin pouch laced with golden threads, “We would like you to accept a memento of our kingdom for your queen,”
“I am sure my queen will appreciate this precious gift, “Cyrus received the pouch with both hands, “There is, however, one more thing I would like to ask,” Cyrus directed his words towards King Piruz, “Have you thought about the request I made last night?”
“Cyrus, I have indeed thought about it,” The king answered without any hesitation, “However, I will need a few weeks to arrive at a decision.”
“It is just a recipe that I ask for, Piruz,” The King of Kings stated.
Piruz looked at his queen and then shifted his attention back to Cyrus, “For us, it is more than just a recipe. The Biriyani of Behrouz is our past, our present, and our future. It is our identity.”
“Your words sound truthful,” The king said in an even voice, “And considering the generosity your kingdom has exerted towards me, I will accept your request for time,” Cyrus tightened his grip on the satin pouch, “I do, however, hope that my patience is not viewed as weakness. I will expect your reply soon.”
“You have our word, King of Kings,” The queen said.
The cold blue eyes of Cyrus met that of King Piruz, “No recipe is worth losing the lives of your loyal subjects.”
To be continued...