Rise of Desire

Chapter 7|6 mins read

L aughter and words flowed around the Royal Hall like a warm embrace. Animated faces dotted the room as a sense of excitement pulsed through the gathering. Xander stood silently at the head of the room, near a short table meant for the queen and Princess Hadiyeh. The boy observed how the hall was casually divided according to the rank of the guests. Important citizens with no political affiliation occupied tables placed near the entrance. Guests who had political affiliations occupied the centre of the room. Ministers and other members of the palace were seated closer to where Xander was standing. But the most decorated table, which sat just a few feet away from the boy, was reserved for the five kings of the Behrouz empire and the army general of King Piruz. What the boy failed to notice was the quiet words exchanged between the general and another king seated next to him.

“Do you think inviting this so called King of Kings is a wise move, General Hateem?”

The general threw a quick glance across the table before replying, “I have my doubts…I respect King Piruz, but I do question his capabilities in protecting our vast empire. He seems removed from the realities of this world and immersed in a joyful spirit. If not for the queen, this empire may have been left unprotected, open for anyone to ravage and pillage.”

The king thought about the general’s words. “Peace unites this land, and I have to credit King Piruz for that. However, I think the time has come for someone who is ruthless and brave.”

General Hateem had a wry smile, “King Danush, are you nominating yourself?”

The king laughed and then replied in a serious tone, “What if I am?”

The question was met with a hushed silence that descended on the gathering as the words faded into whispers. King Piruz and King Cyrus had entered the Royal Hall, followed by Ginger. Cyrus strode forward. His long shadow led the way, gliding on the polished floor. The king’s eyes wandered across the oval-shaped hall, drinking in every detail: flickering candle-flames arranged in neat rows, crystal chandeliers that sparkled from the ceiling, smooth marble pillars that stood tall near the walls, wine-filled gold cups that sat next to ivory plates. The Royal Hall basked in an ethereal glow.

Then there were the people dressed in their finest. Cyrus noticed that everyone had a soft smile playing on their lips; everyone, except a boy who stood near a short, unoccupied table at the head of the oval hall. He looked alert and ready, without a hint of emotion on his face: as if he were on a battlefield than at a feast. Cyrus smiled; the boy reminded the king of his younger self.

Xander was watching the King of Kings closely. The way he walked, the way his face betrayed no signs of emotion. And when Cyrus did express a faint smile, it surprised the boy. He wondered what had amused this fearsome warrior. Xander would never know that it was him.

The two kings now stood at the main table filled with fresh fruits, sliced vegetables, and steaming chunks of meat. King Piruz raised a gold cup filled with wine, “I welcome all of you to the grand feast of Nowruz,” His voice rang across the wide hall, “Especially my fellow kings of the vast empire that is Behrouz,” He pointed his cup to the five kings at the table, “But my warmest welcome is reserved for the King of Kings, who has graced us with his presence. To King Cyrus,” The gold cup rose higher.

To King Cyrus…the entire hall chimed.

“Let the feast begin,” King Piruz placed his cup on the table and took his seat at the head of the table. Cyrus and Ginger sat to the king’s right, facing General Hateem and King Danush.

Bahranyi entered the Royal Hall followed by two men carrying a large, heavy bronze vessel. Whispers from the gathering followed their steps. The two men placed the vessel in the centre of the main table.

“King Cyrus, I present to you a special dish of our land. I can assure you that your tongue has never known a taste quite like this,” King Piruz looked at Bahranyi and nodded.

The royal cook lifted the brass lid. A palette filled with the brown of crisply fried onions, the green of chopped coriander leaves, and saffron flakes came into view.

The aroma that emanated from the open vessel drenched Cyrus, who closed his eyes and inhaled it. The king felt everything else fade away from his consciousness. The sounds and sights of the hall faded. He could sense nothing except the aroma that had taken a complete hold of his mind and body. Cyrus did not hear the king of Behrouz wax eloquent about the special dish; he did not see the portion of the yellow rice and pink meat being served on his plate from the vessel. As if guided by an invisible instinct, Cyrus picked up a silver spoon next to his plate, scooped a portion of the dish and placed it in his mouth. All of his senses converged on that morsel of food that melted on his tongue: the soft rice, tender meat, spices, and the savoury onion crisps. The king experienced a sense of bliss: everything that he ever wanted was in this dish.

A familiar desire began to rise in his gut.

King Piruz leaned towards Cyrus and whispered,

“King of Kings, I would like to give you something that is very precious to me on this holy occasion of Nowruz.”

The faint echo of anklets sounded in the Royal Hall.

To be continued...

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