A Familiar Face

Chapter 8|4 mins read

T he Royal Hall was filled with faces, but Xander’s eyes filled with the image of one man – Zyrus. The boy had been closely observing the King of Kings. Everything that Xander had heard about the much-feared warrior seemed to be true. Zyrus had an aura that commanded respect. Inspired by the king, Xander too tried to puff his chest out and stand with a straight back.

Amidst the laughter and celebratory cheer, the faint echo of anklets was almost lost in the gathering. No one heard it nor paid attention to it, except for the boy. His ears muted the noise and allowed the delicate echo to flow into him. Xander realized that his dream and his desire would soon arrive. He ran his hands lightly over his attire as if to tidy it up, and then ran his hands over his hair to check if every strand was in place.

When Princess Hadiyeh entered with the Queen, silence cascaded from one end of the hall to another. Attired in an ivory-white robe laced with gold trinkets, the princess sparkled like a lone evening star.

The guests began to stand up as she walked past them. Her shimmering reflection glided along the shiny gold cups that stood on the tables.

To Xander, it looked like a wave of rising heads and bodies, caused by Hadiyeh’s beauty, that peaked towards him.

The princess acted calm and collected, almost aloof to all the attention and excitement she was causing. Her mind, however, was deluged with thoughts. She felt a sharp tinge of nervousness in the pit of her stomach as she graced the Royal Hall. Hadiyeh placed her palm on top of her navel as a kind of reassurance. She kept her focus on the tip of her toes and as she stepped on the polished floor.

Hadiyeh’s nervousness abated when she saw Xander standing next to the short table reserved for her. His face felt familiar, and yet, the princess was certain that she had never seen him before. Her mind was now occupied with identifying when and where she may have seen him. Hadiyeh took a closer at Xander, and then realization dawned. She had seen bits and pieces of this face before, when she offered morning prayers on the terrace of the Royal Palace. It was always hidden between the balustrade of the open portico above the Royal Kitchen. The princess had wondered who had the audacity to steal glances. She did not expect that the half- boy half-man would be that furtive face. Xander had a certain innocence that took Hadiyeh by surprise. This distracted the princess’ attention from the main table where the King of Kings sat.

“Look at Hadiyeh,” Danush continued,

She is so beautiful, so fragile…Now she will make a queen fit for my stature.

The general had a wry smile as he nodded to the quiet words of King Danush. “Be careful what you wish for.” The general hinted at a warning.

What Danush did not know was that the princess had been training in hand to hand combat and sword fighting. Hateem had accepted her as his student upon the queen’s request. The young lady had surprised the general with her agility and speed. She could run circles around an opponent twice her size and take him down.

The Queen of Behrouz, bedecked in a deep-blue stain robe with a precious crystal decorating her neck, walked behind her daughter, greeting the guests with a smile. She paid close attention to each face and each gesture that greeted her. The guests too were grateful for the acknowledgement. Her warmth provided the ideal contrast to her daughter’s cultivated aloofness.

As the queen watched over her daughter’s steps, she was reminded of the time she was first introduced to the important citizens and guests of her father’s kingdom. Her mother had guided her every move, providing a calming influence. The queen hoped that she was exerting a similar effect on her daughter.

When the queen and princess walked past the main table, the general gave a slight nod to the queen, which she returned.

Ginger, who stood next to the still-seated Zyrus, caught this quick exchange.

Princess Hadiyeh and the queen had reached their table. An expectant air hung around the hall. Xander rushed to pull out a chair for the queen. She took her seat and patted the boy’s cheek in appreciation. Xander then pulled out the second chair for Hadiyeh and waited. After a moment he looked up at the princess, wondering why she did not take her seat. His deep blue eyes met her light grey eyes for the first time.

The princess was staring at the boy.

To be continued...

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