Destiny A Short Story PrequelRita Durrett / Fantasy
A Short Story Prequel
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Short Story Prequel
Copyright by Rita Durrett 2017
Gilcrease Publishing, LLC
A Short Story Prequel
"There you are. I searched all over the palace. I even asked the King, and then realized you'd be at the stables. How's she doing?" Princess Khatori trod slowly crossed the paddock, careful of her designer boots. She made her way to the corral. Both hands rested on her hips and beads of perspiration glistened on her forehead.
Her young husband, Prince Phaeton Anerez` stopped grooming his sorrel mare and watched his pregnant wife with concern. The maternity outfit highlighted her beautiful face while hiding the extra weight of the child she carried. Her normal grace gave way to what he might now classify as a waddle. He noted the clenched jaw and labored breathing. "She's fine. It's you I'm worried about. I thought I told Dad where I'd be if you were looking for me. I guess he forgot. This war is taking a toll on all of us, but it has hit him the worst. Why didn't you page me? I'd have found you immediately."
"It's okay. I didn't need anything," she paused and grinned, "except you. I figured you were busy." She pulled her shoulder-length blond curls up off her neck for temporary coolness and sat on a nearby bench so she could watch him as he worked. "Is it time for her to foal?"
"Soon. It will be a race to see which of you delivers first. How do you feel?"
Khatori rubbed her protruding belly. "Tired. My feet are swollen, and I feel old. I'm not twenty yet, and my back hurts, I can't climb steps, and I can hardly breathe. I will be so glad when this baby gets here."
"Awe, come closer. You need a hug." Twenty-one year old Phaeton easily climbed the fence rails between them and lightly jumped down on the other side as he waited for her.
The couple embraced for a long kiss. The horse stuck his head over the top rail and nudged their heads.
"Cut it out, Acacia. You're so jealous." Phaeton took an apple from one pocket and a knife from the other. He sliced off a piece and handed it to Khatori.
She held her palm out with the slice of apple on top. The horse gently took the bite. As the Prince and Princess prepared to repeat the process, the horse tried to nibble the Princesses' fingers.
"You silly horse. Wait a minute. I'll give you a bite."
The couple laughed as the horse whinnied and pawed the ground.
The sound of Prince Phaeton's wrist monitor buzzing interrupted the fun.
"Don't answer it, Khatori pleaded."
"You know I have to." He put an arm around his wife and pulled her to him as he talked into the electronic piece.
"Phaeton," he answered as he held his wrist to his ear.
"Yes, sir. I'm on my way."
Khatori had listened in silence but could stand it no longer. "Please stay. You have a wife and a child on the way. You need to be here to protect us." Khatori pleaded with her eyes as well as with words as she wrapped her arms around his chest and clung tightly to him." You are the future King. You can refuse to go."
Phaeton took her hands in his and stepped slightly back. His dark hair hung below his eyebrows and threatened to fall into his troubled eyes. "That is exactly why I must go. Corasias is our country. The people are my people. Our people, Khatori. I must try to save them. I fight for you and our future child. I fight for our country's noble past and our future. I know you wouldn't have it any other way."
Tears rolled down her cheeks. Sobs shook her slender shoulders. "I know," she whispered. "Go."
A few minutes later Prince Phaeton boarded his Personal Travel Vehicle, PTV for short, and followed his call to duty.
Princess Khatori retired to her room to pass the hours reading. Her mind lacked the power of concentration, so she resorted to playing intense, deep, and haunting music loud enough to drown out her fears. It worked to an extent. Then nightfall forced her to mute her solace when the rest of the household retired to bed.
Visions of crashed fighter planes and dead or wounded infantry filled her dreams. The faces were never clear enough for identifying her beloved Prince, but tears soaked her pillow as she hugged it tightly.
Khatori's eyes opened to rays of the east sun shining into her bedroom. An hour or so of sleep followed by half-awake, half-asleep dreaming had pretty much filled her night. Her full bladder insisted it was time to get out of bed, so she did, hitting the buzzer on her nightstand as she slid off the massive piece of furniture.
By the time she returned from the restroom her lady butler stood inside the bedroom door. Dressed in a sleek, form-fitting uniform, her muscular body gave Khatori a sense of comfort to know the woman was ready at a minute to handle any situation. "Good morning, Rhome."
"Morning, Ma'am." She waited for her instructions.
"Have you seen or heard from Phaeton this morning?" Khatori knew the household staff would know if he had returned.
"No, Ma'am. He has not made it back." Rhome watched the Princess's face. Stress was the last thing her highness needed to deal with at this point in her pregnancy.
Khatori sighed. She knew worrying about Phaeton and his safety kept her from sleeping. It is what it is; she thought as she walked to a nearby window.
"It's beautiful out today. Who would believe we are a country at war. Rhome, come over here."
"Ma'am? Is something wrong?" She hurried to Khatori's side.
"No. Come look! Right there." She pointed to a corner of the palace rose garden. "There is a gorgeous yellow rose."
Rhome walked to the window and allowed her gaze to follow the direction the Princess pointed. "I see it. What a beautiful sight."
"I have a sundress about that color. See if you can find it, Rhome."
"Yes, Ma'am. It will be on your bed when you finish showering. Buzz for me if you need anything."
Showered and dressed, Khatori asked to have her breakfast brought to the patio. As she ate a searing pain traveled across her belly, not just once, but several times. Highly uncomfortable, she decided to wander out to the rose garden. It didn't take her long to find the yellow rose. It was even more beautiful up close. She leaned in to inhale the fragrance. The pain returned, worse than before. It hit again, so hard that Khatori passed out and fell to the ground.
Rhome immediately pushed buttons on her wrist communicator and contacted the palace.
"Your Majesty," The King's personal butler opened the door after the barest of knocks, something he would never ordinarily do. "Princess Khatori is very ill. They found her in the rose garden. A medivac mobile unit has been called."
"Thank you. Notify me when medivac arrives. Is the nursing staff with the Princess?"
"Yes, Sir. She is stable."
"Has the Prince returned?"
"Thank you. That will be all for the moment."
King Anerez` touched his wristband unit. Contact came within seconds.
"Commander Staid, as soon as that town is secured release Prince Phaeton to fly to the Nissacle medical center. Notify me when he leaves. Tell him I will meet him there."
King Anerez` instructed his personal butler to make arrangements for his PTV to pick him up at his private entrance to the palace. Within minutes he boarded the miniature jet and strapped himself in for a speedy ride to the medical center. Two bodyguards accompanied him.
"Do we have our forward and rear guards?" he asked on one of the service men.
"Yes, Sir. We are ready for flight. ETA is eight minutes."
"Thank you." The King turned his head to gaze out the dome covering and watch as his PTV covered the distance between the palace and the hospital at high speed.
The Royal PTV landed with little fanfare. Medical staff met it upon arrival and escorted the King to Princess Khatori's room.
As he stood at Princess Khatori's bedside the King didn't like what he saw. Skin as white as the linens and very shallow breaths told him the Princess struggled to hang on to life. His son had not arrived. That fact also concerned the King. The Malabar were becoming more aggressive. The battles were getting harder and harder to win. His country fought daily to survive.
"Dad. How is she?" The young Prince charged through the door, oblivious to everything except his wife.
The King struggled to present his son with a positive countenance. "She's a fighter."
The Prince looked at his dad for several seconds before staring down at the delicate figure in front of them. He reached for her hand, his own shaking. "Khatori," he whispered.
She gave no indication she heard.
"Khatori," he spoke louder.
This time her head slowly rolled toward his voice. Her eyes fluttered and finally stayed open. "Hi."
He barely heard her word and leaned in, kissing her cheek and then brushed her lips with another.
She sighed. Her eyes fluttered, closed, and then opened again. "Is she beautiful?"
His eyes didn't leave her face. "More beautiful than anything I have ever seen," he said, speaking of the mother. Tears spilled from his eyes.
Her ice-cold hand went limp in his. Her eyes closed and did not reopen. The beeping monitor at the head of her bed became a monotone hum.
"Khatori," he spoke roughly. "Look at me.
Medical staff filled the room. The King's arm around his son guided him into the corridor. "Leave them to do their work. Walk with me."
Father and son stoically walked the length of one hall, turned and walked half way down another. King Anerez` brought his son to a stop in front of a glass window. "There is your daughter." He pointed to a tiny infant snuggly wrapped in a blanket.
Hands in his pockets, Prince Phaeton stared at the baby, his face blank.
The son turned to look at his father.
"You must raise her to be strong, smart, and capable. She is the future queen of Corasias. That may be very hard. She is a part of Khatori, and every time you look at her, you may be reminded of your loss. The hurt will never go away, but in time it will fade. Your attitude will make the difference."
The son sighed, closed his eyes, opened them, turned, and walked back down the hallways to his wife's room. The medical personnel were gone. A sheet had been drawn over her face. He gently removed it, kissed her cheek, and took hold of her hand. "I'll do my absolute best to look after our daughter. She will be everything you were and more. I won't let you down."
Prince Phaeton squared his shoulders as he turned and walked out the door, the King by his side.
The two men made arrangements for Princess Khatori before returning to the palace.
The country of Corasias mourned her passing with flowers left by the palace fence and thousands of citizens attending her State funeral.
Prince Phaeton mourned in silence, as a walking statue, attending to business as usual.
"I'm worried about my son," said the King. He had entered the nursery for distraction from his tormented thoughts and now stood watching as Rhome rocked his granddaughter.
Rhome patted the infant's back as she rocked. She studied the King before replying. "I think he will be okay. He jumped into this little one's care with both feet. Every time she cries he jumps to check on her. I am constant answering questions and showing him what to do."
The King chuckled as he reached a hand out to caress the back of the baby's head. "She won't want for attention will she?"
"No, Sir, she won't. She is much loved. Have you seen all the gifts she has received?"
"No, but I've heard accounts of the stacks and stacks of baby items. The generosity of the Corasias people warms my heart, but I know this war has put most in financial difficulties. I hope they are not giving more than they can afford."
"Probably not, Sir. You must also remember this is a way they can show their love for the Prince, Princess and their future Queen."
"True. Thanks for the reminder."
A light tap on the door interrupted their conversation.
"Come in," said the King.
Prince Phaeton strode through the door and approached Rhome. "I thought she's might be sleeping. That's why I knocked. I hoped I'd get here before she went back to sleep, but I didn't make it." He gently patted his daughter's back.
The King put his hand on his son's shoulder. "Let's leave these two and go into the library to visit."
"Okay, but I'll be back, Rhome," he promised.
The two gentlemen had barely settled into their chairs before Prince Phaeton asked, "What do you think of the name Tori Sinne` Anerez`?"
The King paused before answering his son. "Sounds strong. I like it. I take it the 'Tori' is a nod to her mother."
"Yes." Said Phaeton. The word caught in his throat. His heart hurt constantly. The tiny girl sleeping in the other room helped, but nothing erased the feeling of devastation left in his life.
"I'll have the birth certificate legally filed," said the King.
"Thanks. You do know that Rhome has taken over Tori's care? She won't let anyone else do much at all, including me. I have to fight to give Tori a bath."
King Anerez` chuckled. "Rhome will do a good job. You won't have to worry when you are away."
"Speaking of away, I spent most of the morning in the briefing room with four of your top generals. Things are heating up. There is a band of rebels hiding out in the mountains between here and Nissacle. They are gaining more Malabar recruits every day. We are going to be forced to put more men in that area. I'm going to increase the air force training schedule. I'll be gone a couple of weeks. Don't let Tori forget me while I'm gone."
The King gave a hearty slap on his son's back and then affectionately rubbed it. "Don't worry. I'll spend plenty of time with our little girl. I'll tell her all about her ornery daddy."
Phaeton chuckled. "Thanks, I think."