Yellow King, Red Queen
- Yellow King, Red Queen -
It was the illumination of the sun, so very small upon the distant horizon, that cast the patterns of the sky in colorful hues befitting of the hours of the dawn... as its' bright rays struck firm the clouds whilst the last vestiges of the nighttime fled before them. Upon the watery planet Rahab, there existed a vast and trackless woodland bordered by swamps and wetlands, fed by a great river that let out into a very mighty sea. It was not the only one of its' kind, that land, nor was it the most dark and dismal... but it had a certain bit of uniqueness and distinction to it all the same. A certain darkness lay upon it as well, for within its' boundaries there were feral lizard-folk and terrible dragons, great beasts of prehistory as may be found on many worlds during this time, in many primeval domains upon those worlds. There were no roads, no trails to follow through the dense and wild trees, and the ground in many places had a soft and spongy texture to it not unlike thick carpeting. Marshes and fens of all manner and sort lay all about the peninsula where this place existed, with exotic looking palm trees soaring up amid far more twisted and impossible to navigate woodlands than the ones that I was passing through. This was a long time, before I first came to live on the planet Mars... Nergalis, as the natives of the red planet called it. I was still dwelling upon this great, watery mother world which was also known as Terra Primus. But I typically preferred to call it by its' less formal name, Rahab. For, back then... that world was my home. It lay squarely between Mars and Jupiter, although today naught remains of it but a great asteroid belt.
Before me, I could see a vast stretch of water coated in a thick green layer of algae. Spanning it was a rough, old wooden bridge constructed by the natives of this region for their own personal use. Not that the lizard-folk needed it! I suspected it was a conceit for them, more than a necessity. I crossed that old bridge, and beyond it lay the place that I had been seeking after. An elaborate palace, half-hidden within the dense foliage, covered by ivy and various greenery that was attempting to claim it for nature. It was not possible to tell the full size of it, and although the day was dawning... so thick were these woods in which I found myself traveling, that nothing at all could be seen of the skies save only when a clearing was passed through, which was rare. And this was the darkest place I had come to thus far! Almost as if it were the very source of all the darkness of this region. And yet there was light, through the trees, but not quite enough to let the sun's rays pass fully through. The forest canopy was instead like a great cave roof, but green rather than the rougher, terrestrial tones of rock or earth. Small, timid animals scurried all about the underbrush, as insects droned, and flying things raced about the treetops high above me.
The palace walls were fashioned from large blocks of stone, but painted a jade green in color in order to blend in somewhat with their surroundings. Ancient, broken steps led up to nowhere, and collapsed towers with shattered domes lay like fallen giants upon the forest floor, as though felled by some great force in ages past. It had been a magnificent palace once! But now it was but a shell, a remnant, of its' former dream-like glory. I beheld a magnificent archway wherein once stood the palace's gates. Now it was an open portal, but I feared to pass through it even as I had come so close. It was whispered that in the halls of that palace lay something long abandoned by the Titan race. Something terrible! Two very tall statues flanked both sides of the archway, crudely fashioned. They had a vaguely humanoid shape to them, but seemed to be depicting something other... something uncanny that I could not quite make out the intended form of. They were obviously intended to appear unsettling to the eye, and I had not the nerve to meet their silent gazes. I felt small as I approached the archway with trepidation, dwarfed by the enormity of this lost place. I nearly regretted, my decision to come here! Even as I knew that I had no choice, for the way back would be far longer now that I had arrived at last. I had nearly forgot to mention that I was not alone on this expedition! At my side was a young girl of about fifteen years who bore the name of Sash'ka. She was a companion of mine on many such journeys, ever longing for more.
The heat of this jungle was almost unbearably humid, a far cry from the cooler regions of the planet where lay the decadent civilizations of the nobility. Sash'ka wore only a bikini-like bottom with a high waist paired with a tight tube-style top that covered her breasts. Both garments were scarlet in color. On her feet were a pair of leather sandals, very dark in hue, and upon her wrists she wore ornate bracelets of tribal design. Around her neck, she wore an eye-shaped pendant on a leather cord. The pedant had a sparkling ruby gemstone in the center of the eye. She was short, even for a girl so young... with a strong and stocky body. Her skin was gold-yellowish in color, and her almond shaped eyes were a rich hazel in their hue. Her hair was a deep blood red in color, worn in a cornrow style and decorated with golden beads. She had lovely, full lips and broad facial features. Her manners were quite refined, her voice a bit sultry, and her attitude was simply no-nonsense... and, it showed that she was ever a person of action more than words. She wore no makeup on this occasion, since in this heat it would have run anyway. In her hands was a long metal spear with a sharp, barbed tip while slung over her shoulder was a pack filled with supplies. I carried a similar pack over my shoulder, and also held a spear just like her own.
As for my appearance, I was much taller than her but of indeterminate age. I appeared young, about in my early thirties roughly, but because I had my aging process halted I had lost track of the years for the most part. I had deep greenish skin, about the color of malachite, and my head was shaved totally bald. I had no body hair, and no eyebrows either. My eyes were blood red in color, my build average, and my facial features both aquiline and effeminate. You would not have been able to determine my gender on looking at me, but at the time I had decided it should be considered male. I wore a pair of purple pants in the dhoti style, made of a very airy material that was perfect for the warm climate. My chest was bare and upon my wrists I wore beaded bracelets of various colors. I also had adorned myself with a purple faux pearl necklace to match my pants, while upon my feet were a pair of black sandals of a different variety than that which Sash'ka wore. Hers were more tribal and mine were more fashioned for comfort.
We had been attempting to avoid the hulking, brutish toad apes for most the previous day, and were thankful to notice that even they refused to cross this close to the forsaken palace that lay before us. On the other side of the archway... was an open courtyard containing wild gardens in which all the flowers and plants had long grown wild, reaching massive heights and proportions. “Someone has not been a very good gardener!” exclaimed Sash'ka jokingly. I laughed along with her, and replied: “It seems that the residents of the old palace, could not even be bothered to welcome us... how very rude of them.” at which my companion smiled approvingly. This had been the capital of a great empire once, they said in all the historical texts on the subject. But its' last rulers had made a bargain with some entity from some other dimension or realm beyond our own, and then vanished from all record. We did not know why it was we came in search of it. Seeking adventure, perhaps? Or to possibly discover the truths behind that dark legend. Either way, we had reached our destination. Our lighter mood was suddenly broken when one of the garden's plants, a rather gigantic one, seemed to lunge forward... its' flowery head bearing a gaping maw filled with sharp fang-like teeth. It attempted to bite at us, but was unable to quite reach. Sash'ka sprang forward with a cat-like agility and stabbed the monstrous plant square in the open mouth with her spear. It tried to clamp down on the spear, but the metal shaft proved too strong for it to break. These weapons were light to hold but sturdy to wield, with comfortable grips to hold them by. Soon, the carnivorous plant's form was wracked with spasms until it was very dead, falling to the ground with a crash. “That takes care of that!” Sash'ka shouted triumphantly, as she wrenched her spear free from the monster's mouth... which took some work, given said mouth was clenched in death. The courtyard before us, now free of that peculiar danger, seemed to go on for some time... almost the length of some great sports field... and in the distance we could make out the mighty entrance to the main palace itself.
Upon reaching the entrance, we were confronted with a pair of large wooden gates... the wood very rotten and practically ready to fall apart at any time. They were immense in size, as was the edifice that lay directly in front of us, and covered in ornate etchings that were all in abstract geometric pattern-like designs. “These are arcane in nature.” I commented, adding: “I can practically feel it!” to which Sash'ka responded: “I hope the energy is not negative in nature as well, because I am going to smash that gate for us.” after which she struck the huge doors very hard with her spear, being careful to hit them so that they would fall inward rather than on top of us. And sure enough, the gates crashed inward, collapsing into a heap of broken, rotted wood. We climbed over the wreckage, careful to avoid getting any splinter of it in our skin, so as to avoid any cuts and therefore any infections. After that, we were inside the old palace at last... which was ridiculously dark and cavernous to our eyes. Sash'ka took out a torch from her pack and lit it so that we could see. The torch was essentially a flashlight, but one that contained a battery which would work for about a month before needing to be replaced. It looked like a rod about the length of a person's forearm, with a globe mounted at the end of it. The globe would light up, which would create the necessary light for illuminating dark places such as this, when a button was pressed. A second press of the button would turn the device off. What lay before us, was not at all as we expected!
The entire palace interior was an enormous maze, a veritable labyrinth of rooms, chambers, halls, and stairs leading in every conceivable direction... with no logic to any of it, that we could see. Holes were bored into the walls in places, but their purpose was unknown. All of this seemed like something out of an insane mind's imaginings, and yet it was unfathomably real. “How, could anyone have ever lived in such a place?” Sash'ka said in a bewildered tone. I offered: “I do not think they did... this place, had to have a very different purpose to it, other than to serve as a dwelling. Unless, of course, those who dwelt here did not want to be found.” to which Sash'ka added: “Or perhaps they never wanted to leave! Either way, it is a chilling notion. I would prefer not to think about it too deeply, in any case.” That summed up the whole of our thoughts on the matter. We decided to see if we could discover a clue in all of this.
That was when Sash'ka noticed an odd scent coming from one of the hallways. “It is faint... but like a very strong perfume, to my nose.” she explained. She had an uncanny sense of smell, and as for myself it took me a bit to notice what she was talking about. But she was correct! Somewhere down that hall, there was the lingering scent of some floral perfume, as if someone had recently passed through down that way who was wearing such a thing. “Come, let us follow it and see who might be there!” said my companion. I followed her eagerly, curious to find out what our quarry actually was. After some time, the hallway led into a wider series of chambers all of which had peculiar floors. It was not that the floor had an unusual design upon it, nor that it was made from some strange material... rather, it was because the floor seemed to actually be alive! The floor itself was solid and smooth, easy to walk upon, with the sound of our feet padding across it much as the sound you might expect to hear from any other surface when so doing. But, it looked as though, just beneath that surface... there were bizarre worm-like forms wriggling and squirming as if all one solid writhing mass. It was disgusting, surreal, and impossible... and yet here it was, right before our eyes and just under our very feet! “Whatever we do, let us not ever break that floor.” Sash'ka cautioned, and I was not sure if she was joking or being completely serious. Either way, I could not help but agree. Those chambers gave way to a series of vaulted rooms that held within them archways of green marble and floors covered in white and black tiles similar to those of a chessboard. This was, at least, preferable to the ghastly floors we had just finished walking over. Every so often, the scent of the perfume in the air grew stronger... our only indication that we were getting at all closer to whatever to source of it might have been. I began to recognize it. “It is lavender!” I said at one point, to which Sash'ka replied: “You know, it is now that I think about it.” and we pressed onward.
On both sides of the area with the green marble archways, we noticed vast open doorways every so often as we walked along, and within them were alcoves in which large shapes could be seen. These, were massive statues of large anthropoid creatures with multiple arms and lizard-like heads. Emerging from their backs were eight spider-like appendages. I had never seen such creatures before, and I found them to be of a very grotesque appearance. At the base of each statue was a pile of human bones and skulls, and all of them looked very ancient indeed. My companion and I hurried to be out of that area, hastening on ahead and into a long cathedral-like section with slender columns that were for decoration rather than for actually supporting the high vaulted ceiling. At seemingly precise intervals, there were large mirrors decorating the cathedral walls, much larger than was needed for human vanity, with gold frames that still glinted in our torch's light. Around each of them, were rich looking draperies of every color of the rainbow, in far too good of repair to have been as old as the rest of this place was. Someone was evidently making this place their home! “It is all strangely beautiful.” said Sash'ka, and I could not deny that she spoke rightly. The perfume was strongest here, and there seemed to be no place beyond the cathedral to go further into. As we searched the cathedral, I noticed that those draperies held upon them certain insignia and designs... that were specific to certain inhabited plants I was familiar with. Each drapery was a different color and had a different pattern of insignia and designs that was unique to it. I wondered if, perhaps, people from all those different worlds had lived here together at one time. But what was the significance of the mirrors? They all appeared normal enough, and reflected properly.
There were no benches or pews in this seeming place of worship, it was uncluttered and had not any furnishings within it whatsoever. Between some of the pillars were statues of beautiful angelic people of very strikingly androgynous appearance wearing flowing gowns, with between four to six... or in a few cases eight... wings emerging from their backs. The wings had not the appearance of a bird's wings, but rather that of a bat's wings. Sash'ka walked over to me as I was regarding them, and reported: “Not a thing is here to be found! The entire place is empty except for the mirrors and these statues.” to which I replied: “And yet, that perfume hangs in the hair so heavily here! It makes no sense.” and on a lark we decided to walk over to the mirrors together to take another look. Within one of them, we witnessed a second version of the cathedral, but one in which there were opulent furnishings. Braziers on the floors illuminated the cathedral's interior, and there were couches and chairs, tables and carpeting. All of the very highest quality. Gilded censers were mounted on marble pedestals, and at the place where in any normal cathedral an altar would have been, here in this mirror world there was instead... a long couch covered in forest green cushions and quilted coverings upon which reclined a shape that we could not make out. There were people in the mirror, of many different races and species, some humanoid and some far less so and a great deal more alien looking... all very richly clad in the softest silks and satin, in gowns, dresses, robes and other garments of extremely ancient looking design. The most numerous of these were a blue-skinned people who wore garments in various shades of yellow. These, seemed to be priests and priestesses of some sort. Everyone seemed to be partying, socializing, and in many, many cases engaged in more carnal activities. I could hear them, the longer I looked into the mirror, and this was where the scent of the perfume seemed to be emanating from now. Sash'ka and I turned around for a moment to see if everything was still the same as we had seen it previously, but it was not! Somehow, we were now inside the version of the cathedral that was shown within the mirror. Before us, all about us, the scene played out just as we had witnessed it within the mirror's surface. The strangest part was, nobody seemed to notice that we were there at all! It was as if we were invisible to their eyes. Now, the perfume's heady floral scent, the scent of strong lavender, was everywhere, intermixed with the incense that was burning in the censers. Musicians, bards, singers and entertainers could be heard in a kind of strange cacophony that was not harmonious in the least. As if it was intended, to all sound discordant.
Upon the couch, we could see clearly now, reclined a woman with the same bluish colored skin as all the people in yellow clothing had. She wore a long canary yellow colored gown of the finest silk, which was draped about her in a style like that favored by peoples I had only read about in ancient history that had passed into legend. Around her waist... was a golden girdle, with flowery designs upon it. She wore jewel-encrusted bracelets, and a necklace of jewels... in the same colors as the draperies had been. Her feet were bare, and her head was shaved bald just like my own was. Her eyes were deep green, and she was laughing and singing in a merry voice filled with much mirth. She had a curvaceous figure, and I felt as if I was in the presence of a living goddess. “It is time for the masking now!” she exclaimed, as everyone in the cathedral put on various masks of every imaginable sort, like as if this was some kind of masquerade party. She then beckoned to Sash'ka and myself, and we drew closer. She, at least, was able to see us fully. She said to us: “Well, now... this is unexpectedly nice! We have new visitors here. But wait just one moment...” and she regarded my young companion first. “Now my dear girl, you did not bring a mask it seems! I made so very certain to have that mentioned in all of the invitations, that a mask was necessary for attendance. Oh well, I suppose we will just have to make an exception for you, just this once! Since you are so young, after all.” but then things became very strange when she got to me. She looked me straight in the eyes and said: “What a strange mask you are wearing! I have never seen its' like before. Wherever did you come by such a thing?” and I remarked to her: “But, my lady... you are mistaken, for I wear no mask.” to which she appeared frightened. She then gasped: “No mask! No mask at all? Hold on just a moment. Alright?” and she called for a young girl who bore more than a passing resemblance to her, to come over to where we were. The only difference was, the girl had long blonde hair held back by a blood red plastic looking hairband. Otherwise, the two looked identical save for their age difference. The girl was even wearing the same type of attire as the older woman. Once the girl had arrived, the older woman said to her: “Camilla... dear sister mine... did you invite this stranger here, for I have never before seen one of that like. Notice the mask, the stranger wears!” and at that, the girl, Camilla, looked me over... evidently able to see Sash'ka and I quite clearly... and yet she said in a very scared seeming tone of voice: “Oh Cassilda, sister mine, it is exactly as you say... a very peculiar mask this one wears indeed! And I must confess that no, I did not invite anyone whom you first did not so extend invitations to.” and that is when I spoke again, exasperated: “I am not wearing any mask! Do either of you understand me? This is my face.” I pointed to my face to make my point. Suddenly, all in the room could see me and hear me, and everything fell silent. Even the music stopped. It was surreal!
I glanced over, towards one of the mirrors... and I could see within it, that I was now wearing a rather long and flowing gown of ancient design. It was mustard yellow in color, with a light canary yellow for the trim. Over my head was a yellow cowl, and over my face I appeared to be wearing a featureless gold mask that was mirror-like in its' design. The mask, was a part of a crown I was wearing about my head, over the cowl, which had tall, wide and sharp looking tines jutting upward from it. Someone, some old man by the sound of it, cried out from the crowd: “You, are the King whom they said would come! The King of the prophecy. Will you take the lady Cassilda to be your bride?” and I exclaimed, becoming far more irritated than previously: “No! I will not. I know nothing of this lady, and so why should I wish to take her for my bride?” and then Cassilda walked over, bowed low, and said to me in a serene voice all filled with a mixture of terror and piety: “Oh, my terrible Yellow King! My unspeakable Yellow God! Hear me, and know who I am. I am a daughter of the former king, Arturios the Elder, and his wife the good queen Genevieve. My brother, the great knight Rolando, has been gone now for nearly half of a decade in search of your dwelling place. At first it was to find my sister Camilla, who had herself near vanished upon the same quest, so that all thought her taken by you. Yet, she returned after finding your dwelling empty and of my brother none have heard since. So now you know whose house you walk in!”
And, I remembered everything! These events, had never transpired on Rahab, but rather on the sacred planet of Ra'qia... in a very ancient and bygone era... indeed, in an age of myth and legend. I knew all at once, that outside the walls of this palace there lay the great desert. And within that desert, was a totally circular lake which had once been called Lake Halo due to the shape of it. But that was a newer name... from much later in time... in this elder era, the massive lake was still called Lake Ha'li. And upon it sat a large island so that if viewed from the air the island was like the center of an immense eye. Upon that island was built the grand city of Kar'cosa. At the center of that fabled city, was an opulent palace the wealth and splendor of which had never been matched, from that time even unto today. A second city lay across from the island, on the shores of the lake, and no less than seven bridges lay between the isle and the second city. The walls of the palace were golden in color, and its' magnificence brought no end of prosperity to the region. The second city was considered a part of Kar'cosa, and the nobility of that place was the most honored and revered on all of Ra'qia. This was the palace in which I now stood, as I relived the events of a previous incarnation which I had almost allowed myself to forget. Normally, two moons rose above the skies of Ra'qia, the world also called Kolob and Kobol in various tales and tomes of old. But in the glory days of ancient Kar'cosa, a third moon could also be seen in the skies at night... but only sometimes, for it was not always so visible to be seen. On those days or nights, you could only behold the darkest outline of it, and so it came to be called the Black Moon. It was said that when I had died in that life, as the Yellow King... the Black Moon vanished never to be seen again. And I knew the reason why! It had been an artificial moon, a kind of advanced variety of space station which I had used for scientific monitoring purposes. Upon my passing, it was deemed unnecessary for it to be kept in a functioning state any longer, and so it was dismantled and forgotten about in all but exaggerates stories.
“They say you hail from the desert!” cried out the sixteen year old Camilla. And I replied: “Yes, that is so, but my tower dwelling intersects many places.” to which Camilla asked eagerly: “Many worlds? I have heard them say that is the case... although, when I journeyed there I saw nothing to indicate this to be a true thing. There were many doors within that tower, and most were fully closed to me, however.” I did not bother to explain why, but stated instead: “Those doors are closed to all who are not meant to pass through them.” and after that Cassilda bowed her head again and then looked up at me once more, saying: “Now that all of this has been aired, would you consent to take me for your bride?” and I did so agree, for that was my fate in that life. I looked about me... but could not see Sash'ka anyplace. Worse still, I was beginning to have difficulty remembering just who my companion had been, beyond being able to recall her name and that it was the name of a young girl. It was like being stuck in some sort of play, being forced to act out an old role that had once been assigned to me. I knew the ending was very tragic, but I could not step out beyond it. I had become an actor upon the alien stage of one of my own memories. The wedding would be held that night, this I knew, but eventually Camilla would attempt to steal my heart away from her sister... and she would be successful. I would flee with Camilla across the desert, to my tower, in an attempt to escape Cassilda's vengeful wrath, only for she and her brother to at last track me down there. For he will have returned from his quest by then, it having been for nothing... the door in my tower having only sent him wandering far from familiar places. The two furious siblings would find me, but neither would have the heart to exact their revenge. In the end, Camilla would put a dagger through my heart... seeking to please her horrified sister... before pushing me off the balcony of the tower on which we had been standing together, while we had been talking peacefully with Cassilda and Rolando, who watched from where they stood on the ground far below. Following my murder, the kingdom of Kar'cosa would fade in glory and become forgotten. In later centuries, other rulers would in time come to reign over that mythical city, but by then it would be called by other names. And not ever again, would it reach the heights that once it knew when I had reigned there as its' final King in Yellow.
Upon the next morning, following my wedding night with Cassilda, now called Queen Cassilda, I did stand before all the peoples of Kar'cosa in order to address them officially as their new ruler. I stood on a great dais, in the courtyard in which stood the magnificent gardens that contained flowers and plants from every corner of Ra'qia, and from other worlds as well. The people gathered before me like a sea of living beings, every soul devoted to me as their living god. A microphone was passed into my hand and I spoke unto the people, proclaiming: “People of Kar'cosa, a new age is upon you! For so long now, it has been a yellow age, an old of gold and an age that is bright and shining, and glorious. I would see it remain so! But yellow is a tiresome color, and I much prefer red.” but when I said that, someone in the audience screamed out: “Red is the color of blood! That is a thing of ill omen, to speak so.” and I said unto that man, visibly angered: “How dare you speak out of turn to your King!” at which the man said in furious retort: “King, you say? Why do you deny, that you are also Queen! I have heard the whispers which say you are like unto both male and female... after a fashion. It is not wrong to admit this about yourself... many would understand, the difficulties of living a life that is caught between the two. But if you would deny your own nature, then how can you be whole!” to which I asked the man: “And what is your name, that you claim to know so much about me?” to which the old man, for ancient he was, said to me in response: “My name, I would have you know, is Mal'kay... elder brother to Arturios the Elder, who once reigned over this place and many other places besides, as the rightful king.” and there was a great hush among the gathered peoples, whose numbers were many and comprising so many races and species from countless worlds. The way he said “rightful” was filled with venom and all of that he had directed towards me. I cried out: “So what if I am both King and Queen here! I admit it freely, and with pride. My name I also give unto you all... it is Xashtiri. This is not a time for anger, or for venom, it is a time for unification! Under a new banner.” and as I said those words, a scarlet red banner was unfurled from various windows and archways all around. Upon that banner was a yellow symbol that I must not ever describe, for it contained great arcane power than, and even more now. I cast off my yellow garb, cowl, mask, crown and all, and underneath it, in its' place, I was wearing a gown that was blood red in color. My skin was unnaturally pale, a pure bone white in color, and my head was shaved bald. For the occasion... I wore blood red lipstick and light pink eye shadow, to accentuate my unusual appearance. “All hail the Red Queen!” Shouted Cassilda, and the people cheered and echoed her cry. Only the old man, Mal'kay, refused to join them in their chant. I pointed to him and declared: “There is no place in the new order of things for traitors! Why do you not cheer your new Red Queen, Mal'kay, elder brother of the great Arturios?” and he defiantly exclaimed: “Because you have never been my queen, not in any way! You are a creature of darkness, and your reign shall be our end.” to which I screamed: “Very well, old man! You have named yourself a traitor, for all to bear witness to. And so, all shall bear witness to your end, no matter who you were once the brother of. I hereby order your execution, and the sentence by the law of this city is death. Death by flaying, in this case!” and the old man was seized upon by the royal guards and taken to a high place upon the palace walls. There, he was tied to a wooden cross and his flesh was flayed from him within sight of all so present. His blood was collected in golden chalices, and by law these were to be delivered unto any immediate members of his family who still cared about him. If no one did, if everyone refused to accept his blood and drink of it, then it would be given to wild animals in the desert to drink of, instead. And... that turned out to be exactly the case, with Mal'kay the traitor. My far away dwelling had once been a magnificent, shining palace... so the legends said... and it was said in those stories that over time the desert claimed so much of the palace that only a single tower remained of it, above the sands. Being so exposed to the elements, the shining exterior of the tower had withered and become dark, warped and twisted looking. After the execution of Mal'kay, there got to be certain people who met in secret, who claimed that the fate of my tower was a metaphor for corruption within my heart and soul. They were wrong, of course... but in their fear and anger they could not see it.
I was forced to relive every fateful moment of that life, and following that point... there was no going back to Rahab, until fate deemed I was ready to. What reason was there, for such an ordeal? Other than to reawaken these memories within me, I could not imagine a reason that made any sense. Eventually, it all came to pass as I had known it would, and the day came when I stood upon the wide balcony of the tower that I had long called home, engaged in heated conversation with my wife Cassilda and her angry brother Rolando. Cassilda looked as beautiful as ever, wearing the red gown that she had chosen in an effort to complement my own style of dress as my spouse. And Rolando, whose features were like unto a masculine version of Cassilda's own, wore a black military jumpsuit with golden trim bearing upon it the royal insignia of the late king Arturios the Elder. Cassilda's head was bear, while her brother wore upon his head a conical golden helmet with a yellow plume. I was wearing my usual blood red clothing, in this case a flowing wide-legged scarlet jumpsuit made of a soft, sparkling material... with long, wide sleeves, the outfit being belted at the waist with a white sash. My feet were bare, and I wore no jewelry for it was early morning and I had only just gotten dressed for the day. Standing next to me was the girl I had come to love even above Cassilda herself, the young Camilla. Before her sixteenth year had gone, she begged me to find a way to preserve her youth forever (for she desperately fearing growing old), so I brought the girl to my tower and there we passed through one of its' many uncanny doors. It took us to a place, and a time, wherein there existed a certain science that could halt the aging process... and I had Camilla undergo this procedure. When we returned, she remained young, and even now the years were not touching her perfect features, even as her sister Cassilda began to show the early signs of aging. All was going well, and I had even agreed to abdicate the throne so that Rolando could reign in my place as the new king, with Cassilda becoming his regent. She could have even kept on as the queen, and named him as the regent if she preferred. I told them that either choice, I would give my blessings to. But there was a strange look in Rolando's eye that told me he was not satisfied with this arrangement. He called up: “Xashtiri, what assurances can you give us that you will leave us in peace after that! You and your young lover, would you both be willing to never set foot in Kar'cosa again? There are many there who even now would seek your life, Red Queen. And I have tried to deal with them as the traitors they are, but even so... for each one I have slain there are many who call the slain martyrs for the cause of wicked rebellion. Now, they believe you have abducted the princess Camilla in order to put some spell on her, for they cannot fathom why one so young... might love you so obsessively the way we have all noticed she does. They know not why she does not age like everyone else, and this too they claim is dark magic at work. I know better, for I have seen the sciences behind these magics for myself... but there are just too many who do not, and my sword cannot silence them all. Even should we leave you in peace this day, they might still seek you out, or send assassins to claim your life one of these nights. Only in death would you know peace! But... if you give me your word, right here and right now, I will leave you be. Both of you. And my sister and I will depart for Kar'cosa, never to trouble you two again.” I was about to give him my word, when all of a sudden Camilla stuck a dagger up and into my heart, whispering as she did so: “If only in death can you know peace, if so many seek your life, I will help you my love! For it is better to die here and now, happy and in love, at the hands of one who adores you so much... than to in the end perish ignobly at the hands of assassins or rebel criminals.” She was crying, and my own tears were a match for her own. “It... hurts so much! So... very... much!” I wept, clutching the wound where the dagger was embedded into my flesh. “Do not think I did this to please anyone!” the forever young Camilla explained. “I did this only for you.” she concluded, before pushing me off the balcony in order to hasten my death so that I would not be long in agony. As I looked up, dying, my body smashed on the ground below... I could hear Camilla cry out: “I am sorry, sister, brother! But I had to do it... oh, I simply had to... just as now, I must do this!” and she threw herself, from that same balcony, landing not far from where I lay, dying at my side... as her hand attempted to reach out to touch my own hand.
I awoke from the darkness that came with death back in the ruined cathedral in that strange palace on Rahab. The place still had the mirrors within it, but they were all smashed and broken. Glass covered the floor in front of each golden frame. There were not, any longer, any colorful draperies in that place either. Everything was in a worse state of ruin and disrepair, than when I had passed into that memory from ancient times. As I awoke, my beloved companion Sash'ka was standing over me smiling, saying: “Oh, darling, I simply had to do it! I had to smash the mirrors. I simply had to... it was the only way to get you back from wherever it was you went after looking into that one. You vanished! Right in front of my very eyes, and I could not find you anywhere. That was when I realized, the mirror had taken you to some other place... it was only mere moments ago, but it was still frightening. What happened... where did the mirror take you?” and I could not seem to muster the right words to explain it. “Mere moments, you say?” I asked, shocked by that revelation, and then explained in a way that I thought she would find to her understanding: “It took me back... back, into a memory of mine... is all.” and, when I looked into my companion's eyes, I could see clearly the eyes of the youthful Camilla staring back at me. Sash'ka was she, reincarnated! That was what the mirror wanted me to learn. Over the years, over the course of all our adventures together, my sweet companion and I had become first best friends, then lovers, and eventually something even deeper still. Now it seemed, that our love had spanned time itself, and been able to bridge life and death in order to bloom again in our hearts. I said to Sash'ka: “Come on, beloved, and let us leave this terrible place... this is a haunted place, a place not wholly of this world. Let us get back to more civilized places for a while, so that I can get the taste of this expedition out of my mouth. For it was a most bitter taste that those memories left for me to savor. Or perhaps rather... bittersweet.” And as we left the ruined palace behind us, we walked hand in hand back into the jungle. “I love you.” my companion said unto me, which caused my eyes to fill with tears for a moment. “Dear one, why do you weep so?” she asked of me on noticing this, and I explained: “They are tears of joy, and that is all!” to which she smiled in a warm way that filled me with much joy indeed. I would tell her eventually, of that other life, and of who we had been in it. She believed in reincarnation very strongly, just like I did. And so she would understand all that I would tell her. And in time, that was indeed the case. There are many who think that death is an ending to all things, yet I know that it is but a door we pass through... much like the myriad doors in that lost tower on distant Ra'qia that I once called my home. Sometimes, when two people just cannot bear to be parted, they can end up passing through certain doors together.
Several years later, the ruling government on Rahab, at the very least the one that had the most rights to claim that title... sponsored a formal archaeological expedition to the jungle where the ruined palace lay undisturbed. For in all the time since we left its' frightful halls, no one had set foot in it, not even the natives of the region. We had told all we knew of it to those who could understand such matters best... leaving out what happened with those mysterious mirrors. And so the scholars were intrigued to find out all they could of that legendary place from mythic times! They sent out their best and their brightest minds, the most renowned archaeologists they could spare... and the journey they undertook was a long one, fraught with countless perils and dangers to life and limb. Just as they had despaired of finding the location of the lost palace, they discovered the bridge that led across the algae coated water. Seeing that sight, they were relieved to realize that they were on the right track. Up ahead were the ruins of the old walls of the palace just as we had described... and beyond those walls they found the wild gardens with the overgrown flowers and plant life. But as the expeditionary team ventured through the gardens, they were met with a shocking sight! A massive chasm stretched out before them, the great edifice that once had been there now long since sunk into the ground... taking with it, all of its' secrets. Looking within the chasm, they saw that it had no discernible bottom to it anywhere in sight. Even all their instruments were at a loss to discover anything. They would return from that expedition... empty handed... after all.