A brief glimpse of the eastern realms on Khios continent
Come Dawn From the Night - Rev 2.5 - 10/22/2021
Summer, Month of the Gaia Reborn
Year 857, the Ascension of Kings
Ember Hearth Palace in the city of Anahir, capital of the Old Myrian Empire
Amid black skies, a crescent moon shone brighter than its surrounding stars. Azat Zakarian kept his eyes to the heavens, every wink of light in the distance like beacons calling him into the gentle embrace of death. Somewhere in the tapestries of starlit voids and celestial bodies dwelled death's herald, a great raven said to blot out moon and stars to take away the souls of legends. An inescapable feeling that his end would come in battle lowered his spirits, but a defiance burned inside of him.
It could not be his time.
His twenty-fourth summer was coming to an end, and his fiance lounged beside him on the lone palanquin hidden in the garden. Her weight pressed into him, her head sinking into his chest like she sought to replace his heart with her own caring soul.
“Dreaming of the Hanging Gardens of Heaven again, my love?”
“You ask me as if you've never wondered what lies beyond this shining night sky?”
When she lifted her head to answer him, Azat could not quite bring himself to look her in the eye, and face the reality she believed in that twinkled there. She messaged his broad shoulder with a gentle hand, luring his gaze toward her anyway. Azat looked to her, and found the gaze of curious golden brown eyes. Bright like the precious gems found beneath the Amber Gold river, he thought, worth more than weight of the entire river's wealth.
Her skin was the shade of a lioness' burnished pelt, smooth and unblemished beneath his grazing fingers. Curiously, those same fingers coiled chestnut strands from the wavy coils of her hair.
“I cannot say the fate of something so distant concerns me at all. At least not in this moment. Should I be jealous of the goddess? You seem more interested in seeking her amid the stars than watching them with me.”
Azat smiled at her jest. He playfully dismissed her subtle accusation with a soft shrug. In response, Sameh wrapped the flowing sleeves of her lavender night gown around his neck. A subtle shift saw her head resting comfortably against his neck. She snaked a hand down the side of his neck to feel his heart beat within his chest.
High walls of trimmed hedgerows rustled like natural walls formed from branch and leaf. Secluded behind the gnarled barricade, the Sadoyan Sanctuary was almost hidden from sight. A scraping of leaves scattered on the cobblestone filled his ears. Azat studied them briefly, before turning back to the incredible vista behind the sanctuary's entrance. Without the burning dawn to reveal the countryside, Sameh and he continued to wait.
“I am not certain. Goddess Jumunah is said to be the most beautiful woman throughout all the Autumn Realms. One glance from her can reduce any man to throes of lust. Who could say if I could resist and remain loyal to you, if she had chosen me?”
The shrine was built of smooth granite floors and open alabaster stone archways. Natural light shined into its emptied space. Azat always came here to contemplate and brood to himself in solitude. Goddess Jumanah's monument, chiseled into breath-taking life by artisans forgotten to time, granted him a solace he could not find throughout all the Autumn Realms of the Old Myrian Empire.
In the sanctuary's heart, Azat watched the heavens from a palanquin of dark marble erected at its heart. It was built on a dais enclosed beneath the domed ceiling, behind the open archways. A hollowed opening at the dome's height let the crescent moon shine down on them. A soft wind ruffled his satin night robe. His Saroa
was of similar black hues, baggy breeches of rougher and thicker material.
Sameh's laughter came more mocking this time. She sobered after a moment and her voice resumed its loving aspect. “Our Goddess is a stoic mother. You are a mere child compared to her, Azat, as are we all. If she had chosen you for anything, have you ever thought that your prize maybe right here in the Autumn Realms, right beside you?”
Overhead, the skies softened from black to the bluish hue of the dawn. Braziers burned from the archways, creating a halo of light around the sanctuary's perimeter. A marble fountain full of crystal water was outside, shining beneath the last rays of moonlight. Goddess Jumanah lounged upon her palanquin of stone built in the fountain's heart. The hems of her silk dress danced along the fountain water's surface.
Her monument in the fountain was symbolic. It represented the distant realms nearest to the Opal Sea, the Goddess of Portent & Omens unearthly domain. Where the laws of reality ceased to exist and heaven's realms flooded into the mortal sphere.
“I have thought about that many times. I know that is the truth behind the myth. If the goddess believes me a child, then I must be her favored son to be gifted her most treasured daughter's hand. But a man can dream, can't he? Of realms that cannot be seen by mortal eyes, and the eternal comfort rewarded to those who must endure on this benighted world of Thearus.
Crafted legends meant to inspire Old Myria's younger generations. Azat had gleaned as much from his ancient blood father Zulfiqar during his adolescent years. An inexplicable emotion stilled his unrestful heart for strange reasons he couldn't quite describe. He did not know why he found solace in coming to the sanctuary in the dead night. Something about praying beneath the Crescent Moon brought him comfort from death's constant threat. Hearing the mourning cries of the wind rustling through the Iryllian countryside, distanced him from grief. Jumanah's song of harmony overcame him like a blessing, delivered straight from her lips, even though her utterances were only silence.
Unspoken words remained the only language an absent deity could speak.
Lady Sahem Sadoyan's meek voice snapped him out of his reverie.
"Such a child, Zakarian." Sahem said, "always will you be."
Sahem's laughter mocked him playfully. A muse daring him to cast his burdens aside to focus his world on her. Azat wanted to mimic the emotion. A fervent desire to become several years younger burned inside his chest, though Azat admitted a child was the last thing he felt like.
A melancholy burdened his ability to smile. He could not banish his concerns away with another hearty laugh. From the subtle pause in her breathing, Sahem caught a glimpse of the weariness plaguing him. It threatened to break him down like a crumbling pile of stone. An embittered war with no end in sight had broken men far stronger than him. Warriors more capable and with legacies honored in the corridors of grand mausoleums.
"is it childish to find solace in the presence of something far greater than we are? Jumanah is far beyond my comprehension, born somewhere in the heavens beyond the reach of her mortal children. She is so ancient and enigmatic. How could such a creation of limitless power remain so benign and fair in her wisdom? Of anyone born on Old Myrian soil, you of all should appreciate the harmony Jumanah brings to the mundane world."
Sahem said, "It's not that, Azat. It's just that every time I come with you to this forgotten shrine, you sit there and watch the monument with such a glint of imagination in your eyes. It's like you're dreaming of some grand adventure waiting for you after your story comes to a final close.”
“Dying in the shadow of an absent god, I'm prepared to face any afterlife. The burden of never knowing fuels the imagination. Dreaming encourages me to hold fast onto the legends you believe are for children. A glimmer of truth hides inside of each and every legend known to man.”
Sahem's smile of innocence teased him further. “So, you really think that... what? You'll fall asleep on the night of your death and wake up on the shores of the Opal Sea? Do you think the Gates of Heaven are really waiting for us in the far eastern realms, beyond all civilization? Wake up, my love. Time to rise with the new morning. Your unborn children are almost here, any week now. You should cease your dreaming of the desolation and of some divine oasis hidden at its heart... Azat? Are you listening to me?"
"I wouldn't rather be anywhere else than here, beside you. But my elderly father, Zulfiqar, always used to tell me that believing in only what lies before you is to find despair. What lies before us is every reason humans have searched the stars for greater powers to begin with. Should I fall on the battlefields of Carth, far away from you, then it is my childish faith in crafted legends that will make my passing easier. For myself and each of my kin, who would grieve my death. Even if Jumanah and the Ascended Pantheon she is from is nothing more than a false myth... don't you think easing the burdens of those who must suffer in our stead is worth that alone?"
At that, Sahem said nothing for a moment.
Yet when she spoke, he found her answer like a key to the beating heart in his chest.
“It is worth a hundred lifetimes... it is the reason that I say nothing more than playful jests. I would rather you dream and live inspired, then hope for nothing and live embittered. Your sons will be the same way. I only hope they come to embrace more practical thoughts that can help the Autumn Realms we live in. One day, they may reign over all the Old Myrian Empire, and you'll have lived the life of a glorious king, retired by that time.”
“How do you know that our twins will be boys?” Azat arched his brow. “From what I know of House Sadoyan, male children have always been rare. Sometimes they are not seen for several generations.”
Sameh smiled, “I have only my intuition, but I believe Jumanah has gifted me with two boys... just to make you happy.”
He tried in vain to hide his knowing grin. “Of all the treasures I could reap in this life, I don't think anything else would make me happier aside from our marriage.”
Sameh looked up at him, grinning. “What do you think they will become in the future?”
Azat pretended not to know the answer. “I don't know... maybe one day they will become princes as you said. Men of wise intellect and fair in judgement.”
“Do you really believe a word of what you said? You know they will follow in your footsteps. Both will take up the sword to continue your legend and honor the Zakarian name.” She sighed. “so long as you are their father, Azat, that will be their destiny. I can feel that truth burning in my blood.”
“Does that truth frighten you, my love?” Azat asked. “it doesn't have to be so, should you wish that.”
“But it wouldn't make you happy, Azat, would it?” Her laughter returned, bright and cheerier than he had heard it before. “Else the Goddess would have given me daughters instead.”
“Our twins could still be daughters, Sameh.”
“Just promise me...” Sameh reached out to him, her open palm lifted out, almost to touch his face. “Promise that only you will teach them the way of the sword and of being men. Promise me that you'll oversee their lessons, no matter the education. Promise me that you won't let them set foot on a battlefield until the day you think them ready to fight by your side, and not a day sooner. Not even after the day they come of age... Azat?”
In silence, he returned her embrace, resting his head on her inviting palm. After a brief contemplation, he pledged his oath. “My duties as Ara and Aslan's father shall never tire, not when the dawn rises in the east and the sun sets in the west, and for every cycle to come afterward for the rest of our days. They shall not know war or death until their time has come when I know they have surpassed me in all things. Of this, I swear to you, my wife and love, until the day fate would declare my oath fulfilled.”
As dawn began to break over the Old Myrian Empire, Azat and his lover watched the sun crest the rolling hills in the east, where the spires of Annahir, the capital city, reached out toward the skies, dwarfed by the grand halls of Ember Hearth Palace, and the Sadoyan Sanctuary that overlooked it all from its great height, concealed by the hedgerow walls behind it.