Simaatoban turned in his bed, already the sun shone overhead. It was past the eighth hour, he was sure of it. He squinted, digging his head under the covers. The dome roof made the room look bigger than it was, expansive, all-encompassing. He could hear his master and mistress, talking, making plans, in the chamber across from his own. There was a weight to their words, a heaviness in their tone, he had not heard before. He worried about them. He had come to love the family. Nahik was a good master, fair and generous. Sahar was intelligent and beautiful, but also headstrong and even demanding at times. His wife had been that way. Simaatoban stopped, consciously avoiding the thought of her.
He sat up on the bed, wiping the sleep from his eyes, and stood up. They spoke of leaving the city, his master and mistress. Simaatoban stared down at his hands, there was nowhere safe to live anymore. He could hear the master arguing with the mistress. Simaatoban sat at his desk, on a large chair facing a tall bookcase, fingering one of the texts he had given Arisnoe, the master’s son, during the last cycle. He had brought a large portion of his own books from the university. Simaatoban had taught there for over half a century.
He missed the University. The normal routine of a planned-out life. He hated not knowing what would happen next. But Simaatoban always made the best of what he had. This home in the fisherman’s village seemed to meet his needs. Life was simpler her than in the big city. While it wasn’t what he was used to, he was still teaching, still making a living from it.
The past cycle he had focused on written language, art, the study of the stars, and mathematics. He had Arisnoe compile a presentation on the solar system. Had the boy build a model of it, and by the end of the harvest had him present it to a community of students like himself, from other well-to-do families. Triana practiced the Atlantean alphabet daily. Already beginning to put sounds together, she could read simple words. Simaatoban smiled at the thought of the feisty little girl, so much like his own Tiva who had perished years earlier, in the final storm that had taken the island of Blue Terra. He enjoyed tutoring Nahik’s children, it gave purpose and direction to his life.
Today he would teach a history lesson, of a time before Atlantis, even before MU. Of a world nestled in the constellation of Taurus, in a planet called Erra, 500 light years from Earth. Home of their ancestors, of all of the Earth Tribes. The Pledeians branched off from the Lyran’s. Thousands of years ago, the people of Erra set up numerous colonies all over the world. Their central sun, Alcyone, was dying. They came in handfuls at first, afterwards in hoards, all of them desperate to survive.
And so Lyra became the cradle of humankind.
* * *
Nahik rose early the next morning. It would be a long day, one he was not looking forward to.
“Good Morning Master, you slept well I hope?”
“I did.” Nahik said, lowering his head. “Thank you.” He didn’t want to think about Sahar leaving. But he already had, Sahar was all he could think about. His own belongings were few, he had already packed them the previous night.
Simaatoban was already up, bundling the children clothes into large sacks. The only thing he’d left unpacked was the history book on Erra.
“How are you?” Simaatoban lifted a brow.
Nahik shook his head. “As well as can be expected, I suppose.” He pressed his lips together into a hard line. He wasn’t doing well at all.
“You’re doing the right thing.” Simaatoban placed a hand on his shoulder. He had heard them arguing all morning. “Letting her go, she needs her people, her son, and…”
“I know,” Nahik paused. “But it’s difficult …”
“I understand, I have come to care for your family a great deal.” Simaatoban patted the General’s shoulder. “It will be difficult to see them go.” The tutor sucked in a deep breath.
“You don’t have too, Simaatoban,” Nahik’s face brightened. “I want you to go with them.”
“Go with them?” Simaatoban gasped, startled by Nahik’s request.
“The boy, he is quite taken by you. I’m sure Sahar will agree. I will talk to her.”
“But I … I don’t know, sir.”
“You’d choose to stay here? The continent is nearly submerged.”
“No, I …”
“What then?” Nahik crossed his arms. “Speak up.”
Simaatoban shrugged. There was no reason for him to stay. “I’ll go.” Simaatoban said finally. He couldn’t bear to lose the children.
“Good.” Nahik squeezed Simaatoban hands. “I will worry less then.” Nahik turned, returning to his own chamber.
* * *
“It’s time.” Nahik spoke slowly, pronouncing each word with purpose. “Sahar?” The Queen rose. He planted a last kiss on her full red lips. He had been dreading this day for weeks. “Are you ready?”
Sahar nodded, she had prepared herself for months, her heart longing for the home she had left behind, for their son, and her people. She was ready to leave.
“Come with us…” Sahar pleaded, tugging at the ends of his shirt sleeve, tripping over her slippers as she rose from their bed. “Nahik … please.” She lifted her gaze, eyes beseeching. “Come back to the Temple.”
“Sahar, I have to … Darling, I can’t.” He opened the door to their chamber, stepping into the corridor. “You know I can’t.” Sahar followed him out. Trumpets sounded in the distance, calling the army to assemble, accompanied by the dull, monotone cadence of drumming. Sahar’s heart dropped at the sound.
She stared out the window. Hundreds of soldiers marched into the unpaved streets. In another life they would be together. Things would be different, she thought. But right now, this was the way it had to be. He had his army to lead and she had hers, they were on opposite sides, this arrangement couldn’t have lasted, her and him living together, even if it was in secrecy. Even if their identities had been hidden by Miaka’s spell. She was the Queen of Atlantis, and she needed to step up and take responsibility for her people.
“Sahar, I’ve asked Simaatoban to stay with you. He will go to the temple, continue instructing the children.”
“Thank you.” Sahar forced smile, glad for the gesture. “Arisnoe will be pleased,” she said, lowering her head. Having Simaatoban around would make the transition easier he thought. But why did she feel she had to be so strong?
“Remember me … us.” Sahar clung to his neck, squeezing her eyes shut. Nahik felt her warm breath, her soft lips as she whispered into his ear. He sighed, taking in the scent of her.
“Of course.” Nahik looked back at her. He would never forget her. How could he? They entered the main hall together. “Share this love you feel inside, Sahar.” Nahik tapped her chest with his fingers. “Share it with the world,” he whispered, “fight for them, for your people, and mine,” the back of his hand caressed her cheek. He had to be strong, it was for her own good. But his eyes betrayed him, both of them red. This was the hardest thing he had ever done.
“I will.” Sahar said the words, never taking her gaze off of him. “Krystalis will not fall, even if it is the last island standing,” she promised. Nahik leaned into her, stealing a last kiss.
Fighting back tears, Sahar made a weak attempt to return his kiss, lips trembling, shaking.
Simaatoban stood in the doorway of the sitting room across from them, waiting for the right moment to say his own goodbye. In his arms he held Triana. Arisnoe stood at his side.
“Why won’t he come?” Arisnoe asked, turning to the tutor. He was old enough to under-stand, but he still asked, because although his head could grasp the concept, his heart could not.
“Sometimes boy, we make sacrifices for the ones we love,”
“By leaving them?” Arisnoe’s eyes narrowed.
“If it means it will save their lives, yes.” Simaatoban answered.
“Doesn’t he want us anymore?” Arisnoe’s face twisted. He could not help but ask the question. Too many times he had found himself alone, abandoned by the ones he loved, and by Nahik once before, when he had found the orphan boy and brought him to Sahar.
“Of course he does,” Simaatoban said, giving the boy a stern look. “He wants you to be safe.”
“Then why doesn’t he come and protect us? He’s a soldier, that’s what he does.”
“He can’t, boy!” The old tutor said, growing impatient. “It isn’t safe here anymore.” Simaatoban said.
“Ik! Ik!” Triana screamed. Although almost four, she still called him that, to her, he would always be Ik Ik. Triana gasped between sobs, kicking the tutor on his side. “Ik Ik!” She could tell something was wrong. Simaatoban held her in a tight grip.
“No.” Simaatoban squeezed her tighter.
“I want Ik Ik!” Triana struggled to free herself from Simaatoban’s hold.
Nahik turned to the child and smiled, then back to Sahar, taking her hand in his. “There will be other moments to share,” Nahik promised, he stroked Sahar’s hair, trying to ease her anxiety. He could feel her pain, the essence of her soul had been etched inside his heart. He could not help but understand.“We will create them.” He looked at her expectantly, squeezing her hand gently. “I love you,” Nahik said, then turned to the children. “All of you, I love all of you!”
Sahar took a hard swallow. “I love you too.” She managed in between sobs. She could no longer hold her tears at bay. Sahar shifted, staring at the ground. This decision had been hers. She would not, could not ,back out. Atlantis needed her.
“Wait.” Arisnoe ran to the General, throwing his arms around him. Nahik held the boy for a long time. Tears fell down his cheeks and into the boy’s thick brown hair. Arisnoe had come to the manor at twelve, now at fifteen, he was almost a man.
“Take care of them.” Nahik felt his neck stiffen as he lifted his head. Arisnoe nodded in response.
Simaatoban put the child down, after a long struggle. She was as determined and stubborn as the mistress. Triana ran to the General, wrapping herself around Nahik’s leg, wiping her tears on his pant legs. “Ik Ik,” she cried. “My Ik IK.” she kissed his knee, it was as high as she could reach. “No go!” She lifted both arms into the air.
Nahik picked her up, brushing her black curls away from her face, he smiled, kissing her little face. “I will miss you most of all, little one.” He nipped at her tiny fingers, and she laughed, squealing. Her little face was round, dimpled when she laughed, she had soft ivory skin, and eyes as blue as the sky on a clear day. Nahik hugged her tight, not wanting to release her.
“No go.” Triana stroked his cheek. “Ik Ik no go.”
“Simaatoban,” Nahik grabbed his arm, “You’ll take care of them, won’t you?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Thank you.” Nahik bowed and embraced him with his free arm. “May peace be with you, my friend.”
“And also with you,” Simaatoban responded, taking the child from his arms. Triana screamed, protesting.
Nahik walked out the door and down the path into the crooked street. The trumpets sounded louder, drawing ever closer. Sahar had lost the one thing that made her whole. The one thing she knew nothing could ever replace. She waved, calling out Nahik’s name, the world was crumbling all around her, but she stood tall and held her ground. In a matter of days she would be leading her own army, fighting her own battles, against him and his men. Arisnoe stood by his mother, watching as Nahik disappeared into the city, to join his troops. Sahar looked away. Crystals glimmered in late morning sun as the city rose to a new day.
Sahar felt like half a soul. The path to the heart was indeed a fragile thing, she had only just begun to understand it. It would take decades, she figured, to grasp the entirety of it. Today, she would begin a new life. Return to the temple, to her son, and to her people. She had already sent word to Anuka to warn her, before Telemitri arrived. It would come as shock. Everyone believed the Queen had died, along with Arisnoe, Triana, and the Nama the wolf.
They would travel by horseback. Nama would follow. Simaatoban didn’t know yet where they were going, not exactly, nor who she really was. Miaka’s spell was still in effect. He knew they had different names, that Nahik was a general, a military man who had spared his life. She meant to keep their identities hidden, until they reached the temple. Then she would tell the tutor, but right now she couldn’t take any risks. The truth would come as a surprise, so Sahar decided not to tell him until Miaka had broken the spell, hoping he’d remain after learning their true identities.
They had been traveling for days, the family was hungry and worn. Nobody came and brought food on bended knee, nor drink to quench their thirst. But Sahar didn’t care. She had lived this identity for three years, had grown used to a new way of life.
“How is the child?” Simaatoban asked, riding his horse at a gallop. He leaned forward in his saddle and peeked at Triana’s little face.
“She’s sleeping.” The Sahar smiled, looking down at the child. “The horses need rest. Let’s stop for a moment.” Triana’s lamenting over the loss of their home and Nahik the entire way had been taxing for Sahar. They had already reached the inner city. Hundreds of empty buildings and homes surrounded them. They were in the thicket of destruction. Sahar felt drained, overwhelmed by the devastation they encountered. She squeezed Triana, whose small body laid comfortably over the Queen’s torso.
Arisnoe brought his stallion to a halt and dismounted, taking Triana from his mother’s arms. Simaatoban took Sahar’s hand and helped her down. “Miaka has arranged for us to board a small ship,” Sahar said, shifting her weight as she dismounted and held on to his skinny hand.
“Miaka?” Simaatoban stared at Sahar. “My grandmother. We can bring the horses. The ship will be posing as a cargo ship carrying spices. It will take us past Trill, undetected.” Sahar could tell the old man was anxious, by the way he dug into his traveling bag to keep his hands busy. The last time he’d seen Trill it was a major metropolis.
Sahar stared at the war-torn village uneasily, eyes darting, looking for any remaining soldiers from Scorpus’ army. Arisnoe’s hand slipped into hers. The Queen stood perfectly still,
lifting her head proudly. She was terrified, but she would never let it show. She squeezed the young man’s hand in a reassuring gesture, then knelt next to Triana who Arisnoe had laid in a blanket on the ground. Arisnoe pulled at his cloak draping it snuggly around his shoulders.
Behind them, the ocean glimmered in expectancy of nightfall. The sun’s last rays caressed its’ rising waves as they crested and fell, dissolving into the sandy shore. Sage burned in a small bowl carved out of amethyst that Simaatoban had placed on the ground next to them. It was an offering to the Gods, a plea for deliverance. Arisnoe dropped a handful of crystals into the bowl and took in a deep breath. He loved the smell of sage, it reminded him of his first family. His Lemurian family.
Trill, all that was left of it, had been overtaken by Scorpus’ army. Outsiders had been either killed or enslaved. These were the fates that awaited them if they were discovered. Sahar was grateful for Miaka’s spell.
She lifted her blood-shot eyes, her pretty face looked worn. Worry lines that had never been there before, creased her forehead.
If all went well, they would board the ship at sunrise. Arisnoe pressed his lips together and prayed silently.
“Good night, Mother,” the young Prince walked back to his own little space near the burning sage. Nama barked, howling at the moon as it rose. Arisnoe curled up next to the wolf and tried to relax.
“Good night.” Sahar sighed. Calloused by life’s unpredictable events, she had learned to put up a wall around her heart. She could not afford to be sentimental in her position. Most of the choices she made were not for her own benefit, but for her people. Always, for her people.
Time could not heal certain wounds, it was true, and the walls she so carefully built would someday collapse, but for the weeks and years that followed, she would stand tall, and do what needed to be done. Sahar was not one to give up.
A thick fog hovered just above the ground, enveloping Triana’s tiny frame. The child seemed like an angel floating on a cloud. Sahar smiled. Triana had become her lifeline, the very breath she breathed. It was good to have a daughter who might someday understand her completely. But she was grateful, also, for her two sons. Sahar looked back at Arisnoe, her heart went out to him. At fifteen, the Prince had taken on more than his fair share of responsibility.