The Hoverat or hover chariot stood motionless over the sand dune. A trading and space port stood pristine and vibrant over the spot that once held a stone keep. The fortress fell a decade prior, and at a cost that young princes Lor'afa felt was too dear. Her eyes stung with bitter tears as the vision of the captain of her guard lay dead before her in the burnt out rubble crossed her mind.
Silently, she cursed herself for being so callous, unfeeling and cruel to such an honourable young man. Despite Jora'l's consistent efforts at being kind, considerate and loyal she had treated him worse than a slave. That tragic day, it had dawned on her as she was being led away from the battle. Jora'l had saved her from a great support beam from falling on her after a cannon round found the inner citadel. He laid her down between her other personal guard after running her through near white hot fire to get her to safety. He declared the others to stay with her until her father could arrive with relief and then only move if the structure began to weaken. Jora'l then ran back into the inferno to buy time for the small group to be rescued.
That was the last time she saw him alive. He chanced one final look in her direction. Was it resignation in his eyes did she see? For what seemed an eternity the princess saw a glimpse of the inner pain that her protector carried within. Then, he disappeared and she found herself being forcefully held back and carried in the direction of the delivery doors.
The rest, as she adjusted her Hoverat, was a blur of activity she thought she'd never should have survived. Admittedly, it was a small raid by an overly ambitious prince. On the other hand, it was a diversion for a larger force of arms that her father, King Olan'm was grimly prepared for. Skiffs and other craft arrived within moments of her being escorted from the besieged fortress. She was covered in soot and was coughing for all the smoke, but still she held out hope for Jora'l. There was a lot between them, but the least she could do was be sure she thanked him properly. It never occurred to the pampered princess just how deep the captain of her guard felt for her till after the siege.
Lor'afa ignored the pleas of her beleaguered remaining guards and made for the ruins. She could see her father's advanced guard and his personal battle wagon coming across the desert sea as she carefully made for the citadel that Jora'l had made for. Near the top that was now sitting five stories lower in the sand she found her gallant knight.
His eyes were fixed upon his right hand as his left lay across his lap. It was clear he had passed some time earlier. His quarry, the power mad prince was pinned against the wall with a sword through his heart. A permanent look of shock, anger and fear in his eyes. Then, slowly, as she leaned over to see if Jora'l was dead she noticed what was in his clenched right hand. Gently, she removed the item and found to her amazement and horror that it was a favour she herself had given him! Lor'afa stayed frozen as the memories, mostly bad, came flooding back to her.
All the recollections of times she acted like a pompous twit and treated him worse than a mere slave assailed her like darts hurled by an angry hunter. What crushed her was when she looked into Jora'l's dead eyes.
There were tears! He knew his time had come and all he could think of was her. That was the sadness and resignation she witnessed before he died. This scared veteran, a man who looked much older than his years, had cared so much for her that he was willing to take the mistreatment and cruelty just to be at her side. It had never occurred to Lor'afa to see him such a light. His bravery, honour and courage – all devoted out of unrequited love.
All that price paid and all he had to show for it was a kerchief. This was the lesson her mother spoke of and that Jora'l had hinted to in the past. She found herself gently kissing his cheek before sitting back on her feet and crying like a baby. Lor'afa knew she had been helped to her feet, to meet her father who was concerned for her.
She steadied herself and ignored hand maids, her weak fiancée and the doctors to walk directly to Olan'm. The conversation was brief and Lor'afa had it burned in her memory. She thrust the bloodied and lightly burnt favour at him.
“Did you know this? All this time? Why didn't you tell me?! WHY?!”
The king locked eyes with his bereaved daughter. He shifted in his own blood stained and charred armour uncomfortably before waving aside his attendants and quieting the throng around him and answering as calmly and gently as possible.
“Some lessons must be learnt the hard way. We both tried – Jora'l and I, as did your mother, but you wouldn't or weren't ready to hear it or learn it for yourself. Your stubborn mentality, borne from me I believe, was never really tempered with your mother's kindness. There were times when Jora'l and I would have loved to have shaken you or do something to awaken you to your plight. However, I, as he knew, couldn't force you to do something or acknowledge anything you were against doing.”
He paused to quell his urge to both cry and scream. “ As a parent, I had to let you make choices – decisions – for yourself. They were your problems and you had to grow up to see the solutions for what they were. I could never have helped you and it wouldn't have been fair to you if I had. I have to say I am as devastated by the loss of Jora'l as you are; More so as he was the finest protector of your personal guard. Not to mention, he was the closest to a son that I had ever had! Yes, I knew he loved you – deeply. That cloud over your eyes, it worried us both to death. All I am going to say is; If you really did or do care about Jora'l, then you'll become the woman and leader he, your mother and I all know you are! Don't let this sacrifice be in vane! Now go and let the healers and doctors see to you. There are many who lost their lives today and as much as I'd like to mourn, I am a king, first and foremost.”
Ten years and those words still stung and haunted her. Ten long years and finally Lor'afa had found the courage to come back. She wanted to scream to the heavens for the divine pantheon to give her back her true love. Once more, as a decade prior, she found herself on her knees in tears. She never married the popinjay. Her heart had found what it sought and would never let it go till she passed on. She found her strength once more and as she looked up she could swear she saw Jora'l standing on a nearby dune. His coal black eyes were softened by a kind smile that played over a well cropped beard. The image nodded sadly at her and pointed to its heart. Before it faded from view, Jora'l bowed one final time, smiled and disappeared.
© 2015 Jon Corres Pirate Poet
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