Light within Darkness
WITH LEGS DANGLING IN THE GUTTER and a body convulsing on the edge of the pavement, a youth’s hand fluttered to and fro. His cries reverberated, and froth oozed from the corner of his mouth. Light flashed before his eyes, bringing forth a vision. A tall warrior with matted hair appeared, beckoning him. The boy was overpowered by the pain in his hand, and the image vanished as quickly as it appeared.
Crows cawed as they swooped down from the rooftops, while the doors of nearby houses opened to reveal the glances of the concerned and the curious.
A young mother and her daughter stood on their doorstep, gazing.
‘Call an ambulance. I’ll go and see what’s happened,’ said the mother.
Hearing the youth’s cries, the young girl clung to the door in horror.
‘Angela, call the ambulance, now!’ the lady repeated. ‘Give our address and say there’s a boy outside who needs immediate help.’
She crossed the road to where the teenager lay. A few neighbours gathered around.
‘It’s his hand. He’s holding onto it,’ said an elderly lady.
‘But there’s no blood,’ the woman responded.
Tugging at the boy’s body, she attempted to drag him out of the gutter. His bodily convulsions increased violently, so she wrapped her arms around him to stop them. Noticing the froth seeping out of his mouth, she let go.
A middle-aged man stepped forward to offer his thoughts. ‘His hand may have been run over by a car… that could be why there’s no blood.’
No further words were spoken.
All watched the youth jerk while holding his hand in pain.
The lady’s daughter approached; still hesitant, she stood behind her mother while noting the look of torment on the boy’s pale face and his eyes that appeared as vacant as the endless sky.
‘The ambulance is on its way, Mother,’ she said.
The lady turned to her neighbour. ‘Jim, what should we do? He can’t catch his breath.’
Jim seemed apprehensive, his eyes roaming.
Seeing his trepidation, the lady put aside her anxiety. Ignoring her daughter’s tugs, she tried to hold the youth’s head up.
His gurgling sounds finally ceased.
They could hear the wail of a siren in the distance. The young girl’s face, however, expressed what they were all thinking.
Will the boy survive?
Arriving at the emergency entrance to the hospital, the back doors of the ambulance were thrust open. Attendants rushed the teenager into the emergency room, where several nurses and a doctor prepared themselves as the medic gave his report.
‘He was in shock when we arrived. As if in pain, he held onto his hand and tried fighting our attempts to examine it. Once in the ambulance, we were able to calm him and slow his breathing. Nothing seems broken, and there’s no sign of accident except for his knuckles, where he appears to have punched something. He was hyperventilating. He seems to have had a panic attack, and is in fear that he’s going to die. He has paranoid psychosis. He thinks someone’s stabbed his hand and slashed his arm with a knife. It may well be drug-induced. His memory has vanished—he has absolutely no recollection of who he is.’
‘What were the somatic symptoms of his panic?’ asked the doctor.
‘Tachycardia—his heart was at 200 when we got to him. We stabilized it at 120. He was trembling with hot flushes—the residents found him lying in the gutter wearing only a tee-shirt.’
‘What about respiratory alkalosis?’
‘He had cramps in his feet, but they’ve disappeared, and the carbon dioxide level in his blood has gone down.’
The doctor approached the boy as he lay on the stretcher in a confused state. Gaining eye contact, the doctor spoke in a clear warm tone. ‘I’m Doctor Shyam. Do you remember your name?’
The boy remained silent. Slowly, he shook his head with a look of frustration in his eyes.
‘I’m going to check you over. Is that all right?’ said the doctor.
The youth remained still.
Lifting his patient’s eyelids, the doctor shone a torch, looking for the reaction of his pupils. After this, he performed a short examination of his ligaments and motor response. Turning, he spoke to the medics and nurses.
‘His pupils are slightly dilated and didn’t constrict equally. There’s also reddening in his eyes. There could have been drugs involved, but there’s nothing to worry about now. His anatomy is normal. He’s had a panic attack. This could well have affected his memory. Give him a sedative and let him rest for the night. We’ll check him over again in the morning. Does he have identification?’
‘Nothing—he wasn’t even wearing a coat. My guess is he doesn’t live far from where he was picked up.’
The doctor addressed the nurse.
‘Take him to Ward Five, and run some blood tests. We’ll find out more after he’s had a good night’s sleep.’
Sedated, the mysterious teenager lay on the bed, externally unconscious, but internally conscious of another reality.
Images of strange beings entered his vision—beings that seemed to glow with angelic effulgence. They had smooth skin with no signs of ageing, large friendly eyes, and longer than usual necks and arms. They were all slender, had dark hair, and a fair complexion. Most were gathered around a series of monitor screens, while two exquisite females in long dresses stood in the corner with their hand and arm bandaged.
As he stared at the females a fragrant aroma entered his nose. He could not place the scent—he could recognize it only as being sweeter than the smell of a newly blooming rose garden.
One of the people in his vision turned. He seemed to look directly at him. Turning back to his companions, the man spoke.
‘You were right, Octavia, we overdid it. His memory’s gone.’
The being that was addressed lifted his gaze from his monitors. His eyes were deep blue, different from the dark, pearlescent eyes of the others. His reply was short.
‘Yes, Rondo, it appears we did.’
A caring female put her arms around the blue-eyed operator and offered a small kiss of reassurance on the top of his head.
‘Marac—I want to see Marac!’ commanded the being named Rondo.
At that moment, three men with enlarged foreheads appeared at the doorway.
‘We’re at your service,’ they said in unison.
‘Marac, Jess, Orgon. Our orbs on Earth act as extensions of our consciousness. Can yours connect with Billy’s psyche and inform you of his immediate future?’
The three men seemed to glide towards the control desk, walking, but in a serene manner. One put his hand on the screen. Although unconscious to the external world and lying in the hospital bed, the boy felt the presence of the man as if he were beside him in the room.
‘It’s possible,’ said Orgon.
The three then joined hands and lowered their heads. Eyes closed, they focused. Looking up after a few moments, Jess spoke.
‘You must show him everything of our connections before the dawn breaks on Earth. Once the reprogramming is complete, our orbs will remind him of his mission. And so it is.’
The room resounded with cheers and laughter as the beings created a melodious uproar by banging on the tables before them.
Marac then spoke. ‘There is another who plays a role in this. He handed Billy two books, and with these, his mission. As Billy looked in one of those books, the connection with us was made, and his mission began. The second book holds the key to the next part of his mission. It remains unopened and has, by dark magicians on Earth, been hidden. Neither of these books can be removed from Earth.’
Rondo became concerned. Even as a far-seeing angel, this was something he knew nothing of.
‘Tell me more, Marac. What is Billy’s mission? What is his connection to our race?’
‘Billy has an alter life—a life within a life. His true identity is hidden, but I know that in another form, he will help to save both Heaven and Earth from Rayak and Krozan, the most powerful Titan warriors ever known. The curse put upon our race by the great sage Durvas was the will of the Lord, and through this a spiritual prophecy will be revealed on Earth. The details of this are not knowable, even by the highest beings in the universe.’
Hearing this, all the angels rushed to see Billy on Octavia’s monitor screen. There he lay, motionless on the hospital bed. Amidst the silence, Orgon spoke.
‘If Billy is to understand the full details of his mission, he must find that second book. Our task is to show him everything, beginning from the time he received the books, and then we must help him find his father. If by morning, Billy does not remember who he is and set off on his quest to find his father, his memory of us will be forever gone, and our lost Queen may never make it back to Heaven!’
Rondo spoke with urgency. ‘Octavia, show Billy his life. You have until the day breaks on Earth.’
‘What about his mental condition? Do we show him the truth?’ asked Octavia.
‘What is material reality other than a product of our imagination? The realm of possibility lies within the mind of all, and Billy is gifted with the ability to see what others cannot. As for the miserable conditions caused by his disease, he must overcome these by his determination. His growth of character depends on the realization of his predicament and the actions he takes to improve matters. If he can conquer his predispositions without medication, the entities attacking his psyche will not harm him, and others will benefit from his example.’
‘Is there a chance he could fail his task?’ asked Octavia.
‘If he fails, Heaven and Earth will be overrun by darkness. Billy’s task will unfold as he ages and learns to access the inner worlds without being covered by them. For Billy, saving the Earth goes hand in hand with finding his connection to Rajuna and who he really is. There is a spiritual prophecy to be revealed on Earth, and Billy Adams is to be a part of it.’
Octavia then made a rewind on Billy’s life and presented it to him as if it were a dream.
‘BILLY!’ bellowed Alexandria Adams.
Lowering her body into her well-worn master’s chair, she flicked the ash off her cigarette into the ashtray and balanced it on the chair-arm.
‘What?’ Billy replied.
‘You better not be swinging off that banister again!’
She stubbed out the remains of her cigarette and ordered her daughter, ‘Sandra, go turn the television to the top channel, and then see what he’s up to.’
Billy’s hand gripped the rail as he climbed the staircase and stared at the drop that lay before him. He gritted his teeth in growing apprehension of his next move. He knew he had but moments before the troops arrived to escort him to that unwelcome kingdom called bed.
‘Why is it always me who has to go?’ he heard Sandra say from behind the closed door.
‘Because you’re the only one here, Sandra.’
Billy held his breath, mustered his courage, and counted: ‘One, two—’
The door flung open beneath him, and a mass of thick brown hair swung in front of her face—the ten-year-old overlord of his life had arrived. With eyes full of fury, she scanned all directions.
‘Get down, you idiot, you’ll kill yourself!’ she shouted.
Sandra’s hand grabbed for the banister-ball, intending to hurl her body up the stairs to capture her prey. Seeing no alternative, Billy took the plunge.
Excitement ran through his body as he landed and rolled to his feet. It was his highest jump yet, but there was no time for triumph or recovery. On reflex he brushed away the strands of hair covering his eyes and dashed to his mother’s chair, seeking refuge from his sister’s rampage.
‘Come here you little wart,’ called Sandra, hot on the chase.
Sliding on the worn linoleum, Billy’s hands reached for the chair to steady himself.
‘Stop!’ said Billy’s mother.
She reached to steady the tipping ashtray. ‘Sandra, you leave Billy alone! Billy, you get to bed, it’s ten past nine.’
Billy’s small frame held tightly to his mother as Sandra took her seat on the corduroy sofa, her stare aimed directly at him.
A smirk then came over Billy’s face as he enjoyed his victory over his sister. Leaving the safe haven, he perched on the mantel of the brick fireplace and voiced his recent thought.
‘Mother, what does it mean when the sky becomes lemon-yellow?’
‘Ha!’ laughed Sandra.
Billy beamed with joy. As she opened her mouth wide, he got a prime view of the teeth-straighteners that Sandra so hated wearing. Looking him in the eye, an air of seriousness came over her slightly freckly face. ‘It means they’re coming to get you, you little frog.’
‘Let ’em come, I’ll be ready,’ countered Billy in his bravest voice.
Ignoring the children’s interplay, Billy’s mother became compassionate, her maternal nature causing the role of a wise teacher to come upon her.
‘The sky is never lemon-yellow, Billy. It is blue, white, red, orange, and sometimes blackish, but never lemon-yellow.’
‘Yes, it is. I’ve seen it.’
‘Yeah, in your dreams,’ Sandra said, as she wiped her dripping nose.
‘Bedtime, Billy, I know your tricks. Sandra, take him up and leave the landing light on.’
Billy pleaded, wanting to hold on to his world of play. ‘Let me have one more jump, Mother, I really do need to practice.’
To appear stern, his mother raised her voice a notch. ‘Billy, you’re five years old. You’ll break your legs jumping from those stairs, and I’m not gonna be the one who takes you to the hospital.’
Sandra continued with her fear-mongering techniques. ‘Why do you need to practice, Billy? In case they come for you?’
Billy squinted, undaunted and fixed in his determination. He knew something Sandra didn’t. Standing to accentuate his bravery, he headed for the door and called out his last words.
‘I need to practice because I have to escape.’
The lowering of the effulgent sun caused a striking yellow hue to adorn the horizon on the land of the high angels of Svingara. The long slender body of Queen Sindia, the queen mother of the angels, remained motionless as she sat on a rug facing the ocean. Strands of her dark, wavy hair were brushed from her almond-shaped, compassionate brown eyes by the courteous, gentle breeze, which seemed to be serving her with reverence. The radiant beauty of the middle-aged monarch rivalled the beauty of the sunset as she rubbed the tips of her elongated fingers across her long, delicate thumb with devout intent. In quiet contemplation, her fondest thoughts and wishes reached towards Earth.
Holding her mind on the apparition of her eldest son, manifesting by her will within her inner eye, the angelic wisdom within the queen mother searched for that sacred spot to release her benedictions of love.
‘Please, let me find him,’ begged the queen as she addressed Providence.
A high-pitched tinkling of ankle bells, which appeared to be increasing, brought the queen mother’s mind back to the present moment. Without taking her gaze from the lemon-yellow sky before her, she awaited the arrival of Devini, her chief handmaiden and dear friend.
The tall, slender body of the modest maiden came before the queen mother.
‘Your Majesty, Rondo has come from the operations room with news from Earth.’
‘Devini, how many times do I have to request you—please, call me Sindia when in private. The rules of etiquette can be relaxed between friends according to circumstances.’
‘Yes, Sindia,’ Devini replied meekly. ‘This time, however, there’s a gathering of ministers awaiting you.’
Sindia rose from her rug, the low tones of her ankle bells jingling as she followed her group of handmaidens to greet her head-minister, Rondo. On approach, she noted the unusual situation of her minister standing alone outside the palace, while his entourage remained inside. Her mind ran through all possibilities in a bid to foresee events.
Stopping before the minister, the circle of handmaidens opened to reveal Sindia’s optimistic gaze. ‘Speak, Rondo; have the orbs located my son at last?’
‘They’ve sent something spoken by a five-year-old child, Your Majesty. It could be the code you’ve been waiting for. He referred to seeing the lemon-yellow sky of Svingara. The child appears to be in distress about someone he must escape from. It could, of course, be a child’s game, but our orbs are programed according to our individual consciousness, and combined, they do seem enthusiastic about this one.’
The queen mother hoped that Providence had at last smiled upon her. ‘Please continue,’ she said.
‘Due to the serious conditions around Earth, we’ve arranged for immediate transportation. However, we must remember that over the past three thousand Earth-years, there’ve been fifty such cases, and each time it was a false alarm.’
‘I know too well, Rondo. Day and night my heart burns. Heavenly beings know not this unbearable pain. The unrelenting torment of separation from my two beloved children gives me anguish that I wouldn’t wish upon my greatest adversary. How long before we leave to find this child of Earth?’
‘Your Majesty, it is for this exact reason I feel it would be better if you remained here this time.’
‘What are you saying, Rondo? If this is my son, reborn as an Earthling, I must offer myself for his benefit.’
‘With due respect, Your Majesty, may I remind you of the catastrophe that almost happened last time, and before that on several other occasions during past centuries on Earth?’
With carefully chosen words, the queen’s minister reminded her of the curse, wherein the powerful sage, Durvas, laid down the rules.
‘Due to our King and his brother acting inappropriately, they were banished from Heaven—one to be born on Earth, the other on Plutzonia in the lower regions of the universe. Specific members of Svingara chose to go along to assist the king and prince, and we remained here to give guidance in times of need. Our part in this drama prohibits direct interaction with humans and does not allow us to engage in warfare beneath our heavenly boundaries. Do you remember the words of the sage? Once the curse has taken effect, you cannot interfere with humans, or else you will be cast into the abyss of Earth’s population with no direct means of returning to Heaven. Nor can you interact to defend yourselves against aggressors within the lower worlds.’
The queen knew the terms well but could not get the thought of helping her son out of her mind. She began to pace a little, closely followed by the rustling dresses of her handmaidens as they raced to keep up. Stopping suddenly, her left eye began to twitch as if an omen were being revealed.
‘Rondo, I must help this child,’ she said with pride.
Rondo became straight-faced. ‘In accordance with the parameters set by the sage, we’re limited to a small amount of interference which allows us to monitor humans and give direction to their psyche within dreams and in times of reverie. On occasion, your emotions almost caused us to break these rules, endangering our race.’
The queen mother twisted her head and raised her eyebrows. ‘Hmm, I’ll try to restrain myself this time.’
Lowering his already peaceful tone to accentuate his concern for the queen’s safety, Rondo pleaded. ‘Since the passing of your glorious husband and the cursing of our king and his brother, Svingara needs you more than ever.’
‘Are you indicating there’s specific danger this time?’
‘As the great sage predicted, the evil tyrant, Rayak, has grown in strength and has arisen from the lower realms with mighty armies. By now he’s heard the proclamation of your son’s destined rebirth on Earth and must intend to take his life. Rayak’s most powerful general, Krozan, oversees the Earthly regions. He has overthrown many planets in the lower realms and now moves his armies to conquer the middle earthly regions. Our orbs have detected Krozan’s troops making moves to attack the eight regions of inner-earth. Anyone allied with our angelic races is now in great danger.’
Taking the news as the unfolding events of the sage’s harsh curse upon her race, the queen mother replied, her warrior instincts rising.
‘So, time has caught up with us, and the threat of a great war between families has now become a reality. We cannot delay, Rondo. I want to be on that vehicle for immediate departure. Krozan cannot be allowed to discover the whereabouts of my son before he’s grown to defend himself.’
The tall diplomat held out his hands to accompany his plea, his long, angelic fingers curling into cups to accentuate his begging.
‘Sindia, I ask as a friend, please allow me to go alone this time. It’s possible the race of titans has developed technology to detect our presence. If we’re forced to engage in combat, a portal will open by which they can enter the upper heavens and wreak havoc. Since the curse caused the departure of our strong King Darsena, our military general, and our chief scientist, the delicacy of this matter is now unprecedented. Our citizens are few and unprepared for all-out war. We depend on the superhumans of middle-earth. At present, they are the only ones who can fight Krozan and Rayak.’
The Queen’s warrior bloodline prevented her from backing down.
‘You may have a placid nature, Rondo, but we have warriors present who do not share your perspective.’
Rondo knew when to remain silent. He looked to his queen with puppy-dog eyes, honouring her wishes but offering counsel with a glance imbued with sadness.
Losing her battle, the distraught queen mother looked to her slender maidens for help. Devini empathetically stared back but felt helpless to offer sufficient warmth or guidance. Glancing at Ishadria and the other maidens, the queen’s face appeared troubled. Ishadria put her hand on the dagger by her side. The queen acknowledged her with what began as a slow nod but turned into a shake of the head.
Not wanting the queen’s earlier desires to go unheard, the courteous breeze came to her rescue. As the wind blew, the queen saw within her mind an image of Devini standing at the entrance to the shuttle vehicle, surrounded by maidens and wearing the royal ring. Composing an instantaneous plan, she turned to Rondo with her head down.
Raising her fingers to her forehead, then slightly lifting her slender neck to look her minister in the eye, she replied with a tinge of sadness.
‘I agree with you, Rondo. This matter is of utmost urgency and delicacy. As you do not want me to attend due to my previous interference, I request that you take my chief maiden, Devini, in my place—she will be my emissary. She will pacify my aching heart when she brings good news on her return. Locate the whereabouts of this child and insert the needed bio-medics to give us communication with his psyche. This is my final say on the matter.’
Rondo was surprised. Thinking he was to enter into a tug-of-war, he had brought along an array of dignitaries to support his case.
Devini smiled at Rondo, and then linked her arm through the outstretched arm of the queen mother as they and the entourage of handmaidens left Rondo to his happiness.
With an array of maidens dressed in pink in front and behind, Queen Sindia and Devini were ushered into the centre of the palace waiting-room. The Queen’s eyes searched for Rondo, as he hurriedly approached.
‘Speak, Rondo! Tell them what we’ve decided.’
Rondo addressed the anxious group of dignitaries. ‘It has been suggested that the maiden Devini goes to Earth as the queen’s emissary. She will be privy to see the child’s future and report back to the Queen. If you’re all in agreement, we leave for the ship in fifteen minutes. This time, our ship will not enter Earth’s atmosphere but will remain in outer space. Our plan is to capture the dream-body of the child and bring it aboard the ship. Initiating a series of tests, we shall look at his predestined future. If he turns out to be the incarnation of our King Darsena, I’ll enter the child’s house in my avatar light-body, insert the modified herbs into his bloodstream, and leave within one or two minutes.
‘What then?’ asked the newly-made minister, Mekon.
‘On our return to Svingara, we follow protocol and monitor his life in a bid to assist as best we can. With the help of the modified herbs that will stay with him throughout his life, the production of melatonin within the child’s pineal gland will meet our requirements, and that will allow us to transfer images without difficulty. Our herbs will enter his nervous system and work their way to his endocrine glands. In time we’ll configure his hypothalamus with our specific signature tune to give us ability to contact him and effect changes to his psyche at any time we choose.’
Looking at each other in the semi-circle that had formed, all dignitaries present gave their consensual nod of agreement and nervously bowed before the queen mother. Seeing her depart, Minister Mekon, who was from the Argine province in the east of Svingara, raised a concern.
‘Stimulating his pineal gland in this way will not only give us connection. It will also open a channel for a myriad of discarnate entities to enter his psyche. Is this a wise act to do, given that he’s just a child?’
As she was ushered into the queen’s bedroom, Devini’s smooth face turned pale. ‘What shall I do, my queen? What are your orders for me?’
‘Come,’ said the queen. ‘It’s time for a set of new clothes. I have fitting ones in my wardrobe.’
Opening the door to her finest garments, Queen Sindia urged Devini to run her hand along the fine lace and detailed embroidery.
‘We have just enough time to rehearse. Put on any of these garments you find most attractive, and then take your seat on the chair by the mirror.’
Seeing the garments were not befitting such a trip, Devini understood something outlandish was happening. Before she could speak, however, she was given a gentle push.
Sindia went over to the vanity, where there was a carved ivory chair and an ornate golden filigree mirror illuminated by natural lighting coming from tall windows. Opening her jewellery box, she looked through an array of glittering necklaces. Following her mistress’s order, Devini looked though the royal dresses.
‘Don’t delay, Devini,’ called out Sindia. ‘Choose the best suited for a royal occasion, and I’ll choose the most enchanting jewellery.’
Devini’s ever-smiling face popped out from the wardrobe. ‘Shall we aim for optimal attention, or shall we be modest?’
‘Full royal attention is needed, but it’s not a ball you’re going to,’ said the queen.
Again, looking at the array of sparkling and divine dresses, Devini’s eyes were drawn to a conservative but beautifully laced pale-blue outfit. Coming out from the changing area with the trepidation of non-understanding, she held the dress before her.
‘Does this suit, Sindia?’
‘Excellent choice... Now, let’s find a veil to cover your youthful face and a shawl to hide your tender shoulders. Be quick and change, then it’s my turn.’
As Devini changed into the royal dress, Sindia gathered her casual attire and then spoke to her handmaidens who were gathered outside her chambers.
‘I’ll be ready to leave in thirteen minutes. At that time, do as I order, without question or hesitation.’
The queen then locked the doors to her room, gathered the needed items, and took hold of a hairbrush. With the folds of the dress rustling as she walked, Devini approached the vanity, carrying her folded clothes in her outstretched arms.
‘You look beautiful, Devini. Please, take your seat. You’re about to play the role of queen mother, and I’m to play the role of Devini. Being of a similar height and build, if we enact this correctly, no one will suspect foul play.’
Devini, now understanding the matter better, took her seat and smiled. ‘Well thought out, Sindia. For a few moments you had me worried that Rondo and his men had taken away your dream of seeing your son.’
Sindia replied with happy grin, ‘Men will be men, and women will be women. Warriors win based on their strength and skill. In a battle of wits, however, the wisest is she who thinks fastest.’
With her deep brown eyes wide open, a proud smile came over Devini’s youthful face.
Finishing Devini’s hair and fastening a valuable diamond necklace under her dark locks, Sindia next pinned the veil atop her head, ready to cover her face from prying eyes.
‘These are my orders, listen. The maidens will surround you and keep you at a distance while I board the shuttle alone. Keep your head lowered and your eyes on me as I board. Do not take your gaze off me. We don’t want your profile to be seen.’
She then took two fingers and lifted up Devini’s chin to show her the effect of the motion.
‘I’ll make sure we’re late. At that time Rondo and the others will already be seated. They will not see me board but will be looking at the royal entourage from their windows. Now, wait here and I’ll change into suitable clothes. Whatever clothes and jewellery you’re wearing will be yours to keep, and from the bottom of my heart, I do thank you for your service.’
Queen Sindia then went into her changing room and came out dressed in casual attire. Leaving the chambers, Sindia and Devini greeted the astonished handmaidens.
‘How many minutes have we been?’
‘Twelve, Your Majesty,’ replied Ishadria, the head maiden of the group.
‘We have five minutes to waste. A few minutes later than planned should be enough to cause a little panic in the mind of the ever-punctual Rondo.’
On behalf of the inquisitive maidens, Ishadria spoke up. ‘What’s going on, Your Majesty? Your clothes indicate a pleasure trip.’
‘I’m going to Earth in place of Devini, and she’s taking my place here at the palace. Do whatever she orders as she is now your mistress. Treat her as you would treat me. Surround her and keep all men at a distance. Once we’ve left for the ship, return to my chambers and remain in your usual positions. Do not allow anyone in to see the queen until my return. Is that clear?’
With smiles and chuckles, all agreed.
‘Fourteen minutes, Your Majesty,’ said a maiden.
‘Good. Remember, until my return, Devini will be Queen of the Svingaras. Radin, you go on ahead; the rest of you, be sure to protect your queen from prying eyes. I’ll be with Devini until the last moment, and then I’ll take my bow and proceed to the transport vehicle alone. There’s one more thing—then we take that ship by storm.’
In astonishment, the maidens looked on as the queen took off her sparkling royal ring, encrusted with the heavenly Kaustu jewel, and gave it to Devini.
‘This ring has been in my family for many generations. Whoever wears it commands the planet of the Svingaras. You will wear this ring until my return. It must be worn on your right hand’s ring finger.’
Knowing well the significance of the ring, the maidens were shocked. Devini however, lowered her head in humility.
The queen addressed Ishadria. ‘Stay with Devini until my return and protect her with your life.’
Although dressed in a flowing pink dress, Ishadria was a fearless warrior. Her hand curled around her dagger. The Queen smiled.
‘Come, Devini,’ urged the queen as she lifted her handmaid’s shaking hand.
Being afraid to enact the role of queen, to Devini’s delight the ring would not remain on her finger but slid off each time she lowered her hand. Without time to spare, Sindia placed the ring on Devini’s middle finger.
‘It can remain there, but be careful not to raise your hand, or it may be seen, and our plans will be spoiled.’
‘I cannot be queen,’ pleaded Devini. ‘I have not the strength to command others.’
‘For my honour you will overcome all weakness and command even my most cherished servants. Do not doubt yourself, Devini. At the right moment you will make the right choices, as you are now Queen of Svingara.’