“Mom? Dad?” the words left Kobi’s lips in a whisper. “What are you…? How…?”
Kimi and Rick both looked as if they wanted to speak but stayed silent. They were no longer dressed as they were on land. Kimi wore a dark purple and white dress that was laced in the front with thin, golden ribbon. Her golden hair, which looked dark, compared to the King and Queen’s, was put up into a bun with strands curling down her forehead and neck. Rick was dressed in a black leather vest and black wide-leg pants. Rick’s even darker golden hair, as always, was in a tight ponytail behind his head, a few loose hairs falling to his face.
“Kobi Saio. Captain Kaiyen Vorex,” said the Queen with a tip of her head to each of them. “Please welcome yourselves to a seat. I thanks everyone for joining us despite the suddenness.”
Kobi restrained himself from demanding answers and quietly took a seat beside Kaiyen at the round table, avoiding the piercing eyes of Kimi and Rick, who were both staring at him.
“First,” said the King his voice strong with authority. “It is the honor of the Queen and I to welcome our son, Kobi Saio, back home to Zire.”
Kobi’s eyes widened, his heart beating out of his chest, as everyone tipped their heads and gave him a vertical salute. The King and Queen beamed at him, but Kobi took no notice. He was looking to Kimi and Rick now, but it was their turn to have their eyes lowered. Could it really be true? No!
“Now, Captain Kaiyen,” said the King, his expression turning grave. “You have something to report?”
“Yes, Sai Thayne, if I may,” said Kaiyen. The King tipped his head, raising his hand. Kaiyen continued. “I believe that our treaty with Cella has been betrayed. Raili Saio has been captured by a Krawth.”
“Is this a fact?” asked Sai Thayne.
“It is,” replied Kaiyen.
“The Cella Clan Leader, Topian, is said to be very ill of late,” said Bran. All heads turned to him. “Why, now, would he risk an open war?”
“Regrettably, I have no answer to that,” said Kaiyen, his emerald green eyes locked on Bran’s blue ones.
“The real question is,” said Kai Ventra. “How did he know when and where to strike? The mission was known only to the Royal Court.”
“Topian had only sent out four teams that night,” said Kaiyen. “I defeated three of them while one met their fate at the hands of Heal Warrior Kimi and Black Master Rick. There should not have been any witnesses to relay the twins’ new location.”
“From the genetic make-up of all Airian people,” said the Queen in deep thought, “he was fully aware the twins would return some time before their fourteenth birthday, how did he know the precise location of their living quarters and the exact spot to form the vortex. Not even everyone in this room knew about that.”
“Pardon, Your Grace,” said the man to the right of Bran. “But are you implying that someone here has betrayed Zire?”
“Should I?” asked the Queen, with eyes of ice. “If it reigns true, I, backed by my King, will do more than imply it.”
Sai Thayne gently grabbed Kai Ventra’s hand, his thumb softly rubbing the back of her fingers. He had been quietly listening thus far, occasionally, meeting Kobi’s eyes and flashing a smile when Kobi quickly looked away. “I’m sure you weren’t finished,” he said, directly to Kaiyen. “What else have you to report?”
“My apologies, My Lord,” said Bran, quickly bowing his head. “I meant no disrespect. But, My Lord, we must have proof before-“
“I practically pulled this boy out of the mouth of a Krawth,” said Kaiyen, his voice never raised but his emerald eyes burned fiercely. “I saw Raili Saio being carried away. He was unconscious, but the Krawth showed no signs of wanting to eat him.”
“That tells us nothing,” said Bran flatly. “We cannot afford to make wild and irrational assumptions, Captain.”
“Your naivety is unbecoming, Advisor,” said Kaiyen. “Have you ever known a Cellian Krawth to just carry its prey after administering their paralyzing poison?”
“We don’t doubt what you saw,” said the advisor to the left of Bran. “However, how do we know the Krawths were not just attacking the twins at random? They have been known to do so on occasions in the past.”
That was too much. “Do they usually reach through puddles on the second floor of two story houses and drag their victims under too?” Kobi nearly spat the words. “The thing that took my brother intended to carry him off. The one that grabbed me, tried to kill me immediately. If what Kaiyen is saying isn’t true, why didn’t it just eat him right then and there instead of running away? It’s not like…like I could have stopped it.”
Kimi tried, once again, to catch Kobi’s eye but he refused to look at her. Right now, he wanted, no, he needed Raili. Facing all of this was too hard alone.
“The reasons are still unclear, My Lord,” said Kaiyen. “But today there was a kidnapping and an assassination attempt.”
“That’s preposterous,” said Bran. “We have had nothing but peaceful dealings with the Cellians for years now.”
“Nearly thirteen years to be exact,” said Kaiyen, looking directly at Bran. “Interesting timing, don’t you think? Peace develops almost instantly after the twins are declared dead and sent away, then breached in time for their return.”
“But the Princes were not to return for another two weeks,” said Rick. His voice was not the soft, soothing voice Kobi had grown to know and love; it was hard, almost intimidating. “Why take Raili now when he is of no use to them?”
“Because they need time to convince him,” said Kimi, her jaw set and her eyes strong with determination. “Or even force him if need be.”
“Do you really think they would go that far,” asked Kai Ventra. “Even they are cautious with such a forceful technique.”
“With all due respect, My Queen, look at what they have done already,” said Kaiyen indicating Kobi. “I don’t think that they are restraining themselves very hard.”
“Hold on!” said Kobi. All eyes turned to him. “I’m sorry but following this conversation is impossible. Kaiyen said everything would be explained when I got here, but you guys are talking like I should already know. Well I don’t and I want answers. Now!”
“Kobi!” said Kimi, then covered her mouth. In a less harsh voice she said, “That is not the way to speak to the Royal Court. Especially the-.”
“Oh Kimi, he is, indeed, his father’s son,” said Kai Ventra, squeezing Sai Thayne’s hand with both of hers; a smile touched his lips. “He has been through so much already. Let him speak freely.” Kimi fell silent.
“He stares royalty in the face and speaks without respect or regard,” spat Bran. “You could have at least taught him that much Black Master Rick.”
“If you weren’t informed,” said Rick, eyes on Bran. “There are only three persons of royalty in this room, including Kobi Saio himself. Perhaps, you should watch how you speak about his Young Highness.”
Bran’s eyes grew dark and the atmosphere thickened as the two men stared at each other.
“Now, now, gentlemen,” said Kai Ventra. “Kobi is quite correct. Although, we wanted to explain this to both you and Raili together, it seems unavoidable now.”
“The Sons of Blue and Silver are two but look as one,” said the old woman seated beside Kimi; eyes closed with both hands on the crystal in front of her. “Abilities without bonds, they raze the greatest nations and command the very future of Airion. This, that I have foreseen, will come to pass.”
“You mean me and Raili?” asked Kobi after a long silence. “Why us? How do you know it’s not another set of twins?”
“The Sons of Blue and Silver refer to twins of royalty,” said Sai Thayne. “There have been many attempts to disprove this truth, but the fact remains the same.”
“How are we supposed to do all that by ourselves?” asked Kobi. “Were just kids!”
“The journey has not been foretold,” said the old woman. “Only its destination.”
“So,” said Kobi, taking a calming breath. “Just to be clear. You are me and Raili’s parents,” he indicated Kai Ventra and Sai Thayne, who both nodded, smiling. “Not you.” he said looking at Kimi and Rick; both looked sad but said nothing. “We’re supposed to, somehow, command the future of a place we’ve never heard of and that’s why Raili was kidnapped and I was almost killed?”
“You two were sent to land in the care of Heal Warrior Kimi and Black Master Rick because your lives were threatened,” said Kaiyen. “A year before you were born, the news of the prophecy began spreading. How it became public knowledge is unknown, but no one took heed until it was discovered that the Queen was, indeed, going to give birth to twins as was foretold. Panic followed quickly.”
“The three greatest nations in Airion are The City of Zire, Cella: The Cavern City, and Doron: The Black City,” said Bran.
“Varia: The City of Knives, as well,” said Kaiyen.
“Of course,” said Bran, a smile stretching his lips. “How could I have forgotten?”
“Many nations tried to form alliances to ensure their city’s protection,” said Sai Thayne. “But the Cellians, with whom we have been at odds for centuries, refused to ally with us. Instead, soon after you two were born, they attacked, sending their largest forces against our walls.”
“Open war frightened the people of Zire and they too began to speak out against the presence of the twins who, they believed, threatened to destroy even their own nation,” said Kai Ventra. “Frightened for your lives even within our own walls, we devised a plan to send you both to land where you would be able to grow without threat, until you were of age to return and take your place in the kingdom, no longer easy targets.”
“If the Cellians just wanted us dead, why didn’t they just kill Raili instead of taking him?” asked Kobi.
“That is the question, isn’t it?” said Kaiyen slowly. “If they only wanted to use his power, wouldn’t they have taken them both?”
“Not necessarily,” said Rick, fist to his chin. “Having both would probably be too dangerous to risk. They may have been afraid of being destroyed from the inside if they worked together to free themselves. Even with one son of the prophecy, they could cause considerable damage, or so they may think.”
“But Raili would never do that though,” Kobi protested. “Dad…I…I mean, Black Master Rick. You know Raili; you know he wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“It may not be his choice,” said Kimi. “The Cellians can be very persuasive.”
Kobi’s heart sank. “What would they do to him?” he asked, not wanting to hear the answer.
“Whatever they had to,” said Kaiyen. “That is why we must focus on a plan of rescue, before Raili Saio acquires the powers they seek.”
“On our fourteenth birthday,” said Kobi.
“Yes,” said Kai Ventra. “Almost all Airians change on their fourteenth birthday. Along with the natural changes they undergo, such as growing gills, they also acquire unique individual skills, allowing them to thrive more than most others in that ability. These abilities can be anything from designing exceptional clothing to controlling the elements.”
“The stronger the ability, the harder it is to control,” said Kaiyen. “No doubt Cella is depending on this.”
“It won’t work,” said Rick.
“Agreed,” nodded Kaiyen. “But there is another matter that must be discussed, if I may.” Questioning eyes turned to Kaiyen. “Lady Sara,” Kaiyen continued after a swift nod from the King. He was addressing the old woman seated beside Kimi, “have you seen anything in your Kubec about a traitor in Zire.”
Whispers filled the room. “You go too far, Captain,” said Bran.
“What are you saying,” said the advisor to Bran’s left.
“Silence,” said Sai Thayne. The talking ceased instantly. The King’s questioning eyes fell on Kaiyen then turned to Lady Sara. “Wise One?”
“This man possesses a tainted heart,” said the old woman, her eyes gazing into the diamond block. “His treachery dives deep.”
“Do you know who this man is?” asked Kaiyen.
“I see not his face nor his rank,” said Lady Sara, her brow creased and her hands resting on the Kubec. “However, he knows all that we know and some we do not.”
“It is as I thought,” said Kaiyen, “Zire’s traitor has resurfaced.”
“How did you know?” asked Kai Ventra.
“Kobi Saio was wearing this when I found him,” said Kaiyen, pulling Kobi’s breathing bracelet from his belt pouch. It was wrapped in clear wrapping, which Kaiyen removed carefully. “I took it when I recognized its origin, fearing it was being used to track him.” Kaiyen slid the bracelet to Sai Thayne who examined it thoroughly.
“This explains how the Krawth located you,” he said to Kobi. “What happened? Leave nothing out.”
Kobi told them everything, from Raili getting sick, to when the puddle first appeared, to the discovery of the box, to Raili being kidnapped. He even showed them the note that was attached to the bracelet.
“The bracelet came in this,” said Kobi sliding the box to Sai Thayne.
The King studied the symbol until his eyes hardened with anger. “Yes,” he said. His voice didn’t sound angry, but his eyes gave him away. “This box could have only come from Zire. It seems Captain Kaiyen Vorex is correct. The one who made that vortex and gave you this box knows the secrets of Zire and has aided the Cellians in their foul attempts to destroy us. They will not be forgiven.”
Silence. As if everyone could sense the rage Sai Thayne now possessed and dared not cross him further.
“We must step lightly,” said Kai Ventra, “even within our own walls.”
“We must set a course of action immediately,” said Bran. “There is no time to waste.”
“Captain Kaiyen,” said Sai Thayne, eyes still fierce. “I think it’s time we started Kobi’s training.”
“So soon?” asked Kimi. “But he just got home and has been through so much all ready. Maybe a few days’ rest would serve him better.”
“Young Highness is not just going to stay here while we go to battle for Raili Saio,” said Rick locking eyes with Kimi. “Regretfully, rest isn’t something that any of us can afford. I will craft him a weapon that will bring him glory.”
“My gratitude, Black Master,” said Sai Thayne. “Kimi, go to the healing huts of Ronda and gather as many healers as you need to make ready for war.”
“I will go as well,” said the Queen. “If we go to war, I will be on the battle field.”
“Ventra,” said Sai Thayne in a low voice.
“Do not force me to disobey my King,” said Kai Ventra in a voice just as low.
The King and Queen locked eyes. “Very well,” he sighed at last. “Kobi Saio and Captain Kaiyen, I would, also, like to speak with you two.”
“As you say, My Lord,” said Kaiyen with a glance to Kobi and a tip of his head.
“And after, I would like you to introduce Kobi to Trayn and Winiki,” said the King.
“Who are they?” asked Kobi.
Kai Ventra smiled. “They are your brother and sister.”