They lay side by side, facing each other. They had made love for most of the night and now the watered-down light of an overcast dawn peaked around curtains.
Kahl looked pale, with dark smudges under his eyes, but his smile was lucent.
“How is the book coming?” Belihn asked around a lump in his throat. He kept thinking they would argue, or Kahl would decide he didn’t want him.
“It is just a matter of organizing the interviews into a book,” Kahl told him. “My publisher is helping me.”
“That is good,” Belihn replied, wondering how to broach the topic of what he had to speak to Kahl about. He sighed. “I need you to organize my visions into a book. It is to be called Ishones Thul.”
Kahl frowned. “Is that ancient Isili? What does it mean?”
“The Book of Dreams,” Belihn said and sighed. “I want it bound in treated leather and locked. It shall rest in the castle vault until that time when it is needed. I shall wear the key and my descendants shall have access to it.”
Kahl came up on an elbow. “But what is the point of writing a book and then hiding it?”
Belihn released a breath. “I don’t want to jeopardize my rule by making people think I’m mad. The book is a blueprint to our descendants so they can survive a great threat that will change everything. I will draw pictures and you write the words. Can you do that for me?”
Kahl sighed. “Of course.”
“Is your publisher trustworthy?”
“Yes,” Kahl replied.
“He willl be paid extra to keep his mouth shut,” Belihn muttered and sat up against the pile of pillows at his back.
“Is that what the Goddess told you?”
“Yes. The book must fall into obscurity, to be found by my descendants when the time is ripe.”
Kahl sat crosslegged, modestly placing a wide pillow over his groin. “What is this threat?”
Belihn bit his lower lip. Every time he spoke of this, he got anxious.
“Belihn? Do you not want to tell me?”
Belihn put his hand on Kahl’s hand. “Don’t be hurt. I find it hard to talk about these things. My visions are drenched in blood and pain, Kahl. The Goddess has given me the directive to breed sons and daughters, but I’m reluctant to have a child who will suffer.” He swallowed thickly. “You can read my journals, my love. They have spells–“
Kahl frowned. “Spells?”
“She will allow magic into the world for a window of time,” Belihn said. “This enemy cannot be killed by sword.” He removed the chain he wore around his neck and handed it to Kahl. “Go to my desk in the sitting room. Top left drawer. My journals are there. Bring them.”
He watched with appreciation as Kahl walked naked into the other room. He heard when Kahl opened the drawer and pulled out the five journals.
Kahl carried the leather-bound journals into the room then clambered onto the bed.
“Which one is the oldest?” he asked Belihn.
“The one covered in blue dye,” Belihn murmured around a yawn.
Kahl opened the journal and began to read Belihn’s messy handwriting, pausing ever so often when he came across a sketch.
He looked up from the journal. “They are a beautiful people.”
“But infinitely cruel and cold,” Belihn told him. “Some hu’ans will align themselves with them because of their beauty and strength and numbers. We are a weak species, after all.”
Kahl bent his head to read more of the journal. “Sha’jeen. They are called the Sha’jeen?”
“Yes,” Belihn replied, his mouth drying at the word. “They have three types of people under that name, divided by roles and gender. The rulers and priests are called Shi’ehl. They are breeders. The deuil are those who impregnate Shi’ehl. They are soldiers and guardians. The bouel are neuters. They do not have sexual organs. They are their servants. When they come, they will not be interested in dialogue or coexistence. They come for conquest.” Belihn shivered, thinking of the rest of why the Sha’jeen were coming. He could not speak that horror and Kahl did not need to know.
Kahl became immersed in the journal and Belihn rose to bathe and dress for Court. He felt infinitely old and weighed down just from thinking of the enemy that even now was making its way across the universe towards them. The Goddess had not revealed when they would arrive, in 100 or 1000 years. It didn’t matter. The denizens of this world were in danger, their extinction a sure thing. The Sha’jeen did not practice conservation. They wanted nothing from the world other than cognizant beings. They worshipped a god of death and destruction.
“Ya’ih,” Belihn murmured and shuddered under the cold spray of water in the shower stall. “Atana preserve us!”
He stared blankly at the pale blue tiles as visions swam behind his eyes. His children’s children would have to be strong and courageous, honorable and stubborn. He would write down the spells that would help them, that would unlock the Goddess’ strengths and release Her into the world. One day the Gods would return, and the battle would shake the very foundations of their planet.
He placed the palm of his hand on the tiled wall of the shower and closed his eyes. Behind his dark lids, the visions rushed across his mind. How many Gods and people had the Sha’jeen and their bloodthirsty deity wiped from the universe? Old Urth? Their forefathers?
Belihn bit into his knuckles to stifle a sob.
Be brave, son of the tash-tash, a voice whispered in his mind. All is set in motion and your seed will prevail.
“I don’t see how we can,” he whispered.
A shiver of laughter whispered across his mind.
Not your battle, not your time. Be brave and write everything down, Oracle. I have purified your seed in holy fire. Write everything down and teach them about the Book and the Key.
“I will,” he promised.
Then your fear is superfluous. Trust in me, son of the tash-tash. Trust in me.
He nodded into the silence and made ready to start his day.
End of Book One