The night sky was clear and cloudless. Lan Aldorian stood on the open balcony outside of his bedroom and took in a long deep breath, letting the cold air fill his lungs. As he exhaled, he looked up into the heavens. Above his head, the stars twinkled in the great vault of the heavens and the twin moons glowed brightly in their fullness.
It had been quite some time since he’d stood out on the small balcony and looked into the great valley below. As a child he often quietly played there, and it was here his father had first picked the little boy up in his arms and pointed at the distant horizon.
“That’s the place I was telling you about, Lan,” his father said with a hushed, almost reverent tone.
Lowering his eyes from the heavens, he looked out across the valley. Because his ancestral home had been the first one built by the clans, Ronan Aldorian, his distant ancestor, had set it on the highest crag of the mountain. The view it afforded of the village and the small mountain valley that hid it was spectacular. Even more spectacular was the view to the south. Because of its location, it was the only dwelling that looked south toward the great plain. Tonight, the light of the full moons cast a glow across the plain. There, many miles distance, and hidden from sight lay the legendary City of the Angels.
Hypnotized by the sight, Lan stood and stared, his mind crowded with thoughts and possibilities. He had been faithful, as had been his father and his grandfather, along with all of Clan Aldorian. But not just his clan – all of the clans of the Kalorian League had stood firm and steadfast. From the time of The Stand and The Night of Flight, even during the Time of Sorrows and the Journey of Travail, they’d all stood together, united. So many lives lived with the pain and questions, and the undeniable joy of a Purpose, elusive though it had been. And now, at last…
Taking in another deep breath, he suddenly felt tears come to his eyes. As they began to run down his face, he was jolted back to reality by a suddenly tug on the sleeve of his robe.
“Lan, come back to bed, you’ll get sick if you stand out here dressed as you are.”
Surprised by the unexpected touch, he abruptly turned around to find himself looking into the eyes of his wife, Helenas.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said.
“Well that’s no reason to freeze to death,” she said, practical as always.
He turned once more and looked out over the moonlit plain, then reluctantly turned and came back into the bedroom.
“Come back to bed,” Helenas said in a soothing voice. “You haven’t slept well for days; whatever’s so important can wait until morning, dear.”
Lan climbed back into bed, pulled the soft down comforter up to his chin, and lay back on his pillow. After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling he could hear Helenas’ soft steady breathing – she’d effortlessly fallen back to sleep. Lan envied her. After a few more minutes passed and he realized sleep would not come to him, Lan carefully slid out from under the covers. Putting his bare feet on the floor, he silently padded out of the bedroom. Entering the upstairs hall, he walked to its end and climbed the narrow stairs to the next level. Coming to the door of his son’s bedchamber, he gently pushed it open.
The moonlight streamed in through the window near the boy’s bed, casting as much light into the room as the glow of five or more candles. Laying in his bed, his son Seth was in the embrace of sleep – a deep and restful one, as far as Lan could tell. He crossed the room, and standing over the figure of the sleeping boy, Lan looked down and studied his only son’s countenance as he slept. The handsome young man had a serene and peaceful look on his face and Lan almost hated to do what he knew he must. Reaching down, he put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“Seth,” he called, giving his son a gentle shake. “Seth, wake up.”
His still-sleeping son took in a breath, released it in a deep, low sigh and rolled over. Frustrated in his attempts to rouse the boy, Lan tapped harder on Seth’s back.
“Seth! Seth, wake up.”
After a few more seconds, a still-sleepy Seth cracked one of his eyes open and stared up at his father.
“I’m sleeping,” he said, as if his father hadn’t noticed the obvious.
“I know, Seth,” Lan said, “but you must get up; we need to talk, now.”
“But we can talk tomorrow, can’t we father?” the boy almost pleaded as his father continued to shake him.
“No, I think we must talk now, Seth. Please get up and meet me in my library.”
Seth awakened enough to sit up in his bed. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he looked about the room and then up at his father, who continued to speak.
“Go to my library and start a fire. I’ll brew some Darroot tea for us. When it’s ready, I’ll meet you in the library and we’ll talk.”
Trying to clear the cobwebs of sleep from his mind, Seth nodded his head in agreement. Lan walked to the door then turned back to make sure Seth was continuing to awaken.
“Remember, start a fire,” he said, and turned to leave.
“I will, father,” Seth answered as he swung his legs across the bed and prepared to place his bare feet on the cold, hard floor.
After leaving Seth’s room, Lan sojourned to the kitchen where he prepared a large pot of tea. Once the Darroot began steeping, he picked up two cups and the teapot and made his way to the library. Seth had started a fire, and although its light was still faint, the room was bright enough with the light of the two moons that he could easily see the expression of puzzlement on his son’s face.
Adding a bit more wood to the fire, Seth turned to look at his father as he entered the room. Lan put the hot pot of tea on his desk, and then set the two cups next to it. He watched Seth for a few minutes as he tended the fire. When he saw that it was growing brighter and he felt a gust of warm air chasing the cold from the room, he carefully poured the tea into the two cups. Asking Seth to take a seat, Lan offered the boy a warm cup of tea.
Seth accepted the cup from the hand of his father and nestled into the soft chair that sat in front of Lan’s desk. Although he was still sleepy and the chair was comfortable enough that he could have sat back and dozed off, Seth was now both curious and excited at being awakened by his father in the dead of night. Lan took the second cup and placing it to his lips, took a sip, and then set it back on the desk. He looked over at Seth, then paused for a few seconds. Finally he reached his hand down and pulled at the handle on one of the drawers in his desk. Watching his father reach into the drawer, Seth could see he was trying to pull something out of the recesses of the large, deep drawer and all thoughts of sleep fled from him; his eyes widened at the sight of the glowing object his father now held in his hand.
Lan carefully and gently placed it on his desk, taking note that his son couldn’t take his eyes from it.
“Now,” Lan began, “there are things we must discuss.”