Xander vol.1 Transmutation, Page 2Jaz Johnson
“With the option of Saphora gone, time has become of the essence.”
“Time?” Xander scoffed. “I’ve just barely become of marrying age. Have you forgotten our lifespan, father? Or rather, has mother?”
“It is natural for a mother to wish companionship for her children.”
“I suppose,” mumbled Xander. “But enough of my future. What of Saphora’s?”
“She is still to take the thrown.”
“With no king by her side?” Xander said with brows raised in what almost looked like shock. Edmon gave a subtle shrug of his shoulders.
“I cannot say. Though Vida did not object to breaking the agreement, she did not say anything of her plans for Saphora’s courtship,” Edmon sighed. “Though, given her history, I would think Vida would be inclined to letting Saphora decide for herself.”
“How just of her.”
“Mm, that is not to say that she will approve of whatever choice Saphora makes.”
“And she’d still allow her to make that decision?”
“Do you think the king and queen before her approved of her decision?” Edmon reminded, referring to Dolphus. Xander fell silent in realization, giving only a slight noise of response. “I could only expect her to have some empathy when it comes to something like that.”
Xander gave a slight nod.
“I suppose,” Xander nodded. “And what of the war? Is she still expected to fight in it?”
“Fight in it,” Edmon scoffed with distaste. “They’re still expecting her to carry it. Though they’d never have the gall to admit it.”
“Carry it?” Xander repeated in disbelief. “You can’t be serious. She’s gone her entire life without training. And they’re expecting her to carry the war?”
“I don’t know,” Edmon groaned, waving his hand dismissively. “They consider her an asset. But I know their citizens are still dependent on her unseen abilities.”
“And their military?” Xander went on.
“If they are, they are foolish.”
“I would think they should know better. Will she receive any training at all? Is there even time?”
“I’m told Vida has already had her begin training.”
“Hm,” Xander nodded. “She’s in good hands, then.”
“It wouldn’t matter if the Supremes were training her themselves. We’re too close to the brink of war for it to make a difference.”
Xander scoffed, crossing his arms as he looked back at his father.
“When did you become such a pessimist, Father?” he chuckled. Edmon raised a brow at his son, wondering how he himself was not. “So, when are we visiting?”
Walking through the elongated hallway to the throne room of the Kiran castle, Xander couldn’t help but let his eyes wander around the walls and décor of the structure. Though he’d been back to the castle sparingly, he hadn’t been to the throne room, or in its hallway since the first outbreak of war. And it was clear that this wing, possibly the entire thing had fallen under attack during the siege.
The stone was brighter – newer than that in other places, and it seemed to even be reinforced. It was thicker than most, and had far more security. Which, for the most part, was a standard feat for the throne room, of course. But even to Xander, it seemed a bit excessive.
The guards and sparse citizens bowed their heads respectively to the passing royalty. Aredelle and Edmon, his mother and father walking in front of him. They all gave nods of acknowledgement in return as they were lead to the throne room’s large wooden doors.
Xander let himself admit to being excited to see his childhood friend. And was even more earnest in knowing that he was almost impatient to hear of her time on Earth, which he found himself more and more obsessed with with each passing moment. It almost pained him to stay at the steady pace set by his parents when Saphora was so close. When Earth’s secrets were just behind those doors.
And just as he thought to himself that he would just run past them to the room himself, they arrived. The large doors swung open with an ancient grace, revealing both Vida and Saphora, who had been talking inside. They both turned to see their entrance, and start the ritual of greetings.
“Almost on cue, Aredelle,” Vida giggled, walking to the doors with her arms open.
Saphora turned around to see a woman a bit shorter than Vida coming into the room, followed by two men, one of which she somewhat recognized. The one by the name of Aredelle laughed as they embraced.
“Well, you know I have a knack for timing,” Aredelle complied, raising her own arms for their embrace. The intricate and elegant fabrics of their gowns mingled with one another as they wrapped their arms around each other.
“Indeed you do,” Vida laughed with her. “How are you?”
“Well enough with this handful of mine,” Aredelle giggled, gesturing to her son, the shorter of the two men, and the one Saphora had recognized.
Xander felt himself smiling as he looked at Saphora, taking her all in at once. It was almost in disbelief, seeing her standing just a few feet away from him, and looking so very different than he had remembered. She’d grown taller than he expected, landing just shy of five feet and nine inches. Her hair had gotten longer, and was much more successful at framing her face, which had noticeably become more womanly, as well as her figure.
Having always been a bit childish himself, seeing her as an all-together woman after being separated from the child he knew, it was almost jarring. But for some reason, he still found himself smiling.
She squinted at him while he stared at her. Finally, he gave a grin as he approached her, his hands in the pockets of his trousers. Saphora adjusted her posture as he approached, preparing to engage.
He stopped about a foot in front of her, his heels clicking together as he adjusted his head to look down at her, nearly a six inches taller. There was a slight hesitation between them. Though it was more amusement for Xander.
“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me, Saph,” Xander scoffed as he folded his arms.
Saphora squinted at the nickname, it burning through in the back of her handicapped memory. It was like two magnets clicked together as her eyes widened, and half a smile tugged on her lips. Xander nodded arrogantly, a grin smearing his features.
“That’s right,” he said, stretching his words. “Let it all flow back.”
She looked at him with a new set of eyes. Ones that were warmer and more welcoming.
“You grew,” Saphora commented, her eyes darting from his feet to his forehead.
He snorted, unfolding one of his hands to press his index finger into her forehead, trying to offset her balance, and almost succeeding.
“So have you, short stuff.”
Saphora stepped back to regain her balance, running her hand against her hairline self-consciously.
“The plethora of nicknames are coming back to me now.”
Xander chuckled, nodding as he looked around the throne room once more. It seemed smaller than he remembered. But at the same time, held more importance. Coming so close to taking the throne himself, he wasn’t surprised.
“That was one hell of a vacation you took, Saph,” he sighed jokingly, his eyes coming back to hers, which rolled at the humor.
“My ride home was a little late.”
He smiled, the white of his teeth contrasting with the rich mocha of his skin tone. He gave an amused nod as his arms crossed once again, the chatter of their mothers talking behind him.
“Just a little,” he toyed. “So, how was it? That planet.”
Saphora gave a shrug as her brow arched, then furrowed.
“Why is everyone so interested in Earth?” she asked, having been asked the same question, as well as related ones since she had arrived on Athena.
On one hand, she couldn’t blame them, as she had many questions about Athena. But at the s
ame time, knowing of Earth, and its far lesser wonders, she couldn’t help but wonder what it was about it that drew everyone’s interest.
“Uh, only because it’s where the long lost princess ended up and thrived,” he scoffed. “How could anyone not be interested in Earth?”
Saphora paused, not having thought of it that way. She laughed at herself, and her obliviousness to her own importance. Nonetheless, she shook her head.
“Very easily if they tried.”
“A bigger question would be why you don’t want to talk about Earth.”
Saphora grimaced, but then played it off by nudging his folded arm.
“I mean, those weren’t exactly my golden years.”
“You don’t think so? I would give just about anything to explore another world.”
Saphora’s grimace became a little more noticeable upon hearing how easily Xander was willing to cast away his family just to get to a planet he knew nothing about. She scoffed, shaking her head again.
“Be my guest.”
“Saphora,” came the melodic call of Aredelle, Xander’s mother and queen of the Oisian kingdom.
They both turned in her direction as she came towards her, her husband, Edmon, following closely behind.
“You’ve gotten so big!” she exclaimed, her arms fanning out as she came closer.
Xander stepped to the side as her arms came wrapping around Saphora’s back. Saphora returned the gesture of endearment, looking over at Edmon, who gave a small bow of acknowledgement.
“She’s still a squirt,” Xander mumbled to himself with a bit of a huff.
Aredelle pulled away from the embrace to look Saphora in the eyes, smiling with joy.
“We’re so glad to have you back, darling.”
“Would you like a beverage, Edmon? Aredelle? Xander?” Vida offered, playing the role of the host.
Edmon shook his head, as did Xander. But Aredelle’s hands left Saphora’s shoulders to turn around and accept.
“That’d be wonderful. A drink while we catch up,” she suggested, walking back towards Vida, who called in someone to fetch their drinks.
The two queens gathered over by Vida’s private library, shortly calling the king over to leave the heirs to their own catching up. Xander nudged Saphora’s arm to bring her attention back after looking after the royalty.
“So? Are you going to tell me about Earth, or not?” he pressed. She gave an annoyed smile, turning to him.
“What’s there to tell? It’s got its good and bad, just like Athena does.”
“Do they have kingdoms? Kings? Queens?”
“Sort of. They’re called presidents.”
“They rule over a certain amount of land, and their families are pretty much considered royalty.”
“Were you a president?”
“No, they haven’t had any female presidents.”
“What?” Xander scoffed. “How do they expect to gain more?” Xander made a noise of appall. “Don’t tell me the males reproduce.”
Saphora laughed again.
“No. One man is president for four years, sometimes eight. The people of that country vote for a new man each time.”
“A new man? With a new family?” Saphora nodded. “What madness is that? And what happens to them when their term is done?” Saphora paused.
“You know, I’m not entirely sure. They go in the book of presidents, I guess.”
“Madness. There must be chaos everywhere.”
“Pretty much. But it’s an understood chaos.”
“No chaos is understood. I can only imagine what the humans are like.”
“Why don’t you find out for yourself?”
“Right,” Xander scoffed. “Like mother would let me off this planet.”
“No, I meant … I brought two of them back with me. A boy and a girl. You could talk to them.”
“Oh? Are you planning on breeding them?”
Saphora’s mouth fell agape as she grimaced and slapped Xander’s arm.
“No! They’re my friends!”
“Oh … Are they young? Old?”
“The boy, Maverick, he’s around our age. And the girl, Lyla, she’s only nine.”
“Both fairly young, then.”
Saphora nodded. Xander gave an audible sigh as he slapped his hands together, sanding them against one another in excitement.
“Right. Bring them in!” he shouted to one of the guards at the entrance of the throne room.
Perplexed, the guard looked over, at a loss of the exact direction. Saphora rolled her eyes, unable to help her snickering as she gestured to the guard.
His expression changing to that of understanding, the guard nodded, bowing before running off down the hall. Xander looked down at Saphora in slight shock.
“Did you just beg a guard?”
“You said please. To that guard.”
“And, you’re royalty. You’re to be queen. You do not beg your servants.”
“I wasn’t begging. I just asked him to get Maverick.”
“You never need to ask. What have they done to you on that planet?”
“Given her the manners that you lack,” Aredelle called out with laughter, joined by the king and queen. Xander scoffed.
“The day will never come that I ask anything of my subjects.”
“And that is why you’ve yet to take the throne,” Edmon commented. Xander grumbled, his folded arms tightening.
“Then what’s the point of the throne? If you cannot command?”
Edmon shook his head disappointedly as Aredelle frowned, her goblet rising to her lips.
“It’s that which you need to understand. Tell him, Vida,” Edmon suggested, gesturing his hand to her. “Tell him how an attitude like that cost Ares the throne.”
Saphora’s eyes widened at the mention of Ares, while Vida’s narrowed. Saphora stepped towards the king and queens, hoping that Vida would comply and tell them just what he meant. Instead, she played it off, raising her own goblet.
“The children don’t need to hear such a story, Edmon.”
“Children?” Xander questioned, feeling his manhood under sudden attack.
“Yes, Vida. They’ve grown quite a bit. Aren’t they old enough to hear?” Aredelle insisted.
Vida’s eyes lingered on Aredelle’s, their grey orbs giving silent refusal. Aredelle’s face twisted in confusion as to why her friend was ruining their good fun, and then it dawned on her.
“Vida, don’t tell me,” she began, as if scolding a child. Vida stood before Aredelle could finish, slowly stepping away from the library’s small table. “You haven’t told her?” Vida was silent. “What are you waiting for?”
“It’s not a matter of time, Aredelle, I assure you,” Vida argued as Saphora stepped forward, just as Dakota walked in.
“Please, Mom?” Saphora pleaded. Vida scowled in disapproval as their eyes met, before bouncing over to Dakota.
“We’ve spoken about this, Saphora. Besides. It’s time for your training. Dakota’s here and waiting for you.”
Both Saphora and Xander’s attention shifted to the awkwardly waiting Dakota, who swallowed nervously. Xander turned back to face Vida, who was slowly making her way back to the small table.
“Now wait a minute,” Xander protested. “We just got here and you’re going to send her off –“
Vida spun on her heel, her eyes piercing into Xander’s and cutting him off. She rose a brow.
“What good is the throne if you can’t command?” she repeated.
Xander held his tongue as his words were thrown back at him. And though he did not agree with how she was handling the situation, he knew better than to speak against a queen, regardless of the relationship between their families.
“Exhibit your Earthly manners, Saph
ora. Don’t keep him waiting,” she insisted.
All were quiet as Saphora looked from Vida to Dakota, who was silently regretting coming to check the status of their outing. And as Saphora struggled with the decision to go or not, the guard returned with Maverick, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Xander watched as Saphora looked towards who he assumed was Maverick, hesitating before walking over to him and having a brief discussion. Before Maverick could even fully respond, Saphora had started rushing off down the hallway, with Dakota hurriedly heading after her.
He frowned, glancing to Vida with disapproval as she continued sipping from her goblet. Aredelle closed her distance with Vida to proceed in scolding her. Xander made his way over to Maverick, who was still looking down the hall at Saphora until she left his sight. His shoulders slumped, before springing back up when Xander’s hand came clamping down on his shoulder.
Maverick slowly turned, his brown eyes meeting Xander’s purple ones and showing their apparent fear. Xander gave a cheesing smile in return, gently squeezing Maverick’s shoulder.
“I never thought I’d see this day,” Sven chuckled to himself as he took a seat beside a wooden table that had been set up in the training arena with refreshments.
Reaching over the table, he plucked a flower from the bouquet that had been arranged as the center piece. He held it up to his right shoulder, where a hummingbird had perched. His in fact Guardian, Anavae. Seemingly painted with brilliant hues of red, yellow, green, and blue, the humming bird chirped, dipping down into the flower and taking the nectar from within.
Standing across from him was Seraphina, who had stayed in the arena to speak with Sven about Saphora’s return. They were both interested and surprised at the information, and seeing as though they could not accompany Xander to speak with Edmon, they decided to talk amongst themselves.
Sven nodded as he lowered his hand back to his lap. His Guardian squeaked in protest, its wings blurring as it followed the flower and perched on Xander’s index finger.
“Kiran may not be lost after all.”
“Don’t be foolish,” Sera scoffed. “I highly doubt Ares has enough forces to take down two thriving kingdoms. Or have you forgotten that Oisian will be a part of this war, too?”
“I haven’t forgotten,” Sven insisted. “But I wouldn’t underestimate a daughter of Kiran.”
“Would you sooner underestimate us?”
“I just might.”