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"Your father wishes to speak with you, Princess."
Morgiana looked up from her tapestry to see her father's personal physician standing beside her.
"Is he worse?" she questioned, not at all certain she wanted to hear the answer.
"I'm afraid the words His Highness wants to speak will be his last. You must hurry. Time is of the essence."
Morgiana stuck the needle into the work in front of her and pushed back her chair. Fear clutched at her heart as she got to her feet. In her sixteen turnings of the seasons, her father had always been there for her.
In seven journeys of the sun, the Man Gods were due to return. With them, they would bring a prince from a far-off kingdom to be her life mate. He would rule the people with her and perpetuate her lineage. Her father could not be dying. He must stand beside her as the Man Gods sacrificed her virginity, and her life mate consummated the marriage. He needed to instruct the young prince in the best ways to rule the people.
Red and white sunbeams played games across the floor of highly polished diamond. Under normal circumstances, Morgiana would have enjoyed the prisms of light, which brought the room to life. Unfortunately, nothing had been normal since her father took to his sick bed.
Her soft slippers made no noise as she hurried across the solarium to the great staircase leading to the upper story of the palace.
Outside the door to the royal apartment, Quagar, her father's life-long friend and valet, stood guard. The sadness in his eyes confirmed the words of the physician.
"Your father awaits you, Your Highness."
"Since when are you so formal with me, Quagar?"
"Since theday of your rule has dawned. Before the tri-moons rise, you will be queen and I, your loyal subject. I pray you will grant my petition and allow me to join your father on his funeral pyre."
A lump formed in Morgiana's throat and tears stung her eyes. She could no more abide the loss of Quagar, than she could that of her father. How many times had he calmed her fears when dreadful dreams dominated her sleep time? The thought of granting his petition tore at her heartstrings, but to do less would be a dishonor to her father's loyal servant.
"I pray I will not have to deal with such a request for many turnings of the seasons to come."
Quagar nodded sagely and pressed the button to open the door to her father's apartment complex. Memories of the carefree days of childhood flooded her mind as she walked across the informal sitting room to her father's sleeping chamber. As though by magic, the door slid open to allow her entrance.
"Morgiana, my child, come closer so I may gaze upon your lovely face."
She gasped at how weak her father's voice sounded. Only one journey of the sun ago, it had been as authoritative as always. How could this have happened in so short a time?
"I can see by the look on your face, that what you see is shocking to you. Please do not mourn. My time is over."
"It cannot be, Father. I will call your physician. He will surely be able to bring you back to health."
"No, my child, there is nothing anyone can do. The prophesy must be fulfilled."
"What prophesy?" Her father's statement puzzled her. In all the years of her life, she had never heard of any such thing.
"Since the day of your birth, I have denied the truth in the signs. As a boy, my father told me of the prophesy. It said when the last ruler, born of the people, comes from the womb of the queen, a second sun will appear. When the last surviving parent of the child dies, so will this world."
Panic gripped Morgiana's mind. Was he saying the end of the age was at hand?
"The white sun has shone since the beginning of time. On the day you were born, the red sun appeared in the heavens. Over the turnings of the seasons, the Man Gods and I have discussed the meaning of this heavenly event."
"The world cannot be ending, Father. What will become of the people? How can the Man Gods allow them to be destroyed?"
"Let me finish. You are the last ruler of the people to be born into this world. With my death, you will become queen. The people will look to you for leadership. By the time the ashes of my funeral pyre have been scattered by the wind, the Man Gods will arrive."
A spasm of coughing cut short her father's words, giving Morgiana a moment to digest what he just told her. With the end of the age upon them, she would never experience the thrill of marriage and children.
"Do not look so sad, my child. You will be embarking on a marvelous adventure. The Man Gods will choose from our people those most fit. They, along with you and several others, will be taken to a new world. There, you will colonize the area and fulfill the prophesy."
"Of what others do you speak?"