Toi Kratistoi - A Prologue Part 1
This is a prologue for “Words Left Unspoken” and “The Dream of Spring". Although “Toi Kratistoi” is chronologically the earliest story in the narrative arc, both Words Left Unspoken and The Dream of Spring are independent storylines that do not directly continue the story from Toi Kratistoi. The third part of this prologue is also a rewrite of the post “To the Strongest” made back in 2018.
It was still late into the night when Virosht was awoken by a coded knock behind the door of his bed chambers. A eunuch with his characteristic white soft cap appeared behind the door, bearing a summons from the royal consort for her prime minister to appear before the court.
Virosht was quick to dress and follow the eunuch out of his private residence in the palace precinct by torchlight, past the royal bathhouses and barracks and through the deathly silent Garden of the Four Winds.
He was acutely aware of what had happened that night even if it was imperative that he feigned ignorance on the matter. It was he who had recommended the surgeon to operate on the Saka that night, knowing the surgeon’s wife had been taken into the private harems of the Saka less than a year ago.
His liege, Artabat, was deftly unpopular as of late. If the palace guards he had bought could be trusted to keep the surgeon alive, killing him would be enough to secure his status and position in the court through the brief succession to come.
But even with this knowledge and confidence in his place, he could not help but sense a mild disturbance in the air as he walked alone with the eunuch towards the White Palace.
They went up the central steps, passed the ten double doors that separated the throne room from the outside and entered. Two imposing reliefs of maned lions flanked either side of the room, facing the entrance and radiating towards the royal throne where the Artabad laid, the surgical knife that had killed him still embedded in his throat.
There were others in the room. Down the steps upon the blue and white mosaics of the court floor was the surgeon flanked on either side by the two guards that he had bought. They would have to die as well.
Yet there was another figure in the room, standing by the throne and shadowed by the unlit braziers that flanked the royal seat.
“I welcome you, Padidat”
His heart sank when he recognised the voice that came from that shadowed figure. He was in consort with the first-born son of Artabat, yet this was not the soon-to-be queen mother that he had elected to conspire for.
He fell on his knees, index and middle finger touching his heart, lips and the floor where his forehead would press against in supplication to the royal consort, the new queen mother, before him. Her son was not who he had chosen to help, and all at once, he felt everything that he had ever planned, everyone that he had bought and manoeuvred in this plot, turn against him by some unseen and uncalculated power that he had foolishly neglected.