The guards staggered through the rodent horde, covering their eyes as smoke began to sting their eyes.
Tonunda sought out the groom. He saw no sign of him, only the open door at the rear. Rolling his eyes upward, he saw the flames take hold of the mezzanine level. Soon, he feared that the fire might reach the rafters.
Dekra’s eyes watered as she remained on her knees. Like the other girls, she didn’t seem to register the urgency of the burning temple.
Tonunda pulled them to their feet and began, shoving them forward for the entrance doors. Smoke had descended by the time they got there, starting to envelope them. The doors abruptly opened and Blue River Guardsmen entered, leading the girls into the street. Cool air kissed Tonunda’s cheeks as he waded through the last of the smoke.
In the few moments on the cobbled street, as his eyes cleared, he saw the boy rush toward Dekra. The Guardsmen had already captured the temple guards and watched them as they waited on their knees to be taken away.
Two of the city watch rounded the corner, escorting the cult leader.
“My king, are you alright?” asked Kija.
Tonunda tore his eyes away from the NCO as the queen’s litter arrived. Eyeing Kija, he pointed angrily at Andessa.
“I insisted on coming,” said Andessa, alighting from her litter.
She looked at the smoke and flames within the temple.
“Why did you come here?”
Tonunda yapped for the boy’s attention, and gestured for him to join them. He smiled, hugging him, gesturing the wearing of a crown and then pointing in the direction of the palace.
The boy looked inquisitively at Andessa.
“I think the king asks if you will be his son?”
Tonunda nodded confirmation.
“You will never go hungry or be homeless again,” said Andessa. “And I will be your mother.”
Tears welled in the boy’s eyes, “Aye… aye.”
He hugged Tonunda tightly as if absorbing him into his being. On breaking away, he looked at Andessa.
“What of Dekra?” he said.
Tonunda made gestures of crowning.
“Dekra will work on the royal staff. She will be paid a good wage, and given quarters within the palace walls.”
Tonunda’s look of bemusement became a mirror opposite of the boy’s smile. Andessa pulled his head around to face her.
“Look at them,” she said.
Dekra and the boy held each other affectionately.
“See how close they are? Brother and sister can never be married.”
She laughed, then kissed him.
“Let us go home.”
… And thus Tonunda adopted an heir. I take wisdom from this occurrance. Of course, I write of a far greater king; One who is mentioned in Ephesians 1:5. It is He who rescued me from my sins, and did far more. He adopted me as a son, loved me, and has made me part of His household forevermore; an offer God makes to all.
In later years, the boy became the second king of Nusalle. No son ever grieved more for the loss of his father. Tonunda’s passing crushed the new king’s heart, almost completely, leading to the decay of Nusalle, but that is a story for another day.
Togullen, king’s chronicler of Nusalle, during the reign of Olleton the Wise.