Chapter 4
The Burden to Bear

AZ 1453 - Late Spring
Castle Zephyr, Hesperia, Zephyr

While Solon's preferred refuge was the library, his wife favored the gardens and her affection was passed on to their daughter Daphne. The two of them would often spend countless hours personally tending to the plants, especially the rare, exotic gifts brought back from missions abroad that required particular care and attention.
This day Solon was with them, on a casual stroll after the noontide meal. In a month's time, the invasion fleet would be setting out and the King wanted to treasure moments like these while they lasted, for there would be little else to comfort him on the long journey to the Darklands and even less once they arrived. But this was not his only purpose in bringing his family together.
As he was walking, a small six-petaled flower caught Solon's eye. He stooped down to observe it more closely, then asked his daughter, "This flower, by what name is it called?"
"It is called anemone, Father," Daphne replied, "the wind flower in common speech, said to be beloved by Lord Zephyr himself."
"Then it is a good omen," Solon said, "for we will need Lord Zephyr's wind at our backs when we make the journey eastward."
Daphne was about to say something, but was silenced by a look from her mother. Daphne and Xanthe held each other's gazes silently for a moment.
"Now, now, you two," Solon chided, "do not speak in secret right in front of my face."
The King knew Xanthe and Daphne shared the power to communicate without words, to speak secretly to the heart. He did not know how often they used that power, but he preferred that they refrained from doing so around him.
"Forgive us, my love," Xanthe said. "Your daughter shares your love of learning and at times she would say more than she ought. You have pressing matters you wish to speak on and I did not want her to waylay you."
Chastened, Daphne hung her head slightly. Whatever it was she was going to say, surely it could not have been so bad.
Solon extended his hand to her and said, "Come, my daughter, give me your hand. Help an old man to his feet."
Daphne stepped forward and held him by the hand and elbow to help him as he straightened himself back up. His joints groaned from the strain. It was becoming more of a problem lately, but he did not need others to know of it lest it fuel the fires of those opposed to him personally leading the invasion force.
He could see the concern in his daughter's eyes. She did not have her mother's talent for hiding her true feelings behind a facade of otherworldly serenity.
"You need not worry, my daughter," he said. "I have been busy with the affairs of state and the joints stiffen after so many hours of sitting through dreary audiences."
"Yes, Father," she replied dutifully, but her eyes betrayed her. She clearly saw through his feeble lie.
There was nothing to be gained by delaying it any longer. Through her power to peer into the hearts of men, Daphne was no doubt aware of what Solon was going to say, but he needed to speak his purpose all the same.
"These flowers coming into bloom is a fitting sign," he said. "Just as they have come into the fullness of their beauty and glory, so too have you, my daughter. Soon your mother and I go to lead our peoples against the threat lurking in the Darklands. It is a burden I never intended to place on your shoulders, but you must rule Zephyr as regent in our absence."
Daphne's expression did not change. She already knew what he was going to tell her after all, just as he suspected. It felt cruel of him to entrust this duty to her, so he tried to soften the blow as much as he could.
"Most of the matters of state will be handled by the First Eparch, the Grand Logothete and all the other leaders of the court. You will also have the support of all my advisors. They will know what to do.
"Your duties will be largely ceremonial. You are to be a symbol to the people. In these troubled times, they must be able to rest their confidence in the constancy of the royal family. For over a thousand years we have watched over them and they must believe we will watch over them for a thousand more.
"You must not forget, though, that you wield all the power of the throne. Do not be afraid to use that power for the good of the kingdom."
He paused briefly. These next words were difficult for him to say, but they had to be said.
"I have no fear of losing you to folly and vainglory as I did your brother. You will do well."
The mention of Carpos cut Daphne at least as deeply as it did Solon. Faced with the great commission he had given her, the Princess nodded weakly. Truly it was an overwhelming burden Solon placed on her, but if she was to accept that burden, such a meek answer would not do.
"Look at me, my daughter," he said firmly. "I must hear you speak."
Daphne lifted up her head and met his eyes. Mingled with fear and doubt was no uncertain resolve, a resolve that became ever clearer as she answered the King.
"I will not fail you, Father," she said in a voice that wavered only slightly at first but then built in confidence. "I will do honor to your name and the name of the House of Creon until you return in victory to reclaim you place on the throne."
Solon smiled. This was what he wanted to see. Truly the blood of kings was made manifest in her words. He would have little to fear for Zephyr's sake in his absence should that resolve hold fast.
"Well spoken, child," the King said proudly. "You will be an inspiration to the people. I do well to leave my kingdom in your hands."