Time was so hard to control without a reliable cycle of day and night. Sixteen hours had passed since Dalia’s breakfast and no other meal had followed. Time had once crawled for her, unwilling to skip a beat on her behalf, but these days it flowed like quicksilver, slippery and impossible to grasp. She was exhausted, famished, and as she bid her security detail good night and lurched into her dark hallway her stomach’s desire to be filled battled with her eyes will to be closed. Never had she worked so hard or long in her life, never had she had cause to.
As she worked her tender feet out of the tight designer heels she had chosen and regretted for the day, Dalia glared dimly through the large windows at the blue hydrogen sheen of Saturn’s backside. She found little interest in the view this evening. Why does all the officiousness of life drain our ability to wonder? Asked a stray thought from her frazzled mind. There was no thread of consciousness willing to respond to such philosophical prompting, and Dalia merely collapsed into her favorite white high-back chair. Her decanter of brandy was near at hand, always kept filled by her maid service but tonight her stomach wouldn’t have it. She might just fall asleep right there in that chair. A bowl of cashew nuts was also within arms reach and her stomach bid her to take a handful. Cashews were such a luxury, worth a fortune for a humble kilogram, but this treat would be her meal and she found herself consuming them in rapid order.
A tear of stress slipped down her cheek as her stomach gratefully relaxed over the gift of sustenance. A bit of her just wanted to break down and sob right there. What had she gotten herself into? She had so much wanted to be free of this place, but now she had signed her own warrant to be never free again. But this was her choice, this was her promise. She fought away the impulse to give in to her panic and instead breathed slowly, working to clear her mind. Mindfulness was an early part of her education but also a tool she’d never much minded to use, until now, until it was so bloody apparent that she needed it.
It worked a bit, the chatter was at a minimum, and her worries put off as battles for the next day. When she opened her eyes, Dalia noticed a thing on the short table in front of her. A wooden box inset with filaments of silver and gold, and the Ledas family crest inlaid in pewter and enamel. This had not been there that morning, and must have been left by the maid service, possibly delivered hours before. She imagined the security guard overseeing the maids would have checked it for explosives, but she opened the lid gingerly anyways.
The inside was lined in cadet blue silk, the Ledas family had a short inventory of color schemes but all the same it was lovely. It was also making noise. Dalia had never seen a music box before and was entranced by the four-tone melody arising from the concealed compartment under a pillow of blue silk. It brought up a memory of her childhood, a tune her mother used to sing with her. Her mind exploded in memories long subsumed by adult baggage, a pure memory of her mother’s face as she looked down at a toddling Dalia sitting in her lap and pinched each of her fingers as the words were sung. Tears broke trails down her cheeks. Who could have built such a lovely gift? In the main compartment was a piece of paper thrice folded. It was thick and yellow and held shut by a blue wax seal. Dalia was hesitant to even break the seal, it was so unusually personal. The seal cam loose intact though and she read the brief handwritten note there.
To my most precious daughter, Dalia –
If this box has found its way to you, then I have not survived the events of the last few days. I don’t know what events played out to bring my end, but if the truths inside this box were not made evident by my own doing, then I must first apologize for being such an awful father and putting my needs before your own. Understand that there is nothing more important to me than your safety and happiness, and if I have failed to deliver on either of those things then I have failed at the purpose of my life. The music you are hearing is a song I always heard your mother singing with you as she played with you, you always asked her to sing it to you. It’s called Virė virė košę and it’s the only thing I have to give to you from your mother. When the song is done, a door will open. Inside you’ll find my confession. It has everything you might now already know, but it is also the true story of our family, about my grandfather and my father, the truth behind the legends. I hope it helps you in whatever journey you now find yourself embarking on, and to know that I love you, and that perhaps in death I can share with you the truth I so unfairly withheld from you in life.
With Love, Your Father, Karalius Ledas.
Dalia’s tears dripped onto the note in places and she folded it with sobs that broke through the stoic reasoning she had meditated on earlier. The melody on the box slowed then, the springwork engine running out of force, and with the final tone a false bottom popped up and out and a small black cylinder rested inside. She plucked it out and gently closed the box, rising with the unassuming black object in her hand. She walked over to her personal terminal then and interted the cylinder into an awaiting socket. All that was on the drive was a document with the filename “I, Karalius”. When she opened it, it was a book length volume. It was her father’s memoir, obviously written over years and now passed on to her.
Dalia found her desire to sleep abated, and she dove into the volume without delay. She would be beyond tired the next day, but this was more important. This was everything. This was her family.
References characters from: Simonee Saran vs. The Ice Princess of Enceladus Station