Avi's mind was racing. He had hardly breathed during Hans's amazing story. He was at a loss for words. It took him a moment, sitting on the stuffed couch, to pull himself from the dreamlike state he had been in while listening to Hans's tale. He looked around, coming back to himself. He was trying to make sense of his surroundings. He remembered now; he was in the palace of the Low King of Tamesh. This was the library. Listening to Hans's story hadn't been like listening to words, but like standing fully manifested inside a vision or a lucid dream. It was almost as vivid as the visions that the King's royal broadcasts produced in his mind.
“You are an amazing storyteller,” Avi said.
“Ahh, yes. It's the abilities the King rewarded me with. He has made me able,” Hans explained.
“I have so many questions,” Avi said, standing now. He placed his glass of wine on the nearest reading desk.
“How did the King determine what reward you deserved?” Avi asked, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, another question more pressing than the last shoved its way to the surface. “What was the white stone?” Yet again, he thought of another. “The name that only you and the King know is that what he calls you?” Avi felt the rush of adrenaline and the speeding of his heart. He had more questions than could fit out of his limited mouth. He deeply longed to know more. He could have listened to Hans for hours and would have loved to do so.
Hans raised his hand, seeing that Avi was about to add more questions to the heap. He said, “I’m sure you do have many questions, but they must wait. I have chewed your ear off, and our banquet is upon us.” Hans said, moving toward the door. He gestured for Avi to follow. Avi patted himself on the cheek, trying to break his very persistent train of thought. He walked behind King Hans toward the exit.
“Do you have your song prepared?” Hans said.
“I—uh—” Avi stammered. He had all but forgotten that King Hans had invited him to sing for the guests at his banquet. His nervousness was surging. His heart sped, and his palms sweated. “I don’t quite have—uh—” Avi was trying to explain but could not get the words out.
At Avi’s wobble, Hans looked back at him, “Oh, I see,” Hans said with a sense of understanding. Avi was not sure exactly what Hans saw, but he was confident that Hans knew many things that were not apparent to Avi. “Let us pray to the Emperor, then.”
“Yes, that would be nice,” Avi said as he closed his eyes. Hans stepped next to him and placed his hand on Avi’s shoulder. He prayed, but it wasn’t like any prayer Avi had ever heard.
“My Lord,” the Low King said. As soon as the words were out of Hans's mouth, a wind swept through the room. The hairs on the back of Avi's neck stood on end. Tingles and goosebumps tickled their way down his spine. In that incredible moment, Avi felt the warmth and presence of another person standing near. It was like the crackling radiation of a glowing sun present in the room. He opened his eyes. Though he could not make out a definite form, a glowing man-shaped light stood next to King Hans, listening, waiting for his words. Waves of amber illumination pulsed from the amorphous form. How could this be? Hans continued his prayer with the tone shared by friends. “Please give Avi a melody and lyrics for tonight’s song. Let it honor and please you and strengthen the faith of our guests tonight.”
After speaking, a long pause hung in the air. Avi glanced at Hans. He had the look of a man listening to an unheard voice. Avi looked at the shimmering light. It seemed as if it was fading. After nodding his head a few times, King Hans responded to the unheard voice, “Yes, my Lord. Let it be done as you have said. I'll see you soon.” Hans turned to Avi and smiled. The light dimmed to nothing.
“Ok, now I have way more questions,” Avi said. “Was that light—was that the King?”
“Yes,” Hans said. “Come, we must go to the banquet.”
As Avi followed Hans toward the door, he asked, “Well, what did he say.” Hans paused as he pulled on the handle of the door.
“He said, 'Even you will be surprised at what happens tonight,'" Hans explained. They moved through the doorway and down the hall toward the banquet chamber. Avi felt like he was floating on air, unable to find the floor. As they walked down the hall, King Hans's attendants caught up and began briefing Hans on the evening's festivities.
“Avi, come and sit in this seat,” Hasani said. He gestured for Avi to come and sit in a designated seat near the head of the banquet table. It surprised Avi to find that the seat was at the right hand of Low King Hans's place. Avi glanced across the room where the Low King was greeting guests at the door.
“Are you sure?” Avi asked. “There are probably more important people than me, who should have that seat.”
“The king has assigned you this seat for his own purposes,” Hasani said. Avi took the seat reluctantly and looked around the large banquet hall.
Guests were already arriving. Each entered arrayed in glowing and glorious splendor. The white-haired attendants, all dressed in white, came flowing in. Avi could see from those coming in that this was not a banquet for mortals, but for shepherds. The room filled with more luminous individuals as the time approached.
“What would you like to drink?” Hasani said, after returning from some errantry.
“I uh…” Avi stammered. “Am I to understand that you will wait on me?”
“Yes, Avi. You are my personal charge tonight. You are the guest of honor,” Hasani said. Avi felt a knot rise in his throat.
“I’m just a mortal,” Avi said. “Are all the other guests—” Avi broke off. “Is this a banquet for—”
“The guest list is made up of the resurrected of Old Earth,” Hasani explained. “The guests are all royal shepherds.” Hans had already told him this, but he was just now coming to visualize what it would be like to be in a room packed with immortals.
“I feel kind of out of place. I mean—uh—I don't feel worthy of being here among such distinguished guests,” Avi explained.
“That, my dear friend, is part of why you belong in this prestigious company,” Hasani explained. The sound of the growing crowd meant that Hasani had to raise his voice above the din.
“What about my friends?” Avi asked. “Where are they?”
“Unfortunately, they cannot join us in the grand banquet hall. They are dining with the household staff in a secondary dining chamber. Rest assured, their needs will be amply met,” Hasani said.