“The monk that Councilman Turlock wanted you to go see on Mars? He’s demanding that you go see him before we return to Venus.”
Cooper’s eyebrows rose. “He’s demanding?”
“Yes, that is what I said." A muscle ticked in Baylor's jaw. "He demanded that you be presented to him immediately.”
Cooper’s eyebrows went up even further. “Presented?” Why did that make him feel like a prize Beagle at a dog competition? “And just why am I to present myself to him?”
“He didn’t say, sire,” Baylor replied. "He merely stated that you present yourself to him. You were not to go to Venus or Earth or anywhere except the Monastery of the Sourak on Mars. He said it was imperative that you listened to him.”
Cooper crossed his arms, the first furrow of anger beginning to burn in his belly. “A matter of life or death, huh?”
“I believe that was his intent, yes.”
“Excuse me, sire?”
“I don’t know what this monk’s agenda is but he doesn’t get to demand that I do anything. I take orders from Nicky and no one else.”
Baylor’s eyes shot to Nicky. “You take orders from the king, sire?”
“Baylor, we all take orders from Nicky, whether we know it or not.”
There was a ghost of a smile on Baylor’s face when he turned back. “I suppose you are correct, sire.”
Cooper leaned closer to Baylor. “Just don’t let Nicky hear you say that. We’ll never hear the end of it.”
Baylor paused for a moment, a thoughtful expression furrowing his brow as he glanced from Nicky to Cooper. “May I speak freely, sire?”
“Yes, please do.”
“I am unused to this manner in which you speak of King Nicolas. I know it is due to your familiarity with him added to the fact that you grew up with him merely being a friend and not the king of the galaxy, but are you sure this is not insulting to him?”
“I’m sure.” Cooper was actually warmed by Baylor’s concern. Baylor seemed to care for Nicky’s well-being above and beyond him being king. “Granted, there is a fine line between what is appropriate and what is not. And not everyone is the same on where that line is drawn, but Nicky is cool with it. He knows I love him even when I joke with him.”
"I admit that I am confused by your familiarity with His Majesty but I also see how happy he is just to be with you. That bond is rare, sire." Something hardened in Baylor's dark eyes, giving them a dangerous glint that told Cooper under no uncertain terms that a predator lay just beneath the surface. "Do not abuse the gift you have been given. It will not come again for a thousand years."
Confused, and admittedly impressed that Baylor was standing up for Nicky, he asked, "What do you mean?"
"Remember that I told you a true bond is rare?"
"It is said that once someone has found their true bond, their souls are entwined for all eternity. If one dies, the other soon follows, unable to be bare the separation. If they are separated, they won't find each other again for a thousand years."
Cooper felt a pang in his chest as he glanced at Nicky. He couldn't imagine living one second longer than his love but a thousand years without him? "That seems kind of unfair, Baylor. If this love is so great, why a thousand years?"
"No one knows, sire," Baylor replied. "But I believe it is because this love is so great. And because there is no greater bond, the price is higher."
That actually kind of made sense. The bond he felt for Nicky was beyond anything he had ever felt in his life. It felt stronger than steel and yet as fragile as a flower. He knew it had to be nurtured in order to grow, and he intended to do just that.
"I appreciate your words, Baylor." Cooper gave the man a slight smile so he would know there were no hard feelings. "Nicky is the most important thing in my world and I'll do anything to keep him safe."
"I worry that it may not be enough, sire."
Cooper cocked his head as he tried to read the silent message in Baylor's words. "Why?" he asked when he couldn't solve the puzzle. "What aren't you telling me?"
"I worry what will happen when others learn that you are Marsovian."
"I thought the Marsovians were great warriors."
"They were, but they have been myth for so long, I fear many have forgotten their existence. If word gets out, many will not believe that it is true. Those that might know of the legend and believe you are Marsovian might try and use you in some manner that is in conflict with the High King's needs."
"I would never go against Nicky."
"You would not want to," Baylor said, "but if your total loyalty is to King Nicolas, what would you give if someone tried to use him?"
"You're talking about that situation with Melakon Tempest, aren't you?"
"That is a good example, yes."
Unfortunately, Cooper understood where Baylor was coming from. He just didn't like it. He crossed his arms, his unease growing by the second. "Do you have a suggestion?"
"As much as I dislike saying it, you might consider talking to that monk at the Monastery of the Sourak." Baylor's lips thinned for a moment as he paused, a hard glint coming into his eyes. "I don't trust this monk. I don't like the fact that he is demanding your presence. That feels wrong to me. But he may be the only man alive that truly knows of the Marsovians."
"If my being a Marsovian is such a problem, why would we even bring it up?" Cooper asked. The answer seemed simple enough. "Why not just keep it a secret?"
"I'm not sure going to see this monk is the best plan, Baylor." Reluctantly pulling his eyes away from Nicky's laughing face, he looked back at the man. "Isn't there anyone else that knows about Marsovians?"
"I'll look into it, sire, but I do not believe so." The man clasped his hands behind his back, once again looking like the confident captain that he was. "The myth of the Marsovian is so ancient that most only know about it from obscure history books and legends told down through the ages."
"I'm starting to feel like a fossil."
Baylor blinked. "I'm sorry, sire. I do not understand your reference to preserved remnants of the past."
Cooper chuckled. "You keep referring to my Marsovian DNA as something ancient, a myth. It makes me feel old."
"That was not my intention, sire. I merely wanted to point out the danger of not learning everything we can about being a Marsovian."
"No, I got that part, Baylor." Cooper drew in a breath, his eyes going back to Nicky. "I just hope whatever we learn doesn't make me extinct."
"People will know, sire. Secrets never keep. There will come a point when something will happen and you will not be able to hide what you are. It is better to be prepared for that eventuality than to think it will never come."