Alek glanced at this watch as he followed Lilit through the narrow streets. Three fifteen. He was late.
"Lilit, whatever this is, can't it wait until I get out of work? I'm trying to make myself a living - "
"Quiet, we're almost there"
Alek made a face but continued on. It best be important ot drag her halfway across the world looking for him. Soon she ducked inside the doorway of an abandoned apartment building. Alek was almost out of breath, not having ran like that since being aboard the Leviathan. Lilit looked fine however, even in her black silk clothes.
"What's this about? How in the world did you find me?" Alek sat, catching his breath.
Lilit sat next to him, smiling. "I just had to know where to look."
He looked at her incredulously. "Seriously. How?"
She laughed, her face looking very tired, and much older than she remembered. "As soon as Nene heard of your 'death', she laughed. She knew there was no way you could ever be dead. She told me she suspected it would be too much for you in the end, and that you'd run off. And where would a young prince on the run hide?" she smiled at him. "America, obviously. And New York City is a hotspot for newcomers. I've been searching up and down this place for the past 3 months, following many many people that resemble you. I think I started following you last week."
Alek swore to himself. If Lilit could find them, how long would it take everyone else to figure it out?
Alek watched her, seeing a tear form in the corner of her eye. "After my father died during hte revolution, I went back home, and things started to improve in Istanbul, with that fool off his throne. It was just me and Nene, and life was difficult. She grew ill and I could not afford to fix it and..." Lilit stopped, dabbing her eyes.
Alek knew what was going to come next, and he squeezed her hand. "I'm so sorry." was all he could say. The wise old Nene...gone?
Lilit cleared her throat and went on. "She had a last request for me, she told me the night she passed. She wanted me to find you, no matter how long it took. She told me you would need my help in getting to become the ruler of your country, that you alone could end the war. When she read about this Count Volger you spoke about, Nene knew he was bad news. She had a feeling he would not end it, but make it worse. Nene wanted me to give you this, she said it helped her when she was younger, and that it should belong to you." she took a small wooden box from somewhere inside her silks and handed it to Alek. It was dark and smooth, with intricate designs all over it.
Alek flipped open the top slowly. Inside, on a red satin cushion, was the most beautiful knife he had ever seen. The hilt was solid ivory, encrusted with rubies and what looked to be real diamonds. Its sheath was ivory as well, ornately designed and also adorned with many jewels. He removed it from the box and marveled at it, feeling the weight of it and unsheathing it. The blade was immaculate, as if it had been polished every day. It was sharp, Alek could tell, so he returned it to its proper place in the box, not wanting to over expose its beauty.
"Lilit....Why would Nene want me to have this? It should be yours." he began handing it back to her, but she put up her hands, smiling.
"That has been in our family for centuries, it is a very valuable heirloom. I have my own share of beautiful things Nene gave to me, but she wanted you to have this, why, I do not know. But it is yours. She felt it would help you, and I hope that it will."
Alek tucked the box into his work bag. "So, Nene sent you here, wasting 3 months of your life, to find me and tell me to get back th Europe and run a country?"
Lilit nodded, smiling wider. "Yes! Yes, ske knew you would be able to stop this madness going on over there."
Alek shook his head. "No. Volger's got it all sorted out. Hes getting a treaty with all the countries involved. The war is over!"
Lilit frowned. "No, its not. There is still turmoil. Volger is not hte heir, you are, and it is your rightful place. You must - "
"No! I have finally started to build myself a life here, Lilit. I have a home, a fiancee, a job, everything I ever wanted. I'm not throwing all of that away to rule a country! I'm not ending up dead like my father." he took the box back out of his puch and gave it to her. "I'm not going back. Not now, not ever. I do not want to disrespect you or Nene, but its not what I want anymore. I know I cannot do it, and I want to stay here."
Alek stood up, Lilit following suit. Her face was a mixture of anger, sadness, and betrayal. "Look, I'm sorry I wasted your time. I know you've spent months looking for me, but I simply cannot do it."
She shook her head. "You just don't get it, do you? This is what you were born into, you can't escape it."
"You sound like Volger himself" Alek spat. "I don't want to return to Austria. And I won't. I'm not leaving everything I finally have here behind."
Lilit made a face. "Wait...fiancee? Are you that stupid? You fell in love with someone here with a fake identity? If you are ever found out, you will loos it all anyway, and you think its smarter to marry some poor stupid girl who has no idea tho you are?"
Alek shook his head. "She knows exactly who I am, and it hasn't changed anything."
Lilit looked like she'd seen a ghost. "You told some American girl you've known for less than a year?"
"No I.." Wait, he thought. She doesn't know who... Alek pinched hte bridge of his nose wiht his fingers, a smile breaking across his face. "Just come with me, you will have to meet her for yourself." he laughed at the look on Lilit's face.
"Your going to bring some person into your home? Won't she be...oh I don't know...a little upset?"
Alek laughed again. "Well, you'll just have to see."
"This is the stupidest thing i think I've ever done." Lilit said as they climbed hte stairs to Alek's apartment.
"Stupider than coming all the way to America to find a prince you weren't even sure was actually alive?"
She gave him a look adn they continued. Deryin would still be home, not having ot work until tomorrow. Alek put his key in the lock and went in, holding hte door for Lilit. Deryn was nowhere in sight.
"Love? Are you home?" Alek called, and shuffling came from the next room.
"Alek, what are you doing - " Deryn came around the corner and stopped in her tracks, the look on her face unidentifyable. Alek glanced over at Lilit, her face contorted between a mix of emotions.
Everyone was silent for what seemed like a solid minute. Alek broke it. "Well, Lilit, this is Deryn Sharp, I'm sure you remember, and Deryn, this is our lovely friend Lilit from Istanbul."
Deryn went to speak, then stopped, staring at Lilit. "Barking spiders..." she whispered. Her face flushed bright red.
"Deryn.....no.....your Dylan..." Lilit said, a look of amazement on her face.
Alek msirked. "Dylan and Deryn are the same, Lilit. Who knew that Mr. Sharp was actually Ms. Sharp?" he laughed. "She did a bang up job dsguising herself, don't you agree?" Alek was extremely pleased with himself, not having this type of quality entertainment in a while.
Lilit's face flushed even redder than Deryn's and she looked at Alek. "So, that airman was a girl all that time?" she said, her voice barely a whisper.
Alek nodded, and Lilit covered her face. Her thoughts were practically written on her forehead. Deryn shuffled over and took Alek's hand, halfway hiding herself behind him.
"So, um, Lilit, long time, no see. What brings you here to, um, America?" she gave Alek a look, asking him why in blazes this girl was standing in their house.
Alek gestured for them to all take a seat at the kitchen table. Deryn scooted her chair right up next to Alek, her body ridig with nerves. Alek was quite relaxed, but his happiness was slowly fading as the reason for Lilit's arrival overshadowed the akward meeting.
"Lilit was sent here by Nene to find me and tell me to do what I was born to and end this war." the words left a sour taste on Alek's tongue.
Deryn gave lilit a nasty look. "Well, he's not going back there." she said distainfully. "He's got a life here, with me, and theres no way he's going back into that war. To them, hes dead."
Lilit shook her head. "Nene knew he wasn't, so are you so certain there are others who don't have that feling, too?"
Deryn looked at Alek for help, but he was at a loss as well. Lilit took the box back out of her silks and slid it across the table to Alek. "There's something else in there as well, Nene would not tell me what, she wanted you alone to see."
Alek took the box and opened it. Deryn whistled when she saw the knife and he handed it to her. She took it delicatly, nearly drooling over it. Alek hunted through the box, he looked under the satin cushion, nothing. There didn't seem to be any place to hid anything...
Alek's fingernail caught on a dent on the underside of the lid. He pryed at it, until a thin piece of wood popped out, revealing a rolled up piece of paper. He took it out gently, unrolling it slowly. Deryn took her focus off the knife and looked at the note withi him, but he knew she couldn't read it. It was written in German...
Alek read it a few times before reciting it to everyone.
"'Alek, When you get this, I will not be here anymore. My time has come, but I hope I can help somehow, in return for you helping my people. I thank you for your help in funding the revolution. Nothing could have been done without you, and we owe you our lives.
But, that is not the purpose of this letter. Alek, you must return to Austria and take your seat. This Count Volger who is there now is not right. His motives are not what they seem to be, I know it with all my heart. He may seem like he is doing something good, and you have known him for all of your life. It will be hard for you to see it, but I trust you will believe in my words.
Volger is not to be trusted. The power of being the next ruler of Austria-Hungary will take over him, and he must be stopped before it comes to that. He has already begun formulating laws, which I am unsure if the news of has spread to where you are right now. I have enclosed clippings from the papers here, and Lilit will translate if need be.
Please heed my warnings and return to your homeland before things get worse for your people. I trust that you will make the right choice.
Good luck, and use the gift I have left for you wisely.
The room was silent after that. Alek unrolled the paper more and foudn the news clippings. He read them to teh extent of his knowledge, his mid racing. No.....
Lilit was about to speak when Alek held up his hand. "Lilit, please translate this to verify what I read is right."
She took the papers, a solemn look on her face. "'Next in line to Austria-Hungary throne releasing ideas for new laws. Count Volger, the newly appointed Duke of Austria, has released some of his plans for the near future. He has said he wants to make all marriages reviewable and decided by the Duke himself, as well as outlawing anyone of royal descent from marrying anyone of common blood. He feels classes should stay where they belong, to prevent the unfortunate murders of the previous duke and his wife from happening again. Whether the public will agree is unknow, but Volger has already gathered an extensive support system.'" Lilit looked up, having come ot the end of the clipping. She went on to read the next one, but Alek held up a hand.
"I've heard enough. I need to think." he stood and walked briskly towards his and Deryn's room. "Deryn, please make Lilit comfortable, she needs a place to stay until I have figured out what is going to happen."
Alek turned from Deryn's confused nad angry face and closed the door behind him, hardly able to believe what was happening.