Rustem’s brat entered the king’s private quarters a few minutes later. Cyrus dismissed his retainers. I read in his mind that he felt quite safe alone. He kept two swords at the ready, and he was the best of warriors. That part I admired. Today you never see a world leader head up his troops as the kings of old did. They are cowards of the worst sort.
I looked through the king’s eyes, but I found myself unable to control him properly, especially when the boy entered the room. There was something different about him, yet it was familiar. Cyrus related his dream and suddenly I was hit by an angry presence in the boy, whose head lolled to the side now. My loins clenched in fear as I felt Rustem’s spirit enter the boy’s body and begin to speak.
How could this be? I had killed the big lout! Like a vengeful ghost, he now haunted me. I was so stunned that I could only crouch in a corner of the king’s mind as he gave his interpretation. He disappeared while the king was still speaking.
“So you say that the interpretation of the magi was spurious then? I thought so, but your interpretation, although it makes sense, is quite distressing. My two sons Cambyses and Bardiya—I have really failed to watch them as closely as I should have. They are quite grown now and like the tree, they will not bend, rather they will splinter. As for my fate, it is certain that nobody, even the greatest monarchs are freed from death. I tell you, Rustem, I have been able to take refuge in your advice that we can only act for the sake of Order in this life. O...my friend...do not leave yet...I...need...”
The boy shook his head, and I knew he was back. Mihr looked at the emperor and cringed in his chair. Cyrus smiled at him to reassure him.
“Do not fear, Mihr,” he said and heaved a weary, but satisfied sigh. “I appoint you as my assistant. From now on, we shall breakfast together.”
Mihr blinked. His jaw had dropped open, giving him the look of a startled half-wit. “Assistant?” he repeated dumbly.
“Yes, yes, I don’t know what I was thinking putting you in the Mage Hall. Your place is here. You are the son of my most trusted friend. Have the servants move your things into the Royal Suite at once. You shall be appointed the Royal Advisor.”
Thus began my travails. For the next seven years I was trapped in the body of Cyrus the Great. I almost lost my own body, because the man was resistant indeed, especially now, with Rustem’s help. Luckily, I was able to take control for long enough to order a trusted man to take care of my body, which was in a near-dead state. The body was losing weight, but slowly, because it was in suspended animation. The man would wash the body and pack it back into the tree trunk, protecting it with soft mosses after washing it and tending to its sores. He even found a solution to the insect and rodent infestations by using fragrant, repellent herbs. Still I dreaded ever having to return to that body. It had aged and grown saggy. My beautiful face was marred by the loss of my delicate ears. I burned with the need for revenge, but I also liked my new royal life of ease and plenty.