They were coming. He could hear the distant marching of a legion of men. There he sat pitifully, cowering in the corner of his chambers; he was the reason they were coming. He knew the consequences of his actions, and he deserved every last one of them. Because of one foolish mistake, everything good in his life was crashing down around him: the kingdom’s peace, his reign, even his people’s livelihood; everything he held dear. King Fen groaned, thinking of the helpless people outside the palace doors and how dreadfully they would suffer for this. They did not deserve the horrors that awaited them.
A breeze drifted through the open window, gently swirling about the fearful King in an invisible dance, as if to mock him for his folly. He could almost hear its teasing whisper:
Look at the great fool, humbled by his erroneous judgement. Here he sits, hiding himself away, though he knows he has doomed his people. Come, oh mighty one, King of the fools, come see what you have done.
The wind beckoned him to the window. He followed, hands trembling.
As he reached the window, the weary King began to weep at the sight of soldiers’ torchlights, blazing viciously in the horizon. He watched from the safety of his lookout among the palace towers; his final attempt at self-preservation. The Razzian’s were coming; no one could stop them. Fen’s armies were gone, lost in the Great Shroud, and it was all his fault.
Shouting reached his ears, he listened to the grand scene unfolding far below. The enemy soldiers had finally arrived and were attempting to breach the great wall he had once prided himself in. Now they would knock it down, as if it were little more than a pile of pebbles. Suddenly, the King realized that the shouting did not solely belong to the enemy army, but was shared by the inhabitants of his city. To add to his surprise, their yells were fearsome, rather than fearful. He observed as they barricaded the inside of the fortress wall and stood their ground, ready for what came next.
Peasants and nobles alike were working together. Never before had he seen such harmony between the parties. These were bakers, aristocrats, mothers, tax collectors, all gathered and finally united. Letting go of their differences, they joined one another as fellow citizens of the great city Choroloch, capital of the Kingdom Vhune. Pride swelled up inside him. His people appeared to his tearful eyes a glorious sight. A part of himself wished they were cowards, then there would be some chance for a remnant of his subjects to live on. But there they were, at the ready and awaiting their dismal fates.
The sight moved him, stirring within him some long forgotten instinct; something he had hidden deep down for many long years. The overwhelming urge to stand and overcome the oppressors, to fight. The answer to his problems was now painfully clear; he knew what he had to do.
“Averdane!” He shouted for his manservant, supposing him to be outside of the door.
Clenching his fist, he attempted to quell his innermost fears. It had been too long since he had last fought. Memories of his years as a young prince washed over his ancient mind. They felt as sweet as water poured over a parched tongue on an arid Summer’s day. Suddenly he could feel the presence of his war companions—long since passed in days gone by—around him. He felt the warmth of their laughter and heard the echoes of their boyish teasings. He relived the evenings bragging and dreaming of the young maidens they had left behind. He remembered the battles, humid and untamed. The familiar smell of spilled blood intermingled with mud and sweat filled his nostrils. He wondered how he bore all of that pain; the pain of watching so many of his brothers fall to the sword of his enemies.
Then he remembered Evenlight... his Evenlight. He dwelt on the memory of her fair, curled locks, and her soft, angelic features. Oh, how much he missed her- the feeling could not be captured in the words of any language. She had been the reason for his perseverance. She had passed away many years before. Fen smiled at the thought of Eve, singing an ethereal chorus amongst the ranks of the heavenly choir. Fen clutched his aching heart.
“I will see you soon, dearest,” he whispered, kissing his emerald ring.
A small prayer passed through his trembling lips, fluttering up toward the heavens. A sudden, sharp rapping at the door caused him to jump. The culprit entered the chamber immediately after.
“Begging a thousand pardons, my King. I was charged with aiding Lord Agyn and Lady Neva with their belongings in the palace’s evacuation. They were the last to be evacuated. I was only just told of your calling to me. Do you need me to take your belongings to the horses?” Averdane gasped, clearly having run a great distance to get to Fen.
He had forgotten about Averdane. Fen shook his head slowly, saying, “No, faithful Averdane, I merely require my sword and shield.”
The young servant’s eyes widened.
“Your majesty, you surely cannot be thinking of going out and-“ Averdane was cut off by King Fen.
“Fighting?” He finished his incredulous statement. He continued with a firm resolve, “I have lived much of my reign as a coward, I recognize that now. But my dear man, this I know to be true; I will not die as one.”
Averdane nodded with what seemed to be a new glint of respect in his gaze. Then, without another word, he dashed out of the chamber, following his master’s order.
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