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The Burden of a King

Leofric

By Tomos JacksonPublished 2 years ago 12 min read
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Why these words:

Avonar - afon aur = Golden River; as the city that controls the lucrative river travelling from North to Central Brantir, it is a valuable trade route from North to South Brantir.

Brantir - bran tir = Bran land; named after Bran, the leader of the original human expedition to found this kingdom

Offeiriaid - (Off-ay-ree-aid) = priestesses

Krouland - Krooulant = Crow land; the name of the Islands given by the Elves due to the abundance of this bird here. The Southern people who had the most contact with the Elves are often called Koraki

Leofric stood before the fire in the hearth of his hall which sat proud atop the city of Avonar. His city. At least it was for now. Outside the wind howled and thunder rumbled as a storm unleashed its fury on the city. Lightning flashed and rain poured, while the thick oaken walls and beams that held the ceilings groaned under the weight that nature threw against them. It was truly a ferocious storm, possibly the worst he had ever known in his 56 years of life in this world. However, it was not the forces of nature that threatened to overthrow the King of Avonar and his city.

He winced as pain emanated from on his shoulder and he instinctively reached up to touch his wound before stopping himself and letting his hand drop back to his side. In his years as King of Avonar he had borne many wounds to safeguard his realm and each time he had done so joyfully, content in the knowledge that by them his people were safe and free from their enemies.

This wound however, this wound was different. It was as a mocking companion constantly by his side to provide a constant reminder of his failure, for by this wound had all his world been undone.

As the King stared into the fire the memories drifted back into his mind, the roaring of the flames became the roaring of opposing armies and the crackling of the wood as it was consumed became the clash of steel on steel, the rolling thunder in the skies became the thunder of hooves upon the earth. Leofric was almost seeing it again. His army clashed with the forces of the Koraki, men of the South of the island that had knelt to their enemies in ages past rather than resist them. All had gone well for the Leofric and his people as he led them into the fray. Their charge had driven deep into the enemy lines and the foe was on the verge of collapse. Leofric heard the approaching hooves of a horse and spun to see a rider on a black horse, clad in mail and full face helm, black surcoat emblazoned with a white eagle, emerge from the depths of the enemy host and lash with ferocious speed and strength at Leofric with his shining blade wounding him and sending him to the ground.

The King closed his eyes and felt tears begin to well up in his eyes. He had not seen what had happened after that moment, but when he awoke next he was prisoner of the Koraki. His army, fearing his death had fled, Tegid his son had tried to rally them, but succeeded only in organizing a withdrawal. Even so, most of the Leofric's men had been slain trying to escape the battle and Leofric had not heard news of his son.

Leofric heard several footsteps approaching hurriedly towards the door. He straightened his stance and banished his prior thoughts. The next step was to be one of the hardest, but necessary to secure the future of his people. He turned to face the door, just as two women, one older and the other significantly younger in worn and drenched travel clothes turned into the entrance.

The youngest, a beautiful red-haired young woman, now sixteen years old, rushed forwards on catching sight of him.

"Father!" she cried joyfully.

Leofric couldn't stop the smile spread across his face at the seeing his daughter, Edith, once again rushing into his arms and burying her face into his chest as the two embraced. They held each other for a moment not saying anything, and Leofric tried to keep his tears back as the joy of his daughter's return mixed with sorrow for all he had lost and was about to lose. Finally, when he had composed himself once again, Leofric pried her away from him to have a look at her. She as no longer the little girl she had been when he had last seen her. Small pointed chin, radiant smile and thoughtful brown eyes framed by high cheekbones gave her a beautiful, noble and intelligent appearance.

"I can hardly believe that this beautiful woman before me used to be the little girl." Leofric said in wonder, "Although," he began again gesturing to her muddied travel clothes and the trail of muddy prints she had left behind her on the wooden floor, "it seems that some things have not changed."

Edith smiled at this and gave a gentle mock curtsy before him, "I can assure you father, I am all mature now and do no wrong." Leofric caught the woman at the door giving Edith a stern look at the obvious sarcasm in her voice.

Edith's companion, Ebba, he seemed to recall her name being, an older woman but still beautiful with elegant features, thin nose and sharp jawline surrounded by raven hair that fell to her shoulders, spoke up, "My Lord I am sure you are aware that this visit is unusual for those of our order, but your letter and its bearer made it quite clear that we were to be given little choice in the matter. If it is all the same to you I would like to know what we have been summoned for."

Edith too looked curiously towards him at this. Leofric felt the joy at reuniting with his daughter dissipate at what he had to do next.

"I have summoned my daughter from her studies with the order of the Offeiriaid to request... no to DEMAND... that she be returned to me.

The great hall fell silent, and Leofric once again became acutely aware of the sound of the storm and crackling fire in the background. Edith looked astonished, but also confused. Leofric was well aware she had not wanted to leave home to attend the order when he had first told her that he had decided to send her there near three years ago. But in that time she may have grown accustomed to her life there.

Ebba was much easier to read. Her face quickly changed from shock to anger.

"This is an outrageous request. You know that the order of the Offeiriaid does not allow its members to leave once they have joined our ranks, I told you as much when you agreed to allow me to take Edith amongst our ranks!"

Leofric levelled his full glare on her. He was not used to being told he couldn't do or have something he felt he needed. "I know the rules of your order, I have felt their enforcement keenly for the last three years. But circumstances have changed, this is a command from your King and you WILL obey."

Ebba stood up straighter, "We of the Offeiriaid are NOT your servants to be ordered around. We serve the true gods of this land and NO earthly king has the authority to command us in any way. We shall leave now. Do not send us a summons again for it shall not be heeded." She turned to Edith, "Come Edith we will stay within the city, I will not stay beneath the roof of a man who would blatantly seek to mock the Offeiriaid of the gods."

As she turned to leave the entrance through which they had come crowded with guards, swords drawn. "I am sorry," Leofric said firmly, not at all meaning it, "but you cannot leave with my daughter."

Ebba turned blazing eyes towards him over her shoulder. "You think your men could stop me with their pitiful blades." Around her hands a feint violet glow began to form, and the guards shifted uneasily. All knew of the stories told of the Offeiriaid and their powers, though few had witnessed them, such was the seclusion of the order.

"Stop!" Edith stepped forward between the two, hands outstretched towards them.

The two looked to her, "you cannot return to your father girl. It is forbidden!"

Edith ignored her master and focused on her father. "Father, you said that circumstances had changed. What did you mean by that?"

Leofric sighed. "You may not have been aware during your studies, but for the past few months we have been at war with the King of the Koraki to the South. A few days ago we marched to meet them in battle and were defeated."

Edith just stared in shock at the news, her hand still held out to both her master and father as she processed what her father had just told her.

"What is that to us?" Ebba questioned, eyes not leaving the king and her hands splayed at her side, the glow steadily pulsing at the ready.

Leofric carefully contained an outburst of anger at the callous arrogance and stubborn ignorance of the Offeiriaid woman before him, he couldn't afford for her to let loose her powers on him or the guards.

"Because," he began through gritted teeth, "the order of the Offeiriaid and the people of this kingdom hold to the old gods of this land. Those who will now rule this land do not. They hold to the beliefs of the Elves that they left behind when they departed the island. There is another group within their ranks, the Salvatori, worshipers of an Eagle god of some sort, but neither they nor the worshipers of the Elven pantheon are kind to others who do not share their faith."

"Father," Edith asked, her voice now small and barely audible, "what of my brother and sister, Tegid and Lewella?"

Leofric turned his gaze back to her, "Your sister has since been married to Eoderic, one of the Northern kings that fought with us against the Koraki. She is well. As for your brother, Tegid was at the battle, he survived leading some men to safety, but I have not heard from him since."

Edith nodded, still unblinking and continued. "And what of my purpose here?"

It pained Leofric to have to tell his daughter all this. It broke his heart to be not only the bearer, but also the cause of all this hurt her. Every instinct in his body rebelled at the idea, but he had to remain firm. For his people, and this city. "During the battle I was captured by the enemy. I was able to talk to the King, Athos and his two brothers, Rickard and Gabriellos. Seeing that with the defeat of my army the end of the war was in sight I negotiated a peace as best I could to serve the needs of our people."

Tears began to appear in Edith's eyes and Leofric fought the urge to go over to her and tell her that everything was ok. But he didn't, because it wasn't. He pressed on. "As part of the negotiation I have agreed that I will step down as King, my throne will be given to the second son, Rickard as his personal duchy and, to solidify his rule, he will marry you my daughter."

The tears began to fall down his daughters cheeks and this time he moved to console her, but she stepped away from him and fled out the door pushing past both her master and the guards with neither stopping her.

Leofric wanted to go after her, but Ebba stood before him now gaze on him firmly. "That girl's life is not yours to pull to and froe as you will. The daughters of the Offeiriaid are not here to be used as pawns in your political games."

Leofric's anger resurfaced, through closed teeth he growled, "She is MY daughter, not yours! I am her father and I will decide what must be done!"

Ebba did not move, "Yes you ARE her father." she replied sharply, "As such it is your duty to PROTECT your daughter, not cast her before your enemies like bait to save your own skin!"

Leofric's anger left him, and he looked down at her with a questioning expression, "When did I mention I would live?" Ebba's surprise at this was evident on her face and he continued before she could respond, "It was not said expressly but I am no fool. Even if I should stand aside, others would rally behind me as a cause for resistance, and if I could I would lead them. There can not be two kings in one land."

Leofric spread his arms wide gesturing to the whole room, "I do not desire this." he began again, his voice now one of a tired man who is explaining something he feels should be obvious. "My army is gone, my son is missing and would be killed if he were found as I will be, my elder daughter is married to Eoderic in the North who remains at war with the Koraki. I am left only with Edith, for without her our people will be left under the boot of our enemy with no recourse. But with Edith as Duchess of Avonar she can protect our way of life and the Offeiriaid."

Leofric's sat on a nearby chair letting his feelings of exhaustion despair out plain to see. "I have failed my people," he said, "I have failed my children and this city." Looking back up to Ebba who had by now dispelled the glowing aura of violet light from her hands and was watching him carefully he finished, "This is my last throw of the dice to save who we are as a people. It will be hard on Edith but for the good of our people she will be the last hope of Avonar and our way of life. It is the best I can do."

Leofric let out an exhausted sigh and dropped his face into his hands. After a moment Ebba spoke up and Leofric raised his head to look at her again. "I understand. The dark day of the Elven occupation are upon us again in the guise of the human slaves they corrupted. We must adapt to survive. I will return without your daughter to my order and inform them of all you have told me. They may not like it, but I will do my best to persuade them this is the best course of action."

Leofric nodded, "Thank you."

Ebba acknowledged the gratitude with a grunt.

"Now if you will forgive me," Leofric began slowly rising again from the chair wincing again at the wound in his shoulder, forgotten in the drama of the past for minutes, "I must attempt to comfort my daughter. One of the guards will show you to your room."

Ebba nodded as he walked past her and out of the entrance to the hall. He headed down a long corridor that led from the entrance and towards the hall he just came from and further to a broad set of stairs leading to the next level of his home. He knew where Edith would be. No doubt it had not been her intended destination in all the emotion of the meeting, but when he arrived at her old room he was not surprised to see her sat on her there.

She sat at the end of the bed staring at the wooden wall though she clearly wasn't seeing it, tear tracks ran down her cheeks where she had been crying. Leofric moved and sat beside her putting his arm around her shoulder. She didn't move and so he just sat there in silence with her.

"You're going to to die aren't you?"

The breaking of the silence as well as the words surprised Leofric and he could respond for a moment.

She didn't wait. "I am not a fool," she began, unconsciously mirroring his words to Ebba just minutes before, "neither are you. There cannot be two kings in one realm. They will kill you. And then I will marry your killers."

Leofric said nothing. He didn't know what he could say to that. Edith turned and they both shared another embrace as Edith cried on his shoulder.

As she did so, Leofric felt the wound on his shoulder aching again. The wound that had cost him everything, and now the wound that would seal his daughter's fate. He had failed. It was too much, and soon he too felt tears spilling from his own eyes. He had failed everyone...

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About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

Stories have always been a source of inspiration. I aim to reproduce that in my own writing. Developing ideas of one's potential by reading it in the lives of others can be a powerful force to encourage bettering ourselves in the real world

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