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Unrest, A Kingdom Story

by Trevon Mosby about a year ago in fantasy
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Episode 1, Part I

Unrest, A Kingdom Story
Photo by Art Lasovsky on Unsplash

The blazing sun rises above the restless morning waters, singeing all life beneath it along its ascent.

It is nearing mid-day. The castle is full of sunlight and an attentive audience. Men stand to the left of the throne. One man sits at its right side. The crown is a sharp image of vivid color and unique design. Addressing the audience is the King who wears it.

“There’s a concern,” he affirms.

The audience leans in to hear him. A man speaks up from the crowd – “Yes, my king!”

“Step forward,” the King offers.

The man emerges from the crowd and kneels before the King. After a few seconds, he raises his head and rises to his feet.

“My king, there is silence in the North Tribe. Our trade date is 8 days past. We will not have enough bread to sustain us until the year ends.”

The King leans forward, his brows slightly lowered. “The bread is of no issue: I will supply it myself.”

“Thank you, my king,” the man replies, flabbergasted.

“Jeren,” the King continues.

“My king,” Jeren answers.

“Look into the North Tribe’s affairs. Visit the Grounds if you have to.”

“Yes, my king.” The man, who is to the left of the throne and standing between two other men, begins exiting the Hall.

“There’s more,” the King inquires, assured.

“My king!” Another man emerges from the audience. He kneels immediately and stands to his feet nearly a split second afterward.

“There is talk of the South Tribe! That a leader has risen and is planning an assault on the Kingdoms!”

The King sits up straight and raises his head.

“Whatever trouble there is in the Tribes, they’ll fight among themselves first,” he announces, “Leaders can be worn down by challenge and I’m sure there are some that disagree with him.”

“There is unrest among us, my king,” the man contests. The audience begins a murmur that is like a crashing wave to the King. The man continues: “The South is remembered for its brutality. Two Tribes no longer exist because of so-called ‘scare tactics’! How are we to prepare?”

“Prepare,” the King begins, “By trusting in your king.” There is a pause. “There is nothing that my Kingdom needs that I will not provide. There is no enemy that I will not face for you. The Northeast Kingdom has been safe longer than most of us have lived and will continue to be. It is because an attack on our Kingdom is unexpected that we expect to be attacked. But if unrest plagues the people, we’ve already lost. Do you understand?”

The man looks to the floor. The Hall falls silent. The sunlight fades for a moment, then returns.

“Yes, my king.”

The King turns to the man on his immediate left. “Patrik.” The man steps forward. He bows his head. “Scout the Tribe Lands. Return with a report worthy of our people.”

Patrik steps back. His expression still as stone, until, “My king.” He exits the hall.

The King faces his citizens. There is a patient silence in the hall. The crown clothes commotion.

“More later,” the King announces, “Enjoy your day.”

The King rises from his throne. The remaining men to his left exit the hall before him. He begins to exit. The one man that was to his right follows closely behind him.

“What did you think of our Kingdom Hall?” the King asks as the man arrives again at his right side.

“Of the location or the conversation?” the man wonders aloud.

“Both,” the King answers.

“Well, King Koris, I’ll confess that you’re way too open about your…” The man struggles to find the right word.

“Affairs?” King Koris offers.

“Too simple,” the man declares.

“Loren,” King Koris insists.

“Sure, no one cares about a choice of words, but we do care about appearances.”

King Koris looks into Loren’s eyes. “I don’t keep them up. I deliver on the words I choose.”

Loren meets the King’s eyes with a glance. Looking ahead now, he suggests, “Your strategies should be shared with your Council.”

“But I didn’t choose a Council. I chose a Ward.”

“One voice can’t advise a people.”

“Maybe. But one mind can. I chose you because of what you can do. So let’s draw a picture right now: I represent the people. You advise the representation of said people. I take your advice. The people bare witness to its fruit, good or bad. The people learn from our mistakes.” The King stops walking and faces Loren. “Is this picture clear?”

Loren faces the King. “Yes.”

The King nods – barely – and continues walking. Loren follows, at his side.

“We may be young, Loren, but we are capable. The only difference between us and our past leaders is that we’re sharp enough to learn from them and young enough to do something better - and help it last.”

Loren focuses his eyes ahead, though his attention remains on the King’s words.

Two swords collide.

The women wielding them craftily swing at one another, in a sort of dance; the view of them is like swishing water. But the flow is interrupted.

“Again,” one of the women demands.

The dance picks up. The rhythm is smooth for a short while. Inconsistency breaks up the partners.

The woman sighs. The other seems unphased.

“Again,” the woman repeats.

The two swords collide once more. In this dance, one is more aggressive than the other; one is more defensive than challenging. The aggression builds until the defense is broken. One of the women hits the ground. The aggressive sword is held to her chest.

“We’re done,” the aggressor declares.

The woman on the ground contests, “We aren’t!”

“You’re not focused.”

“I am!”

“For only seconds at a time!” The aggressor turns to the other woman. “Alesse, your focus can’t be broken in real battle. These trainings? They’re real battles. Don’t forget that. You’ve fought too well so far for me to tolerate less than that.”

Alesse returns eye contact. “I apologize. Your help has done me wonders. I’m wrong to behave otherwise.”

The woman smiles. “And what did I tell you about being so formal? My Queen,” she says with a curtsy.

Queen Alesse smile grows wide. “The same thing I told you. I need grounding.”

“And you’ll have it. But the minute you decide we’re not friends, you can be as formal as you want.”

“Don’t count on that,” the Queen assures her.

The woman grins. She lifts her sword again. “Shall we?”

The Queen giggles while lifting her own sword. “I haven’t told you –”

“Yesenia!” a man shouts.

Yesenia turns. “Dad?”

“Lunch!” he announces.

Yesenia looks at Queen Alesse with a smile. “Coming!” The two begin their walk to the house near the shore.

Continuing their conversation, Yesenia teases, “What makes you think I don’t already know?”

Her eye brows raised, then lowered, the Queen pries, “What do you know?”

“Hm. I know you skipped breakfast. Again.” The Queen looks away for a second, then returns her eyes to her friend. Yesenia is silent, staring at her as they walk.

“I’m not promised a meal before every fight. I’m preparing for anything.”

Yesenia resigns, “Mm. Aaaaannnd, your council doesn’t tell you everything.”

The Queen halts in her tracks. “What do you know?”

Yesenia keeps walking. Never turning to face Alesse, she advises, “You should hear it from them, not me.”

Hopeful for an alternative, Queen Alesse works to catch up to her friend.

Wooden swords clunk together. An axe is being sharpened. Nunchakus thwip in swift loops against the ocean air. The winds whistle a hollow melody, weaving through the men aboard the ship’s deck. In the living quarters, parchments unfold and pens labor away.

‘We’ve been training every day. Our son mostly watches, but he does join us for a short while. There is talk of the Tribes attacking the Kingdoms. We are comforted by your love. And we will be fortified by your wisdom. I love you, Torence. We miss you. Sybel.’

“This woman…” Torence thinks aloud. He wastes no time reaching for his pen and a fresh sheet of paper. His eye brows pinch his growing unibrow.

‘Fear no one,’ he writes, ‘And trust no one. Desperation is a vulnerability and courts chaos. That’s what comes next from those already afraid. Don’t let these invade our Home, my love. Live lovingly, as only you do, and be free from all offense. So long as you remember me, I’m always near to you all. I’ll hold you soon. I love you, Sybel.’

Just before he finishes writing his wife’s name, “Torence!” echoes through the short hallway of the lower deck. The Blacksmith, Torence, finishes his letter with a seal. He rises from his seat and strolls through the room and out its door.

As he climbs the stairs, the sunlight grows brighter against all of his surroundings. At the top of the stairs, a man tosses him a sword. He catches it without coming to a stop. His opponent marches toward him – he never stops walking. His opponent swings his sword.

Torence parries the swing and slides to his left. The swords collide, their song echoing through the air just before the wind mutes it.

His opponent lunges forward. Torence glides out of the way, shifts his position in what appears to be an instant, and swipes his opponent’s back ankle, removing his grounding. Torence’s sword faces his opponent. His dueling partner surrenders.

As his opponent rises from the deck of the ship, Torence tosses his sword to the man that first threw it to him. A woman, nearby, hands him two axes. He takes them. A man approaches, wielding a bo staff with sharpened metal tips at both ends. He enters a fighting stance.

Torence stands firm, staring at his new opponent. He sheathes one axe and seamlessly throws the other at his opponent. The bo staff smacks the axe to the ground. Torence follows closely behind the defeated weapon.

Torence’s fists are blocked by the staff and evaded by its wielder, no matter how quickly they are thrown. There is a tension building that faintly muffles the wind.

The bo staff forces Torence’s heels forward, sending him flying backward against his will. He pivots just enough to catch himself before taking an unexpected blow from his backside collapsing against the deck. But he is not quick enough to evade the whack to his back.

With a grunt of a huff, he is still for but a moment. The staff swipes at him again and misses. Torence creates distance between the staff and himself. At a sufficient distance, the pair of duelists freeze.

The wind urges them on. Their eyes lock. They lunge at one another.

The staff strikes the air three times. Torence evades four swings. He snatches the remaining axe from his waist to block a metal tip from slashing him. He whips around to the backside of his opponent. Back to back, the pair take two steps in dance before Torence bounces his partner off his own back, swings the axe around to meet the staff, catches the staff with the axe’s bottom tip, and yanks it forward.

The man does not drop the staff. The axe is released from Torence’s grip as quickly as the staff is yanked. His forearm crashes against the man’s left eye, stunning him. When Torence’s feet hit the deck, he throws uppercuts to the man’s body. Doubled over, gasping for breath, the man’s neck is clenched by Torence’s right arm. The staff falls forward. The man’s head plunges downward. His jaw is released just before it hits the deck. Torence straightens his posture and begins to walk away.

The man lets out a “don’t” that the wind catches in mid-flight. Torence exhales deeply as he continues strolling toward the steering wheel of the ship.

“How long?” he asks the Captain.

“Six days ‘til we hit land,” the Captain responds.

Torence nods in the Captain’s direction and begins walking toward a nearby railing. Leaning against it now, the wind is striking his cheeks and arms with short gusts. He endures every blow without a fight.

Pacing, King Justus seeks the words to arm himself for the men standing before him. Silently, he reaches his decision. His pacing stops.

“I wasn’t raised as a human being… I feel like more of a symbol – or a concept – than a person.”

With a faint grimace, “I was raised as an heir. All I know is the throne. And this castle.”

Looking to the candidates before him: “To be my Ward is to teach me humanity. How can I preserve a kingdom – made of people – when I don’t know how to elevate them?”

The candidates remain silent. Each maintains eye contact.

The young King continues: “I am an infant to human connection. All my life, people have been used and sent away, shuffled or discarded; I have no lasting bonds. But here is where that changes.”

The young king points to two candidates simultaneously. “Step forward. The rest of you – your time has been appreciated.

To the two men, “Speak freely.”

At first, there is a thick silence. Neither of the men move a muscle under the King’s gaze. The young King look each of the men in their eyes. The eyes of the man to his right shoot to meet his.

“Sire.”

The man kneels. The young King does not move. However, his eyes closely follow the man.

“I admire your mind. With your permission, I would be honored to mold your reign accordingly.”

The young King turns to face the man, squinting his eyes a bit. “You can’t rule with your mind.”

“You can,” The man contests, “with Wisdom, and with Knowledge. I will readily supply you both.”

“You admire him,” the other man declares, “Yet you underestimate his ability to reason on his own and exercise the mind you so defend.”

The young King turns to face the man. The man does not meet the young King’s gaze, but continues speaking.

“A good king rules with his heart, considers counsel with his mind, and is sure in his actions. The mind is but a portion of your toolset, my King.”

Making direct eye contact with the young King, who now attentively awaits his response, the other man replies: “A great portion, indeed. On the battlefield of the mind, tides turn in battle. The heart is alerted to trouble, yet the mind decides how to answer the alert, how to approach the threat. You will encounter explicit and implicit threats to your rule, your highness, and you must be ready to answer them. Where your mind lacks in knowledge and experience – which breeds wisdom – I will provide the counsel you require to rule as you wish to.”

The man watches the young King for a reply. The young King begins to pace. The man’s gaze does not break.

The other man continues facing forward, still as stone. A thick silence stands, intimidating no one present. The silence falls before the young King.

“My kingdom has been threatened by a Tribal brute. What are my people’s needs?”

The man to his left answers: “Food, water, medical supplies, and weapons for war.”

The young King’s sharp stare ends with a quick nod. His sharp stare pierces the man to his right. The man affirms, “A strong King.”

The young King searches the man for more. The man’s eyes offer nothing, suggesting much to be gleaned.

“Thank you for your time,” the young King addresses the man to his left.

The man kneels for a few seconds. In his silence, his head drops a bit lower. “My King.” He rises to his feet and exits the room.

The remaining man kneels with a faint grin. The young King approaches him, putting his hand on the man’s left shoulder.

“You have much to teach me. I only hope that you live to continue to.”

The man looks up at his king. He speaks.

“Your perception is unique. And strong. May we elevate this first.”

fantasy

About the author

Trevon Mosby

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