James Vandenberg (jvandenberg) wrote,
James Vandenberg

Nother story

The boy, old enough to shave, but not old enough to do it well, whose coat was scribbled with the colors of his clan, and whose hair had been cut short especially, stood at the temple palace's gates. He had been standing there since dawn, and now the sun had stopped rising, and was about to fall.

The palace had been built so that on this day, at this time, the sun's rays would pierce through the complex architecture and fall precisely on the altar at the center of the palace. The numerous priests of the empire had gathered to perform the rites that would keep the souls of the god and the king united.

The men set to guard the entrance of the palace had become afraid of the boy. He had been amusing at first, talking of his people in the far away hills, across twelve rivers and seven mountains. He had spoken of his father, a warrior who was brave and strong, but not brave and strong enough to destroy the chariots that had swept down on him. He spoke of his village that was built before even the oldest person living there was born. And how that old man knew deep magic.

The men at the gates laughed at first. Surely the king would know deeper magic. He ruled an empire that took even the fastest horse months to cross. It swept from mountains to ocean, and under his rule, many different peoples thrived. There was nothing that could possibly threaten the king, not here, at the center of his kindom, and certainly not on this day, when the gods' blessing was renewed.

But the boy had said that the old man knew deep magic. He said that the old man had given him the gift of this magic, so that vengence could be taken on the man responsible for his village's destruction. That magic, the boy said, had lead him to this palace, at this time.

He said he could fight them, and win. They tested it, and it was true. He said he could fight twenty of them. They called their comrades, tested it, and it was true. He said he could destroy their minds. They did not test it.

Now, they waited. The boy had been waiting since they had decided not to test him further. But now that the sun was right, the magic the old man had spun began to sing. The boy strode forward, towards the center, towards the king. The guards made a token effort to stop him, but their hearts were not in it. Had they tried, their hearts would not have been in them.

The boy reached the king. The priests, tuned to the powers that the old man's magic had yoked, felt thier blood run cold, and felt their minds turn to panic. But they did not move to stop the boy. They could not. The king saw the boy, and was enraged. How, at this point, had this happened? He shouted at the priests, but they were frozen in fear. The king had magic, but it was the magic of the theater and the street conjurer. The old man's magic was subtle.

The boy said to the king, "Look, I have entered your palace on your most holy day. Yet I was not born when you became king." The boy said further, "You are not infallible, you can make mistakes. You have already made one. You will make another, that will end your rule, and leave your children slaves. And yet, when you make the decision that will destroy you, you will believe you are doing the right thing." The king was without words.

The boy, having told the king his truth, fell down, and died. The king, demanded the ceremonies continue. The priests did so, but they could not shake the feeling that something had changed. They were no longer sealing the compact between earth and heaven. Instead they were muttering meaningless words, and performing useless acts.

That is how the king between the ocean and the mountains fell. Although he reigned for a further seven years, he no longer had the commanding spirit he once did. The kings weakness spread through his empire, until lords that bent their knee to him raised their fist against him. He did at the end regain his resolve, as he rode into battle against his generals' advice. The sword that speared through his neck was not especially sharp, nor was it well made. But it was held by a man whose brother had stood at the palace gates seven years ago, and who had been given a stroke of luck by an old man.
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