Splendor and riches for what?
I climbed the steep cliffs back to my kingdom with the weight of the Bannerman of Inspiration dragging behind me, a portly man whose long hair was falling out on the top of his head, his robe was dashed with mud and stains of various stripe. He spoke frequently, especially so as I laid to bed and he incessantly nagged me along the climb about all I could do as a King.
I wondered as my time passed with the Bannerman if I should step back and allow the King to reign more. Despite what I’d been told, I realized that there was so much to do. I wasn’t sure if I was prepared to run a kingdom. To be truthful, I knew I wasn’t, but I wanted so badly to do so regardless. I took notes from the Bannerman, his words pierced my heart in such a confusing and wonderful way.
The books I could provide for the local libraries, the kindness I could offer to the people, the way I could be there for them not only as a friend, but as a King. The first in a long line of royalty who would care about them at their level. Who wouldn’t find himself wrapped up in Royal Codes or tied down by pleasantries of the kingdom. I was devoted to be a King who could do it all.
So the days passed as we spoke. I scorn those days even still, my travels with the Bannerman of Inspiration behind me. My mother and father had warned me of his trickery but I paid no mind. I loved what he offered to me. How simple he made the world sound. I was drunk with every idea he offered to me. To be a great king, one of story and rhyme, of music and lavish parties. A King who could conquer all with love. My grandfather’s crown seemed to burn in my hands as I carried it closer and closer to the kingdom. I thought of the stories he once told. The way he had ruled.
Each district in our kingdom favored a virtue of his. Eight brothers, and my Mother sat in the high chair of each district. My mother’s, that of History. The purpose of her district to teach the rest of the kingdom about the way things used to be and all of the greatness that our Kings had achieved.
I’d heard so many stories by the time my grandfather had passed, tales of his journeys as a youth. His great conquests with his siblings and the way he battled against the injustices of our country. The way he bent down to protect the weak and the unarmed. I promised myself in my youth that if I were granted the Kingdom, I would be a king such as he was.
Truth be told, there were many others who could have taken the place of the King after my grandfather had passed on. The end of his reign quiet and confusing. He made no public appearances and the kingdom fell into a similarly quiet chaos as he was taken to the cliffs.
In our kingdom, we hold a tradition upon the death of our king. Their body is taken to the greatest cliff, where they selected their crown. That crown is placed upon their head and their service is held upon that cliff before their body is sent on a river that carries them over the edge and into the depths below. As the next chosen king is reared for his duties, he considers the previous kings and whose crown he would most like to emulate. Then, a few days later the prince will descend to a safer height and dive into the ocean where our King’s graves have all been laid. He will search for the crown of his choosing and carry it back to the shoreline. As I’ve said to you, I had chosen the crown of my grandfather. Not that our King just passed had been a bad king, but he hadn’t done what my grandfather had.
It is tradition in our kingdom to choose a crown of a successor, to emulate their rule. I couldn’t tell you how many crowns truly rest within the depths of that Sea, but I do know that not every king had chosen their crown. My grandfather hadn’t, neither had many who’d come before him. Of course, he dived and selected one from the waters, but when he washed ashore he held it with him in secret, upon the day of his Coronation he revealed a new crown that he had made. A departure from anything that a previous King had shown. These Kings who selected their own crowns were hailed as some of the best, and worst rulers we had ever had. As he ascended the great hill to return to our kingdom, he too met with the Bannermen, just as every prince before him had.
Although, each prince before my grandfather didn’t have the same determination as he did. Upon meeting the Bannermen and hearing their doublespeak, many weaker men had failed.
Which cursed me on my journey, I’d always had such a soft heart. I’d wanted so much to help and to hold myself to a higher standard. The Bannermen have long kept their ability to single out the desires of a king. No one knows why they do what they do, but as they operate outside of the kingdom itself, our kingdom chooses to do nothing about it. Interfering with them would break a treaty with the neighboring kingdom. A treaty that would incite war.
War, that I refuse to lead while I am the ruler of my kingdom.
I supposed that is why the Bannermen approached me with such ferocity. They knew that they could take me and twist the things I knew. Long before I knew what they were or what they would say to me.
I didn’t learn about the truth of the Bannermen until long after I sat upon my throne, my heart was thrown into confusion and concern for my future.
Which is why I eventually sought out the advice of King Ursus to the South. His kingdom lies in a war-torn country, each of the Kings there fighting for control of the entire area, but he refuses to submit to them. His leadership inspires his people to the same end, and they are willing forever to lay down their lives for him. I wanted to know what that was like, to lead with such a ferocious power that even your neighboring kingdoms were afraid of it.
But before I knew of King Ursus and his legendary power, I had to return to the kingdom, to take the throne, and to understand that I was unfit for what I had been called to do.
On the way into my kingdom, through his disguise, I met the Bannerman of Identity…
Categories: Umbral Dawning