But what is a man, more than stone and flesh?
I returned to my kingdom to much fanfare and celebration, having secured the crown of my grandfather. Yet still, a weight hung upon my shoulders. A Weight that I fear has not since fallen away. The Bannerman of Identity, a stone man no more than a few inches tall that has sewn himself into my pocket and whispered question after question to me upon my return.
I entered the castle that would be given to me upon the following morning and I laid in my bed that night wondering what had become of me.
The boy who once had so many plans and so many dreams. The boy who wanted to be a storyteller like his grandfather, to weave his nation together through tale of struggle and heartbreak. I fought against the desires of the Bannerman for as long as I could, but that night I found no rest.
He kept me awake long into the second moon with his questions, incessant, nagging, infuriating as he spoke to me. His tone feet heavy on my chest as he looked to me and wondered for me, what I was.
I couldn’t answer his questions, and I knew not how to rid myself of him. Knowing the penalty for allowing the bannermen into the kingdom, I was left with no choice but to keep my sins a secret, lest I tell the King and Queen and allow their disappointment to punish me beyond measure.
I set myself instead to the great measure of answering his questions.
What truly had I become? A man of soft feathers or a bitter board of splinters and anguish? Had my once soft heart hardened so, that no man should stand above my grace? Had I become such a vengeful child that I sought to undermine the thrones of those who came before me? I began to wonder in the darkness of the night if I was fit to wear the crown of another, my grandfather or father, or his father before him. My family had seen many kingdoms and had reigned from many thrones, but each of them had offered something new to the people.
I had nothing I could offer.
I wondered if I was fit for the position, suggesting to myself that perhaps I resign, allow another to take the throne and build themselves a crown and a legacy fitting of royalty.
My persistence would not allow such an act, however, and so I began to look once more at my life. My path. What King would I become?
It was then that I decided to seek out the thrones of the great Kings. These four Kings of legend whose Kingdoms existed in grand design. Whose Kingdoms were plentiful and powerful. I wanted that for my own kingdom, but there was much to do before that.
My coronation was first to come, where I stood on the cliff that every King before me had been taken to rest, and I was made King of this expanse that I had inherited from the world around me. I was a king to a kingdom I didn’t even understand.
Then came the royal procession, the dinner in celebration for the crowning of a new king. A night in which I became laden with alcohol and food, and slept soundly, no longer worried about my future. Then, as if the world knew what I was planning, I was tasked with so many things. After the night I had accepted the mantle of King, my plate was immediately full of duties and tasks to my people. It was heavy with worry for the future and concern over my muddy past. Each day brought with it a new difficulty that at first, I overcame with ease. But each day passed slower than the next and as the days became months, and the months became years, seasons changed around me and I was unable to escape my throne room for so much as a breath of air.
It was then, one winter, I considered giving it all away. Years had passed since I had become the King. Still the Bannerman of Identity whispered to me and made me wonder if I was breaking down or becoming the man I knew I always wanted to be.
It was still two years after that winter that I worked, mindlessly, obsessed with the past. Assured that the King I had been the first year was the best version of a king I could muster, afraid to step forward and break the mold I had set for myself. So I lived in the past. I made excuses for my unwillingness to change. I made bargains with myself that I could barely stomach. Bargains that would have sold my soul had a met with a scale bound fiend before my own insecurities. I was lost for years, listening to nothing but the sounds of the whispering Bannerman, who was unrelenting.
It wasn’t until I received a missive from a nearby country, pleading for help. Begging for aid. Their princess was on the run. She needed a safe harbor.
I had learned, long ago, that if I was anything…
I was a safe harbor.
Categories: Umbral Dawning