I fear that the worst is far from over.
I sat patiently in the eaves as I waited for Fenris to return from some manner of political business as I was graced by the presence of Cervus and Panthera, both of whom were coughing and sputtering out their words. They told me a great many stories about their kingdoms. How I wished that I would one day get to see them in all of their splendor. Perhaps, in the afterlife.
They came to Fenris to be granted one last comfort before their lives were snuffed out. Their many years had grown to be a weight that neither of them wished to bear, and so in that hall on that day I listened, their words just barely louder than the whispering Bannerman in my ear.
Cervus told me of his many libraries and schools, the way his people built their lives for the greater good of the nation, not simply their own kingdom. Children from all over our countries would come to his kingdom to learn and to study, and they would leave there with a new lease on life. A new place to belong. A new purpose to fulfill. He told me that I should seek wisdom above all things.
Panthera had much the same to say, as the first woman ruler of her kingdom she spoke softly and broke the myth of The Four Kings, a tale I had been told since I was just a boy, about the lives of these four kingdoms. Each of them ruled by powerful Kings with virtue beyond belief. She put a hand on my shoulder and felt the Bannerman in my pocket, and with a strength unlike any I had seen before Panthera took it and threw him out of the grand hall herself. As he departed, I heard him calling out to me, telling me to discover who I was truly meant to be. A poor beggar, unfit to be a king. My mind was messy and my plans too grand to ever accomplish.
She admitted that it must have taken a great deal of courage to venture to the other kingdoms, and she apologized for not having met me in her own. How much I would have liked to see the fabled court lions myself. She told me of everything she had to overcome to be accepted as the queen, the rebellions within her kingdom and the ideals that burdened her people. That they could not follow a woman of her stature as their leader. She told me that it took years for her people to see her for what she was.
A Queen of great Courage.
As we spoke and as Fenris returned with her guest, I was greeted by the kind face of King Ursus, who had managed to arrive just in time.
Each of them, frail and broken, they wandered the halls for a time before the dinner bell rang. Seven chimes that were heard through the kingdoms, as these four rulers laid down with their virtue and closed their eyes for one final time, imparting their knowledge and their hope upon me.
My public, I fear that I have not been the king I wished to be. I have been a hollow king, one whose own fear and weakness allowed him to manifest false strength. A doll’s power, if anything.
As I gathered around with the citizens for the funeral, I thought back on the lessons they had taught me. Each of them powerful in their own right as the sun set below the horizon on their living souls one last time.
By the morning, they had been buried and their replacements had been selected in their own kingdoms.
I am writing this to you on the road back home, it’s only a day’s travel more before I will return. I have much to say, but more than that… I have much to do.
The legend of the Four Kings is not all I thought it was. But those rulers were more than I could have ever dreamed.
It’s funny, isn’t it, that when you need guidance the most, is when it falls into your lap. I’ve been held down by the weight of my decisions for so long that I was unaware the weight I carried would be the thing to inevitably disrupt my rule. My burdens are not meant to be carried by the people. I am here to carry yours.
When I return, though I am but a prince today, I will come back your king.
But first… there is something I must attend to. I will see you in the kingdom by tomorrow, and I will set straight a few things. I will explain more about why I have made this decision, but I can’t stay for long. I made a promise to Two Kings and Two Queens, and I must make those promises true for them.
Alas, this is the last letter I will be sending, but you will hear from me again, in person, by sunrise.
Do not fret, I am learning what it means to become a King, still.
Categories: Umbral Dawning