When King Jeridon made the decision to invade the land of Wenn, I was ashamed to be associated with the King. I donít think he understood that Wennís army was greater than ours. Their men were just as strong--if not stronger--as the armies from Tumpit, who swept down from the north, claiming 23 countries. We barely held them at bay.
We had neither the money, weapons, time, or people to engage an enemy in war. After the famine ravished those who were weak in our land, it was first priority to rebuild Wenn back to itís original status. To populate Wenn with healthy children; to grow fresh fruits and vegetables; to raise strong horses to plow and haul our newfound bounties. I tried to tell the King that this would take over two years to see any difference.
But he would hear none of it. He wanted to attack. King Jeridon gave no reason.
I am Cravis Hfdern (pronounced Hefdern), of the seafaring Hfderns. My mother and father traveled many seas long ago and discovered many fine lands to inhabit. When they retired fifteen years ago, I decided to find work within the Kingís castle. My brother, Ihan, continued my familyís tradition and began sailing one year after our parents retired. I havenít heard from him since.
I found work: first in the kitchen, then as a jester. The King liked me, but not as a jester. He then put me to work decorating the castle. There are 159 rooms in this massive stone structure and Iíve managed to complete 23 in my first year. King Jeridonís room is the last to be decorated, but I have some unique ideas for his room.
Usually I sit at the Kingís side, next to his throne. I always sit to his right and his advisor sits to his left. The advisor is Thomas and he is very good. Thomas isnít too keen on me and rarely looks at me when we are at the Kingís side.
When King Jeridon made his decision to attack, Thomas advised against it. I happened to be standing that day, instead of sitting.
"King Jeridon," Thomas said. "They will beat us severely. We donít have the fight in the men as we use to."
"I think itís there," the King said.
The King glanced at me and half-smiled. "Cravis, could you leave Thomas and I alone for a few minutes...we need to discuss a couple of matters."
I nodded and exited through a door that led to the Kingís room. Iíll go there and think about decorating his room; maybe come up with a better idea.
"I want to attack and thatís that!" I heard the King yell as I took one step up the stairs. I sauntered back down and opened the door slightly. The King was pacing back and forth in front of his throne while Thomas stood.
"Youíre being stubborn!" Thomas yelled back. "Why are you being so stubborn? Let the land take care of itself for a year or two. Then attack someone."
"No. You round up an army of the strongest men. See if King Chabrod has some men heís willing to give us." The King was calm at this point, tugging on his short beard. "Make sure you try all the prisons."
Thomas shook his head. "IF that is your wish. I donít agree with it, but if that is your wish."
Thomas paused in front of King Jeridon and peered into his eyes for a moment.
"Whatís wrong?" The King asked.
"Iím scared and I want to know what youíre doing."
"Thereís no reason to be scared." The King patted Thomas on the shoulder. "Be strong. Trust me."
Without saying a word, Thomas left the throne room.
Jeridon came towards me with his head down. He eyes darted back and forth like they always did when he pondered deeply. I donít know what he pondered, but it didnít look safe to be standing here, watching him.
So I ran up the stairs into King Jeridonís room, which was bare except for a bed, a writing desk, and a chair. I donít know why he didnít want to start here, in his room. This was the plainest room in the castle. He insisted that I start with all the guestsí rooms, then the servantsí quarters, and lastly, his room.
I slammed the door shut behind me and sprinted over to a small room that jutted out over the moat. The King had this room added on after he built the castle and it made for relaxing afternoons, sitting with the King, and discussing politics and local gossip.
The room could only hold two people and didnít have a door. The window surrounded me on three sides and I could see far, far into King Jeridonís land. Flat, grassy land, but very productive for him and his people.
I picked up a volume of Ejiís The Art of Persuasion, and turned to the middle somewhere. I read a page when King Jeridon strolled into the room.
I set the book down on the red bench. "King Jeridon," I acknowledged.
"Reading again, I see. What is it this time?"
"The Art of Persuasion."
"Now why are you reading a book like that?" The King joined me in the small room and sat opposite me on the bench.
"Nonsense. No one reads a book like that for pleasure. Youíve got something brewing in that head of yours, donít you?"
"Honestly, I donít"
The King turned his head and started out the window. I tried to get a better look at his eyes. I could tell what he was thinking by his eyes. They always gave him away. This time, though, they looked distantly at his land.
"I have a lot of flat, grassy land," he said.
"Yes sir, you do."
"Itís all beautiful and I havenít had the time to see it all."
"You still could."
"No matter." He looked out the window to his left. "We have a war to start and thereís not to be any beautiful land to see for a while." He pointed to a tree down by the river. "There is the place I fell in love."
"How long ago?" I asked.
He laughed. "Many, many years ago. I donít think I have the mind to remember when."
"What did she look like?"
"Look like? She didnít look like anything. I didnít matter, I just knew she was as beautiful as the heavens." King Jeridon closed his eyes and smiled, recalling the memory.
"A happy time for you then?" I asked.
"Yes. A very happy time."
"She was killed by a horse cart carrying herbs and spices for the rich." The King shifted his position so that he looked right at me. "You think Iím crazy, donít you, for wanting a war."
"What do you mean?"
"I know what you said. About people and resources. You donít think I heard you, but I did." The King stood and sat on the bed. "You think Iím crazy anyway."
"Youíre the King," I said. "You can do whatever you want.
The King changed the subject again.
"What do you think of Thomas? Do you think heíd make a good King?"
"Yes," I said. "I believe he would."
"He would," King Jeridon said. "But when I die heís not the one who will succeed me."
"You, my friend Cravis. You will succeed me." The King went to his writing desk and sat down. He pulled a sheet of paper from the stack and inked his pen. "I have already written the Point of Succession Order and now I must write a letter." He scribbled something on the paper, then turned to me. "Could I do this alone?
I nodded. "Buy why have you written the Order so soon. You have many years left on your life. Why did you write it?"
He shrugged. "Instinct," he said, then waved to me. "Now please leave."
As I walked by the desk to leave, King Jeridon put his hand on my shoulder.
"You know Iíve always loved you," he said, "ever since you started in the kitchen, Iíve always found you like a son."
"I know King Jeridon, I know." I looked him in the eye for a second before leaving him alone in his room.
There was fear behind those eyes.
Fear. And love.
Two days later, Thomas returned from his duty. I was in one of the guest rooms down the hall from King Jeridonís room and saw Thomas walk by with a sheaf of papers.
He glanced into the room and smiled briefly. I nodded, then went back to cutting some fabric.
I heard Thomas knock on the Kingís door, but I didnít hear it open. Minutes later, Thomas came through the guest room door.
"Hello, Cravis," he said.
"How were your travels?"
"My travels were met with moderate success."
"Will King Chabrod help us?"
"We will owe him greatly, if we win the war." Thomas pointed in the direction of the Kingís room. "Is King Jeridon in his room?"
I didnít want to tell Thomas about what the King told me two days ago and I didnít want to tell him how the King thought of him. "I assume so," I said. "His door is shut, Ďthough I havenít seen him since you left."
"Brooding, no doubt," Thomas said. He turned and stood in the doorway. "Well, if you see him, tell him Iíve returned and have papers for him to sign from King Chabrod."
"Will do," I responded.
Thomas took one last look down the hall before I heard his heavy riding boots clumping down the stairs, echoing his disapproval of King Jeridon.
That night, while I was sleeping, shots and commotion brought me to my window. In the distance, I saw points of fire bouncing towards the castle. Soon, I heard Knights and Warriors suiting up below and a minute later, they were running from the castle towards the riders carrying the fire.
I quickly walked to King Jeridonís room and knocked on the door. My raps bounded back to me with no answer.
"King Jeridon," I murmured. "King Jeridon, wake up."
I slowly picked up the rope and unlatched the door. It screamed on itís hinges as I cautiously pushed it open. My eyes immediately went to the bed and I saw it was still made. I looked over at the writing desk and saw nothing except for the paper King Jeridon had been writing on.
As I swung the door open the rest of the way, I saw the King sitting in the small room where we had talked two day ago. He was propped against a window, looking longingly out of the window.
He was sitting there dead.
A knife was lodged in his chest and I could only see the ivory handle. His hands, as if praying, clutched the knife. Blood dripped to the floor and stained the Kingís clothes and the cushion beneath the King.
I closed my eyes and willed away some tears that were thinking about escaping my eyes. I grabbed a blanket from the bed and covered King Jeridon with it, leaving his eyes to stare into his land.
From his room, I had a better view of the riders. They were the enemy. Loose and savagely riding towards the castle.
All would be lost, and I would be the King of it.
No, I didnít want to be King. Not of this.
I snatched the letter King Jeridon had written and glanced over it. The greeting was to Thomas. Basically, the letter explained why he was letting me become King and why he wanted to attack. King Jeridon had quickly tired of life as King and there was no way to dethrone himself.
It wasnít a complete answer, but King Jeridon couldnít explain anything, anymore.
Running to my room, I picked out some clothes and headed down to the kitchen. I took some food from the storage and wrapped them in my shirts.
I heard the shouts and screaming of people dying and I quietly made my way to the horses. Most of them would be in battles, but the riding horses would still be there.
I selected King Jeridonís horse from the stables and began riding away from the attack. Away from Thomas. Away from the castle.
King Jeridon was still with me, but I rode away from being King.
I definitely did not want to be King.
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