Today I am going to tell you a story. It is inspired from a song by Jen Titus that a I heard a long time ago in the TV show “Supernatural”. A few lyrics from this song are borrowed. Also, the inspiration comes from the hundreds of minutes of surreal dreams that I’ve been having ever since I’ve lost my sight. Sometimes, I believe that my brain is mismatching reality with an imaginary world with fabulous castles, kings and queens, wars, heroes and adventures. I should add that I remembered about an old photo album posted on Facebook, with photos of a medieval-like complete set of chess pieces. These photos, which I can perfectly visualize, are a source of inspiration as well. These photos will be added in future parts as time and imagination will allow us to. Sis is the one helping me put these ideas into proper English.
The two sons were standing by their father’s bed, both upset and in disagreement. The King already said that his decision was final and since he did not want to prolong his suffering by arguing and negotiating needlessly over political affairs with the two, he pointed his right arm at the door and asked them to leave. Continuing fighting would not be rational and their father needed rest. For two people who were striving to be as different as possible from each other, the twins thought very much alike. As such, they headed towards the door, but heard a voice behind saying:
“Girl, you stay”, said the King to the girl standing by the entrance.
“Why would he want her to stay?”, thought the two sons looking at each other. They didn’t want to take the risk of leaving a simple maid alone with the King.
The King hurled his left arm onto the bed and repeated to the twins , in a thundering voice: “Leave!”. So they did, closing the door behind them.
The girl didn’t approach the King’s bed immediately, she didn’t even dare to lift her head and look at him.
“Come here, girl”, said the King toning down the harshness in his voice.
“Are you alright, My King?”she exclaimed while getting closer to the bed.
Her words stung deep inside his heart, putting a frown upon his old face. She was just about to kneel before him, but the King stopped her.
“That’s not a place for you to sit, Girl! Sit here instead”, showing her the edge of the bed, all the while not loosing sight of her. As unusual as the circumstances were, being left alone in the room with His Highness, while everyone else with high status was waiting outside, his warm voice calmed her down and lured her in, as such, she sat next to him.
“You carry my name, Alezandra. I fought hard with the wolves around for this name to be given to you”.
“Yes, I know, Father.”
He took great pride in hearing her calling him “father”.
“You are the youngest of my five living children and, yet, the only one of them who dared to take the sword and the arch from my hands and asked me to teach them.” He noticed her blushing and continued: “Do not feel embarrassed, Alezandra, don’t believe for a second that you are lesser than any of my other children. My affection for you is as such that even the late Queen had to accept you at the Court.”
It was Alezandra’s turn to frown now, as much as she tried to hide it. Her father noticed the change on her face again: “Would you have rather lived freely in the wilderness, with your mother’s people?”
“It is inappropriate to talk of such things, Father”, she said while looking down again, but added: “I’ve been living freely as much as possible here as well, Father.”
The King turned his gaze away from her for a second to make her feel more at ease and gave a warm smile as he recalled her small figure. She couldn’t have been more than 13 of age. At a glance, she gave the impression of a simple, well-behaved, shy little girl. But, if you looked closer, you would see red curls roaming wildly out of her cap, and traces of mud on her long, blue navy dress, things which were inappropriate for a maid attending to the King. She was indeed her mother’s child, a free spirit bound to nothing and no one.
“You can speak your heart out when you are with me, Alezandra.” But he knew very well what troubles and thoughts lay deep inside her heart. He rolled his eyes across the room and paused his gaze towards the closet in front of the bed. The King would have wanted to get up himself, but his body was weak from old age and many scars of wars.
So, he said:
“Open the lower drawer. There is a box inside of it. Bring it to me, Alezandra.”
She stood up, walked towards the closet, rather relieved because it was the only time her father couldn’t see her face, so she allowed a few tears to wash her plump cheeks. The sight of her father aging so incredibly fast over the last weeks pained her. But the chance of having a talk with him brought so much joy that she chased away any uneasiness she might have felt and opened the drawer. She searched for the item among some old books and different objects that lay scattered in the drawer, when she finally caught a glimpse of something that had the shape of a box, but was wrapped inside a piece of leather cloth, at the back. She grabbed the box and brought it to the King, taking a seat by his side again. He ran his fingers across the leather’s stitches, brought the box closer to his heart, his eyes becoming watery. Never in his life did the King show any such signs of weakness. But it was then and only then he felt he was allowed to. After a short moment, while they both sat in silence, the King handed the box to his daughter saying:
“You are to open this box only when you are absolutely sure that you are completely alone. Find an appropriate time and place to do it… The rooms in this palace are not safe, so try somewhere outside the Court, but make sure that nobody sees you or follows you.”
She got up again and partially lifted her dress to hide the box inside her boots. After making sure that the gift from her father was safe, Alezandra turned her eyes towards him and wanted to say something but stopped. Young as she may be, she too was a skillful observer, a trait she inherited from her father, and she noticed the drained, almost lifeless look showing on his face… That day’s events took a great toll on him…
“Should I let you rest, Father?”
“Only for a few hours”, answered the King while closing his eyes for a moment.
She, then, kissed her father’s forehead and whispered softly in his ear: “I love you.” The words echoed so sweetly and comforting inside of him, that he knew those were the words of a daughter who cared deeply about her father.
“You are the King’s daughter, Alezandra!”
The King saw Alezandra to the door with his gaze until she closed it. He started looking through the room as a test to see whether his memory of the place was still real, and not a fabrication of a deteriorated mind. He remembered that the room lay at the top in the King’s Tower, and the windows faced both the east and the west. The windows towards the east were wide open, but the windows towards the west would sometimes get stuck and Alezandra, who was the one who often managed this job, couldn’t fully open them. The bed lay in the middle of the room on the north side and had a perfect view of both windows. The King chose this room with this specific layout because, when the windows on both sides were opened, he felt overjoyed by the cool draft filling up the room in the mornings and afternoons, especially when he wasn’t able to take his beloved walks in the garden anymore. That afternoon’s breeze gently caressed his face and averted his attention from the deep wrinkles engraved onto his face, something which he didn’t want to see in the mirror standing above the closet in front of the bed.
He also remembered that the King’s clothes, crown and scepter, his sword and armor were somewhere in the room, but he couldn’t grasp them within his sight. He didn’t seem to be particularly interested or attached to anything in the room, his mind just wandering on the lane of memories. Then he turned his head towards the south as he lay down on the bed.
“It’s been a long time”, he addressed the other person in the room.
“You have hidden yourself very well over the last 25 years”, the King heard.
“I was only 10 when I saw you for the first time. You looked no different than I did. And it felt like you were pulling me out of the water as if to save me. I’ve lasted at your side many more times after that.” The King opened the buttons to his shirt and touched an old scar along his left ribs. “This is when I lifted my arm and nearly touched your skin. You were standing by my side, although a bit closer than you are now.” He then followed the trail of another scar onto his chest… a long, deep scar…”You tricked me when I got this one. You were laying on the grass in the clearing, barely covered in clothes, bare feet, your hair so dark, your skin so white, your curves so perfect, red flowers growing out of your curls. I came very close to follow you that time. So close that I didn’t see the seven men surrounding me and plunging their swords into my flesh. I felt like I was loosing my mind at the sight of you, my heart aching to feel the softness of your lips, to follow the line of your neck, the swell of your breasts and leave a trail of kisses around your belly button. I would have slid inside of you, if my warriors didn’t pull me away from your sweet embrace.”
“Am I not as beautiful for you now as I was then?” she said.
The King sighed deeply, still throbbing with desire to have the woman who has been haunting his dreams for nearly a century.
“I find you more beautiful than ever, now.”
She looked nothing less than a woman he would have wanted to share his life with. She was white from head to toe. Her hair was white folded in a long, thick braid. A white dress and a white cloak hid her aged body from him.
“You have changed a lot over the years, but your eyes remain the same. I was always able to see my reflection in your glass-like eyes. No secret is kept away from you.”
He turned his eyes away from her, for a little, and saw that it was bright and sunny on the western horizon. Suddenly, he heard a gust of wind smashing the eastern windows into the walls and blowing the red curtains away in violent waves. Outside the windows, over the fields, the forest and the hills, big dark clouds were gathering, thunders were hauling, and lightning struck down out of the gods sheaths. The King’s eyes remained frozen at the foreboding image outside the east windows.
“When God is gone and the Devil takes hold, who will take mercy on my soul?”
“What do you believe your wrongs are?”
“I’ve taken thousands of lives during the battles”, countless of faces started flashing one after another, countless of horrified voices screaming inside his head.
“A thousand more were given and even more of them over the years.”
“I’ve let three of my children perish in my wars.”
“It is in each one’s power to decide the type of character they are in either war, peace or sickness. Your children proved their character when they deiced to join you in battles.”
“I did not raise my two heirs properly. And now they think my decisions are mad.”
“At the right time, they will remember what you taught them and they will be grateful.”
“I laid with too many women before battles and have dishonored my wife.”
“Many feel lonely when facing an unpredictable outcome. And some wins prove to be priceless treasures”, said the woman gazing at the door through which Alezandra just went out.
“I’ve lusted for treasures and filled the treasury with coins that are now sitting useless.”
“The people of this land are more than willing to give a little back in return for the lot they are receiving.”
“I did not give my warriors work over the last two decades.”
“They were given peace and time to spend with their families.”
The King’s turmoil was growing higher and higher as his voice became tremulous and his eyes drowned in tears. He took another deep breath and continued his confession.
“I’ve felt haughty. I built this enormous palace and surrounded my land with massive walls. None of the neighboring countries were able to match them and no enemy and rival succeeded in conquering them. And now, I feel envious of it. ”
“In the act of creation, it often happens that the one created outtakes their creator in order to protect what they love the most.”
“I’ll give you power, I’ll make you known, I’ll make you the Queen of the world.”
“No wealth, no silver, no gold, nothing satisfies me but your soul.”
“I am a coward and I am frightened.”
“You’ve been anything else but this for the past 100 years.”
“I am disgusted with what I’ve become, a shadow of the man I was before”, said the King as he faced the image of a hundred years old man, with long, white hair and beard, with a wide forehead covered in deep wrinkles, with eyes buried deep inside his sockets, thin lips, and his flesh barely hanging on his bony body.
“The human body is merely a shell to cover the spirit. Yours is the one I now call friend and you are to join me as equals, Alezander.”
“Would you spare me over another year?”
“My name is Death, and the end is here.”
He continued gazing at the storm, while the woman got closer to his bed. She embraced his head between her hands and turned it towards the West. He took a short look at the sun setting before she closed his eyes forever.
Outside, the people of the land were giving away white clothes to honor their beloved King.
To be continued.
Cătălina & Ana.