King And Bastard

“I march with my men, and that’s final!” he says to me, entering a litter full of women and alcohol, leading twenty thousand men into battle without care.

King And Bastard

The King maintains that I am a bastard. That I am not his legitimate son. He reminds me often that he and mother birthed me out of wedlock; that I will never be royalty. The stigma he thinks this causes me. I don’t think too much about it really; my parents are only separated not divorced.

They say drunken men always have misplaced priorities; my father, the king, is not an exception. He prefers getting drunk and impregnating women to tending his kingdom. I have to do it for him, treating his subjects in the best manner possible. Many of his closest advisors are already plotting to kill him. I am the only one stopping this from happening. Yet my father keeps saying to me in drunken slurs that I will never inherit his kingdom.

The irony…

I know. By the God I know that my mother is at fault for this. Not many queens have the confidence to cheat on their kings, but mine did it repeatedly. Although my mother never speaks about it, I sometimes hear confirmation of my mother’s early prostitution career from the mouth of servants. Then I have the servants killed.

I don’t like to think about that, but you can’t ignore the fact that your mother owns every whorehouse in the country for very long.

What a kingdom I live in.

And to think that all would have been normal if my mother hadn’t openly cursed my father’s existence. I was only fourteen, but I was there when my mother and father had the greatest argument of any royal couple at that time. It happened when my father slipped four women into his chambers; this was after my mother had been caught red-handed in the act with my father’s squire.

I have never seen my parent argue in that fashion. Neither have I ever seen two people tear at each other like animals until their clothes shredded off. It was during this heated argument that my mother sealed her fate. Sometimes outbursts are just outbursts; however, a verbal threat on the King’s life is never forgiven. After my mother expressed this desire of hers to murder my father, he banished her to the eastern wing of the palace, never to be seen again in court.

Two dozen whorehouses later, the same ones my father regularly visits, my mother now owns her own palace in the Kingdom at the West end of the country.

Of course, he keeps me by his side. I am the only one who truly cares for him. He appoints me the keeper of court. My mother says she has never heard such a title before. I am of the opinion that it is a diverse yet unfulfilling position. In fact, I have no real authority. I sometimes ask myself: what is the point of being the adviser to a King who never listens; or a son to a father who publicly dismisses my heirship?

My father may hate me but I don’t. I am simply ashamed of him. No kingdom should suffer under such incompetence.

I don’t believe in God, but my mother is a devout Christian. She prays all the time. I know for a fact her prayers get answered. In her fourteen years at the king’s palace, I always wake up to find her praying outside my room. Unlike my father, she wasn’t born into royalty. She was raised broken and poor. Only by chance did she marry the King. Every day, she prays that her newfound blessings never end.

And of course, she prays for my father’s death. This prayer, although I constantly hope against it, accidentally gets answered on one fateful day.

You see; my father, the king, has an enemy in the form of a Southern Lord called Gulliver. Mother tells me that father forced himself on Lord Gulliver’s beloved sister. That father’s failure to acknowledge his ninth bastard is the reason the northern and southern end of the Kingdom share a border.

Unfortunately, Gulliver who is now on his death bed; and without any heirs, is losing his hold on the South. Father wants to strike.

After many years of global peace, an action like this was the last thing any king, lord, or nobleman wanted. But my father thinks otherwise. He seeks something more than wine, wealth, and women; he seeks world power. Without mother curbing his excesses, he is free to do as he wishes.

And he does.

My father soon pens an open letter to the noblemen in the South, stating his intent to conquer their territory. He uses many vile slurs: ‘annihilation, ‘ambush’, and ‘rape’ in the letter; a product of his drunkenness. I am too powerless to stop the arrangement; a dozen of these letters were already on eagles’ backs flying southward.

Any King with half my father’s powers and in their right minds would backtrack on the need for bloodshed. Indeed, father has an army of twenty thousand strong. The Southern army, at best, numbered three thousand.

The odds are in your favor. There is no need for war, I try to tell him, but he turns a deaf ear once again and instead takes advice from gold-digging prostitutes.

Gulliver’s response to father’s letter is concise. ‘If you strike, you will die in the South.’

Gulliver’s letter of confidence intrigues me, so I say nothing when my father orders us to march at daybreak. Come morning, I rethink my stance on the matter and offer to ride south with five thousand men. My father refuses. He instantly identifies my suggestion with treason and further threatens to hang me if I speak again.

 “I march with my men, and that’s final!” he says to me, entering a litter full of women and alcohol, leading twenty thousand men into battle without care.

Mother says Southerners are fetish. They weave dark magic and can kill people from afar. I find this to be true because very soon, my father’s life receives its first warning. Deep in the forests, we find snakes lurking in the trees. Unknown to us, one manages to slip into his litter. Fortunately, it doesn’t bite him; but poisons one of his prostitutes. I order some men to bury the broad somewhere accessible.

My father sleeps through the whole event, drunk to his wits. After sleeping off the drink, he asks where the girl is; and we tell him she returned home to see her family. He rants for a moment before slipping back into his tent.

“What’s he so angry about?” says the army commander, who is a firm admonisher of the King; and one most likely to start a coup. “He’s got two more in that litter; and about five marching on foot.”

I say nothing and only focus on the battle at hand. Mother says one must never acknowledge the fault of the family in public. I have followed this doctrine all my life; and it has kept my father alive.

After two hours marching, my father encounters another life-threatening situation. This happens when he wanders off during a break from the march. After searching hard for the king in the bushes, we find him swimming in a pool, naked to the bone. I and the commander watch him from a distance, pondering if it was wise to rescue him from the incoming three-foot alligator.

The king is oblivious to the whole thing. He has his back turned when I spear the predator clean through the head. I watch it sink into the pool, spreading blood across the shiny blue waters. Again, the King is oblivious to his life getting saved. But he catches me in the act of retrieving my spear. He questions my intrusion on his privacy and shrieks at the little pool of blood at the corner of the pool.

Trent, my father says to me, this is not the right time to fish. Then he returns to his litter to drink some more wine. The commander and I share a disappointed look before rallying the troops for the remainder of the march. Not long after, our march takes an unexpected downturn. We find a river blocking the path to the Southern villages. This is an artificial river, as it has no landmark on the map—a river created by Gulliver to hinder our progress.

We must all walk from here on out, I tell the king. Are you mad, my father retorts. After much arguing, the king gets his way. We leave his litter behind, but the men spend the greater part of an hour building a raft big enough to convey my father’s royal stallion across the river.

Unbelievable…

At the end of the exercise, it is already high noon—not the best time to battle. So we slow our march to a crawl, hoping to meet two thousand impatient Southern soldiers. Alas, when we get to the hill overlooking the great wall of the South, we meet little resistance. Looking up at us from the savannah fields in the valley below is a cowled man sitting mysteriously on a pale brown horse.

“Never knew Gulliver to be so gullible,” says the King defiantly pleased with himself. “Look! He sends his sorcerer to intimidate me.”

I watch my father gloat for a while, because well, he demands the attention. In fact, as the only person seated comfortably on a horse, he is the center of attention. The rest of only bask in his foolishness.

The enemy watching below swiftly pulls out a weapon. I catch sight of an acute bow and long-tail arrows. This isn’t a sorcerer, this is an assassin.

“Get down!” I shouted, tackling my father off his horse.

The arrow whizzes just past my ears and misses my father completely. I have saved my father’s life yet again. I stand immediately and command a dozen men to fetch me the head of the assailant. This order, they executed swiftly.

My father lays flat for a while; on the grassy cliff of the hill, trying his hardest to fathom this unsolicited murder attempt on his life. He sits up gently, admiring his surrounding for a while as if the grasses and leaves were responsible for his survival.  Then he gives me the same insolent stare I have received all my life. I exchange confused looks with the commander, not understanding the wrong I have committed.

For the first time in twenty-five years, my father is sober as a snail; and madder than ever.

The King incredulously smacks me across the face for throwing him off his horse. He claims repeatedly that he saw the arrow coming, and that I am wrong to push him off his horse. I say nothing but watch in awe of his foolishness. My father then watches the assailant get his head cut. He takes this victory seriously pumping a fist into the air.

He then turns his attention to me, the commander, and the remaining eleven thousand, nine hundred and eighty-eight men that stood on that very cliff.

We stand, once again, in awe of the King’s foolishness. He rains curses on Gulliver and curses the land of the Southerners. The King is theatrical; he spins this way and that on his axis, expressing his hate for the whole Southern kingdom.  He wants us to ride down into the territory and kill every living being we find, old and young.  

Looking at him now, I feel nothing. All I can think of is the sting on the right side of my face where the King had struck me.

Something catches my attention during my father’s tantrum. The commander sees it too. But we are too powerless to stop what comes next. The King doesn’t see that his foot is caught up in the grass in time. Only when he tries to move does he realize that he’s stuck. Pulling harder this time, the King loses his balance and falls backwards…

…off the ten-foot-tall cliff.

No one survives that, I reckon. The commander agrees; and we both peer into the valley below, to find the king’s body tangled in the rocks, his spine broken to bits. We stare at the gory scene for a while, hoping to see signs of life. But all we see is an unmoving corpse. The men below find the king’s corpse and look up at us in surprise.

I order them to bring along his corpse, and they gladly obliged.

“A shame,” says the commander watching the men piece together the king’s body. “He wasn’t the brightest of kings.”

I shake my head in disbelief. “To think that I saved him from a better death…”

“Good riddance, I suppose.”

“Indeed.” I concur.

I think of the enormous joy this will bring my mother; and for a second, I almost chuckle. What a foolish way to die.

“Your orders; sire,” the commander beckons.

I look at the twenty thousand men at my disposal then at the Southern territory. I do not share the murderous sentiments of my father. Frankly speaking, the impetus to ride further is no longer there. I feel at peace.

“We head home,” I announce to my soldiers, “There will be no bloodshed today.”

And they obey me, all twenty thousand of them, for indeed, I am their king.

 

 

 

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