In the years of King Tellos’s autumn, as the realm of Evenlos suffered the Years of Hunger, a child was born to King Avalice of Peredia.  The land took it as a boon of coming blessing amongst the drought as the long barren queen took child.  They took it as sign that the years of trial would pass with the coming noble heir.  Food saved was spent in trust; gates locked were bound open in welcome.  A people dared whisper life once more.  When the birth pangs came upon the queen, all was stopped in bridled anticipation.  And when a cry came up from the keep, a greater cry came from the streets and walls of Castle Tereen.  A baby’s cry echoed across Peredia in the shouts of its hungry and hopeful.

The second news of the child’s birth traveled with slower feet.  Rumor drifted through the land that the child, a girl, was deformed.  Those who carried this news were met with jeers and stones and the promise of royal retribution.  Yet still, the king Avalice did not present his child.  As weeks passed and no sovereign proclamation of their child came, the people of Peredia no longer cast out those who had an ill word about the newly born.  And so the voices rose, and an unrest grew in their hearts.  

Where was their promised hope?  Their fields continued to wither.  Their cattle were slim and slow.  The hunt was dry.  The clouds held back their gift.  The child was not blessing but curse; it was not hope but pariah.

Years began to pass and the witnesses became abundant: the child was indeed a daughter, that or gremlin.  Her face was twisted and her body awry.  She moved with chaotic gate and had not yet adopted language beyond sharp wordless cries and a halting laugh.  

No one’s hope was more crushed than the king and the queen.  Their long sought child had come a monster.  The promise of a generation to come, and it was a broken fool.  The child broke the unity of the crown, as king withered in retreat and queen found solace in the court games.  All to leave their daughter unseen, looked after by a single maid.

A darkness fell and a voice rose amongst the land: a terrible voice.  It gave the people a new promise.  This child, it was not the life that gave them hope, but the death.  It was the evil of this land bound in flesh.  Duty called to expunge the iniquity.  Kill the child.

Soon violence became the inflection of this voice, and blood was shed.  Rebellion stirred, all in the name of death.  And the broken king feared immensely, seeing his lost kingdom crumbling.  The rest of Evenlos had their own famines and wars to combat and so Peredia was alone and beginning to eat itself.  As so, King Avalice Authominaus twelfth Pelawe, Keeper of Key and Sword, offered to his land his unnamed daughter.

Now the maid who was raising the daughter, and was the only one who spent time with the royal infant, found a surprise in her arms.  This ugly twisted baby was a child.  Just as any other, she needed with lusty cry, she laughed though her smile skewed askance.  She brightened to see her maid, she reached for the dancing sun with her crooked hand.  As years came, walking and language came slow, but delight was swift.  Understanding and memory was dark, but love was so very bright.  The maid tasked with teaching instead was the student.  As so, the lowly serving woman, Heila, loved the blamed and blameless daughter of the king with a deep and surprised love.

When news came to Heila of the coming sacrifice it was now her hope that was lost.  She cursed God for the horror of life and the crushing of the only beauty she had ever found, and thus rebellion filled her heart.

On the appointed day, King Avalice appeared in public spectacle before his people for the first time.  He clothed himself as a prodigal king giving all to his people, serving them in love.  The people wore the dressing of a thankful and compassioned people.  However it was fear that wore the crown, fear that thronged the streets, all dressed in masks.

When the appointed time came, Heila, the serving woman, came with child bundled in her arms.  Her face was resolute, all the tears already cried.  She came before the king in measured steps.  She stopped and offered the silent child to her father, the king.  Who kept his gaze ever beyond the unnamed and instead pointed to the intended executioner, dressed in the black of death.  Heila kept her arms out for a dozen breaths, near daring the king to look upon his child.  

A growing tension and unrest rose in the mass.  It was not a sound one heard with ears, but it was audible upon the heart.  The summation of the rage and hurt of mounting years was upon them.  The strain of breaking conscience proved a weight that spurred them on to greater trespass.  They desired blood, a blood to save them.  This would be the final bite of knife.

While the king never moved his gaze, Heila waited long enough to uncover the fear.  In victory, she began her slow final walk to the one who would kill the child.  The host found both hate and awe in their hearts towards this lowborn woman walking with kings.  Her back unbent as she bore their strife in her arms.

She stopped before the man, centered in the stage and in the eyes of the land.  Without tears or sound she put forth the child to be taken and slain.

Only as the executioner took up the child, his face immediately bore concern.  And he took the cloth bindings and ripped them open before all the people to a fall of straw and rocks.  Cries of astonishment and rage broke the silence.  Heila’s face was stubborn peace, knowing blood would still be shed.  As a wave, the crowd swelled.  Up and over the stage, crashing down upon a serving maid.  

King Avalice in his astonishment did not move, nor his guards, until it was too late.  For the wave did not stop at the woman but came rolling and overtaking his crown.  Drawn weapons were cast aside and seized.  The world was overthrown.

As the chaos came to settle, and the dark fear had been released, Heila was held out once more upon the staging.  She was battered and near naked in abuse.  Tortured for the purpose of finding the cursed child, she had felt the wrath of the dying.  Given one final chance, the mob had stood back to hear the map to their desires, the map to new life.  She said one word.  And it was still echoing when the stolen knife of the executioner, intended for younger breast, was plunged into her neck.  “Pariah!”

It was never known, and often debated, when they had courage to recount the dark day, what the maidservant intended by this cry.  Was it a curse?  Was it a question?  Was it the name she had adopted for her unnamed charge, only said with love to contest those other tongues?  It was never known.  

Nor was the unwanted princess found, despite a fevered and thorough search.  It would not be for the passing of more than a dozen years before the unnamed princess was discovered by the nation once more, and only to find her named and loved.

1 comment:

Bette said...

Spellbinding, indeed! And great fun. But please, Andrew, I want to read more of this tale!