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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
All rights reserved. Including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the author.
Copyright © 2016 M.G. Darwish
Justice always seemed to be a fascinating term that captivated the minds of every ruler, and it was no surprise that King Roosha was obsessed with it as well. He was known as a man of peace and great vision, and during his reign, the lands knew prosperity more than anything else they saw in the world.
Yet, there was one thing which no matter what title or crown he wore, he would be powerless to do anything to change, and that was an heir to his throne.
Though he had many wives, the heavens did not bless him with a child, save for Nura, his jewel in the whole entire world. She was nineteen years old with dark brown eyes that sat in her round face. Her face rivaled the smoothness of milk that complimented her silky black hair. She was truly the envy of the entire kingdom, as none could rival her beauty.
One day, the King grew tired of dealing with the nobility and their demands, and decided to retire to his chambers. Then, he heard a knock on his door. “Come in.”
Then entered Nimrud, who was quite tall and had short silver hair that sat atop his dark brown eyes. “My liege, an opportunity has . . . arrived in our lands just a moment ago, and I thought it worthy enough for your ears,” he said.
“Out with it, Nimrud. I’ve told you a dozen times, there needn’t any formality between us.”
Nimrud’s face wore a gentle smile. “You are my King, and I, your servant.”
“You are my friend. My most worthy advisor, and there are no titles among friends is there?” the King asked.
“No, there aren’t,” Nimrud said as he took a pause. “My liege, I know how dearly you must think about the fate of the kingdom, and I perhaps have found a . . . way to offer insight into our problem.”
Roosha stood in his place, and turned pale. His heart raced up at the chance that perhaps someone or something was found by his advisor that would solve his problem. “What is it?” he asked.
“A rather interesting individual has just made her presence known in our town. People say she is a witch -- that can foresee the future. Perhaps we can arrange for her to come and investigate.”
The King sighed, he must have felt desperate to even consider listening to the words of a witch. Would that it be enough, he didn’t fully know, but perhaps his soul yearned for some sort of peace, however temporary it may be. “Arrange it, Nimrud,” he said, and then frowned.
And so, Nimrud nodded and made his way out of the chambers of the King, leaving him to his thoughts.
The next day, the King awoke from his slumber, and couldn’t wait until he put on his royal cloths, he stood in silence, eying down his crown made of gold. He sighed, but lifted it and placed it on his head. He made his way to the court.
Over by Nimrud’s side, the witch was waiting. She was old and her face was filled with wrinkles, she was dressed in all black and had purple hair. She held a green orb.
“Good morning, I trust you have slept well?” Nimrud asked.
The King nodded. “As well as I could. Let’s get this over with shall we?” he looked at the witch with gleeful eyes. He shut them, and then opened them again.
“Very well,” the witch said, before she placed her orb on a table nearby. She then uncovered a dagger she had underneath her dress.
Nimrud staggered, but the King waved at him, and he remained still.
“I will need a bit of your blood, my dear,” she said before she handed the King her dagger, followed by a smirk on her face.
“I swear by my honor, if you try anything-“
The King said, before he interrupted himself with a moan. The dagger had cut through his palm, and blood came dripping on the witch’s magical orb.
The witch’s face wore a big cold smile, as she relived the King from the dagger, but then she used her tongue to savor every bit of blood. She cleaned it dry.
A cold chill ran down the King’s spine, his face turned pale. He wasn’t well versed in these techniques the witches use. But alas, his mind was clear: this had to be.
Moments after, the orb began to emit a stench of rotten flesh. It was enough to drive any person that even thought of coming near to turn around, and then glowed a form of yellow.
“What is this?” the King gawked. He stood still, his legs were frozen. Though he wouldn’t care to admit it, but he was trembling. If anyone asks, it’s cold he thought to himself. Appearances meant everything to him, for he was a King nonetheless.
The witch began to hum and followed a rhythm as she waved her arms gently above the orb. She closed shut her eyes. “I see your future. I see it . . . there are death, poison and more death,” she said.
“What!” the King cried. “What of my heirs? Will I have a son?” he asked.
“No . . . your line will end soon, and your daughter will perish at the sight of the new moon,” she said, as she opened her eyes. She took a deep breath.
“What is this madness?” the King cried as he turned towards Nimrud. “Guards!” he yelled, as his guards came to his side. “Execute her right away!” he commanded without a moment’s hesitation. “Where is my daughter?” he asked Nimrud.
“I believe she is in her quarters my liege . . .” Nimrud replied, but amidst the anger of the King, he could say very little.
On that day, all citizens of the kingdom came to see their loving ruler executing a witch. Many tried to justify this, by stating that magic and sorcery are wrong but deep in the comfort of their homes, they questioned why he was involved in sorcery from the beginning.
But they were not there, they did not see how the witch behaved nor the words she spoke that rang in the King’s ears still. His face turned pale, and those who once knew him, often thought he was haunted.
The witch was never trialed, and was executed in front of a large gathering, the King grew weary and confused. He feared the day that his daughter would fall, and saw enemies in everyone, save for only Nimrud.
Weeks from then, the King fell ill, some believe he succumbed to his own perceptions and others believed that he simply lost his mind. Nonetheless, no doctor was fit enough to cure what was happening to him, they called it “the scorching of a delusional man”.
On his death bed, the advisors gathered. He had not yet been given an heir and so they asked him. “Who should succeed you?”
“My . . . daughter,” he said with all the strength that he had and then his hand fell, cold and lifeless.
The advisors argued among themselves as to what the King really meant. Some thought he wished for his daughter to take the crown for herself and rule as the queen, while others believed that he died before finishing his sentence, and that he desired her to wed a King.
The bickering dragged on for days, it wasn’t until Nimrud summoned them all for a meeting that all arguments would be settled.
“I believe it in our best interest to have the Princess decide. After all, King Roosha’s blood runs through her veins.”
And with that, the advisors knew peace as they called upon the Princess to appear before them.
“Good men of the council, and friends of my late father. My heart has not yet healed, and yet you are arguing as to who should take a crown?” she asked, as she barged through the door.
There was silence. None would dare to speak to such an innocent creature that was going through the pain of losing her sole parent. Her mother had died at birth.
“Jewel of my eyes, my Princess, I have known you since you were little, but if this matter is not settled then I’m afraid that the whole Kingdom would collapse,” Nimrud said.
The Princess saw reason within his voice and tone, she paused for a moment and then sighed. “If it is for the benefit of the Kingdom, then I’ll wed someone, so he becomes King, and I his queen.”
Those gathered, broke their silence with tears of joy. They sang praises of her, they knew that this was the way to do it, but none other than Nimrud knew what this actually meant for Princess Nura, this was a huge undertaking and a sacrifice on her part for the good of the kingdom.
A debate erupted among the advisors as to who the Princess should wed, and Nimrud could see Nura’s face reddened. She was embarrassed that people were discussing who she should wed. Although she was royalty, she was old school in matters of the heart.
“How about we organize a tournament, that all the mightiest may enter in an attempt to capture her heart, through bravery and valor?” Nimrud said, and the council members were silent.
“It would unify the lands!” one of them cried. “It would also strengthen the bond our people feel with the Kingdom!” another added, as they cheered.
Nimrud then, locked his gaze with the Princess, and she nodded with a gentle smile on her face. He felt that she was only relieved to have the matter settled, she would no longer hear them talk about her future as if it was a mere asset.
And so, an official announcement was made and that piece of news kindled a lot of hope in many warriors across the lands. To wed a queen, was to ensure their villages and cities would prosper, enough time was given that the news reached every corner of the kingdom. The day that the Princess would meet her King, would come.
It was a bright day, and the sun basked in glory as it stood at the center of the world, offering its sunshine across amidst a fully packed arena. The crowd had gathered to see this wonderful once in a lifetime event.
The Princess sat in a closed compartment, and was told she must watch the games herself as to not insult tradition, and she did.
The warriors soon stepped forth. There were too many to count and they came in all sizes and shapes. Some had muscles and their faces were covered by scars, while others stood at nearly seven feet tall. They were called giants, who held a battle hammer, and then there were noble sons who were dressed in expensive armor. You could tell them by the way they had prepared their hair.
Then, there stood among them, a man that seemed normal. He had darting blue pupils that sat his eye pockets, and was short. He had wavy black hair. His name was Zayden, and from the first glance, he knew that he had literally no chance at victory.
“Look at our competition,” a warrior said, as he spat on the ground. He moved towards Zayden. “Are you lost, little girl?” he taunted.
“Brute strength is not all that determines a battle,” Zayden replied. He then smirked and pointed at him. “But I’m sure someone like you won’t understand.”
One of the giants stepped closer to him. “You . . . are smart, I like you,” the giant said. “My name . . . Keltus, nice eating you.”
“Eating me?” Zayden gawked, as he took a few steps backwards.
“Sorry, I meant meeting you. Why are you here?” Keltus asked.
“My village,” Zayden replied. He could see that his answer took Keltus by surprise. “It’s a very poor village, and they could use the exposure just from me being in this tournament.”
“But you will die,” Keltus said.
“It’s not a problem. If my death, will cause even one person to eat for another day, then I do not mind it,” he said.
“I like you. I keep you safe,” Keltus said, as he smiled and stood next to Zayden.
Zayden looked at the giant as if he was a watchtower, but he was moved by his words, although he would be vigilant, he wouldn’t know what would happen once the signal to commence the tournament is given.
And it wasn’t long before they had the signal, one of the advisors stood up. “Good people of the lands, I salute you,” he said before he took a bow. “Today and for your pleasure only, the Princess will wed the winner, further proving that anyone may rise to be King, even if they are from humble roots. Let the games . . . begin.”
As soon as he finished that word, swords, daggers went flying across the battle field. First, all the thugs worked together to kill off all the nobles, perhaps it was envy, or rather something else, but they despised them. And having them all on that arena seemed too good to be true.
The battle dragged on, the nobles fell to the swords of the commoners one by one, and when there was no one left to unite against, they turned on each other. Back stabbing seemed to be one of their deadly traits.
Zayden, was smart and he avoided any contact up until then, he managed to hide away and dwell within the arena. The others were busy butchering each other and did not take note of him and Keltus, who was providing cover for him.
Hours passed as if sand in an hourglass, and the bodies soon began to pile up and cover almost the entire arena. Princess Nura, was a stranger to these wild instincts, and she didn’t know what made her feel worse, the fact that soon one of those would be called King, or the fact that she would be the one wedding them.
All but four warriors remained standing. Keltus and Zayden included. Up to that point, they have done great at avoiding battle and fought only when they had no alternative, and that proved to be working quite well.
But the other two, were fully tainted in the blood of the others they slaughtered. The crowd cheered them on as if they were witnessing their most favorite sport but that was not it. It seemed that the two fighters enjoyed the process.
As each eyed down the other, they began clashing and the sound of swords colliding left and right rang anew in the ears of Zayden, who at this point began to tremble where he stood. Would that both of these warriors fall, mean that he has to fight a giant?
Keltus knelt towards Zayden, and his giant face wore a warm smile that covered the entire view of Zayden.
“Don’t worry . . . Zayden, I will not hurt you,” he said.
Zayden, exhaled in relief. He felt beauty in the giant’s words, ones that sent a chill down his spine, but he knew he could trust in them. So far, his giant friend did protect him from many attacking enemies, but would the temptation stand?
Then, and in a blink of an eye, Zayden stood in silence, as his eyes grew wider and bigger than the blue horizon. The expression on Keltus’s face suddenly changed. Blood came dripping down from his nose, as he fell on the ground, a cold corpse.
A sword was stuck to the back of his head, and a warrior was rushing to Zayden’s sight. He had taken out the other fighter, and struck the giant when he was distracted.
“Come out, little girl. Remember me?” the warrior said, as he smirked. His face was covered completely in red this time. He paused at the giant’s body, and picked up his sword. “The name’s Aligus, nice to meet you,” he said before he took a bow.
“You only do that at the beginning, you moron,” Zayden said.
Aligus took a few steps back. “Well, excuse me if I don’t know good manners. I should learn soon, seeing as I’m gonna be the next King!” he said before he burst into laughter.
Zayden sighed, and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes shut, and he could hear the sound of the calm rivers in his village running, children playing and hear the harmony but more than anything he felt . . . peace. He knew that by accomplishing what he did, someone would be bound to use it in order to garner the village some supplies. Reputation, after all, was everything.
“So, you have anything you want to say before I kill you?” Aligus said.
“No. Go ahead,” Zayden said, as he opened both of his arms welcoming the idea of death, which got the crowd to stand on their feet. Never did they see such a thing.
Aligus stared, and eyed him down. He swallowed. “You would die so happily? Are you an idiot?” he asked. Though he insulted, he was sincere in his question. Never did he meet a man so willing to throw his life away.
“I would, knowing that my family and village will be able to use my death in order to prepare for the coming winter. Children will not starve, wives will not weep that they cannot feed their families, how can I not accept death under those terms?” Zayden replied, his face wore a gentle smile which kindled and woke something in everyone’s heart on that day.
And it was then, when princess Nura stood. “Stop the fight,” she commanded.
The advisors looked at each other, unaware of what to do, surely she didn’t mean to disrupt the entire purpose of the tournament.
“Stop the fight I tell you!” she yelled. Her enthusiasm cut through their doubts, and one of the guards blew a horn that echoed in the minds of all.
Aligus, dropped his sword upon hearing the horn, he thought that perhaps the Princess felt bad for Zayden, and that she would crown him King without spilling his blood, he kept thinking that as the royal guards entered the arena, and completely surrounded both him and Zayden.
The horn blew yet again, and the Princess made slow but sure steps down towards both men. She stood before Zayden and smiled.
“Your words inspire, as would a King’s,” she said. “You were willing to sacrifice your life, for the benefit of others and if that is not a trait I want in a husband, then I do not know what is. So, Zayden, allow me to ask this of you: would you be so kind as to accept my hand in marriage?” she asked.
Nimrud accompanied her, and he gave her a dagger that was covered in gold. It was a royal symbol for the King, and upon taking that dagger, Zayden would become the King of the lands.
Zayden could not believe what had just happened, his eyes bewildered and he searched deep within his heart for the right words to say.
“Oh, give me a break . . .” Aligus cried, up until now he was witnessing what was rightfully his just be taken like that, and he did not like it, not one bit.
He took a dagger that he hid within his boots, and he threw it at the Princess, before he reached for one of the guard’s swords, he tried to slash as many as he could but was overpowered very shortly. The guards subdued him, and held him in custody.
But upon further inspection, the dagger, had pierced the Princess’s skull. She laid on the ground lifeless and blue. They all stood there in horror, their hearts began to race up.
The crowd began to shout in agony, they had just witnessed one of the most brutal events ever, and if that was not enough, it was followed by the assassination of their royal princess. They were lost, as were the guards.
But then, Nimrud approached Nura’s body, and took the royal dagger from her, and approached Zayden, he stood right before him, and bowed as he presented the dagger to him. “I hereby, ask you to assume the mantle of King, and pass judgment . . . on this criminal,” he said, though he kept bowing, almost trying to hide his face.
Zayden looked at the royal dagger long and hard, and then rolled his eyes towards Aligus, who was bitter and shouting.
Zayden turned, and faced the crowd. “Good people of the Kingdom. I am one of you, and I came only to support my village,” he paused to catch his breath. His gaze caught Nura’s body for a moment, but he quickly turned again.
“If I am to accept this, then I will begin by swearing an oath to you right here and now: I will always, be after what benefits you. I will work tirelessly, and strive only for your sake,” he added.
Zayden then rolled his eyes towards Aligus and frowned. “But so long as I, am your King, I will always uphold justice. And as such . . .” he stopped shortly, before picking the royal dagger that was presented, he pointed it at Aligus. “I hereby, sentence you to death.”
M.G. Darwish is an award nominated author who has published his debut novel ‘Dragon Tooth’ in June 2016, as well as many short stories. Being the youngest in a family of four brothers, he has always had a passion for telling stories and present ideas that go beyond the current trends and mixes them with lessons from our own society. When he’s not writing, he is often reading up conspiracy theories, pays attention and takes notes no matter what the theory suggests.
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