The King of the Land
By Justin Michael King
Copyright 2016 Justin Michael King
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The King of the Land was old and knew that he was dying. He sent messengers to the four corners of the land to fetch his four sons so that he might speak to them before he died as well as pick his heir from among them. He brought them not to his throne room but rather he brought his sons to the balcony that overlooked the mountains in the distance.
“As you all know I am growing old and dying. The land needs a new King and it shall be one of you.” The four sons of the old King listened as they sat drinking tea while the sun set behind the mountains.
“To my son of the North you are the strongest of my sons and would make a worthy King.”
The Prince of the North smiled at this and stood so that his brothers could see that he was tall and strong.
“To my son of the West you are the swiftest of my sons and would make a worthy King.”
The Prince of the West stood and fired an arrow from his bow hitting a bird in mid-flight.
“To my son of the East you are the richest of my sons and you would make a worthy King”
The Prince of the East stood and demonstrated his regal bearing and many jewels to his brothers.
“And to my son of the South you are the cleverest and would make a worthy King.”
The Prince of the South stood and bowed to his aging father. He was remarkably shorter than his brothers. Laughter came from the other three as the Prince of the South sat down and drank his tea.
The King of the Land sat with his sons and continued to talk to them as the moon was rising over the mountains and the sky grew dark.
“You are all great and worthy men and one of you must be the next King of the Land, but I cannot choose from amongst you.”
“To my son of the North you have built mighty ships to defend your nation and no army can attack you because no ships can match your might.”
“To my son of the West you have the swiftest horses and the finest horsemen to defend your nation and no one can match the speed of your armies in the plains and deserts of your nation.”
“To my son of the East you have the richest lands and the shrewdest merchants. You can defend your nation by building the greatest walls and hiring the finest mercenaries to defend your nation.”
“To my son of the South your nation does not have the mightiest ships, the swiftest warriors, nor the greatest wealth but you have cleverly built your cities behind the mountains of the South to defend your nation. Behind these mountains you have collected the books of the wisest of men.”
“It because of all this that if you were to fight each other not one of you would be victorious over the other and the people of the land would suffer. That is why I brought you here so that you will swear to an oath with me and each other that war will not be used to solve this question.”
There was much arguing among the older brothers as they pleaded with their father that each should be his heir. The youngest brother sat and drank his tea while listening to each of his brothers in turn exhaust himself of breath as the moon drew high into the sky. The King of the Land stood and addressed them all.
“This matter is not for me to decide but rather for the heavens. My wise men tell me that tonight a meteor will fall when the moon is at its highest point in the sky. The moon is nearing its peak as we speak.”
The older brothers ceased their quarreling and watched as the moon rose to its greatest height in the dark night sky. Out of the darkness a flaming star shot across the night’s sky from the Southeast to the Northwest with the sound of thunder following it through the sky. The brothers were all amazed by this and surely this was a sign from the heavens. The old King addressed them once more.
“Let it be agreed amongst you tonight under the heavens that he who shall unlock the secret of the meteor shall be my true heir and reign as King of the Land. Swear upon it now.”
All of the brothers swore to abide by the sign from the heavens as each brother seemed convinced that he would be the one to unlock the secret of the meteor.
“Let it be agreed amongst you that no blood shall ever be shed between you and my son who is crowned King of the Land will be served faithfully and loyally just as you have served me.”
All the brothers swore to each other to do exactly as their father the King had wished of them. They also agreed among each other that whoever learned of the secret would summon all of his brothers back to this very balcony and show the meteor to them so that they may declare him the new King of the Land.
The Prince of the North returned to his nation and addressed his ship captains about the sign from the heavens and the secret of the meteor. The ship captains asked the Prince of the North how they should go about finding it to make him the King of the Land.
“The heavens truly want me to be King because the meteor fell in the northern seas where I am the master and only my mighty vessels can find it. We will gather all the nets in my nation to put on the ships so that we may drag the bottom of the sea till we find it and I am King.”
The Prince of the West returned to his nation and addressed his horse masters about the sign from the heavens and the secret of the meteor. The horse masters asked the Prince of the West how they should go about finding it to make him King of the Land.
“The heavens truly want me to be King because the meteor fell in the Western deserts where I am the master and where only Western horses can withstand the dryness and only Western men can navigate. We will gather all the horses and horsemen in my nation and give them all the water we have so that they may scour the desert to find the meteor and make me King of the Land.”
The Prince of the East returned to his nation and addressed his merchants about the sign from the heavens and the secret of the meteor. The merchants asked the Prince of the East how they should go about finding it when it had landed far from his lands.
“The heavens truly want me to be King because with my merchants who travel the land they will be able to pay those around them to help them look. Anyone with knowledge of the meteor will receive gold and if one of my brother’s men finds the meteor before I do I can bribe the men to bring the secret to me so that I will be the King of the Land.”
The Prince of the South returned to his nation and addressed his ministers about the sign from the heavens and the secret of the meteor. The ministers asked the Prince of South how they should go about finding this fallen star when they had few ships, few horses, and little gold.
“If ships, horses, and gold were required to unlock the secret of the meteor then the heavens truly do not want me to the King of the Land. My nation produces little but rocks and not one of those rocks is from the heavens. We shall gather many books as we leave the search to my older brothers while we sit behind the southern mountains.”
The ministers were shocked by the Prince’s lack of interest in being King of the Land but did as they were bidden and brought all the books to the Prince of the South.
Years past and eventually the old King of the Land died. Each year that passed led the older brothers to increase their efforts to discover the secret of the meteor and to become the King of the Land as the King’s palace set empty. The search for the meteor gripped the land as the bottom on the seas were dragged in the North, the endless deserts were scoured in the West, many men were bribed in the East, and countless books were read in the South.
For the Prince of the North the fleets sent out encountered fierce storms that sent the mightiest of his ships to the bottom of the sea. The gathering of all the nets left the nation of the North without the means to catch fish that they had in such abundance before the search for the meteor. Much starvation spread throughout the North.
For the Prince of the West the horsemen sent out encountered the heat of the deserts and many of his horses and horsemen perished in the vast dead lands. The water reserved for all the expeditions into the desert left the people of the Western nation without the water they depended on to get through the droughts that plagued them. Much thirst spread throughout the West.
For the Prince of the East the merchants sent to pay for information about the meteor found it more profitable to look for the meteor than to trade goods in the other nations. The wealth that usually came in from the trade was going out to the other nations and the great walls began to crumble. Many mercenaries found other masters as poverty spread throughout the East.
For the Prince of the South the efforts saved looking for the meteor proved well and his nation flourished. The books he gathered culminated into a magnificent library and ministers became the wisest men in the whole land.
To mark the tenth year after their father’s death the Prince of the South requested all of his brothers to meet him at their father’s abandoned palace. The Princes of the North, West, and East did as their younger brother requested and they were happy to see each other after so many years. The Prince of the South addressed his older brothers.
“I want you all to recognize me as King of all the Land.”
The three older brothers laughed at the Prince of the South but after the laughter died away they could see that he was serious. The princes of the North, West, and East reminded him that he had not even found the meteor and that there is no way that they would recognize him as the new King of the Land. The older brothers then reminded the Prince of the South that their nations were far mightier than his and he should not rule the land. The Prince of the South addressed them.
“I have not found the meteor this is true. But I do know this, while the nation of the North has been losing ships I have been building them. And while the West has been losing horses and horsemen I have been training them. And while the East has been losing gold I have been earning gold.”
The older brothers reminded the Prince of the South of the oath they made to their father that war was not permitted amongst them. Again the Prince of the South addressed them.
“My ships are now mightier and more numerous than the North’s and if we were to go to war I would win. My horses and horsemen are swifter and more numerous than the West’s and if we were to go to war I would win. My riches are greater than the East’s and I have hired your mercenaries away from you and if we were to go to war I would win. By declaring me the King of the Land our oath to our father will remain intact and the three of you will serve under me as you did our father.”
There was much anger from his older brothers but reluctantly the three older brothers bowed to their younger brother and they declared him the King of the Land. The new King’s first decree was for his older brothers to stop looking for the meteor and they all reluctantly did.
Many years passed and the land grew mightier than it ever had under the old King. There had never been as many mighty ships or as many swift horses or as much gold as there had been before. Over time the older brothers to the King of the Land gradually lost their desire to find the secret of the meteor and faithfully served the land as they had before.
Even more years passed till all of the brothers were very old and grey just as their father had been when he summoned them all to the balcony all those years ago. The King of the Land was gathering his sons to determine his heir when he told his older brothers that his wise men predicted that again a meteor would shoot from the heavens to determine the next King of the Land. The older brothers laughed and said that he never found the meteor so why would he make his sons waste their time looking for it. The King of the Land smiled and asked his older brothers to sit on the highest mountain while he made his sons take the same oath that they had.
The older brothers climbed the highest mountain and when they got to the summit they saw many of the King’s wise men with a large black balloon that was preparing to take off into the sky. Intrigued by this the older brothers inquired as what the wise men were doing. The wise men invited them aboard the balloon for a better look at the meteor as it came from the heavens. The brothers all agreed and they climbed into the large black basket under the giant balloon.
The balloon climbed high into the sky as the sun sank and the moon rose. The older brothers looked down to see the King of the Land address his sons by the yellow light of the palace balcony where they, themselves, had been addressed by their father many years ago. The darkness of the night sky made the black balloon and its’ black basket invisible to those beneath them.
As the moon reached its’ peak in the night’s sky the King’s wise men began to load a cannon mounted one the balloon. The brothers were puzzled by this as the wise men lit the wick to the cannon and braced themselves for the thunderous sound.
The cannon fired and the older brothers witnessed as a sparkling fireball race through the sky from the Southeast towards the Northwest. As the brothers watched the ball of fire fly through the darkness and burn into nothingness the older brothers finally realized they had been tricked all those years ago. There was never a meteor to find.
The brothers were at first angry with their father and younger brother, but then hung their heads in shame as they realized the true secret of the meteor. They now knew the lust for power and greed by man brought the greatest of nations to ruin and brought great suffering to the people. Any King who cares not for his people does not deserve to lead them at all.