A Glorious Kingdom
By David D. Clark
We walked for miles through the forest, Jarn and I, and we were bound at the wrists. I loved the forest. That’s where I grew up. So dark… so cold. Shimmering with many facets of life, like a lush emerald upon the land. The way the obscure light found its way between the trees and poured over small, sacred groves brought me peace. That was my home.
Jarn didn’t live here. In fact, we just met when we started walking. He did not talk, but said his name to one of the soldiers and I overheard it. I just knew that he was a friend of someone that I knew. He pleaded with the guard to see his family, but it did not do any good. We were on our way to that castle under order of the Eir. And that is indisputable. He seemed like a nice guy, though.
After a few hours, I noticed that we were coming close to the bank of the forest. “I don’t want to leave.” Jarn told me. “Watching every land mark pass behind me is mournful, like saying good-bye to my lover.” I didn’t answer. I felt the same way, but in a sense, it was good to get away. I could see the eyes of the forest folk shimmering curiously through the bushes and tree branches.
It was bright and our eyes took a few moments to adjust to the sun’s light, but we never stopped. The company led us on, as if no change could affect the Eir’s brave soldiers. After my eyes had adjusted, I saw something that I have seen many times, but was equally left in awe over every time. There were acres of nothing but long, dark green grass that lay in gentle folds. Adorning the landscape were little huts and towns, with little patches of trees nearby. In the middle of this enormous piece of land stood a tall, gloriously white castle.
What fortified the walls could not be known. Least, not by looking at it and the land around. The walls shined in the sunlight, like a city from another dimension. Gold stripes in wavy lines could be seen through the brilliance, even from the hilltop where I stood. This is the reason why his Eirdom was so great and celebrated, and that brilliant castle was our destination.
After passing through a small, tidy town, we came upon the great gates of the castle. The walls were clear, almost like glass. One of the great titans must have crafted this, for no man could possess such skill, neither alone, or in community. The towers were the only parts of the walls made of stone.
The gates were enormous, and decorated in beautiful mixtures of red, gold, and white, along with the heavy iron and steel used to fortify it; they were sentinels themselves to this magnificent citadel.
Two dragons stood guard on either side of the road that rolled to the gates. These were harmless, so long as their riders remained mounted…or an invasion army should come. Several ogres and trolls manned the gates as we approached, and a great horn sounded from atop the walls.
The city was made of stone and wood, plastered and stained with perfection. In fact, several of the laborers and craftsman were at work on the great cathedral before they joined the citizens parading the troupe of brave soldiers, and us. They tossed flowers and the leaves of the lonely trees that grew upon the hills.
Entering the castle was just as impressive. There was no sign of gray, only bright colors. Through the courtyard, into the keep, and deep into the cosseted depths, we entered into the legendary Hall of the Eir. We were presented before the Eir himself, who sat weary and cross on his great throne. Understandably so. He was a busy man.
He spoke to us with such passion. He strongly and sincerely believed that our actions were not only criminal, but purposefully directed toward the Eir himself. He condemned us, and spit at our feet, all before he read our crimes and punishment.
Jarn listened intently to the entire ordeal, but I didn’t. I couldn’t, really. I was too busy gawking at the legendary Hall. His throne, oh, it looked like pure gold! If I took just one of the armrests, I would have been able to buy a kingdom for myself. Pillars of stone lined their way to the throne, and each were etched with the ancient language of the Eir, fabled to be the account of every major event since the formation of the Eirdom. Truly, a piece of art and history that was indubitably inimitable.
I was not done admiring when the Eir stopped talking, but we were forced to go. He ordered the guards to take us, and they escorted us in the same rough fashion that they did the entire journey through. We were taken to the lowest part of the castle; the Dungeons.
Nothing that the stories told could have been farther from the truth. The room Jarn and I shared was that of enlivening comfort. The room had two sleigh beds, one bed on each side of the room. The beds were decorated gold, brown, and red. The down mattresses were designed for the perfect sleep. The fresh, feather fluffed pillows added a welcoming comfort. In the middle of the room was a box. Guards cut our bonds and placed food on the box then left. I fell asleep immediately after I ate.
I was awakened when they took Jarn, who threw the worst fit. They dragged him out, nonetheless. After that, silence fell again, and I was able to return to my slumber.
Jarn returned, looking like half the man he was when he was taken out. He sat on his bed and slowly laid back, cringing every moment until he was still and on his side. “I didn’t say anything,” he assured me. Nothing more came form him. Not even a snore.
They came for me later, and Jarn turned to me, looking hard, trying to communicate something intensely important. They took me back up to see the Eir.
He went on again about how I was wrong, and that my actions can not be forgiven, but my one loyalty to him was deserving of a life saving reward. He had such magnificent teeth. Nothing like those in the forest, even with the parapat plant. Not even his subjects had such teeth. And his hair was long and grey. His beard, well shaved.
He spoke up his offer, and I gratefully accepted. They returned me to my cell, where Jarn was anxiously waiting for me. As I arrived, not nearly in the condition he was, his heart turned cold towards me, and he lay back down on his side, facing the wall. I lay back down as well and slept.
We awoke the next morning to a surprise. The same guards that brought us to the room the night before brought us some breakfast. Ham, bread, cheese, bitter wine, and two poached eggs. It was a hearty breakfast. After breakfast, the guards returned with a pair of well tailored black cloaks. They commanded us to put them on. So we did, and they led us out.
Back through the castle, through the courtyard, and out the gates, we seemed to be reversing our journey. We came into the small, tidy town, where a large, lively crowd had gathered. The throng went from lively to energetic when we were led to a stage. Two tables were set up on the stage. I watched as they laid Jarn on one table and tied him up. A bald man with a long beard came onto the stage. He had in his hand a scroll. “In conclusion to the judgment of the Eir himself,” spoke the bald man, reading from the scroll. “This man has been found to be guilty of Murder, Blasphemy, and High Treason against his Eirdom and his great people. Under orders of the Eir, this man is to die from the axe and witnessed by this audience. Let their allies, the enemies of the Eir, come and save him.”
After the man left the stage, there was a loud cheer from the crowd. I looked over at Jarn. He was breathing very heavy, and I could see his mouth under the clothed mask muttering a prayer while he gripped at his restraints.
A large man with a large axe then came onto the stage. He wore a black sack over his head with mesh over the face, disguising him to look like death. He stood in front of the crowd and yelled out as he raised his black and white axe. He then walked toward Jarn. The axe went up with amazing momentum, and then dropped down. The glint of sunlight gleaming off of the axe was like a star. I was reminded of the castle shining on the landscape. A flood of recent memories harked back all that I had experienced since I began the journey. The large man raised his axe again in celebration, as others removed my headless companion from the stage. As he raised the axe, I could not help but to think to myself, “What a Glorious Kingdom.”
- - -
I live in Lake Forest, Ca, with my wife and dog. I attended Fullerton College and worked as a managing editor for the Hornet Weekly Newpaper.
Labels: David D. Clark