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September 18, 2023

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 20

By Lydia Manx

The naming ceremony was an elaborate occasion for the kingdom as there hadn't been a royal-born child in hundreds of years. The king's own naming event had naturally been long forgotten given how old the royal was; many who'd witnessed the affair were long turned to dust by time and various wars. There weren't many younger children of the king's era still living in the lands. Strife and lack of lineage caused others to leave and to seek their own way in the world, as did the rapidly growing fear of the king's warring dragging them early to their graves.

As mentioned, the king was not a troll, but he was in fact part fairy and mostly of warrior elf blood. It was an acceptable combination, if not precisely good, but either way it was never mentioned aloud during his reign since troll blood was treasured above all else. The queen's troll lineage made up for the possibly perceived defect of the king as well as how strong and fierce the king was. His battles were legendary and the lands had benefited by his various family connections. That the princes were both of similar look and obvious troll blood was being rejoiced and celebrated.

Prophets foretold that they could see events ahead that would benefit all. Their vague predictions did not specify much more than that they saw the princes were the sign of all beginning to unroll and become what was to be. With the forecasts from the various seers in his mind, the king had used his success and influence to overrule the normal proceedings of the queen's child having his own personal naming ceremony. Instead he took the unexpected road of including the son of Iris to be added to the day.

Yes, the king was recognizing his bastard to the masses, and giving both boys a chance to take over his throne upon his demise. The boys didn't care; time had passed, and they had played together and trained together. The bastard boy, though younger than the royal prince, had grown quickly and they were of the same size. The king long had forgotten his idea that the queen had cuckolded him and he had never even given a thought to his mistress having betrayed him at any time. He was a proud poppa and wanted to be assured that no other creature could take his kingdom. Having two princes in waiting would secure the land and his heart burst with pride.

The queen had naturally heard the whispers of the king's plan before it was officially announced, and she had carefully schooled her features to not let her rage be seen by anyone. She knew that her son was firstborn, but yet the poisonous anger ate at her soul with the thought that the king's whore could possibly rise to her level, and with it, bring her bastard along for the world to see and accept as her boy's equal. She'd put up with the king's mistresses, never in all her years even suspecting that one would actually give birth to a male. She'd never known of any of the king's whores to give birth to a child. Most of the women -- and if be confessed at times little more than young girls -- before Iris had worked hard not to have children. The idea of a bastard being raised up to the prince level wasn't unknown but extremely rare. She seethed in absolute silence and had worked hard at trying not to attain counsel from any one of her court.

That was one of the harder challenges she faced as she'd spent most of her life in the company of paid or indentured servants that would sooth her, fawn over her and agree with everything she said. But she well knew that the walls of the kingdom had ears and the gossip of the royals was worth gold and more. And once the king officially declared the dual naming ceremony to the kingdom's royal proclaimers without consulting her, it was done.

There was nothing she could do as the seers had not come up with a name for her son in time to prevent the event. Those mystics and seers who'd stayed so long to find the right name for her boy had been well-tainted by all of the kingdom's luxurious surroundings and exotic pleasures offered up for them to sample, and so they had grown lax and forgotten their jobs. This offered Iris the opportunity to convince the king her son was equal to the queen's child and it would further protect the king's legacy. So it came that the two boon companions and half-brothers were to be recognized by the realm during the next summer equinox.

The king's proclamation brought the consultants back to the attention of not only the queen but now the royal consort. And after the announcement, two of the seven who had stayed in the court disappeared in the middle of the night without a trace. The other five instantly were besieged by everyone as to what names were to be gifted. It was supposedly to be kept secret until the naming day, but it didn't stop the members of the court from attempting to unearth the names -- the power of names was widely recognized as a point of strength that could curry favor or help defeat a rival. Knowing the name of the prince wasn't punishable by death, but to leak the name to others was cause for immediate banishment and the loss of all the property and gifts that had been given. That assured most from ruining the big day, but the group of remaining men weren't worried about banishment. The five had rather a larger problem. They didn't have a single notion of what to name the first prince much less the second. The boys were trolls with very little to distinguish them from any of the other trolls running around the kingdom; all of the boys pretty much shared the same father. After the escape of the two men, the king had quickly changed the luxurious accommodations for the remaining men. They lost all privileges of freedom to roam and sample the women -- and men -- who had been readily available. The king had sent his court guards to keep the men focused and 'safe' from any interference. Bribery was rampant so the men were constantly being interrupted with nosy questions and not-so-thinly-disguised threatening demands. As they didn't have any names to offer, the strain of the upcoming ceremony burdened the men beyond the breaking point for two of them.

After the apparent suicides of the two fragile men there were only three remaining and the summer equinox was less than a week away. The guards who'd been on duty during the suicides were removed and hung, and quickly replaced with two teams of ten royal guards -- each having been born of mystic blood and with strength that was nearly epic in the kingdom. These guards were not tempted by bribery or at all able to be threatened. Two guardians stayed with each of the men at all times, rotating out as needed to accompany any needing to use the privy, or any other trumped-up reasons the frightened hostages could come up from their confinement.

So the guards were witnesses to the seers' inability to arrive at names for the princes. The king had not asked for the guards to tell him what was happening inside the rock-solid tower in the heart of the court that housed the men. Quickly the week dissolved into a single night, and the three men asked that the final night they might be given an hour alone to meditate and pray to their goddess. Reluctantly, the guards gave in to this request after asking the king's permission. The king was caught up in the preparations for the elaborate ceremony and waved off the captain of the guards, who had gone to give the request to the king, distractedly agreeing to the last request without any questions or demands.

The king's captain was displeased by his majesty's approval, as he felt the three men would only use that time to commit suicide, thus escaping their lack of ability to select the princes' names. He let the men know, but changed the terms of the king's loosely given permissions. Instead of allowing them free range in the court, he took them down to a dungeon and locked them inside the bare cell, naked. They had nothing to use as weapons against each other or their own selves. Backing away from the excited and angry men in their large cage he smiled and bowed while saying, "We will be back in exactly an hour. Please tell your goddess we are pleased with her help and guidance." As he backed away and heard the frustrated screams and pleas, he knew that he'd safeguarded his own life by denying the charlatans the ability to kill themselves. He well knew that the king would easily have forgotten giving his blessing to the arrangement had the seers succeeded in killing themselves. The captain had taken years to earn his position, and saw no reason to jeopardize his own career due to the cowardly leeches who'd been living highly on the king's generosity while failing in all the years to name the first prince much less the second.

Darkness fell deeply and thoroughly beneath the ground while the three seers huddled in their cell, alone for the first time in weeks. Their mental fragility, and the overwhelming fear that was coming off them in waves of panic and horror made the captain smile. He had easily discerned what the seers had desired to do, and he had denied them a lamp inside their cell -- so they couldn't shatter the glass and slit their wrists -- but instead he had left a torch on the wall, leaving them in the shadows. The same shadows that began to sway in odd patterns.

"What are we to do now?" the oldest of the seers hissed once the guards had left them after telling them they had an hour to worship. The three had huddled against the furthest wall from the iron gate of their cell. The silence was beginning to push at them as well as any chance of escaping their current situation.

"We better think of something fast or we will be brutally slain!" The youngest of the three trembled and wrung his hands in anxiety and rapidly growing frustration.

The irony of the man's worrying about death wasn't lost on the middle, very quiet seer. Even though the middle man had been the one to recommend that it would be best that they die before the ceremony, it was the youngest one who had come up with the idea that they be left alone for an hour to speak to a goddess ... and instead that they kill each other. So now the very same young one was afraid they'd be slain? That would be the least of their problems, he resisted chuckling aloud. He knew that once all were dead they'd be facing their own damnation, having forsaken their jobs to name the prince.

Nobody remaining in the court actually had a goddess left to worship and obey, as they had long abandoned their paths to give in to the temptation of lust, wealth and self-grandiose importance that had been gifted to them since they'd arrived in the cursed kingdom. The seers and mystics had never openly discussed whom they worshiped or gave offering to, because each of them were arrogant in their belief that their goddess or god was supreme. As none of them had come from the same place, it was assumed by all that the others were charlatans and fakes. In the beginning there had been many royal consultants but as time stretched the smart ones had left.

This looked to be their very undoing.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-03-02
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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