Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We Were Warriors Too, A Short Story.

Art by Brianna McCarthy.
Back then we didn’t wear crowns; the regal was in our name. KingMaker was a name that was handed down from ashen times. It was given to our family when people our skin complexion owned slaves. Papa used to tell me a story about the slaying of dragons and dying with honor, but grandma told me the truth. Two nights before she passed, she sat still in her rocking chair and whispered clearly our lineage:

It started with Khalid. He was in love with the daughter of a regal moor, a peasant himself. He was a fool too.

“One of your great grandmothers, centuries behind me, pleaded with him about their relationship.”

He wouldn’t listen. It was as if love had deafened him instead of stealing his sight. They would meet for hours in the grove that connected the peasants’ housing and the castle. They discussed literature, the happenings in the market, and local gossip. Khalid was always into something he shouldn’t have been. The library keeper was aware of it and if it wasn’t for the King’s busyness and the war, they would have surely had his head.

When he was supposed to be working, he was reading. The Greek philosophers were his favorite: Plato and Socrates were read in abundance; fingers turning fresh papyrus pages. This is how the library keeper knew. Not many in the imperial home were literary; their bookcases were for show.

Her name was Asiya (disobedient), named for her rebellious temper and balled fists when she emerged from the womb. She was born with deep blue eyes and chocolate skin; a wonder that many came to see. Seeing her was a rarity these days. Because of the influx of suitors who’d snuck past the gates, one killed before he could make it to her throne; she was isolated in her room and could only spend free time in the royal orchard. This is where Khalid met her.

He was ordered to sweep the grove that morning when the overseer saw that his duties in the kitchen caused him to eat more than toil. Asiya took her afternoon stroll, her nose buried in a book that was upside down.

“If you’re trying to fool anyone, you’re not.”

Asiya halted and looked up from her book at the milk chocolate boy in a long brown hemp robe, “What are you talking about peasant?”

“I’m talking about that book you’re reading. It’s actually a great one, but it’s hard to read from that angle.”

Asiya turned the book around, she’d figured out what he’d meant, “Mind your business and do your work! Can’t a girl learn in peace?”

Khalid put down his broom. He sat on the blades of grass that began to tickle him through his robe and stared up at the princess. Her eyes were like the ocean his mother took him to see every holiday.

“If you want, I can teach you.” He said.

She rolled her eyes, “You can’t read servant. I have the finest tutors from everywhere. I’ll be fine.”

“I’ve seen your so-called tutors. Cooking, cleaning, patchwork and etiquette. That’s not learning. That’s housework. Oh and by the way, I can read.” He got up, dusted himself, picked up his broom and began to walk away.

Asiya watched the chisel of his neck peek through his robes. He was handsome and favored the beautiful cook who brought her parents dinner each night.

She spoke, “Al-Ahzab right?”

He smiled, “You know my mother?”

“Yes, she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. My mother hates when she enters any room father is sitting in.”

Khalid laughed, “Yeah…she brings the worse out of other women. I think she’s proud of it too.”

Thus a friendship began. Khalid took his grove duties without annoyance, he knew Asiya would find her way there eventually and they’d talk well into the night. He’d sweep diligently until her long and flowing dress would appear by the palace doors. His voice would call to her loud enough for her to fall in love with his tone, but low enough so the guards couldn’t hear. 

Today it was dark and Asiya had not arrived yet. Khalid knew she grew tired of things quickly and often saw her taking up something new every few months. He wondered if she’d grown tired of him. After the moon had fully appeared in the sky Khalid finally headed home.

He entered his abode with a frown upon his face. His mother was setting out palace leftovers for dinner. Her long black hair, down for the evening, glimmered against her back. She turned to face him, quickly analyzed his face and knew instantly what was wrong.

“She didn’t show eh?”

He frowned, “No and I don’t want to talk about it.”

Khalid was prepared for an argument, but instead his mother rushed to the back room and appeared with a sack. She started to cram food and clothing inside of it.

“What are you doing mother?”

She didn’t stop. “They are coming for you. The palace was too silent today. There was talk of the primary suitor being a guard and I heard her cries throughout the night. They know Khalid, they know and you have to leave.”

Khalid grew frantic with worry; he snatched the sack from his mother and ran for the door when a guard stepped through it. The guard’s face said it all; tonight he would die.

When he was brought into the palace, Asiya sat on her throne weeping alongside her father. Juba, king of the land and Dragon for short, pelted insults at Khalid that he refused to listen to. Instead he prayed for his life, Asiya, and his mother. Annoyed with his petition, Juba—towering and fierce, grey and cold eyes—looked down upon him and yelled at the guards.

“Kill him.”

The guards pulled their swords from their sides and one in particular smiled as he lingered on the notion of deflowering the princess virgin.

Suddenly the king spoke again, “Halt. Asiya come down here.”

Asiya looked up from the fetal position she was in. Her face wet with tears, she answered her father, “Why? I don’t want to witness this again.”

“Asiya you will not disobey your father. Come down here and take the guard’s sword.”

Her blue eyes suddenly flared with anger, “And what do you expect me to do with that sword?”

“You will help with the demise of this boy, so you will never disobey me again.”

Asiya stepped down from the throne, descended its staircase, and stood by the smiling guards’ side. Khalid stopped praying and looked up at his one true love that’d grabbed a sword without hesitation. Her father, also smiling, stepped back; hesitant to get blood on his kingly wardrobe.

Asiya placed the sword on his back and whispered, “I loved you.”

She pulled the sword up, rushed in the direction of her father and plummeted the metal right into his stomach. The guards, flustered by this, instantly beheaded Khalid and rushed over to Asiya. Conflicted by her royal status they stood next to her, eyed her father’s lifeless body and remained silent.

Khalid was gone.
Her mother at her birth.
Her father at her hands.

Now she would rule this place alone in this silence. Forever.

Asiya reminisced. She reminisced the one night in the garden that she and Khalid did not speak, but sucked souls and traded warmth. She remembered the morning her skin glowed like the sun that fought to rose and the queasiness that followed.

Papa used to tell me a story about the slaying of dragons and dying with honor, but grandma told me the truth.

A dragon was slayed.
The honor was within dying for love.

The truth is: We Kingmakers are far more than just a name.


Sidenote: I wrote this based on a daily prompt from Figment. The prompt asked you to choose a book you hadn't read & write the story you'd place inside based on the cover/title. I used this book. Sign up for their daily prompts here.


Duke Nice said...

Wow Riv! This is incredible! Quality over quantity definitely comes to mind. This packs a lot of punch! Thanks for sharing with us. :)

Frederick said...

Loved this story! Nice Erica.

Anonymous said...

I loved the story because I like family histories, passed down in oral history, like grandma told it. However, (maybe in part 2) how do you become a queen maker? :)

Little Miss Knobody said...

Wow!! I really hope there is more to this story! This was amazing Riv! Sad, but beautiful at the same time. I want more!

Christina said...

I gasped very loudly at work when everyone got killed. It was sad and beautiful. I agree with everyone, I want to see more! Maybe a series of short stories based on ideas like this?