The Three Kings
by Slawomir Rapala
part 4 of 4
Iskald, son of a powerful duke of a Northern Realm, is mentored by an aging General Aezubah. The duke is murdered, and Aezubah cannot rescue the boy from the clutches of the Tha-kian slave traders. Years pass before a princess, Laela, saves him from his masters’ whips.
Iskald is then torn between love for his home and the passions stirred by the princess. On the deserts of the Southern Realms he seeks to bury his life as a slave and soothe his tormented soul. In the process, he becomes a warrior.
Two powerful Viking Kingdoms vie to conquer Iskald’s homeland. His people, led by Aezubah, have mounted an impossible resistance. Iskald’s life is henceforth shaped by the swirling challenges of love and duty.
Iskald took his time walking through the Jewel, followed closely by Aezubah and his companions. He slowly strolled through the corridors and the halls, all the places he remembered from his childhood, his favorite places.
Quietly, with tears swelling up in his eyes, he visited his father’s chambers, which had stood untouched since the day of his death. He also stopped by his mother’s apartments, which had remained empty for over twenty years now. No one interrupted the silent prayers he offered to his deceased parents and to the gods watching over them.
Aezubah, Jasper, Yyta and the others walked behind him in silence while he rediscovered every place he remembered from the time he was growing up in the palace under the watchful eyes of Aezubah and Vahan. He would stop often as he recalled something from that time and sometimes he smiled softly; at other times they could see his face overwhelmed with a shadow of a painful memory.
No one said a word. They all understood what must have been going on in the heart and soul of the young warrior. So they said nothing, only walked behind him and admired his muscular body, the veins bulging at the back of his neck, the massive biceps which were not covered at all by the ring-amour, recalling how only a few years ago this young man was only a small boy, the apple of their eye, of the eye of all of Lyons.
And now he was grown up, and he had became a fearless soldier whose stern eyes looked keenly and whose hand often rested on the hilt of his sword. He sometimes looked like a trapped animal, at other times like a hunter stalking his prey. They all looked at him quietly, thinking how strange it was that this young man of whom they knew nothing, was to be their King.
Long, long into the night they sat in the main hall of the palace, where years ago Vahan received guests from faraway lands and Kingdoms. They gathered around Iskald and they listened as he recalled the last four years, from the day he was taken from Lyons until the day he set foot again on native soil. He talked simply and without holding back, believing that if these men were to trust him with their lives and with the lives of thousands of the Lyonese, he owed it to them to be honest.
And it was perhaps because of the simplicity of his words that everything he said, no matter how difficult to believe, sounded true and they believed him without any reservations. And having believed him, they admired him even more; they admired him for his strength and relentlessness, for his courage and audacity.
And they loved him.
So they clenched their fists in quiet rage when Iskald talked of Shira and Isla. With rising emotion they listened to him speak softly of Laela and with great wonder and interest they heard of all his daring exploits in the Nekryan army, of the assassins stopped, conspiracies foiled, and then of his adventures in the Southern Realms.
In sinister silence they studied his back, scarred and mutilated by the whips of his oppressors; with great curiosity they inspected his weapons and armor, all of which came from distant Southern lands of which these men, save Aezubah, knew very little.
Iskald did not hold anything back, for the first time in his life recalling everything that had happened to him from the day of his capture and dressing it in words. And even to him it all seemed like a fantastic story, one conjured up in the mind of an inexperienced storyteller, one full of oddities and impossibilities, one that seemed to be nothing more than a dream to him, a dream from which he was only beginning to wake.
And then, once he had finished, he looked into their faces, the stern and fearless faces of honest men. He saw in them friendship and love, the two things he had lacked most while he was away, except perhaps the time he spent in Nekrya. And when later on that night he went to sleep in his new chambers, the Royal Chambers of the Jewel, he again felt that everything was as it was supposed to be.
Just as it was meant to be.
He opened his eyes suddenly and stared into darkness around him. No, that was not entirely true. Everything was as it supposed to be, except for the fact that Laela was far away and unreachable, maybe only scarcely aware of his existence, perhaps not even thinking about him at all. That, he felt, was not as it was supposed to be.
Everything he had been through in the past few weeks, the journey over the ocean, his first day in Lyons, all that had happened to him for a short while silenced the love and the longing he felt. The vision of the beautiful Nekryan Princess was for a short while overshadowed by all that was taking place, but now, as he lay alone in bed, in the dark and on satin sheets, it came back to visit him with thrice the force.
It was not as it was supposed to be, he thought, but perhaps one day it would be. Perhaps one day fate would allow for their paths to cross once again and perhaps he would be given another chance.
And as he surrendered to the overwhelming fatigue brought upon by the emotion he had throughon this day, Iskald was already dreaming of the day when he would lead the Lyonese Wolves and the rest of his army into battle, defeat the Vikings and force them to retreat far, far up North where they came from, of the day when he would reclaim the lands occupied by them, rebuild Lyons, turn it into a powerful Kingdom, and of the day when he would sit on its throne with Laela beside him. He believed in the coming of that day, he believed that such a day would come and then all the pain and suffering he had endured would be forgotten.
A day when the heaven of which he dreamt today would surely come into life.
Copyright © 2008 by Slawomir Rapala