Raising the Crown

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 9 (v.1) - Truth Behind the Bitterness.

Submitted: August 16, 2019

Reads: 72

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Submitted: August 16, 2019

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When I was taken to the gardens, I could see the king already waited for me, but this time he had a pipe in his left hand while his cane remained in his right. I did what my quarter guard did with his bow towards Luca, and bowed with my right arm in the shape of a ‘V’ as my fist touched my left shoulder. I’m not sure if I could ever get used to this. It still felt so awkward.

“Your Majesty,” I said softly.
“You do not need to bow to me right now, Giovanni,” said the king, which prompted me to stand as I was before. “Uh, it is okay that I call you that, right, or would you prefer your nickname, Vince?”
“His Majesty may call me by whatever name pleases him most,” I answered.
“Very well, I shall call you by your given name,” the king replied. “After all, Giovanni is a strong name, and your father is good man.”
“You know my father?”

Wait, I shouldn’t have questioned him, should I?

“Indeed,” the king stated. “Walk with me.”

I stayed on the king’s right side, in case he had issues with his cane, I could help him. The wind had blown this way, however, and since I was pretty close to the king I could now smell what it was he had in his pipe as he took a little hit. I wasn’t really into the weed scene, but given the king’s health condition, if he had marijuana in that pipe it was a clear indication that he was in a great deal of pain. He still chose to walk in the gardens with me, which also said something about his character.

“I knew both of your parents, Giovanni. In fact, your father was my best friend. We all grew up near the wall, them on the Italian side, and me on the Xudian side. Ohhh . . . I do not wish to bore you with the details of the past, but I must say we all met around the age of ten, between the rocky boulders of the beach at the border.”

Beach . . . rocky boulders . . . boy, did this sound familiar.

“We didn’t care about the racial divide between our two nations then, and we had even vowed that we would grow up to eliminate that racism, but . . . when we did grow up, I had a noble calling to answer, and then your parents left for America. I wanted them to be honored guests and residents here in Xudia, but my decisions then negatively impacted their trust in me, and rightfully so. I married the queen, and your parents married each other, and none of us have spoken to one another since.”

I think I understood what happened, and why my mother had such a bitter hatred for Xudians, but I wouldn’t dare confirm this with the king. Luca told me not to question him, so I heeded that little piece of advice for now, and just kept my mouth shut. No, this was going to be a conversation I would save for my mother.

“But enough about me,” he said as he briefly turned his head in my direction and met my gaze. “I want to hear all about you.”

I was pretty sure the king already knew everything there was to know about me, but if he was curious to know my view on how I saw things as I grew up, then he must be really interested in getting to know me.

“Well . . .” I started, as I wasn’t too sure on what he wanted to know first, but I figured perhaps the basics would be best for the moment. “I grew up in New York as an only child, I have a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Julliard, and I have a lot of acting and music credits to my name.”
“Oh, yes, yes! I have seen your latest film, Darkness of Kheria, where you played an elvish king with a dark, abusive past who overcame his sinister temptations and found himself on a path of redemption, all while earning his kingdom’s trust and bringing them out of the evil reign of his enemies. I also saw in the credits that you wrote the screenplay. A remarkable production, I must say!”

Boy, he was certainly raving about my movie, huh?

“Thank you, Your Highness, but I have my talented professors from Julliard to thank for my much improved skills since I was a teenager, as well as the cast, and directors and producers who all worked together to bring the best quality to the film that we could as a team.”
“You would do well in Politics, I think, if given the knowledge and access to the right tools.”

Was he about to lead into a conversation about having Luca rule? The king suddenly stopped and turned to me. When our eyes locked, I could see regret in them, but also curiosity.

“Were you happy with your parents? Growing up?”

I stopped in my tracks when I wondered where this question came from.

“Well, Your Highness, that depends on one’s definition of ‘happiness.’ My mother and I butted heads a lot, but she did raise me right, and with respect.”

The king chuckled for a moment, but since he said he knew her from when they were kids, he probably knew what kind of person she was, though I didn’t dare comment on his chuckle.

“And your father? Did he treat you well?”

I gazed deeply into the king’s eyes and I could now see his curiosity hid his sadness. How could I answer this without offending him or making him sadder than he already seemed?

“It’s like you mentioned earlier, he is a good man,” I answered.
“A very good man,” the king added.
“Unlike my mother, he’s even tempered, always remains calm and collected, and even though he’s a pretty sensitive guy, he’s quite reserved in his emotions, as well as his thoughts and opinions. He’s very wise, and respectful, and great to turn to for advice. He never dished out any punishment when I rebelled, as he left that up to my mother, but he’s always been there for me, and he’s always supported me.”

Just as I had finished my statement, I saw another change in the king’s eyes, and this time they grew shiny. I knew it would have resulted in tears, but the king was strong, and wouldn’t let them build up. He inhaled sharply and looked towards the garden pathway in front of us.

That’s the Giovanni I knew. Still the same man today as he was back then. Tell me . . . do you think they would come here if I called for them?”
“I’m pretty sure my father would, but to be honest, Sire, I don’t know if my mother would. I have yet to confront her about hurting Camila the way she did.”

“Our current laws would not have accepted a marriage between you and the princess, but I could have changed that, if Camila would have insisted on marrying you,” the king continued, but now he met my gaze again. “Though your mother was out of line in the way she treated Camila. Frankly, I was quite surprised to learn what your mother did, because she knows our language and our laws. When Camila first told me your name when she was a teenager, I had forbidden her from telling you of her royal lineage, because I did not want your mother taking her anger for me out on Camila.”

Wait . . . what?

“I agree with you 100% in regards to the disrespect my mother had shown Camila, but I must admit that I’m confused on what you mean by my mother’s anger towards you.”
“I fear, Giovanni, that the bitterness your mother placed on Camila was my fault. It was not Camila that your mother hated. It was the fact that Camila represented the Xudian culture, and that meant only another reminder of . . . well . . . me.”

I watched as the king took to his pipe. I knew he was in a great deal of pain. This was probably too much for him to be out here.

“Will you help me back to my chambers? I fear that I have underestimated my health today.”

His voice changed. The strength in it changed to defeat. He was definitely in a lot of pain. And tired. He looked it.

“Of course, Your Majesty,” I replied as I stepped as close to him as I could, and he took my offer for him to use my arms for support.

My quarter guard came to his aid on the other side and took his pipe and cane. I hardly knew this king, this man, but it felt right to be here, to help him, and not just because he was royalty, or because he was a sick man dying from a horrible disease. There was just something about him that I connected to so easily. When he grabbed hold of my arms, I could sense he was relieved that I was here. I wished I could provide more comfort to him, but at the same time, I could sense this was enough for now.

It took a little while, but once we reached the king’s chambers, I was unsure if he wanted me to follow, but then I felt his grip on me tighten just ever so slightly. He said nothing to me, but muttered a simple and small phrase in Xudian to his guards, who then opened his chamber doors for us. Once we entered the foyer room, I saw the portrait Luca had described earlier, and I froze right there in my shoes. The woman in the picture with a crown was an older woman who appeared about 20 years older than the king, but I had no interest in her, as my eyes were focused on how the king in the portrait definitely looked identical to me when he was in his thirties. I was surprised that he allowed me this far into his room, because he had not previously allowed Gloria or even Camila to see this, and I’ve only met him less than an hour ago.

Or was it his intention that I see this? I mean, if it wasn’t, he would have ordered my quarter guard to take me back to my quarters, right? I now felt the king’s eyes on me, but I couldn’t pull my own gaze from the portrait until he practically squeezed hard enough to interrupt the blood flow to my arms, which made me look back into his eyes. He didn’t speak, but the look on his face and in his eyes told me he knew, and that he knew I knew. He looked towards his chamber doors again, and I knew it was time to move forward, and help him in there.

Once we were in his royal chambers, I could see that his room was just as big as mine, if not a little bit bigger. Either I had a special room or all the rooms in the palace were this large, but it was cool either way. The king said something again in Xudian, but towards my quarter guard, who in turn gave him back his cane. He then released my arms from his, so I stopped again in my tracks, and watched as he used his cane to walk himself towards his bed. The king’s own guards unmade the left side of his bed for easier access.

“Do you play any instruments?” the king asked softly as he turned around to face me once he approached his bed.
“I do, Your Highness,” I answered. “The drums, guitar, and the piano.”
“Will you play me something at dinner, something on the piano?”
“I would be honored,” I stated with a subtle bow.

I watched as the king sat down on his bed, and said something else to his guards and my quarter guard in Xudian. This time, they all left the room, and the king reached out to me with his left hand.

“Please stay until they bring me my doctor.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” I replied as I approached him.
“Your mother and I . . . we were in love once upon a time. Then I left her to answer the queen’s call, and that broke your mother’s heart. That will always be my biggest regret, but truthfully, your mother married the better man.”

I could not help but fall to my knees in front of him with this news. I could tell he didn’t want to come right out and say it, because he didn’t want to offend me or upset me, but it was quite clear to both of us on why I took after him in appearance. I had tears in my eyes, but they quickly dissipated when the king asked me a new question.

“Will you do me a favor? I know you hardly know me, so this favor might be much to ask, and I would understand if it was.”
“Of course, Your Majesty, no favor is too small or big.”

The king smiled for a brief moment, and I mirrored it, before he spoke again.

“When you return to America, can you call for your parents? I wish to see them one last time before I leave this world. I want to apologize and tell them I have found Gino. They deserve to be reunited with him, and he them.”

Who the hell was Gino?

“And you will return with them?” he asked. “Soon?”
“I would be honored,” I answered with a smile and bow of my head.

Once again I felt his cane against my chin, and he lifted my face to look back into his eyes.

“We are not in the throne room or in a formal setting. You need not bow to me right now. Ti’em meu abbio.”

Abbio. What was abbio? I knew ‘abbo’ meant ‘father,’ but what was ‘abbio?’ Did that mean ‘son?’ I had a feeling that the king just confirmed my suspicions, but I could not yet understand.

“Please forgive me,” said the king in English as his eyes once again showed regret and sadness.
“For what?”
“Gur mú kiamp iri gur téa.”

I didn’t know what that meant either, but there was a lot of guilt and remorse in his tone. He needed forgiveness on something, but I didn’t know how to forgive him, because I couldn’t understand what he needed forgiveness for. Before I had a chance to ask him what he meant by his statement, his two guards had returned with a man in a white lab coat with a bag of medical tools, so he must be the king’s doctor.

“I forgive you,” I told him in Italian.

I didn’t know why I was forgiving him yet, but I knew he needed absolution. The doctor then spoke towards me in English.

“If you will please leave? I must examine His Majesty privately.”

I bowed again towards the king and acknowledged the doctor’s request. Then I turned around and left. There were guards now in the foyer room who closed the door behind me into the king’s room, and I stood in the foyer room for a few moments, as I just had to once more look at that huge portrait hanging up on the wall. I now know the truth - the real truth - behind the bitterness my mother always showed towards Camila, and it wasn’t because Camila was Camila, but because of the culture she represented. My mother didn’t want to be reminded of the Xudian culture any more than she was already reminded every time she looked at me, because I looked just like the man she loved who broke her heart. My father, the man who raised me and whose name I proudly carried, must know I’m not biologically related to him. How could they keep this truth from me though? Tears welled up in my eyes when I looked into the eyes of the king in the portrait, and all I wanted to do was stay by his side, because now it hit me that time was running out for me to get to know him as my . . . my natural father.


© Copyright 2019 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.

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