Those Who Are Lost Are Kings

John watched as thick oak gates lifted before him, the chains of the gate levers creaking and groaning as the giant rose from its slumber. The gate opened its iron barred mouth as the light from beyond the entrance broke across John and his horse, lighting up the torch lined hall beneath the inner castle wall.

The king looked down as his black stallion let out a loud exhale, eager to move beyond the walls and into the farmlands beyond.

“Easy Somnia.” John gently commanded as he dug his heels into his friends side, sending rippling black muscle into motion. Somnia’s hooves clipped against the wide cobblestone path as John made his way into the outer rim of his domain, which was now aflame. John was king of these farmlands and its people; it was his job to defend it at all costs, even if it meant giving up his life.

The king was not always the owner of such lands, for John had been low born into a poor trader’s home. Only by sheer strength, honor and victory had he been able to climb his way to the throne room. Yes, he had made his family proud. The house of Perdita would live through the ages, songs would be sung for decades to come of John’s beautiful reign. He had done well for himself; his mother had always said he was a fighter.

John’s mother had fallen into a deep sleep and never awakened when he was six. Sometime after that his father had died somewhere on the perilous trade routes, leaving the young boy to fend for himself. John started as a young squire to a gallant knight, but now he was the one true king to these lands and he had ruled them fair and just.

Behind John and Somnia came the sound of racing of hooves on polished cobblestone, the iron horseshoes clanging against the rock way.

“Sire! Do you wish to defend your lands so hastily that you forget your army?” He heard a familiar voice yell. John turned his stallion to meet his kingsguard.

There his captain and his guard stood before him, their silver plate armour shining in the hot summer sun, draped in the blue tabards of John’s house. John examined his knights further, the white crescent moon of his house sleeping on the middle of each chest of his guard. Although he could not see their faces through their thick plated helms, John could see the determined eyes of his men staring back at him. This is not going to be easy for them, John thought.

“You men have pledged your life to me, and that I am most grateful for, but this is my battle. I must face the threat to my kingdom alone.” John stated as Somnia shifted with a clank of his hooves. John could see tears swelling in the deep blue eyes of his captain.

“Aye, Sir. It was an honour to serve beneath you.” And with that final statement, his men reared their horses and headed back into the open castle wall, never looking back. You were always my equal old friend. 

John returned his gaze onto his burning outer kingdom, which had once been teeming with the life of his people. The straw rooftops of stables, houses and taverns let off enormous amounts of smoke into the sky, like thick black fingers reaching into the clear blue sky. Nearly every field was ablaze too, the dry hay burning easily in the summer heat, spreading like a flash flood of hell from property to property.

The king watched as a large group of townspeople made their way up the white cobblestone path towards him, limping and bloody, some so badly wounded that they were being carried on a whining wooden cart.

“Lord King!” a wrinkling woman said as they passed by, “The shadows have destroyed everything, we are the last to make it out alive.” She had no teeth John could see, a toothless woman well beyond her years.

“You will be safe soon my loyal citizens.” John stated as he observed the last remaining peasant get swallowed into the darkness of the iron barred gate. The last of his people were safe now, though he had lost many. John knew what he must do to stop the attack of the shadows. He had lost many good friends, soldiers and civilians to the wrath of the shadows. His war was over; his people’s war was over. John was done fighting an inevitable defeat, but the least he could do was secure the future of his kingdom.

John took a deep breath as his lime green eyes examined the outer rim once again, sweat dropping from his brow. The thick white walls had crumbled and he could see the corpses of his townspeople in the streets. The sun no longer shined, the black fingers had clamped around the light, and only darkness now filled his kingdom. With a kick of his feet, Somnia shrieked and bolted down the cobblestone path towards the charring lands as the gatehouse closed its dark wooden mouth with a groan behind him.

As John entered the first village cluster, smoke filled his lungs and he let out a hoarse cough. Somnia leapt over a pile of broken bodies as the horse made his way towards the outer gate. John’s eyes now watered, but he was not sure if it was from seeing his people bloody or slain, or from the thick black smoke blocking his vision.

Somnia reared and let out a high pitched scream as the pair broke through the smoke into the main courtyard, nearly knocking John off his mate.

“Shh Shh Shh…” John whispered in his friend’s ear to calm him. John knew what lay before him, as the whispers had already begun to fill his ears, causing the hairs on his neck to stand on edge.

The king looked up to face his foe, the once beautiful courtyard was now shattered, the shells of buildings smoldering around the edges, while the polished cobblestone now seemed to be stained black. At the center of the courtyard the once gallant fountain statue of the king had been pulled into the pools of the large circular fountain, its pools now dark and littered with the corpses of his people. Johns statue lay face down in the blackness of the shallow watery grave. A thin wall of smoke still remained in John’s vision, but he could see the courtyard was filled with the shadows.

The shadows were relentless foes. Darkness in the shape of men, they could bend their bodies into weapons of their own making. Some had forged their hands into long sabres, others thick black mauls. They all whispered John’s name as he dismounted from Somnia and took a step forward, John’s skin began to raise as a chill was went down his spine. John shifted on his golden plated greaves as he stared back at his enemy, the golden rings from his chainmail brushing together.

Although the shadows had no faces, he knew which one was the ruler. The Emperor of Shadows, as he was known throughout John’s army. Men had claimed to have cut him in half with their broadswords, only to have two more of The Emperor of Shadows to form from the pieces. An unstoppable mutation, John thought as he examined the black spikes protruding from the Emperor’s head. A crown of darkness.

“What do you want with my kingdom?” John commanded firmly towards the mass of shadows. Every shadow answered John’s question. One question, a thousand whisperings of the same answer, 

“Johhhhhnnnn…” 

The smoke had now lifted, but the darkness remained in the courtyard.

“You can have me, but you cannot have my people, take me, and hold an oath to never return here.” The dead courtyard sat silent, except for the crackling of the burning buildings of John’s realm, as the shadows considered John’s offer. The stillness of the air broke with the response from one. 

“Accepted.” The Emperor of Shadows hissed as he began to silently glide towards John, his right arm forming into a long black pike.

John turned towards Somnia, “Go boy!” and with a slap in the behind Somnia broke back into the smoke towards the castle. The king turned towards his foe, which was now fifty feet away, slithering without a sound through the drifting smoke towards him, his left hand reaching for John.

John loosened his sword belt and laid his blue diamond encrusted blade upon the black cobblestone, the white golden crescent moon hilt shining in the darkness. His blade had never let him down, but this was a fight no blade of any strength or craftsmanship could win.

The gap between the two kings silently closed as John felt the icy hands close around his wind pipe and the obsidian pike shatter his golden breastplate, driving into his heart. It did not hurt, but he could feel his body growing cold as he looked up into the sky. The smoke was breaking. The sun began to shine over his kingdom again. Tears rolled down the old king’s bearded face as he began to drift. He had lived a good life, the best he could have ever imagined.

John’s sapphire crown fell to the cobblestone streets with a metallic clang, as the king collapsed with a smile on his face.

Susan looked at her tiny son in his hospital bed, as she tried to read a newspaper. Her son lay attached to various machines, he seemed more robot then human to her now. John had been hit by a drunk driver while walking to school. A drunk driver had nearly killed her son at 8:00 am on a Tuesday morning. It’s the kind of thing that only happens in the movies. The kind of thing that every parent has nightmares about.

The doctors said they did not know how John was still living; he had been severely injured in the accident. The crime, Susan corrected herself. Her son had 2 shattered femurs, fractured vertebrae and a crushed skull. By the time they had gotten her tiny boy to the hospital he was already in a coma, and doctors had to put him on life support to keep him alive. Susan knew the odds of her son awakening, the doctors had been clear to tell her. It would take a miracle to wake her boy up, but she knew John was a fighter.

Susan stood on her feet from her chair in the corner of the white room and moved towards her son, nearly tripping over his school bag. The bag was only article in John’s possession that did not end up bloody that day. His blue little bag, with a great knight standing beside a giant castle on the back. John had always wanted to grow up to become a king; Susan had always giggled and said “Well you’ll have to go back in time to do that one sweety!” John had always disagreed with her when she suggested that.

The mother brushed her son’s dark hair from his forehead. Such a good looking young boy, he was only 6, but Susan was sure he would grow to become a handsome young man. His father had been handsome too, but he had passed some time ago, leaving John with his brilliant green eyes.

Susan let out a sigh and returned to her normal spot in the corner of the dull white room, picking up her newspaper again. She had read this newspaper at least 100 times before, but it helped her to forget how long John had been in his coma for. If the headlines never changed, neither did John’s time in the hospital. The same newspaper the day John had been hit. Flipping to the second page, Susan began to read through the word search again; maybe she could find some words that weren’t on the list. 

Suddenly John let out of wheezing cough.

John?

Susan bolted to her boy’s side and took his hand. Was he waking up? This could be the miracle she needed. As she listened to John’s slow breathing he began to wheeze more and more. 

A loud uninterrupted beep shot Susan’s head to the heart rate monitor.

No.

His heartbeat had flat lined.

At that moment Susan knew what was happening, and she knew there was nothing she could do. She had never felt so hopeless in her life. She gripped her boys hand tightly as it slowly grew colder. Tears began to pour over the edge of Susan’s eyelids down her aging face like an overflowing dam. The creases in her skin slowly filled with the salty water as she watched, her wrinkles temporarily stopping the rivers of sadness. Susan stood over her boy as the first nurse rushed into the room, the sun now brightly shining through the blinds. 

For a split second, she swore her little John Perdita had a smile on his face.

 


 


Submitted: September 25, 2022

© Copyright 2023 dill bess. All rights reserved.

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