by Krystle Kwiatkowska
The clouds fade into a dark grey above the foggy village already blackened by its own rain clouds. A somber setting where water drops are replaced with a crimson shower. The shops of commoners and the buildings in the Queen’s name bleed onto the uneven streets, puddles of despair forming in the dips of dirt. The statue of their Founder’s finger drips blood onto the victims of mourning.
This is what the assassination left the people. A place once full of light and wonder, hope and peace, joy and blessings, is now a ghost town full of dead souls walking the streets. Their Leader may have been the target, but it was their home that was killed in cold blood.
No one saw it coming. An arrow flying straight through the excited crowd, finding its place between their Leader’s eyes, was not part of the agenda. He was supposed to arrive by carriage with his beautiful Wife beside him along with his dashing sons close by. They’d smile and wave as everyone cheered them on, excited to have such a high figure among them. You’d think he ruled the entire Kingdom and not just a small province. Yet, there the people were treating him as if he were King.
He was supposed to step out of his carriage when he reached town hall and walk up the stone steps to the statue that marks the original Founder of this village. His mannerisms would echo the image of those whom they ingrain in their history–whether through ink & quill or carved stone. His voice would echo across a quiet ‘scape as he spoke of romantic innovations to improve the lives of the poor, give opportunity to the middle, and put the rich back in their place.
The crowd would cheer him on! Grow his ego, pat his back, kiss his feet! They would all look up to him in awe and thank the Gods for sending him their way. Ensure he has the means and support to do as he promises…
Alas, nothing in this day was set to go according to plan. His Wife no longer sat beside him for she fell ill that very morning, along with his youngest Boy. Instead, his Knight took a seat beside him to show support for whatever he was about to tell the people. His eldest Son was there, too, but it was hard to tell for he kept his head buried in the carriage the entire time.
The most grave change in the day was the fact he wasn’t able to step out of the carriage before a weapon–meant to hunt prey–embedded itself within him. The arrow wasn’t for a quick jackrabbit or a scared deer. It was for a man who promised greatness for an often overlooked village.
I guess you could say the Leader was the prey, but such a thought is too rotten to stomach…
It was a fast death, but a painful one. Whether it hurt the people or the Leader more is still yet to be determined. Both lights were taken away that day, but sometimes living without it is worse than disappearing with it.
No matter how awful this travesty, the world continues to turn. It doesn’t pause for an event that happened days ago, let alone a loss that occurred in the past week. Most of the men who run this village are home, choosing to honor the stolen soul. Some don’t have that luxury, though. Some men still come in grieving so they can keep food on their children and wives’ plates. It seems like a fruitless endeavor for many refuse to step outside their homes unless they’re starving for bread or need wood for their hearths, but it’s what they must endure.
The village folk will remain in this morose state ’til their Leader is put to rest like a man should be. Tears may fall even after he’s been treated with care, but it should ease the ache of him being taken as if he were some kind of prized buck. For now, they cry in his name and curse the one who dared to take his life.
Sorrow sizzles on the heated silver as the silversmith uses a heavy mallet, imagining to beat the assassin for the pain he inflicted. Bitterness sours the fresh beer the bar maiden pours for the sailors and soldiers who drink to numb their fury. Sadness sprinkles the obituary the bookkeeper writes for he doesn’t want their Leader’s face to fade from existence.
Their somber thoughts ring between their ears as their hands fall into rhythm doing what they’ve done day-in-and-day-out. Their hearts may feel the difference but their limbs only know what they’ve been taught. Yet, they still stop dead in their tracks when a soft, shaky voice slips through their windows.
“In this time of… t-turbulence that we face with the ongoing wars not just between Kings of East and within our Kin, but the Queens of our houses and Sons s-sowing our seeds… we must s-stand strong on our p-principles.”
The words gently push aside their upset and seduce them out of their buildings. One by one, they step out of their shops to find the source of the voice: a little boy. His fingers curl and crinkle the piece of parchment he reads from. His eyes strain on the words he most definitely hasn’t encountered ‘til now. He appears feverish based on the sweat that drips from his forehead and how heavily his entire body shakes. He stands in the exact spot their Leader was killed…
“We must s-stick to peace, even when our brother’s… b-beaten us. We must remain… c-cordial even when the stranger shames us. We must keep our hearts open even when others have s-stomped it to pieces.”
Whispers dance in the air as the boy recites more of whatever written speech he has. Theories of his identity pass from person to person, only a few having the faintest idea of who he could be. His dark hair, his brown eyes, his formal posture… he looks like their very Leader! The more the boy speaks, the more they realize he acts and talks like him too.
This little boy is no simple little boy. This is no simple speech he speaks. He is, in fact, the Leader’s youngest Boy. This speech is the very one that was supposed to be spoken to them.
Some of the women in the crowd wonder if they should walk up and pull him away from the grave he stands on. Shelter him from the dark reality that’s been thrust upon him. However, none of them can move–no man can, either. They’re all captivated by the Boy, and don’t wish to disturb him.
“Most im-importantly, we must march with our s-swords sheathed. One can fight well with a blade, but it takes a great… fighter to s-stop an army with his tongue. Such an act can save… brethren from being s-slaughtered, and from living with red forever s-staining their hands. So, for the love of our Kin… protect further generations from an everlasting pain.”
The Boy drops his hands but still clings onto the parchment. He refuses to let go of his father for this is the last essence of him that the Boy has. He stares at the crowd who is left in silence. They can feel–they know that the Boy has more to say. His lips quiver as he struggles to find words of his own to convey his thoughts.
“Please… this was his last wish. It’s the last piece we have of him. I don’t want him to disappear so easily.”
The wind stops as the people think of what the Boy asks of them. No one knows what to do–what to say, even. They were all so caught up in their own loss that they forgot about the mourning of those close to the Leader. They were all so focused on the vengeance they wanted to enact that they forgot what he stood for.
Seeing a child who’s even more broken after the assassination step up to carry his message hits them deeply. It brings them back to reality; it helps them continue forward with the rest of the world. No longer do they wish to remain in their sadness.
The bar maiden in the crowd is the first one to move. She slowly approaches the Boy, kneels down in front of him and looks into his eyes with a certain kind of pride. Her eyes are glassy but they still give him a smile. She gently grabs his hands to reassure him that he is safe.
“He won’t disappear. His message is just as timeless as the courage you showed today. Your father will be remembered for years to come.”
A faint smile stretches across the Boy’s face, slightly weighed down by his sorrow. The bar maiden stands up, never letting go of his hand. She guides him toward the tavern she works, offering him any sweets he may desire. One by one, the men and women follow behind with a lighter step than they had before.
The sky remains grey and the village foggy. Their hearts still ache, but no more does it feel like an eternal misery. There’s a sun hidden somewhere behind the clouds and they’re prepared find it.