One older messenger was sent to the fief of Lord Yssidro. His land bordered that of the nomadic herder Mocmar.Since that was so, his people were also allowed to use the spring.So was anyone going to and from his land.This was part of the peace that had been forced on these people when they lost the war to the late King Wilmark.So when the sun was setting and it was beginning to grow dark, the rider sent to Lord Yssidro turned his thirsty horse to the watering hole there.
Azziah saw him coming. It did not take long for him to mark the man and realize what he was.A messenger come with important news, quite possible from the capitol.The man was small, lightly dressed, and riding a horse bred for speed.
The messenger watered his horse at the watering hole. Azziah engaged him in conversation, wanting some news of his father, but not wanting to let anyone know it.He spoke the language of the kingdom, which was common enough around here.“What message are you bringing?” Azziah asked.If the messenger had looked beyond the desert clothing of the man he would have seen a man not above middling height, fit but not overly thin.But he didn’t bother to look.
“I were told that the old King is dead,” the rider said. Years of desert discipline helped Azziah not show too much emotion at that.“So I suppose they will crown his son king in his place,” Azziah said.
“Can’t,” the messenger said. “I don’t know much, but I know that.”
“Why not?” Azziah asked.
“When I were a young man, near thirty year ago now, I remember that there were two of ’em,” the rider explained.“By the law they can’t crown one king until they are sure that he is the one meant by the Great Deity to be King.The way they tell that is if one of them die before his father, the one that lives is the one meant to be king.”He leaned a little closer to the man he was speaking to, but in the gathering darkness he could not see the face.“But the thing is people only thinks Prince Willheardt is dead.There’s never been a body to see.Till there is Prince Alemark can’t be crowned.”The horse finished his drink and raised his head.The man bent to fill his water skin as was also his right.
“That’s bad business, I think.” He said.“Makes other kingdoms see us as weak prey for them.”When he filled the skin he stood and said.“Well I’d best be off to Lord Yssidro.”Azziah withdrew a bit physically and let the man pass.Mentally he withdrew much more, to consider what he should do now.Absently mindedly he wandered back towards the tents.
Mocmar saw him coming. He walked across the compound to greet his adopted son.The two men nearly bumped, Azziah was so lost in thought about what he had to do.“Azziah, what is wrong?” Mocmar asked.
“News from the capitol, the King is dead.” Azziah told him.
“This is very serious,” Mocmar said.
“Yes,” Azziah said. “It is one of the things that I must consider.”The two men walked on silently.
In the entrance to his tent, Mocmar reminded Azziah, “My son when you first came to us you wore the clothing of a Prince of your people, which was your right since you are the son of a king. But you were wounded, all cut and bruised and your horse was lame.You told us that your brother, Alemark had conspired against your life with your uncle Aleheardt.I took you in and nursed you back to health.You learned the desert ways with my sons until the old teacher, may the Deity bless him, took you to be his student. “
“I know these things,” Azziah said. “You saved my life, my father.But now I think that I lived because the Great Deity wishes me to be the King.You have heard the rumors of my brother spoken at the oasis, that he is not a good man, that he does not know how to behave correctly.”
“I have heard these things,” Mocmar said. “And it has come to my mind that if he becomes king there will be more fighting between your people and my people.This would be a bad thing for both peoples.But what can we do.
“But there is more than that.“ Azziah said. “The rider reminded me of the law of my people.Prince Alemark cannot be crowned king unless it is certain that he is the one the Great Deity meant to be king.In the case where twins are born, that means one twin must die.If this does not happen in childhood, as it did not, then they must fight a duel.Whichever one lives is the one that was meant to be king.Either way, until they see the dead body, it is unlikely they will crown a new king.If there is no crowned king then there is likely to be an invasion.”
“Further you know that The Old Teacher is dead. But you know that death for men like himself and for men like me is not the cutting off that it is for other people.I have spoken to the Teacher since his death.He told me that I am the one the Great Deity meant to be king.He has told me that my brother does not have the wisdom to rule these peoples aright.He said I am the one who has my father’s wisdom.He has said that I should call upon all my friends for help.I must call upon those who are dead and those who are alive.”
“I take on your word that all of that is true,“ Mocmar said. “But I ask you again, what can we do?”
“Come with me to the city,” Azziah said. “There I will become Prince Willheardt once again.I will challenge my brother as the law of my people demands.If I win I will be king.”
“And what if you die?” Mocmar asked.
“Then I shall have to ask you and my brothers here to follow the victorious prince as you would me, as you did my father. But I do not think that is such a fore gone conclusion.”
“Your father was a worthy opponent, and I honor his memory. But will your brother be as good?”
“That is the question we will answer, isn’t it.”
In the home of Lord Yssidro the news of the death of the King was accepted. “Rest yourself here for the night,” his lordship said to the messenger.“You may leave again in the morning.He took the small light cylinder that the man had carried from the capitol and sought a seat by the fire to read it.The messenger went to the yard to see to his horse.
Lord Yssidro was of middle age. His family members were nearby, including his oldest son nearly 20.“Well,” the lord said.His son recognized the tone of voice as being serious and moved to where his father sat.“This may be serious.The Prince thinks that he shall be crowned king soon.But I think that will not be so.”
“Why father?” the boy asked.
“Because the body of his brother was never found,” the father instructed his son. “That means we are unsure who was meant to be our next king.Until the issue can be resolved the lords will crown no one.”
“Is that a problem?” his wife asked.
“It will signal weakness to our friends and enemies,” Yssidro told her. “They might attack us then.Even the desert Bedouins that live within our borders might rise up in attack.”
“What will you do?” the wife asked again.
“I suspect that when he calls the lords to swear fealty to him we will meet and decide whether to set aside the law,” he answered her.
“I don’t think you will do that,” the son volunteered. “That would impinge on the rights of the lords.You will never do anything that would take away from the rights of the lords.”
“Have a care young man,” his father said. “When I am dead those will be your rights.”