Arkhein held King Zedek close to his chest. The wounded king reached over his neck and handed his son the medallion of Basila.
“You will now rule the kingdom of Basila.”
“No father,” Arkhein pushed his fathers’ hand back.
“You must, it has all the power you need to finish this battle against King Echtros and take the throne.”
“Father, please.” King Zedek squeezed his son’s bloodied hand and closed his eyes. Arkhein hung the medallion on his neck.
He placed his father on his horse. Gevah the eagle of light would guide them home. He kneeled to pay his last respects to his father.
“What a tragedy for the kingdom of Basila, to lose their king and his heir in a single day.” King Echtros towered above him. He was younger than Arkhein had imagined. His raven hair pulled back in a ponytail. The scar across his forehead was a mark of seasoned warrior.
He placed his sword on young Arkhein’s neck, “I could finish this all now or we could come to an agreement.”
“I can never enter into an agreement with you.”
“Now, now little boy, don’t be haste. You haven’t heard my proposal.”
“It doesn’t matter what you propose I will never agree.”
“You are in a position to negotiate? The last I saw was you placing the dead dog on a horse. I will lift your head off sending it rolling down the hills. Your body will be food for vultures. I will kill all your soldiers, take your kingdom, making the most beautiful women my brides, the rest slaves.” He crouched down and retrieved Arkhein’s sword from the scabbard. “Are you willing to listen now?”
Arkhein stood up, “What do you want?”
“The question is what do you want King Arkhein? Do you want your kingdom to be wiped out in a day? Forgotten in the books of history or do you want to return to your people a hero.”
“I can show you how, for a small exchange of information.”
How is it Basila the size of a village has so much wealth? When all other nations experience drought, Basila has a bumper harvest?”
“It’s because my father has managed our resources well. We can organize a tour for you and your officials. In Basila we have no secrets.”
“Rubbish you are hardly a king and you want to school me in running a kingdom? All kings have secrets. This will be yours. You will give me the secret to your kingdom’s prosperity in exchange for your life. I hear the power lies in necklaces worn by some tribal chiefs. You will give me those necklaces at a time and place I will arrange.” He tore off the medallion on Arkhein’s neck.
King Arkhein agreed to his demands. When he rode into Basila, trumpets of victory were blown, people danced in the streets. The women sung.
How brave our King Arkhein
He dances on the heads of his opponents
Causing them to shrink back into their holes
When they hear his name
They shrivel into worms
They dare not come out in the daylight for fear
The great warrior will trample them to death
They mourned for King Zedek. Flags stood at half-mast, all the tribes hang sacks on their bodies. The streets were empty, they ate bitter herbs and bread for three days. However they were delighted their future was in the hands of a brave young king. He had caused King Echtros to retreat back with his men. Yada revealed King Arkhein’s royal cypher as a lion cub adorned with a crown, that was initialed Arkhein III. The custodians of the seven tribes presented their medallions to the new king as an act of allegiance. Each medallion was encrusted in the center with a stone unique to each tribe. New medallions with the original stones were to be carved with King Arkhein’s cypher engraved on it. The custodians would be presented with their new medallions during the King’s coronation. King Arkhein had replicas made which he presented to the custodians the day he was crowned king. He executed the craftsmen who were involved in making them.
King Arkhein met King Echtros to handover the original medallions.
“Do you mean to ambush me?”
“Then what is this rustling I hear behind you.” Echtros lifted his right hand his generals appeared. Yada stepped out and stood next to Arkhein.
“Yada? What are you doing here?”
Ecthros’s bellow of laughter rippled through the forest. “Do you mean to make me tremble with this pre-historic fool, this must be the spirit man who appeases the gods. Grab him, he can be used to entertain my guests.”
Yada whispered to Arkhein. “When the lie is brought to light it will lose its’ power. Fear not I have placed the Sword in a safe place.” He embraced the young king.
“I hate to break up this coddling party. I have an actual kingdom to run.” Echtros disappeared into the night. Part of the agreement was King Arkhein had to pay king Echtros yearly taxes to safeguard his secret. These payments came out of the kingdom’s treasury. In the early years of his reign king Arkhein called it a bilateral relationship agreement. However his explanations prompted further questions. In the latter years, anyone who questioned it was executed. The officials stopped questioning it, it was accepted as another one of Basila’s burden.
Gevah glided through the palace, settling himself next to king Arkhein on the balcony. “Your majesty, a hailstorm advances from the north, it leaves destruction on its’ path.”
“How long will this go on for? Year after year before the spring harvests, a natural disaster takes place, if it’s not locusts, it’s a worm weaving its’ way through the ground devouring all the crops, now a hailstorm.” His wine splattered onto the balcony.
Gevah shifted so the wine wouldn’t taint his pristine feathers. The king summoned the royal secretary from the tribe of the Neo. “Call off the spring celebrations.”
“Your majesty.” He left the king’s presence in a backward bow.
Messengers were sent all over the Kingdom of Basila to deliver the news.
Queen Nadine went to her husband’s side. Gevah fluttered off.
“Why have the spring celebrations been called off my love?”
“We are cursed, the people of Basila are cursed to have me as their king.”
“We are blessed to have you as our king. A man with a good heart.” She stroked his arm. He shrugged her off.
“Why do you say I am good? Do you know what is in my heart?”
“I know you care for your people.”
“What good is it to care if I can’t reward them for their hard work or at least give them one year of joy?”
“You are too hard on yourself, is it your responsibility to bring joy to the people?”
“My job is to lead my people into prosperity.”
“Life is not all about prosperity, it also about love. I have been given the most loving man in the kingdom.”
Their youngest daughter skipped in the garden below, blowing bubbles. “Morning pa, morning ma.”
“Morning, bubbles.” They said in unison. She giggled.
“A great father to our daughters.”
“Is it enough?”
“It is enough for me.” She embraced him.
“This kingdom shall return to its former glory. I will summon the people to inspire them as you have me.” He pecked her on the lips.
The people stood outside the palace gates. The king was joined by the queen and the young princesses as he addressed the nation. “I have watched you suffer for too long.” There was murmuring. “It‘s time for the kingdom of Basila to return to its former glory. When the flowers bloomed in spring, rain watered our crops in summer and we had plenty to eat. We need to rise again Basila and fight for the health and wealth of this nation.”
“It’s easy for you to say.” Shouted a young man called Lamed. “You are cuddled up every night in shiny sheets with your wife. Look at my shoes. I might as well be walking barefoot. He threw them at the palace gates.” He stood in front of the crowd. “Away with king Arkhein.”
The youth jeered. The elders agreed in their hearts. The crowd disbursed one by one, throwing tattered shoes, torn jackets at the palace gates.
King Arkhein tore his robe. “If I have to suffer with you I will.” Tartun the chief commander pulled him up before he fell all the way to his knees. “You are king.” Tartun ordered the execution of the young man who stirred the crowd.
“Spare his life all he has spoken is true.”
“Very well your majesty, he will be locked up in the dungeons.”
King Arkhein retreated to his chambers for three days and three nights refusing to see anyone.