Chapter 2: The King's Legacy
Twenty long years had passed since the Kingdom was threatened with war. Even before that, the Queen had longed for a child, but her hopes remained unfulfilled after all these years.
“I will go to my grave before I see an heir to my throne!” The King would say.
“Then who will rule the people and carry on your legacy?” She would ask.
“My physical body may die, but my name will live, and it alone will rule the people. That is my legacy. The very fear that weakens their knees at the mere suggestion of my wrath will keep them obedient for years to come. As long as my temple stands, the people will continue to worship and fear me. Everything will be done ‘by order of the King.’ I will leave orders to be carried out for years to come. When all those orders are fulfilled, they will simply begin anew, and so on and so forth. Stories will continue to be told about my greatness. They must. For if any of my old enemies, children of those I have put to the sword, hear of my demise, they will take back all they lost and will not look kindly on those who serve me. The Kingdom cannot carry on without my name or all will be lost.”
Her pleas and tears were no match for his contempt and stubbornness. Still, even in her old age, she pressed the King for a child. As the years passed, the Queen held on to the hope of carrying a child––a child of her own.
“Even if it shortens my life, if death can be put aside, even if only for a moment,” she vowed to herself.
Bread of Life
On occasion, the Queen felt the need to sneak away to be amongst those she had known well long ago. She was very good at disguising herself and blending in among the villagers.
On one particular day, while in disguise and wandering through a beaten path between the edge of the forest and the marketplace, she came across a little boy who appeared to be selling bread. This child was alone and unfamiliar to her.
“Where are your parents?” The Queen asked.
“I’ve got none.”
“Well, where do you live? Do you not have any family?”
“No, I’ve no family here. I’ve a place in the forest.”
“In that dreaded forest?”
“Yes, yer majesty, in the forest.”
The Queen was taken back by his response. How could this child have known who she was?
“My dear boy, why do you call me ‘majesty’?”
“I know you, my Queen. Our meeting is not by chance.”
“Do you mean you are meant to sell me a loaf of bread? If I am in fact the Queen, then you know I am not in need of it.”
“It is as you say. However, this is no ordinary bread. This bread is meant to bring you life…the life of a child…a child of your own.”
The Queen gasped. She was certain her conversations about having children with the King were private. The boy should not have known about them. In addition, she was old enough that for the boy to even suggest it was unnatural.
“Who are you and what do you know of such things?” She asked.
“I am only a messenger, yer majesty.”
“A messenger of whom?”
“Someone aware of your distress. He has been eager to help you for some time, only, you weren’t looking until now.”
“Tell me child, who is this someone?”
“There is little time, yer majesty. You must know that eating this bread comes at a cost.”
“If it truly does as you say, then I shall pay any price. I have more than you can make in ten lifetimes.”
“You may, but neither riches nor possessions are asked of you. It is your very life.”
“How do you mean child?”
“It will be as you vowed, ‘death will be put aside, if only for a moment,’ so that you may have your child. However, you will not raise it nor see it grow. The agony of childbirth will be too much for your body and you will be your end, but not before holding your child.”
The Queen did not have much time to consider what she heard. The child continued,
“If you refuse, you will live a much longer life, but you will never have a child. If you take this bread, you must eat it tonight, for tonight your husband will lay down with you for he knows your body has passed its childbearing age. In fact, your womb has been shut for some time because of the poisons he has secretly been giving you.”
The boy quickly handed the bread to the Queen and before she could respond, he ran into the forest.
Back in her bedroom, the Queen stared at the bread and considered the cost of eating it. She considered her life and the life of her unborn child.
“Who would raise it? Who would love it? Surely, not the King. He will neglect it; maybe even put it to death. How long of a life would my child even have? Perhaps my child is meant for something great? But what? How do I choose? Do I risk the child facing the dangers of this world? Would this only be the result of my own selfish desires? Or, do I let this little miracle live a life it is possibly destined for?”
Many such questions continued to run through the Queen’s thoughts. She was finally able to make her decision, however, when she envisioned holding her baby. She saw a child with her mother’s eyes, with her face.
She envisioned this child growing up, taking its first steps, playing with other children. Boy or girl, it did not matter to her. She could hear the sound of her own flesh and blood, a child she had dreamed about for countless nights, and knew it would be enough. She could see a warm embrace followed by a kiss. She took the bread and ate it.
She immediately felt overwhelmed with a sense of joy and began to praise Hope and whispered many times,
That night, as the child foretold, the King lay down with his Queen. Death could not come too soon for her as she had eagerly awaited the birth of her child.