Issue: Kalopsia (Spring 2017)
For thirty days, he had listened to the screams of his people, had woken with their blood on his hands and the taste of it in his mouth.
Every passing day, the screams grew softer, not because the screamers were losing strength, but because they were diminishing in quantity.
The streets stank of blood and sickness, of death and the dead.
He pushed through the first twenty-eight days, his mouth set and his eyes hard.
Yet, as he gazed at the once busy marketplace, the once clean cobblestone streets, his lips quivered, and his eyes twitched with hot tears.
The few people that avoided the plague whispered about the illness.
“A spell… It can only be a spell.”
“No, it must be a curse!”
He could only clench his fist, cursing the truth in their words.
On the twenty-eighth night, he broke down and stormed into a dark room, a torch gripped tightly in his hand.
“The curse,” he growled. “Find a way to end the curse. Now.”
The witch looked him in the eye, her golden eyes glimmering.
“I have. Once you have killed her on the night of the new moon, it will end.”
She had turned to him then, a glimmer in her eyes, the most malicious he’d ever seen in the twenty-eight days that he’d known her.
“You know who.”
So he did as she commanded.
All she had done was spout lies.
Moonlight shone, clear and pristine, through the crystal window in his room. The white moon lay nestled among a wreath of clouds, a sliver in the sky compared to the lightless night the day before. Yet, the crescent moon shimmered brilliantly through the darkness, as if to taunt him, to mock him.
The blood she’d coughed up a few nights prior stained the blankets on his bed and his black coat with splotches of red.
The curved dagger he’d plunged into her torso lay on the windowsill, shimmering a pure silver that reflected everything but innocence.
He perched on a seat beside the window, looking anywhere but the dagger and the moon, his mind on nothing but regrets.
He cursed the gods above for allowing him to be tricked into this gods-forsaken curse in this gods-forsaken war. The war. It haunted his sleep. Countries nearby had exploded with protests when he took to the throne. Rebellions and uprisings stormed border villages. They were being eaten and devoured by other countries. It turned into a war, two against five. He’d still refused to join that war.
The war where they’d warned him of the consequences of not allying with others. The war where he’d still refused to join.
With a stumble in his step, he hauled himself away from the window, his hand clenched around the cold handle of the dagger he had lain beside the window.
The only sparkle that lit the dark room was a small golden circlet, buried in his long hair, and the small silver dagger in his hand, held at his throat.
When he spoke, his voice was scratched with disuse, a hoarse whisper that haunted the silence of the castle. “Goodbye, the thirtieth king of this kingdom.”
Blood splattered across the golden frame of the mirror, and tainted the circlet of royalty.
For thirty days and thirty one nights, he had doubted his title as king.