The Patient King: Section 2: A short story written in reflection of the book Hosea.[Section on posted on 5.22]
[I would like feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org(I do not have private messenger at Faithwriters)Mary Welch]
The King’s wife danced around the campfire, the silk strands of her long golden hair entwining on her long fragile neck. With each twirl, the noose tightened. Her throaty laugh rang out through the night-darkened woods. In the woods, village men kept watch. A blacksmith recognized the woman playing with travelers. He spit. Travelers. Foreigners. Barbarians. For the woman, he had no words left. He loved and honored his King. For that reason, he watched as the woman relished the attention of the fat, slovenly, filthy men who draped cheap jewels around her wrists. Men such as these traversed the King’s land, selling and buying, cheating with every transaction, never lingering, but hastening to a neighboring kingdom with better prospects or returning to their ungodly homeland, full of vice and disease.
The village men knew that in the morning, the Queen might be gone, stealing away with the travelers to their unknown destination, or perhaps she would be lying by the cold campfire, passed out from the poison drink she imbibed joyously, contaminated in every way. Perhaps even carrying a cast off child. Everyone knew the children in the castle born no resemblance to the King. The blacksmith turned on his heel, sickened, and walked toward the village and his small clean rooms. Faithful rooms.
“Justin, strength is a privilege that is given by our All-Powerful God.” The King leaned over the second floor balcony of the inner courtyard. His voice clearly echoed in the large square area without any noticeable effort. The two young boys, ten and eight, playing in the opposing balcony with fake swords, froze. The younger, much smaller boy obediently dropped his arms, letting his wooden stake hit the stone parapet. The older, Justin, stood a long moment with his sharper weapon at his brother’s throat. Defiantly, he lowered his arm, standing with the point poised against the side rail, almost pointing at the man he knew was not his father. A burly servant hurried toward the two, giving an apologetic look at his master.
The King nodded, though he stared a moment longer in the black eyes of his heir. He sighed silently. The children always suffered. When parents disobeyed Jehovah’s rules for life, children knew. The boys knew their mother had fled his austerity, his obsession with antique writings and his all-knowing God. They blamed him. At least, Justin did.
Only natural. He understood their puzzlement. His graying hair had softened his severe features, but he knew his person was not reason Dinorah had married him. Had she ever seen anything but his power and a promise of wealth? Her beauty was not the reason he had married her. He had been sure he could save her. Sure that his God would bless the union and save her from the poverty of spirit that prevailed in so much of his Kingdom. If he could show her the riches to be found in purity, in honor, then maybe his nation could also be saved. Maybe. . . but so far, he had ten years of almost unbearable sadness, three precious children of nameless fathers, and longsuffering yet heartbreaking expectation for the future of his beloved nation. Yet still, he loved her. So much.
When the light morning wind cleared away the stench of the campground, the queen was gone. The kingdom silently mourned with the King and his children. As weeks passed, Calistria tried not to bother her father with her bad dreams. Justin and Jason carried on vicious whispered disagreements and practiced the art of killing, as Jason’s eyes began to darken with pent-up rage.
The King carried on his business and listened to the rumors of the blond woman who was in a neighboring country, falling on bad times, begging and starving. He sent servants into the land to verify the information.
“Hiram!” The messengers had scarcely left the castle with their report, when the royal summons came. Hiram, his most loyal servant presented himself before the King. “Take a wagon; load it with provisions, gifts, needful treasures. Secretly relieve her impoverishment, provide for her needs. Do not mention my name. If she asks for the truth, tell it.” The King turned away, “but she will not ask.”
“Master, old friend. Please do not do this. You know she will waste all that you bestow upon her, even as she has time and again in the past.”
“No more, Hiram. Say no more. My love compels me. She is mine. I love her not because she is faithful, but because she is mine. Lift her from her distress. Give her another chance to return.”
Hiram nodded, bowing and turned. As he left the King’s apartments, he did not see the two boys standing in the shadows. Jason turned to his brother. “I am going to ask him.”
“No. Don’t be a fool.” Roughly, Justin tried to push his brother away from the open door, though he was also troubled by what he had heard.
“Ask me what?” The quiet voice reached them in the hiding place.
Jason paused, then brashly pushed past his brother and stepped into the King’s chambers. Justin followed defiantly.
Alistair solemnly eyed his sons. His brown eyes softened. So young. So confused. “Do you have questions? His voice was gentle.
“You found our mother?” Jason asked with some courage. That was not his question, but was used to stall.
The brown eyed smiled in the lined, almost homely face. “She is in another county. My servants saw her just last week. Hiram is taking her some provisions.”
“Why?” Justin pushed forward. “Why do you keep giving her stuff after she runs away? If you would give her stuff while she was home. . . then she might stay.” His voice faltered. He glanced away. His heart knew the truth, but he could not believe it.
“I want her to stay because she loves me.” King Alistair had never sounded so humble or so truthful.
Justin turned half away, embarrassed by feelings that his pride would not allow.
Jason still stood staring, his quest not completed. “Do you still . . . love her?”
“Do you love . . . us?”
He stared solemnly at the man who represented his sole identity. “Whatever? Like with her?”
Alastair bent and gently touched his son’s blond hair. “Whatever.”
Backing away slowly, Jason bumped into Justin who had turned to watch.
“We don’t believe you.” Justin tried to say bravely.
Alistair straightened and sighed. He nodded solemnly. “I know. Nevertheless, think about the past years. Have I ever mistreated you? Lied to you? Have ever treated you with anything but goodness?” He held the boys dark eyes, so full of doubts.
Justin grabbed Jason shirt. He pulled him out. Glancing back at his King, he blinked. Not his father. Not really. Not ever?
Calistria wandered into her father’s rooms. He was in the big rocking chair. She was too big to be rocked now, but she walked over and leaned against his knee. He looked down and smiled at his lovely little daughter. Her blue eyes glinted as she smiled at him. She leaned closer.
He smiled and lifted her into his arms, settling her loosely on his knees.
Calistria stretched a pudgy finger toward his face and touched his cheek. Then she looked at her finger. “Tear. Why are you cry?”
“Sad eyes.” He answered honestly.
“Bad brothers.” She reached out and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
“I be good girl.”
He pattered her shoulders. “I love them and you. Good or bad.” As he hugged her close, he whispered. “But good pleases my heart.”
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