Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Inner Person (09/09/10)
TITLE: Sovereign Servant
By Serafia Cross
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The night stirred with unrest but silence. I shared a look with the youngest guardian, Rubanhod, nodded to him, and then pushed open the door to check on the king. I expected him to be resting since it was late, and he could not walk without assistance, but I found him sitting in a pool of moonlight at a chess table with a single white pawn moved forward. His hands were on his lap. His dark robes blended into the shadows surrounding him. He looked small and fragile, but when I cleared my throat, an invisible weight draped onto his shoulders, which he pulled back with regal strength, and he fixed his eyes upon me. Under the stare of the blazing soul I felt dwarfed by power, but then the king dropped his gaze, and the weight fell to the floor. “It's just you.” I strained to hear the muttered words as he glimpsed back to the chess game.
Taking this as an invitation to approach, I crossed the floor and waited a moment before sitting opposite of the leper king. With a quick glimpse I noted the physician had done his job well; not a single patch of his majesty's poisonous skin was exposed. The white bandages on his hands and the veil across his face were a sharp contrast of his clothes which appeared black in the moonlight. Only his eyes were visible, but I noticed the smoky haze over the pupils and how the king did not seem to blink.
King Baldwin IV gestured for me to move a chess piece. “Soon,” he said as I strategized the game, “I will not be able to play at all. I already cannot feel the pieces, but now my sight fades.” I looked up at him sharp and seized a pawn on the border of the board. He watched me push it forward before continuing, “I cannot blink, Horado. I will be completely blind in a few days.” He chose to slide a bishop out of its rank. “What else will God take from me then? My life is all I have—aside from my hearing and my title. Soon the people shall cast me out as they should have done a long time ago, for a living corpse does not make for a good king.”
“I disagree, Sire.” I toyed with a knight before making it jump a rank of pawns. “Do you wish to hear what I see when I look at you?” When he permitted me with a nod and pushed his pawn forward, I fixed my gaze upon him. “When I look at you, Your Majesty, I see a soul wearing a body much like a body wears clothes. Your body is rags, and your soul is brilliant light bursting at the seams. If you cursed another man to rip off his skin, break off his toes and fingers while his nose is cut off, that man would be weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth as if he were in Hell already, but you, Sire, have endured it all in silence.”
“God has blessed me by taking away my ability to feel my torments.” Baldwin captured my knight.
“Nevertheless, you could, at any moment, choose to abdicate the throne and retire to a leper colony for peace the rest of your days, but you do not. Do you know why?” I positioned my rook in a careful stance out of reach of his bishop but beside his pawn.
He advanced another pawn forward at an angle to the rook then locked eyes with me. “Why?”
“Because...” I slid the rook down the board and halted in a corner. “You are Jerusalem in the flesh, Sire. Like you, Jerusalem rots from the inside out. Like you, she is treasured by all the people and respected by her enemies. You are king—not because of your birthright or a victory on your part, but because you are the sovereign servant of the Lord, and God never forsakes his servants.” I sat back and gestured to the checkmate.
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