the kingdom of light

Short Stories / Sunday, September 16th, 2018
  1. a long journey home

The sea is lying perfectly still, enclosed as it is by these high mountains which have surrounded it since eternity and more. Dusk has fallen over the city which lies at the peak of the sea enclave, perched right in the valley between two high mountain ranges sloping their way against the quickly darkening sky. The only thing perturbing the water’s surface is a small wooden ship, cutting through the emerald green water. Aboard it are three men, standing tall with their eyes fixed on the city they are silently approaching and alongside them, weighing the boat down, is a secret with the power of tumbling a whole kingdom into ruin. None of them speaks a word, not the men, not the secret, the only sound to be heard is the seagull’s screeching. The birds have been circling their boat since they first passed a cairn this morning. As the city continues to grow darker, and the people bustling in its streets grow fewer, the light emanating from the lighthouse tower which is set in the harbour becomes more fervent and bright. Even though the men are close enough by now to guarantee their safe passage to the harbour solely by their eyes, they delight in the glowing light which searches the waves around them for lost souls and conveys, to them, a feeling of returning home unlike anything else. As soon as the ship touches on land, two soldiers clad in perfectly white army uniforms and clearly awaiting them, tie the ship to a post and help the men onto the wobbly landing.

“Mylords. May your spirits burn bright,” says the shorter one of them, and the three men repay the salute of their king.

“We bear with us the blackest of news. We must see the king immediately.” The other soldier nods.

“Certainly.” And the three men are guided to a carriage already awaiting them by the end of the landing. The silence that has been reigning on their journey home seems to reside in the very air around them, even still while the carriage is winding its way through the light-dotted city and up the hill to the palace, looming above the dark houses in white like a great moon. As they draw nearer to the entry gates, one of the soldiers gathers up his courage to break the overbearing silence and asks anxiously: “Mylords – I know it is not my place to ask, but: Have you found what you were sent to find?” His youthful face – he can not be much more than eighteen years of age – is met with still more grim silence. Then, Melchior of Abalaan speaks: “This. And far worse.”



  1. a whisper of war

The king listens intently to what his three high lords have to relate of the journey they have just returned from. He lets them speak freely and without interruption and his face betrays not an inch of what he is feeling. When the last words are ringing out in the silence of the high throne room, the king finally sits forward in his throne and buries his hands in his face.

“So, it is indeed worse than what we thought. How much time do you think we have?” Caspar of Bristlewind looks up at the ceiling. “Who knows. Ten, maybe twelve days, not more.”

“And what is your advice to me, as my highest esteemed counsellors, but more so as my dearest friends?”

“We must strike first and use the advantages of a surprise attack,” comes the answer from Balthazar of Wellspring, “or we’ll all be dead come red sunrise in a fortnight.” The king, upon hearing these words, looks like he’s aged years in a second.

“You know how much I despise war. And you know about the prophecy.”

“I do. But, excuse me for taking the liberty, this is no matter of your preferences anymore. Don’t we all prefer peace to war? Sometimes the circumstances force our hands, and that is the truth. And as for the prophecy… We don’t know its true danger yet and harm will come to you no matter if you pick this war or not. For he has already made up his mind about it, of that I am sure after this journey.”

“He’s right, you know,” comes Melchior to the aid of his friends. “Had you seen his armies, you would not hesitate now. They are gruesome and frightful and so full of darkness.” He shudders. “We can not hold against them here.”



  1. a goodbye

“Why do you have to go, too, Papa? You’re a king after all, you don’t have to do anything. There’s no need for you to get killed on the battlefield,” she demands in a defiant tone, taking his right arm as they start their morning walk across the palace gardens. He looks at her with tenderness in his eyes, his eldest daughter, fair like a cool spring morning. When he held her for the first time, he remembers, he was so surprised at how much hair she’d already worn on her head, a crown given to her by nature; black tufts of hair that have now become flowing locks of ebony. Her face, still untouched by anything that is bad in the world, is soft and sweet; rosy cheeks, green eyes that reflect her good heart when she looks out into the world, and a finely wrought nose.

He sighs.

“That’s exactly the reason I have to go. What kind of king would I be, what kind of leader, who sends his men blindly into a distant land, too scared of standing by their side? Why would any single one of them want to hold their sword for a coward, one who opts to enjoy the delights of home than share the agonies of a battlefield? I will give them hope. And that, I’ll tell you, has won many wars.”


“Indeed, my love. Where there’s no hope, nothing beautiful can grow. It is the very soil for wishes coming true, much like with our beautiful plants; hope is the seed which, if watered daily, becomes the fulfilment of a dream. Plants cannot grow out of nothing, the seed must be there first. And that is why you must always try to find hope, between the brushes of the trees or in a stranger’s gaze or in the words of a friend. Because without it, all is lost before you even had a chance to fight for it.”

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