The miasma of fear hung over the city. No matter where one went, there was a great murmuration from the crowds gathered in the squares, the inns and at the temple.
The elders took the podium time and again to pontificate and predict. “Our army will prevail,” they said. “We’ll defeat the invaders before they ever reach the outer wall.”
“How?” said the crowds, not content with platitudes and empty assurances, now that doom was upon them. “How how how how…???”
The enemy had greater force of arms. The enemy had mighty war engines. The enemy’s king was said to be immortal and if not, certainly he’d survived many a wound that should have killed him, many an assassination attempt, even those powered by black magic. Or so it was said.
The city’s ruler took council with the elders and the priests. “What are we going to do?” he said. “Do we even know what he wants from us?”
The most senior counselor, an elderly woman, said, “He’s transmitted a single demand, your majesty, over and over. He desires the jewel of the city and will depart from our gates, leaving us unmolested and indeed, declared his allies for all time, if we but render him the jewel.”
The king pulled at his hair and slammed his fist on the table. “What jewel? We have no single stone that the entire city worships. Does he want my crown, is that it? The statue of our god in the primary temple perhaps? That’s made of jade most rare.”
“We can survive a siege for months,” ventured another counselor. “Perhaps he’ll give up and go away.”
“Not likely.” The king paced to the window overlooking the city walls. “And we know he shattered the walls of other cities with his rams and catapults and fire that consumes all in its path.”
The elderly woman drew him to the window opposite, the one overlooking the king’s private garden, where a woman sat writing in a journal while all around her maids painted and sewed and made music. “There,” she said, “That is the jewel of the city.”
“My daughter? You think he wants my daughter?” The king laughed. “We’re not living in a fairy tale. Why should a conqueror of men be satisfied with my daughter? I grant you she’s lovely and talented, of royal blood, but he can get any number of women from more powerful realms, if he seeks an alliance.”
“Yet it is her the man seeks.” The priestess of their deity spoke up now. “The omens are clear.”
The king’s shoulders slumped. “I will speak with her alone. See if she’s willing to take this risk.”
Two days later the city flew white pennants of truce from all the ramparts. The invading king’s army sat patiently on the plains beyond. The king and five of his knights rode to the fore and sat on their majestic horses, waiting.
A portion of the gate creaked open, just wide enough to allow one person to exit.
The princess, ethereal in her beauty, dressed in royal blues and brilliant greens, walked calmly away from the city of her birth and stood between the walls and the army.
Slowly the king’s horse paced forward, urged into motion by no visible signal. The king circled the princess , neither of them uttering a word as he made his leisurely turn. The horse stood still and the king extended a hand to the woman, who walked forward and put her slender fingers over his. A soldier came forward and assisted her to the saddle, where she sat at ease in front of the king.
The king rode through his army, followed by his knights. Trumpets sounded a triumphant call, and the soldiers turned as one and began to march away, dragging their engines of war with them.
Note from Veronica: So I used all six of my assigned words: ethereal, pontificate, majestic, murmuration, miasma and triumphant.
I have in mind that the dreaded king and the princess had met as children somewhere, maybe before the king became who he is today…yet he never forgot the beautiful girl he’d loved. And this was his way of getting her back. And as for her, she’d dreamt of him ever since the day they were separated…because I do know this is a Happily Ever After ending for them.
Copyright Veronica Scott 2015