“Tell me a story my boy! Your king demands it!”
Two thick pairs of arms escort me before the king, who rises halfway from his seat to take a look at me. He is Hadrian, King of Norway. The name, I have heard him speak, is the name of a great king, who names and deeds were lost in time. All he did, to my knowledge, was put up walls, hiding behind them while his enemy plotted in the highlands.
I am not afraid. He killed my Mama and Papa, but I am not afraid.
“What story does his majesty desire?” My eyes do not rise to meet his. I will not make that mistake again.
The king looks to his general and smiles looks back at me one more.
“Tell me a war story.” he says.
That's not so bad, I think. I know plenty of those.
“In lands far off, beyond the seas to the west,” I begin, addressing the stillness of the crowd, “there was a land once, filled with plenty. It's people were mighty, and arrogant. They took what they wanted when they wanted, and it was good. Across their land, stretching for hundreds and hundreds of leagues was food and crops of all kinds. Potatoes a big as your head, with neeps and carrots even larger. Their army was great, perhaps greater than any other, for their catapults were magic and could hit anything.”
“But as they grew, their hearts and minds grew soft. The great feats they had performed could no longer feed the morale of their people. Slowly they grew less courageous, and eventually, they fell asleep to their former glory.”
“The times called then for a new challenge. No longer did the nations rule by power and strength, but with influence. Their generals became merchants. Their common people became builders and inventors. Not long after they began to sell their tools and creations to the king, and to other kings, for they were not afraid and also greedy.”
“One of them rose up then, a common man. He looked out over the world and saw the great land. It strove and it fought for recognition, but he saw the lives of the people to be dull. He decided then to give them something special, to remind them of the goodness they had achieved. He made toys and gifts for all who would buy them, until he had made so many that he too rivaled the power of the great land, for it's people where enamored with his work. But then he looked out over them again, and he was sad. The people were far worse now. They were selfish, shiftless, backbiting, and demanding.”
“When his children saw, they were saddened by their father's grief. 'We shall make the world over again,' the oldest said pridefully. 'No,' said the middle one, 'We must teach them humility.'”
“Among the children, concerning the fate of the great land, they debated and argued amongst themselves, until the youngest cried out, 'Let us go out among them, and restore them to their toil. Like sleepy creatures they will be pulled from their stupor, and remake the world anew themselves.'”
“And so they did, each of them, traveling to the four corners of the world. There they took apart the world. Many died, and wars broke out, but man endured...”
The king's eyes narrow upon me. I do not know if he was pleased with my story, but he stood and took his generals with him. The hall grew quiet. The coldness in my arms swelled, for I wonder if I have done a bad thing. Fear grips my heart like a tyrant, and I shiver. When the king returns he is ponderous, taking a seat again, with his general at his side.
“This story,” the king begins, “it is an old one? Are you trying to teach me a lesson, boy?”
“No!” I gasp, falling on my knees. “It is the story of my people.”
“And how am I to like this story, when it is the great and powerful nation that falls to the children of a mere man. Where they gods? There is no such thing as gods.”
“My father told me the story truthfully,” I say, my eyes bowed to the floor, “it was to remind me of the cost of power, but also of our people. For long ago we came from that land.”
“This story is not amusing or battle worthy,” The king sighs, shaking his head. “Take him away.”
As they reach down to grab me, I struggle, then submit. Their hold is strong, and I am not. In taking my leave I watch the warm hall fade from sight, as I am thrown out into the cold of night. The guards say something, but I cannot hear them, for the wailing of the wind is too high for me to hear. Disappearing into the hall, I am left alone once more to fend for myself.
This is the cost of a true story, I ponder. Nobody likes hearing true stories.