Rise of the Dream King
Short Story by L.E Gray
A brutal King stands before the Golden Queen who defeated him. King's hair is long and golden going over his shoulders, over his red cape and black and dull grey armour. He won’t kneel, he stands there, like he has always stood. The Golden Queen moves behind him admiring his long hair where the intricate brown colored image of the downward grown shows its semi circle that is the mark of his reign. Her long white fingers goes thru the hair, breaking the image in it. Half admiring, half loathing it.
“Not anymore” She says, and the hair falls from her hands when she cuts it down, smearing the image off to the fallen king’s feet’s, who still stands frozen in place. There is no pain in his face. No defeat, not until after, when the death distorts his severed head in a Queens arms as she flies thru the night sky, over the land that he once ruled.
A servant. Twenty year old man wakes up in a cottage. He had a dream again, about the Golden Queen and the fall of the Brutal King, like it would he, whose hair had been cut down. The dream has been starting to come more frequent, making him forget who he is and why he is in here. And where?
He goes about his tasks, in the same clothes that he woke up. His only clothes. Dull white servant’s shirt, tied with a rope to his hips over the same colored pants. Lighter brown fabric, the same fabric as his pants and shirt, tied with a rope around his both calf to cover his feet.
The memory of the dream lingers, and he makes mistakes in his only job as a water cup filler.
Later he follows the man who owns him. A ragged man, with a dark brown cloak on his hunched shoulders that is worn thin on its ends. Sun is burning from the cloudless sky, but between raised canvases to shelter the occupants from it, the sun is still everywhere. They won’t speak. He has no any feelings for a man in front of him or fear of their surroundings. He is an empty vessel, a cup. No mind that is his own, except that haunting dream.
Suddenly a man in front of him leaves him middle of the sheltered hut and he spokes to the man first time -Wait, you are leaving me here?-
A man turns around and grunts “The sold is made” And leaves. Still, that does not wake any feelings from him for his new fate. Or even a question rose from his lips, what that might be.
The air inside the hut is shadowy brown. Its walls are made from the long wooden twigs that are no more thicker than his finger. Above is a roof that is made the same way, but top of it is a worn canvas spread over it. It bellows time to time up in the wind. Hard sandy floor continues outside the large courtyard that bathes in the harsh sun. It’s filled with children in armours, bumpy iron plates covering their torsos. Children that are no more than waist high of him. They are playing a war games in small groups with sticks and pans in their heads.
Hut’s inside is filled with shelves that are filled with wooden cups and jars. It’s like a graft man's workshop. A young woman, some years older than he walks to a shelf and takes something from it. She does not turn, but he sees that she wears a brown skirt that must be only one cloth. It is bound around her figure from the waist, starting below her breast that she must have, ending just on her hips. Her arms are bare, but the cloth covers her shoulders. In her head, a muddy brown hair is gathered to a one large messy braid that hangs toward her left shoulder.
“You belong here now” Woman says, still not turning.
His feelings are still empty, and he says nothing.
But behind him he knows is an old woman, a hag. Hunching down over the table where a crumpled paper is lifted half up and she’s drawing in it. He has seen it in his dreams. A colorful pictogram’s. The hag says something and the young woman starts to speak.
“You were found as a child. In the mountains. They didn’t know what you are. They placed you with servants and now you are sold to us. You are one of us”
Her last words sound right. Like the scene outside somehow feels right. It wakes a feeling being in his own kind. But still, there are no other feelings. Just a sleepwalking remanence of right things happening around him, but no real memory or feelings attached to it.
The hag behind him says and walks past him toward the girl “King is a King''
Hags voice is like an old cranky hinge. Making him think that maybe under the robes what he saw her wearing may not be nothing and maybe hag isn't a hag. Hag’s words does not mean anything to him, but the words are right for her to say.
Not interested in anything or memory of the movement, he finds himself looking down to the wet pictures on the crumbled rough page that hag has been drawing. They are vibrant from color. Red, blue, gold, black, white, yellow. Each picture is almost of his forefingers height. Round edged standing rectangular forms of what could be man standing, red cloak with white and black going around man's form. But the pictures are distorted, a writing of a kind. He knows it somehow, but can't read it. They are also raised up. If he would touch and move his finger over them, he would feel the edges rise from the old paper. But he won’t. The paint that they are made glistens in wet. He knows it from his dream. He has seen these before. But there’s no feeling coming with it still. There are more than five rectangular pictures close by themselves, starting on the left side of the paper and ending just before right. The last one is distorted the most, smaller than others, it's more hunched down. The black hole that he knows is the mouth is howling something that feels pain. He raises his hand to touch its side. There is familiarity to the last image. A warning. The madness.
“What did you said?” He asks. He speaks to the hag but looks only the distorted picture.
“The King is King when his dream is full”
He knows that the hag is watching him. There is satisfaction coming from the hag that is now come close to him. But he does not feel anything. The understanding does not raise feelings. He is the King that the hag spokes, but yet still an empty cup, a dreamer in a dream.
He walks on the edge of the courtyard. On the right is the shadow of the wall that goes around the place where he is in. Where they all are. It’s an isolation, a prison, but not a prison, made from the same twigs, showing thru the endless huts with canvas shelters bellowing on the sandy wind. Brown sea of the marketplace. On his left sun shines mercilessly to the courtyard. Four children with their armour and twigs in their right hands. On their left hands, they held shields. Worn red that looks more brown with a dome in the middle. Unpolished metal with pumps on it. He looks down to the children. The fifth boy from their group is lying on the ground. Sprawled away from his weapons. He lies on his back, eyes closed. Dead. He knows the child is dead, but there is no rage toward the happening or four who stand there looking at him.
“Why did you killed him?” He asks even he knows it’s the way. The right thing to happen.
“He was weak” Says one of the boys. There is no hatred toward the dead boy from others standing there “It is our way” And he knows it's right when the boy says it. It is their way. His way. The boys turn their backs to him and they walk away, leaving the dead one lying on the sand.
He raises his head. He sees several women watching from the other end of the courtyard, as are other groups of the children. And he knows. They raise their children here. Together. They bear them here, and this is the way of the People.
People who are the same as him. And not, because he is the King.
Later, he does not know how much later, the night comes, and he lies on a cot in a red tent. The young woman from the hut is laying on top of him. They are both clothed, but there is a closeness that her laughing face gives them. He laughs too. He's happy. Will she bear his children to that courtyard? The thought makes him happy too as he keeps his hands around the woman. This is his first feeling. Colours around him are more vibrant but still, the sun boiled courtyard is somewhere around him in his mind even when they aren’t there. The woman’s messy braid falls between them and they both laugh again.
“We have to leave” A man steps into the tent. He wears dull grey armour with a red cape hanging down from his shoulders. The helmet comes strongly to his cheeks but does not cover his face that is leathery and sunburn to dark brown. He is the elderly soldier who stares straight forward and not down to the cot. Top of the helmet is a red bristle that mixes up to tents redness as he looks up from the cot.
“I have to go” He repeats the soldier's words like it is the order given to him, even it’s not. He is the King. He pushes the woman off top of him. She understands.
Stepping out in the same clothes than in the courtyard, he knows that he is going for a war, but it is a knowing as saying what is right, like not feeling. There is no fear or joy on the other side of the tent for him, because his dream is not full.