One | The End of a Kingdom

“I’m afraid the wall is breached, your Majesty.” Carolyn said as clearly and plainly as she could, all things considered, as she stood in the great big doorframe to the great big chamber of the king.

“We know.” The young king said with his back turned. He was on the other end of the great big chamber and at a window overlooking the city. In fact, from his vantage point he’d have had to be blind to not see it.
Carolyn knew this, but what else was she going to say? ‘Your Majesty, the invaders are slaughtering the people. You need to do something!’ Should she have said that? Maybe in shrill, panicked tones? Would that rouse the king? And what would he be roused to do? What else was left? The Castle Guard had been sent into the city. Who was left to halt the advance?
“Please, bring Us Margaret.” The king spoke slowly. Like he had all the time in the world.
“The witch?” Carolyn’s guard dropped and a hint of disdain escaped her lips as she spoke. “Hasn’t she done enough?”
“If We are lucky, yes.” The king didn’t take his eyes off the city below him from his vantage point at the window. He heard her steps fade as Carolyn left to retrieve Margaret the Witch. Carolyn knew she overstepped. The king decided he would let it slip, this time.
It really was a big room, his chambers. Too big, in fact, for his tastes. It was open, airy, and cold, despite the fire burning in its place and the thick carpeting covering the stone flooring. But it was sturdy. Like he had to be.
“Charles! My King!” Margaret’s voice broke the king’s fixation and he turned to face the newcomer. Carolyn stood, again, in the doorway, but Margaret was approaching with arms open, as though she expected him to embrace her.
“Carolyn, give Us the room.” The king’s voice was flat. There was not the energy and boom to it that Carolyn had become so familiar with. For a moment, Carolyn forgot where she was as she saw the king standing there, the light coming in from the window behind him flickering as not-so-distant plumes of smoke obscured the natural light.
Margaret put her arms around the young king’s neck.
Carolyn blinked, nodded, and backed out of the room without a word. Carolyn brought the great big doors to the great big doorframe to a close without a word.
“I like her.” Margaret whispered into the king’s ear, her breath resting hot on his neck. “We should keep her.”
“Is it done?” The king gently, but with a degree of firmness, pushed Margaret back. Margaret relinquished her position, stepped back, and the two looked at one another, eye to eye.
“Is what done, My King?” Margaret tilted her head to the side and just so slightly downward. Folding her arms and maintaining her gaze on the king from the corners of her eyes, she said, “There is so much we have done, already.”
“Was the summoning successful?” The king maintained his gaze with a flat, impossibly unreadable expression on his face.
“Oh!” Margaret perked up, straightening her head and bringing her index finger to tap her chin. “I suppose it was!”
The young king’s face visibly lit up.
“It was?! So who have We got?” The king stepped forward and grasped Margaret’s shoulders. “What brave hero have We summoned?”
At this, Margaret let out a soft chuckle before replying, “Why, my King, I haven’t the faintest idea!”
“What?” The king stepped back, his moment of elation quickly deflating.

“It seems,” Margaret continued, appearing contemplative, as though she were speaking to herself, “it seems we have summoned some hero from a foreign realm. His tongue was completely unrecognizable. Not to mention his clothes!” Margaret let out a laugh and gestured. “There’s no telling where the boy might be from! And the poor thing was so agitated! I’m afraid I had to put a sleeping spell over him! For his own safety, of course.”

The young king turned back to the window, placing his hand on one of the glass panels. The heat from the burning city had warmed the glass and now the glass warmed the king’s hand. “Is the kingdom lost?” he whispered to himself.

“I’m sorry, my King?” Margaret approached the King and reached for his shoulder with an outstretched hand. “What was it you just said?”

“Was it successful?” The king turned around and caught the witch’s writst. “The summoning was successful? This is no trick? You followed the procedure to the word?” The king’s voice was coming back strong as his grip tightened on Margaret’s wrist.

“My King!” Margaret exclaimed, caught by surprise.

“To the word?” The king insisted, leaning in and tightening his grip even further.

“Yes, of course!” Margaret brought her free hand to her chest in a show of apparent shock. “Anything for my King!”

“Then you must take him!” The king released Margaret’s wrist and she reclaimed it in her other hand, gently rubbing where the king had held her. “Get him out of the castle! Take him far from here!”

Margaret blinked. “Do you have a destination in mind, my King?”

“It is better that We do not know where it is you go, but you must see him safely gone from the castle! Now go!”

“But, what should I–”

“GO!” The young king shouted, suddenly appearing a foot taller.

Margaret did not say another word. Instead, she whirled and flew, figuratively, out of the room, like a shadow from the sun. The king turned back to the window.

He would wait.

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