The crowning — part 2

The sun rose again that day as it always had…

Those in political power within the great city were on fluttering tip-toes to spot any change in the citizens behaviour, after yesterday’s crowning. Many of the citizens had appeared to not be concerned about the rumours that were circulating, about the missing prince and that he had died that day; but not from the crowning. The vast amount of spiritual homages that were sacrificed along with the dupe prince had been of some concern among the populous.

“I don’t know why there had to be so many homages at the crowning yesterday”, one half drunken man in the city tavern said to his drinking buddy. He had a regular attire that fitted a lot of the trends there. Yellow threaded shirt with orange gloves stuffed in his pockets, a grey waistcoat of modest quality. Yellow tweed like trousers and SunSkin material boots. His listening friend was similarly dressed with a long coat and a clump of something on his head that was presumably a hat.

The tavern barkeep watching closely at the pair and dotted his eyes at the dark spots in the room where numerous people where talking amongst themselves, with who knows what on their mind. A well lit place with a fairly regular flow of customers, decorated in specific colours to match some sort affiliation.

“For a better season, that’s what they said”, the drinking partner responded, seemingly less drunk than the other, but no less noisy.

“Yeah but I haven’t heard whispers of anything bad on the horizon, have you? Everything seems fine, it’s weird.”

“Yes but don’t you think the city would know better than us, if there needed to be a bigger ceremony. It seems reasonable to me”, his friend said returning to his drink.

“Then how do you explain the rumours of the Prince who was crowned yesterday to be a fake, I certainly couldn’t say for certain it was him. ”

“It looked like him from where I was.”

“Oh and where were you?”

“In the square, same as most”

“Aye and that’s still not close enough to see the colour of someone’s eyes from there, come on you can’t honestly say you know for sure it was him?”

“I’m pretty sure”

“Ack, fine. Believe what you want”.

The mood grew stale between them until they ordered the next round and the conversation started all over again with fresh fuel, it got a little heated. Some accusations flew between both and the rest of the customers took sidelong glances. Before long the debate grew more prominent the room, and had caused others to start to question each on what happened.

“Hush you two or you’ll have to leave”, the barman finally interjected, one man behind the pair ready to stop the fight, a staff in his hand.

“Oh hey, what’s this taking his side are ya?” the yellow shirt spluttered.

“No, but if you don’t put down that chair your about to throw, I will”.

The man looked stumped, then glanced at his hands as he looked unsure. He did have a chair, in an attacking posture. His friend stood beside in a stoic half drunk stance that swayed a little, a face of stone.

“Oh sorry, sorry, sorry all” he said, pulling his waist coat up from his arms and back to normal. Wacking the chair down that he thought he was placing gently.

Just before he finished assembling himself, his friend levelled a hook punch to his face now that he was disarmed. He went down on top of his chair which didn’t break as he fell on it, turning from the blow onto his front. The man with the staff bared the attacker and motioned him to stand down, the rest of the bar grew silent.

Two others helped the floored man onto a nearby table checking for injury.

“I’ll take him to the doctor” one of the two that helped him said.

“Fine, thank you”, the barman said to the fellows. “And you, you get out” he pointed at the previously associated friend.

“Fine, I’m going”, he grabbed his hat and left, casting a worried glance at the befuddled heap of his friend.

Back in the village just outside the city, the people heard news of the crowning from those that had attended. Few variations of the events but one primary result stayed the same, people were talking about it, communication about yesterday’s event caused ripples in the land and within that tangle of constant talk, a small tale could grow and thrive.

“You wouldn’t believe how many were sent on homage this time, the streets were packed with viewers trying to see”, a young woman made remarks in the square, to where many were gathering, all prior to this it was meant as a celebration area, in the small town way of a shared banquet.

“I think I saw the Prince get crowned, but my dad says it wasn’t him”, a young girl telling her mother who hadn’t made it to the ceremony.

“Oh and why’s that?”, she said to her daughter but implied with various gestures to her husband for the answer.

“There was rumours of him being missing at first, we went to the functionaries office to see if it was still happening. But all I got from them was of course it is, don’t be daft and a next mam, if you please”, the father gestured a shrug and paused before continuing.

“I felt daft for sure, but there was a huge amount of people asking and we kept trying to align our information, nothing made sense”.

“Yeah, that is a bit odd” the mother said, dabbing her daughters mouth with a napkin.

“I saw the Prince crowned” the girl repeated her news again.

“Maybe darling, maybe…at least the sun’s up” her mother stroked her daughters hair as she spoke.

Across the tables another regaled their story to the group.

“It was spectacular, I’ve never seen such a crowning before, so many on homage this year and the party lasted all night”, spoke a middle aged women. Her husband nodding with a smile beside her.

“I wish I could have been, was the sausage stall their again this year just outside the rooster tavern?” said her granddaughter, a late teenager.

“Oh yes there was”, began the grandfather before being hushed by his wife.

“Shh, I’m telling it, you spoilt it. So, anyways yes it was there again but it had moved and you wouldn’t believe right next to the fancy cake boutique from Armont, oh I’m glad there were some space between them of course because who would want a cake that smelt of sausage and smoke”

A giggle came from her granddaughter and a few others around them.

“But it was beautiful, you should come with us next time”

“I’ll try gran, its hard now that I’m studying and with the part time job as well.” She said politely.

“You can go, just ask your boss for the day I’m sure he let’s loads go” her father joined in.

“Yes, but that’s the problem, he let’s the senior staff off and I fill in, need a new temp to get away” she piqued at the words - I fill in - suggesting she was quite proud of that fact.

Life had not changed for some, but others wore suspicion under their clothes.

“That went well, I thought” the head of the council spoke: my mother; the Queen and executioner, decreasing her robe and speaking to her steward.

“Yes mam” he bowed slightly after it, a praise of the event in his own way.

“Yes, there was no doubt in my mind” she walked around her duty station within one of the grand buildings, picking at books to identify one in particular she had in mind to read.

“What are the spies reporting? “ she had heard the regular reports from the council early that morning but from her steward she could get a little more detail.

“The low lands are reporting dutiful celebrations, some concerns in the talk but no outright preaching of heresy, the hill counties have not heard yet. They however have already started their festivities with gusto and the lake side and shore communities report some abnormal movements of travellers above the norm but continue to show no sign of covert action. We even received two from there this morning, caught with contraband but nothing more.”

“…and the city itself?” she gazed out her window with pride as she asked, she had found the book and had it in both hands.

“Much is still to be done here, mam, the early reports suggest some collusion with ex party members and external nations to rouse suspicion and cast the kingdom into doubt. While at this point we have yet to find much in the way of evidence we can assume that it has had little effect on the population”

“That’s not good enough” she said tiring of the reports of dissenting from the years past and this latest setback, although minor, had caused her to think very carefully about how to approach it.

“I want this to be remembered only as a great celebration, that will be all thank you.”

“Mam” the steward bowed and left. She, read her book for a while, jumping to certain chapters of reference and sent for a caller.

“Yes, mam?” the young caller came in.

“Yes, I would like you to relay a message to the council subcommittees of the crowning festivities” the lady replied looking up from her book.

“I need them to extend the holiday by a day and make up something to draw the crowd, I don’t mind what, but I have a few ideas: I have two extradited… diplomats” she paused before saying, “who would make a very good distraction.”

Back outside, in a nearby medical bay, the punched out drunk was getting treatment for the facial damage and bruised ribs.

“You look much better” the man with the staff said to the patient.

“Thanks to you and your friends, which are where exactly? I’d like to thank them”

“They had to go, sort out some things, they might be back later”

“Thank you, that got a bit weird, I’ve never been ready to hit anyone with a chair let alone a friend” his face went a little surprised,

“What is your name friend?” the man sobering up continued.

“My name is Louise, and you?” the man with the staff offered a hand and a nod.

“Gerrard, nice to meet you Louise” he shook his hand lightly and rested back upon the bed.

“Gerrard, the reason I was able to help you was because I and the others have been looking out for people like yourself who may be able to help us”

“Oh, I see” Gerrard said sadly. “If it looks too good to be true, it surely is”

“I’m sorry if you see it that way Gerrard, but I would have helped anyone in that situation regardless. I was merely there to seek out people and found you in need”

“Fair enough Louise, but what could you want with me?”

“It’s of a political nature”

“Ah, yes”, Gerrard pondered for a moment, “then I can see why you might want my help.”

“Yes, you see we are from the North in Cabaval, and have come to seek out people who themselves wish to see the truth”

“The truth about what?”

“You already know what we see”

“See what?”

“... The crowning ceremonies.”

“Oh” he looked almost ashamed. “You heard me then in the pub I reckon, shouldn’t be shouting my mouth off like that I know”

“You were a bit raucous, Gerrard”, His use of his name after that revelation made him feel like he was being interrogated. He wound up tight and made the prayer sign.

“We could have come sooner, but, we thought you’d want to talk after the ceremont” Louise let go of his reasons like a dove being released back into the sky.

Gerrards eyes glazed as if pondering how anyone would know about how he felt other than his close friends, perhaps he had been too loose with his opinions. He lightly shook his head looking at Louise, a sad face resembling the words, I can’t help you, sorry.

“I see” said Louise, “Well if you would like to talk more you know how to find me.” He leaned his staff forward a little showing its design to be of distinct quality and nothing round here would match its like. Gerrard fixed himself on the unique staff. He saw an outsider, someone not connected to his country, someone that could take blame if anything went wrong.

“Wait, I’d... like to know what happened yesterday, do you know?”

“Yes Gerrard, we know.”

The village’s morning festivities were coming to a close and the late night dancing around the bonfires had begun. A group of torch bearers would walk around the village lighting the bonfires signifying the cycle of the sun, marking the homages as each bonfire was lit and to welcome the sun back to the land. In truth in most places it was more of a holiday to remember the homages that had given themselves up to bring back the Sun. It was in this time that reflection was given to more than that, but to the crowning itself.

The torch bearers themselves were chosen by the community and had shown respect and reverence for the crowning and so not much had changed for them, but for one person in the town tonight at least, it had changed but hadn’t at the same time.

The girl who had watched me die was sitting atop some first floor roof of a shop, Atom was watching the torch bearers in the dim light bobbing flames along the paths to light the fires. Beside her another watcher.

“The news came, but nothing has happened here?” Atom said.

“It needs some massaging but yes, it will come” Buel, who sat next to her said.

“He died yesterday as he would have done anyway but they still believe his death brings the sun, even after that farce of a show in the city showed everyone proof of it otherwise”, Atom finished saying while adjusting her seating. Looking at her upturned hands and then out to the valley.

“Some do not see as clearly as we do, and some choose not too”, Buel looked at her talisman, “they will see soon enough that it is not so.”

“If only he didn’t have to die” Atom said sorrowful and she did not mean, or believe necessary the sacrifice to the cause.

“The preparation they give them precludes any life after the crowning preparations, the poison would have killed him regardless, but here we can prove his death was not sanctified to their ends” Buel reinforced her friend with a pat on the shoulder.

“Poison. They don’t take any chances do they” she sniffed, sadly recalling her meetings with me, they were fond memories for me too and I had no idea I was poisoned until one of their own had seen what the preparations where really comprised of. Noting the aging process being accelerated and degeneration of my body.

The last bonfire was approached by the torch bearers, like fireflies that lit their own path. But they did not light it straight away, two of the torches were seen bobbing back to the village.

“See, they know now” said Buel.

“I know, it had to be done” affirmed Atom.

The few torch bearers that came running back had dropped their torches as they ran, coming up to the cobbled paths of the streets that wound round to the centre.

“The Prince, his body is here on a pyre” yelled the torch bearers, entering in the town square. Buel, Atom and few others joined the gathering group. All heading to the last pyre. The crowd reached a few hundred now and they all gathered around the pyre, purposely build with space around it for protection now accommodated nearly the entire town. On the top of the pyre, lay my body patched up to avoid upsetting the young. The Cabavalians had seen to that.

You might be wondering why I jumped, instead of any other form of suicide. The truth is, I was afraid. It seemed like the only way I couldn’t back out and I dare not ask someone else to do the deed. Also, the truth of the poison that was in me had a resulting death that would be agonising. I chose that path to set my mind and body free.

“That’s the Prince but, how?”

“Daddy was right” spoke a little girl.

“The capital lied!” said another.

“About a great deal of things” Buel added. Guaging the crowds reaction he continued “…and what lie will they tell others, when they come here to find a town questioning their truths?” Buel let that hang in the air, forcefully they had put the villagers in a precarious situation and some began to realise it.

“They would burn this place to the ground.. “ spoke an elderly chap. It seemed the shift to one of realisation had happened quickly in the crowd, not many stood their ground in defence of the capitals crowning now.

“You have to get rid of the evidence” Atom said.

The crowd was divided on that, but some choice words had put them into a state of preservation.

“Who amongst you have seen loved ones pay homage and thought, this isn’t right? and how many of you have wished that you would not be afraid of being tortured should you show any sign of these thoughts?” Atom walked, faving each member of the town with a face that held back more than they could understand. The crowd reacted with slight nods and agreements, and she continued.

“I come from a place, where no one is sent to die, where they believe that that the sun comes up on its own”. The whispers became more intense and some made the prayer sign as if to protect themselves from retribution.

“How many have thought what the sun could possibly get from our lives? How could a mortal group of people in their city know how to control the world?” Atom finished, gesturing the group to respond.

Some spoke “That’s blasphemous” in less than confident tones. “And who decides what is so” Buel joined, “The autocrats in their city – humans like you or I. And you have seen that they are capable of lies”.

A farmhand who had helped build the pyres that day stepped through the crowd to address everyone, “We know full well that this doesn’t feel good, or right to talk against the government, but that’s what we are told to believe. Yet I know in my heart that it feels wrong to continue to ignore the facts. Here, today, the sun has already been and the prince here as well, proof that we don’t need them to have the sun come up”.

“We could wait a while, see if the sun comes up again” said Buel to the crowd.

“But the Prince is dead and cannot help you even if you believed he could. It’s now evidence of a lie” Atom added.

“Your right, we have to burn the body” spoke a torch bearer. Evidently shoring up the crowds temperament now that one of respected members in the town was showing initiative.

Mumbling spread round the crowd each small pocket conversed about their thoughts, like a camp sharing ghost stories.

The pyre was lit. Some gave the prayer while others looked on in horror as their beliefs were disappearing. The evidence of the lie told to thousands was burning away, and the new light of determination was lit.

The End of part 2.

A fictional short story writer. One-shot flash fictions to multi-part stories on slice of life, fantasy, drama and sci-fi. Some real life pieces and queries.