1 Comfortably Numb
When the gleaming sun rises from afar
And our moon collided with that sun star,
By the time light and darkness become one
The sword will gleam its might to ev'ryone,
The king's betrothed queen will bring forth he
Who will liberate the kingdom from He.
For the boy is he who'll vanquish mayhem,
Through fire and flames, he will soar to free them,
But along comes darkness that will recur…
Sat on a chair of satin and amber…
He'll rise from within when nights are weary;
He'll resurrect forth when times grew heavy;
He'll be inside him commanding his head,
With his weakening spirit, he'll be fed.
Though when the silence of the evening rise,
The boy will pierce the ruler and his eyes.
Darkness shall bow before him
Darkness shall fall on his wake
(From the point of view of King Vortigern.)
My wife speaks of that prophecy as if her very life depends on it. She was a firm believer in Edelom the Wise, after all. Who would have thought she would bear the child in that prophecy? Perhaps, her adoration towards the prophet is also the work of a higher being, if and only if such deities genuinely exist.
I loved her, and I will always love her. I promise her that, and I never fail to conjure my feelings.
However, all things precious will someday soil and leave.
A week had passed since Queen Lara died.
My wife, the love of my life, died, leaving me with two precious angels in this wretched world without her.
I sighed as I looked at the distant skies.
The lady, who was a few steps in front of me, fidgeted. She moved her feet around as she played with her fingers with an awkward smile.
"Forgive me, your highness, but maybe it's wiser if I leave alone for now..."
"No." I interrupted. "I called for you because I wanted company. I don't have many friends in this castle, and you're the only available to summon my call. I need you to stay."
"I understand, of course, your highness," she spoke in a low voice with a forced chuckle, "I just feel it's a tad bit awkward for me to..."
I directed my gaze towards her, revealing my sunken eyes surrounded by swollen skin. "Are you insisting on disobeying my command?"
"No, your highness!" She spoke with clarity, but the way she fidgets her feet around showed her uneasiness. "Forgive me."
"I just don't want to be alone right now, Violet." I returned my gaze towards the setting sun. "Save this small courtesy for me not as your king, but as your friend."
The room fell into a defining silence. I could hear the low howling of the sea breeze, I could feel the heat of the twilight sun, and I could see the stillness of the land. Nothing could make the weight on my chest even heavier than this peace my wife could not see anymore.
How I wish today is not a good day.
"Your majesty, if I may be frank," the nervous woman in front of me broke the silence in my chamber. "I know it'll be hard for you to raise the princes alone while ruling the kingdom..." The teary-eyed young lady said with a hint of sadness in her tone. "but if it needs that all servants living and breathing in this castle under my surveillance raise your sons on your behalf, then we are more than honored to do so! I will even call all men in my house, all that remains of us so I can be of use to you, your majesty!"
I know what she's trying to say. Kneeling in front of her king along with a handful of sympathy can shake anyone in a position such as mine. It's a perfect opportunity for her to raise the power of her family. However, she's not like that. No. Not this one. I know this one, she's different. At least, unlike others who had come before her, her words are not empty.
"It's a tad bit overdramatic, isn't it?" I whispered as my voice crackles similar to that of the sound emitted by a weakening stone concrete. I gazed at her as my eyes ready themselves to drop and rest at last had it not been to the theatrical display of grievance the woman in front of me had shown.
She remained quiet, but unlike earlier, her stares are now on the carpet below her and not directed towards me, her king.
"Thank you, Madame Violet," I said as firmly as I can, but my exhaustion has already taken control of my body. "I'm sure my wife, the queen, will be pleased to hear that. It's just..."
"You don't have to say anything else, your majesty! I understand. All of us in this kingdom understand you are pained after the… after the tragedy. A real tragedy it is." She averted her eyes and looked at Lara's portrait hanging on the wall. "I have never thought I can cry for days. No one will think you're weak if you show sadness at this very moment. No one."
"How can you be so sure?" I pondered.
"She is my friend too, and your people lost their queen. Everyone cries today and tomorrow and the coming days, for no one wants to live in a world where she lives no more! Everyone lost someone, your majesty. If crying for her death is a sign of weakness, then everyone in this kingdom is weak."
Her gaze returned to me from the portrait. It's not the type of gaze a servant gives to the king. It's the type one uses to combat atrocities. "Even the bravest men in Izrecael weep at their barracks. The keen archers of Vega lost their focus with tears in their eyes. The men of the cloth in Caelum sleep in their temples as they pray to their gods to take good care of our queen in the afterlife. The feisty village of Duibhne shushed for the first time in history when the news reached their shores. The Wainwrights volunteered to be the one to craft Lara's tomb so it will never be disturbed even though they strictly refuse to lend their steel from outsiders. Alas, who would have thought the cold-hearted wardens of Chateau Valencia would travel a far distance just to give their regards? Everyone cries; people will be offended if you won't."
The room was engulfed in a deafening silence and a cold atmosphere that never had I ever felt before. This is the first time I've experienced the burden of being a father, the first time carrying the weight of being a widowed man. It's heavier than the luggage that came along the responsibilities of being a king. A king will see many deaths, he will see countless births, he will see tragedies and miracles as long as he breathes, but not every day will he experience the grief of losing a loved one and the miracle which brought forth their offspring, both at the same time.
I'm afraid I can't do it alone. It pains me to admit that I, the king of the strongest empire the world has ever seen, is not strong enough to do this alone.
"It really awes me though," Madame Violet mumbled,
"Oh, forgive me, I mean the prophecy, my king. It awes me. It says that there would only be-"
When one is in a stressful situation, and somebody dictates something they already know, wouldn't they snap? That's right, without even giving the luxury of a fine warning, I snapped.
"I know the prophecy, Madame Violet!" Even I am surprised by my sudden outburst. I took a heavy sigh, fooling myself that it will lift my spirits, "I know the prophecy. I know it says there would only be one boy, but you don't strike me as someone who cares about these prophecies, don't you, Violet?"
Violet bowed down. She shook and whimpered as if she's chanting every known curse in the world directly towards her. She pulled her hands and clenched her fist towards her chest. "Forgive me, your majesty. Forgive me! I didn't mean to offend you!" She hastily said as she shudders in her thoughts.
I didn't answer. Perhaps it's my fatigue, but all I can do now is look at the toddlers sleeping so peacefully in my arms. I don't want anyone to take them away from me. Not now, not ever. Is this what it feels like to be a doting father? I had no idea how it felt like before; frankly, I thought it was laughable to see some of my friends and servants beam with utmost delight when they speak of their children. Now I understand.
It feels as if everything in my life had meaning. Every tears and blood I shed, every wine I've refused, and all the gold I've spent. Seeing their faces, looking at their smiles, and hearing them laugh bring forth a sense of understanding on how everything that ever happened in my life leads me to this very moment. Every dust I've inhaled, and every mountain I've climbed brought me here. It's as if everything is just a tiny piece of the puzzle to create this grand design!
Is this what it feels like to believe in heaven?
"Madame Violet, have you ever felt like your life is a symphony?"
"I..." Madame Violet paused for a moment. "I'm not sure if I understand your question, your majesty, but... I think I do understand." The lady said with a half-smile, tender as a child's.
I chuckled from her response. "I've decided the name of the first boy," I whispered, oddly enough, the frail woman heard my low mumble.
"This is wonderful news, your majesty!" She said enthusiastically.
"Would you like to hear it?" I said with a wry smile.
"I'd be overjoyed! Pray tell your majesty, and I shall be honored to be the first person to hear it from your lips!" Madame Violet said with an undeniable excitement in her tone. I'm amazed as to how she can keep her grace while she recites everything she has to say with so much passion.
"Pardon, your majesty?"
"I'm gonna name him John."
"From now on," I interrupted, "Everyone shall call him Prince John! The boy who's written in the prophecy the book Edelom the Wise bore!"
"Oh. Right. John! That's..." She said, nodding her head slowly with a displeased expression painted all over her face, her usual theatrical and demure actions were replaced by uncharacteristic sarcastic tone. She continued nodding as I saw a glimpse of smirk rising from her lips, which she immediately noticed, forcing herself to stop it halfway. "That's a very great name, your highness, I think. It's good-great! It's very great, your highness!"
She took a handkerchief from her breast pocket and covered her lips with it for a few seconds. She took it back from within a different pocket on her skirt after breathing heavily.
"All hail Prince John!" She said with her usual demeanor, announcing the name of my prince towards the air as she moved her arms like ribbons being blown by the breeze towards the sun.
It's supposed to be a joke, but I guess I am no good a jester, for she actually thought I was being serious. I don't want to ruin her moment, though, so I let her bask in the glory of being the first person to know the name of my first son, not knowing that I will change it later, maybe tomorrow. I find the thought euphoric, but I stopped myself from laughing at it. I don't want to ruin the fun of it yet.
It's good that I can make practical jokes like this again. One step at a time, Lara, and I'll show you I can be as joyful as I once was before you left my side. Baby steps, my queen, but allow me to feel the melancholy of your loss for most of the coming days first.
"...And Madame Violet," this took her by surprise. Perhaps she thought she offended me, the king, again. "The royal family is honored that you are willing to lend your aid to us in times like this."
I paused for a while to hear she would reply, but she's so overwhelmed with it that all she can do is gaze at me as she shivers with tears in her eyes.
"As the king, I thank you and your family for your offer to help me raise my sons. As a father, and I believe this would also please my late wife, I would like to raise these boys on my own. Of course, knowing that I am foreign in parenting, I might need your assistance now and then." I said with a gentle smile whilst looking at my sons.
"Y-your majesty, your compliments are already enough to make my entire bloodline overjoyed for a lifetime! I am deeply honored to serve you, my king!" She said, her knees still on the ground.
"Rise, Violet. I don't want Lara to think that I'm making you shat your pants again."
She rises with a smile, and a chuckle escapes from her lips. "Lara must've already known by now that you will never stop oppressing me," She then made a burst of abrupt laughter, a sign of mockery, "your highness."
I chuckled once again, though my body seems to be failing me, for it is not giving me the luxury of laughter. I didn't ponder any more than this. I know how serious it gets when Violet and I banter with each other. I still need to think of another name, after all. I wouldn't want to name him Second John.
I look at the sleeping faces of my sons, so sweet, so tender. Those innocent eyes with no sins to speak of melt my heart. This is their first time in this world, and they already have a great responsibility to bear. Being princes of our kingdom is no easy task. Then there's that prophecy too. Explaining this to them will be the end of me.
"I see that you're not really pleased with this prophecy business, Madame Violet," I said, reverting into my formal way of speaking again.
Violet took the hint that it is not the time for jokes anymore, and it's time for her to revert to her tone as a servant serving as the king's diplomat once again. That is, if one would think prophecies are part of diplomacy.
"Why, yes, my king, your boys are the living shreds of evidence of the fraud that is Edelom the Wise! Hah, cheeky that a man with a title of 'wise' is actually a storyteller! All these lies, damn dirty lies, I say, spouted by that senile buffoon! He said there would only be one boy who will be born on the day of the eclipse, and yet here they are! They're twins, your majesty! Twins!"
"It was never mentioned in the prophecy that there would only be one child, though. How can you be so sure?"
Violet turned pale and silent before she gave out her reply. "Forgive me, your majesty, but may I ask what is the cause of your sudden interest in this prophecy business?"
I sighed. She's right. Why am I so invested in this?
"Well, I cannot shake my fear that the prophecy of Edelom speaks of the destruction of our home. I'm no scholar, but I did hear the wise men of the academe interpret these passages as Edolom speaking of the doom of Izrecael."
"Interpret? Bah! Forgive me for being so frank, but I cannot believe someone of your stature would be afraid of lowly men's mere interpretations of a terrible piece of poetry."
I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by her reaction. I remained quiet as I saw her slowly rise from the ground. She ambled towards a silver pitcher filled with red wine and poured the spirit into two silver goblets. She sipped from one of those two goblets while she walked back towards me. She paused for a moment, her lips feeling her tongue for a few seconds before giving me the same goblet she sipped from earlier.
I drank the wine in a gulp and placed the cup on top of the table beside me. Violet sat on the chair on the other side of the table.
"You are king Vortigern, your majesty. You must not concern yourself with the academe's fascination towards a lucky poet who somehow manages to make a few so-called prophecies when he made thousands of similar prophetic poetries who held no truth in them." Violet said, stripping her formalities away to show her frankness but not enough to show disrespect. "I bet in my family's name there would be no attacks as long as you live here with us! Who's the fool that would dare defile you in the maelstrom of your territory? You've proven yourself worthy of all the gods and monsters in this land we live in! You've witnessed creatures who breathe fire living in wretched jungles, and you survived it! You've been thrown in a barren land, and you managed to escape from it! You went face to face with men hailing from the sea in their castles under the Cresca Sea! You've seen it all yet here you are, still breathing! No one will attack you, how can they? The king alone is enough to trample a thousand armies! Your kingdom will remain ever peaceful, this I swear!"
I paused for a moment before finally replying. "I see." I sighed, different people, different interpretations.
"I've read Edolom before. He's not that good of a poet! Let alone a prophet! He made a prophecy that Nihilheim will seize the world of the living. I waited for that moment for so long in my days as a maid in waiting. It never happened! I was awfully disappointed."
"You were disappointed that the prophecy of the death of all living creatures is not true?"
"Why, of course! The death of everyone means the death of me. When I was a lass, I prayed to the gods for nothing but my death."
I chuckled, "So you will never believe in any of his prophecies again?"
"With all due respect, your majesty," Violet shrugs, retaining her usual composure, "nevermore!"
"Nevermore..." I whispered. "Indeed, nevermore," I mumbled behind my breath.
I looked at the window beside me and gazed upon the clear ocean my wife always loved. The setting sun is so dazzling that the skies that are once blue turned crimson gold.
"Nevermore," I mumbled again.
"Yes." Madame Violet murmured. "Nevermore."
"I have thought of a name for my youngest son."
Violet's face shone brightly in my utterance. "I would love to hear it, my king!"
I looked at my son, still sleeping peacefully. As if the world has no problem even though his will is about to be filled with nothing but hardships.
"From this day forward, he'll be known as Nevermore," I said firmly.