the Flag of Osceta

“He’ll be here in a few weeks time, milord.”

The man stood before the throne, apart from the men who knelt reverently around him.

“And what am I to do,” the king sighed. “Rouse the army? Mobilize the citizens? Send every last man in Osceta before the sword of this Salvation?” Both fists pounded the arms of the throne, a hollow thump that echoed through the cavernous room. “I’d sooner die myself then have my people throw their lives at his feet.”

“Then I pray his archers never find you, father,” the standing figure said.

A silence filled the throne room, a many-fingered cold that clutched and clawed at the people inside. Those kneeling before the king remained so, though their eyes darted up and down from the floor to the face of their king: his eyes were hard, his brow furrowed.

From outside a cock crowed, announcing the approaching dawn.

“A day, father,” the man whispered.

The king gazed into his son’s eyes, so unlike his own.

“At the next call I’ll be on the road, waiting in the plains to greet Salvation.”

The words melted something inside the king, for his hard gaze and stony visage softened. Even his shoulders slumped some, releasing an inaudible sigh.

“You are your mother’s son on so many ways, Jovan,” the king lamented.

The man allowed a smile to cross his face, and said, “But yours, too, in so many more.”

A smile twitched at the king’s lips, though he never allowed it to blossom. “True,” he said, nodding.

The rooster outside called again as the sun crept into the room, brightening the vast hall with its warm light. The cold that had possessed the air seemed to dissipate, the man standing before the king, his father, smiling into the older man’s face. The other men stood, silently, and filed out in two lines, the last holding the door open behind him.

“No more of this somber talk, father,” the man announced. “Today we celebrate Osceta’s fortitude, and tomorrow Fortitude will cross paths with Salvation. Our flags will fly brightly before the blanched white of his.” With those words he turned and left, leaving his father alone in the throne room, alone with the light filling the place.

“There’s no doubt our colours will stain Salvation’s banner,” the king whispered to the arcing sun. “But will it be the green of Osceta, or the red of her people’s blood?”

The End

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