Prince William watches as the last crate of war supplies are loaded onto the large, bulky transport ships. He turns to the captain of his personal longship, who is also third Lord of the Admirals. “All of the horses secured? The armour packed? Food and bandages?”
“Yes sir.The Forrest’s BoonandThe King’s Packare ready to set sail, with all of their cargo as per usual. After four departures, things start to go a lot smoother.”
“Good. They can set off. We can easily catch them inStorm’s Wraith.And we are still waiting for a certain knight….” He glares up at the sky, a hand above the horizon, then down at the docks, and sees a figure running towards them. “And he is coming now.” William sighs and shakes his head. “Why I keep him around…” The captain shrugs and takes his leave to tell the larger ships to depart, then makes preparations for their own departure.
The runner pants as he runs aboard. “Sir Roderik, reporting as ordered, my liege.”
William glares at him haughtily. “And why are you so late…. Soldier?”
The man licks his lips and frowns at the possible demotion implied, but still stands straight. “Well, there was this lady you see…..and my buddy, Prince Will, told me, and I quote, ‘have at her, and get drunk, I can hold the boats.” His demeanor does not change, but the hints of a smile touch his face.
William breaks out laughing. “I know I didn’t say most of that. Especially not the last part. Well, if I remember the wench right, it was worth it.”
William grins. “Ay sir. And what would you do without your faithful companion and guard?”
“Leave on time for once probably.” He walks over to the ships. “Come on then. You are with me. I had to give command ofLove’s Hazardsto someone that actually showed up.”
Roderik relaxes as he climbs aboard; glad his only punishment is to be temporality deprived of his ironically named ship. “So, same old arrangement? Two Carry Ships and five long boats?” As soon as he lands on the ship’s deck the crew cast off. Roderik follows his prince to their customary place at the bow.
The prince shakes his head. “Not this time. I want this finished before the King gets much worse. Preferably before winter sets in. Some of those northern villages barely make itwithoutconstantly being attacked. This time, we will do this right. I sent the rest of the force ahead. Two more Carry ships, six long boats and a war galley.”
Rod stops in his tracks. “That’s…..that’s at least a third of the royal navy!”
“Right now, these raiders are the biggest threat the Kingdom of New England faces. The Keystone Republics are being settled, Albany is to busy feuding with the Dictator of Rochester to bother us, and the ‘Dakers are keeping the Frenches at bay. These raiders have occupied a fair portion of what my father tells me used to called New Bruisvick and Newva Scotsseeah.” He stumbles a bit over the names. “In total they are actually larger than the size of the Northern Duchies. A serious threat. One I will deal with. And it is much less than a third. Much less.”
“That is what you said about those girls and the al-“
William punches him in the side. “I told you never to speak of that again. We have responsibilities now! Speaking of which, I think you ha…” He trails off as a familiar melody catches his ear.
“..is the doom of kings, the doom of kings.” William whirls around and sees a crewman singing as he starts to climb up the mast to the crow’s nest.
“You there! Man!” Shouts the prince. The man pauses and slowly looks down at William. Under his breath he mutters a curse, swallows, and slides back down to the deck.
“Yes? I mean….uh…what do you need my prince?” The man tries to look subservient, but there is an air of independence about him that negates his efforts.
In his drive, William ignores the man’s lack of deference. “That song you were singing. What is it, where did you hear it, what is the rest, and what does it mean?” William’s voice is full of excitement and a bit of anger.
“Uh…” The man is shocked by the prince’s furor, and overall intensity.
“Well, out with it man! Or I will beat it out of you!” Said Roderik, stepping forward with his hand on his sword in an attempt to get back in his princes best graces.
The man holds up his hand sin surrender, and takes a step back. “Sheesh! Give a man a moment. My…uh…prince. It is just a rhyme I know. My mother told it to me; she said it’s been passed down in our family for…..as long as the world has been New. It’s been in my head since I got here… It’s not really that good… more of a folky….mythy…kinda of thing….I’m not sure if I’ve got it all…” Roderik takes a step forward, causing the man to be pressed into the mast.
The prince does not tell Roderik to stop. “I don’t care how it sounds. Just tell me!”
Scared now, the man takes deep breath and starts to sing. He is rather bad at it, but he does manage to get the words across.
“The Doom of Kings, the doom of kings.
What was the cost of peace among death?
What did he give with what should was his last breath?
When death faced him that day,
To claim the soul of a man well in his land.
It is said that man did say,
‘I don’t care if you have me in your hand,
I will not go until my people have hope, and
It does not matter the cost, any I will pay.’
The specter looked back at him in contemplation.
‘Your wish is good, and I wish my power would suffice
But to form this hope, this nation,
Will require much more than your sacrifice.
Even if you could pay me thrice,
I could not guarantee its preservation.’
The dying mans very soul did shutter,
But if he did not grab his peoples hope, he’s a fool
And so, his mind uncluttered.
The man who would rule
Turned back to death, to become his tool.
‘What must be done?’ He uttered.
The reaver did nod slowly, and sighed.
‘The bargain is struck.
The fate of your line will be tied.
And, I wish you luck.
(For I must admire you pluck.)
Until your hope has died.’
‘Soul, life and mind.
These I promise to take
What else is there to find?
The next sacrifice you must make,
For this one your very morals must shake
T’will not be kind.’
‘From you, the first, your soul I shall take.
The next’s life is forfeit.
The third’s mind shall break.
All of you will know, and question, was it worth it?
This tale will not be passed on, due to lack of Wit.
And so, the next will take it to be a fake.
And so, this warning the other must be shown.
If any of the kings is unwilling to give their all,
And their sacrifice was not shown.
Your kingdom will fall.
And will break, that most intimate of wall.
And his enemy shall sit upon your throne.
The terms, by earth below and sky above,
To which you have must agree.
When push comes to shove,
What shall the fourth sacrifice be?
To any who know, it is easy to see.
And thus is the doom of kings.
If your vow you do betray,
You kingdom of hope will pass away…”
After this line the man stands in front of the prince awkwardly. For a while, no one speaks, and then the man clears his throat. “Um.. sir…can I get back to my duties now?” William waves his hand in dismissal and the man makes his escape.
Roderik turns to his friend. “What was that about Will? You were…..well…you looked like your father there for a bit. Off…if you don’t mind me saying so.”
William’s eyes glance over to Roderik, but seem to be miles away. Then, the prince shutters and he returns to normal. “Nothing. It…my father muttered something similar to me before we left. It…it must be nothing. That man said it was old, maybe from before the New. From his way of speech and lack of deference I doubt his family is even from here. It has nothing to do with my family. Nothing. We will forget any of this happened after a few good battles. Nothing…” He shakes his head and goes into the ship.