Once upon a time, a boy looked outside his window, wondering when his kingdom would be truly his. He fancied himself a man grown. With every passing day, his voice became more like his father’s, or at least like the faint memory he had of it. Some details about him were starting to fade in the fog of time — the exact shade of his father’s eyes and hair, the blurry angles of his face, the echo of his heavy steps as he limped down rooms and hallways, huffing, out of breath. Courtiers mentioned his hair was the same shade of red, and that he had the same languid grey eyes and keen intelligence his father had at 14.
What an uncomfortable age, he thought. Too old for childish games, too young to take full control of his kingdom or fight in a war. The memory of the men in his regency council talking over him, still, after all these years, filled him with rage. “Maybe if I take a head or two… that’d make the rest listen,” he thought.
The biting February air made him shiver. He closed the window and sat at his desk, trying to ignore the faint chest pain he had been feeling for some time. Surely, it was nothing but a cold, and he had work to do. The weight of his destiny lay heavy on his shoulders at times, but God had chosen him, and God was never wrong.
A sense of resolute stillness filled his days after the initial shock of finding himself removed from his old home and his friends and into council meetings and court gatherings. Pray and work sustained him. When the time came, only the faithful would remain to build the new kingdom he dreamt of. He had a vision as grand as his history, one that his late father would’ve never dared to build–he’d be the one to rid his land of obscurity and superstition, bring it to the light, to the true faith. There were so many things to improve, and he couldn’t wait to get started.
A knock on the door brought him back to the dark, chilly cabinet.
“The Lord Regent, your Majesty,” a guard announced, his eyes fixed on a point beyond his head.
He nodded, and the guard disappeared for a few seconds behind the door from where the Lord Regent emerged. The older man bowed, with a flicker of a smile on his thin lips.
“Your Majesty,” the Lord Regent bowed. He knew the boy wasn’t fond of pleasantries, so he went straight to the point. “Your reform plans are…brave. But it’s worth considering whether the people are ready for it.”
“It’s not a matter of whether they’re ready for it. It’s a matter of whether they’re worthy of it. Those who are will find salvation, and those who aren’t will be rightfully condemned.”
The older man pondered for a few seconds. “It will be wise to extend the people the same grace we pray for to the One above. A change so massive cannot be achieved in one fell swoop. At least not without bloodshed.”
“Show me one king who has not shed the blood of his people,” the boy retorted coldly.
“And some kings have paid a high price for that blood.” He saw the young king tremble. Was it the fever, or was it rage? Even behind his cool grey eyes, the tempests in his heart were plain to see — tempests which would only grow fiercer as he became a man. It wasn’t too late to instil measure in the boy — even if it meant saying ‘no’ to the king once in a while. “Perhaps your Majesty would like to ponder about this matter more carefully and ask for God’s guidance.”
Absent-minded, the boy nodded. Something about the man had started to bother him. The faint scolding tone in his voice, as if he was his son and not his king. The titles and honours he invested upon himself and how easily he wore them, as if he had been born far above his station. How he seemed to tolerate heretics and traitors out of fear of disturbing the peace. There would only be peace until he was obeyed, the boy resolved.
As the older man bowed and left, the boy turned to the window, resolute. Only the Lord Regent’s life could pay for the renewal. He offered this life, the first life he’d ever take, to God as a token of his unshakable resolution to build His kingdom on Earth. He smiled and coughed, and the metallic taste in his mouth seemed like a sign from God that his gift of blood had been accepted.