Qasin threw his sword into the ground, leaving barely a foot and a handle sticking out. It was comforting to watch it slide into the ground just as easily as it had slid into so many bodies before. It was comforting, but painful. It tightened his chest to think that, whether it stood still within the ground or waved about in the scabbard at his side, it would remain unused.
After this war, there would be no coming battles. The kingdoms were united, the foes were cast off and the peoples were safe to live in peace. His future wars would be wars with boredom; wars with the dullness and tedium waged over fruitless conversations about semantics and politics. The glorious battles that left his blood pumping like it was on fire would simply be a thing of the past.
“I wasn’t able to fulfill your request, Eve,” he glowered. He couldn’t see her, but he could still feel her eyes piercing his back.
“Now, now, don’t tell me that’s why you look so morose, dear.” Eve spoke as she stepped out of the shadows. “You may have failed one of my idle requests, but my brother is safe, your battle has been won, and most of your men are still alive to go home to their families. Certainly, you should be happy right now.”
I should be happy right now. She’s right. This was an overwhelming victory for me–even if it did come with the help of Darwin and that woman. Qasin still couldn’t take his eyes off the hilt of the blade he had cast into the sands. The longer he looked at it, the more he found himself thinking about how the hilt had felt against his hand as he had torn through one White-Wing after another. He had crushed the initial center of the enemy’s line, dancing through the sky on the stepping stone bodies of the White-Wings who had been unfortunate enough to be diving or flying in his vicinity as he carved a crimson path across the sky.
“Qasin, my dear, you must learn to be a little happier. You don’t want your men to see you lugubrious on the day of their victory.” She slinked up beside him. “That’s rather poor form for a commander.”
“Then what? Should I lie a smile across my face?” he took off his crown and twirled it in his hands. “Return to the camps, give another rousing speech, bolster their post-battle spirits?”
“Mmmhmm.” She agreed with him, resting her chin on his shoulder as she leaned against his back. “But what shall this rousing speech be about?”
Qasin stopped twirling the crown for a moment, “The speech should be about reassuring the men of the importance of what we gained, not what we lost. I likely need to mention the sacrifices some made and the glory all gained.”
“That’s good, Qasin,” Eve whispered as she stood draped across his back. “You are becoming quite the leader. Now, tell me what you’ll do after.”
Qasin glanced at the half-buried blade. “After that I’ll return to my throne where I will have to appoint new advisors. Then comes the annoying politics, judgements and constant bickering of men who assume rights that aren’t theirs.”
“Ah!” Eve said, leaning her head against Qasin’s. “No wonder you are scowling.”
“What do you mean?” Qasin turned his head to face hers.
“Just that your plan is the wrong one,” she responded. “You are sulking because you know it’s a terrible future to pursue.”
“Well, what other choice do I have?” He stepped forward and turned around to face her. “As king, it is the only path to take. It is a sacred duty that I am tasked by the crown to complete.”
“You may be king, but you don’t have to be a slave to these people too.” Eve stepped back and pulled his crown out of what seemed like thin air. “This is only a shackle if you keep thinking of it as one.”
“Then what do you suggest I do?” Qasin asked, his attention back on the sword in the sand.
“Well . . . If you’re a good king, you’ll go out and conquer new lands for your people,” Eve said, motioning to the waters behind her. “You already have someone perfect for keeping them in line while you’re gone–someone who will never betray you again.”
“Again?” he wondered, not sure who she was referring to.
“Yes, the messenger boy. He can keep the peace fine while you’re gone, and you can travel the world to conquer and expand your kingdom.” Her voice always had a way of creeping across his ears like a slithering snake. “You can chase the greatest foes and fight the bravest battles.”
The more he listened to her, the more he wanted it. It was all he wanted, all he longed for, and she was giving him the excuse he needed. He didn’t have to stay. She was right. If he could just get someone trustworthy to handle things while he was gone, then all would be well with the world. He could travel, but was the messenger trustworthy? Could the messenger handle things while he was away?
“Oh, you are wondering if the man can actually manage the kingdom while you’re gone? He’s just a messenger after all, so what qualifications does he have?” She voiced his concerns as if she were reading his thoughts. “How can you leave the fate of the Humans, the White-Horns and the Black-Wings in the hands of a glorified carrier pigeon?”
“Yes, that was my concern,” Qasin admitted. “I don’t want to stay. You’re right, but I also don’t want to leave the people I fought so hard for in the hands of incompetent men or some delivery boy.”
“Well, what if I told you that I knew for certain he would do a better job than you? Would you let him try?” Eve asked, reaching out her hand for a handshake.
Qasin hesitated before answering. As much as he didn’t want the tedium of day to day routine, he also didn’t want his people to be in danger because of his apathy. How can she be sure of the boy’s credentials? He didn’t understand.
“Qasin, my dear king,” she turned around as she spoke and started walking away, “I’m leaving on a boat at the first light in the morning. I must undo your failure to separate my brother from that woman before his destiny spirals out of my control. You will give your speech tonight, rouse your men, hand the keys to the messenger to be warden over the kingdom, and then you will join me on an adventure.”
“Do I not have a say in this?” he asked after her as she walked further away.
“It was not me that took away your choice and bound you to this path, Qasin. It was you.” She only just finished the last sentence before disappearing like a mirage fading into the distance.
Qasin stared at the place where Eve had once stood, then back to the sword he had thrust in the sand. I’m bound to this path, am I? His eyes never left the blade, even for a moment. Why do I wish so strongly that I could believe, even for a moment, that what she said might have been a lie?
He walked towards the sword and pulled it out of the beach. Come, my steel brother: our time together is apparently not over.