The Monarch Wears The Crown No Longer
Life is not a bed of roses
Through shallow cracks, he peered past the petering curtain of light, his eyes coming to a reluctant open. Within semi-youthful smoothness, lingered streaks of wrinkles and wizened vestiges upon his countenance, curving beneath his eyes and in the nooks between nose and cheek. The Koeng’s hair a well trimmed mane, bushy brows and beard cast in an array of raven black-plumes. With a slinking of the arm and his hand trailing as it cast a slow image in sight, an uneven, estranged emptiness lingering between the mattress’s bed sheets. Robert could almost feel the presence of the one once beside him, that which had been there for so long but no longer was. Eyes drawn wise by the years coming to a slight close, almost drowning in the illusion of hope before prying themselves open yet again.
“Another day be warmed by sunlight, yet this room feels cold and old.” Words twisted past his lips in uncanny normality, hand drawn to the bedside as his body heaved upwards with his legs drawn towards the edge. At the door came a knock of need, with slight adjustment to his attire, his ears could almost catch the words of his beloved past.
“If you walk out looking like that Rob you’d embarrass me.” Yet the feminine words were not followed by the tender hands which had him always cared for, hands which comforted his soul, mind, and heart. In the slight profused moment, sounds cracked past the creak of the door.
“Your Majesty, you must take care to robe properly for the court and councillors.” Conveyed Lorin whilst drawing out tub of water to bathe the King as recently had become the norm. Amidst these daily rituals.
Robert broke past his reverie, gaze lingering for a few moments before his throat expelled a snort and croak. “The court and councillors haven’t the time to wait for a long winded bath, I have much to do,” Before he could finish his sentence, the string of words came to an end as he walked towards the door, Lorin left behind him as he froze for a moment in thought. “I have much to do. . .” He half repeated in his mind as he cast a hawkish gaze in passing past the royal offsprings balconies, his Nataya slept in as she often did and not there to greet him. Whilst his son was ever locked away in mourning, only greeting him ever so often when he found the time to visit. Whilst Anastasya sat and read in the far corner of the gazebo, her way of coming to terms with matters of sorrow. It reminded him of. . .
Before slight moisture was denied to gather in his eyes, a hard right brought him to through doors and into chambers with gathered officials. With his presence he was approached by many, there were the Lords which forever asked about land distribution, matters of artisan trade and mercantile tariffs. The people and fairfolk of Reza which conveyed their hopes, plans and enquiries. Not to mention the fair share of men and women whom sought glory and prestige, hoping for grander positions amongst their peers and partners. Yet even the people whom had for long warmed his heart was now unable, tasks which had once been found enjoyable was now mute and cold to him. Whilst his words were spoken like whispers, they dampened as he was absorbed and yet again consumed by thought. Through muddleness and fogged fantasies chirped a sentence like no other.
“Uncle!” A brash yet oddly heart warming voice cried, as though brushed aside the fog parted and clarity returned to him.
“Aleksandra? My niece, what brings you here so early in the morning?” He called, stoic steps following his words as he waltzed towards the far end of the rose room, where stairs lead past to the upper floors, a lass in her early prime stood straight.
“I came to see you of course! You’re my favourite uncle after all.” The playful words were laced with some warranted wittiness. Roberts lips turned up from their muted line and curled into a somber yet light smile. His right hand came to his pocket where a pebble carved with a selective cast of horridly written words, perhaps the young lass before him had forgotten. . . but he had not. Will there be a day she remembers? He thought to himself, while fingers curled over the all too familiar surface long since smoothed out. It one of the few fragments which kept him hopeful in harrowing times or dreadful doubts.
“Why are you so silent, uncle? Why’s your hand in your pocket?” The young woman asked in two quick spurts with intrigue, brows coming to a gentle curve.
“You’ll know when it matters.” He half chuckled out, lips coming to a slight smirk. “Now little gem, would you join me for breakfast? It seems i’ve a lack of company.” His words brimmed with irony, though noteworthy was the unhidden lonely sadness that loomed within them. With a slight drooping of the mouth, frowning and eyes softened with sadness, the young woman walked forward to take her uncle’s hand. “What’s gotten into you girl? I just asked you to breakfast, no need to hold hands! You’re not a child anymore.” Jesting and slightly teasing, it was the best he could muster to uplift the mood.
But the woman’s hand only tightened as she let out an unladylike snort, words strewn out in a harking croak. “I can take care of myself, your hand just looked hurt okay? I was just making sure it isn’t injured.” Her protest a secretly sweet sanction amidst his days of emotional unrest. He steps towards the oaken door, carved and canvassed by well painted decor, up the steps and through the hallowed halls -- they both then came to a subtle seat. In the back of the feast hall could be heard the bustling and shuffling of various tools of the cooking trade, metal against metal and the snapping, pop and crackle of an open flame. In Between the commotion came shouts quite sharp and commanding.
“You’s best not mess up ‘es Majesties Orecchiette ai Cime di Rapa, if only ol’ Tidwald was ‘ere at least ‘e was twice less muto than you’s due!” As Fabio clanged his fork and knife against each other to make his presence known, Robert habitually leaned back into the comfortable seat at the head of the table. Aleksandra sat to his left as the three noteworthy seats to his right remained empty, his eyes lingering on them for a moment wistfully.
“Un. . .! Uncl. . .! Uncle!” In his absent minded state Aleksandra nudged in words repeatedly as it droned into his drums.
Turning to face her, his muted expression secretively brightening before it could be made out by her. “I was just distracted, I seem to be terrible company this morning. . .” His words were two fold, though their meaning left to be aired and interpreted openly.
Before things could be contemplated further the kitchen door slammed open, two stubby and fat cooks practically rolling into the hall with a hard handed Fabio at their back. “I mus’ excuse ‘em your Majesty, they’s new to tha’ job an’ haven’ learned ‘nough yet!” While the ilatian spoke he served the main dish extravagantly in a well trained manner, two cooks stumbling to make theirs semi-representable while the chef threw them a shiver inducing gaze.
“No trouble Fabio, if I were to ever have to eat a last meal yours would forever satisfy me.” The King shot back amiably, lips settled for a moment as he questioned further. “What has become of Tidwald? Has the Grand Elder not seemed it fit to prepare me my tea? Without it, it’d not truly be able to wake.”
“You haven’t ‘eard tha’ news your Maj?” Fabio asked with a heavy gulp, chef’s hat brought from his head to his heart. “Passed this mornin’, tried to stir him awake with an’ order but he wouldn’t move! Real shame, that ol’ man had gusto! An for some reason ‘is boots were missin’!” Lips downturned and eyes more heavy, Robert simply nodded as an exasperated sigh escaped him. The cook beside him had served a replacement of tea, eyes cast at the middle aged King in hope of approval. Yet the bland, tepid and grayed surface invited not the senses nor did it hold the heart heating sincerity that the elder mustered.
“Thank you Fabio, we’ll eat in peace and i’m certain you’ll wrangled the replacements into shape soon enough. That I am certain of my old friend and confidante.” Whacking the two cooks across their heads with his hat, hands twisting it back into place as Fabio herded the trainee’s to the kitchen.
“Rats, two rats, they’re large, whiny rats,” Aleksandra asserted out sharply, sticking out a tongue at the cooks as they were herded off by their shepherd.
“What are you then? The toad that croaks to disturb the peace of the forest?” Robert shot back with a smirk, knowing full well it’d annoy the lady.
“I’m not, nuhu, you’re a toad not me.” She returned childishly, though by now this little game of theirs was a ritual they both played into. While their eyes cast each other a deep glare it took not long until they both broke into laughter.
“I’ll let you have this last victory, at least then you won’t say I was unfair.” Humming out the words the shuffle of utensils followed suit, plates clammered and appetizers approached. With food chewed and a precise pause, almost as though by greater forces eyes were lead to the open balcony to his right. In its light stood a figure, eyes yet not eyes, a face yet not a face, robes but no truly. It was all obscure, yet it was all so starkly real. At first his back straightened sharply, oddly he felt a looming threat yet also a subtle beconning.
What might it be? Who might it be? Why? He questioned himself, its feet was not visible yet the senses told him it was alright, that it was meant to be so and that nothing was out of order. If anything. . . there was a sense of order? But how could it be? Something so. . . unorderly? Yet it made sense? Or at least his senses whomst had never betrayed him made such clear.
“Uncle! What are you looking at?” Aleksandra called, fork and knife at a standstill on her plate.
“I’m not entirely certain my ch. . niece.” He calmly responded and corrected amidst his sentence, whilst eyes were forced to turn away from the beconning figure. There was almost an invisible tether between the two, something that bound them together or had them interlinked. “How is your husband? Is he treating you well I hope?” The old Patriarch mustered the words between his gravely perturbed state.
“Alright, I guess. So boring, he had to go and get sick. . . It’s really annoying. I had to cook for him, ugh.” Though she grumbled, by the sweetness of her voice and lightening of her features, she was clearly within a bittersweet state. Not all too surprising, as she had lost many as of recent, Robert thought to himself and was once again reminded of what he himself had lost.
“Good, make certain you hold onto him tightly and give him all you have if you believe him worthy. Else when it’s too late you might regret, while waiting is possible it is also excruciating. . . remember to do your best to be there for not only him but yourself. If not also for your children, or was it little rats you said last we spoke?” Muttering his last words the scene faded into a round of bickering, the day passing ever so steadily a few hours towards midday. The sun remained hanging high in the sky and the wind wafts in a placating breeze. .
Standing at the shoreline of Grayhill, with Lake Liza by its flank the wild grass and rolling hilly landscape rising in the distance. With eyes cast towards Reza proper, he could only think of Lake Ober laying on the other side. The two Lakes cradled the city and kept it fertile for the folk, it was two lovers whomst forever guarded it, its founders as well as its family. One the former Queen and the other the current King. . . yet both could not traverse enough land to meet. It all symbolized his current state, only time could amend the gap between the two. While in a drowse the monarch returned. The Prikaz opened to him and yet inside none of his issue came to greet him, while settled in his room he sat in his comfortable chair. “I am old it’d seem, the young ones have better things to tend to than this forgotten fogey.” Letting out a self deprecating chuckle, he peered over the pages of an opened book layed unfinished on the table top. One side filled with well written letters of both common and marian make. “I’ll have to leave them with something more, what if I wouldn’t be here when they need me the most? I might not have much to offer, but i’ll make due with what I am able.” Writing eloquently and with great care, wrinkled fingers danced along parchment.
“Rob, aren’t you ever going to put down that book and just relax? Haven’t you done enough already?” The all too familiar feminine voice whispered yet it didn’t, it was the echoes of his emotions taking on form in his wifes vessel.
“Not yet, not yet my love. . . they need me still I mustn't depart at least not till the book is finished.” He groaned as he had many a day in the last year, while his children mourned he managed a multitude of work and tended to the courts. His eyes often grew wet, yet never once did his tears flow freely as if though they were reluctant to accept reality, as if their presence was all but a sign of her actual passing. While he wrote, a figure forever loomed within the room -- he could feel it as it could feel him. Yet the book had him preoccupied, an diversion from his reality.
“I wonder, will I be remembered? Eliza always did ask so and I had never cared, yet she always willed to not be forgotten. .” Half smiling at his own words, a spot of ink sploshed and pained the book’s pages, forever marking it. “Why does it matter? I never cared for glory, prestige and power, before GOD it’s all superficial anyhow. I merely hope my happiness would have helped others, that my kin and kith be cared for.” As he was lost in thought, fingers remained a dance upon the patch of paper. Absentmindedly fingers curled to turn the page ever so often, eyes slightly unfocused and mind teetering between various questions as he had always been inquisitive. Eventually his curled finger came to a stop, a thud as his finger brushed across the hardened and hewn cover. His gaze came to a focus and mind steeped in an odd frozen feeling, he had finished it? Casting a look over the last letters he read back to himself in near disbelief. “The Monarch Wears The Crown No Longer, His Son Left to Ponder?” His hoarse throat tuned out emotionally, before he had time to adjust the door barged agape.
It was three, he had not eaten since breakfast and in the last year no one had barged into his room even once. Yet there in the doorway with a whining whirl the door came to a close as a young woman stood steady. She brushes within the dim-lighted room, peering about for an instance until her gaze perpetuates unto Robert. “Uncle ‘bert.” Aleksandra issued him a tersely-lasting smile, seating herself across from him.
“Aye..” Robert mumbled out in clear exhaustion and slight confusion, dark bags puffing beneath his eyes and slightly wrinkled skin. “What brings you to this old bag of bones? I can’t say i’ve had many visitors as of late, though you seem to be the exception. Perhaps the others expect an early end.”
The girl propped her hands onto the table while speaking. “Because you’re my favorite old bag of bones.” She tuts sternly, chin drooping pensively as her leftmost palm extends across the table. “You know I love you uncle, da? You’re like a papej to me. And it’s been a while since we’ve talked seriously.” Upon surveying his maturing features. Tears begin to line her eyelids -- suppressing a frown.
Robert placed a strong yet wrinkled hand onto her own, lips turning into a small and softened smile. “Course, i’ve… missed some more familial interaction.” Bringing in a sharp inhale, his eyes came to a heavy close for a longer than usual moment. “Especially not since…”
She bobbed her head cavantly to his statement, her posture stiffening in suit. “Since Eliza..” Expelling a drawn-out exhale. “The.. the ***** that did that to her ‘bert.. I’ll have his head.”
Robert’s eyes came to a open as his lips seeped in unhidden sorrow. “You’ve always reminded me of her, just as defiant and you’ve the brashness she kept in her youth….”
“I hope to become half the woman Eliza’ was.” Aleksandra conveyed a fleeting smile over her lips, ladened with regret and woe. After a moment, she’d clench his palm -- craning further from her seat to regard him. “Don’t.. Don’t..” The young woman pauses, her voice fractured by a quaver. “Don’t.. Give up, papej.” Whilst her words didn’t fail to draw him in, something else beconned more strongly by his side, robed and in all its splendor still the figure stood straight and steadfast. Robert’s eyes seemed distant and expression muted as lips thinned into a line. The long robe walked towards him, whiter than white hand so pure white could not describe it was placed upon his shoulder. In that moment he could make out wings which had just prior been obscured, hair bequeathed by a godly light. In that moment he knew it was death, in the last year he had tried to hide the fact from himself. The looming ever weakening heart of his, his rest taking forever longer each passing day and his waking hours shorter than before. With eyes he motioned for the angel to sit, returning his gaze to the sobbing woman. Her eyes having remained fixated on the husk like figure of the formerly energetic King -- tears etching rosy streaks down her complexion. She’d rise, her palm remaining intertwined with his. “I love you, ‘bert. Carry that.. Carry that with you, da?” His free hand extended as he raised to reach from his seat to wipe away her tears. On his lips a slight smile formed as he once again came to a sit.
“I was just welcoming a friend child, I am not dead yet.” He said as thought it was simple and as if it was something he had come to terms with. “Sometimes my child it isn’t as easy as one wishes, ‘Liza.. I gave her my heart whole.” Words hitching towards their end as he spoke. “And with her gone, only my soul and mind remains.. Her heart beats no longer in me. I fear a man must follow his heart Aleksandra, even those that try not to always do in the end.” He reasoned while his wrinkled thumb rubbed over the flat of her palm. Digit both calloused and scarred from many years of toiling. “I will always be here, when the winters grow cold I will be the fire to warm those by the hearth. When it’s sweltering hot I will be the waters to quench the peoples thirst.”
The Alimar interjected. “You can’t leave us so soon, ‘bert, I refuse to accept it.” The tear-stricken countenance turned in resolve, unnoticing of the craning door
Marius entered glancing between the two gestalts speaking somberly. “Am I too late?” He seemed almost confused, perhaps the bond between them had made him aware that something was afoul.
“Niet.” Aleksandra returned to her cousin, begrudgingly retracting her palm from Robert’s grasp -- eyes remaining trained upon him.
“Too late?” Robert questioned whilst eyeing his son, surprised at his words yet an understanding smile settled on his lips. “There is no need to make so much sound.” He half admonished in jest.
“Forgive me, father.” Marius half croaked, though the words that should have followed the black garbed man never came out. Though Robert understood what he had intended to say.
“I’ll.. allow the both of you some space.” The young woman which flanked them attempted to use in a way to escape.
While he knew of her nature he could not accept her lack of presence, eyebrows tightening ever so slightly as his hand gripped her palm in a rare flux of strength to stop her. “Don’t leave, family must stay together in times of hardships and heartache.” Eyes cast to his son just after as he spoke out calmly with a more relaxed grip. “Forgive you? What have you done that must be forgiven?” He popped the question to the young crow.
Aleksandra relented as she relied on the stone-laden wall for support whilst gruffly crossing her arms.
“I’m not ready to lead, i’ve lost everyone who I cared for.” The young crow said through hurried hushes.
“SIT both of you.” Robert commanded sharply in a fit of energetic echoes across the enclosed room. “You are niet children any longer, so cease acting like ones.” He worded out with a tired expression and bushy brows coming to an angered angle. As the two adults seated themselves next to each other, he began to speak out calmly yet steadily in a tutor. “I lost each of my brothers, my father, mother and my wife lost many of her own in her tender youth. It pains the heart and most definitely makes you suffer. But son, daughter you both musn’t let darkness consume you.” Whilst speaking he signed the Haeseni cross. “For else you toil for evil, for Iblees, for else you sully their memory as they watch from the seven skies.” As he explained the pair shifted in their seats, eyes rippling from the candlelight.
“Who will help me then? I have no wife or son to carry on?” The young crow shot back.
“Then remarry.” The young Alimar proposed lowly, her voice straining as she glanced between them.
“You musn’t only pray son, find happiness in other things, you are far too young… your wife wouldn’t wish to see you despair and be in disrepair.” Robert offered his words.
“Valera.” Aleksandra tuts, eyes bolting shut -- further stifling tears. Marius nodded with eyes close to his father's response, taking in his words and their deeper meaning.
“Your mother and I were bound for many years, eventually such a bond cannot be lived without. Valera.. Such a sweet girl she was, truly it is my deepest regret she came to such an early end.” The young Alimar expressed a placid smile in suit of his remarks, her tightly wound fists slackening then.
“What kind of King will I be father?” The young crow shot out in question, perhaps knowing this would be the last he could ask such.
Extending one hand to the each of the two youths, Robert chuckled tightly at his son’s words as a bright smile dawned upon his lips. “I asked my father the same you know.” He muttered in reminisce. “Truly I was a boy lost back then, young and inexperienced, untested by time.” As they both accepted his hand into theirs, Aleksandra’s clenched most tightly while casting eyes to the young crow by her flank. “I will not say what my father said to me, frankly he never believed in his own leadership. At Least so he said, though the few fights we had I always did him admire. Instead I will offer my own words to you, perhaps to hope I can do for you what my father did for me.” While pausing for a moment the old King took in a deep breath, breathing out steadily after. “History will remember you based on many things my son, some will be of your own making and others out of your control. What matters is that you try your best. That you do what is fair by the people and even if some lose hope in you, never lose hope in them. That to me is a good King, someone worthy to rule.” He concluded emotionally, eyeing the two with an everlasting warm smile.
“I will try father, but I need help as no King can ever rule alone.” Marius proffered with a lowering of his head.
“Alone? You’ve siblings, aides, people at your behest? Don’t let those lost make you forget those whom are still here son.” The old man returned sharply and in admonishment.
“There will be those who will seek to see another on the throne.” The young crow said worriedly
The Koeng sighed deeply. “There always will be, humanity carries with it many sins, no one is pure and thus there in between breeds evil. Those who take such a path partook in actions and attempts against me as well, yet I stand here today though the duties of kingship are heavy with burden.”
“A burden that I must carry.” Marius offered in some understanding at his father’s words.
“Aye, I always told you that you’d best enjoy the time you have. Now your life will be that of duty, that of due diligence.” Wise words aside, the room became silent for a few moments, The walls practically heaving more heavily than the breaths between them.
“Should I falter in my duties? What then?” The young crow asked further after tepidly breaking the silence.
“To make mistakes is being human, when you falter you must steady your resolve and lean on those who can develop your diligence. Don’t forget my son, I would have perished had I not persisted.” As the room fell into another batch of silence, Robert gave their hands one last squeeze. “I am proud of you both, out of my children you two have succeeded most and lived up to my expectations. Though I love you all equally I can admit that much, now would you leave this old man to reminisce one last time?” They both left with emotions running high, one let out a deep sigh while the other stifled a solemn sob.
The Monarch He Is No Longer
In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
In the middle of his room sat a lukewarm tub of water, Lorin beside him with blankets and a will to tidy the disrobing Robert’s garments. Seating himself in the tub, he laid the crown down on the cupboard, shoulders straightening as though a heavy burden had been lifted after many years of tension and arduous labor. “Would you like me to aide you, your majesty?” Lorin called out, though it took Robert quite some time to realize he was being addressed.
“Just call me Rob, in my last hour I am but a man, equal to all others in both person and prestige.” Infront of his own eyes, the Barbanov extended a wrinkled hand against the dark backdrop, light flickering lamely.
“As you wish Rob. How can this servant serve you one last time?”
Cloth bared against his skin as he rubbed away soil, his nose shot out a quick breath in slight frustration. “Your presence is enough Lorin, you’ve served me well and loyally. I hope you can do the same for my son, to remember to treat those close to you with care.” So he said while casting his eyes to the angelic figure at his bedside. One could not read its expression, yet in his mind he was thankful for being allowed to give his goodbyes. Taking two steps out of the tub, Lorin took proper care to dry Robert whilst offering and accommodating him the appropriate clothes. Garbed in white that he had selected to mirror the angelic figure, he made way for the bedside to sit before sliding into the comforts of the coverings. “Lorin take care of yourself will you? Remember to live your life for love and not seek to sin.” He admonished one last time as his right hand reached to clutch a pebble in his hand, both coming to a rest on top of what little of his chest stuck out past the sheets. When Lorin left, the room fell silent. Tears spilled down like rivers from the Koeng’s cheeks. Whilst he passed, the waters of Lake Ober and Lake Liza trembled mundanely, his tears reaching the earth only for the pass between the two Lakes to form a river as they finally joined once again. The Koeng lied lifeless after a muttering of three words: “Forgive me sister.”
The Will of Robert Lothar Barbanov
To Those Most Beloved
In Alphabetical Order
To my people
To the people of Adria
To the people of Curon
To the people of Renatus
Those Most Cherished
Charles de Cantor
Edward Audemar Barbanov
Ludwig van Wick
Paul Duke of Adria
Timeo de la baltas
Robert Sigismund sends his regards.