by Jordan Zuniga
The shadows lurked amidst the trees as the wind continued to cause the branches to perform their usual dance. The night was young, and the owl’s shriek was heard as a cloaked figure moved closer towards a campfire full of roaring savages. The campfire swayed as the wind encouraged her dance. The sound of scoffing and shouting as two barbarians wrestled for the favor of their leader. A random barbarian sat upon a throne made of wood and skulls that hung from the top of both sides of the throne.
The hooded figure, covered in a cloak of the most crimson blood red and a black tunic of the darkest night, emerged from the bushes. The Barbarians immediately noticed him and bowed in respect. The hooded figure emerged towards the barbarian who sat upon the throne of wood and skulls. “Are you effective as a soldier?” the hooded figure asked shrewdly.
The barbarian looked at the hooded figure with a look that spoke of confusion. “I’m the most effective warrior you have, and the leader of your armies!”
“Then why, I ask, would you bring the death penalty on yourself by sitting on the throne that belongs to the king?” the Hooded Figure hissed.
The Barbarian trembled as he looked at the hooded figure.
The cloaked figure took two steps with both feet forward, calm in his stride. “You’re on my seat, boy. Move,” the Hooded Figure responded.
The sounds of tumbling buildings and shouts of bloodshed thundered throughout the city. Screams of innocent women in horror by the slaughter raised their voice in a horrific choir of despair and terror. The day was young, and yet the darkness seemed to endure despite the sun rising in the eastern horizon, as the King gazed upon his enemies encroaching upon him. The doom that filled his heart with despair.
A wooden door creaked as boots stepped moderately in the presence of the king. The King turned to see a young man adorned in royal cloth. “My most trusted advisor. Despite your wise counsel, due to my inability to heed your wise words, we are beset by enemies, and my kingdom has been plundered. What can I do, wise counsellor? How can I endure seeing my people starve and my lands plundered by these barbarians?” the King stroked his beard, worry written all over his face.
The Counselor smiled. “Your grace, it is a curious thing, isn’t it? How the failure to heed proper wisdom in the precise moment of action inevitably brings the ruin even of kings. The storm is upon our very doorstep, almost like venom slowly rising against the veins of those who drink poison. Your grace, we are beset on all sides, the soldiers are falling back in retreat and the city is besieged. We don’t have the men nor the willpower to stave them off. I would counsel surrender so that the lives of your people may be spared,” the Counselor hinted.
The King shivered the moment his words relayed. The very thought of surrender and what it entailed made his heart sink. “It’s the middle of a blazing July summer, and yet I have never felt colder in my lifetime. This situation does not bode well. What hope do we have, Counselor?” The King bit down on his bottom lip.
The Counselor smirked as his King’s back was turned. His stride was both confident and upright, while his King continued sulking. “Your grace, I wish you nothing but the best in all your endeavours both now and in the future, and I am wholeheartedly loyal to you, but you must do what is right for your people! Your people cannot continue to be pillaged by these savage barbarians!” the Counselor noted.
The King looked outside at his portion, tears began trickling down his cheeks as he sighed.
The clamor of roaring warriors and screaming peasants resounded throughout the kingdom. The Barbarians continued to push forward, engaging everyone in their path. But something lurked within the blind spots, hidden between the shadows of many buildings. A barbarian started to slow down to regain his breath, but the sudden feeling of doom came upon him. He turned his head. Blood splattered as an arrow hit his mark.
“We take back our city, men! For God, king, and land!” a Knight declared at the top of his voice.
The Counselor’s lips twisted into a smile. “Your grace, the situation is dire and your defeat is nigh incoming. You must save your people.” He took a couple of steps forward.
The King regained his composure.
“Your grace, I’m afraid, your time is over.” The Counselor cleared his throat as he drew a dagger from his side.
With a knowing smile, the King withdrew his sword and turned to face his betrayer. “You say defeat is all but nigh. I say victory is about to be secured from the grasp of defeat!” The King thrust his chest out.
The Counselor jerked his head and gave an incredulous stare.
“My men are hidden in the darkness where your savages cannot see, ready to secure my kingdom from this coup attempt. Now I have all the proof I need to bring my betrayer to justice!” The King clenched his jaw and charged forward.
The Counselor attempted an escape but stumbled backwards and fell over a chair, the king’s blade meeting his beating heart.
“Despite all your capability and depth with every manner of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, your flaw was simple: You do not know your enemy. It is the glory of God to search out a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of kings. As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable. My kingdom will forevermore be secure.” The King tipped his head back, turning his face to the domed ceiling.
A wooden door threw open as a knight entered. “Your grace, the kingdom is secure!” He knelt in front of the King.
“To God, be the glory for today!” The King thundered with a smile.
Jordan Zuniga is an emerging devotional writer and poet. He has multiple pieces on Instagram and Vocal. He is actively seeking representation from a literary agent to pursue traditional publishing for high fantasy and Christian works.