This article is about King Alamax and the final days of his reign. His nation was thrown into a short, but violent war with the Trids at the beginning of The Great Rustling. After King Alaxmax's death his nation would endure another decade of turmoil before again being invaded and conquered by the Trids. Below is his posthumous telling of his final days as told reported by the god, RussleJimJams:
It was a blisteringly hot day and I did my best to fake a sincere farewell to the Baron of the westernmost provinces, despite my animosity towards him. He finally climbed into his carriage and the coachman closed the door behind him, freeing me of his incessant nagging about the reconstruction in Glendale. My appointment to meet the baron took over an hour longer than expected. After the baron had made his leave, I remember entering the grand hall where a messenger was waiting for me with some terribly important news. I apologized for the delay then I beckoned him to tell me his news.
“Well, your majesty,” he stumbled over the words, “I come bearing troublesome news from the Count of West Ridge. It seems that they’ve found something of interest near the creek.”
“What was it?”
“It was the body of one of our scouts from along the western border,” he said quickly.
“We just fought a war,” I said, the words tasting foul on my lips. “There are people that we’ve yet to account for. Why is this scout noteworthy?”
“The scout passed through West Ridge shortly before the war began. On his corpse was a rough tally of the number of men and siege tools of the invading army before they had reached our borders. The scout was searching for your son, Prince Edward, who he knew was on his usual hunting trip in that area.”
“So the enemy may have had sympathizers among our people who killed him?”
“I should hope not, King Alamax,” he said trying to lessen the blow, “but Count Michael of West Ridge presented an idea of who the murderer might be.”
Nearly whispering, “He suggested that,” then gaining his composure stated, “RussleJimJams might have persuaded Edward to kill the scout.”
The idea hit me like a hammer as I felt myself unable to breathe.
Seeing the shock on my face he said, “But that’s merely a suggestion your majesty. It’s quite possible that he might have been ambushed by advanced scouts who found out about him.”
I did not hear his nearly pleading words as he tried to convince me otherwise or that Count Michael was mistaken. I could not believe what I had just heard. I couldn’t think. I raised my hand to have him be silent.
“Or...or perhaps there were sympathizers in West Ridge who--”
“Be quiet!” I shouted barely able to separate the angry and confused words from what I was saying.
His eyes dropped to the ground and he bowed his head silently like a wounded animal while I sat there thinking.
I couldn’t fathom the idea of my son killing a scout and allowing an invading army to raze two of our towns. I couldn’t imagine why he would allow such a fate to befall our people. I couldn’t comprehend how my son would betray his entire people and for what? Did he do it in an attempt to overthrow me? No. He could’ve done that in a number of other ways. Did he do it to become a hero of the people to win Eleanor’s hand in marriage? Did he do it out of spite for the people who he knew would be in the path? Did he do it out of sheer bloodlust? Why would he do such a thing?
After an eternity of whirling thoughts I realized that my silence was truly scaring the messenger who stood trembling before me. I decided that the matter was of no concern to him, so I said, “You’ve done well in bringing me this news. Rest up this evening for tomorrow I will have you return to Count Michael and have him begin a full inquiry if he has not already.”
Silently accepted his task with a smile and a bow, relieved that I was not angry with him.
On a final note I said, “Keep me informed of any new information as it arises,” and then waved him away.
To the guards I said, “Close the doors and wait outside. I need time to think on this matter.”
That evening I sent for Edward to return home from the nearby village where he was coordinating the reconstruction of roads whose stones were used as ammunition for siege weapons. Reluctantly, I addressed the subject with Eleanor, future mother of my grandchild. She did not accept the news and flatly insisted it was untrue. She insisted that she should inquire about it to Edward first rather than I, claiming that he would handle it better from her. I agreed and with nothing left to talk about, I left her to rest up and went for a stroll about the grounds.
I wandered around for some time before finding myself in the gardens. How I loved the gardens. My father had the gardens planted as a wedding gift to my Alysia. She enjoyed walking and dancing through the gardens with me when we were still a young couple. In the sky I saw a white bird riding the invisible currents which flowed through the air. I felt as though RussleJimJams was bringing her spirit closer to me, beckoning me to follow her out of this world and forget all of its troubles, I could feel her radiance nourishing the very flowers whose aroma I could still smell. I could still hear the soft sound of her voice whispering in my ear. As if a great burden had been lifted from my soul, I returned into my world of imperfections and troubles knowing that everything was going to be alright.
I awoke the next morning with a stutter as if doused with frigid cold water. I knew not of what woke me or what I was dreaming of, but I felt a sense of urgency that could not be ignored. My body moved according to routine and somewhere along the way I remembered that I sent for Edward to return home. I made my way downstairs and inquired if Edward had arrived, but no one knew. I made my way back upstairs to ask Eleanor. As I walked down the hall, I saw Edward shutting the door to his and Eleanor’s room.
“Good morning, father,” he said cheerfully. “I see you’re up bright and early. Why is that?”
“I was just asking after you to see if you had arrived.”
“I see,” he said understanding. “Might I ask why you sent for me?”
We both began walking down the hall when I asked, “Have you spoken with Eleanor yet?”
“She was still asleep so I left her to rest.” Suddenly worried he asked, “Should I wake her now or can it wait?”
“I suppose it can wait for now,” I said with a sigh. “Do keep in mind when you speak with her that she loves you dearly.”
“Your words make me uneasy,” he said as we continued down the stairs to the main entry. “If it will bring her any stress, I insist that you tell me rather than her.”
“No. No. She was firm that she should tell you rather than I. Now quit being stubborn.”
Emerging from the top of the staircase in a plain white sleeping gown, Eleanor retorted, “He obviously gets his stubbornness from you your majesty.
“And you certainly get your droll sense of humor from your father Eleanor,” I responded.
“Father please,” Edward pleaded. “What is it that you two will not tell me about?” he asked in a desperate voice. “Is something wrong dearest?”
She laughed, “Nothing of that sort. Your father just received the most outrageous news yesterday from West Ridge.” Unable to contain herself she chuckled and said, “The count is trying to pin the death of a scout found nearby on you, claiming that you had reason to kill him.”
I looked at him as Eleanor continued to retell the news and saw the color of his skin drain away. I could see him recede further and further within himself with each words she spoke. Eleanor had finished her story and had fallen silent.
Placing a firm hand on his shoulder, I said, “Son...”
Turning to look at me he starred, not like a cornered animal, but a corpse whose eyes would remain forever open.
“Son, you know that you can tell me anything.” Reassuringly I said, “Son, I will always help you, but you need to let me know if you need my help.”
Long we stood staring at each other thinking, and thinking, and thinking. I stood there and pieced together the events in my mind to form a reason why my son would have done such a thing. Before the war started Edward and Eleanor were together but she had refused to marry because she was not sure she loved him and her father did not care for Edward since he had little influence and no noteworthy accomplishments to claim. RussleJimJams might have convinced Edward that this was an opportunity. If he let the invaders raze Willowbend and attain resources, he would have a seemingly formidable opponent to best. Once he had beaten back the invaders, Eleanor was so glad to have him return safely that they wed a few months later. He did it to earn her hand in marriage.
A crashing sound broke the silence as we heard Eleanor fall to the floor. “Eleanor!” he shouted, rushing up the stairs to her. I arrived shortly after. He was holding her in his arms on the top step. He tried shaking her and patting her cheeks. Running down the hall I shouted for someone to call the midwife. The rest of that morning was a frenzy as people came and went from the bedroom where Eleanor lay with Edward vigilantly watching over her.
The excitement of Eleanor fainting provided an excellent distraction which allowed me to spend the better part of the day silently contemplating what had happened and what it would mean for Edward’s future and everyone’s future. My only choice regarding Edward would be to punish him which will inevitably result in his imprisonment, exile, or death. I sat down and thought of what this turn of events might mean for the kingdom as a whole. It would likely cause enough discontent that the people may revolt against them, but only if I do not act in accordingly. I will have to reveal this news to the people to avoid seeming like I was covering for Edward. After I have revealed the news, I will need to pay close attention to how the people react. Edward was not particularly liked by the people before the war, but now that the war has striped his only achievement in the eyes of the people, they will surely demand he be punished.
A flash of lightning roused me from my thought-filled trance. I looked out at the beautiful gardens and the bountiful life the resided within, broken only by stone paths. The luminous grey-green clouds to the north and the smell of the impending rain was overwhelmingly magnificent. Behind a screen of golden and orange clouds to the west, lay the sun who would not be hidden only obscured and lend its light and colors to the clouds who sat in front of it. I am sure that RussleJimJams' meddling is the source of all of this. It saddens me that such a wonderful and generous god would also enjoy such death and destruction.
After watching the storm a while longer, I went back inside knowing what I had to do. I walked to Eleanor’s room and knocked on the door quietly. A hushed voice inside told me to enter. The room was gloomy and did not have the golden sunlight of a few hours ago to lighten the heavy mood. On a simple chair which was normally in the corner of the room, Edward sat next to the bed where Eleanor was laying. The door that led to the covered balcony was open to allow fresh air to flow in, but the curtain that partially covered it revealed that there was no breeze. The shadows of the room concealed any expression on Edward’s face, but the way he sat was that of a man plagued by troublesome thoughts of the future.
I walked to the bed on the opposite side of Edward on sat on its edge. Edward did not stir as I removed the cloth on Eleanor’s forehead, but I could feel his gaze like a mother bear eyeing her cub, as he softly held her hand in his. Eleanor was warm to the touch but not worryingly so. I replaced the wet cloth on her brow and looking to Edward I asked, “Any word as to what might be wrong with her?”
After a long silence Edward inhaled deeply as though he was holding his breath and said, “The doctor and midwife agreed that she is likely in shock.”
“Did you tell them of what we were talking about?” I asked.
“No,” he was silent a moment as if trying to remember his exact words. “I told them that Eleanor had heard some very troubling news and they asked no more.”
“Hmm,” I said. My mind was plagued with thoughts of what to tell him and how to tell him what I felt. With a sigh I said, “Perhaps we should give her some time to rest on her own.”
“I’ve not woken her the entire time I’ve sat beside her father,” he said without looking away from her face.
“I’m sure you’ve been as quiet as a mouse Edward, but I fear for your sanity since you’ve not left this room either.”
He sat silently staring at Eleanor who lay perfectly still in her bed.
“Son,” I said as I placed my hand on top of his, “Eleanor would not want you to sit around worrying for her when life is just outside those doors calling you.”
He shifted his gaze from her face to mine. His eyes unwavering as he looked at me.
“You would not want to sit around worrying about you rather than living your own life, would you?”
He looked back to her and said in a grave voice, “Outside those doors I will have to face the people who’ve lost their homes, their crops, and their loved ones, because of a decision I made to win over the one I loved.”
His words hung in the air as we both sat there silently contemplating the future. I stood up from my chair and looked at Eleanor who lay so peacefully in her bed. After a moment I said, “If it is death’s wish to take her, it shall do so just as anyone else. There are those outside who will inevitably find out what happened and wish to send you to death’s door themselves. We must not sit here idly, rather, we must convince them that you are simply a person who made a mistake.”
Turning towards me with a tear rolling down his cheek like a narrow stream he said, “Father, they will surely kill me once they find out what I’ve done and I may never see my Eleanor’s beautiful face again,” he said gently stroking her crimson hair. Then looking to her belly hidden beneath the covers, “And I may never see my child born or get to hold them in my hands.”
Walking back to the bed, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “You may not get to do any of those things sitting here either, but at least you will have a say in your own fate if you come with me and try to right what has been wronged.”
After a minute of silence, Edward stood and turned to face me. Like the child I once knew he hugged me and asked, “Will you help me father?”
Wrapping my arms around him I whispered, “Always.”
That afternoon, Edward told just how critical his actions were to causing the entire war. To my great disappointment, he explained freely that killing the scout was not his first act of betrayal and that he was providing information to an enemy spy when the scout encountered the two and had to be killed. He told of how he supplied some of the plans of defense to the spy and let Willowbend be plundered under the guise that he wanted to rule these lands as a hero under their banner.
I raised my hand slightly and he paused in his story. I could barely stand to think that anyone could commit an act of treason of this magnitude and still be worthy of my forgiveness, but he was my only son and there was nothing I wouldn’t have done for him. Without looking at him, I lowered my hand and said, “Continue.”
“After the siege,” he explained, “the spy never returned to meet me again and I knew that I had been a tool to allow them to easily conquer Willowbend.” He continued to tell his story of how the war progressed as I had heard before, but now I had a whole new perspective of its narrator. He added towards the end, “After the siege and retaking of Willowbend, I found the corpse of the spy with his legs buried under one of the stones flung during the siege.”
His pause prompted me to look at him and see him smiling at the thought of the paver falling from the sky and crushing him like an act of God.
As he saw the grave look on my face, his smile and satisfaction melted away like snow in the face of the noonday sun. Edward was my Holy Grail and promise for the future, but whose pure waters had been tainted by RussleJimJams and turned into the blood which flowed from the bodies of those who had died and from the hearts of those who had lost.
Turning away from him, I looked out the window and into the distance. The world outside was so bright and peaceful in this moment, but was stormy and violent only a few hours ago. The clear window was the only thing that provided the illusion of safety away from the world and its ever changing mood. Nothing is ever as seems.
“Father,” Edward said, bringing me back from the precipice of my mind, “will you help me?”
Long I sat and looked at the man sat before me. I stared into the his eyes and tried to understand what lie in his soul. What lie just beyond my comprehension. I stared at a man whose fate was beyond my control. After a long while, I turned once again to look out the window at the world and said, “I cannot save you son. I can only help you save yourself and any dignity you wish to hold in your heart.”
“Can you not help me cover up this mess?”
His words struck deeper than any blade could. He was willing to forgo any dignity he could salvage in an attempt to extend his own time on Earth. “I will fulfill my obligations as your father, but I will not overlook my duties as the king in an attempt to help you. Your are my Edward and you hold a place in my heart that is forever yours and yours alone, but the people of this country are my children as well and must be looked after as such. I cannot allow anyone who is responsible for their deaths to go unpunished even if that person if of my own flesh and blood.”
Falling from his chair onto the floor and begging to me on his knees he said, “Please father, I only wish to see the birth of my child and to hold them in my hands. Please father, all I ask is that you help me convince the people to let me see my child.”
Placing my hand on his cheek, I wipe away a stray tear with my thumb and look into his eyes. Is this the final wish of a man who has accepted his fate or a feeble attempt to flee death just a little longer? “Those who have lost would only ask for the opportunity to see their loved ones one final time. It is fair that you should ask this of me, when you have denied so many of our people to see their loved ones another time?”
“It is not fair of me to ask, I know, but the question remains. Will you let me see my child?”
“I will always help you,” I said running my fingers through his hair, “but the choice is not mine to make.”
The commotion that ensued after Edward publicly announced that he had betrayed the people in order to become a war hero was incredible. An angry mob of people frequented the front gates of the castle demanding justice for the love ones they had lost. Many were angry and demanded his head. Others were reserved and felt betrayed by this act. Even Eleanor refrained from speaking with Edward because it had forever changed how she saw him. Knowing that she was the primary reason for his betrayal had stuck her the deepest. Convincing the people to allow him to see the birth of his child was a daunting task, but we succeeded.
When visiting the town of Lilydale, I spoke to the people about how Edward did it out of love for Eleanor and that his final wish was one derived from his love for his unborn child. After the speech, a young man in his early twenties asked if I would come to his farm for dinner and speak with his bedridden mother. I agreed and went to dinner that evening where they served a beautiful dinner which I knew was at least a few days wages worth of food. The conversation was pleasant and light over dinner as we discussed the expected marriage of a relative of the family. After dinner, the young man and I helped the mother to her bed where she insisted that her son allow me and hr talk in private.
She began by saying, “I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to have such a fine man dine at my table since my husband Mathew died in the siege of Willowbend.” She was suddenly overwhelmed by a fit of coughing and struggled to overcome it since she was in his presence. After the fit subsided, she said, “Forgive me your majesty.”
“You’ve no need to ask forgiveness,” I said. “I understand the plight of being ill too well. I would argue that my nobility doesn’t make me illustrious.”
“It is not your nobility, your majesty, rather it is your unconditional and unquestionable love of your people and your son that makes you praiseworthy. You’ve been tested more than anyone should and yet you emerge unscathed. I can only imagine how difficult things must be for you, especially because so many people are demanding your son’s death.”
“I thank you for your understanding and only wish there were more in this world who possessed such wisdom as you. You are truly one of the kindest and most compassionate people I’ve met in a very long time.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” she said with another cough. “I only wish that my children were able to understand others better. They struggle seeing things from others’ perspectives and crying for the hardships they endure.”
“Surely they would have learned that from you,” I said.
She let out a laugh which turned into another fit of coughing. Once she was able to breathe again, she said, “It was truly a pleasure, your majesty.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” I said standing. I reached into my coin purse and drew a dozen coins.
“Forgive me, your majesty, but we’ve no need for any handouts.”
“Then consider these as a gift from a friend,” I said laying the coins on top of the covers.
“Very well, your majesty. Thank you. I wish you and your family the best of luck in all your endeavors.”
Walking outside I looked up to sky and saw a shearwater soaring on the gusts and updrafts. Looking back down, I bid farewell to the young woman washing in the kitchen and the man outside who’d began hauling split logs to the house. The man bid me to wait a moment and then set down the wood. He wiped any dirt from his hands onto his pants as he walked towards me. Extending his hand to me he said, “I’m glad that you came to dinner, your majesty.”
Extending my hand out to shake his I said, “The pleasure was truly mine.”
Shaking my hand, he drew me in close. As I was putting my hand on his shoulder, I felt a sudden, searing pain in my side. He whispered in my ear, “That was for my father who died in your son’s needless war.” He pulled his knife from my side and stabbed again. “That was for my friend.” Again he stabbed me saying, “And this is for his brother.” He withdrew the knife from my side and pushed me to the ground. He stood looming over with his heading blocking the sun from my eyes. The shadows danced across his face like demons as he told me, “I will see your son’s head roll if it means the death of me.” Crouching down he placed his hand behind my head and tilted me up to face him, “And I want you to know who sent him in the deepest pit of hell reserved for you two.”
I felt the warm blade slip between my ribs and gasped with sudden pain. I looked beyond the man and into the distance. I found myself staring at the shearwater flying about. Could that be RussleJimJams here to witness my end? The bird flapped its wings and rode the currents that flow like a river through the boundless sky. I left my spirits and my soul rise from my frail body as the bird was silently obscured by the light of the sun.