Kingdoms – Old story

Another old one, written around five years ago (but with some minimal tweaks). I think this was more a cathartic exercise than an attempt to write a serious story, but I thought I would share anyway.

 

Kingdoms

I pace the balcony, sliding my fingers across the polished railing as I soak in the gentle warmth of the evening sun, looking out across my kingdom, seeing smoke rising from the chimneys as the people below live their lives. From up here I can see everything, from the mountains in the west to the sea in the east. It is a small kingdom, but it is a proud kingdom, known for its scholars and hardy working class. On the other side of the mountains, accessible by a winding mountain path and some abandoned tunnels lies another kingdom. The neighbouring kingdom is smaller and is known for its art and the stubborn but lovable nature of its people. Relations with this kingdom were always amiable, trade boomed and communication was near constant during the golden years. Messengers were sent constantly down the winding pass, often crossing paths and needing only to exchange messages midway. Calls for aid were sent by smoke over the mountains and were always answered with the utmost haste.

The earliest events between the two kingdoms involved aid in war, during the start of my reign my armies strayed into enemy territory and were outnumbered 5 to 1, a call for aid was sent out and our neighbours responded valiantly, fighting to the last man. The greatest turning point was when the neighbouring kingdom was devastated by a mighty armada. The damage far exceeded anything the kingdom had experienced; all the fires, earthquakes and sieges combined had not caused this much devastation and the citizens required aid desperately. The kingdom was unanimous in its democratic decision to aid those in dire need; we provided it swift and effectively, we sent aid constantly, food, materials for repairs, soldiers to protect the cities and allowed many to migrate to our strong kingdom, doing anything we possibly could. They were built up to full strength again, able to support our nation during brief times of famine and other such times of need. There were times when the two kingdoms appeared as one, merging together, uniting to fight common foes, disasters and times of strife.

The balance was sadly not to last; as populations increased so did tension, seemingly exponentially. The first signs were when we began trade with another country; although the trade was short-lived it had massive effects economically on the relationship between ourselves and our closest neighbours. They also began trade with others, setting in motion a political movement which sought to deny immigration from my kingdom, and sadly they succeeded. We sent envoys over to negotiate a change but acquiescence was not on the cards, instead they chose to deny there being an issue. Messengers were now struggling to get over the mountains as harsh winters blanketed the mountains in snow and ice. When the snows receded, communication did not return to its previous level as one would expect. Trade had been cut off almost completely; our export rate far exceeded our imports as they suddenly only required amenities they could not acquire elsewhere.

There were times when my people were able to enter through their gates, though they were often glared at and ignored by the people there. They had started letting waves of immigrants in from the countries they were now trading with, immigrants who had no respect for my citizens and were prone to excessive violence. This exacerbated things between us; we declared war on the countries of the immigrants and sought to wipe them out, further alienating our once loving neighbours. Our efforts at war were feeble as we were struggling from lack of support and sufficient information on our opponents, resulting in a few squandered skirmishes which did nothing effective. It was a useless waste of valuable life which only resulted in a divide within my own kingdom.

A shift in opinion occurred amongst my people and I hastened to listen. It was decided that a peace offering would be made, but before we could manage it a band of warriors set off across the path with a desire only for blood. A veritable pogrom ensued in the streets of our once beloved neighbours; with none spared as men I once called my own massacred many. The kingdom retaliated understandably and caused as much damage to us, if not more. They blocked up the winding pass and attempted to destroy the tunnels underneath the mountain. I sent many messengers out with a desperately deluded desire for reconciliation, both over and under the mountains. Communication slowly somehow started again and hope arose on the horizon once more, but it came at a cost.

A new age had begun within the other kingdom with a new king taking the throne. This new monarch was ruthless, waging wars against any who stood in his way, encouraging the raping and pillaging of many an innocent village. He was known for mercilessly entering towns post-battle and selecting from the people there. He chose women for his harem and men to be slaughtered for his entertainment. All hope was lost and communication stopped once again, coming as a unanimous decision from the people. The difference this time was that it was not blocked; instead we welcomed visitors from our neighbouring kingdom and trade picked up again naturally as the hostility subsided. We heard many stories from the kingdom with the appearance that another revolution was due, we hoped for deposition or abdication of the ruler, though we knew that our hope was in vain, for now. Instead, a new line of religious teaching had infiltrated their society, which came as a huge surprise to us as we had been embracing it this entire time. The king had new advisers who were devout yet naïve, so through them we set up new relations and can only look to the future in hope of success with new means of building broken ties.

I pace the balcony, sliding my fingers across the polished railing as I soak in the gentle warmth of the evening sun, looking out across my kingdom, seeing smoke rising from the chimneys as the people below live their lives. We are stronger again and the people below me are back to living their lives as they should, with hope. I look to the west at the winding pass as a horse-drawn carriage loaded with goods starts the arduous trip through the night, a sign of things looking up. I look to the east and see calm waters, stretching out into the unknown. There is less hope in the unknown so my gaze travels to the west again and I smile, strengthened by the vicissitudes permeating our relationship with our brethren over the mountains, embracing the experience of the traversal of devastation to find a new state of equilibrium. I smile again and return to my chambers, sleep will bring the future closer and I am eager to see what it holds.

 

[2012 edit: it held war with others, resulting in some aid from the west. Perhaps another tale to be told…]

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