by Ben Crawford
This is a short start to a new book idea, not sure if this will be chapter 1 or a prelude.
Every youth at some age plays the childish game “what will I be when I have grown”? Some dream of being a soldier, some think they will rise to knighthood. Others believe they might take on the family trade and become a master blacksmith or a world-class cook. Some deluded fools think themselves to contain such a calling as to be king and sit on the black throne, ruling all he sees.
I, on the other hand, had much sadder dreams that would begin with “If I live long enough” and the highest I would ever aspire to would be a full stomach and purse. My mother named me Throson after her father who I never knew. I had no knowledge or use of a sir name, so Throson was good enough. I am a bastard, nothing special in these days and early life was hard for my mother and I. We worked hard, ate little and moved often. Sometimes staying in a village for a few months or maybe a day. One time we stayed put for two years, but after that, our stays were closer to days than months. We grew comfortable there, but one day an old man commented that I reminded him of someone, but he could not remember who, we left that night.
Looking back now I understand our comings and goings as something different than I did; I now realize it was a path of retreat from a pursuing foe. As a child, I saw our wandering as a sign nobody wanted us around and assumed my mother was searching for a place we would be accepted. I was not allowed to make friends; people were not permitted to get close to us and learn who we were. I knew nothing of my origins, so I could not give anything away, but my mother always worried. She did things to protect me and to provide for me, and I do not shame her for selling what little we had including her body. It was not until later years that I understood what she did to keep me out of the hands of my father.
For the longest time, I did not know who my father was; from the little my mother would say I learned it was not a great love that bore me but lust and a woman’s fear of saying no to a powerful man. Again, this is nothing new in the world, poor unwed women with no name or family around had little luck in keeping their maidenhead intact. I do not believe my father raped my mother; he lived in a world where people did what he said, and he could not imagine anyone doing differently. There were perks to being the Black King, I guess.
Yes, I am a royal bastard; sixteenth in line by the time I was born. Rogar Rillborn, the Black King, was my father for little good it did me in my early life. Many would believe royal blood would be a welcome thing, but those who have it seldom want it. As I said, at birth I was sixteenth in line, meaning I had fifteen older half-brothers, and before his death, he would sire at least another twenty. And yes, I only mention the brothers, the daughters of the King never lived long. Some died in childbirth but so did the sons; the Black King had any daughters found and killed. He offered a high bounty given to anyone who can bring him the head of a girl. Sadly, this had meant the slaughter of many younglings who shared even a passing resemblance to the Black King.
This fact also explains why my mother ran; she knew the king gathered in those of his blood and wanted to have them under his watchful eye and taught to be like him. If there was one thing I am most grateful for it is this, my mother loved me with a passion I have rarely seen equaled. She raised me to be someone who cared about others and not only for what they could do for me.
The lessons I learned from her could fill volumes, her life has been my greatest tutor and to this day has served me better than any book. She always ate last, slept last and least and worked hardest. I was still a starving little boy but much less starving than my mother. In the end, I think it was her life of protecting me that lead to her ill health. Any man can give his life for another in a single act, but she gave her life for me every day and every night for twelve years before she died.
These are the things I think about as I sit on the black throne, my father and fifteen older brothers dead but not remotely by my doing. My thoughts also dwell on any of my kin still in the world, and if they thirsted for the throne I now begrudgingly occupy. My name is Throson Rillborn the Black King, ruler of the lands of Soringard and Reshic are coming.