Read by Cat Rambo
Originally published in Fearsome Journeys.
The High King is not dead but dreaming, and his dreams are of his death.
The sun is bright in the blue expanse of sky, the meadow more beautiful than it had ever been in life because he sees it from above. The banners of the kingdoms he unified shift in the gentle breeze: Stonewell, Harnell, Redwater, Leftbridge, Holt. The kings who bent their knees before him do so again, and again with tears in their eyes. The Silver Throne is there, but empty. The scepter and whip lay crossed on its seat. His daughter, once the princess and now the queen, sits at its foot, her body wrapped in mourning grey. The pyre on which his body rests has no fuel beneath it. No acrid stench of pitch competes with the wildflower’s perfume. His beard is white, bright in the sun, and as full as frost. His shoulders are thick, as are his arms and his thighs. His eyes are closed, but his lips hold the memory of a smile. The blade Justice rests on his chest, weighing him down in death as it had in life. His cold fingers hold it easily. He is like a statue of himself, and the legend still unwritten below him should be Grace and Power.
He does not recall what brought him low, nor does it matter. He rose in an age of war when all nations stood against each other, and he forged peace. The Eighteen Peaks, snowcapped and bright in the spring sun, have not looked down on bloodshed in a decade. The keeps at Narrowford and Cassin store grain now. Any child may walk the Bloody Bridge at Hawthor and return across it at nightfall. Some lands he took at the point of a sword, some with a wise word, some by sharing grief with enemies who had expected their pain to draw forth only laughter, but with Justice in his hand and God in his heart, he remade the world into a better place than he had found it.