Live the Life

Live the Life

A Story by Paige
"

I did this for a contest. I didn't win the contest, and I know the writing's a bit shabby and not very finely polished. But enjoy anyway!

"

King Arman stood outside the gates of the castle, a shadow silhouetted by the rising sun.  He turned his face upward.  The gates were shut and barred, denying him entrance to his castle with mockery, as if they could see that a crown no longer sat upon his head.  Though he could not see it, he knew that beyond the gates, empty streets stretched wide between houses, dusty and bare this early in the morning.  Arman’s fists clenched slowly.  He used to own these streets… he used to rule the world.  Now, there was nothing in this place that he wanted.  It had not always been this way… he had once been a good King; a kind King.  He had loved his people and ruled them fairly, and the Kingdom had known no hardship.  But that was before they had betrayed him.

Arman bowed his head, his eyes showing his broken spirit.  He was alone, at war with the world, at war with the Kingdom he had once had, and at war with himself.  He remembered the day where it had all gone wrong, not at all long ago, still fresh in his mind like an open wound that would not heal.

It had happened suddenly.  He had been looking over his Kingdom with his kind eyes, watching life go on around him as it always had been; as it always should have been.  Once, he had been the victor of battle after battle as his home had been threatened.  Once, he could feel the fear in his enemy’s eyes as he faced them.  Then they had come, warriors from another Kingdom, who had stormed through the gates as a flowing river, cutting down all who resisted, until a tide of blood and fire ran through the streets. 

He had run down from the tower, his sword drawn, his sister Tala right at his side.  Tala was not a docile woman, like many of the others, but a strong warrior who was as loyal to him as all of his men combined.  Together, the two of them fought hard, resisting the enemy.  They fought through their halls, close to victory. 

Tala had fallen in that battle, cut down as she was surrounded and overwhelmed by the black-armored knights.  Arman’s world came crashing down around him, and as he looked up from her, he saw his own men laying down their weapons at the foot of the enemy.  Canicus, the leader of the enemy had stepped forward, then with cruel eyes glowing fearlessly.  He had taken over the castle with no more resistance and held Arman for all the people to see, stripped him of his crown, and placed it upon his own head.  Canicus had turned Arman towards the gates, and the true leader of the Kingdom walked through the crowds of his subjects.  He had looked each of them in the eye, and seen the same thing: defeat, despair, and submission.  Not one spoke a word to their King, and silence had met Arman as he stepped through the gates, turning from the castle without a second glance.  The sounds that came from the castle were not defiant cries, vows of revenge for their ruler.  No, want Arman heard from the castle were the words that stabbed deeper than any knife could have reached. 

“The old King is dead!  Long live the King!”

Now, weeks later, Arman had come back to the castle that had been his, staring up at it, cold revenge in his golden eyes.  Those men were traitors.  They had not spoken up; they had not tried to help him.  It was they who had turned from him, had given up when he needed them most.  Tala had died because of it.

Tala, once you gone there was never an honest word in this world.  He clenched his teeth.  Secrets and lies… those were all these people had for him.  There was no one left he could trust, no one left to turn to.  His own people were the enemy, now, they had failed him.  He was dead in their eyes, and now they had to be punished.

Arman reached up and placed his hand on the wall.  I’d always thought these walls were made of stone, the King thought bitterly.  But my castle stands on pillars of salt and sand, and they are crumbling around me.  He stared at the closed oak doors, massive and unreachable.  He used to hold the key to this place, but now the walls were closed against them, and his anger sparked.

A storm brewed overhead, reflecting Arman’s thoughts.  Anger built up in both the sky and the old King.  Lightning flashed, and Arman raised his head, eyes glittering, knowing that beyond those gates lay his revenge against his people.  The gates blew open in the storm, revealing Arman, sword drawn in his hand, the anger in his eyes making him unrecognizable as the kind King who had fought for his people.  Windows shattered around him as the howling wind swept through the streets, through the people there.  Thunder roared overhead, like a massive drum sounding an army to charge.  Arman stepped through the gates…

And his heart broke.

For what met him when he stepped through was not what he had expected.  He had expected to see his traitorous men drawing swords, charging towards him to end him.  Hadn’t that been their plan?  Hadn’t they betrayed him to overthrow him?  As his eyes swept over those looking at him, he knew it was not true.  I was wrong… I’ve been played; just a puppet on a lonely string.

The people drew back from him, frightened.  Mothers held children tightly to them as they recognized their King.  This was not the kind King they had known; this was a sour creature, driven by revenge and rage, come to punish them.  The storm raged overhead, wind wailing like a tortured creature.  Starvation had set in to this place, along with fear and desperation.  Canicus held their rights from them, stripped them of belongings and left them to beg in the streets.  Canicus had broken his one-brave people, and looking at them was like looking into a mirror and seeing himself, seeing the same brokenness, seeing how he must look to them.  They can’t believe what I’ve become…

Arman lowered his sword, sliding it back into its sheath.  Thunder crashed again, but now Arman was not angry with his people.  The King would fight for his subjects… his revenge was for Canicus, now.  Perhaps it always had been.  He strode towards the castle tower, broken and crumbling at the abuse of the enemy, and his men followed.

All of his people gathered in the streets behind him, and followed him.  They didn’t say a word.  There were no battle cries, no adjusting of armor or polishing of swords.  They grabbed whatever they had and followed, but their presence was as strengthening as if they had run after him, a full army to conquer the enemy.  His men had not turned from him.  They had been waiting for him.

He drew his sword and yelled hoarsely, charging towards the castle, and now the rest of his people took up the cry, running forward.  This had been his kingdom… back when he had ruled the world.  And now he would take it back.  His people were his mirror to fight alongside him, copying and following him step for step.  His people were his sword and shield, his greatest weapons against the enemy.  They fought towards the castle, the enemy upon them like black crows.  It was bloody… Arman knew that many of his people would die.  What if he had condemned them all to death?  Should he charge?  Retreat?  Die where they stand?  It could all go wrong, and he would fail… Oh, who would ever want to be King?

He heard a sweet, pure note rising in the air above him, followed by others.  He looked up, the rain pelting his face like stones, and saw that some of the people had taken over the bell tower.  They were there now, playing the sweet notes that lifted into the air, lifting Arman’s heart with it.  He heard singing and laughter.  Now that he had returned, his people knew that they would be free of the enemy’s rule.  He would not fail them.

He wheeled around, charging again, through the halls.  His sword flashed… the sword of his kingdom flashed, and again he saw fear… he felt the fear in his enemy’s eyes.  He and his men made their way up the tower, fighting for their freedom.  He burst open the doors of the throne room, and faced Canicus.  The false-king looked astonished, a glass of wine halfway to his lips.  Arman bellowed a challenge.  He would kill Canicus or die himself.  Canicus stood, rage written across his face as he threw the goblet away, drawing his sword and throwing off his cape.  The two kings stood, face-to-face, then their battle began.

Arman did not let his men fight with him.  Canicus had mistreated his people, and he alone would have revenge on this evil ruler.  The battle was long and hard as the two exchanged blows, neither able to get the advantage.  Canicus battered at his defense, with ground-breaking slashes and jabs, not thinking now, attacking the true king at random, aiming only to beat him down and end him.  Arman swung his sword in a flashing arc, surrounding Canicus’ weapon in a cage of steel, but the other King shoved back, knocking Arman to the ground.  He was going to lose… his people would suffer for his mistake…

Who would ever want to be King?

Then, he heard the bells again, the bells chiming loud and bright, and the people in the streets singing songs of freedom and peace.  Arman knew he had to protect them.  He drew himself up, finding his last reserves of energy from his battered body.  Kicking out and whirling onto his feet, he sprang forward, smashing through Canicus’ defense.  His blade struck true, sliding into the other man’s heart.  Canicus convulsed, limbs jerking, mouth agape as the blood soaked his front.  The false king fell where he had stood, Arman’s blade deep in his chest.

The King stood looking at his fallen opponent, then his wounds and exhaustion caught up to him, and he collapsed.  The people rushed forward, praising him, crying, propping him up.  They placed his crown back on his head.  They had not failed him, they had waited for him, and now they were free.

He managed to smile at the faces around him, a tide of black washing over his eyes.  Death was warm and accepting.  He had ruled these people for long years.  He had failed them and risen up from his defeat to win them back their freedom, and now his long peaceful reign as King was over.

Who would ever want to be King?

Never an honest word…

But that was when I ruled the world.

And his eyes closed for the last time.

© 2011 Paige


Author's Note

Paige
Based off of one of my favorite songs, Viva la Vida by Coldplay

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Added on February 22, 2011
Last Updated on February 22, 2011

Author

Paige
Paige

About
My name is Paige Pfannenstiel. I'm 16, I love writing, and I have a published book titled "Skyline: The Opal Chance." However, I'm having terrible writer's block and I can't make myself keep writing.. more..

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