The Ancient King

posted Apr 17, 2015, 7:04 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Apr 17, 2015, 7:11 PM ]
The Ancient King didn't look particularly ancient. I mean, he didn't look young, but he easily could have passed for my father's age. In fact, he reminded me of my father; short gray hair, weather beaten, leathery, wrinkled skin. On the older side, sure, but nothing that shouted ancient.
For that matter, the Ancient King (the capitals are important) didn't look particularly kingly. He was wearing old, weathered leather armor. Much like the king, the armor looked solid but heavily used. The king was also surprisingly short; at this distance I would guess he was at least half a head shorter than I, and as much as it pains me, I'm a bit shorter than average in our kingdom.

The king did at least have a sword and a crown. But the crown was small, and like the king, rather dull looking. Not only did it lack any of the expected gems, from this distance it looked as though it could be made of wood, and a rather dull wood at that.

The sword also failed to inspire any sense of awe. It was plainness personified. An unadorned hilt with an unadorned blade. No gems, no precious metals, no mystic words or symbols. I could see the sword in detail, because it was drawn from its scabbard and laid across his lap.

Rather than feeling as though I was in the presence of arguably the greatest warrior and ruler of our legends, I felt like I was seeing an old footsoldier, past his prime, who had just sit down for a rest. In fact, his head was bowed and his eyes were closed, as though he had passed away quietly while contemplating his sword. Although I couldn't see anything that would make the weapon worth much contemplation.

All of which led to one, devastatingly disappointing conclusion; I was wrong, my search had gone awry, my efforts wasted. This was not the long dormant Ancient King. This was just some old guard who, trapped in the lost throne room in a lost castle, in a lost land, had passed away, alone and forlorn. I signed, fighting off the threatening depression. Perhaps examining the throneroom would yield some hints of where to continue my search.

I took one step closer to the throne and stopped in my tracks. The figure had lifted his head and opened his eyes, and I was frozen in the power of that terrible gaze. Suddenly, undeniably, I knew this was the Ancient King. Instinctively, without conscious thought, I fell to my knees, in the most sincere bow I have ever given. Once down, I kept my gaze facing the floor, the better to avoid making contact with that horrifying gaze.

 The otherwise unnoteworthy face, on an otherwise unnoteworthy body, made the overwhelming power of the eyes even more unbearable.

I kept my gaze down until I heard the voice, both quiet and absolutely commanding "Rise, and tell me what has brought you to this lost and terrible place, and what you seek from the Ancient King. For none embark on such a treacherous journey without reason, and fewer still survive to reach this forsaken place."

I feel no shame admitting, that in that moment, standing up, forcing myself to meet the gaze of the one true Ancient King, I felt small and impotent, like a butterfly facing the power of a hurricane.