The Tale of King Demarth

A short story,  by Sha’Tara

The old woman looked intently at the young girl at her knee as she sat by the smoldering fire of the hearth. Outside the wind blew and scraped branches against the stone of the cottage.

“Did I ever tell you the story of King Demarth of Ulmn?”

“No, you have not.”

“It is a very good story. Now I have to think for a minute or two, just to remember some of the details. You see, it’s an old story, handed down many generations in our family. So many generations…” she goes silent and sighs.

“Yes, now I can begin:

“Once upon a time, in a land far away there was a king called Demarth who lived in a mighty castle. He had many men-at-arms and over the years his father and he conquered the surrounding kingdoms and added them to their domain called Ulmn.

The king, therefore, becamd powerful and very rich. He was also a man who loved adventure. Often he’d go out into the countryside with only a couple of retainers, and sometimes he’d even go alone.

On one of his lonely rides one day he strayed farther than usual and found himself in a strange part of the land. He was no longer certain if this part belonged to his kingdom or not. As he pondered which way to go, his horse, a tall black war-horse, snorted and angled his ears forward toward what looked like an orchard. The king urged the horse forward and was suddenly hit in the head with a well-aimed green apple.

“Ho,” he cried. “Who is it dares to throw apples at the king?”

A young woman climbed down from a loaded apple tree and stared at the king and his horse. Then she slipped to her knees and bent her head.

“My lord – I thought thieves were in our land again. I have grievously offended you, take my life.”

The king bade her rise and he looked her over. She was indeed very beautiful, though dressed almost in rags and her red hair was unkempt and wild about her head.

“What is your name, girl?”

“Alnya” my lord, she replied.

“Do you have parents?” he asked her.

“My father was killed in the king’s wars before I was born. My mother lives in our cottage. I have two brothers much older than I. They work in the fields.”

“Take me to your mother, then – how far is it?”

“About a mile, my lord.”

He brought the great war horse near her, grabbed her and swept her in front of him on the horse. She gasped as they galloped to the cottage. Once there, the king asked for water, drank, then gave the peasant woman a purse filled with gold coins in exchange for her hospitality and her daughter to take back to the castle.

For you see the king had fallen madly in love with the beautiful and daring peasant girl and had decided to make her his bride. This he confided to her as they rode back to the castle beyond the great stone wall. She wept at the news but he did not understand nor did he enquire of the reason. Tears are affairs of women he’d been taught – best left alone.

I won’t bore you with the details of making this peasant girl into a courtesan, but she learned fast. She had her brothers brought to the castle to train for knighthood, and her mother came to live there as well. The farm was rented and kept in the family by the king’s law.

The gist of the story, my girl, is that Alnya had a lover before she met the king. She tried to forget him but one day he came even to the castle looking for her. They saw each other and she contrived to meet him. They swore love to each other and she promised to find a way to be reunited with him. Then she made him leave so that, should things turn sour, he would not be discovered. Despite their love, great was the fear in each of them.

Alnya decided to risk all. She went to the king and declared that she had a lover and wanted to return to him to be married to him, despite the certainty of poverty, or worse.

The king became very angry. You see, he too loved Alnya. And he had the power of his law to force her to marry him. He could even have the peasant lover thrown into his dungeons for life, or killed. He ordered Alnya away to her chambers and took his great horse out for a ride.

As he rode, he made a point of noticing everything that moved. The birds, animals and the people at their work or children at play. He stopped on a high, bare hill, dismounted and thought about his situation. His anger was abated now. He watched an eagle soaring high in the sky, then come down, lower and lower, suddenly swooping into tall grass and coming back up with a rodent in its talons.

How like that eagle I am, thought the mighty king. How easy it is for me, so high, to pounce down and just take what I want. Perhaps too easy. Perhaps I must suffer shame and defeat again, as I did when my wife the queen died in childbirth and I was left alone. Perhaps the happiness of others is of more importance to the mighty than their own. What is our purpose but to ensure the weaker are protected from injustice as well as from physical harm? How much the more from any injustice I myself would inflict upon them?

The great king mounted his horse and rode through the forest in silence, coming upon Alnya’s village. He enquired after a young apprentice smith he was interested in for the castle forge, so he said. He found the boy at the forge, working the bellows.

“Ah, my lord the king,” said the smith. “Please come in. Is there something wrong with your horse, a loose or missing shoe perhaps?”

“No my good man,” said the king. “I wish a word with your apprentice, Garthain.”

So the king walked a ways with Garthain, Alnya’s lover. Suddenly the king turned upon Garthain and pulling his long double handed knight’s sword from its diamond-studded sheath, said, “Kneel, knave, for you crave the king’s own betrothed and I must challenge you.”

Trembling, the young man kneeled. But he looked the king in the eyes and said, “I love Alnya. I always have. We were lovers when you took her away. You took my heart and desire to live when you took her then. So take that sword in your hand and strike me dead. May my head be the trophy you bring to her wedding bed.”

The king help up the sword and brought it down… gently upon Garthain’s shoulder.

“I knight thee in the name of God and the Kingdom. If it suits you now, find a horse and ride back with me to the castle. Indeed there will be a wedding this week, and indeed it will be that of the fair Alnya. But let it be said by all that she marries, not of duress or fear, but of love. When you are married, you may choose to live here in the village – with my blessings and gold for help, or you may join my knights at the castle, though I warn you it is a harsh life there.”

And so it came to pass that the king rose to be mighty and had peace in his land for as long as he lived. And though he did not have a love of his own, he had the love of an entire kingdom, to his dying day, and he was mourned greatly for he had been the best king anyone had ever known.

And thus, it was said long ago, should all the mighty behave towards those over whom they reign or rule.

And now this story is yours and in turn you must tell it to your children. Do not forget it, ever.

25 thoughts on “The Tale of King Demarth

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks Jim, I’m delighted that you like! When the world refuses to give me the characters I could admire I find myself creating them so that in some way they exist anyway and my ghosts stand at the gates to challenge the fake power holders who think they’re in charge. My hero ghosts will live forever…

      Reply
  1. George F.

    A mighty lesson in humility here: “Perhaps I must suffer shame and defeat again…” Yes, that tends to be good for the soul. Great story, Sha’Tara!

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you for that endorsement Frank. Yes, the story is definitely not original, either in what it points to nor in the events used to carry the tale. Story tellers do not need to come up with an entirely new story each time they think one up. It is better, I have found, to use a base people are familiar with so when the “teaching” parts show up they can relate to how the events fit together. I like science fiction but there was a period back a ways when “hard science fiction” took over and it really hurt the genre because much of it became incomprehensible. A reader can only take so much weirdness. A good example of a novel that keeps the reader in a familiar setting would be your own “Transgression” which I greatly enjoyed and intend to re-read soon.

      Reply
  2. Lisa R. Palmer

    Yes!! So much truth here, so much hope. If only… True leadership does not focus on what can be gained, but on how best one can serve those it is responsible for/to. And “proof” that changing the direction of one’s focus (from self to others) benefits all, even or especially the “giver.”

    Bravo! Bravo!

    Now that it is dreamed, and brought forth in words, so let it be held in every heart until it becomes our shared reality…

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you for the double “Bravo!” Lisa. Many of my short stories tend to develop their theme around some moral lesson. I probably would have done quite well writing morality plays in the 16th C…! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Lisa R. Palmer

        Maybe you did and you just have no remembrances of that time yet…? The words, the themes, the very rhythm of your stories speak of another time quite eloquently…

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Thanks Lisa. Perhaps. I know I have traveled earth times (and other places) extensively, way beyond my current ability to remember. Yes it is possible that these stories do flow from remembrances. I have another story I will be posting soon that, to me, is so real, it activates every single sense when I go over it – and I have, many times, just to re-experience these feelings and the simple events that bring them about. Some common remembrances of life on or near the sea. Gulls crying in the skies, grey clouds blown by powerful and cold, cold winds. Thundering waves from a grey sea, the horizon lost in greyness. Shoals and rocky shores and the pungent smell of seaweed trapped in swirling, noisy pools. Mussels, clam shells, crabs rushing to hide under rocks; children in drab clothing often inadequate for the weather eagerly hunting among intertidal flats looking for treasures of meat or wood thrown up by the roiling sea, afraid to miss something before the tides rushes in again and takes it away. I remember this, and the cold, the wet, the hunger. When, what times, ages, years ago? I don’t know. I just know it and that none of it is from this one life.

      3. Lisa R. Palmer

        Amazing! I am always in awe of your ability to remember other lives. I look forward to seeing where (and possibly when) this story transports us to. 😀

  3. sherazade

    Una bella parabola che proprio non si addice ai nostri tempi e ai nostri governanti e che amano molto il potere è molto poco i loro cittadini.

    it rains in Rome for more than a week. A lot of damages all over my poor Italy.

    Shera ☔☔☔😫

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you so much for taking time to make a pointed comment, Shera.
      For fun, I translate in French this time: “Une belle parabole qui ne convient tout simplement pas à notre époque et à nos dirigeants et qui aiment vraiment le pouvoir est très peu leurs citoyens.”
      Translated in English: “A great parable that certainly does not fit our current leadership paradigm who love power and have very little love for their citizens.”
      Indeed, that was the point, to contrast that perhaps mythical time with today’s. My other point, perhaps not so subtle, was, ‘Why can we not all be like this great king? What keeps us from breaking down the paradigm? Why do we keep on following like sheep?’
      Translation: In effetti, questo era il punto, per contrastare quel periodo forse mitico con quello di oggi. L’altro mio punto, forse non così sottile, era: “Perché non possiamo essere tutti come questo grande re? Cosa ci impedisce di abbattere il paradigma? Perché continuiamo a seguirci come pecore? ”
      [So confusing, these languages. In French, “perché” means to perch, in Italian it means “why?” And I had forgotten that “pecore” is sheep, French, it’s “brebis”! At least “re” [king] is close, it’s roi.]

      Reply
      1. sherazade

        in italiano “why” quanto è interrogativo:
        “WHY (perché) you are so blonde❓”
        esplicativo:
        “BECAUSE (perché) I love it.”

        La parabola del re buono oggi non può essere applicata Because of the desiderio di potere e soprattutto per la mancanza di cultura (politica) .

        shera☔☔☔

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        La parabola del re buono oggi non può essere applicata Because of the desiderio di potere e soprattutto per la mancanza di cultura (politica) . {The parable of the good king today can not be applied Because of the desire for power and above all for the lack of culture (politics).}
        Yes, lack of political “culture” which seems to reflect a general lowering of culture throughout society but particularly throughout Western societies. You can’t blame everything on America but the trend to poor manners and gross conduct to a large extent is an American export.
        {Sì, mancanza di “cultura” politica che sembra riflettere un generale abbassamento della cultura nella società, ma in particolare nelle società occidentali. Non si può biasimare tutto sull’America, ma la tendenza alle cattive maniere e alla condotta lorda in larga misura è un’esportazione americana.}

    2. Sha'Tara Post author

      A propos de la pluie, c’est la meme chose ici, mais sans le domage material (a maintenant).
      (As to the rain, same here, but without any material damage (so far!)

      Reply
  4. Bélanger Robinson

    Nice job! I like a good guy! That he was mourned greatly makes me reflect on East of Eden and the telling of the three men who died under three different circumstances.

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Timshel… indeed, no one is predestined to a life of sin or virtue, it is entirely of personal choice. The problem is ordinary folk are not a king, or at least they do not see themselves as such and too willingly become believers “IN” and followers, thus giving up on self empowerment so that when it comes to difficult choices they find themselves powerless to make the correct ones, or they have no idea what that could be. The king, standing on top of the pile, knows he has to take responsibility for his life and it follows that he takes responsibility for the lives of those below him, for good or ill. In this case, he chose compassion as his modus operandi, thus becoming an example for all those who would become self empowered. As another blogger pointed out somewhere recently self empowerment is a double edged sword. I was taught to first chose a life purpose for myself, then use detachment to become self empowered. When I chose compassion I knew I had made the correct choice… for myself.

      Reply
      1. Bélanger Robinson

        I can see the compassion. It sure would be nice if all leaders made decisions from that same place.
        I love that book. The concept of thou mayest is such an important thing to understand. I’ve tried to teach all of my children the importance of living a life of kindness and mercy. My youngest son asked me one day if I had ever heard of a particular quote. As he started reciting it, I was delighted that it was from East of Eden. He said to me that he did not know how he knew it, but he did and he liked it. He knew it because I used to make him write it when he made poor choices as a relatively young child. When I told him that he used to write it as a punishment of sorts he said, “Yeah, you did make me write that, didn’t you?” Then he told me that it was a good choice because he likes the quote. I thought it was funny, and perhaps the goal of getting him to think was achieved.

        I’ll have to think of a life purpose for myself.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        You taught your children well. According to the Teachers, discovering and adopting a life purpose is of primary importance. I believe it. Before, I would get confused within a complex web of information, demands, expectations and feared results from making a wrong choice, or placing the wrong priority on a call. Now unless I’m super careless or stupid (oh yeah, that happens…) I ‘know’ how to respond in normal times or in crises. The selfish self (many call this ego) is no longer in command; when it pushes the usual buttons nothing happens, thus giving me time to reason the situation and respond properly. My life purpose isn’t just a way to think, speak or act, it is something I intend to become. I call myself an avatar of compassion to eventually become compassion. I think about it quite often and it’s both exhilarating and frightening, contemplating a complete transformation; a change of nature. I know all of us have made these quantum leaps before, but spend too long in one form and one becomes attached to it and complacent about it. The question I ask myself is, does this current form serve me; does it allow me to live up to my highest awareness? The answer is always, ‘no, it does not.’ I need more.

  5. Apple Rae

    This is absolutely stunning! A great read, really. I think I’ve been missing out a lot lately for not visiting your site, such a shame. Anyhow, this story tickled my imagination and warmed my heart—a perfect example of selflessness, humility and amazing leadership skills. Well done, Shatara. I wish one day I could write like you 😉😘

    Reply

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