To eat with kings

(In my previous life, I travelled the world.)

To eat with kings via @theMagunga

First, I travelled with eyes closed. I dreamt of setting a tiny bird free from its cage. The bird hopped out, nibbled on fallen grain, grew bigger, taller, as I watched. I was nearly six years, I should have been afraid but it looked like it wanted to be my friend. It spread out its wings and we flew east, across the barrenness of the desert. The east was not like home. Scattered shrub, barely any trees. We flew over a multitude of faceless people. Then and there I thought about the mysteries that lay without the kingdom.

I wished for the bird to visit every night. For more dreamy flights. Mighty bird, what more is out there? What else? I grew up believing my dreams were deep and of purpose.

I used my left hand to draw my feathered friend. When I ran to mother, Queen Ekesha, to show her what I had expressed, she exalted me. “I want to be like the birds,” I said. Thereafter, she tried getting me to stop using my left hand. I would eat with it. Greet and write with it. Receive gifts with it. I tried using my right hand like Khamasi, my elder brother. Mother said Khamasi would one day be king.

But Khamasi never drew. That artistic vein flowed only within me. His mind was full of other things. He had these impatient eyes, dark like his hair. I realized an uncommon thirst within him in everything he did. He excelled in horsemanship, archery, spear and shield maneuvers. He could debate in eight languages. Fate’s promised king. Father’s able diplomat and mother’s pride. The future of the kingdom would be moulded in Khamasi’s vision.

Within our city ran River Noraabi. To mean ‘sustainer’. On occasion it meant ‘giver of wealth’. Because the surrounding land was good and from it we mined and traded gold and gem stone…we were the proud people of Noraabi– the children of gold. Khamasi and I would go to spar with shield and spear along the river. Once he said to me, “If a child washes his hands, he can eat with kings.” I had no idea what brother meant. Either he was proud of his virtues. Or impressed that my combat skills were a close parallel to his. He could have been paraphrasing one of our many scholars as well. One never knew with Khamasi.

In another dream, much-much later, came a faceless man in a scholar’s robe. In this one, the word east was written on a wide and thin slab using an element of hard chalk. I was nearly seventeen. Khamasi was of age to marry a girl from an honorary family. He asked for the wedding to be delayed. Not yet, he said. He wanted to belong to himself a little while longer.

Sometimes, only sometimes, I wished to be Khamasi. I wished he was the spare, and me, the heir. That it was he whose father never spoke to. I wished it was he that painted with the hand of evil- as mother called it. I wished to be the one corrupted by diplomacy and politics within our kingdom. Not east. I did not wish to journey toward the desert. Yet my dreams would upbraid me about it.

Also, I became aware of the corruption kindling within me. I knew all these feelings came from the same place…where my fear slept, resided bravery. Where my ignorance lay, curiosity was just beside. My corruption would be my envy toward Khamasi. I searched within my conscience for the opposite of envy. I searched to meet this feeling halfway. I found none. Thus I decided my dreams were of purpose. I would go east if only to rid myself of this envy. And I would dictate and satisfy my own destiny.

 

***
A story is told of a farmer who once traveled east.
Upon return, thought himself a slave to our social order.
He befriended thought of sowing rebellion among us
Of leading us against our royals.
Words are weapon enough, we heard him say.
They are spoken to last, we heard him sow.
He spoke against benevolent king and queen.

 

“Leader of beggars” we called him.
‘Children of gold-Who is willing?’ he asked.
He won the hearts of many.

At the side of river Noraabi “the giver of wealth”
He stood with all the assurance
Eyes wide, like we were his ripe crop
Giving sanguine speech,
He led each to perceive our theocracy as false.
The east worship no gods, we heard him say
The east have no kings, we heard him sow

“Leader of beggars” we called him.
‘Children of gold- Who is willing?’ he asked us.
He won the hearts of many.

Queen mother has fallen by mortal wound.
That “leader of beggars”, boasted of inflicting wound
Benevolent king received word, and assembled militia
Bring me their sons, were the king’s orders
Slash! Slash! What we saw-river turned red.
Bring me their daughters, were the king’s orders
Slash! Slash! Bloods of our children.
An uprising on its knees

“Leader of beggars” we called him.
“Children of gold. Who is willing? “ he asked us.
He won the hearts of many.

Khamasi has fallen by mortal wound, of this he boasted too
What we saw-river turned red,
Bloods of the willing and unwilling
You! Defied king by word of mouth?
River shall have your tongue,
You! Carried with you a spear?
River shall soak in your blood.
You! Did not fight at all?
Fought for the king you should have.

“Leader of beggars.” No more.

Now he has fled the city.
Left we people of Noraabi broken, contrite and scared.
With no queen, benevolent king’s heart grows stiff as stone.
With no heir, the king cries to the skies-
But fate is apologetic and full of favour,
The crown shall befall the king’s spare.
He shall inherit faded glory.
I wonder if the spare knows
The people are sorry.

***

To eat with kings via @theMagunga

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