Seven Kings: A Tale of Changes

June 9, 2006

Once upon a time, in a faraway place, seven kingdoms lived at peace, but one of these kingdoms was not like the others.

It was an uneasy peace between them all, enforced by mutual suspicion and a careful, fragile balance of power.

But it was peace nonetheless… for a time.

Now, six of these kingdoms were ruled by a High King, and the High Kings were much alike. They enjoyed their wealth and power and prestige. They commanded a powerful army, and entertained a court of great reknown. And each King was advised by a powerful Royal Mage, trained in the arcane arts.

The seventh kingdom was a bit different, however. The High King was, himself, a sorceror of great power.

This worried the other Kings. It worried the Royal Mages as well, jealous that one could enjoy both magical and material power. And so they whispered to their Kings that it wasn’t right that this seventh King, their supposed equal, should possess power beyond them.

The Kings frowned at these whispers, and thought about it, and their own jealousy tore at them until they sent a message to the seventh King, a message filled with wrath and anger that he should possess such power beyond his station. They demanded he set aside his power so that their kingdoms would all be equal, and the balance of peace would remain.

The seventh King was sad when he saw their words, and he knew the dark thoughts behind them. But he knew, as well, that he could no more set his power aside than command himself to stop breathing. Instead, he sent each of the other Kings a unique and magical artifact.

One such device could stop the flow of a mighty river, and divert it to its bearer’s will. Another could inspire it’s possessor to new heights in their chosen field, whether art or lore or swordplay. Yet another could call forth the light of the sun to shine in the darkest midnight.

He sent the items to each King, and said, “Now your power is as my own. Let their be peace again.”

And for a time, the peace continued, and the Kings were satisfied.

The Royal Mages, however, grew even more concerned. Now their own Kings had magic beyond their own, and this threatened them in new and terrible ways. They spoke again, whispering their words of envy and despair.

Three Kings were pleased with their new relics, and paid no heed to the whispers. The other three, however, wanted more than mere baubles.

“Look how easily he bowed before your first demand,” whispered the mages. “He must have been afraid of you, and what might you could bring to bear. And now you have an item of great power! If he feared you before, now it must be ease itself to advance into his kingdom and claim it for your own. And just think… if he so easily gave away such trinkets, he may have many more besides…”

Now, there was much that was wrong and deceitful about the Mages’s words, but the three Kings who listened to them knew it not. They nodded, and grew bold and eager, and marched upon the seventh Kingdom, and the seventh King again again knew despair.

When the three Kings met at the border to his land, they surveyed each other’s armies, and knew they were equally matched – so resolved to split the conquered kingdom, and the treasures within, among the three of them. And the Royal Mages all smirked and watched and waited.

The armies poured across the land, and the kingdom’s defenses fell easily before them. It was a land of peace and prosperity, not ready for war, and all too soon the three Kings stood before the castle of the seventh King. They saw no soldiers on the walls, only countless refugees who had escaped to its safety.

The laughed, and threatened the seventh King, and promised they would make short work of his castle. And then they gave the command, and their men charged. Swords were swung, seige towers rolled, battering rams struck… but to no avail. The castle was warded by the King’s magic, and was impervious to assault.

The three Kings turned their own magics upon it, but found their items dull and listless when used for such tasks. They commanded their Royal Mages, but their magics were unable to protect the seventh King’s wards.

They threatened him then, and called him a spawn of the Devil for dealing with black magics. But within they were scared, for if his magic was so great, could he not cast them down with ease from within his castle’s walls?

The seventh King walked to the balcony above his castle gate, and looked down upon those who came to claim his land for their own. He wore a sad expression, and spread his hands in a gesture of sorrow.

“I tried to share my magic, but you sought only to turn it to war. I never wished to grow stronger than any others, but only followed my own path. Yet if you feel such need for my power, I shall teach you myself – any of you three, should you wish it, I will spend as many years as it takes to teach you all that I know.”

The Royal Mages grew appalled, and whispered that it was a trick to lure them in. Two of the Kings turned away, for they were afraid of such power, and afraid that the seventh King did indeed plan to turn on them. They decreed he was not worth their time, and took their armies and went away.

The third King, however, stepped forward. He was bold, and wore a sneer… but was also eager for a taste of this magic that he had seen. He cast aside his advisor and sent his armies home, and walked up to the gates, and said that he would learn.

And the seventh King welcomed him, and held true to his word – which was to say, he taught him of the art of ruling a kingdom for more than personal gain, and of cultivating culture and education and happiness.

And he did teach him the magic as well, but only once he was sure that the third King understood, as he did, that it was to be used much like the power of a King – for the good of the people he ruled, and nothing more.

Time passed, and the third King returned to his land, and shared his newfound wealth of wisdom – and his kingdom became joyous and prosperous, much as he had hoped from the start. Both he and the seventh King passed their teaching’s to their sons, who ruled their lands as their fathers before them – well and nobly so.

Once upon a time, in a faraway place, seven kingdoms lived at peace… but two of these kingdoms were not like the others…

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