The Court was one of legends- a safe haven for those who had done their part in life and could now rest. For centuries, it had harboured the old and weary, of every kind and species, allowed them to find peace and share their stories- be it memories of a life of splendour and finery or the loss of a loved one. It was an unfillable hall, where none would find themselves thirsty or hungry, alone or friendless, and everyday would bring new people who would find their place in it.
The First King ruled over it for three thousand years, and with his wisdom, the Court and its subjects flourished.
It was eternal paradise after the trials and victories of life.
But good things are not meant to last, and so there came a time that the First King passed away and the Court was ruled by a new King who lived for war.
The Second King of the Court only searched for the ones like him- the strongest warriors who would regale him with tales of valour and sacrifice, the cunning strategists who would boast of how they turned the tide with their clever ideas, the soft-footed spies who had slipped into the enemy courts and singlehandedly brought back information that had lead to certain victory.
The King’s glory days were past, and his frail body found excitement in listening to their conquests. He ached to wield a sword again, shower rows upon rows of arrows on those who dared to come before him, surge forward with his army and feel the thrill of war- of a war that promised to never end.
He had started the war in his life, had pitted the two factions- Keri and Sera- against each other and caused endless death, and now in the Court, he was celebrating it.
He shunned anyone who hadn’t been valorous, who hadn’t fought with all they had in the war, and embraced those who had killed with excitement- just like he once had.
The King, sitting atop his golden throne, took notice only of those who could make him relive the days spent valiantly fighting again- so that couldn’t be how Medi caught his eye.
The others who had entered the Court that day had felt something from Medi, for they stood apart from him, glancing at him from time to time to satisfy their curiosity, but never too long or directly into his eyes. They had come to revel in the Court, to spend their time in luxury and speak of their role in the war, but there was something different about Medi. There was something in Medi’s lonely gaze that seemed to pounce at them if they stared, that asked them questions they didn’t want to answer, didn’t want to hear.
And then there were those who saw Medi and understood, who knew exactly how he felt because they saw themselves in his solitary figure, standing there hoping for peace he wouldn’t get. They hid in the shadows of the Court, the far reaches of the crowd. They had learnt that people like them did not have a place under the new King, and Medi would too, soon enough. He would have no welcome, no solace. He would learn to live with that.
Medi had two faces on two heads: two pairs of eyes under silver-white curls. He wore a puffy costume much like that of a court jester. The red with yellow striped cloth was stained with more red- of a darker, deeper shade. Atop his two heads sat two maroon cones, with golden tassels.
The King had seen many such people, who came from far and wide, with different appearances and whose lives had been irrevertibly changed for the worse by the war. No, what kept his attention after he noticed Medi were his faces- and how they seemed to harbour an inherently weary soul.
The first face had closed eyes, with two blue crystal tear drops on its cheeks. It wasn’t asleep- not truly. It was as though it was keeping it closed on purpose, as if the sights it had already beheld were ones it wished it had never seen. A keen sense of loss and hurt emanated from it; it spread through the hall until it covered everyone like a blanket. As silence descended on them all, a few raised their heads, their eyes disbelieving and hopeful after a long time.
The King let his eyes pass over the face with the closed eyes first, and felt something shift inside him. Then he looked at the other face- and found that that something had come loose entirely.
The second face was ruthless- two glittering stars under big hazel eyes. Medi’s gaze rooted the King to his throne, unable to utter a word as they accused him of unspeakable things. They accused him of things he could never repent for, things he had no way to make right again. They were strong and glistening, and the people of the Court saw their King look into Medi’s eyes, transfixed, unable to utter a word. They looked at him, truly, then and found themselves caught in it too.
When everyone in the Court had turned their eyes on him, Medi spoke.
“I am come from the Beids,” he said, and the hearts of many in the hall beat faster, filled with new hope. They had seen with their own eyes the desolate wasteland that had become of the Beids, and the death toll that wouldn’t stop rising. They had lived there, and found themselves thrown out of their homes, to fight a war that they never wanted.
“I am come from the Beids,” Medi repeated, “and I am here to demand your apologies.”
A murmur erupted in the Court, from those who did not understand him, but the King only continued staring at Medi silently. Medi was making him remember- remember things he had buried deep enough that it had never again seen the light of day. His faces pierced through the King, and stripped him bare.
“For what might you be demanding the King’s apologies?” A man shouted from in front of the dais. He was burly and had a sword clutched in his hand. His one eye looked furious. “Do not you know of his conquests during his time? He is a great man, and a greater King of the Court. Do not you understand what he has done for us? What he still continues to do?”
The Court held its breath as Medi shifted his gaze and looked the burly man right in the eye.
“I only know that he is responsible for the deaths of everyone I have known. That he is responsible for turning my home into a burial ground, for setting fire on the land I once treasured more than anything.” The stars under Medi’s eyes were twinkling dangerously, and although he never rose his voice, the people in the Court could hear the harsh and bitter tone. He turned back to the King. “I only know that you are the cause of all the destruction I have seen, and I know that I will not rest until I have heard your apologies.”
The look he leveled at the King then shook the Court, sent trembles down the King’s spine, and the King found that he suddenly couldn’t breathe anymore.
The King had started fighting when he was but seventeen. He had rallied his army and waged a terrifying war against the opposing faction, destroying anything and everything that stood in his way, determined to win. And he had.
The King had conquered three- fourth of the world in his lifetime, killed millions to set his own rule in the foreign lands. He remembered the thrill of war, the adrenaline that never left his body, rushing through his blood, pushing him forward every second, to fight, to fight and win. He had spent countless days planning, and then executing, stomping out enemy warriors and peasants alike, finding that the war was all he had left. And he had loved it. He gave everything he had to war, and found salvation in it.
But the King hadn’t always been this way. He had been a young prince, with his sister whom he loved to play and read books with, with his favorite board games and favorite songs and loving parents who spent time with him while simultaneously ruling the faction.
He had been a sweet little boy when he stumbled into his parents room in the middle of the night and found them laying there, unmoving. He shattered into a thousand pieces as he screamed and alerted the guards to the dead bodies of his parents and sister. He became someone to be feared when he tracked down the assassins and hanged them in front of the world and found that it wasn’t enough. He became the King of the Sera faction, and started a war that would never end, fought until the need to avenge turned into a need to simply fight and kill.
But staring at Medi now made him relive that terrible feeling, the absolute horror that had coursed through him, telling him that nothing would ever be the same again. When he found his entire life dead in that room that day, rage had erupted in him, far greater than anything he had ever felt before but with it- grief larger than life, that threatened to envelop him, tuck him away in sadness forever. With time, that grief had been suppressed, the sense of loss forgotten, and all the sadness gave way to pure, unbridled thirst for revenge, and finally just the thrill and acceptance of war.
Medi had not a single bone in his body that thirsted for war like the King did. Medi hadn’t asked for any of this- he had been forced to watch as his entire family was killed, his homeland destroyed, the whole faction in ruins. A half of Medi had not been able to take it- it saw everything, how the land was more red than green, how the sky was more black than blue, how the people all around wore grey and silver mail than colorful clothes. It saw and it beheld a sight that seemed too sick to be true. And so it closed its eyes, to never again see death.
The other half of Medi had raged. It saw and it felt the fury build within and it knew that it wouldn’t find rest until it had found the person responsible for the carnage and asked him why and why and why would you do that?
Medi knew there must be a reason behind it all- a reason big enough that the King had sentenced millions of innocents to their deaths.
So Medi pierced the King with his too bright eyes, and the King stared back and in that endless moment, the King got up. The Court shook, as the people in it stood unmoving, mouths open, as he moved forward and stepped off the dais.
His every step was thunder, as he made his way to Medi, the Court parting before him like water. His eyes never strayed from their object, even as movement erupted in the corners of the Court.
A man with a bow and arrow sling behind his back; another cyclops with a teary eye, am old woman who hobbled forward on a cane; three women, beautiful as the sun, dancing forward with veils covering their faces; a young girl with a hundred hands, fidgeting and rocking around; a group of tribals, with paint on their faces, their heads held high- and so many, many more, all moving as the King did, to Medi.
And Medi stood there, a river whose course would not be diverted, one that knew its destination and flowed with intent that would not be hindered. A hush fell over the Court, not for the first time that day, as in a few minutes, Medi was surrounded- the King at his front, a thousand subjects of the Court at his back.
They knew- the ones behind Medi- that the time had come. That after a hundred years of restlessness, they would find their peace in the Court. Medi had given them this opportunity, this chance to restore the Court to what it had been- a safe haven, a place to rest and forget and remember and forgive. They stood as one, an invincible group, out from the shadows, to give their souls the rest they deserved.
The King, who had realized how much he had done, how much suffering his anger had caused, and how much he had pained the weary souls who had come seeking solace to the Court, shunning them to the shadows, unwilling to acknowledge them- broke down one knee, felt himself shatter once again, into a million pieces. His tears flowed, and they filled the Court, and as sobs wracked his body, he looked up at Medi, at the rest behind him. Will you forgive me? His eyes said to them. I was a boy- and many suffered for my foolishness- but I have not an excuse. I am sorry, sorry for everything that I have done- sorry for all the pain I have caused and all the ruins I am responsible for.
And then he turned his eyes heavenward, and spoke, “An unwise and unjust King I have been, a tyrant, a widower, an evil mercenary with not a shred of sympathy have I been-“ his voice broke, and a tremble ran through the Court- “And yet I have not repented for my sins, for the evil I became.”
His words echoed in the Court, was heard by all the assembled, made them shudder in their bones, and went past the walls, to the world outside, until the every living being could hear him speak.
“Hear me, oh tortured souls, for I seek your forgiveness- I am sorry for all that I have caused. I know as I say it, that sorry does not eclipse my regret, nor is it enough to lessen the rage and loss inside all of you. I have torn apart your happiness, and-“ grief colored his voice, seeping into every word as he wept to the skies- “I know not how I can undo all of this, how I can make it that none of this ever happened- I yearn to, I wish more than anything that I could turn back time- but I cannot and it weighs on me heavy.”
He brought his eyes back to Medi, to the stricken faces that scattered the Court, to tear filled eyes and fisted hands and whispered, with utter desolation, “I beg your forgiveness. I am sorry, sorry beyond words and sorry that every part of me aches to ease your pain. I know not what I can do to turn back time, but- I know-“ he said, clenching his fists, sending another tremor through the Court, the world- “That I can rest your souls in the Court, that I can cease the war in the world, prevent more heedless death- save a few souls form the grief that awaits.”
He looked down at the floor. “I know that it cannot possibly make up for- for anything, but-“
“It is enough.”
Medi placed a hand on the King’s shoulder and knelt with him, knowing that the King would see his understanding in his eyes. “It is enough, my King.”
And Medi opened his closed eyes, and stared at the King four glittering hazel irises and a smile on his faces. A light spread through the entire Court, brightening up every corner, sending a peaceful aura all around, through the walls to the world outside. The assembled behind Medi’s back found their mouths twisting into similar smiles, tears of joy in their eyes at having gotten their peace, and rested minds knowing that the carnage outside would soon cease.
Medi’s tears and stars glinted in the brightness, twinkling at the him, as the King rose with a set shoulders. He looked at the Court, and past the walls, at the world outside and a promise hung in the air- one of gentle calm.
Time passed, and with it the Second King of the Court, honoring his promise, ruling for 3000 years over rested subjects and a flourishing Court, set a name for himself as the peace-loving King, with overflowing empathy and an ability to calm the most furious of minds.
Good things are not meant to last- they are meant to fall and rise again, reminding the people each time, that they are things to be treasured, things to respect and value.
The Court became once again, a safe haven, one of legends.