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Historical Fiction Drama Suspense

“My son was born on the day the mayflowers bloomed. The medicine woman heralded it as a good sign, that he would bring life wherever he went. That winter, his mother died. It was only him and I, my lord, and . . . and we did all we could. It was my first time being a father, yet here I had to be a mother, too, so that following spring whilst he finished his first year, I promised I would give him a love like no other, to make up for the love he had lost.

“I talked to him, every night, and I told him I loved him more than the stars in the sky, than the trees in the forest. It was a poem she had sung to him whilst he slept in her womb. I told it to him. I could never sing, but I told it to him every night. I carried him upon my back in the fields like the women and fed him cow’s milk with herbs at least twice a day. He was as good a child as any other, I suppose. It was my first time being a father, and I had decided to do anything for my son, to love him more than anything.

“Now, with his death before me, I see where I might’ve gone wrong. Even now, I stand before you a father, and nothing else.

“My boy grew strong, stronger than the others. He walked before the neighbor’s boy and spoke just as soon. He was intelligent and lazy, but what little child isn’t? Lazy, that is. My boy learned to count and even write the numbers. He’d talk to the merchants passing through, when he got old enough, and he’d dog the travelers rather than do his chores. Every night, he’d come home with some new story or trick he learned. I thought them harmless, and in another’s hands, they would have been.

“Your highness, he was a curious boy, curious and intelligent and seeking pleasure, as all young men do. This does not excuse him, no. I see such. I know it. I’m not trying to justify what he has done nor play on your sympathies, just tell the truth as it has been for me.

“He was a curious boy with little sense for society. That was a ready enough excuse when I caught him hoarding the ribbons off a little girl’s doll. It was corn husk doll, my lord, and ribbons were all she had. He took them anyway. I made him give them back, and he did. The neighbor’s boy had done it, too, and I had thought no more of it. This was not a sign, not as the mayflowers had been.

“Farming had never sat well with him. He hated the sharp sun, the cold earth. Seeing the sprouts never gave him any pleasure, and he once broke our hoes, so we would not work. We did anyway, of course, fixing them and working well into the night. I never spoke to him about that, about not doing it again, but he learned the hard way. I suppose even now he is doing that. Learning the hard way, that is.

“We didn’t have many trades in the village also, nothing he could apply himself to instead of sowing and growing and milking and feeding. He hated it, and when he left younger than I imagined, I was not surprised if still heartbroken. I was too old to follow him, and now I wonder if that would have changed anything.

“He brought back modest supplies the first time, and I believed his claim of trading going well for him. I truly did, sire. I cooked the meat he brought and reveled in the soft bits of cloth. I took him in my arms and told him how proud I was. My son! My son! All grown up and providing for his aging father already! He had laughed, trying to escape my embrace, but I drew him closer. I remember it so clearly, my lord, so sweetly bitter, and I had put my hands on his cheeks and looked him in the eye and told him that I loved him more than the stars in the sky, than the trees in the forest. For weeks, my life had been clouds, for I could feel nothing but loneliness without my son by me. Then there he was, and the world was right once more. I could not make him stay, I knew, but how I longed for him to! How I longed that there was enough for him to set up shop in the village or that he would choose to marry and work the land anyway.

“He didn’t. He left and did not return for an even longer time, but he came back with more supplies, more than I knew even the best merchants could carry, and I had heard the beginning of rumours. The spices he had brought were tasteless, the jewelry dull. ‘Son,’ I had asked him, ‘How have you earned all this?’ ‘By trading, of course,’ he told me. He had lied, but I did not want to believe it, and I was worried that he would leave me forever should I press. I let it lay.

“That, I would say, was my second mistake, your majesty, and it was a selfish one, indeed.

“I said nothing as I saw my son steal more and more, coming back with goods and weapons and scars and stories for which I dared not ask. My love for him had not faded, but it was a selfish love, I saw then, a selfish love that wanted him to stay, to stay near to me and never risk leaving even when the hard words needed to be said.

“The news of his mistake – the murder, I am sorry, for it was his mistake, as all of it was, but it was a murder also, and I would not want you to think that I do not believe otherwise – the news came to me, and when my son returned home this last time, I knew it was him. I only asked once, tried to help him, but he declined, and I was too much a coward to do more. As you know, he was caught the next day.

“You have the right to hang him. Indeed, you may even have the duty according to our laws and the trust your people have placed in you to protect them, and I am sorry to say that you have need to protect them from my son. I do not ask for mercy because he does not rightfully deserve death as the laws and his crimes command. He does, and they do. I do not ask for mercy because he could be any boy. He could be, but he is my boy. He is my boy, and I ask for mercy because I am selfish, and I love my son. I am selfish, like most fathers. I am selfish, and if it were your son, you would be selfish, too.

“This is all I ask. It is all I am.”

April 09, 2021 12:19

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