Historical Fiction Fantasy Suspense

Once upon a time, there existed a land where the woods stood tall and whispering, rivers wound like silver serpents through verdant meadows, and the earth itself seemed to sing with life. In this mystic realm, there lived a powerful king. The king’s name was King Soul. He reigned over a vast kingdom known as Wolffrin. Soul commanded an army of over ten hundred warriors and lorded over more than a hundred thousand civilians. 

King Soul was a jaded man. Even in the tender years of his boyhood, he was distrustful and suspicious of everyone around him. 

“You are a prince.” His father told him when he was just a lad, sitting on the man’s knee as King Benjamin spoke to him. “You will have a whole kingdom that must bow before you. They will cower in your presence, some will hold you in esteem, and perhaps a few will even bear you genuine affection. But heed my words, my cherished son; in this treacherous world, every soul has its price, every loyalty its breaking point. Trust none but yourself, for betrayal lurks within the hearts of every man, woman, and child."

Soul took his father’s words to heart. He trusted no living soul, no matter how hard they tried to prove their trustworthiness to him. He did not consider even his own shadow to be completely trustworthy.

When he was six, Soul became convinced his nursemaid was plotting to sneak poison into his meals. He told his father he saw in her eyes that she was power-hungry and that she would most certainly betray him.

King Benjamin had her thrown in prison.

When Soul was eleven, he had the stable boy executed after the cinch on his horse’s saddle went loose, and he took a spill. Soul was certain that the stable hand had made an attempt on his life. 

When he was thirteen, he saw his own mother speaking to a pauper in the marketplace. He caught a snippet of their conversation in which the Queen said,

“I will help you, certainly.”

Soul rushed to his father. He exposed the Queen for a plot to commit treason against the kingdom.

After all, what else would she have to help a man of lowly status with?

The Queen strung up a story to her husband about how she’d been attempting to assist the humble man with his finances, as he was homeless and desperate. Soul saw right through her lies.

He knew she had betrayal in her heart.

Everyone did if given the chance. 

The queen was banished. The King threatened to take her life if she ever returned to Salverto.

One after the other, Soul found ways to incriminate servants and royals alike. The cooks, the knights, the wards of the castle, and even the King’s hound, who he swore up and down looked at him with malice in his eyes.

On his eighteenth birthday, Soul went on a bear hunt through the forest with a handful of knights and servants, his father lying ill back at the castle.

Surely, he was poisoned or spelled by a witch even! Soul thought, clicking his heels against his horse’s sweaty flank. Spartan whinnied and picked up his pace. His hoofs thundered over the forest floor. Soul kept his keen eyes scanning the forest, and his crossbow at the ready. Poor Father, he should have had the food he was to ingest tested more carefully. Alas, he would not be ill now had he taken better precautions!

A bright sun hovered over the treetops. Light trickled down past the leaves and branches, and dots of gold danced over the forest floor. 

Soul’s keen hunter's gaze caught a brief disturbance. A streak of brown fur flashed at the edge of his vision, stirring his blood with the thrill of the hunt. With a practiced motion, he tugged on Spartan's reins, bringing the mighty steed to a skidding halt.

“Halt!” His voice boomed through the trees, a clear command that had his men pulling their horses to a stop with a symphony of nickers and hooves churning the soft, muddy earth beneath them. They all turned, following Soul's gaze into the thick underbrush.

There, concealed by the foliage, was the smallest grizzly cub Soul had ever laid eyes on. Its tiny form crouched low, ears perked in fright, those big, black eyes shimmering with the sheer terror of being discovered.

"Oi, Prince Soul!" piped up one of his knights. "Maybe we oughta leave this one alone. It's but a wee thing, after all."

Soul's reply was dismissive. "My trophies know no size. If it's a bear, it's fair game for my collection."

He knocked an arrow.

“Oh… Sire, don’t-.”

“Silence! Or would you prefer to acquaint yourself with the inside of our dungeon?” Soul commanded. The knight ceased his protests. 

The bear cub let out a bleat. It backed further into the brush as Soul trained his weapon on it. 

The cub flattened it’s ears. It’s nose twitched and it’s body was shaking.

"Farewell, you scruffy little beast," he sneered, loosing the arrow with a twang. The air was split by a heart-wrenching scream, sending birds into a frenzy, their cries echoing Soul's cold triumph.

Soul dismounted his horse. He sauntered over to the body.

He picked it up by the scruff and inspected the pelt.

The fur was soft, lighter in color than he'd expected—clearly, the pelt of a cub barely a few months old.

It’ll make a fine trophy or a soft rug. Soul thought. He spun to face his men, grinning.

“Now, you unsavory lot, was that worth all the fuss?”

The knight who’d been warning him against shooting the cub blinked. His eyes stretched wide in alarm.

“My Lord-.”

“Ah, quiet. I’ve heard enough of your sniveling.” Soul waved him off.

“No, Sire. Really, you must-.”

Soul’s eyes narrowed. 

I must do nothing! I am the prince, not this disrespectful suit of armor. He thought, enraged.

“Now, listen here!” He began. “I take orders from none of you. If I want to kill a bear, no matter how young, I’ll kill that bear! Everything in this kingdom belongs to me. Understood?”

The horses begin to stamp their hooves, their eyes going white rimmed with fear. The knights looked at something past Soul and they all cried out in one collective howl of urgency.

Sire, behind you!”

Soul felt something hot brush over the back of his neck. A reek like that of rotten fish filled his nostrils. Soul spun around.

He came face-to-face with the enraged eyes of a grizzly bear. A bear bigger than any he'd ever seen before. 

Soul stepped back, clutching his crossbow to his chest. 

“You lazy ingrates. You fools!” He howled. “Do something, you useless slugs!”

His knights hesitantly urged their horses closer. The bear stood up on its hind legs. It flattened its ears and growled.

Soul picked up his crossbow and fired a clumsy shot.

An arrow implied the bear’s broad shoulder.

It gave an earth-shaking roar. The force of the scream was enough to send Soul stumbling back. He fell on his back and glanced up in time to see the bear tear the arrow clean from its shoulder and break it in half in its powerful jaws. 

“By the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!” Cried one of the knights. “This bear possesses the strength of a dragon. I’m not staying here to be torn apart!”

“C-Coward!” Soul cried, gazing in horror over his shoulder as, one by one, his knights whirled their steeds around and fled. “All of you! Cowards and deserters! I’ll have your heads for this!” He whipped his head back to the beast. “And you! Do you not know who I am? Back away, you foul sack of fleas, lest you bring down the armies of Wolffrin on yourself!”

The bear snarled. It didn’t seem to care about what armies he commanded. With a hiss, thebear grabbed his arm in its fangs, piercing his skin, then it flung him into a tree. 

Blood poured down Soul’s tunic, and his head rang from being bashed into the trunk. 

The fuzzy shape of the bear advanced on him.

Soul closed his eyes, tears pouring down his cheeks.

Truly, this must have been planned. He decided. Those cowards must have led me here on purpose so that this monstrous creature could do away with me. They want my power and my position, and they will stop at nothing to get it. 

“Away! Away! Do not harm him.”

The voice was as soothing as birdsong in the morning. Soul peeked open his eyes. A boy, no older than him, had come to stand between him and the bear. The boy had long black hair braided down his back. He wore animal skins, and there was a tattoo on one exposed shoulder.

A mark of a doe deer.

A Speaker. Soul sat up in amazement. Why! I’ve only ever heard of them in stories. A people who dwell in the forest from birth to death, speaking to the animals and hearing prophecies from the rains and from the mountains beyond.

“I know.” The boy soothed, as the bear gave a quiet whimper, its hackles lying flat and its eyes dropping to the ground. “But he is the prince. You cannot kill him. If you did, his people would do most terrible things to you, my friend.”

The bear gave a furious stamp of its foot. The Speaker touched its forehead gently with his palm.

“Rest easy, great hunter.” He whispered, his fingers creasing its scalp. “Rest. Return to the woods. Know that your cub hunts in peace in the Golden Forest now.”

The bear leaned into his touch. Then she turned and lumbered back into the forest. 

Soul panted. He gingerly let his fingertips graze over his torn clothing, painting them scarlet with blood.

“Are you gravely injured…Sire?”

Soul glanced up. The Speaker was eyeing him thoughtfully. His eyes were hard, but not unkind.

“Not gravely. I tell you, when I return to the castle, I shall have all those cowards hung! Truly!” Soul used the trunk of the tree to pull himself to his feet. The Speaker didn’t move. The boy watched him impassively.

“You saved my life, stepping between me and that creature and daring to reason with the demon.” Soul hummed, more to himself than to the other boy.

“She wasn’t…” The Speaker sighed. “She was simply hurting, Prince. She lost her baby.”

“Yes, yes.” Soul waved him off. “The fact remains that you have done me a great service.”

“It was my pleasure, Sire. Now, I should return home-.”

“No. You must be rewarded.” Soul smiled. His father’s warnings rippled in his head, the residual swirls of stones long ago cast. For once, he ignored them. This heroic young man had saved his life! He risked his own wellbeing for Soul's sake; no one had ever come close to doing such a thing before. Not even the prince’s beloved father. 

“Rewarded?” The Speaker’s eyes widened. “Oh, no. Sire, you don’t have to-.”

“You shall come and live in the castle as one of the royal household. I shall give you command of a battalion, and you will be my most trusted soldier. My confident. I shall give you what I have never given one before--as it is because of you that I stand here now--my trust.” 


In the years that followed Soul’s eighteenth birthday, changes occurred in the kingdom of Wolffrin. His father passed away a week or so after his birthday, and Soul became king. Soul, true to his word, placed the Speaker, named Kinshawn, in charge of many armies. Kinshawn became his most trusted ally, the only one besides his father to whom he ever gave his utmost trust. He confided in Kinshawn about everything. 

They became more than allies.

They became true friends, who would do anything for one another.

The only tension within their friendship was that Kinshawn knew of Soul’s paranoia, and it troubled him deeply.

“You can’t ascribe to folks qualities of evil and malicious intent that aren’t there!” He’d protest. “You can’t punish people for crimes that you’ve made up in your own head... Sire.”

“I simply prevent catastrophe.” Soul would brush him off. “I act on their sinful thoughts before they can.”

“Oh, Soul-.”

“Enough. I’ll hear no more about this.”

After his father’s death, Soul grew more suspicious and distrustful than before. Again and again, he had innocent people killed and punished on the grounds of betrayal.

It got to the point where his entire kingdom not only feared him but hated him for his cruel assumptions.

Every day, someone was hung. The gallows remained set up in the city square. 

The prisons overflowed with starving prisoners, most of whom had done nothing to deserve confinement.

Over a thousand men and women had been banished under false accusations during Soul’s reign.

The people were furious and desperate. They began to plot how to get rid of their horrible king. 


“It’s betrayal, I tell you! An outright coup!” Soul was on edge, pacing back and forth like a caged animal in the expansive, eerily silent throne room. Kinshawn stood across from him, the only one besides himself in the room.

“Sire, you don’t know that for certain.”

“I do!” Soul shot back, his voice tinged with a mix of fury and desperation. “One of my knights told me himself! While mingling in the marketplace, he overheard a nefarious plot whispered among a shady gathering. They boasted about planting an assassin among us—someone aiming to cut my life short.”

“Soul, perhaps he misheard.”

“No, Kinshawn. I know. I know the people are out to get me. They’ve slipped a traitor into my home. We must find out who it is! Perhaps one of the knights…”

“Sire, don’t.”

“Or, or!” Soul snapped his fingers. “Perhaps the new kennel master! I swear to you, my brother, he looked at me strangely when I passed him on my way to the stables just the other day!”

“Soul, please stop.”

“Or perhaps,” Soul carried on. “It was the apothecary's boy-.”

“He’s a little child!” 

“He had a shifty way to him!” Soul grunted. “I say, wouldn’t that be an idea too? To have a child barely out of the womb bring about my end.” The king's laughter, laced with bitterness, filled the room, morphing into something dark and foreboding. “What a cunning way to strip me of power and smear my legacy with such a humiliating defeat. Oh! You can’t trust anyone, my friend. Only you-.”


Soul felt a sharp sting at the nape of his neck, a sensation both startling and oddly warm. A trickle of something wet slid down his skin, sending a shiver straight down his spine. Instinctively, his hand flew to his neck, his fingers brushing against the cold, smooth handle of a dagger protruding from it.

“K-Kin… K-Kinshawn?” Soul whimpered, a mix of confusion and disbelief in his voice as he dropped to his knees. With effort, he turned himself around to face the direction the blow had come from. His friend was standing there, tears pouring down his face. Kinshawn stumbled forward, collapsing to his knees, and reached out, cradling Soul’s face in his hands tenderly.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, his lip trembling. “I’m so sorry. I had no other choice. You were destroying your own kingdom—the very kingdom I’ve come to love.” 

Soul felt a lump in his throat, stifling his breath. Panic and disbelief gripped him.

“Y- You?” He rasped. “You are the assassin the people spoke of? You betrayed… me?”

Kinshawn gently wiped away a tear rolling down Soul’s cheek, a gesture filled with heartbreaking tenderness.

“No, my brother.” He sniffed, shaking his head. “You betrayed yourself. By believing nothing but the worst of all those around you, you made them believe that’s all that they could be. You expected nothing but traitors and murders, so that’s what your people gave you.” 

“B-B-But I l-loved… y- you… y-you were my b-brother.” Soul managed between sobs, the words barely escaping his lips. Kinshawn’s crying took on a new depth—a raw, soul-crushing sound that Soul had never heard from any man before. It was like something in him was dying with his king.

“And you mine.” He murmured. “The day I saved you from the bear—though that day it was not you who I desired to save but the she-bear—you became my kin. Soul, I’m a Speaker. We’re raised to believe in the best of the world, not the worst. To show kindness and mercy to all. To give a man every chance you can before you condemn him. And don’t you see? I have given you every chance. I tried all that I knew, but something long ago hardened your heart, and I couldn’t change it.”

“I-I h-hate y-you!” Soul managed to spit out, his vision going black. Kinshawn, unfazed, continued to stroke his face gently, just like he did with the bear on that fateful day years ago. 

“I’m sorry you do. Because regardless of everything, I will always love you, my brother.”

And with that, King Soul’s reign came to a heartbreaking close. The Kingdom of Wolffrin, which had once cowered under the shadow of a ruler consumed by paranoia, was now in the hands of a man whose heart was as vast as the kingdom he vowed to protect. A protector of man and beast alike. A man who valued trust and friendship, even when those fragile things could lead to betrayal.

King Kinshawn, born a Speaker, proved a warrior through noble deeds, and crowned a king through a twist of fate and betrayal.

The End

March 16, 2024 02:52

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Jong Lee
04:18 Mar 23, 2024



C.N. Jung
11:51 Mar 24, 2024

Thank you so much! 😁


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Kristi Gott
20:31 Mar 16, 2024

I love legends, myths and allegories. This is wonderful! Well written, beautifully told. Good job! :-) The imagery at the beginning is poetic and lovely, very stunning. I suspected the Speaker would need to take action at some point in time while I read the story. Great theme and concept! Well done!


C.N. Jung
14:44 Mar 27, 2024

Thank you, Kristi, for your kind words! 😃 There is an enchanting quality to the tales of legends and myths, stories that are filled with magic and ancient rulers. Although I haven't delved much into this genre, I decided to give it a shot for this particular prompt! I am grateful for your time in reading my work and for your feedback.


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Mary Bendickson
06:02 Mar 16, 2024

Like an epic tale. Thanks for liking my fable.


C.N. Jung
17:46 Mar 23, 2024

Thank you, Mary! 😄


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