King’s Quest – Toil

Cynic, Going Postal

“Harder, harder, smite harder.” The words echoed and re-echoed in Richard’s mind as he wielded the hammer in  the forge. Was he saying them aloud? Were they what the smith had said to him, or the Wyvern’s words which he  heard in the roar of the flames and the hiss of the bellows?

“Harder, harder, strike harder. Careful there, be precise. Keep the rhythm.” The heat made him feel that he  was being burned alive. His mind whirled, seemingly involved not only in the task of forming the blade on the  anvil, amidst the heat which even the blacksmith declared to be unusually intense, but also in the droning,  moaning, sighing, singing incantations which seemed to echo between William crouched in trance in a corner of  the forge, and the living speaking flames which embodied the Wyvern in the furnace, at least in his  imagination. “A good sword must be sung as well as struck into life. Sing. Let your soul sing .” His will and  his hardened body kept him striking in relentless rhythm as his emotions poured out a babble of words and  feelings which took on the patterns of song, and his spirit seemed to join both the Wyvern and the billet of  glowing iron that he was striking. “Hard, precise, rhythmical; there is no soft or easy way to make a sword or  mend a kingdom or rule it. This Land will not endure a soft or easy ruler. Strike! Feel each blow. It is  yourself as well as your sword and your kingdom that you are shaping. The King and the Land must be One. You  must drive out impurities from yourself and from your kingdom, and shape both to your will and to the needs of  the Land. You free and shape and strengthen and wield your kingdom as you do your sword and yourself.”

The image of the Wyvern filled his vision as he toiled. Its gaze and its words filled his mind. “This Land  needs a True King. It is too long since it had one. Think not that I and the Powers of the Land toil with you  just to benefit you and your people. No! Together we forge and form a kingdom; that is true, but there is  more. A True King needs the empowerment of the Land to rule justly and well, but the Land needs a True King to  inspire or en-spirit it. Through the focal point of his trained and attuned mind may flow higher spiritual  influences to the Land, bringing conscious awareness of higher states and the patterns of how things should  be. It is the function of a True King to be that link between the three levels. Making a Sword is just the  start. Few men or even Kings know this. They do not understand it. They despise it. It is the burden and glory  of a True King. It is not all his doing, but if it is not done, not only will the kingdom fall and the people  perish, but the inner foundations of the Land – laid so very, very long ago, by Beings greater than those of  the present age, crumble and dissolve beyond consciousness and recall.  Beasts die, men die, kingdoms fall,  even Cosmos fades; and all the sooner from neglect. Is it not a fine jest that the greatest among men should  be a janitor of Cosmos?”

So the toil proceeded for many days, more than the time usually required to make a sword, not as many sneered,  because the King was a weak, clumsy and inadequate apprentice. Blacksmith and sword smith were pleased by his  work.  A novice could not do it all by himself, but they were impressed by his determination to do as much as  he could, even if they were slightly unnerved by the mutterings of William in his corner and the subdued  babbling  and singing of the King. They admired his ability to withstand the unusually fierce heat of this  furnace, and if they were disturbed by the fey atmosphere of the place and the rumours that swirled around the  person of the King, they said nothing about it, well pleased by their remuneration to adhere to the oath of  silence which the King had insisted upon.

At length the Wyvern spoke in the mind of the King that enough and more than enough had been done, and the  smiths concurred. “As you serve the Land, the Land serves you,” the Wyvern told him. “It was said, with what  truth I know not, that gods and men lived each other’s deaths. You have shown your intention to be a True King  despite the cost. On the other side has been found one willing to meet and match your sacrifice. This spirit  has been bound to you and embodied in the blade. This is not one of the dragon slaying blades of legend, but  the confinement of the consciousness of such a being within these limitations is like death to it. Respect it  and wield it well. Now you may quench and finish the sword and make its fittings.”

So the sword was quenched in water containing some of the blood and sweat of the King. Aided by a goldsmith,  the King engraved two words upon the blade and inlaid them with gold, which many centuries before had been  mined from his land. On one side was the word ‘Richard’ and on the other was the word ‘Wessex’. The goldsmith  completed the ornamentation of the sword and other artisans completed the handle and the scabbard and sword  belt to the directions of the king and made a traveling case in which it could be carried and upon which it  could be stood. 

When all the work had been done and the King had polished the sword brightly, the Wyvern spoke to him again.  “You have done well, but the sword is not ready for use. It is not yet ‘alive’. These efforts are somewhat  like pregnancy and birth. Not all succeed despite the best efforts of the parents. Bury it carefully in the  earth of Dragon’s Hill, where the idea of it was conceived, and leave it to come to term, well guarded by  William and a couple of your men. If and when it becomes ready to be ‘born’ we will tell you to unearth it,  display it to your people and make use of its powers. None then will be able to doubt that you are a True  King. If all goes well the sword should come to birth as winter gives way to spring. Until then look to your  realm as best you can.”

cynic ©