"Give me the honor, Sir,
To reclaim my courage.
Don't let me die here at your feet.
Like some damned dog."
The victor lowered his sword
The bloodied figure rose to its feet,
One arm dangling uselessly.
Sweat and blood mingled and flowed
Into half-shut eyes.
The once overproud body slumped
With fatigue, injury, and hopelessness.
As he gazed up at his conquerer
Much like a beggar in the street.
As he spoke, his hoarse voice strengthened
And the body straightened.
Softly he said,
"I am your king."
"For that, you have taken arms against me
And soon will take my life.
Then you will be king,
Inheriting by battle,
That which was mine by birth.
You despise what I have done
In the name of the crown I wore,
And with the strength of my father's scepter,
Which passed into my hands
While I was still a boy.
There is no school for kings, boy,
Except in the life itself.
You feel yourself fit to rule these people
Because they follow you to battle.,
And also seek to bring me low.
But think, boy.
Do you lead or follow them?
For such as these,
Can any rule you fashion,
Be much better than my own
Own your crown and your
Energies are spent
No, boy, don't be a fool!
My laws were harsh,
But they held this land together.
Each man knew what he was and what
He had to do,
And there was only one king.
Each had more than enough for his needs,
Or could gain it with a little sweat,
And perhaps a little luck.
Yes, there were those who had more than others,
Some of them never turning their hands
To any honest act,
Other than the selection of wealthy parents.
What do these people of yours hope to have;
The same as every other no matter what their worth?
What will they leave to their children;
An opportunity to begin with nothing?
Unjust, you say.
Perhaps, but I don't know
How much tax is just,
And neither do you.
Just or unjust,
Where came the coins
That paid the sage
Who taught you how
To hate your king?
I applaud your good intentions, boy,
But you have no way of knowing now
The nightmares that come to kings.
Nor have you yet seen the faces of those
Dead or displaced
By the movement of your finger.
Whether he lives by it or not,
No man knows better than a king,
The difference between right and wrong.
Now, boy, I've fought my best fight today.
In a moment, you will have throne and crown
And all that comes with them.
Remember, boy, for all it's size and weight,
There's no seat less sturdy than a throne;
And somewhere there's a boy
Who someday will want that golden bauble,
That you wish so badly to wear.
Well, get on with it!
Claim your prize...
If you dare."
The young man stepped swiftly forward,
But halted with sword raised.
Slowly, he lowered his weapon
Until the point touched the earth.
Flush of battle gone from his face,
Sparkle of victory gone from his eyes.
He fell to his knees before his king,
Bowing his head, he never saw
The dagger which pierced his neck.
As the body fell, the king whispered,
"Such a man as you cannot live.
As a man I would have gladly
Taken you to my breast,
And called you my son.
But you must die,
And I know it,
Because I have learned well
How to be a king."