The King of Kalbem: Chapter 1 - New Beginnings
Updated: a day ago
Chapter 1: New Beginnings
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called Kalbem, rich in natural resources and greatly coveted by neighboring kingdoms, especially by Tezel, across the mountains. Kalbem stretched across a beautiful valley near the sea, where mountains towered on the eastern side. At the base of these mountains was the royal castle.
In the throne room of Kalbem, a broad, brown-eyed blond man stood in front of the king. “King Alexander, as you know, my people have been starving and we need additional resources to help regrow our population. I thereby would like to offer payment for Kalbem to support us in these efforts.”
The blue-eyed King beckoned him closer. “Brother Frederick, it certainly has been a long time. I heard that you became King of Tezel. How ever did that happen?”
“Our people realized that the former king was the reason for our starvation and I was his replacement.”
“Yes,” he glanced away wistfully, “I heard about the revolution. So much has changed in Tezel since I lived there.”
“Indeed, you’ve known nothing but prosperity and good times since you became the King of Kalbem. You always had it easy, Alex. I did the hard work and you got the prize. How fortunate of you.”
“Frederick, you know why you didn’t receive this kingdom.”
“Of course I do.” He squelched anger and shifted the topic, “But I must commend you on that new proclamation on inheritance that there must always be a competition for the throne, even for the first born. I look forward to seeing that. Though Elizabeth still has not yet had a child, has she?”
Alexander controlled a spike of emotion and replied, “No, but there is always hope.”
Frederick smirked, “I’m about to have my first born very shortly. I’m sure he will be a great prince.”
Alexander softened, “That’s wonderful news! May I visit my new nephew after the arrival?”
Frederick hardened, “And have you steal him away like you stole my intended? Absolutely not.”
“I didn’t steal Elizabeth from you. She chose me freely.”
“After I won her hand.”
“You lost it when she realized how you were.”
“While you as Master Innocent waltzed right in and took her and the kingdom away from me. You just can’t do anything wrong, can you, Alex? Completely ignore the fact that you betrayed your own brother; might as well. It all worked out for you.” He realized that this was going to escalate quickly and cut Alexander’s reply off, “Back to business, will you agree to the terms of my contract for supplies over the next few years?”
“Very well,” King Alexander relented. “They are my people too, after all.”
You were never a true Tezelian, Frederick thought, and you were never my brother.
* * * * *
Several years passed and the brothers never spoke, though there was much tension in the alliance. During these years, the queen passed away and two kindred spirits blissfully lived in the castle, unaware of any turmoil within those surrounding them. One was a young lady: daughter of the knight Sir Aaron and the former queen's lady-in-waiting, Sierra. The other was a young man: apprentice to the royal silversmith, Silas.
“Is this embroidery to your satisfaction?” Katrina asked her mother.
Sierra smiled over her daughter's work, “Yes my dear, that will do.”
“May I go out to the garden now?”
“You have completed all your lessons for the day, so yes, you may.”
Katrina raced out of the room. As a lady of nobility, she would have been expected to exit more gracefully, but since she was only six years old, her mother allowed it.
“Will!” she exclaimed as she gave a flying tackle to the unprepared boy, exactly six months her senior.
He maintained his balance and then picked her up, “Kat! I have a surprise for you. Wait right here.” He then sat her down on the grass and ran to the east side of the garden. He came back to where she stood and held out a lovely white gardenia, smiling bashfully.
“Wow!” Kat exclaimed. “It's like a rose, but it is even better! Have you ever smelled anything more heavenly in your life? Do you know what it is called?”
“Gardenia,” he elocuted. “It's my mother's favorite flower, so I thought you might like it.”
“Like it? Why, I love it! It shall be my favorite flower too.”
“Do you want to know a secret, Kat?”
She nodded vigorously.
“I love you.”
“Does that mean you want to marry me?” she questioned with eager wonder.
“Why sure it does. I think I could be mighty happy getting married to you.”
“Then why don't you ask me if you want to?” she hinted.
“I reckon I will then.” He offered the gardenia, “Katrina, will you marry me?”
“Oh William! Yes, yes, I will.” She lifted the gardenia to her nose and absorbed the delicious aroma. “It's too bad we're not grown up yet. I suppose we'll have to wait until we're sixteen. But let's promise now that we won't marry anyone else but each other, and that we'll get married when we're big.”
After exchanging vows in every way six year olds could imagine, they found themselves sitting on a small glass bridge over the stream, watching the fish swim in the water. Kat still had the gardenia in hand.
“Gardenia,” she contentedly sighed, “what a perfectly beautiful name. I shall always love gardenias as long as I live. Will, would you mind calling me 'Gardenia'?”
“You're a pretty great Kat though.”
“Oh, I wouldn't want you to stop calling me Kat, I just want a special name for just you to call me, but only in special times. Will, won't you just call me Gardenia whenever you are emphatically in love with me?”
“I guess I can do that, Kat. Or, I guess, Gardenia.”
With that, Kat thrust Will, the flower, and herself into the stream, where they splashed and frightened the fish until dark.
“It’s time you two went inside,” a nearby guard ushered.
“Yes sir,” Will nodded and offered his arm to Kat in the most dignified manner he could muster. “May I escort you to your chambers, my lady?”
Kat smiled and accepted gracefully.
As they walked to her chambers, it was decided that simply walking was boring, so they started chasing each other down the halls. With his focus more on his pursuer rather than where he was going, Will ran straight into someone's legs. He looked up and saw it was the king!
Will stood slightly shocked, while Kat tagged him and then realized what had happened.
“King Alexander, my lord,” Will bowed, “forgive me, sire. I was escorting the fair maiden home and was much too clumsy.”
The king gave a loving smile, his blond locks shadowing his face in the fire light. “All is well, William. It's good to see the young apprentice of my royal silversmith and the daughter of Sir Aaron making these halls more interesting. How goes the trade?”
William straightened up, Kat by his side gracefully saying nothing, “I am beginning my training as a silversmith, your grace. I have much to learn, but I hope to be as great as my father, Silas.”
The king glanced wistfully to the side and then back at Will, “I am sure you will do well in your father's work. Just remember; always have a loving heart with a realistic head.”
“Yes sire.” Will wondered in his mind what loving people had to do with silversmithing, but he didn't want to question the king.
The king wanted to say more, but Sir Aaron stole his attention with a matter of state. The king waved kindly to the children and walked off.
Will offered his arm and escorted Kat to her chambers properly.
“Don't forget to marry me when we're big,” were the final words he said to Kat that night.
As Kat helped Sierra tuck her little brother, Phillip, in bed, Kat whispered, “Momma? You don't need to worry about finding me a husband when I'm grown now.”
“Oh really?” Sierra smiled. “Why is that?”
“Because today, Will and I promised to marry each other when we turn sixteen.”
“And would you mind telling your momma all about this romantic event?”
Kat confided in Sierra every last detail of the afternoon. “And now we have to get married!” she concluded.
“Whatever you say, dear. Good night.”
Little did this mother know that this six year old's words would one day come true.
* * * * *
A young boy stood at a balcony, overlooking the kingdom of Tezel. King Frederick joined him to admire the sunrise, “Quite a magnificent sunrise we have here in Tezel, my son?”
The boy nodded solemnly, “It’s my favorite part of the day. How is the sunrise in Kalbem?”
“Not that great, actually. The mountains to our west block out their view of the sunrise. It’s much like our sunsets. But their sunsets over the distant sea are quite lovely.”
“When can I see what Kalbem looks like, father?”
“In time, son. For now, you need to focus on your skills so you can take your rightful place on the Kalbemite throne.”
“Why do I need that throne? Aren’t I already in line for the throne of Tezel? I like it here.”
“Son, it’s your birthright. Tezel is a wonderful kingdom, filled with strong, determined people, but Kalbem is lush and green with more food than they could possibly need. It’s a paradise. And you will be the best ruler for that kingdom. No one can stand in your way if you keep up the pace you’re setting.”
The boy straightened up, “I will make up for the wrong that was done to you. Alexander was wrong to steal the kingdom from you.”
“Not just to me, but to the people, son. You know what I’ve done for this kingdom, despite our lack of resources. Imagine how many people I could have helped in Kalbem.”
“Maybe you can take the kingdom back one day?”
“I might try again, but what I want more than anything is to see you on that throne.”
“Do you think I would be a good King of Kalbem?” The young lad looked up at the king.
“I think you would be the best King of Kalbem, son.” Frederick kissed his son on the head. “Now it’s time for your lessons. Best be off! Remember, only the strong have the right to power.”
* * * * *
As the years went by, Will had to spend more time in the silver shop and Kat more time on her lessons. However their occupations didn't keep them from spending time together and developing a close friendship. They got to live in the lavish palace with servants, but the true friendships they had were contained within each other. Occasionally they would quarrel, and Kat would cry to her mother about how Will was tugging on her hair, took something she wanted, and the usual childish quarrels which meant so much to them at the time. But soon enough all would be forgiven and they would be best friends again.
Each time something happened, after the explanation of why Will no longer loved her, Sierra would very patiently question, “Does that mean you aren't going to marry each other when you're older?”
Without fail, Kat would straighten up and persist, “No! We have to get married! We promised we would get married.”
“My darling, married people have to get along. They don't talk badly about each other. And a lady speaks badly of no one.”
“Luckily we aren't married yet, I guess. Because he can be so weird sometimes. But I guess when we're married I should always be nice to him. Like you are with Daddy!”
“Yes dear. We must always be nice to our husbands, even if they don't seem nice to us. Aaron is very kind to me whether I'm being nice or not, so I try to be nice to him always to help us both be happier.”
If ever a girl talked more about marriage in the early years of her life, her name must have been lost in history, because little Katrina was determined to keep her promise to Will, so she would ask every married woman she knew for advice about her “betrothed”. After hearing all the stories and advice people could think of, after a few months, she would be back asking the same people for advice again. Kat could probably have written a book on marriage comprised of all her interviews with her elders by the time she was 11, when she nearly gave up hope that Will would ever keep his promise.
“Oh Momma, what ever will I do? Not only does my betrothed not love me, but he utterly hates me.” As any eleven year old would use her italics.
“Will has always been there for you. You can hardly accuse him of hating you.” was the patient answer from a caring mother.
“I think you'll find that quite impossible to think of when I tell you what he does. He put bugs in my hair, and he got my horse all dirty so I had to clean her today. He doesn't even come out to the garden as often. And then anytime I scream, he laughs! He intentionally tries to make me scream now. He obviously is enraptured to see me miserable.”
“My dear, it is common for twelve year old boys to tease their female friends. Also, he's almost a man now and has to spend a lot of time at his trade.”
“But he and I are to be married. We promised! How can he be so unfeeling? A man is supposed to care and protect his wife, not scare her.”
“Kat, you promised to be married when you were six. I know I say you always have to keep your promises, but some promises shouldn't be made at such young ages. You don't have to marry him if you don't get along.”
Kat always saw her mother as an incredibly wise woman, but tonight she wasn't making any sense. Kat never broke her promises and always felt she was meant to be with Will.
Sierra continued, “And it's not likely Will even remembers that promise, or cares to keep it.”
For a moment, Kat wasn't sure if she could breathe again. Her eyes widened and her hands grew hot. How could he do such a thing! she seethed within. Her thoughts raced as she realized he hadn’t called her Gardenia in over a year. Perhaps he did forget after all. But we promised! Anger surged through her as she considered him breaking his promise. She later felt guilty for some of the things she thought in that moment. After calming down, she rationalized that there must be some explanation for this strange behavior from him. Surely he still loves me, she thought. Doesn’t he? Confidence was lacking in her at that moment.
* * * * *
In the southern kingdom of Volez, which was mostly covered with trees and woods, a young girl walked with her mother in the later hours of the day.
“Mom, I’m tired.”
“We’re almost there, little one.”
“Mom, I’m hungry.”
“And whose fault is that? Have you recovered any gold today to feed us?”
“No. But you’re so much better at it.”
“Little one, never depend on anyone for anything. If you want anything in life, you have to take control and make it happen. You won’t be eating today unless you make it happen.”
The little girl started to cry.
“There you go,” her mother ushered, “use your assets. Now find someone with some sympathy you can exploit. I’ll be over there behind that tree.”
The young girl sat on the side of the road they were on and messed her hair up. As a wagon approached, she started crying louder.
“There there,” the man leading the wagon stopped to see what was wrong. “Are you alone, child?”
She sobbed loudly, “I’ve been walking by myself since yesterday and I don’t know where I am. Do you have bread? I’m so hungry.”
The man had compassion on her and gave a large loaf to her. “Do you know where we can find your parents?”
The girl shook her head, “But I think the last place I saw momma was at the Jolly Jester Inn. Can you take me there?”
“Of course I will. Hop in and eat up.” He placed her in the wagon, which her mom snuck into the back of. Shortly after, they found themselves at the Inn.
Upon arrival, the mother slipped off the wagon, ran through a back entrance, and ran out the front door, “You found her! Thank you so much for bringing her back to me.” The man exchanged a few words with her, tipped his hat, and went back on his journey.
“He was really nice,” the girl noted, “and very generous.” She grinned devilishly as she held up a bag of silver pieces.
“That’s my girl! Now I will find a place for us to sleep tonight.” She looked around the bar full of men. “One of the most important elements of intrigue is to select the proper targets,” she noted to the girl. “Being a woman is a huge advantage in getting anything you want.”
She approached a man. After some suggestive talk the little girl couldn’t hear, her mom walked by and said, “This man is going to let us stay with him tonight. I’m going to finish convincing him and then I’ll bring you on up. Wait here for now.”