I clean my quill, and reach for my instrument. Plucking the melody that coalesced with words in my mind as I wrote, I give voice to the anthem on the still damp scroll. It flows as I imagined, so why the niggling sense of dissatisfaction?
Lifting the scroll carefully from the top, I stride across the courtyard to seek my fellow minstrels input. As I pass the crystal clear pool, bordered in a kaleidoscope of floral pigments, I glimpse my image from the corner of my eye, pause, and turn to study it. Strength. Charisma. I shake myself and move on.
The other minstrels crowd around the scroll, blending their voices in exquisite harmony with mine. "It is your best yet!" Tiriel proclaims. "The king will be pleased. Let us see if he has a moment to hear it."
"I am sure he must be far too busy. It can wait until the next gathering." But they insist, so I follow them, albeit reticently, into the grand hall of the palace.
When the king motions us forward, Tiriel gushes, "There is a new song for us to sing!" as though he had had anything to do with its composition.
When the last notes fade, the king sweeps us with an all-encompassing gaze. "You have done well." Our eyes meet, and the memory of my reflection springs to mind.
Returning instrument and scroll to my chamber, I look up to find some of my fellow minstrels hovering at the door. "Enter."
Garon speaks in an undertone. "You did not receive proper credit for your masterpiece. We merely joined in performing what flowed from your creative mind."
So I am not alone in noticing the absence of due recognition, but I must be cautious. "The king gives praise where he deems it warranted."
"But mostly he warrants that it is due him," Dogar grumbles.
"Was that not, indeed, the message of the lyrics?"
"Yes, yes," Rolan intones impatiently, "but let us speak plainly. You are creative and competent, more than capable of overseeing this kingdom."
"You speak treason."
"You do not say that with conviction," Rolan rejoins.
Of course not! Is that not the very notion that has brought feelings of dissatisfaction as I compose redundant odes, and viewed my visage in the pool?
"There are many besides us who feel the same," Garon offers.
A plan is laid to infiltrate the great hall when next the king and his retinue go forth to stroll the ample castle gardens.
As I step onto the golden dais, I sense his presence, much sooner than expected. Turning, our eyes lock. The defiance in mine does not evoke anger in his countenance, only profound sorrow. Before I can take another step closer to the throne, his loyal servants flank me and my followers, outnumbering us two to one.
We are expelled from the castle.
It takes all of my powers of persuasion to convince them that this is only a temporary defeat. We will recruit peasants throughout the land to serve our cause.
Our first foray is so cataclysmic that it literally causes a chasm to split the peasant lands from the castle. I am exultant, despite the king's threats of retaliation.
Anger and the drive for revenge spur us on through skirmish after skirmish, most going our way, though there are some disconcerting setbacks over time.
I am elated, though, that finally our army is swelling. We converge on the king's primary citadel on the peasant side of the chasm. Those he has entrusted with it are often fickle and faithless. We are nearly in control of the city when panic strikes my forces. The king has managed some aerial feat to descend upon us with a combined force of servants and peasants from the castle. We fight tenaciously, but as I am captured, my legions scatter.
I am hauled before the king. Now there is fire in his eyes. "Your rebellion is over."
One of his servants approaches me with a chain that would rival those which held the anchors on the largest ships. At the same moment, the abyss with which the king has so oft threatened me is opened. For as long as I can remember, I have been driven by pride, greed, anger, hatred, and vengefulness, but as the chain envelops me, and I cannot withdraw my eyes from the pit of flames, for the first time in the millennia of our struggle, I feel overwhelmed by raw, abject terror.
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