The Sword of the King

Time shifted in the fog between a modern tour group and the besieged castle. I had fallen asleep contemplating the history in Braveheart and wondering who were my own Scottish ancestors. Floating behind the tour group I remember reading Scottish ghost stories of men having run from the ancient battles only to have their progeny sucked back in time upon returning to the battlefield. I do not know what caused my Leland ancestors to immigrate first to Ireland and then by serving in the British Navy to be granted land in Canada’s Nova Scotia (New Scotland) from where my father’s father came to marry my German grandmother in Massachusetts.

Just as in the ghost story I found myself pulled back to a battle fiercely raging about a castle. Though I wanted to run, curiosity kept me at the edges. They appeared to be different clans judging by the tartan kilts and the castle seemed poorly defended. The outer wall was barely manned. As I watched, while most of the men attacked at the front gate, I noticed a small group head off around the side.

Following, I found an unwatched portion of the wall had been broken through. The wall must have been built badly there and hole had been made through. The invaders had carefully built a ladder and scaffold to the breach and were sneaking through the hole in quiet groups to take out the castle defenders from within.

Suddenly with loud and blood curdling yells fighters sprang to the hole to defend it. One of the gruff warriors jumped out to the scaffold and knocked each of the surprised invaders to the thistle grown moat below minus heads and arms. Roaring, he frightened many young soldiers to the woods. That was where he saw me, standing at the edge of the trees. Over the first surprise, a number of older tougher invaders climbed to challenge the valiant champion. But his eyes remained fixed on me and it was time for me to go. Outnumbered and severely wounded the guardian gave no ground until I had climbed safely within the castle wall. As I looked back an axe clove his skull. Yet I could tell he was at peace, having guarded my passing. As soon as I entered the hole closed up. Night had fallen and men with torches quickly mended and reinforced the breach. Sometime after midnight, the wall almost completely fixed, a small and solemn party came to the hole. They spoke too softly for me to hear but in their minds I saw a desperate plan.

They were terribly outnumbered and the hoped for reinforcements had too far to come, but the leaders had a plan to inspire the men. Rumor had spread that the king was dead and thanks to a band sneaking through that hole the day before, the rumor was true. As soon as they knew it was truth the men were sure to lose what little fight they had left in them. So it was decided to circulate the story that the king had escaped and gone for help. That was when I noticed that as they had been speaking the body of the king had been placed in the very wall they were mending. It had to be hidden so none would know he died. Each of the men took an oath then and there that none would speak of what they had done until the kings own heir came.

As the body was walled up, I returned to modern times. The tour guide droned on saying how the castle had been taken, all the defenders killed but their king never found.

It remains a mystery to this day,” he said, “what had become of that king.”

As the tour passed by the patched wall, I felt the wall call to me. Gently as I could I placed my hand upon the spot. Cracks ran all about the wall until the concrete broke and fell away. There I saw the mummified king, he had been placed standing, crown upon his head, sword in his hand. All around me I heard the whispered voices of the king’s men. The king himself looked at me and called me his heir.

Come take the Sword,” he begged. “I have held it too long.” I shook my head at first but then bowing, I wordlessly offered my service. Relief filled the whispers of tired souls about me.

At last, the heir has come. “ Slowly, I was ever so afraid to damage the mummy, I reached out to take the sword . . . and woke up.


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