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The tragedy of Arcturus and Leonora


	Arcturusí eyes looked deep into the glowing coals of the
 campfire, his attention turned inward and down, deeply into the
 sheer dark gulf of his past, into the deepest chasm of memory.
 There a singular tragedy waited patiently for his attention like
 a black pearl. Utter grief, like a demon, leapt into the arena of
 his spirit to wrestle, and, for the first time that demon, without
 the aid of self-pity and a conspiracy of bleak loneliness, was thrown.

	Arcturus had been a crown prince, whose military career was
 remarkable for its success, when he met his wife Leonora, a strong
 minded woman of spirit and courage. Like all noble women of their
 culture, Leonora was well trained in the military arts as well, but
 for all that desired a home and husband above all, and by the time
 Arcturus came into his throne as King, the Queen had earned the awe
 and respect of both court and common populace.

	"Because of my success on the battlefield as prince," Arcturus
 recounted in his quiet baritone," our borders remained secure from
 incursion for near a decade into my reign, and in that decade my
 wife bore me three children, two girls and a boy, as my heirs, and
 was raising them with the finest tutors available. My girls were the
 most beautiful of girls, and my son the handsomest of lads, and all
 took after their mother and I in their studies as on the training
 field.

	"But there came a day when I received word that my most
 formidable neighbor had raided the stores of one of my border
 villages, claiming it as his own by right of dominion. It was a young
 and proud prince, eldest son of my neighbor, who had made the raid,
 and my Royal Brother of that land was belligerent regarding his sonís
 correctness. I found no recourse, given the circumstances, than to go
 to war.

	"My army was brave, but that short, successful war weakened my
 reserves to the point where yet another neighbor, and then another
 marched against me. So, my flanks secured by an ally I trusted on the
 South, and the wild sea on my North and East I found myself on one
 battlefield after another for the next several years, returning home
 only when forced to by the coming of our fierce Winters.

	"Unfortunately, even when home, I was too caught up in planning
 for the spring offensives, and my beloved family, for whose lives I
 believed I was fighting, began to despair of my whole attention.

	"One spring, I think it was in the fifth year of the campaign,
 after I had marched off to punish a rebellious earl in one of my new
 domains, my wife received an invitation from my powerful ally to the
 South of my homeland to attend carnival there at his keep. His wife
 had died two years previous, and this celebration was to signal his
 emergence from grief. Every nobleman and noblewoman within traveling
 distance would be attending who could, and it would have been an
 affront to my ally to have not at least sent my Queen to tender my
 regards.

	"Well, my friends, sometimes Love does things nobody desires,
 and my ally and my wife fell deeply in love. I know now that both of
 them fought long and hard internally against what they saw as a
 betrayal of me, whom they both also loved, but the magic of their
 romance combined with my callous preoccupation to seal all our dooms.

	"When a message came to me under the royal seal,  written in
 the hand of my eldest daughter, of my belovedís affair, my wits fled,
 and with them went my success.

	"Battle after battle I lost, falling ever back. My knights and
 men-at-arms were valiant and skilled as ever, but their leadership and
 supply collapsed in abandon. Had I been the man I had fancied myself,
 I would have turned the war over to my good generals, but there seemed
 to be no time to do so. I think I had mistaken the good my self-esteem
 for the good of my people.

	"Before I could regain the initiative I found myself before my
 own walls, outnumbered and losing. The opposing kings had united under
 the banner of that same prince who had first raided my fields, now a
 King in his own right, as I had slain his father in single combat. 
 He had become a very skilled tactician, and sent a large body of light
 cavalry and mounted archers to cut off my retreat to the castle, and
 I could see his engineers attempting to ram the gates.

	"My situation was very perilous, for my veterans were in
 serious danger of being overwhelmed, to where I had drawn my sword and
 readied my shield to commit all my reserves in a last effort to gain
 the defenses of my home. I did so commit, and immediately lost track
 of what was happening at the castle: all my attention had turned to
 personal combat, where I acquitted myself well.

	"But not well enough. We were drowning in foemen, and for every
 one we cut down, two more seemed to confront us. We had made it to
 within a few hundred yards of the gates, but were down to twenty able
 men, all afoot, our horses having died to the fire of the opposing
 archers. I had already resigned myself to death when I saw her.

	"She always had a powerful voice, and her battlecry shocked
 every enemy she faced: it shocked even me to hear it, so proud and
 defiant, that even the lioness might envy her prowess. I can see her
 now, heroic and strong in her shining armor, cleaving her way toward
 my side like a ferocious Valkyrie, and when from a few yards away our
 eyes as if by magic met, in her eye was a love such as would embarrass
 the very sun, so clearly did it shine."

	The campfire popped loudly, and the others looked up from its
 depths to see the proud grizzled warrior weeping freely, though his
 voice did not shudder as the tidal ocean of his grief drowned him.

	"These are tears of my pride in her, whom I lost. She was awesome 
 in her fury at those who dared attack me, and many a strong warrior fell
 to her sword, like pigeons to the hunting eagle. 
 
	"And then she disappeared under an avalanche of enemy soldiers.
 Though I did not see her die, I know no one could have survived that
 assault.

	"I redoubled my efforts trying to get through to where she had
 fallen, but to no avail. The last I remember was seeing flames
 erupting from the roof of my keep, where my children had been locked
 for safety. At that point my vision went red, and I cannot recall what
 happened next."
	
	The old warrior wiped his eyes with the back of his tanned,
 muscular hands.

	"Oddly, I awoke one day in a forest far from home. I have never
 heard more of what happened at my home, but with all that mattered now
 lost from me, save the sword of my ancestor, it really didnít seem to
 matter. The only thing I would like to go back for is to uncover the
 remains of my family, that I might be buried with them.

	"I did find that for some reason I had shaven my head and
 beard, I assume in grief, and have maintained that habit. Perhaps what
 has kept me going so long is my devotion to my physical exercise and
 my constant searching. I have no idea what I search for, but I know I
 am searching out something of great importance, more important than
 even my own life or my kingdom. Yet what it might be I know not,
 except that I will know it when I see it."
	
	Arcturus sighed and grew silent, reaching to his side to grasp
 a stick of wood, setting it on the hot coals.


© copyrights claimed by Richard Romero, 1996 

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