Today I had wanted to write up the penultimate portion of my Clock Adventure but I am away from home. I am on holidays but have selflessly come down to my wife’s work to help out for the morning. I am playing with the new Linux Mint installation and figured, as it is slow at her work, that I might as well roll up a story cube roll and build a story from it. I haven’t done one in a while and quite honestly, and I like a bit of flash fiction so here it is. The tale of King Linus’ madness.
The Madness of King Linus
King Linus had inherited a small kingdom from his father. A kingdom forced into regression by ages of stagnation. Wars with the fire giants and the Thelnor to the South had driven Linus’ father into a land on the edge of the great Cliffs of Redoubt. The Kingdom of Drear as it had become known controlled lands less than 30 acres in total. Just enough to contain the palace and the village surrounds as well as some farmland to keep the kingdom fed, poorly. Though the kingdom existed on a peninsula the entire kingdom were surrounded by the cliffs that provided no access to the water and the bounty of the sea and access from merchants was impossible. Merchants could not make their way to the city through the fire giant or Thelnor lands as the fire giants were fiercly territorial and the Thelnor Kingdom were renowned as thieves and cannibals.
Linus’ father passed on the 7th day of Elvanoth and the kingdom went into mourning for a traditional period of three days. Linus had loved his father like a snake loves a rat and could not bear the thought of even waiting for his three days of mourning to be over so that he may take the throne. Linus had a plan to bring the kingdom back to ascendancy so that he and his children must never suffer the shame that his father had bestowed upon him. At the end of the three days of mourning Linus was crowned King of Drear.
When Linus was a young prince he was told how his mother had passed in childbirth to him. His fathers only child. As he grew, his family were the servants and soldiers that served in the palace and before too long he heard stories of a madness that had possessed his mother. Or a so called madness that she had contracted from a present her father had made to her of an ornate chest with an intricate puzzle lock that only she had the answer to deciphering. The servants of the palace fully believed that the mother had been killed after the birth of her son as the Midwife that delivered the child had left Linus in the arms of a still strong and very alert woman. An hour later Linus’ father had emerged from the room covered in blood and announced that his wife, the Queen had begun to bleed out and that he had lost her forever more.
Linus the prince had spent his entire life in search of the fabled puzzle box, certain now of his father’s cowardly ways he wanted to find what the source of the rumors had been. It was a search that paid off after a year or so when he found a secret chamber at the top of a tower once reserved for the courtly wizard when the Kings of old had believed in such things as magic. A brick in the wall forced a false panel in the floor to retract and a stairwell descended what seemed an impossible depth to a small unlit chamber. As Linus descended he felt comfortable and warm although his breath turned to mist before him. He lit his torch as the final light from the tower above failed from view and did not need to know that if he looked back that his mother was but one step behind him.
In the small chamber he found two things that would change his life forever. He found the puzzle box, although chest would have been a much more apt term for it was large and intricately carved from ivory and whale bone. The second he had not expected and it shocked him to see it. Standing in a crystal coffin were the perfectly preserved remains of his mother, her face still contorted in pain and her hands held to her throat still vainly trying to stop the blood spurting from her arteries where her husband had drawn his dagger so deeply. It was a vulgarity that held the boy in shock for months thereafter and it was then that Linus swore his oath that he would bring everything his father had achieved undone.
It took the young prince years to learn the way to open the chest. The secret lay in a nursery rhyme that his mothers father had sung to her whenever she had troubled dreams. It was a ghost story of a soul left out in the cold and forgotten by all but the dark things in life. The rhyme continued until the soul was found by an ancestor and released from its torment in an act of kindness. The chest itself had picture panels on it that needed to be moved into position for the portions of the tale to be in correct sequence as well as symbols to be slotted into the story indicating the moral judgement of all the characters actions and their worth overall, no doubt to teach the morals of the story from the creators perspective. The prince cared nothing for the moral lessons though, he cared only about what lay in the chest. When it had finally been opened he found books. Piles of books filled with esoteric symbols and formula that he could not make sense of.
As the prince wondered at his find and the lamp began to burn the last of the fire he heard a lilting song from beside him. He looked up into the pained brown eyes of his mother who had removed her hands and began to sing the song of the lost soul to him. At the end of the song she looked, still with pain in her eyes at the son that had cost her everything. She saw inside him and saw his anger. With it she saw her chance at vengeance and she whispered softly to him the secrets of the books and promised that she would teach him everything that he needed to know to enact what he had always desired. Linus danced in joy as his mother sang for not only had he found what he had always thought he wanted he had also found the love of a mother he had never had.
As King Linus sat on his throne for the first time he brought all of his family from his Fathers side to bow and kiss his ring. No matter how distant a relative they were he welcomed them equally and bid them travel with him to the balcony that overlooked the square of the palace grounds. They followed in good faith knowing that their blood ran strong in him and the kingdom would be safe. As they arrived they looked down on the square and saw all of the folk of the Kingdom of Drear had gathered to see their new King. Linus stepped on top of a podium and called out to all gathered of his love for the kingdom and his plans to make the nation prosperous again. He spoke of turning the fire giants lands into an icy wasteland so that they would retreat from them and head underground. He spoke of making the Kingdom of Thelnor to be gripped by a great famine so that the cannibals would become so hungry that they would eat themselves!
The gathering were silent, full sure that the new king had been gripped by madness. Some of the old kings kin even spoke of how he reminded them of his mother and Linus heard this and turned to a display that was covered in a velvet sheet. All believed that this would be a statue in honor of his father. He spoke three words and the velvet sheet flew from the crystal coffin that his mother still occupied. There was a gasp of shock as Linus turned now to the gathering of his fathers kin and spoke to them of the atrocity that he had committed. Again with three more words that had not rung out in this land for over a milennia a ring of fire exploded up and engulfed his fathers family one and all. Burning blue and white for three days until even the ash of their bones had disappeared forever more.
The madness of King Linus continued for his entire reign and his subjects feared yet respected him. Many in fact pitied the boy who had to discover his fathers cruelty in such a grand way. Yet everything that Linus said he would achieve he did. He drove the fire giants from their lands and sealed them under the earth with thick walls of ice. A curse fell across the land of Thelnor until as predicted by the king they turned to cannibalism on themselves. As the last Thelnor was put to the blade the curse lifted and the lands became bountiful.
Merchants and kingdoms flocked to the once poor Kingdom of Drear to seek audience with Mad King Linus and as such the arts of magic began to filter out back across the lands again. Not once in Linus’ family did they ever suffer a weak ruler again and the Kingdom of Drear now exists as an example of the power of madness and the weakness of conservative fools.