Once upon a time, as many stories begin, I was the King of Nightmares, The Lord of the Darkness, Ruler of the Night. Recalling back to that time is near impossible for my memory, at this point. Yet, when I try hard enough…
What was it that made it all change so drastically? Was it her? Perhaps she played a part in the process, but no, she was not the sole reason. I will say she had a heavy hand in helping it, though.
I could never forget the first time I saw her. My court and I were attending a gathering. I believe it may have been a celebration of sorts – likely some old ninny’s day of birth that had already been monumentalized more times in the last decade than was respectable, by my standards.
I remember the sky and how boldly it shined down on us- the Kingdom of Light was known for that. Many reveled in it’s splendor, basking in the warmth that the rays cast down on them, laughing and dancing, all while still attempting to uphold some proper image of appropriate standards. It gave me a headache, frankly.
I sat there in my chair, idly running the tips of my fingers around the rim of my wine glass while I watched the crowd. Realtan had leaned over the relay something to me, but it’s now that I realize I have no idea what he had said. Even at the time, I doubt I knew. I could feel her watching me and I returned the gaze in kind. She was looking at me with a sparkle of fascination in her eyes, and even from such a distance, I found myself lost in them. Adhyna was different from the others. There was an air of youthful joy about her, wrapped up in the beautiful being that she was. As far as I was concerned, she was a jewel, laying prisoner in a sea of snakes.
The dance of our courtship was a unique one. We were opposite ends of the spectrum, her and I. I was the darkness, personified, and she was brighter than the very sun. She seemed so eager to adjust to my world, accepting it with open arms. She treasured the stars in the same way that I did. She softened my rough edges and brought a kindness into my very being that had never been there before. Unfortunately, I feel I hardened her in the process.
Was it me that turned her into the person that she is today? I hope not, but I know the likelihood of that is higher than I care to admit. It may have been the pressure of the courts, also. Once we wed, the truer nightmares began. As the novelty faded, our personalities clashed. The arguments became a regular event and often left our throats hoarse from their volume.
It was not long afterward that I fell ill. I barely have a solid remembrance of its unfolding. I started out tired, constantly. No matter what I attempted or what remedies I explored, my energy began to dissipate. Tasks that were once simple became excruciatingly difficult. The herbalists were at a loss and my body was dwindling. We made an appearance in the Great Hall one evening, welcoming some visitors. Exchanges and pleasantries had barely escaped us, then the world blackened. The next memory I have was Realtan carrying me through the halls to my quarters. I later learned that I had collapsed and my head met the flooring with a painful intimacy.
After that, much of the responsibility fell onto Adhyna’s shoulders. She accepted it with grace and honor, but I doubt she had any idea what she was taking on. Both of us became different people after that. Our interactions phased from concern to frustration, to distaste, then eventually, regret. I had trapped her and our son in a world that was never meant for her and she had finally come to realize it. It was her home and the people adored and idolized her. She would never turn her back on them. I know she cared for them, and still does, but she was now carrying the burden of my duties, as well. She had not had the training and social lessons that I had in my youth. I will forever be impressed by how quickly she learned it all, on her own. It changed her demeanor, molding her into quite a ruthless monarch.
Our kingdom began to reflect our struggles and my absence. They saw her weary disposition, though I will admit that she hid it admirably well. They saw nothing of me. I holed myself away and left myself to wither in my misery as the conditioned worsened.
This routine went on for years, becoming mechanical to both of us. Somewhere along the line I had decided to not let myself fade into nothing, but at that point I was already a shell of myself, in comparison. There was no kindling what had once been between us, and we accepted it with reluctant strides.
My dependency on Realtan was disturbing, for a time. The man who was once my intimidating guard had become my rock- and yet another soul who had to pick up the tasks that I could no longer accomplish.
To this day, I doubt I will ever know the deeper elements of our saga from her perspective, but only what I witnessed on my own. When the love between us was lost, so was the tolerance for understanding.
Some days became more difficult than others. I learned to balance and realign myself through meditation and intense levels of concentration. It allowed me to rejuvenate my body back to a state where I could at least function among society. It is a daily routine and I will admit, there have been times when I have contemplated wiping the process and letting myself just perish, but then I look at the world around me and I see all that I have yet to discover. I may now only be the King of Nightmares by reputation, alone, but there is still much to explore and fascinating people to meet. That is the driving force that wills me to rise each day.