Like many of us, it was my father who determined the course of my life. While he was King, he made sure everyone in his Kingdom had shelter and food. He claimed that it was to undo the suffering caused by his father, my grandfather, but I know it was because his family now stretches over vast reaches of the nation - it was self interest: he needed to keep people on his side if he wanted to stay on the throne.
I remember one day, I was studying under one of my grandfathers aides, he was old and broken, but his mind never faltered. He was teaching me the history of our Kingdom, back before the war and before our family had ascended to the throne. The real history, he called it.
That history was one of heroes and magic, of epic quests and evil villains barely kept in check by those broad shouldered heroes of legend. And he was teaching me this all as if it were true.
My father sat in on my classes one day, soon after he took the throne. He watched and listened and said nothing.
Later, when I was older, he asked me about the teacher, who had since died. I told him I didn't remember much about the man himself, but I did remember the stories he taught me and how I wanted to be like the men in them. The conversation we had next has formed a foundation for how I rule as King.
“What did he teach you those stories for?”
“He always said it was for context.”
“What does that mean?”
“I always thought that it meant that those stories were the reason for the war.”
“Perhaps he wasn't as bad as I thought.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, tell me, what do those stories have to do with the war?”
“I guess we forgot where we came from, which led to the situation in the capital that led to war.”
“Hmm. What if there was more to it?”
“Well, you always said that war was never simple.”
“Haha, well I'm glad even I could teach you something.”
“What does it mean?”
“The stories do not teach us what we think. They are children’s tales. They teach us that heroism is a virtue of the destined, or that victory is something that is handed to those who had been chosen by the gods, or something. How often has that ever happened?”
“Well, excluding those stories, I assume you mean?”
“I don't know, I never heard of anything like that.”
“Exactly. It’s never happened. Those who win, win off the sweat of their backs. They earn it. Like your great-great-whatever-grandfather. He fought for the throne. Our family was nothing before him, a mildly influential family under the banner of a mildly influential lord.”
“Then what’s the point of the stories?”
“Technically? Nothing. I always thought teaching you those things was a waste of time, but your mother was insistent that you have as normal a childhood as anyone else in the Kingdom. Still, though, they may serve a purpose.”
“All those stories are set in the Kingdom as it was, with magic and the gods, right?”
“So the success of the hero is almost not based on them. Its based on the magic and the gods. And what happens when someone goes against their destiny?”
“They suffer the wrath of the gods.”
“Right, which means they are scared into following the path that was put ahead of them. They only do their quests because they're afraid of what would happen if they don't. We don't have those pressures, we have real things to contend with. Those stories should be seen as a how not to behave as someone who history will remember.”
My father is a hard act to follow. He started something that I can only continue in his name, but for the first time in a couple of hundred years, there is stability.
I know better than to take it for granted, however. The former ruling family still exists. They are even in the royal court, and I see some of them in my day to day duties. It would be foolish to believe that all of them are on my family’s side.
It’s something that is said when someone new takes the throne: If you don't have a clear line of succession, you won’t be king for long. My father taught me early that if I could marry for love, I would be one of the lucky few. But I needed to be married before I took the throne, and if I had a son before then as well, so much the better.
Fortunately for my sanity, I am one of the lucky few and I managed to marry for love. My wife, the Queen, was cut from the same mold as my father which led to more children than I thought I could deal with.
Our eldest is already taking lessons on how to be a King. He is the Crown Prince, the heir apparent. At thirteen, he isn't terribly interested in being King and for that reason alone, it is fortunate that I took the throne at a young age. The point is there is a clear line of succession. He is a healthy boy and if he had a child before he took the throne, I could rest a little easier.
Our second child is a daughter, something my wife is ecstatic about. She is now nine, and by all accounts as much a handful as I was at that age.
And our youngest is my second son, still a baby and reliant on his mother. He shares his name with the first of our line. Something, I am told, will bring him luck in life. Superstition, sure, but harmless. With any luck, he will not have the gift and curse of the throne put upon him, however, I shall not assume stability will remain. If any of my children are to take the throne, we will all have to work for it. It will not be an expectation of any of them. They will earn it like the true legends of old.