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To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.

 - Winston Churchill

Chapter One


         “Father, tell me again what mother was like.”

        King William of the north looked at the small and trusting face of his only child. Prince Carl, now a very precocious six, had no memory of the mother that had died to give him life. The bright young eyes of the boy were not sad exactly; but bore an emptiness and longing that sought to be filled. The great king answered truthfully and as dispassionately as was possible. It would not do to have a son see his father The King weeping.

         This was the one subject rarely discussed between prince and king. It was both the chain that bound them and the wall that kept them apart. Though she never left his mind, it was rare for King William to ever speak the name of his beloved wife. A good soldier did not expose his wounds. The more serious the damage, the more careful the concealment. Yet for his son, he allowed a brief glimpse.

“She was kind and caring, smart and clever, strong for a woman, and a bit on the tall side. She had a mind of her own and a strong will; but would make any sacrifice for someone she loved.”

        “And she was beautiful.” the boy added.

         “Well, yes; but there was more to it than that. She would have been beautiful no matter what her looks.”

         “I have been told that I greatly resemble her. Does that make me beautiful? Can a boy be beautiful?”

          The great king nodded gently to his son. “What I hope for you, son is that you have my strength, and her goodness, with maybe a bit of wisdom thrown in for good measure. That would be true beauty. It appears that you are making a good start.”

          “When you are not listening, everyone talks about her, and about you. They think that I am too young to understand, so I often overhear. What they all want to know is why you have not yet remarried. I should very much like a mother.”

           “I will tell you a secret son, and this must stay between us. It would not be fair for me to marry another. I still love your mother. I pine for her.”

           “But father, she is – gone.”

           “Gone from the world maybe; but not from my heart. I will always love her. There is a part of me that will always belong to her, that none other will ever be able to lay a claim upon.”

           “But how? How can you still be in love with a dead person?”

           “Son, let me ask you a question. When I die, will you forget about me, stop loving me?”

           “Father how could you ask such a thing? You will live a long time, and will never be forgotten. I shall love you until the day I die.”

           The King nodded in satisfaction. “So it is with me and my father, Prince Daniel, even though he is many years gone. So it shall be when my mother passes. None shall ever take their place.”

           “They are your parents, father, and you shall have no others. Yet I know of men who have had more than one wife, and many children.”

The King Shrugged, “Somehow a man always finds room in his heart for every new child. In order to marry again, I will have to make a new place within for another woman. I am not certain I have the strength to build such a place again. It takes a lot out of a man to build such a place, and takes that much more when another such place is left desolate.”

           “I still don’t understand.”

           The King shook his head in defeat. “The full explanation would make no sense to you at your age, and you might find it silly or even alarming. When you grow into a man you will understand it well enough, and no explanation will be required.”

           Prince Carl insisted, “Kelty says one woman is as good as another. He says he does as he pleases with many women, and plans on being with many more.”

            The King shook his head in disapproval. “Kelty is a braggart, a liar, and a fool, though he is not that big a fool. I doubt he believes what he says himself. Two summers ago, when his wife fell ill, the man was inconsolable, and scarcely able to make himself eat. I didn’t notice him doing as he pleased with any other women then – or since. Had his wife passed on, I doubt he would ever have recovered.”

            “Father, how did mother die?”

            “It’s not a subject I care to talk about. Someday I will explain.”

            “Did I have anything to do with her death?”

            King William looked at his son closely. “What would make you ask such a question?”

            “I have heard talk.”

            “Who has said such things?” The King roared, “Tell me their names, and I will set them straight!”

            “It was many people, father, and I did not think to take their names. It appears to be common knowledge.”

            “Free yourself of any such misgivings. Your mother was killed by an evil that ravages the land and has cursed mankind for uncounted centuries.”

            “What evil is this, and what might we do about it?”

            The King considered a moment, and then spoke, “I have a plan my son, so that no man ever need suffer as I have suffered, so that no son need ever have the emptiness that has cheated you of the joy of a mother’s love.”

            “Will you bring mother back?”

            “No son, though I may be a great king, I am not God.”

            “What will you do?”

            “I have a plan; but it is too much for one man to accomplish in one lifetime. We will both do this together. Women are able to have children. It is unnatural for them not to survive the experience. Yet it happens often. There is some great evil in the land causing this. We must find it and destroy it.”

            “I will gladly help. Just let me know what to do.”

            “When the time comes, son. For now I must find myself a wife, or perhaps find one for you.”