Category: tithes to the dead

(WP) Tithes to the Dead

               King
Doran was named The Ghost King for the way he’d turned the tides of the war.

               The
spirits, enraged at their death, had tried to storm the castle and possess all of
the humans inside. But Doran negotiated for peace, with but one law.

               “When a
spirit walks the land of the living, bring not pain nor plague, only gifts.”

               It turned
out, though, that the dead were often rather imaginative with their gifts.

               They
started out simply at first: a loaf of bread, the last fruit of the harvest, a
few spare coins, a bolt of cloth. But then the offerings they gave only grew in
magnitude, given to them by emissaries both alive, dead, and somewhere in
between: precious stones that shone like bright eyes, heaping chests of
treasures, collections of bones adorned with finery, even in death.

               King
Doran’s bride, Queen Jazira, accepted all of the offerings at his side, but she
wondered privately if this was too much, even for peace with the restless and
the dead. After all, they were royal; they had no need of such pageantry. But
she knew how much it had cost her husband, to barter for this tentative peace.

               She
knew that nightmares from the war still haunted him; more than once, she’d
awoken to his screams, full of agony, his face cold and clammy with sweat. The
bodies of his battalion had been taken by the ghosts, vessels for his enemies,
and he could do nothing but watch while his men slaughtered each other.

               Wraiths,
revenants, the undead, all were summoned from the other side of the void, and
blood had flowed freely on both sides of the war. It had felt like the longest
two decades of Jazira’s life; she’d been sent to Doran’s court as a child,
brought up in the ways of her fiancée’s land. They’d married on the eve of her
seventeenth birthday, and the day after their wedding, her king announced that
he would be making an effort to live in peace with the spirits, on the condition
that both armies agreed to a surrender.

               And
that mattered now more than ever; unconsciously, she put a hand on her stomach,
trying not to show her nerves.

               Her
husband smiled at her, squeezing her hand, and she relaxed somewhat. He’d been fighting
for peace even before his father had died and he’d inherited the crown, and at
long last, it was finally happening.

               “It
pleases the crown that we have reached an agreement,” Doran said, his voice
booming in the cavernous throne room. “Is there anything you would ask of us,
other than our most sincere apologies for the bloodshed?”

               His
inquiry was answered by a series of quiet whispers, in a language that Jazira
couldn’t understand.

               “We
wish to continue making our offerings to you, if you’re amenable to it,”
Someone said in the crowd.

               “What
will we give you in return? Let it not be said that King Doran is a greedy
monarch.”

               “You’ve
already given us peace, Your Majesty. How could we possibly ask for more?”

               Relief
doused the rest of Jazira’s worries, and she was glad that her heir would live
in a world where spirits, the undead, and the living coexisted in peace.

               **