by Karen J Mossman
It was a normal scene of children playing down at the sparkling brook. A brook that ran through the forest, except this was no ordinary boy as he and his friend squatted by the water, knees to their chins holding sticks.
Jorge’s gold coloured hair was mucky with dirt from the ground, the same dirt that covered his naked body. Josie’s ringlets carried specks of leaves and a tiny twig had caught in one. The children played happily in the water. People who didn’t know them would think they were siblings, but they weren’t.
Josie’s head shot up a moment before Jorge’s as music filled the air. “The King plays,” she uttered.
Jorge watched in awe as the colourful musical notes filled the surrounding air. Quavers, crotchet, minim, and clefts showered downwards entering the water with a slight hiss. Bubbles rose to the surface as if to receive them.
Josie stared at the popping on the water. “What is it?”
“It’s the music drowning,” he said.
Josie looked up and around not seeing anything. “Are they still raining?”
Jorge nodded wiping away one that had landed on her shoulder. Awe shone from their faces, although Josie only heard the sounds. She accepted that Jorge was the only one to see them. Perhaps it was magic.
Once, when Jorge was at home in the village with his parents, the music struck up and he dashed to the window to watch them fall.
“They are beautiful, Mama,” he sighed as they hit the ground, split apart, and vanished.
“What are?” His mother asked as she came to window to see what he was looking at. She was pretty woman, with an abundance of dark hair that she kept calm with a ribbon weaving through it.
“The music, Mama. Can you not see it?”
His mother looked at her husband, who was standing very still. Her eyes were fearful. Jorge was a special boy and she didn’t want him to appear different to the other children in the village.
“Son…” His father sat next to him placing his big hand on the boy’s shoulder. He was a robust man, a solid torso with short legs, so different from his son. “You must never speak of this to anyone.”
“But why?” Jorge asked earnestly. “They are so pretty and the music is so special. It’s the King playing, isn’t it?”
His parents again looked at each other. “Yes dear,” said his mother. “When the King, who lives in the castle, plays music on his pianoforte, everyone in the land can hear it.”
“But only you,” continued his father, “can see it.” The boy’s eyes grew wide.
“That makes you a special boy,” she said, her eyes never leaving her husbands.
“Yes,” he agreed. “You are our special boy, but never speak of this to anybody, not even Josie. Do you understand?”
Jorge nodded, not wanting to say he already had. “But why, Papa?”
“It’s our secret, and when you’re older, we shall tell you why it needs to be this way.”
His mother’s eyes filled with tears and Jorge’s hand rested on hers. “It’s all right, Mama, whatever it is will not take me from you.” He didn’t know what he had said to make her gasp and cry.
“Mama loves you very much and never wants to lose you.” Jorge still did not understand and frowned.
“Everything will be all right. Just remember our secret.”
Jorge never forgot the hurt his questions had caused and never spoke of what he saw to them again.
One day, several years later Jorge was out hunting with Josie. The King played his music and Jorge stopped and lowered his bow. The mournful song tore into his soul with its beauty. Over the years the musical notes had become transparent accompanied by a myriad of rainbow colours.
Josie watched him for a moment and then said, “You still see them, don’t you?”
Jorge nodded. He could not be untruthful with the girl he would eventually marry. “One day I shall join the others and visit the castle to watch the King play.”
“But your parents forbade you.”
“I don’t want to hurt them, but the music calls me, Josie. I have no choice. I must go.”
“Then I will accompany you.”
Jorge went to his parents and told them his news.
“We have to tell him the truth now,” his mother said, as she looked at her husband for agreement.
“What truth is this” Jorge asked.
His father looked at the fine strong young man in front of him and knew the time had indeed come. They could not keep their secret any longer. “Sit down, son.”
Jorge stepped back and sat in the wicker chair his father had made many years ago. His parents sat on similar chairs and looked uncomfortable.
Jorge fidgeted, “I fear for what you are going to tell me.”
“Just know we have always loved you,” said his mother.
“I know,” said Jorge quietly. “Of that there has never been any doubt.”
“You were not born of your mother,” his father began, as Jorge’s eyes grew wide in shock. “We found you in the forest when you were a tiny baby. Your Mama fell in love with you and we brought you home.
“In those days there were many battles, as men came from foreign lands to claim what belonged to us and our kingdom. We found out much later that one such battle occurred whilst the King and Queen were travelling in their carriage. They lost their child, a boy.”
Jorge’s face changed as he realised what his father meant.
“They wounded The Queen, and some say she went mad for her only son who was never found. The King plays his music as a lament for what was lost. Not only for his son, but in truth he lost his wife as well.”
The silence hung heavily between them as Jorge looked at each of his parents. He lowered his head and said quietly, “I am that boy, aren’t I?”
“We fear so. Your Mama could not give you up despite a King’s ransom being offered.”
Jorge looked around his humble dwelling and just like the other people in the village they were a poor family. Indeed, to have turned away a King’s ransom they must have loved him very much.
He sighed quietly knowing he couldn’t change the path he must now take. “The music calls me, Papa, Mama,” he said looking at each of them again. “The music has always called me. I have no choice, but to go to the castle.”
Mama cast her eyes downward knowing she could not dissuade him.
“The King grants an audience to his music,” Jorge continued. “I must go and hope they will choose me to enter.”
“Maybe they won’t choose you?” his mama said hopefully.
“Then I will keep returning until they do. I will get in, Mama, and Josie will be accompanying with me.”
Jorge could see how upset his mother looked and went over to her. Kneeling down in front of her chair, he took the hand of this woman who loved him beyond doubt, and who had cared for him all his life. Despite their poverty her love was a rich as any King’s ransom.
“You will always be my Mama. You both will always be the people I return to, and the people I treasure most,” he told them earnestly. ‘This is not the end. It is just the beginning.” He stretched his hand across to include his father. “I love you both very much.”
They gave him and Josie horses and provisions to make the trip in case they had to camp outside until they gained entry to the castle.
Many people requested entry on a daily basis and Jorge was dismayed when he saw just how many arrived at the castle gates like they had. Each one having their own reason for wanting admittance. None would be as important as Jorge’s.
Only so many people were allowed into the castle at one time and people crammed towards entrance hoping they would be chosen ones. Jorge and Josie were turned away many times, not being able to get near enough. Josie knew it was just a matter of time. Jorge was confident of that and she remained by his side. Each day, they made progress and now they were near, Josie could see the music was having more of an effect on him. People outside listened in awe, but Jorge was lost in the sound, his eyes closed, his body almost rigid. He still saw the musical notes.
One evening as the sounds played, she watched tears form and spill from his eyes. Leaning over she wiped them away. “Please do not weep, my darling Jorge. We are here, we will get inside and see the music being played.”
“They are not tears,” he said. “The music is inside me now and pouring out making me as translucent as it.”
Josie could see the magical quality of his skin and it was like he was taking on a glow.
The following day Jorge and Josie were at the front when the drawbridge was lowered. Once inside they could only stare in wonderment. It was the most beautiful place they had every seen. The walls led up to high ceilings with carved elegant wood moulded into beautiful shapes. Some were even animal-like. People scuttled in beside them, their own faces looking around in admiration.
Inside the music room the walls were adorned with paintings of past and present royalty, animals, and musical events. Like Jorge and Josie the people had never laid eyes on such things and could only stare in wonder.
“Look,” whispered Josie as she pointed out candelabras made of cut glass and figurines made from finely painted china. “Have you ever seen anything as beautiful?” She drew in her breathe as her eyes glowed with the astonishment of it.
A murmur arose as the King entered. People lowered themselves to their knees paying homage to their monarch. Jorge saw the grand pianoforte on a raised platform in front of them. Josie gasped as she stared at the King, then turning she looked at Jorge with shock. “The… the King, Jorge, the King,” she stuttered. “He looks just like you!”
Jorge stared and realised he did. Even her could see the likeness now. It explained many things. One stuck in his mind and that was when the King and his carriage passed by Jorge was never allowed to attend.
Questions he asked were evaded, and looks between his parents did not go un-noticed. Now it was clear to see why.
People rose to their feet, clapping in glee, all eyes focused on the rotund robed figure. The King was a handsome man of middle age. His coiffure shone in its goldenness and on his head was a crown encrusted with rubies and diamonds. He wore a double-breasted waistcoat made from finely woven material, and a cloak of red velvet with fur trims held together by a golden button. His dark corduroy trousers finished below the knee and met white woollen stockings leading down to fine shiny leather shoes with a small heel.
The King bowed in acknowledgement waving a royal hand. His reddened cheeks crinkled as he smiled. He appeared happy to greet his people. Moving over to the piano, he sat down, pushing his cloak to the back of him.
Behind the pianoforte, the people could only see his head and shoulders and a little of his chest. He swayed as he began to play.
Jorge’s legs weakened and for a moment thought he would fall. Josie’s hand shot out to steady him. “Jorge? Are you all right? Jorge?”
Jorge blinked, tore his eyes from the King and looked at her. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak, shocked of what he was seeing.
He had expected to see the musical notes arising, but instead, he saw the small transparent clefs, quavers, and crotchets descending like they were a living being. They were raining from the ceiling, at first settling on the instrument and then King. The more he played the more they rained down.
It seemed the King was not playing the music at all! Jorge moved around, with Josie following to see what the King’s fingers were doing. They were hovering over the keys but the musical notes were making it appear that the music was coming from the piano, so no one suspected. Only Jorge was able to see the notes settling around him and popping, like a bubble bursting. It was indeed like magic.
Jorge whispered in Josie’s ear, “Someone else is playing the music, it’s not the King.” Josie looked back and couldn’t tell. It sounded like he was playing, everyone around thought he was playing. “Stay here,” he said close to her ear.
To her amazement Jorge pushed his way out of the room. He eyes followed the dancing music. He walked quickly down a corridor as it lead the way leaving Josie behind.
Guards, who were standing nearby, didn’t seem notice him pass. Jorge’s skin shining and almost see through, as if the music was making him invisible. He felt a dampness it clung to his clothes and hair, yet his eyes were fixed on their movement to a small open doorway.
Passing through, he went up the dark narrow steps. The way lit up by clefs and quavers. The stairs moved up in a circular manner he went up a tower. Light-footedly he skipped up higher as the music became louder as it called to him. Reaching the top, he found a solid iron door. There was a rusty key sticking out of the lock. He turned it.
The light inside almost blinded him. The music was so beautiful, it made him stumble and as the emotion consumed him, he thought his heart might break. It was mournful, sorrowful and the notes contained a yearning that was beyond measure.
He stopped and the music suddenly ceased. The silence startling as his eyes adjusted to the bright light inside.
There in the centre of the room was the biggest pianoforte he had ever seen. The silence was startling as he stared at the figure sitting on the stool.
The woman had long black hair tied back in a once neat style. Now it was matted together with ribbons that were already falling apart. Her once opulent dress was torn, and old. The vibrant green was faded and dull. She stared at him with bright blue eyes that looked almost out of place on her old face. Her dry lips parted and her voice sounded like it hadn’t been used in a long time.
“My son,” she uttered. Jorge couldn’t move from where he stood as he stared knowing she spoke the truth. “I’ve been calling for you for so long.”
“Mother, your son has come.”
The Queen always believed her son was alive and had not been eaten by some wild animal was it was suggested. The King had his guards searched but to no avail. Eventually the Queen was banished to the tower with her madness, and in truth many had forgotten she was still alive.
Rising to her feet, her body was bent from the long hours at the instrument. “I am the mad Queen they put in the tower,” she said, her voice becoming clearer. “I’ve been calling for you to give me the peace I desire.”
She held out long thin fingers to him. Taking her hand he was surprised to feel the strength emanating from the thin weak skin.
“Come,” he said. “It is time for you to take your rightful place beside to the King.”
At the top of the tower, they descended the dark staircase, she following behind him. As they emerged together through the door, the guards gasped standing aside as they saw their Queen and the tall young man by her side, her arm looped through his. The only sound, as they made their way to the music room, was the rustle of her dress on the floor.
If it hadn’t been for Jorge by her side, the people would have thought she was an apparition as they gradually parted to let them through. All eyes were wide in horror and fascination as they gasped allowed. “It’s the Queen! Isn’t the Queen supposed to be dead!?” People muttered as they began to curtsey and bow in awe uttering, Your Majesty.”
The murmur grew louder and as they moved passed Josie, Jorge caught hold of her hand and brought her with him to where the King was standing. A stunned expression was on his face.
“Sir,” said Jorge, with a respectful bow. “May I present my mother, the Queen?”
There was another audible gasp as people came out of their stupor and fell to their knees.
“My son!” said the King just as the Queen began to speak.
“The power of my love has brought him home. Just as I said it would one day.”
The King gasped again, this time he clutched his chest. As he fell to the floor, his courtiers rushed forward. They knelt beside him and sadly shook their heads. “The King has died,” said one.
The Queen reached her shaking arm out towards her son and with all the energy she could muster, cried. “Hail the new King!” Her legs gave way, and she collapsed dead beside her husband.
After a moment of shocked silence, the crowd shouted out and until their voices became one. “Hail the new King!”