Long ago before the earth was weak with sadness, there was a great king who ruled all that was green with unconditional love and a rod of protection. To protect all the people of the earth and save the lives of those who did not heed his laws—yes, even they that shunned him—the king had an army of strong men who had come to him. To these men—and women with special tasks—the king gave his greatest gift: The Eternal Protection so that no harm or death on earth would befall them. However, over time the followers of the king became few and the world began to descend into a wicked darkness. The king’s heart grew sad and he was forced to send his army away into the wide parts of the world. “Take the Eternal Protection and give it to the other so as to tell them of me,” the king ordered. In this way, the men and women of the king went forth bearing this mighty gift. One of the king’s newest soldiers was a young knight whose name was Guile but had been changed to Ryghliant when he joined the king’s army. This young yet virtuous knight left the king’s land and returned to his own country. In this country he met an old friend who had once held his heart. Her name was Leahstry. Once Ryghliant beheld her again, he was overcome by her beauty and golden heart. As the days went by, they met only while the sun was high in the sky. Soon, however, their hearts growing wild with love and passion, they met earlier and earlier in the day and stayed together until the sun was setting.
Soft words were spoken, gentle touches given and all boundaries were respected; all limits undisturbed. The fierce romance of Leahstry and Ryghliant became one of legend, which you will read of in other stories and hear in other songs. For now let us say that it was pure, passionate and guarded by the utmost respect.
At last, Leahstry pledged herself to Ryghliant who returned the vow in the mists of morning after watching the moon rise and set. In his heart there was joy at these words, but deep in his soul and at the core of his heart he knew something was astray.
One day, as the earth was grey, Ryghliant asked Leahstry about the loyalty of her heart. “It beats for you alone,” she promised.
“I know,” Ryghliant replied. “But my heart beats first for my king and the task he has given me.”
Leahstry dismissed this with a beautiful smile. “I know this king you speak of and I keep his laws, but he is not my king. Serve him if you will, but know that I love you.”
These words were spoken truly and with sweetness. There was no poison or ill-intention in his beautiful lover’s manners. She meant no harm or disloyalty.
“Do you follow no king?” Ryghliant asked.
“I am free from all kings. But I follow your king’s laws,” Leahstry reasoned. “As I have told you.”
Speaking of the king was repeated in this way whenever Ryghliant inquired. When it was clear that Leahstry would not engage in conversation of the king, the young knight ceased urging for a time. In this time, wars broke out among the men of the earth and all the soldiers were called to fight. A sad farewell was said to his love, and then the knight journeyed to the king’s palace for battle plans.
“Take three days,” the king ordered. “Say farewell to your family, your loved ones and friends. Settle all your debts and have no blame upon you. Then leave your land and follow me into this battle.”
It was at these words that some of the men stood aghast and some shouted urges of protest.
“Leave everything?” One man cried. “What are we to do?”
To this, the king replied simply, “Leave everything you have now and follow me. I am your king, do you not think I will look after you?”
But still some soldiers were afraid.
“If you wish to leave and the power of fear is too much for you to bear, then I give you leave to do so,” the king said. “But do not look for me when you have turned away.”
When this was said, half of the men in the king’s hall gathered their things and left the eyes of the king who had ruled over them for years. Ryghliant could smell the fear of the men who remained. It was strong and there was nothing he could do to quench his own fear.
“Majesty, what of us who remain?” he begged. “Will you protect us?”
The king met the young knight’s eyes with his own stern gaze. “Trust your king,” he said.
The brave men who now stood in the king’s service traveled back to their homes to do as the king bid. On his way home, Ryghliant went to his childhood companion, Judas, who was among the men who left the king, and inquired as to why he fled the service of the king.
“I cannot leave everything,” he moaned. “My life is here, my friends. Why follow the king when I know not what will befall me?”
Sadness and sorrow filled Ryghliant’s heart at his friend’s words. “Come with me,” he begged. “We have been in each other’s sights since birth and have followed the king. Do not desert me now! Here, take the Eternal Protection once again,” he offered.
But nothing the young knight said would sway his friend. Not even when he reminded him of the Eternal Gift. “I don’t want it anymore,” his friend had said. “It does me no good. I will give up my immortality and hide from the king’s wrath.”
Running from friend to acquaintance after this was spoken, Ryghliant tried in vain to give the gift to as many as possible. “We are at war,” he cried in the village streets. “I am a knight of the king and I bring you his mighty gift! Take it and fight with us to save our lands.” But neither friend nor stranger would take the Gift. Heart broken, Ryghliant returned to Leahstry with a heavy heart.
“No one will take the Gift of the king,” he wept. “Not my companions, with whom I trained, fought, told secrets to, played with as a child—no one will take it! Am I to be alone after this war?”
The despair in her knight’s voice hardened her heart and she spat, “Why do you fret so? Do you doubt your courage? Your strength? I do not. I trust in you, I know you can do this thing the king has asked.”
“Do not rage so,” Ryghliant replied with love. “I only wish to not fight alone. More than half the men turned and left when the king bade them to follow him. No one would take the Gift when I offered it to them.” Here, the knight looked to his love. “Will you take it?” he asked, his heart leaping at the thought that she may at last take the gift he offered. “Follow the king and do the task he has for you. Come with me!”
At this last declaration, Leahstry’s face fell into a dark pallor. “I have told you before: I love you and I trust you. Not your king. I have pledged myself to you. Please do not ask me again.”
At this time, there was nothing that could be done. Ryghliant spent his last hours with his love, the beautiful Leahstry. In the morning, he gathered his things and left. She promised to wait for him no matter how long it took. He kissed her eyes and she watched him with those eyes as he walked away from her into the sunrise.
“I will wait for you, my love,” she whispered to his fading shadow. “Be safe. Return to me.”
These words were whispered and begged in vain, for this battle was one to end all wars. When the lines were drawn to fight, the knights with the Gift—the Eternals—were on one side and all that had left the king just days before, and those who had never loved the king, were on the other. Sadness clutched at the hearts of the Eternals as they saw now that they faced old friends, even family, on the enemy’s side.
“Must I fight my friends and the ones I love?” Ryghliant cried out.
“Fear not the enemy,” the king cried from his white horse. “You are my chosen men, you have the Gift; take this Gift and know what you do will bring about a better world!”
The battle began and the blood of men watered the dry earth. All oaths that any knight had given the king were fulfilled that day on the battle field. Lives pledged were used, swords promised rang out and fealty sworn was satisfied.
Yet fear abounded. Knights were falling all around Ryghliant as he fought and the horror gripped his heart. As he fought, Judas came into his sights and their swords clashed. In Judas’ eyes where once there had been playful trickery there was now red hate and soulless rage.
“Do not fight me, brother,” Ryghliant begged as he defended himself from the fierce, mighty blows that rained down upon him. But Judas would not hear him and he soon, driven by emptiness, overpowered his old friend. With one last mighty swing, Ryghliant’s sword was swept out of his hands and Judas’ sword was plunged into his heart.
This was how it was to be for a knight of the king. Alone, he was fated to fight. Alone, he was fated to love. The sun grew dim and before his eyes closed, Ryghliant could see Azrael, the messenger of the king. He stood before him, his sword was fire and smoldering embers were his eyes.
“Do not fear, young knight,” the messenger said. “You have fulfilled your oath to the king and you are welcome into his New Kingdom.”
“Why?” Ryghliant wept. “Why must I fight the ones I love? Will they be welcomed into this new kingdom as well? I cannot live alone again.”
“To be loyal to the king is to be alone,” the black cloaked messenger said. “I will appear to each man in his dying moment and that will be their last chance to follow the king. Those who refuse or do not change in time will be lost to the king’s enemy forever. You shall never see them again. And those that are not dying still have the chance to change.”
It was then that the earth shook and cracked open with a mighty thunder bolt. Fire rained from the sky and a great dragon began to swallow the stars as the moon bled.
“Is this how it ends?” Ryghliant wept as Azrael faded into the smoke and ash. “I lived alone. I was in love with her but always alone in my loyalty. Many friends I had, but still alone for none loved the king as I did. None followed as I did. And now to die alone amongst ash and fire from heaven! My king, why have you abandon me!”
In his last moments on this earth, Ryghliant cried out to his king. Hearing his call, the king came to his knight and stole him from the battle field and to safety in the New Kingdom where Ryghliant awoke. The old earth, the fire and ash and the stink of battle were left behind.
The sun was golden, not just yellow like it had been on the old earth, but golden and warm. The air was sweet and the wind sang quietly. Standing in the doorway was Gabriel, the king’s champion.
“Welcome to the New Kingdom, Sir Ryghliant. Many friends await you,” he said in a strong and deep voice with a kind smile.
“Many friends?” Ryghliant ask. “I am not alone?”
“You will have all of Eternity to find out,” Gabriel said stepping aside to admit someone else. “This man would like to show you the best parts of the Kingdom if you will let him.”
Where once Gabriel stood, there now stood Judas, all clad in gold and white. “I chose when I saw I was dying,” he said.
But Ryghliant did not need to hear for he understood everything now. He knew that all the people in the New Kingdom were the king’s men and women and that the Enemy had been put to rest at last on the old earth with his rage and fire.
“What has become of the old earth?” the knight asked.
“The enemy has taken it and all who would not follow the king,” Judas said gravely. “I am sorry, Ryghliant.”
Understanding dawned in the knight’s heart as he saw Leahstry in his mind. She never would have accepted the king. Now her fate was to live on the old earth with the Enemy before the King returned to wipe it out entirely and start anew. However, the sadness in his heart was not one of a forlorn lover, but more of a sadness for her heart. She was a slave to the Enemy now and would never know his love, the King’s love or the New Kingdom. His heart was sad for her not because of her.
“It is not wrong to feel that,” Judas comforted his friend. “But it will pass when you find your true calling here. Come and let me show you what your loneliness and trials on earth have brought you.”
“Perhaps I shall return to earth with the King for the last time,” Ryghliant offered. “I wish to go with him and I cannot say why.”
“You will be the only Eternal on earth,” Judas said.
“To be with the King is to be alone,” the brave knight said. “I am ready to do his work.”