Prompt: “The evil Emperor has discovered that a child has been born who is destined to end his rule and bring peace to the realm. He secretly arranges to send his best agents to the child’s home – not to kill the child, but to ensure that the child’s destiny is fulfilled.”
Baggart was a small farming village on the edge of The Garefeltian Empire not known for having any significance. It was a village where the sheep outnumbered the people and most people just worked the dirt and tried to make a living while most of the crop was sent off to the large cities in The Empire. It did not even have a large military presence like many other towns and villages across The Empire. It was barely a thought in the mind of the government including Emperor Garefelt. Emperor Garefelt was a warmongering tyrant who united many of the numerous city-states under one, large empire through bloodshed and war.
Many people tried to raise armies up against him and stir up revolution after he took the throne, but no efforts had succeeded. His forces seemed to be everywhere, always watching, and they stamped out opposition before any momentum could be built. Now Emperor Garefelt had ruled unopposed for decades and people had been beaten down to the point where they just accepted their reality. Emperor Garefelt would rule now and might rule forever. There was no hope.
Although this thought processed changed when a baby was born in Baggart to Thomas and Reta Loth.
There were signs of distress from both mother and baby as he was born into the world. One nurse was holding a pitcher of water and rag, as she dabbed the temperate water on Reta’s face. Another was down near the mother’s feet, trying to help with the birthing process. Thomas was up toward Reta’s head, holding her hand and whispering encouraging words to her.
“You can do it, darling. Just one more big push,” He said.
“Thomas, I can’t. I have no more strength,” Reta said.
“Just one more. You can do it. Just one more,” Thomas said.
Reta gave it all she got and then she could hear the wailing from her baby.
“A beautiful, baby boy,” The nurse said holding the new baby.
Both Mother and Father smiled.
“Darius Loth,” Reta said.
“A strong name for a strong boy. Destined to lead,” Thomas said.
It took awhile for the family to recover, but eventually things seemed to return to normal in Baggart. Thomas returned to working in the field while Reta stayed home with Darius wrapped up in cloths. During this time she noticed that Darius had a particular birth mark in the center of his forehead. It kind of looked like a four pointed star. Due to her concerns and a small feeling of superstition, she called for the holy man in the village. Father Cas was a priest as well as someone knowledgeable of signs and fates. He had been known for performing small miracles and knowing a lot about holy rites and spirits.
Father Cas entered the home and Reta handed over the bundled Darius to him.
“Do you think the birthmark could mean something?” Reta asked.
“Hmmmm,” Father Cas said examining the smudge on Darius’ forehead. “To be honest, I’m not sure. Sometimes these things are significant, but I just can’t tell. I must go back to the church and do some research. I’ll let you know if I find out anything.”
“Alright,” Reta said taking her child back.
That evening Reta fixed dinner for both herself and Thomas. They sat down to eat as they heard a knock on the door.
Reta answered and there stood Father Cas with a worried look on his face.
“Father, what is it?” Reta asked.
“You’re child. The mark on his forehead. He is a miracle child. A child that will change everything,” Father Cas said.
They let Father Cas in and he sat down.
“What are you talking about, Father?” Thomas asked.
“Your wife, Reta, was concerned about a marking on your newborn child. I did not know the meaning of the mark, but I found a book in the church,” Father Thomas said.
He laid a book out on the table and began flipping through pages. Neither Reta or Thomas could read, but they saw a few different images which seemed to resemble markings or symbols.
“Here,” Father Cas pointed at the book.
There was a picture similar to Darius’ birthmark with text underneath.
“What does it say?” Reta asked.
“Royal Heir,” Father Cas said. “It is said that someone born with this mark is destined to become a leader and rule over the people.”
“What…what does that mean?” Thomas said.
“I believe your child is destined to kill Emperor Garefelt,” Father Cas said.
Both parents looked at each other with their mouths wide open. This seemed like the most impossible thing they could imagine. No one thought they could stand a chance against Emperor Garefelt and it was even stranger that it would be their own child.
“Father, you can not speak of this to anyone. If news got out, I fear that The Emperor would send his people to kill Darius and possibly us,” Thomas said.
Father Cas nodded.
“Of course. The child must be protected,” He said.
They all agreed to keep this secret as they processed what this could mean.
A few months went by as life in Baggart seemed to be uneventful. Reta and Thomas were both very conscience of keeping Darius out of the public’s eyes and did their best to cover the child’s birthmark. They did not think anyone would recognize the mark, but they were still super careful. They feared that The Emperor’s men would show up in the village. Baggart was far away, but they knew any sort of news leading to rebellion or overthrowing The Emperor always traveled fast.
One evening a heavy rain fell over the town of Baggart and most people were in their own homes warming up by the hearth. Reta had made a lamb and potato stew and they were sitting at the table eating the food. Suddenly there was a knock on the door.
Instantly they felt a chill run up their spines.
“Reta, grab Darius and hide in the bedroom,” Thomas said in a sharp whisper.
Reta got up quickly and grabbed the child before heading to the bedroom and she closed the door as quiet as she could.
Thomas stepped up and went to the door. He opened it just a crack as some of the rain entered the house. There stood out front of the house was a man dressed in heavy, black leathers. He had a scar across his left eye and a long sword strapped to his back.
“Hello,” The man said. “I’m looking for the Loth residence. Are you Thomas?”
Thomas opened the door a little bit more.
“Yes, I am Thomas. What can I do for you?” He asked.
Thomas noticed that standing behind the man were four other people wearing similar black leather also with weapons and they held lanterns. The rest of the street was empty as the heavy rain came down.
“I have heard wonderful news of a baby being born a few months back and Emperor Garefelt sent us to send his regards to the family,” The man said with a smile.
“You…you heard wrong,” Thomas said. “My wife died in childbirth. Neither survived.”
The man met Thomas’ gaze.
“Oh really? I’m so sorry to hear that,” The man said pushing the door open wider as Thomas stumbled backwards.
The man entered the house and took a look around as two others stepped in behind him.
“I…I don’t mean to be rude, but I did not invite you into my house. Please, can you leave,” Thomas said.
“You would not want to turn away people sent by Emperor Garefelt himself. That would be quite a mistake,” The man said.
He looked over to the table.
“And so would lying to those same men. If your wife died months ago, why are there two bowls of warm stew on the table?” He asked.
Thomas stood with his mouth agape.
The mysterious man turned back to the others in black leather.
“Check the house,” He commanded and they nodded.
“Run, Reta! Run!” Thomas shouted.
The man forced Thomas into a chair and held him there.
“Do not make this difficult, Mr. Loth,” The man said.
The two others opened the door and dragged Reta out into the main room. She was crying as she held Darius in her arms.
“Don’t hurt him. He’s just a child,” She cried.
“Have a seat, Mrs. Loth,” The main man said as the other two forced her into a chair.
“Please don’t us,” Thomas said. “Please.”
The man let out a small laugh.
“You all seem to have the wrong idea,” The man said. “We have heard of your child being born with the mark of The Royal Heir. He is destined to be the next leader following the death of Emperor Garefelt. That is wonderful news.”
Reta and Thomas fell silent for a brief moment.
“What…what are you talking about?” Thomas asked.
“Emperor Garefelt has sent us, his most trusted agents, to protect the child at all costs. The child’s destiny must be fulfilled,” The man said.
“You…you want our child to grow up and…” Thomas started.
“And kill the Emperor?” Reta finished the thought.
The man let out another small chuckle.
“Our duty is to carry out the orders of the Emperor, no matter what he commands of us. Killing his enemies, crushing thoughts of rebellion, or even protect precious people. Your child is one of those people,” The man said. “Now that can either happen here or in Athegas.
“The Capital?” Thomas asked.
The man nodded.
“There your child will grow up with wealth you could not imagine. The best food, the best education, and a security detail lead by myself. And I am the best at what I do,” The man said.
“What will happen to us?” Reta asked.
“Well, The Emperor extends his well wishes to the child as well as his parents. You will be escorted to the capital as well if that is what you wish, or you may remain in Baggart. It does not make a difference to me. The child is what is most important.”
“How can we trust you or believe what you are saying?” Thomas asked.
“Mr. Loth, if The Emperor wanted your child dead, I would have killed all three of you by now and burnt down your home, leaving nothing but ash and embers. I have done it hundreds of times and this would be no different. However, here we are having a conversation. That is how you know you can trust me,” The man said.
Again Reta and Thomas grew quiet.
“Well, I will let you think about your decision. I will come back in the morning to either collect the child or escort the entire family,” The man said. “If you try to run, you will not get very far before we catch you. And my temper will be a little harder to control.”
“Let’s go,” The man said as The Emperor’s people began to leave the home.
“Enjoy your stew,” The man said as the door closed behind him with a thud.
Header Photo Credit to thd777 on DeviantArt
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/djseifer