The wars were mostly over, and the battles won. Spring was in the air and the sun shone on the congregation as they slowly marched past a man with a long sword. He was guarding the entrance. He smiled at the guests as they walked through the door, into the almost dark building, while looking out for archers hiding in the bushes, or militias running over the hills. He stood there, relaxed. The day seemed peaceful enough. Just as well. You didn’t want trouble as the new king was being coronated.
‘In these troubled times, stability and firm leadership is what we yearn for. A peace in the land and prosperity for our people! We have been abandoned by the Gods and we may never enjoy their protection again, so it is of great importance that we build the society we want to live in, where everyone is free to prosper and live to old age.’ The cardinal was dressed in a red cardigan to show his closeness to the Divine. Red was hard to come by, and he was eager to establish a divide between the Holy and the ordinary.
Karel Widebrook was kneeling before him. He was still handsome, and the battle scars only added to his masculinity. His sixteen-year-old son, Lomer, followed the proceedings from the side.
The priest continued. ‘It is my pleasure and Holy duty to crown this man, Karel Widebrook, to be our first king! May his reign be long and prosperous, and may he bring peace to our realm. Hooray!’
The fifty or so people gathered around, raised their voices and swung their swords in the air. Karel the First, Karel I as the priest had insisted. Kings would be called by their first name only, they were above and beyond surnames. Their title was enough to distinguish them from others. Besides, Widebrook wasn’t a great surname. They had given it to him after his many encounters with members of the fairer kind. Wide open, they said, his pants. Ye broke is mighty wide, ye old hag, they had laughed. Now that he was a king, he had to appear respectable.
Karel hadn’t understood why he was to call himself I. Karel I, I am a king and so I shall call myself I.
‘It isn’t Karel I, it is Karel the First, but you will write it as Karel I,’ the cardinal had explained
‘I see,’ Karel lied.
‘It is the way of the Gods. They count like this when they mean business. I is one, II is two, III is three and so forth.’
‘It’ll be mighty many I’s as you reach hundred.’
The man of cloth smiled. The king-to-be had much to learn. V is five, X is ten, L is fifty, C is hundred, M is thousand. So, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X. That’s how you count to ten.’
‘Why not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10? Seems a lot easier.’
‘My lord, you must understand that once you are king, you must distinguish yourself from the masses. They must not understand everything about you. You are above them.’
‘I did not fight to become better than them and I don’t understand this IVX business myself.’
‘You can’t say IVX. That wouldn’t make any sense. XIV is fine, that’s fourteen.’
‘Why does that make sense and IVX not?’
‘You will understand in due time.’
The cardinal was wrong. Karel I lived to be 53 years old, he reigned for 14 years, coincidentally the number he didn’t come up with on that day, but he never learned to count like the Gods supposedly did.
The years after the coronation weren’t very different from the years before it. There was fighting, but while he had fought to gain control of the realm before, now he had to fight to keep it and that was a lot harder.
His reign ended on a rainy night in the year 948.
He never learned to write down the years. 948 wasn’t quite M, but it was much more than C. The cardinal was long dead himself, by this time, or he might have explained that it was the year CMXLVIII. It is doubtful Karel I would have remembered anyway, had he been told.
Karel died by rather conventional means. He was sleeping when an assassin sneaked into the simple building and stabbed him. It is quite tragic that they didn’t have castles back in the day. It could have saved him.
But such is death. It doesn’t wait for us to find the means to defeat it.
Karel I was succeeded by his son Lomer I who in turn was succeeded by Karel II. And so it continued for C’s.
This story is the second installment in the Moments series.