Ash was introduced to the fact that his mother was a magisterial concubine the next morning as his training began with standing guard over the bedroom of the king. He had trouble sleeping with his moral objection to his own manipulation of his mother the night before. When he realized that she was inside the king’s chambers while he was standing guard made him question his own integrity.
Even though three of the four members of his family growing up were within walking distance, it was the words of his father that were helping him through his moment of distress. “We are not to understand the greatness of God. We are not to understand the morals of God. We can only be as good as we can by him with doing what it is he desires of us.”
They were the words Moshe spoke when Ash’s pet rabbit was injured. The rabbit was suffering and had no chance. They had gone out as father and son to be merciful to the animal. It was the first time Ash had dealt with death and it was by his own hands.
He stood with his back to the door remembering one of the two great moments with his father. He missed him. But, it was God’s desire.
He was brought back to reality by a satisfying moan coming from the bedroom and he searched his mind for something else to occupy his time. He thought back to the other moment that he would never forget with his dad.
It was only a few years before. Ash and Moshe were both outside, lying in the desert sand, looking up at the stars of the night sky. It was a peaceful moment that always seemed to ground Ash.
He asked his father how they knew God existed. When they, as grey people, had only the king to rely on how could they know that God was there.
Moshe chuckled hearing his son bring up a conversation that coincided with his work. “Son, only the kings have an audible communication with God, but every once in a while God will try to speak with us also. We cannot speak with him or hear him, but when you ask you can see him.”
Ash couldn’t remember if what he did next was out of defiance or if it was what felt natural, but he immediately spoke aloud, “God, please show me you are there.” Almost instantly one of the stars in the sky began to glow brighter. It increased in size fourfold. Then just as quickly as it glowed it returned to its original size.
It was a moment between God and man. It was a moment between man and son. The two laid there with the satisfaction that God did exist.
Ash smiled at himself. He would always cherish that experience. He clung to it so tightly that he had used it in school. The last paper he wrote before he got his calling was about that moment. It was about his proof of God. Not the star, but his father’s assurance.
The door to the bedroom flung open almost toppling Ash backwards into the new opening across the threshold. The king patted Wyndsoria on the butt and told her he would see her the next day. She walked out of the room in a dark robe, holding her dress from the night before in her hands.
She was escorted away from the room by a small woman that was the same fleshy color as the king. The king himself emerged from the room studying Ash’s face.
Ash stood as still as possible afraid that he was not what the king was expecting. His heart pounded as he attempted to control his breathing.
Finally the king began to speak in a soft unsure tone, “You were with Wyndsoria at the celebration last night, right?”
Ash staring straight forward refusing to give his gaze over to the king croaked out a, “Yes.”
“Good. Whatever you did or did not say kept her alive. She made the right choice and by proxy, so did you.” He gave Ash a couple stiff pats on the cheek and walked past the boy.
Ash let out a sigh of relief when the king was out of view. He peeked around the corner to see into the king’s chambers. It was an extravagantly large room with a hanging bed, table and chairs and small spa or tub, Ash was not sure.
He returned to his duty of guarding the room. The words of the king taunted him as he did not understand what he meant. But, three words would not leave him alone, “kept her alive”.
Patricka found herself engrossed in history as she pondered the events of the previous night. The odds of three of her four family members being relocated to the same city on the same day were unheard of. She scoured through journals, crier announcements, and ledgers trying to find a similar story.
It seemed as though it was something that happened once every ten to twenty years. There would be a situation where all members of a family except one would end up in the same city. They always settled in the capital city of the kingdom it happened in.
The good news was the people who moved typically became famous and influential people. They were leaders of cities, armies, and churches. Often times they would be adopted into the magisterial family and live alongside the king.
The bad news was that when they did not become famous they ended up dead. And, the missing person from their family always disappeared.
Patricka tried to grasp the idea that no matter how badly she wanted it to happen, her father was not going to show up in the city of Sodorrah. He wouldn’t arrive today or tomorrow. He would never set foot there. But, her mind would not allow such a depressing idea. No matter how much logic she tried to force in, her brain always said, ‘he will come.’
After going through countless ledger books of purchases between kings, Patricka noticed that something else coincided with these families that remain together. They always arrived in their capital within a week of purchasing safety from the “forgotten”.
Even at her young age, she knew there was a connection, but she did not understand it. She could not marry the ideas together.
She looked out the window of the library and realized that the sun was almost to its highest point. She was going to miss her appointment. She had found a letter under her door when she woke up telling her to meet with the white king’s naval commander at midday.
She was walking into the meeting blind. She had no clue how to prepare for it, but had decided that she must go regardless.
She set the books down and scampered down the long staircase leaving her library for her appointment. She set out through the open gates and into the town. Attempting to be an adult she walked with a swagger and tilted her nose to the sky. Her tattered dresses were gone and she now wore the wardrobe of a magisterial advisor.
As she made her way through the dirty and sinful city she received countless glares from the drug dealers, prostitutes, and bookies. It was a hated occurrence when a child they could easily corrupt showed signs of working with the king. As much as the rules were non-existent in Sodorrah, it was still off limits to turn anyone involved with the king to a life of depravity.
Her pompous walk with her snoot raised showed that she was not interested in their games which made her someone to avoid.
She reached the bottom of the valley back where the transportation depot was and found a small cigar bar where she was to meet Admiral Devoncote. She wandered in taking a slow perusal of the area. She was unsure how to find the man she was looking for, but was determined not to look out of place doing it.
She did not have to look long as the Admiral found her. The garments she bore were eyesores for the building and were impossible to miss.
“You must be Patricka.” He greeted her with a smile and cordial bow.
“Thank you, sir. Yes, I am here to meet you.” She felt the idiocy of her statement as it was nothing more than stating of the obvious.
“Please sit. Want a cigar?” He led her to a table in the corner where their words would not be overheard. He gave her no time to reject his offer as he immediately went into his briefing.
“There is not a lot to report today. The sale went off without a hitch. The payment has departed and the forgotten has gone with it.”
Patricka interrupted as she felt the opportunity arise for a question. “What is the forgotten?” She peered over at him with an air of youth, although she intended it to be a mature curiosity.
He slammed his fist on the table. “Why would they bring in a child for this?” The question was rhetorical, his frustrations were unable to be held in. “I can’t answer that. No one can answer that. You have to figure it out. And realizing just how much you need to know before we have one of these discussions, I am going to cut this short. Listen to me and remember this word for word. The sale is done. The payment is offshore. The forgotten is with it. The Fat King will deal with it as he always does. No movement on any fronts as all kings are watching to make sure that is taken care of.” He immediately rose to his feet and gave Patricka a quick and courteous head nod as he headed back out the door.
She was left humiliated, confused, and angry. How could she do this job? Why did God give her such an impossible task?
She sulked as she got back to her feet to head back to the library.
Moshe awoke with pains all throughout his back. He was lying on a rack of wooden planks. All he could see to his right were more people lying next to him. To his left was the same. The stench of illness overwhelmed him attempting to force him to retch.
The movement of the sea was obvious, the motion made him dizzy, but the vomit and urine stench threw his senses into a whirl. He was unsure how long he had been out, he only knew that after eating the stew he had followed suit with everyone else on the deck.
The room was filled with moaning passengers. Whether or not others were conscious was a mystery. A warm fluid dripped on his shoulder from the bunk above him. Its dark red color let him know that it was blood, but the cold wetness that had seeped in behind his back could have been any of a number of things. He put his hands forward to find how much space he had above him, only about a foot.
His arms on either side constantly bumped into his neighbor, it was as if he was nothing more than cargo. He pushed his hands up above his head and found a wall. Wiggling his toes he found nothing.
He inched his body down towards his feet. Each movement drove splinters into his back and legs, sharp pains made him jolt and stop every few seconds, but his claustrophobia forced him to press on.
After a handful of scoots his feet dangled over a drop off. He shifted more to continue his movement towards the ends of the racks. A large wave hit the ship and room seemed to roll forty-five degrees to the side. His hands clenched between the planks as his knees reached the end of the bed. He stopped with his legs dangling over not knowing how far the drop off was.
Suddenly another passenger heaved and a splattering of bile dropped from bunk to bunk. The internal image he pictured of vomit being dripped down on him reignited his need to get out of the bunk. He kept inching down the wood.
His back numbed from the splintering and his breath became more erratic as the spicy heat from the sickness seeped into his lungs. His butt slipped over the edge of the hard wooden surface causing his back to arch to horrific levels. He twisted his body to ease the pain of the pivot point, slamming his face into the knee of the person next to him.
The stunning impact on his nose forced him to jerk back, lose his balance, and he fell off the bunk and to the steel flooring below. The thud resounded throughout the room receiving multiple startled yelps from others in the cabin.
Moshe had landed on his left shoulder first, followed by both his knees, one on the hard floor, the other on top of that. He throbbed from the impacts, but he was still in one piece. He swiveled over to a sitting position and looked about the room. His bunk was one of many, five up from the floor. Taking in the sight of the dark wooden room he saw ten levels of surfaces. Each plank was about half a foot thick followed by a foot of space. Each level had ten sets of feet visible from his vantage point. He turned to face the opposite way and the same thing on the other side. Two hundred men lie ill and drugged in the cabin. With the stench of waste that was flowing about the entire room it was a wonder anyone was alive.
He sat in the floor and let a few minutes pass unaware of what else he could do when the glowing white light he saw during his fight with the white king’s guards returned. It illuminated the soles of the feet that were visible from the bunks. He stood up, shaking from his injuries and exhaustion, and began to tap on the soles of the people’s feet. He walked up and down the aisle gently grazing the dirtied skins. As he did, the prisoners one by one began to move showing life re-entering their bodies as the drugs they ingested took a back seat to their consciousness.
Garbled voices shouted out, “Help! I am dying!” The pleas of the souls bunked up like luggage spoke to the heart of Moshe. As they continued, “Where am I? Just let me die!” he heard another voice resonate above the pain. It was a deep and soothing voice, “Moshe, this is your moment. Suppress all fear and speak my words to your people.”
As the next words fell into Moshe’s ears he repeated them as he watched the people wiggle their way off their bunks. “This is an insult to your god. As a creation of the Lord you are not meant to be sold as cattle. As a creation of the one true god you are not meant to serve the ideas of five men alone. Over thousands of years the kings have twisted the word of God and destroyed the souls of men. They do not hear the word of the one true God. They do not speak for the Lord. The white king is a messenger to the white people who worships the god of pride. The black king speaks my warnings only to the black people while he follows the words of the god of greed. The yellow and red kings only relay prophecies for the few red and yellow people who walk this Earth. The red king is the embodiment of the god of vanity. The yellow king speaks the prophecies for the god of wrath. And the fat king, he is nothing more than a false prophet.”
A few men and children reached the steel floor and were looking at Moshe with awe. “I am Moshe and I speak to God! I will lead you out of hell! I will lead you to freedom and true worship of God! Join me and we will overtake the land of the fat king where we can live in the grey kingdom!”
More and more people were on their feet beginning to crowd the small aisle that separated the walls of bunks. One of the men raised his fist to the air and shouted, “I pledge my life to the rise of Moshe, the grey king!”
A woman looked to the ceiling and screamed, “I never trusted the god of the white king. Hail Moshe, the grey king!”
Most of the shipment had reached the ground with only the dead and dying left on the bunks. The grey mass of people cheered and charged the door. There was no organization, but the collection of people threw all their might against the thick wooden entry point. The metal locks squealed as it bent from the force of the blows.
A man crumbled back to one of the bunks as his ribs gave way to the pressure from the charges. The mob of men did not cease, they continued to thrust against their cage.
Moshe looked to the door and saw the glowing white light shine through the crack created by the human battering ram. He screamed, “Break it open!” and the group charged one last time breaking through the wood.
Salty air came rushing into the room giving the stench of waste a new power. They climbed through the destroyed gate and scattered throughout the lower deck finding more locked doors.
They shouted the words that Moshe had preached through the doors and the ship began to rock, not with movement of the oceans, but from the movement of the people.
The luxuries of being a concubine were beyond anything Wyndsoria could have imagined. After her night with the king she was sent off to a bath. She was disrobed, bathed, massaged, and made back up to look pristine.
She only saw her grey skin for the time between the bath and the reapplication of her makeup. Her hair was silky, her skin was smooth, and she smelled of flowers in a garden. It was hard for her to do anything other than smell herself.
The woman who had escorted her there also was pampered. She was more accustomed to the treatment as when one of the men approached her to wash her, she turned him away with a casual remark, “Not you. I need a more masculine man to touch me.” She relaxed in a tub just feet away from Wyndsoria enjoying the rights of a magisterial court member.
It caught Wyndsoria’s eye when the woman stepped out of the bath and walked to the massage table. It was not her nakedness, she had come accustomed to seeing people naked when she would enforce water safety in Listerbourne. She was constantly running people out of the river for swimming in the drinking water. It was not a beauty that shocked her as the woman was not attractive.
It was her skin. When she washed she did not rinse into a common grey, but stayed the pinkish white which made the king, the king.
Wyndsoria gaped at the woman until she returned the gaze with a superior smirk. It shamed Wyndsoria and she rested her eyes to the ground for the rest of the cleaning.
It was assumed throughout the kingdom that there were many of the non-grey skinned people as concubines birthed many children for their kings. Some of them were grey and some were not. The girls and boys who did not become king had to live somewhere. It was not a surprise that they existed, but a surprise to finally see one.
Afterwards they were given more luxurious dresses and they left their soiled clothes behind. The woman led Wyndsoria down chamber hallways until they reached a set of golden doors. Here the woman gestured for Wyndsoria to enter and left without a word.
Inside the room was a plethora of sofas, beds, tables, mirrors, and fresh fruits, meats, and cheeses displayed near every sitting area. In the room were three women who were lounging around in robes, each with their own personal bed that could fit a family. They all were barely covered showing off their bodies to the cavernous room.
Each of them was a different shade of white and it looked to be a slumber party of the most pampered women in the kingdom. Wyndsoria feeling out of place sat in the corner by herself and tasted the foods that sat next to her.
Everything was immaculate. She had never eaten food that had such flavors and smells. She had stuffed her mouth with more than it could hold when two of the women approached her.
The sight of them made Wyndsoria shrink in humility. She was caught with a face full of food and an inability to speak without sending food spittle across the room.
The women put Wyndsoria’s beauty to shame. They had the defined facial structures that were heralded by the kings, making their jaw and cheeks stand out from the rest of the facial structure. They both had long wavy hair that was colored the brightest of blues and reds, pulled back to reveal their ears and the sides of their long necks.
The first one tilted her head to the side with a kind smile and greeted Wyndsoria, “Welcome to the concubine quarters. I am Genevieve and this is Ruby.”
Wyndsoria swallowed her food as quickly as possible, “Wyndsoria.”
“You were not born in Sodorrah were you?” Her eyes traced the new girl’s body up and down while her mouth twisted in a disapproving expression.
“No, I finished my calling and...”
“I assumed that.” Genevieve’s tone became sour. “You are obviously an acquisition of a forgotten sale. The king would otherwise never consider touching one as boring as you.”
They sat near Wyndsoria, but ignored her. She was offended, but understood. She was a grey posing as royalty, not grey as in the color which they all truly were, but grey as in the peasant.
The other woman came over to Wyndsoria and sat next to her. She was older than Ruby and Genevieve. Her features were sagging and her dress hung a bit different, but she had a kind look to her. She leaned in close and whispered, “Don’t mind them. They know you are a threat. They are about to lose a lot of time with the king to you.”
Wyndsoria appreciated the remark, but did not understand.
The old woman understood the confused look she received, “We are all concubines and as such we all vie for the king’s attention. Those two have all his time right now. Sometimes he goes on three or four day trips with the both of them. But, if you look closely Ruby is starting to show and once he realizes she is pregnant again she will be left here with no affection until she births.” There was a sinister smile that accompanied the comment.
“Left here?” Suddenly Wyndsoria feared she would be a prisoner in this room.
“To sleep my dear. We are concubines, we have free roam of the kingdom and as long as our makeup does not run we are treated as if we are royalty. Even when it does people still fear any retribution from wronging us.”
“So, you never go out as grey?”
Chuckles turned into a small cough from the woman. “Yes, my dear. We occasionally go out grey. But, if we want to be treated royally then we become white like him.”
“This is it? Just the three of you?”
“The king utilizes many girls, but right now we are the only concubines. He does not know which ones will bear the next white king and which ones only birth the useless grey children. Of course I am no longer used. I am here because he can’t let me go.”
“He never sees you anymore?”
“No, my dear. I am old and can no longer be of use to him, but I am the daughter of a forgotten. I came here when I was thirteen and served him by birthing seven children, all greys. But, since he cannot risk me searching for my father I am allowed to stay here.”
The old woman held up a finger as she turned her ear to hear what Genevieve and Ruby were discussing.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and he was speaking in his sleep.” Genevieve held out her words for effect, but sounded like a gossipy child. “He was saying that Hubris had turned on him and that he would be chained to his bedroom. He screamed at Hubris for not giving him what he was promised.”
Ruby stared at the girl with intense fascination.
“He woke up then. He didn’t notice that I was staring at him, but I was. I heard it. It was a dream that I was allowed to hear from the king.” She giggled as she finished. “Although any dream that leaves the king chained in his bedroom better involve me as well!”
Ruby snorted with laughter, “You are so right! Thank God for giving us the calling of concubines.” They fell into each other’s arms in giddy laughter.
The old woman rolled her eyes at the girls and leaned over to Wyndsoria. “Those two are always making lewd comments.”
Wyndsoria, unable to comprehend what all was happening asked the woman, “What is a forgotten?”
She put emphasis on her first syllable, “THE forgotten is a grey who speaks to God. Any miracle reported against a person is sent off to the land of the fat king where they are killed.”
“Why?” Horror leapt into her voice.
“I’m sorry. Who was the forgotten in your family?”
“My husband did not come to Sodorrah with the rest of us.”
“Then it is him. From what I have learned in my years here, the only people who can hear the words of God are the kings, but occasionally a grey hears him as well. The kings do not want anyone encroaching on their duties and snuff out the greys as soon as they are identified. They remove the family from the community and place them close to the king to be sure they do not go after them. There is a prophecy that no grey has ever heard, about the forgotten, and they do everything they can to keep it from coming to pass.” She paused and noticed a tear forming in Wyndsoria’s eye. “I am sorry my dear.” She hugged her.
“No, it is fine. It was just my husband. I did not pick him. He picked me.” But the thought of the man who she lived with for all those years still brought emotion to the surface.
The woman held Wyndsoria until the crying passed.
Moshe had an army of grey skinned people and they ran up the stairs to the top deck with an energy unseen before by the crew. The people were angry and motivated, but their actions were not what Moshe had intended.
He was not in front of the charge, he had stayed back trying to help some of the injured get down from their bunks. When he reached the main level everything was a flash of violence. The light of the sun reflecting off the water burned his vision and the goings on were nothing but flashes with a non-stop audio of torture. There were screams of agony, countless splashes into the waters below and sounds of metal slicing flesh. When he could start to open his eyes due to clouds beginning to form, he saw the short man who had barked orders from the sail support being thrown over the edge of the ship. He screamed all the way down until he hit the waters and disappearing into the nothingness of the ocean.
“STOP!” Moshe screamed as the men started to pull a rope against the captain’s neck. “They are grey as well!” This message struck the angry mob and they ceased their attack.
They would not let go of the remaining crew. They still held the cook, the captain and a couple of basic crewmen. The men looked up with horror as Moshe walked to the front of the ship.
He stood a few feet from the captain and his two crewmen with his hands behind his back looking like that of a pirate. He closed his eyes and turned his face to the sky.
The voice came to him once again giving him guidance in his time of pressure. “Ask them to follow God, to follow the words you speak for me and if they will not, let my people do with them as they please.”
He dropped his head in sadness. His mind reached out to the voice of God, ‘I cannot tell these men to kill. It is wrong to murder.’ As the words crossed through his brain a bolt of lightning struck from cloud to cloud above their heads. The light of day dissipated and rains poured down from the heavens.
“It is not your morals which apply to my people. It is the morals of God who speaks to you now that affect the decisions made today. Was it immoral for me to free the ancients from Egypt through the plagues? Was it immoral for me to annihilate the giants from the Earth to spread my people across the lands of the globe? It is not for you to say. Now ask them!” The words were so loud, the thunder was almost comforting.
The grey people stood, still apprehending the workers of the ship, waiting for Moshe to speak.
“You have a mutiny upon your ship, captain.” The crowd roared with guffaws at the joke from their new leader. “We are tired of the kings of the Earth dictating to us what God has said. We are tired of serving man when it is written that we shall all serve God. We are tired of being treated like livestock good for any transaction. And God himself spoke to me today.” He paused as the captain’s eyes spread wide open.
He continued, “He told me to lead his people out of the hull of this ship and take them to a land of freedom! We are here to overthrow the fat king and crown myself the grey king of Earth!”
One of the crewmen began to shake with fear. His grey skin trembled from the words he heard coming from his captor. “You are the forgotten!” He screamed as he fought to free his arms.
“I am the grey king!” The ship erupted with cheers. “I ask you once and I hope you will turn to the purpose supplied by God.” The entirety of the ship silenced as they waited for Moshe’s words. “You, today, have the chance to refute your sinful past and follow the words of the one true God. You can play a role in throwing off our chains of bondage. Say ho, and that you will follow me as we lead our people to freedom!”
The people cheered again, but quickly hushed waiting to hear the reply.
The first crewman said, “I cannot follow the forgotten.” He hung his head in defeat. The second said, “You are not God’s messenger, only the kings are!”
The crowd began to pull on the crewmen as they rejected Moshe. Then the captain spoke out, “Long live the kings of Earth! The white king! The black king! The red king! The yellow king! And…” He paused as the entire ship turned their rage against the next words to come out of the captain’s mouth. “The fat king!”
Moshe dropped his head and turned his back. He listened as the crowd pummeled the men into submission. There was little fight in them. He heard screams of agony coming from the captain as the thudding sound of the crewmen hit the waters. He made his way to the other side of the deck as he heard the slicing of the captain’s body with his own blade. The screams subsided as he heard flesh tear under the power of the people.
As Moshe approached the cook with tears in his eyes from witnessing the vengeance of God he heard the applause from the others as the captain was torn to pieces.
The cook looked up at Moshe as if he was the messenger of death. The ominous sea around them left him looking into the eyes of his would be executioner.
“My son, do you reject the sins of your past and turn towards the light? Do you condemn the lives of the men who have enslaved us and taken the world for their own? Do you scorn the kings of Earth and join us in the fight for freedom?”
The cook took no hesitation and screamed, “I do! Long live the grey king!”
The people let him loose with both happiness and annoyance. Their blood thirst going unfulfilled.
Moshe put his hand on the cook’s cheek and spoke to him, “Thank you. No one should have died here today. Thank you for seeing the way of God. As a priest from the white kingdom I bless you on this day.” He paused as he looked into the fearful eyes of the cook. “I know this is frightening as have been all the great events of history, but just as you were called on to be a cook, I have been called on to be the king.”