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The Crownless King

Deeds - not words - change the world. A letter to a future child.

The Crownless King. Digital collage by me.

The father leaned in towards his now sleeping son, callused hand resting upon his brow, and whispered the same thousand words that he himself had heard most of his childhood:

One day, my son, you will find yourself at a crossroads,

a crossroads that will lead you

to the single, greatest decision you will ever have to make:

being a hero or a villain

paragon or renegade

man or beast.

(The Father clenched his fist, feeling his nails against his palm,

only half of his face touched by the candle’s fire.)

And you might think that the decision is easy

that your mind will guide you right

that your heart will pave the way

that you are making the right choice.

But know this, my son:

the colours of the world are not black and white,


or Nothing:

life covers itself in all the shades of the rainbow

and any colour you can imagine in between.

Life isn’t a straight road that cuts the plains in half;

it’s a maze of rights and wrongs that checker the earth

that run from the highest pit to the lowest mountain

through mirror-like lakes and lake-like mirrors.

Life, my son, is both the ultimate question

and ultimate answer

so simply complex that only a chosen, lucky few can grasp even a sliver of its meaning.

(The Father looked at the ring in the fourth finger of his left hand

and looked back at his sleeping son

creaks and splinters of pain echoing through his voice.)

When you do find yourself face to face with the crossroads,

my son,

remember this:

loyalty and courage are easy to boast, but hard to serve;

and your dignity is worth more than all the gold strewn throughout this



dark world we live in.

When the time comes,

remember to fight the darkness with your light

to cover your words in truth

and your hands in kindness:

be strong like tempered steel

a thorn from a rose at your enemies’ flanks;

be harsh,

yet fair,

and always strive to leave your corner of the world

better than when you found it.

Be a paragon of humility

of loyalty and dedication

to those who would trust you beyond all others.

But most of all,

my son,

be like the flower that gives its fragrance to even the hand that crushes it:

your thorns may pierce their skin,

but it’s your ideals that will capture their souls.

Show the world that there will always be light among the darkness they force upon you,

and you will be a king among men, my son,

whether you wear a crown or not.

The father averted his gaze from his son’s peaceful sleep, tears crisscrossing the dust and wrinkles in his face as he stood up, inviting the soldiers inside.

He forced himself to watch as the first blade went down his son’s chest, a violent, metallic rush cutting through the air.

And the second.

And the third.

An orchestra of blades through flesh, bone, and wood – deaf whimpers quickly subsiding in tandem with the cutting metal.

And then, as quickly as they had come, the soldiers left, leaving a trail of blood drops on the floor.

He heard the cries of a woman behind him, and shut them out.

That was the moment he knew he wasn’t half the king his bastard son had been.


Well, that was quite the journey - for me, at least. I rediscovered this piece of writing, which I wrote back in 2017.

Having discovered it, I decided to challenge myself and tried to find a way to illustrate it on my own. Since I'm terrible at drawing - really, I don't even want to go there - and I've always been interested in collages, well... I just went with it. I quite enjoy the final result.

The firestarter for this piece was the sentence "be like the flower that gives its fragrance to even the hand that crushes it". I love how it came out. I don't know how it did. I don't know how my creativity works.

I'll issue a challenge to you: create something with the same firestarter. In writing, drawing, music, whatever you're most comfortable and happy with. Feel free to share it in the comments. I'd love to see what it sparks in you.

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