A CHILD IS BORN • by Kristen Lee Knapp

“A child is born,” intoned ten thousand voices.

Sea winds scaled the gnarled cliffs, blasting the King’s frosty yellow hair into his expressionless face. Water beaded down his beaten iron plates like sweat. The salt spray reduced his eyes to grey slits.

An infant girl flailed in his gauntleted hands.

“A child is born,” bellowed ten thousand voices, silencing the sea, devouring the child’s cries.

“Don’t! Please, you can’t!” The mother shrieked, clawing at the arms that held her. “She’s mine! She needs me!”

Ships teetered on the waters below, dragon-masted longships, bulky cogs, leaky skiffs, junks from the south and holks from the north, all formed around the cliffs in an immense semicircle. The wind tossed their voices inland.

A child. A child. A child.

The King turned, offered the infant girl to her mother. “My Queen,” he said, lowering his head.

Tears boiled in her eyes as she ripped the child into her arms. “My girl. My girl, my own.”

“She’s hungry,” the King said, smiling.

Insane smile, ecstatic tears. “Yes,” the Queen said, shamelessly baring her swollen breast, giving the child suck on her dark nipple.

“A child. A child.”

All stood unmoving. The King watched the mother and child. Greybeard augurs watched the cliffs, waiting.

“Say your farewells,” said the King.

Her arms clenched tight around the child. “How can you do this?”

The King gently pried the girl from her mother’s arms.

“You’re her father.”

“A child. A child. A child is born.”

The King strode to the edge of the cliff.

A child.” Voices so numerous as to drown the thunder of waves against the rocks below.

Two seahawks whined, spiraling from their hidden roost in the cliff wall, taking flight down over the waters below.

The augurs raised their arms.

“A child is born.”

The King heaved the child — his daughter — over the edge of the cliff. Chasms of silence yawned through the masses as all eyes followed her into the sea.

Her mother wept. Many mothers would soon be weeping.

Ten thousand swords shrieked as they were drawn.

To war! To war!

Kristen Lee Knapp is an author/student living in Florida with his girlfriend Kaity. His work has appeared at Realms Magazine, Residential Aliens, Aphelion Webzine and other sites. He recently took second place in Fight On!’s Weird Enclaves and Black Pits fantasy contest.

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