Today’s Advent calendar contribution comes from festival volunteer William, who brings us our next two parter with a short story depicting the tale of ‘Good King Wenceslas’. Read on and enjoy…
‘Wenceslas: The exalted death of an unhappy ‘King’
He knew of whispers of the plot long before it was enacted before him.
He has handed our freedom to the Germans.
He would sooner pray than fight.
Why does he rely on the false god, Jesus Christ?
Wenceslas still ruled an unhappy land and he knew it, and as he clasped the wooden cross to his neck. The icy wind blew from the east, rippling across the dark cover of the river’s surface. A thin strip of cloud stroked the south edge of the moon, but a bright moon it was that illuminated his weathered face, just as it projected the sharp edge of the parapets of Zamek Brandys, a family palace in the heart of an oaken castle. Wenceslas shivvered, but it was just with cold. He felt safe. His woollen hatted soldiers guarded him on every side. And beyond that, he knew that his being was safeguarded by a power beyond anyone’s true comprehension.
But the tension of his men stood as on the edge of a knife – and though Wenceslas did not feel it himself, he understood their fear. Too many were used to old ways and old gods. The fear of pain. Of failure and of death.
Not that I do not fear these things, Wenceslas mused. But I have cause not to fear them as much.
He shivvered again. Another gust of wind.
“Fear not, Otto, it is just the cold.”
Otto – a German, a peasant man turned good by the king’s magninamity – his kindness – had a great deal to fear.
“But where are the townsmen, my lord – ”
“Tush, man. It is cold – and the peasants of this town know not to trouble the Duke on his way to see Prince Boleslav.”
Wenceslas was minded to correct Jira Bohdan, his captain of the guard, but his kept his silence, his cool. Normally the peasants would be everywhere, curious. Something was not right here.
Out of the corner of his eye Wenceslas saw the town church, and he was comforted that whatever befell them, these folk were Christian.
But perhaps I have put them in terrible danger. A pang of conscience. He kept this silent too.
“Did my brother say where we would should meet?” Duke Wenceslas asked the captain, “I would have thought his castle would be much the most appropriate venue for our – ”. His words drifted as he recalled how he had left his brother on such bad terms. Wenceslas remembered how his face had burned with such rage at his brother’s defiance. But that was years ago – the German treaty and the tribute a more distant memory. Wenceslas felt calmer now.
God is with me.
The thought filled him as he proceeded, in silence, surrounded by his armed guards and by the chill of the winter breeze.
And the stares of silent onlookers, awaiting their chance.’
Intrigued? Keep your eyes peeled for part two tomorrow.