Chapter 1: A Miracle or a Curse
That was all that it was, to several Londoners at least- a way to free the land from the tormenting threat of war.
England was indeed a young country, with peasants selling their wares and the nobles riding their gilded carriages through the streets to grand parties in even grander, more elegant mansions. Knights would ride through the towns and hills on crusades that lasted for years at a time. But an unfortunate tragedy beheld the land some time soon.
The old king, who was known to be a wise and good ruler, passed away, much to the dismay of all the country. Several processions were made throughout in honor of his death, but none of them matched the question that all of his diplomats asked the country.
Who was the rightful heir to the throne?
Although they were most certainly not royalty, lords and noblemen rode the gates and proclaimed to be the heir, showing their riches to be "fit for a king"! No one could match the king's great fortune, of course, and thus, the noblemen went up against the country's diplomats and demanded that they be made king, or they would leave for greater countries beyond England's power. Indeed, since the king's death, not much progress was made in the foreign market on the country's part, and so trading fell further than any Englishman could imagine, without the king's good guidance. Travelers came from all over to claim their place as king or queen, but no Englishman would allow for them to make such a move against the throne. Women even offered themselves to the crown, but a woman doing such a thing was highly unthinkable, so husbands went in their places to demand the crown.
All broke loose when other countries decided to boldly attempt taking ownership of the helpless England. Of course, it was even more unimaginable to believe that England would become kin of another country, so Englishmen fought back at those trying to gain control of their land. At this point in time, it seemed that England would face its demise, by being torn apart by war. Unless, by some chance, a miracle could show its divine face and save them all.
And then, in London, something happened that no Londoner had ever seen before. In a city square beneath the steeple of an enormous cathedral, in the midnight hour, a ray of light shown down from the heavens, coating the square and all nearby in its holy glory. In fright, several people raced to the outer perimeter of the square, but they all stopped suddenly when something different started to happen. For in the center of the square, was a large stone, on which was set a midnight-black anvil. And from the heavens, when there came a little shower of sparkly dust, a beautiful sword materialized before the eyes of almost everyone in London, set inside the anvil. It sparkled with a great heavenly glow, its golden hilt shining like a new penny. And the instant the miracle occurred, messengers were sent throughout the country to tell all to come and set their eyes on the marvelous sword.
Soon enough, thousands upon thousands of men were lined up to pull the sword from the stone. They all had prepared for a show of great strength and power, but they were all disappointed in the end. Not a single man had been able to move the sword, not even budging it an inch. Throughout the millions of men that had touched and tugged on the sword, not one had moved it from its exact place the night the miracle happened.
All through those years, England remained without a ruler, and not many more men came to try the sword. In fact, they stopped coming altogether, and many of those who tried it looked at the sword with scorn and disdain. Pulling that sword would fulfill a man's greatest dream, and the miracle was a failure. And so, the sword was left for another set of years without another try, and England without a king.
More years passed, and a kind of disorder came around that no one expected after the miracle. Men lived in fear that an uprising would soon come, and that the country might slowly come to its end.
A dark age, and all because of the message the sword had brought to England in gilded letters below its hilt: "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king, born of England."
SEVERAL YEARS LATER...
Another crying sound came from the bedroom down the hall. With a deep sigh, Myra Swann put down the dish she was washing and followed the sound. Tabitha had been doing that a lot these days. Maybe it was the shortage of milk in the cottage. The peasants who owned cows usually kept the milk to themselves, and Myra was frustrated by that. Simply because England had no king, that didn't mean they could hoard their goods for themselves. Everyone had to work together, especially to ensure a good future for little ones like baby Tabitha.
But it wasn't as though Myra could go out and help the farmers and such peasants herself. Her father, Amos, was at work in the shop, and so she had to stay and take care of the house and Tabitha. At twelve years old, she knew how to do things that only men and young women knew. She could spin her own yarn and make clothes for the family, and even a little bit of metalworking.
Myra was, in all aspects, a smart girl, but she wasn't under such circumstances to use her brains. From a young age, she had been forced to become the mother figure of the cottage, working day and night to ensure the roof she lived under, and especially her family, was kept orderly and safe. It was her duty; for the sake of her family.
Over time, Myra had gradually built herself up for hard labor, but she still hadn't healed internally. Just over a year ago, right after Tabitha was born, Myra's mother had gotten very, very sick. She raged a terrible fever, and she couldn't leave her bed for days. And then, that winter, Myra was awakened to the horrible news that her mother was dead. Without her even knowing it, she was going to play mother to Tabitha and her home.
It certainly didn't help that Amos worked all day and could not give time to console Myra on her newly acquired role. Amos was the sort of man who took life as a serious matter, and did not wish to waste time lamenting for something. He always told Myra that because she was alone, that was no excuse for tears and wishful thinking. She had to be strong. After all, she was living how she would live when she was grown up. Might as well get used to it, that's what he said.
"And give Tabitha something. That crying is giving me a headache I'll feel when I'm a hundred years old."
He said that every night at supper. And quite frankly, Myra didn't like his tone of voice. He talked about Tabitha like she was some kind of dirty animal that had to be exterminated quickly. What trouble did she cause him when he was never around?
On one of Amos's good days, Myra would have asked him why he thought of Tabitha that way. But on his bad days, Myra never dared open her mouth.
Now, as Myra crossed to Tabitha's cradle, she frowned sympathetically as her ears registered the melancholy wail of her baby sister. The dark-haired child was tossing and turning in her thin blanket, causing her cradle to creak, sounding more like a screech.
"Shh, Tabitha," Myra said gently, picking her up. "You cry anymore and the people across town will hear you. I think they might even be able to hear you…" She looked down at the baby's squishy bottom, and on cue, Tabitha let loose something down there, and she suddenly began to giggle, turning to a squeaky laughter.
Myra rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Oh, Tab, what will I do with you?" With a sly finger, Myra crept her finger up the child's stomach, and wiggled it against her skin. Tabitha laughed harder with the tickling and clapped her hands happily together.
That was truthfully one of the happiest sights of Myra's life. Tabitha was annoying sometimes in the way she dropped waste into her clothes unexpectedly, but she was a sweet thing to have in these dark times. During the day, when there came the rare opportunity to play, she was a wonderful companion for hide-and-seek in the yard. The child's laughter was musical to Myra, and she hoped to never lose her; not to the disease that had killed their mother.
"Come on, Tab. Let's clean you up and prepare supper," Myra said, the way a mother would to her child. She then carried Tabitha into the kitchen to clean her clothes and fetch her outdoor shoes.
Within fifteen minutes, Tabitha was sitting on the table with her blanket and clean clothes, and Myra heating water over the stove for supper. She planned to make Amos his favorite that evening, for she hoped to ease him into asking some questions that he would likely find pesky.
Despite the good mood Tabitha had put her in, Myra was dreading the evening. Not just because she was worried about what Amos's reaction might be to her interview, but of her last chore after dark, when everyone was at home in bed. As well as everyone else, she knew that England had been without a king for years, and that the miracle had been no good; Amos told her the story so much that it oftentimes came back on its own to haunt her, like it did before Tabitha started crying. But in the words of her father, that was all in the past. This was a new time, and someone new could try for the miracle to happen.
Myra always told Amos that she doubted his beliefs that the marvelous sword in the stone was still capable of crowning the next ruler of England. Nonetheless, he wouldn't give up in telling her what she would do, for her family's sake. Tonight, she would sneak out, and try, time and time again, to pull the sword from the stone. And she would keep on trying until she would pull it loose and release the miracle's intended power, making her queen of England.
And if she didn't get it out tonight, Heaven help her.