Beyond the Far Away Gates
The shore creeps and creeps
The tide, highs and lows
Wings flutter with tales,
For our violent War of woes.
In our hardened hearths of rust
Our blood wavers not,
The enemy trudges on,
Never once virtuous.
And in this rotting wheel we live
Among the black and sick and vile,
Warriors fight and march on,
Unmaking the World so servile.
And so, the shore creeps and creeps
The tides, now low and culled,
The Pure have taken their throne,
And reclaimed their beautiful ode.
It was hot on the Saturday afternoon when Frederick recalled this poem. It was more than a century old, and many had forgotten it. An insight of a victorious mind of the Third World War. He knew little of the intricacies of this World War, but the poetic words struck him all the same.
Perhaps, he thought, I’ll be a part of something like this, too.
Around mid-morning, a black shadow had briefly covered the City. In the distance, a fleet of airships could be seen anchored above the military base. The Citizens around had clapped and hollered at the sight, an extraordinary one to be sure. But he and Karin knew those vessels were here to take him far away...
Today was to be the last real day of enjoyment for him. Tomorrow would occupy his time with preparation for the coming departure. The day would be spent mostly with the battalion commander, organizing plans for arrival, assessing safety protocols and a short Promenade parade. The rest would be spent with Katherine, going over political and contractual briefings that he wanted to forget. He knew it was his Elite privilege alone that granted him this compounded schedule, but he didn’t feel grateful.
He was currently sitting relaxed on a Promenade bench in the shade. Karin was next to him, of course, resting her head against him. The extra heat added from her clinginess didn’t bother him in the slightest.
She wore her new locket around her neck, already considering it to be a priceless treasure. The two of them had decided on a small portrait of him for the trinket’s contents. He had read somewhere that it used to be customary several centuries ago. Karin was more than happy to oblige this unearthed tradition and found a most endearing image of him to fill it.
“Should we get something to eat,” Frederick asked the resting girl.
“Let’s stay like this for a bit longer,” Karin replied.
He agreed with a murmur and went back to watching the Citizens wander by. A breeze of unintelligible chatter accompanied each one, dulling even the most visibly refined of the passing commoners.
As always, passersby would steal glances as they strolled by. Frederick’s Mag-rifle leaned carefully against the bench, a moments grab away from his guarded hand. No one was going to interrupt him on this-
“Karin, is that you?” a young voice asked.
Karin stirred from her light nap and looked toward the inquiring voice. A young boy approached from a group passing by. He looked to be Karin’s age, immature in the face and still coming into his masculine features.
“Who are you?” Frederick responded first.
“Oh, uhh...hi there,” the boy said, startled, as though he had fully intended on ignoring Frederick from the beginning.
“He’s a boy from my class,” Karin responded for the startled boy.
Frederick looked at the boy with intense scrutiny, finding the flaws of the Citizen riddled all about him. From the boy’s unobservant approach, to his apathetic use of etiquette, Frederick disliked him utterly.
“So you’re a friend of Karin’s?” Frederick asked in a baited manner.
He hadn’t forgotten Karin’s lack of social status at school. She never spoke of friends.
“Yes, my name is Kurt,” the boy replied with clear reluctance.
Kurt shifted his eyes away from Frederick, his face contorting with blatant annoyance.
“You seem to be close to her, so she’s probably mentioned me.”
Frederick held his mouth tight. Karin had never mentioned the boy, and there was no doubt this was a one-sided affair. He suspected this boy was likely a bully, even if Karin wasn’t going to confirm it. Letting the boy run his mouth some more would be the most prudent option, if not, the most entertaining one.
“So Karin, where have you been this whole month?” Kurt asked.
The boy was trying his hardest to disregard Frederick’s presence entirely. Frederick watched with malicious amusement at the boy’s boorish behavior.
“I’ve been taking some time off,” Karin replied.
She didn’t seem the least bit interested in Kurt or his questions.
“Obviously you’ve been taking time off,” the boy said, “I wanted to know why? You don’t look injured...you know you can’t ditch school without a good enough reason.”
Frederick snuck a glance at Karin, finding an unusual revulsion disrupting her normally angelic face.
“Are you concerned that I’m not injured?” Karin asked. “Or do you care more that I don’t have a good enough reason?”
Frederick smirked at the boy who didn’t acknowledge him.
“I just think it would be good if you came back to school, is all. A lot of us miss you...and stuff,” the boy said, putting on his most charming voice. It didn’t land well.
Karin’s arm constricted with bone-breaking force around her brother’s. Frederick’s sense of propriety quickly drained with every second of Karin’s growing distress. He knew that a cautious approach would still be necessary, though. It was obvious what the scene would look like if he were to publicly aggravate a boy two-thirds his height. Before he could interject, however, the group of boys Kurt had come from, called out to him.
“Kurt! Is she coming with us or not!”
“Yeah, hold on a minute!” Kurt bellowed back. “Well, are you going to join us, Karin?”
“No. Thank you for the offer, though. I’m happy right here,” Karin replied as politely as possible.
Frederick was sure she was just trying her hardest to maintain some form of amicable relationship with her fellow classmates.
I’ll make certain she never goes back to a class with them, he thought.
He had a stronger desire to do much more than that, though.
“See, it’s stuff like this that the other girls in the class don’t like you for,” the boy said, trying to sound reasonable.
“You don’t seem to understand the difference between you and her, do you?” Frederick spoke up, plain and simple.
The boy looked at Frederick with clear disgust at this interruption.
That’s the look of true envy, Frederick thought, but he had fundamentally misunderstood.
“Karin’s an Elite, and you…” he scoffed, “you’re just a Citiz-”
“No,” the boy interrupted, “I’m an Elite. And so are a few of the others over there.”
Kurt directed a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the group of boys behind him.
Frederick was dumbstruck, certain he had just heard a bold-faced lie. He had always assumed the Citizen Schools separated out the Elites for better integration. His class had at least, and somehow, Karin’s had been rigged with a handful...
“Is that true?” Frederick asked Karin.
She nodded in response, her eyes were colder than ever.
“Is Father aware of this?” he pressed her.
Karin again nodded in response.
Was this some attempt at a new social program, he thought. Did his Father think that more Elites in a class would be better, after all?
Something didn’t feel quite right about this situation. It was untenable.
Frederick recovered his thoughts and continued with a new line of ridicule.
“I would be embarrassed to call myself an Elite if I were you. You won’t get far in the Principality with those manners of yours.”
“Unlike you,” Kurt said with a sharp tongue, “I’ve learned how to carry myself as one of the Citizenry. After all, it seems I even fooled you.”
Again, Frederick was dumbfounded, for Kurt was right. The whole reason for the integration of Elites and Citizens was to build an understanding between the two. Kurt had already grasped that understanding, something Frederick had vehemently refused to do.
“Karin can still learn to blend in, though. And if she can’t, then it’s all the more reason for me to claim her now,” Kurt said.
Kurt’s voice had a proud air to it now, something that was only present in that of an Elite. He had not skimped on learning Elite arrogance, and knew how to flaunt it to boot.
“You do know who we are, don’t you?” Frederick asked.
It didn’t matter if Kurt was an Elite or not, he still wasn’t considered royalty like he was...this was no prince.
“Of course. You’re Schraeders. Every Elite in the Principality knows of you. Marrying into your family is a dream of any of us. And thanks to your father and his policies, I have a very real chance at achieving that,” Kurt said and added, “I consider myself to be rather lucky in getting things I want.”
“Do you really think I would allow that?” Frederick said.
He finally stood up, dwarfing Kurt and drawing immediate attention to the tension brewing. Kurt stood still, unflinchingly.
“I don’t believe you have any say in the matter. Nor does, Karin, really,” Kurt responded, hinting at some hidden knowledge he alone had.
Frederick mistakenly thought he might have been referring to his rank of succession, he was fourth in line.
“All it takes is a simple talk with my father and he’ll never consider you or anyone related to you for any position in the Principality,” Frederick shot.
It was becoming clear that his temper was escalating and that this could soon turn physical.
“He might pay you lip-service and tell you just those words, but he could never afford to go through with it,” Kurt replied arrogantly. “With my faction’s military power, your father won’t be able to pass up grabbing our loyalty.”
Frederick roiled Kurt’s words around in his head. He had never heard of factions existing in their Principality, and didn’t know what to make of it. His father was a King here, and although the titles and formal obligations were largely diminished from what they would have been centuries ago, he still retained a God-like presence...or so Frederick had believed. He had never contemplated that Elites within the Principality were conspiring against him. The rage building in him was holding out hope that all of Kurt’s words were lies and arrogance.
“None of the other Elites believe peace with the outsiders will last much longer,” Kurt continued. “It’s only a matter of time before Karin becomes a political piece...you’ve become one yourself, recently, haven’t you?”
Kurt pointed in the distance to the anchored airships.
“Those are for you, aren’t they? It’s quite an impressive fleet...a lot of manpower behind it, being sent away…”
“What are you getting at?” Frederick asked a little too naively.
“In the unlikely event you come back alive, you might find th-”
A hand struck across Kurt’s face with a thunderous smack.
“Don’t you dare talk as if my brother won’t survive!” Karin screamed.
Her hand throbbed slightly from the trauma committed. A prince wouldn’t have been able to strike another member of the Elite and come out unscathed, but a princess certainly could.
“When he returns, he’ll be a Hero! What will you be!?” Karin screamed apoplectically.
“Alive,” Kurt sneered.
Karin’s hand returned for another resounding smack. Frederick thought he saw Kurt’s arm react in an attempt at blocking but was unable to avoid Karin’s fury.
“Karin, I think that’s enough…” Frederick said, pulling the young girl into his arms. His reluctance at stopping the young girl from defending him was impeded by the crowd growing around them. The Citizens were beginning to whisper and he knew how this was already looking to them.
“Is that the prince and princess?”
“I think you’re right!”
“What are they doing to that boy?”
“Isn’t this an abuse of power?”
“They get to just do what they please, don’t they?”
“Should we get the Enforcers?”
“Would they even interfere with royalty?”
The whispers continued on like this, never escalating to real involvement. The Citizens watched with excited fervor and a thirsting desire for more conflict.
“Karin, we should go…” Frederick said, pushing the girl along.
Frederick grabbed his Mag-rifle and guided his sister away from the still-smirking Kurt.
“M-my locket!” Karin shrieked as her hand clutched her bare collar. “Where did it-”
“You mean this?” Kurt said, dangling the silver chain from his hand. “You must have dropped it when you s-”
Kurt’s words were retched from him with a brutal drive to the gut. The butt of Frederick’s Mag-rifle lunged into Kurt’s stomach, audibly cracking several ribs. He had really done it now.
The crowd gasped in feverish shock as the young boy before them reeled to the ground, clutching his middle in pain. Several yells for Enforcers could be heard from the surrounding ring of Citizens.
Frederick bent down and took the locket that had dropped from Kurt’s hand.
That was probably a bit too much, he thought, knowing full well that a swift earful and punishment would follow for this engagement of violence.
He handed the locket back to Karin, who eagerly clasped it to her heart.
“Frederick!” a familiar voice cried out. “What have you done?”
The two siblings turned to see their eldest sister, Katherine, wading through the excited crowd. She glowered at Frederick as her eyes connected the sequence of events that had unfolded.
Even with a scowl, she still looks so gentle and kind, Frederick thought.
“How much did you see?” Frederick asked, fearing a misunderstanding from ignorance was coming.
“Not much,” she responded, “I saw this crowd and came to see you with your rifle in this boy’s chest.”
“There’s a reason for-” Frederick began to say.
“Of course there’s a reason!” Katherine interrupted. “There’s always a reason or explanation or excuse, but that doesn’t mean you can assault a Citizen like-”
“He’s not a Citizen!” Karin chimed in. “He’s a thieving Elite and he stole my locket!”
Katherine changed her face as she examined the injured boy being attended to by his friends. Her face piqued with peculiarity at the realization of who the boy was. Frederick noticed a small hint of disappointment that came with her realization. It bothered him that he didn’t know why.
“Okay,” Katherine finally said with a sigh. “You two wait over there while I handle this.”
She pointed to a spot beneath a tree for them to wait as she began talking to the arriving Enforcers.
Frederick led Karin by the hand as the crowd hesitantly parted a path. The two of them watched as Katherine skillfully redirected the lingering crowd to something more productive. The Enforcers tended to the coiled up boy on the ground, one of them handing him a small bottle of dark liquid. Frederick was familiar with the medicine which served as a bio gel that quickly remedied internal ruptures. Kurt’s ribs would still require medical bracing, though.
“Karin...he’s been bullying you at school, hasn’t he?” Frederick said, breaking the silence.
He didn’t need her to respond to know the answer.
“I’ll tell Father about him and make sure he’s put on notice before I leave, I promise,” he assured.
Karin looked away in gloom, holding Frederick’s hand even tighter. He rattled his brain trying to think of something to say that could reinvigorate both of their emotions and joy. He was too slow, however.
“It won’t do any good,” Karin sulked. “He’s never harmed or touched me, and no one would care or say anything if he did…”
“Don’t say that,” Frederick said, “I care, and I will say something.”
“But you’re leaving me!” Karin shouted in anger and misery.
“I know…” Frederick said pitifully.
“I don’t want you to go! You mustn’t go!” she begged.
He comforted the crying girl in his arms, choking back a sadness amassing behind his eyes. He had seen this poor girl crying and miserable far too many times in the past couple weeks and it tore him up inside.
I’d even rely on Harald right now if he could promise to keep Karin safe, he thought.
A realization pierced him that maybe he and his ambitious older brother weren’t so different. Frederick had always assumed power was the driving factor for Harald, so much so that he had arranged for his twin sister Sylvie to be married off to a lesser Elite within the Principality he controlled. It was unanimous among the family that Harald was simply buying the loyalty of the minority Elites to coerce them into rapid militarization.
Now, Frederick wasn’t so sure on the matter. Maybe Harald was really trying to keep Sylvie as close to him as possible. Perhaps there was something more to Harald than just plain ambition.
“Okay, you two,” came Katherine’s voice as she approached.
She had dealt with the situation in full, and Frederick could see Kurt being dragged away by his friends. The Enforcers nearby eyed him suspiciously but found nothing more of concern and continued with their patrol.
“Karin, you poor dear,” said Katherine, gently taking the crying girl from Frederick’s arms. “Don’t worry yourself, nothing bad will come of this.”
Frederick looked on at Katherine in sympathy, unwilling to correct her misunderstanding for Karin’s tears.
“That being said,” Frederick interjected, “I did want to speak to Father about what just happened. It’s important he hears about that boy.”
Katherine gave Frederick a look of worry which only served to further reflect upon Kurt’s earlier word’s about being untouchable.
This couldn’t have happened at a worse time, he thought.
His day was truly ruined. There was little more relaxation he could hope for, his anxiety was beyond his control, now. He could only hope to get something productive done by speaking with his father. The three of them went lumbering to the Capitol Penthouse, nearly having to carry the miserable Karin the whole way.
For once, the visit with his father was far quicker than he hoped. He told of the events that happened moments earlier with as much honesty as possible. His father hadn’t completely dismissed Frederick’s concerns, and did guarantee that Karin would not be in Kurt’s presence at Citizen School, but that hadn’t really satisfied Frederick at all, as he noted a lack of permanent restraint being enforced.
Frederick exited his father’s suite to the sight of a slightly more cheerful Karin. Katherine was holding her close with a motherly compassion, speaking softly to the young girl.
When she’s not engulfed in politics, she really does show a perfect maternal charm, he thought. It’s no wonder Father relies on her so much these days and won’t marry her off...
The circumstances to Katherine’s continued unwedded status was not known to him nor most of his siblings. It was a simply accepted fact that Katherine had come to an agreement with their father that she remain in the Principality and take a worthy bachelor when she so desired. Frederick enviously wished this for Karin, and hoped that his future exploits might grant him this power.
“Do you mind if we head out,” Frederick asked Katherine. “I think I’d like to spend the rest of the day at home with Karin.”
“Of course,” Katherine responded.
She ran her fingers through Karin’s blonde hair speaking soft words of advice to the girl.
“Don’t suppress those emotions,” she said to her, “he won’t reject them.”
Frederick furrowed his brow in puzzlement. He had rarely heard words of faith coming from Katherine, let alone anyone of the family.
Karin smiled at Katherine and nodded happily, embracing the motherly sister before heading back home with Frederick.
The walk back to their house at the top of the hill was filled with an overbearing silence. Once Frederick had informed Karin of their father’s decision in regards to Kurt and her schooling, the air went dry. A heavy pressure filled around the two as neither could think of what more to say, or if something should even be said. Frederick opted for the latter, but Karin hadn’t.
As they reached the top of the hill, overlooking the beauty of the City, she turned to him.
“Frederick,” Karin said, her eyes staring affectionately into his. “I love you.”
She matched his height on her toes, and with impassioned lips, kissed him. He returned her passion with his own, pressing her close for as long as she desired. He felt his soul fragment into collectable shards that she claimed several of and made her own. He welcomed it wholly. It was the fondest memory the two would share, and they would never forget it.