The Valley of Kings

Our wars—
the young prince thought
and envied the long-dead
ancestor no longer.

He wanted neither the delicious
privilege of creation
—the architect’s responsibilities
and burdens—
nor the sulfurous breath of death,
sometimes a face,
sometimes an entire nation
to focus their hatred upon.

“Among every intelligent being,
there are seeds of destruction,
a handful of tyrants in every spry
corners of the universe,”
the apparition said.
“We forgive your ignorance.”

“Our wars—”
the young prince started.

“Give us your hatred; give us your despair,”
the apparition was now saying.
“We shall take them and only then,
you can get rid of our heirloom.”

“Our wars destroyed us!”
the young prince now
bellowed and howled,
shattering the bloodsword,
its deafening rumble echoed
through the valley of kings,
where the records of their
violent age were etched
in ruins of stones
and precious metals.

As the young prince walked away
from the treasures of the fallen
through the Gate of Oblivion,
the apparition gathered
the shards of their once-
great investment,
and closed their eyes
to resume their sleep,
but they found
they couldn’t.

The prince’s words troubled
the tomb’s forgotten resident,
reawakening long-buried
memories of a time past,
a loss beyond words:
Our wars destroyed us.

—Salik Shah