Long ago, when Aror was young, and the gods still took a direct hand in our lives, there was a mighty kingdom. For many generations this kingdom had stood proud and strong against the storms that crashed against its southern cliffs. Their king was just and fair, and he was known far and wide for his kindness and his love for his people.
The king had led them for many prosperous years, but now the people struggled. Famine and drought swept the land, leaving empty bellies and misery in their wake. The king reached out to the other kingdoms nearby, but they were likewise affected, and had nothing to spare. He rationed what little food they had, even going hungry himself as he tried to help as many as he could, but he wept for them all and for their plight, for he knew not what to do.
One day, after the king had once more given away his own meals to feed those coming to him for help, he saw a great flash of light. A being like the king had never seen stepped out of this golden light and stood before him. It had the body of a man, but six wings on its back which spread out to the width of a man and spanned far above the being’s head, and all the way to the floor. It held its left hand open in welcome, and in the right it held a flaming sword which it pointed at the ground beside its feet. When it turned its face toward the king, he could see that it had thick golden hair and a pale, beautiful face. It spoke to him, and its voice was musical and full, echoing richly around the room.
“I am The Angel,” it said. “I have come here to offer you a solution to your people’s plight. Heed my words and obey.”
The king was overwhelmed with hope that his kingdom’s suffering might finally be at an end, and eagerly petitioned the Angel for its help.
“I will put an end to the drought hanging over your land, but you must promise me your devotion in return.”
The king immediately nodded, falling to his knees. “Anything, anything. Please help my people. I’ll give you whatever you wish. My fortune, my crown, even my life,” he begged. “Anything to ease their suffering.”
The Angel inclined its beautiful head, golden curls falling about its face in waves. “Very well. In three years time, I will return and collect my prize.”
And with another flash of yellow light, and a slightly disconcerting smile, the creature disappeared, leaving no trace that it had been there. As the last of the light faded into nothing, the king heard a great crashing of thunder, and rain began to fall outside.
For many months, the king and his people flourished. The rain-drenched landscape took on new fertility, and both work and food were more abundant than they ever had been before. With a surplus of food stored away, and no more worries on the horizon, the wilderness grew lush and thick, and a boom of artists and creative folk set up in the larger cities. It was truly a time of peace and happiness for the King’s people, and he praised the Angel every day for its mercy and gratitude, and the people likewise worshipped the holy being as a God.
Then, one day, as the King went out to see to his people, a group of foreigners arrived at the docks, looking very tired and travel weary. The King invited them into his palace as he had done many others, welcoming them to his kingdom, and bade them rest. One of the strangers in particular, stopped to pay his respects to the King, and the monarch was transfixed in an instant.
Bright, shining eyes met the King’s dark ones, and the stranger smiled. He was very different from the people of the King’s own lands, with his richly pigmented skin and thick, earthen-colored hair that fell about his face and shoulders, and the King thought the stranger was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. The two struggled to overcome the barrier of language between them, but soon learned to understand one another, and spoke at great length. The King learned that the stranger and his people had heard there was work and safety in the King’s lands, and that they had come in the hope of a better life. He said that war had nearly torn apart his own home, and he was glad to see the King truly was as kind as he had been told.
After the stranger and his companions had been settled into the city to work, the King knew that the stranger was the one. Enthralled with the man’s charms, and touched by the man’s genuine care and affection for his people, the King decided to pursue the stranger, calling him Dilis and offering him his devotion.
And the stranger, so enamored as he was by the gentle King’s dark eyes, fell instantly in love. And his quiet devotion was not that of loud and brash tales, but of constant love, gentle reassurance, and sincere emotion. Though the stranger was dark where the King was fair, and the differences in their cultures were great, they found a balance between each other. It is said that the King’s devotion to the man named Kamal was rivaled only by Kamal’s earnest worship of his King, and carvings can still be found detailing the depth of their love.
They were fasted in the style of the King’s people, and the whole kingdom rejoiced, for their King had finally found his true match, the one with whom he fit as a part of a larger whole. Though a sect of the Angel’s followers voiced their concerns, they were drowned out in celebration of the union. They ruled side by side for almost a full year, leading their people with all the grace and wisdom they could afford them, and their days and nights were filled with love and true happiness.
Then, three years after the drought had ended, bright golden light once more entered the throne room. The King rose to greet the Angel upon its return, eager to show his love the being responsible for saving their people. The Angel once more stepped out of its halo of light, and the beautiful, ethereal face turned to the King.
“You have done well with the gift I have given you,” it said. “Your people flourish, and your borders begin to grow. Three years have passed, and as promised I return to collect my reward, and yet I return to blasphemy.” The Angel stared down at the King and his love. “For all of your hollow worship, you show such abominations before me?”
It raised its flaming sword, and the golden glow around the Angel began to turn a hellish crimson. When it spoke again, its voice was louder than the thunder, and shook the room down to its stone pillars. “Your unholy union is an affront to the gods, and you shall suffer greatly for your arrogance.”
Fire engulfed the Angel’s form, and its heavenly countenance fell away to reveal the might and anger of a Demon. The King and his love trembled before its might, and were soon sent running from the room as the pillars around them began to fall. The King’s crown fell from his head, rolling away behind his broken throne, but he cared nothing for the loss of its weight. A great burst of fire and sound echoed from the throne room, telling of the Angel’s furious departure, but the King counted not the destruction of the building among the costs of the Angel’s attack.
When he and his love were free of the danger, he only cared that they were unhurt, and his love was still with him, for things can be replaced, but what is truly important cannot be bought or sold.
The King and his people set about repairing the damage, and burying their dead, but now there was a voice of dissent that marred their once happy land. The Angel’s followers, blaming the good King for the destruction the Angel had wrought, demanded his throne in return for his mistakes. He gave it gladly, overwhelmed with guilt for the wrath of the Angel that had been so good to them. He gave his crown to a good man, of strong faith, whom he hoped would succeed where the King had failed. Now tauntingly referred to as The Penniless Monarch, the good King and his love were forced to wander the land in search of work and coin, as no one in the city dared to face the Angel’s wrath for taking them in.
Under the new king’s leadership, the kingdom began to lose money. Construction grew expensive, and slowly ground to a halt as more efforts were put into more pressing needs. Rains once again came late, and the people resorted to rationing to get by. Finally, the kingdom’s northern neighbor, of whom they had always been wary, invaded the kingdom, and took control. They killed the new king, and made their own its leader. Now scorned and banished from the city by the violent rule of this dangerous new leader, the good King was forgotten by all who once praised him, save his beautiful lover, who swore to always walk by his side.
Though the King was grieved by the suffering of his people, and unable to help them, he found comfort in the arms of his lover, and the two continued on their way. As they wandered the wilds of their once beautiful home, they faced many dangers, from hunger to deserters from the recent war. But still, their balance steadied them, and the King and his lover found a way to be happy.
The Angel, furious that the King and his love would dare to be happy after the loss of all they had, swore revenge on their arrogance. Unbeknown to the King, it took the guise of a highwayman, one of the desperate bandits that preyed on desolate cliffside roads and nighttime travelers. As the King and his love passed by, the Angel leaped from the shadows and attacked.
In the fury of their battle, the Angel’s wings were badly damaged, and it sensed its defeat looming ahead. It summoned its strength and lashed out, cursing them both. The lover, in fear for his King’s life, ran forward, throwing himself between them with a desperate cry, just as the Angel’s disguise fell away, and it attacked the King with its flaming sword.
The King’s world stopped as his lover fell to the ground, bleeding heavily from his wound. Overwhelmed with grief and rage, the good King rose once more to his feet, and attacked the Angel with renewed force. Unable to flee, the Angel fell to the King’s revenge, and toppled off of the cliffs and onto the rocks below. His lover avenged, the King returned to his Dilis’s side, mourning his loss with such heartfelt cries that it is said the cliffs still echo them to this day, carried in the wind that batters the shore.
Not caring for his own injuries, the King took his love down to the seaside, and buried him in the sand. For three days, he neither slept nor ate, and kept vigil at the side of the man that had stayed beside him when no one else would. At the end of the three days, weak from hunger, thirst, and pain, the good King gave in to his grief. He rose to his feet and stepped out into the water, never to surface again.
It is said that the gods themselves took notice of the lovers’ devotion to one another, and the purity of their love, and pitied their sad end. And so the body of Kamal was taken from his seaside grave, and reformed into a cluster of beautiful lotus blossoms, just as lovely and pure as he had been in life, and Sianne herself planted the flowers all along the water’s edge, so that the young lover could be reunited with his King.
To this day, the southern coast of The Penniless Ocean remains the only natural habitat for those lotuses, and great care must be taken to ensure their survival once taken away from the water’s edge, for even in death, Kamal and his King cannot bear to be parted from one another.
All across Messia and southern Ashila, the Kamal lotus is seen as a symbol of infinite love and devotion, and lovers give each other the blossoms as gifts, or use the seeds to make betrothal jewelry. While the lotus has long been a symbol for triumph over adversity, this flower’s connection to the famous lovers also symbolizes the selfless devotion and undying passion that defined The Penniless King, and his true love.