the dreams leave
The Deserving King
announcement had come very suddenly. The attendees of the
support group, after their confrontation with Jak, were
contacted the next morning with an invitation and a role
to play. After they had all accepted, the announcement was
made city-wide: their King demanded their attention. He
will hold a special ceremony the next day at Baron's Plaza
and the entire city is both invited and summoned. Those
who will not be able to fit into the plaza will have to
view the ceremony on screens in other areas.
And so, the rapid organisation meant the plaza was quickly
changed and outfitted in the space of a day, with monitors
erected in other key areas. One of those areas was the old
barracks, which were being used by the nomads as their
home and professional space; Jak had decided they had the
right to view the ceremony, even if they were not citizens
and could not be invited (he was also secretly hoping his
therapist would approve the actions he would perform). In
Baron's Plaza - so named as that was the location of Baron
Praxis' palace before its destruction, after which the
rubble had been cleared and the large space left empty -
lots of temporary event seating had been erected, most of
which were two storeys high, a few at the very 'back' were
three. Each of the groups of seats had walking spaces
between them, allowing movement. There was also a mass of
chairs that stopped about a city block in front of the
temporary stage. There were not enough chairs to fill all
the empty spaces, however, so many of the citizens had to
stand. The only preference shown was for the elderly and
the very young to have seating, all else was first-come,
first served. In the space between the front row seating
and the stage, to one side were rows of seating, occuppied
by the City Councillors and their assistants (half of whom
had one). They were dressed in basic mourning clothes, as
were the group occupying the seats directly opposite them.
The other side of the space had been completely filled by
the members of the support group.
The stage itself was a basic setup. It was a platform,
covered in a coloured sheet to make it seem presentable. A
podium stood at the very front, in the middle, bearing the
insignia of the House of Mar. In front of the podium were
the stairs to the stage. On said podium was a microphone,
waiting to broadcast the king's voice to any device ready
to transmit it. What most people could not see, was the
card lying on the podium stand, bearing the speech to be
read out. There was a bench each side of the stage; those
on the stage were expected to stand. The stage was in
front of a Memorial Hall, connecting to its stairway that
leads to its grand doors. The doors hung open. It was
upstairs that the king and his entourage were in a chamber
and waiting for the correct time. They stared out through
the windows, marvelling at the large crowd and the skill
with which the Freedom Guards directed the people.
There was quiet chatter between the people in the chamber.
Jak said nothing, staring out of the window; people often
glanced his way out of concern. All of them were wearing
simple, black outfits, demonstrating their mourning. Even
Samos found a dark robe he could wear, looking more regal
than usual. Jak wore his amulet to demonstrate his rank.
Watching the people outside, his overwhelming emotion was
anxiety. At the same time, he could not help but be
impressed by the power he had over these people, their
loyalty to him. He had summoned them and they had
attended, no question. His heartbeat refused to lessen its
pressure against his ribs. He had spent hours rehearsing
his speech in front of Keira, Daxter, Ashelin, Torn, Sig,
even Tess. He had never been good at public speaking and
had to learn to look up, look at people, speak clearly,
pause at key moments, wear the correct facial expression,
etc. The entire process had been exhausting and he still
felt unprepared, or unable to perform. Or unwilling.
It felt unreal when Talia announced that it was time for
the ceremony to begin. For several moments, Jak didn't
move, half-convinced he had imagined the statement. Keira
and Daxter had to further nudge him. One look at his
stoney, drawn face made it clear to both that the blonde
was nervous beyond belief. His movement to the building
and stage entrance was automatic; he found it difficult to
focus on his surroundings. His heartbeat was so fast and
so loud, he wondered how he could possibly be standing. He
clasped Keira's hand, drawing strength and support from
it. He swallowed thickly, as he came closer to the open
door, to the source of bright light.
Talia walked out, holding the staff of the Master of
Ceremonies (as one had not been named, the ceremony
organisor, Talia, was playing the part). She paused next
to the Proclaimer on stage. The Proclaimer was actually a
Freedom Guard decked in a special robe. He approached the
podium and proclaimed: "All rise!" Everyone in the crowd
that could, stood up as he introduced the people coming on
stage. He introduced the 'Sage of Green Eco' Samos Hagi,
the 'Ottsel Guests of the King' Daxter and Tess, Torn
'Commander of the Freedom League', 'Baron of Spargus' Sig
(accompanied by 2 monks), 'Baroness of Haven City' Ashelin
Praxis, 'Daughter of the Sage' Keira Hagi, then 'His
Majesty Mar II of the Ruling House of Mar'. Everyone else
stood in a predetermined spot on stage, Jak remained with
Keira in the centre. The Proclaimer stood to one side of
the podium, providing some distance, while Talia descended
the stage stairs to the ground. Jak remained in his spot
while the crowd cheered.
It was a lukewarm applause. The King could instantly tell
the difference between the cheering here and the
thunderous rapture of an applause he had received when he
had won races, completed challenges and saved the day. The
muted mood made him wonder if he should be encouraged or
more conscious of his possible mistakes. He soaked it in
for a while, glad that the crowd were at least polite
enough to applaud him in some sort of support. He could
hear the cheers quieten down. His intertwined hand
squeezed Keira's as strongly as possible; he walked
Jak attempted to smile at least somewhat, as Sig had told
him that citizens always feel strengthened when they see
their presence encourages their leader. He swallowed a
huge, painful lump as he stood in front of the podium. The
applause finally stopped.
"Thanks for the warm welcome, I'm glad you came." He was
surprised at how solid and confident he sounded. His
fleeting increase in confidence shot down again when he
saw a number of people in the crowd roll their eyes and
scoff. He looked down at his card, moving swiftly on
before he could dwell on the moment. "Every person here
knows that in a few days, we will cast our votes either
for or against our new constitution. Well, excluding me.
But I did decide one thing: I don't want you to vote in
support of this constitution because you feel you have to.
If you have a genuine problem with the constitution as it
now stands, please, vote no. If not enough of you vote in
favour of it, then it will
go back to the drawing board and we will need to know why
you cannot support it." He paused, allowing himself a
chance to inspect the crowd in front of him. He was glad
he held their attention. Looking to his right, he noticed
some of the Councillors squirming. You
just love every single thing going to plan, don't you?
He kept his smirk private. "The reason why I asked you all
here - summoned you all -" 'summoned' was a word he had
improvised, as it was not in his speech, "is to make a
case for the new constitution and the government it will
make. I cannot expect you to vote in favour of something
if no case has been made for it.
"We were all celebrating the anniversary of the fall of
Baron Praxis' regime last week. I hope I can prove to you,
that the constitution you will be voting on, will mean a
government completely different from his." Jak paused,
aware of what topic he will be discussing next. He
remembered Daxter telling him how volatile this topic was,
how so many citizens in Haven City had a grudge against
the Krimzon Guards, for one reason or another. "We have
our monument to remember the lives of the rebels that were
killed, the members of the Underground who were killed.
There is also the monument to commemorate those political
prisoners, many of whom had suffered great torture in his
prison." And I suffered
with them. Jak had to force his thoughts away
from his memories. He stared at the crowd instead,
noticing a great number of spectators bow their heads in
memory. "We even have the monument to remember everyone
killed during the Metal Head War that took place after
Praxis fell. But...there is one group of people that no
one talks about, another victim of Praxis' regime, we did
not even want to think about. That includes me." Thousands
of eyes stared back at him in curiosity. "The Krimzon
The reaction was immediate and intense. People started
chattering, jeering or simply staring crossly. Jak felt
intensely small and had the sudden desire to spot an exit.
He then looked to his left, seeing the surviving kin of
his victims fidgeting, looking anxious. "I know what
you're thinking! Believe me, I know!" The crowd quietened
in surprise. A few still jeered their challenges, daring
the King to explain himself. Jak looked behind him. He did
not need to look at Torn, as the commander was fully aware
of the content of his speech, but it was good to have the
older man's encouraging nod in any case. Turning back, he
continued. "Everyone is still convinced that the Krimzon
Guards were just an extension of Praxis, loyal to him and
cruel to everyone else." ... The crowd continued to
generate some noise. "I hope you haven't forgotten that
over half the Freedom League members used to be Krimzon
Guards." This point silenced the crowd. "Working under
Praxis, these men and women faced 3 key dangers: murder by
rebels, attacks from Metal Heads and punishment from
Praxis himself, if they were unfortunate. One hated aspect
of them was their helmets, which covered their faces. I
learned this feature was introduced because Krimzon Guards
kept getting attacked when off-duty. Because they dealt
with such conditions, I wanted to know what made them
become Krimzon Guards in the first place.
"There were those who were conscripted and had no choice.
Others volunteered because they had no other
qualifications or possibilities for a stable job, with
stable income. As Krimzon Guard members were lost to Metal
Head attacks, more spaces opened up." The young king
stopped his speech, letting out a sigh. "Now that you know
this side of the situation, our recent history becomes a
lot more complicated. My case to you, for our new
constitution, is to guarantee a free discussion of our
past. We won't - will not silence those with a different
opinion to others, we will not discourage certain kinds of
thoughts or ideas. With a history this tragic, we need to
be honest. And it is tragic." He let out another sigh. He
paused, clenching his sealed lips together. He was
hesitant about the next part.
"That much?" exclaimed
Jak, looking up at Torn.
The Freedom League Commander gazed back
unsympathetically. "I verified all the statistics
personally. Especially your
The younger man looked back down at the report. "My
idea...will it be enough?"
"Only if you mean it."
He forced himself to find the courage he needed.
"Our records say that attacks by the Underground and other
rebels, resulted in the deaths of 162 Krimzon Guards in
total. A further 312 were injured, 83 were injured so
badly they had to leave their jobs." ... "I killed 51 of
A light gasp ran through the crowd. Saying the number with
his own voice invited more guilt to sit uneasily in his
stomach. He had never felt certain about how the citizens
of the city would react to this announcement, but their
varied reactions made him feel less secure, if that were
possible. The spectators looked sad, fearful, smug and
confused, sometimes all at once. He looked to his left,
seeing the victims of his wrathful actions looking
stunned. It seemed even they had not believed he could
kill so many.
Jak refocussed on his written speech. "There is a reason,
we are all wearing our clothes for mourning. The people
seated here, in front of this stage, they all knew a Guard
I had killed, in some cases they knew several." He faced
the people he referred to. "This may come as a shock to
you, but I know how you feel." As he read on, his focus
wavered away from his speech. "I know what it's like, to
see someone you love, trust, know, suddenly get killed.
That source of safety and confidence in your life is
suddenly gone. The wisdom or sense of humour you knew has
vanished and is not there anymore. His advice that you
need but won't ever get." His voice had become so thick.
"That sense of emptiness during those times that, you feel
like you know just what he would say, but then you're not
completely sure, and you wish he is actually there. Those
important moments in your life you wish he could see.
There are even times you can't believe he's gone, suddenly
switching to the feeling you wish he's completely gone,
that you could forget about him." His chin quivered. "I
know all of this. I lost my father too. This pain,
this...these feelings." His vision blurred. He panicked!
"I..." He forced the shakiness out of his voice,
swallowing the growing lump. He did not want to break down
in public like this. "I don't wish it on anyone." He gave
up the battle for his inner control, letting the hot tears
fall from his eyes. At that moment, he did not care how
the people saw him, what opinions they were drawing.
The pressure, the guilt, the anger, the sadness; he let it
out in his tears and defied his instinct to wipe them
away. He looked to his left again. "I can't excuse what I
did. I know what pain I caused you and I never wanted to
give that to anyone,
but I did. And what you really want is your...dad,
brother, son, cousin, friend...you just want them back,
and I can't bring them back. I wish I could." More
pathetic tears rushed out. "I know I'll spend the rest of
my life trying to make it up to you, but it'll never be
enough." He had given up reading his speech long ago. He
could hear no noises from the crowd but he had no idea how
they were looking at him. His cries shook his body. "Those
words are just pathetic but I mean it, I really do. I'm
sorry, I'm so sorry." Sniffling, he undid the chain
holding the amulet around his neck.
Everyone looked on, stunned, as their King placed his
amulet, the symbol of his family line, onto the podium and
descended down the stairs. The people on the stage looked
solemn. They knew the parts to the ceremony after all. Jak
kept his descent steady. His tears had slowed but
inwardly, he felt intense relief. He was so glad to have
expressed everything he had needed to. He did not need to
speak any more, the rest of the ceremony would be easy. At
the bottom of the stairs, he turned to his left, taking a
few steps forward.
Talia stood by the microphone stand, waiting for the
correct time to invite the first person forward. Jak stood
still. His watery eyes looked at all the faces of the
support group. Looking at the number, Jak realised only
about half, maybe two-thirds of his victims were
represented by this group of kin. Inwardly, he knew he
would have to face more people; he hoped this public
ceremony would be enough to convince them, convince them
to seek help and convince them to suppress their rage and
sadness towards him. He bowed his head.
Keeping his head bowed, he descended to his knees. And so
he remained, knelt on the spot and his head bowed in
deference to the people he had unwillingly harmed. Talia
must have signalled the first person to approach, as he
soon heard someone speak a name into the microphone. Soon
after, something was placed in front of him. Jak kept his
head resolutely bowed, his body still, his tears in place.
What he could - and did - do was open his eyes, so that
through the tops of them, he could see what the mourners
placed in front of him. Part of the arrangement, was that
for their part in the ceremony, each person or group of
people would bring a memento of the person that was
killed. Usually, they brought photos of the Krimzon Guard
in question, out of uniform naturally. Other times, it was
treasured objects, like a locket or a scrapbook, even a
wedding tunic in one case.
"On one sad day," began the Freedom Guard, who had argued
with Jak the day the group had confronted him, "I saw him
kill over 20 of my friends and colleagues. His Majesty is
now aware, how much his careless actions cost. In memory,
I brought with me my old Krimzon Guard helmet, and a
Jak heard the helmet placed on the ground, the funeral
bouquet had been placed on the side of the growing pile of
mementos, so he could see a bunch of red flowers staring
back at him. The remaining presentation of mementos went
as before. The final one - though he was unaware this was
the final one - was of a woman presenting her engagement
ring, expressing how much she missed her husband, also
father to their children. She placed it on the top of the
pile. Jak could no longer see the top of the pile and
refused to move his head in order to find a better view.
He was surprised when the same woman called out a name,
asking whoever-it-was to come back. He was startled when
he felt a small hand brush away his tears.
"You can stop crying now, we get you're sorry," said a
small boy. Jak looked up to find it was the same boy that
had asked him if he had hated his father. "When my sister
and me had a fight, we always cried. Dad said the second
hardest thing to do is to say sorry, the first hardest is
to accept the apology. But after that, everyone's
happier." His sister knelt down beside him. "This is the
biggest sorry I ever saw."
"Mom is always angry and sad," said the young girl
ruefully. "I think she forgot what Dad always said to do
and just hated you instead, 'cos it's easier."
Jak stared at them. What the twins had said rang very true
for the situation, as well as any other situation
involving a desire for revenge. Unfortunately, their
comments left him with conflicting feelings: he felt
flattered and relieved that they forgave him, but on the
other hand, his guilt over murdering their father had only
intensified. He sounded like a very wise and caring
person. "What are your names?" he asked quietly.
"I'm Bowden. She's Cassio."
"What was your dad like?" asked Cassio, as if unaware of
his previously asked question.
Jak had a small grin creeping up one corner of his mouth.
"He was very strong, loud, very gruff. He didn't show his
nice side very much. But when he did, I thought he was the
wisest person alive."
Cassio seemed to want to say something else, but Talia had
come over to usher them towards their mother. Bowden
giggled as he went, while his sister waved at Jak shyly.
The kneeling man stared after the children, forgetting for
a moment where he was and his purpose for being there. He
was suddenly shaken out of his reverie by the
reverberating words of the Proclaimer, once again
utilising the microphone at the podium.
"This pile of mementos, presented to you by the surviving
kin, will be kept here and guarded for one day. Tomorrow
the kin can recollect them. If any citizen wishes to show
solidarity with the kin during this time of grief, all of
you are invited to contribute a candle. On that spot, a
monument will be erected to all Krimzon Guards killed by
rebels or mishaps, including those victims of the King.
The penance, accepted by His Majesty, will be to maintain
and care for this monument for the rest of his life."
At the end of that announcement, two Freedom Guards, who
had approached Jak from behind as the Proclaimer spoke,
grabbed the arms of their ruler and hoisted him to his
feet. Like any common prisoner, they marched him out of
Baron's Plaza and into a nearby café, which had been
claimed and appropriated by the Freedom Guards and the
City Councillors for this ceremony especially. The café
was empty when they marched in.
Jak thought the guards would escort him to one of the
tables in the corner and sit him down. Instead, they let
go of his arms and guided him to the customer toilets. He
faced them in confusion.
"Um, I don't need to go."
One of them shrugged. "We thought you would appreciate the
chance to clean up, Your Majesty."
The blonde blinked. Two acts of generosity within the
space of 10 minutes, the last thing he had expected to
happen. He did not feel worthy of such treatment. Such
thoughts were quickly brushed aside, however, as Jak
resolutely decided he would ponder these thoughts later.
"Thanks." He stepped inside and proceeded to rinse his
A little later, Jak was sitting in a dark corner of the
café, listening to the chatter of the citizens - his
subjects - as they exited the plaza and made
their way to resume their day. He let the hum and murmur
of their chatter wash over him, as he was still trying to
recollect his thoughts in the aftermath of so much
emotion. He couldn't make out any clear words usually, but
the tone of voice used made it clear that everyone had
been given something to think about. He felt numb,
emotionally exhausted. He then heard Keira's voice, inside
the café, speaking to one of the Councillors. Very soon,
she approached him. He turned to see Keira's encouraging
smile and he did what came naturally: he wrapped his arms
around her, laying his head on the comfort of her chest.
As ever, a hand ran through his hair in affection.
"I did it," he whispered.
He felt a kiss on his head. "I'm proud of you, Jak, I love
by Ruth Hüneke 2013
Naughty Dog and Sony