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The story of A Girl and Her King, joins the young protagonist as she grows in her commitment towards her good king. She is young and he is old. He teaches, her watches over her, protects her. He has taken her to the battlefield, the arena, and now asks her to find her place inside the calm environment of her old home, where challenges abound to test her dedication to him in even in the smallest matters. She does not yet know what form their love will take, if he will one day bring her to live with him in the palace, or request she stay in that quiet home forever. But willing to wait, she receives the lessons he has in store for her.

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The night before Philothea cried in the king’s arms. She began to cry and he put his arms around her. It was a simple gesture, but so tender, so full of kindness. He allowed her to cry and to love him. When she lay down that night in her home, the peace he gave her helped her to laugh again, when a tear fell and tickled the inside of her ear.

He was not the king others imagined, cold, stern, distant. The king was gentle, funny, loving, tender, so funny, abrupt, impatient (in his love), courageous, and sometimes angry. Some knew he was jealous (in his love), but few understood what that meant. It did not fit their stoic marble image.

The king loved children and laughed often. He desired to make Philothea happy. Everything felt a puzzle to her. Those she knew to be strong, seemed weak. Her mother could not move. Philothea’s heart ached to see it.

Philothea was sad, and she knew it. The king handed her a little yellow box, a gift wrapped for her. She opened it. It was a smile. “Swallow it,” he said. How simple. “I want you to have it always inside you.” How sweet. She swallowed it and she could feel it rest in her heart. Yes, she was smiling; her heart was smiling and she was happy. Very sad, but strangely happy.

It was hard to show it though. Interacting with people inside the walls reminded her that although she laughed very often with the king throughout the day, she was sad. No one knew.

They asked how she was. She responded, “okay.”

“That’s good,” they said. Vague words.

The girl tried to be grateful for her weakness, grateful to see her mother’s humanity. Philothea hurt to see someone she loved hurting. She tried to see some good in it.

But she was powerless. She had no friends to share her pain with. The king tried to console her when she visited. But her sadness deepened. “I wish you could make me happy, all the way happy, just for a moment.” He caught her during a yawn and made her laugh.

He understood her pain. Philothea could not put it into words to anyone else. She tried, but no one understood. She told someone she felt scattered. He responded, “pull yourself together.”

 …

The Shepherdess by Millet

Philothea reminded herself she was no martyr. This was not a dark night. At one time, the girl would hold her head very high and say “all for the king.” Now she understood to be close to him was to hold her heart very close and say, “yes, all for you, king, and for your kingdom.” She should not boast, even to him, and she must not be falsely humble.

But the sadness remained. During a beautiful celebration at the palace, Philothea saw she desired someone extra, someone whose shoulder she could lay her head on. She wrote down her request to the king. He could make all things possible.

There was a woman among the people whom the king loved. The woman was a servant to him. Her mother was a noblewoman and one day, she too would be. Philothea and she were old friends. Two servants together. She had been gone away and the king brought her back. Near her, Philothea always felt some relief, like being around the princess. Philothea asked for prayer. The two girls sat in the palace when it had emptied out. Philothea placed her head on the woman’s shoulder and cried a little. The king approached them with his love and the woman told the king the little things she wanted for the girl, the family and all the world. The king nodded. He knew. He watched as his beloved heaved sighs and tears, almost vulnerable.

When Philothea fretted over her tasks, the king reminded her bluntly, “if you’re not going to have peace in it, don’t do it.”

After a dream, she began to become aware of that third creature. The princess had pointed out two. But it seemed there might be a third, just jumping around, cowardly, unable to get into her room. It wanted Philothea to doubt her king’s faithfulness. She heard it scratching a little at the door. She would not allow it to enter. Philothea took the news to the king.

The king pointed out her training weapons. “You may have used them in training, but they are little to be trifled with. It will kill any beast approaching you.” He leaned in and whispered “they’re scared of you, darling.” Philothea smiled with excitement. She knew they feared children, but her? He nodded. Ah, she was excited. She was not at the mercy of these things.

“We’re going to win the war,” she said to him.

“Yes, darling – and you’re going to be at the front.” She looked at him. He looked straight ahead. He meant what he said – he did not need to explain it.

While at table with a young girl, Philothea told her of the third creature. Concerned, the girl put a name to it. More complicated than doubt, Philothea decided she must bring it to the court.

There in the court her fears were put to rest. Philothea was reminded that she was the subject and servant of the king. She must remember his power in these situations. He was not merely a doting friend. The members of the court reminded her that she must be faithful to his call in her life, his placement of her inside the walls. Philothea may visit him each day, but that would have to be enough. This was the king’s wish. She must stay in her home inside the walls. The king would take care of the rest.

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