The foolish king looks across the earth and sees what he desires, but what he desires is beneath the surface of the land that cannot be conquered. A land of sand and stone and ancient curses that devours the weak-hearted, and your heart is weak o king, you do not have strength to do what must be done and so you should control your eyes and not let them wander. This is the empire where empires come to die. A forlorn place ruled by madmen, with roots that spread deep and wide across the centuries and are too tangled to be undone.
But still the king’s eyes are filled with greed, with vengeance, with hunger for what does not belong to him, what cannot belong to anyone, and thus he send his armies over the mountain to dig, to dig, to dig for gold, for anything that might become his in time.
Whatever you find is what you keep, whatever you take is what was always meant to be yours. A little blood is to be expected, is it not, O king? The blood of our sons and daughters the price that must be paid to search for what cannot be found -- for what else are they looking for but a satiation of the king’s heart, a war that can only be won within himself, not in the empire where empires come to die.
In the night the soldiers are surrounded by ghosts in tattered uniforms who come to say you will never dig deep enough my brothers, there is no treasure but only sand and bone, and beneath them the ancient curses that are sure to rise and devour all that you love. You are digging a grave for yourselves, that’s all. The deeper you dig the more quickly you will be forgotten, buried beneath the empire where empires come to die.
But the king cries for more.
From far away hills, wearing a clean uniform, he orders the men to dig. To feed his appetite. The king is moved by his eyes and his stomach alone, enslaved to desires that are fulfilled, only to rise again. The water you drink, but you grow thirsty again. He must have more. Always, more.
Bands of raiders line up along the mountains above to watch what is happening below, the great pit that is a grave, the deja vu. The centuries move in circles, the same old story played out again and again, and still the soldiers dig. Though the curses of old are stirring in the depths, still the soldiers dig.
In time the king sees there are not enough men, not enough shovels, not enough guns and so he goes from village to village in the empire where empires go to die, and in those villages he promises the bounty of what will be uncovered, at the barrel of a gun he offers guarantees and so the people line up around the pit to dig while the king’s heart rages, I wish for more, I wish for what I am not allowed to have. They begin to dig too. With guns pointed now at both sides of their head, they dig too.
And all the while the raiders wait in the mountains, for they have seen this before. They have already met the king who cannot control his desires, the king who does not have the strength in his own heart to do what he wants others to do on his behalf.
They decide to let the decades pass. Let them come and go, for what is time to a people who are tangled up beneath the centuries?
Until one day the king awakes with a different desire, his eyes have moved on to a different feast on a table that does not belong to him. And so he says enough. Let us leave the empire where empires go to die. And in the night the soldiers are lifted away and carried to safety.
And in the morning, the raiders are still on the mountain, the villagers are still holding shovels in their hands, and the deep-dug grave is waiting for its own feast.