The Torans' Pledge
They gathered in the city square: Adin, his wife Zarah, and hundreds of Torans in colourful robes that shimmered with light as they walked. After order ensued from the initial chaos of so many people coming to one place, Adin found himself standing beside the huge rock that bore proof of the Torans' allegiance to him, facing the people of Tora, gazing at their determined, faithful faces.
They were so willing to trust that he would rule Deltora to the best of his ability, so willing to pledge their loyalty to him, a blacksmith from Del. Adin was both glad and humbled by their loyalty and terrified by it. What if he failed them all? What if he did not succeed in preventing another invasion from the Shadowlands? What if their trust in him was misplaced?
Adin kept his head bowed so they would not notice the trepidation plain on his face. They needed to see him strong and at ease, not weak and overwhelmed by the enormity of the idea of ruling a kingdom. When he had set out to convince the tribes to add their gems to the Belt he had created from a dream, he had not expected to become king of a united land. He was after all, only a blacksmith from Del, and knew nothing about the daily business of ruling a kingdom such as the Land of Dragons. Secretly, he would have preferred the mantle to go to someone else, but it had gone to him and he would do the best he could for his people and kingdom. The Belt had chosen him, had shone for him on the battlefield as he wore the completed Belt for the first time.
He felt Zarah's hand gently touch his arm, and drew strength from its familiar touch. 'Are you ready, Adin?' she asked him gently. 'They are waiting for you.'
He took a shuddering breath, and nodded. Please, he prayed to whoever deity was listening, help me to be a strong king, to lead my people well, to protect them from the Shadow Lord. Help me be worthy of the great task that I have been given. It is all that I ask.
He lifted his head and stepped forward, his gaze raking each Toran in the square. He wanted to ask them, Are you certain of this? Do you really want to go through with this, even knowing that you will have a price to pay if you break it? But Torans were proud by nature, and would have been offended if he questioned their decision. And Adin knew that he would need their goodwill if ever the Shadow Lord tried to invade Deltora again. So Adin did not voice his concerns to the people of Tora.
'People of Tora,' Adin began, 'do you vow to be loyal to your king and those that come after him?'
'We so vow,' they murmured, eyes blazing with conviction.
'Do you vow to support them in times of need, and not turn them away?'
'We so vow.'
'Then let this vow be sealed in this rock, and be a symbol of what has just occurred.' Adin stepped back beside Zarah who smiled at him and held his hand, her face a picture of serenity.
The Toran leader, Zarah's own father, stepped forward from among the crowd, and signalled to them. The Torans held up their hands, their sleeves fluttering, and recited, 'We, the people of Tora, swear loyalty to Adin, and all of his blood who follow him. If ever this vow is broken, may this rock, our city's heart, break also, and may we be swept away, forever to regret out dishonour.'
For a moment, it was as if the world was frozen. No one body moved a muscle; all eyes were riveted on the rock. It glowed with emerald green light, and then faded to its usual grey hue. But a mystical power still emanated from it.
Adin let out a huge breath. It was over. Now, the business of ruling would begin. On the morrow, he and Zarah would travel to Del to take up residence in his forge, from where he would receive messages and visitors from each of the seven tribes informing him of the state of the land.
Although he was thankful for and humbled by the Torans' pledge of loyalty, he could not help but feel a sliver of unease. They would keep to their pledge in his lifetime, he knew. But what of the centuries to come? Adin had a strong feeling they would forget about the importance of their vow, and would dismiss it as a legend. And then what would become of them if they were asked to honour their vow? They might refuse, and be swept away for eternity, Adin thought. He could only pray and hope that they kept their pledge in the centuries to come.