The Mad King awoke in a fury one morning.
His realm was in chaos ever since the villagers had discovered that, instead of using the goods he regularly required them to donate – the chickens and livestock, part of their harvests, assorted leather and iron goods crafted by artisans, and the fine, strong broadcloth the women weaved over the winter months with the wool he allowed them to retain – he was using it for himself, the Queen, his five homely, gluttonous children,
and his assorted mistresses in court. He did not support his mistresses, but instead, paid them handsomely for their silence.
Instead of making good trades with other kingdoms, he would promise them payment in return for the things he desired from them, be it support on the battlefield, goods, information about his enemies, and safe passage through their lands in search of the elusive covfefe bush. He would make these “deals” but then renege on most of them.
Now, the hungry villagers were realizing that while their children starved and their faithful menfolk went off to do battle for a King who cared not about the danger he was putting them in, the Mad King and his lazy family were becoming richer and fatter by the day.
How had the villagers discovered his duplicitousness? He raged within the castle walls, his fury unhinged, his demands to know “who blew the whistle” met with silence. His advisers sought to calm him, placing great platters of hamberders in front of him, and sweet drinks, and desserts, and whispering in his ear;
“Your very stable genius is unmatched, Sire.”
“You have the biggest brain, my liege.”
“You possess the best words, your Majesty.”
This would calm him for a moment, but then he would spy someone in court looking slyly his way and then whispering something furtively to another subject, and he would erupt with anger, spittle spraying from his lips as he decried, “YOU SPREAD FAKE NEWS! YOU ARE HUMAN SCUM!”
At least 5 times a day, official proclamations would be dispatched to be announced by the town crier in the village square and missives would be sent by messengers on horses to the more remote areas of his realm. Sometimes, there were more, but his advisers would group these proclamations together so that the messengers wouldn’t have to make a dozen or more trips. As a result, one proclamation often contradicted the one right before it. It was not uncommon for the villagers to be told “I solemnly swear, as your king, that I will not send our soldiers to war” and then, in the next official announcement, hear that “We may need to go to war in order to stop the war.” At times, he was cryptic, proclaiming only “Wait for my words!” with ellipses…only the villagers did not know what ellipses were. Despite his claims of “the best education gold and silver could buy”, neither did he.
This morning, he instructed his Royal dresser to powder his face with extra color, so as to convey strength, health, and vigor, and donned his best, most golden wig, crafted by the virgin hair of a 13 year-old lass – this was the type he liked best. He was draped in voluminous robes to attempt to disguise his ever-widening backside and his rotund stomach, his sash hanging most unfashionably below his portly knees. Surveying himself in his looking glass, he murmured, “Who is the smartest guy? Who has said a lot of things? Me. I am the most bigly, huge leader!” Satisfied with his morning pep talk, he convened his most salacious, bottom-dwelling, foxy advisors to his drawing room.
“Tell me the news!” he demanded.
“We have sent spies to the other, far-off lands, Sire. They are to collect the information about those who wish to see you fail. We await their return,” said one.
“The witch hunt will not see you falter, my illustrious King! It is all false information, spread by those who are jealous of your great, powerful brain. They are unable to handle your genius!” gushed another.
“Perhaps,” said the quietest one, “it is time for a distraction from this terrible travesty, this attempt to destroy all of the wondrous things you have accomplished. Why, haven’t you built a strong wall around our kingdom to keep the dirty, maggot-encrusted beggars out? Have you not made the rich richer and taught the poor the most valuable lesson: to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and to never expect a handout? All wise, most useful points of knowledge, Sire! My fear, however, is that the evil, crafty opposition will take advantage of the weak and sow more lies about you.”
The Mad King leaned forward, his eyes shining like the scales of a fish in the sun. “What do you suggest?” he asked his adviser. The adviser’s bald pate reflected the torch light as he looked up from his templed fingers.
“Sire, as you well know, there are bandits outside the kingdom walls who take part in this great witch hunt, as well as having their own delusions of grandeur about toppling your monarchy and taking your riches for themselves. I have knowledge that one of the most ardent thieves – one who has set fire to cottages, stolen artifacts from the churches to boil down into gold bars, and who has attacked our forces while on the road – may be holed up in a cave to the east. I think we should send our best knights to kill him, and then display his head in the town square. The word will spread throughout the kingdom that you have toppled the enemy, making them safer, and they will be so filled with gratitude that they will forget this inconvenient, distasteful business about your family growing wealthier due to their donation of wares to the cause of the monarchy. Why, Sire, they will be happy to give you everything they own!”
The Mad King’s brow furrowed as he contemplated this idea. Finally, he spoke.
“Will I receive the credit? You know, I never do, but that’s okay. As long as the kingdom knows that I was the mastermind, I guess I can live with that.” he mused.
The ferret-faced adviser bowed to the Mad King. “Of course, Your Majesty. You will receive all of the credit. The villagers are idiots, if I may be so bold. None of them possesses your magnificent intellectual gifts! They believe anything we tell them.”
The Mad King mugged for his advisers, making a face and pantomiming, ‘I’m a dumb villager! I’m so stupid!”
His advisers laughed loudly and politely. Then, he held his hand up for silence and spoke.
“I’m not changing. I went to the best schools, I’m, like, a very smart person. I’m going to represent our kingdom with dignity and very well. I don’t want to change my personality – it got me here,” he addressed them. “Have my knights get the fella. He’ll die like a dog, crying and whimpering. Have them whisper in his ear, ‘This is from the King’ before they cut off his head.”
Dismissing his advisers, the Mad King suddenly felt more ravenously hungry than he had in weeks. “Didn’t we receive more chickens from the villagers for our deal in Nipple and Nambia? Prepare me some straight away. I could eat a bucket of the stuff.”