Friday, 21 October 2011

Friday Flash Fiction - The Ends of the Monarchs

The king delegated his whole life to his servants. Others made his public appearances, prepared and delivered his speeches, signed documents on his behalf. In the end, he needed not move at all, but would have servants feed him, bathe him, dress him, drive him, carry him, read to him, speak for him. In this state, he became essentially useless, taking in resources and producing nothing of value. Realising this, the parliament and the servants came to an agreement. The servants would continue this life without their employer the king, going about the same actions as a collective unit but without a head, so to speak. They became new elected officials with quite specific tasks. This is how the king was replaced, and why our tradition still refers to the servants at the castle as "the king". The castle, and indeed the country, continues functioning as if there were a king, but we long ago outgrew the need to have an actual figurehead there.

In the Palace of a Thousand Steps, the emperor sits on his throne at the top of a miniature staircase, one thousand tiny steps above the audience chamber floor. That is how far you are beneath him. All who appear there to petition the emperor are ritually cut before leaving, for nobody can come face to face with the emperor and walk away unharmed. The emperor must be seen to be unconcerned with earthly matters, including food, shelter and clothing. Thus nobody may watch him eat, though food is delivered. He has no official home. He does not speak, does not walk, performs none of the mundane actions of ordinary life, at least not while anyone is looking. Such ritual, ceremony and tradition grew up around the emperor that, after several hundred years, the position was given to a wooden statue. It was far easier, then, to believe him to be immortal, to ensure he would never bleed and would not age. And, officially, the emperor still ruled, though his vice-chancellor had to do most of the work.

The Gnome Queen of the Opal Caverns holds court over a tiny nation. It is forever shrinking as border disputes, private land sales and plain old erosion nibble away at the edges. Centuries ago the Caverns domain stretched under the earth for hundreds of kilometres. Over time it diminished, by degrees, to only several caves. As recently as two years ago it covered just one cave and a dozen subjects. Today, technically, the Opal Caverns nation is one stalagmite, and has no populace but the queen herself. With a deep sigh of resignation, the Gnome Queen takes the quill from the grinning goblin and signs the treaty that gives away the very last vestiges of her once-great dominion.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Everything comes to an end.
PPS - Well, most things.

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