Text by christopher.harn
Long ago, before the close embrace of history and myth had been pried apart, there was a Great King. A former general who had proven himself a worthy leader, his name carried weight throughout the land. He ruled with wisdom for many years, and was dearly loved by his people. His military prowess was unmatched, and his wealth towered above all others. His great citadel was the epicenter of culture and art, and all who entered gaped in awe of its magnificence. His accomplishments were so great that rumors began to spread, connecting his ancestry to the gods themselves.
And while the Great King cared dearly for his land and people, they were overshadowed by a deeper love: his love of family. He had only one son, a youthful adolescent, whose bright, naive eyes and brazen curiosity reminded the king of his late wife. The son, while sweet, was unremarkable; he was neither foolish nor gifted, neither meek nor strong. The Great King, far from disappointed, saw this as an opportunity; the boy was a blank slate unto which a king would be fashioned. This vision of the son inheriting the empire remained engraved in the mind of the Great King, influencing his every decision. His aspirations for his son remained steadfast until the very moment the Great King suddenly, inexplicably died.
The Great King’s son was immediately crowned the new sovereign and was placed upon the golden throne. The radiant crown was too large and heavy for him, and it often sank below his forehead. Frustrated and embarrassed, he flipped the golden headpiece so that it sat on his head upside down, where it rested comfortably. He saw his illustrious court through the emeralds and sapphires that adorned his sublime crown, and slowly learned to govern his kingdom like his father before him. In this way, the son of the Great King became known as the Crowned King.
One day, a diplomat arrived from a subservient neighboring kingdom to the north. An arrangement had been made under the Great King, that the neighboring kingdom would pay tribute every few years to avoid terrible military wrath. The diplomat bowed deeply before the Crowned King with a chest full of luminescent gold and jewels, and said, “These treasures are the finest in our land, and we give them to you, Crowned King. Do you accept our payment?”
But the king was acclimated to the gleam of such riches, since they perpetually covered his eyes and surrounded his head. Through the colorful film of his jewels, the Crowned King saw only an unremarkable lump of vaguely glimmering trinkets. “This is a pathetic collection of trifles,” he replied, “and I will require more, if this is how you intend to pay me.”
The confused diplomat was sent on his way, and the Crowned King indifferently relaxed on his throne.
On another day, a local governor arrived at the royal hall. His clothes were ragged, his skin pale and sickly, and his face gaunt. “Dearest Crowned King,” begged the governor, “a terrible famine has taken hold across the land. My subjects are starving, and even us noble folk are struggling to survive. Won’t you please help us?”
The Crowned King looked over the governor; from his bejeweled perspective, the governor appeared to be absolutely fine. “Governor,” replied the king, “I fear you are over-exaggerating your plight. Your cheeks look youthful, your skin glows, and your clothing is refined. If this is what you consider starving, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while longer before I give you any aid.”
Shocked by the callousness of his king, the governor left in silence.
On another day, a beautiful, graceful bride was presented to the Crowned King from an allied kingdom to the west. He waved her away before a word had been spoken; from behind his mask of jewels, he could not see her true beauty.
On another day, news arrived that the neighboring northern kingdom had declared war upon the Crowned King. His apathetic insults and rejection of their tribute had defiled their honor, and their army was already on the move. The king called his minister of war into the room, and asked him, “How will we destroy these impudent trespassers? Have you mustered our army?”
The minister replied, “I am sorry my king, but our army is starving, and has already been routed. There is nothing between their soldiers and our great citadel!”
“What of our ally?” asked the king.
“They were insulted by your rude dismissal of their bride, and will not help us in our time of need.”
And so the enemy army surrounded the great citadel, and began to build siege weapons for the imminent battle. The Crowned King made his way up to the imposing stone walls that protected him, and looked out at his invaders. Unfortunately, the jewels covering his eyes had made him incredibly short-sighted, and he could not see a single soldier. “Let me out through the front gate!” insisted the king.
His subjects tried their best to dissuade him, but the Crowned King was vehement. “I cannot see the enemy,” he stated, “and must confirm this threat with my own eyes.”
The enemy soldiers, dumbstruck that the Crowned King had simply strolled out from his walls, did nothing as he obliviously walked past them. Even their hushed murmurs failed to reach his ears. His eyes did not detect a single soldier, and he pressed further and further away from the citadel in search of his foe. Eventually, he turned around and saw nothing; he and his kingdom were lost.
His citadel fell without a single drop of blood.
The Crowned King, lost in his reverie of gold and emeralds and sapphires, fell into the clutches of madness. He roamed the countryside for the rest of his life, fruitlessly yelling orders at any unfortunate soul who managed to catch his attention. It is said that his short-sightedness rendered him nearly blind, and that one day, the Crowned King met his end by inadvertently walking off a cliff. Such a fall- so they say- was the only way for the cursed crown to be removed from his incurable head.
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