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Friday, January 06, 2023 3 comments

The Naked King (part 2) #FlashFicFriday

Image credit: openclipart.org
Once upon a time, in the Strange Lands north of Aht-Lann-Tah, a king got swindled by two dudes pretending to be tailors… yeah, you know that story. You have to wonder about a king, who would be willing to expose himself to louts who weren’t worthy to see his wardrobe, but royalty doesn’t see reality in the way you or I would at all. And even if the clothing was invisible, the dolt should have felt it as he got dressed.

But I digress. You know the next part: a child called out, “He’s naked!” and all the other folk watching the grand parade could no longer pretend. I’m here to tell you what happened after that.

• • •

The fake tailors had long skedaddled. King Atate issued a proclamation, offering a huge reward for their capture, saying they had created clothing that was invisible to not only the unrefined, but to everyone. That was met by general derision, and a running joke in which patrons attempted to pay for drinks and groceries with invisible money, claiming that only the best merchants could see the coinage. The merchants went along with the joke… as long as the customers provided visible coinage in the end, because it was funny.

As far as I know, the swindlers were never caught. They may have kept running until they dropped dead from old age. Jokes or no, that didn’t stop citizens from trying to find them, and some dishonest folk attempted to pull a reverse Anastasia of sorts, claiming their battered victims were the swindlers.

The latter stopped when the king refused to grant further audiences. Most of his subjects assumed he ducked out to his summer palace; but there were persistent rumors that he owned a villa outside Aht-Lann-Tah, and had fled there.

Now the authorities in Aht-Lann-Tah were eager to capture King Atate, as he had been accused on many occasions of mistreating (in the worst ways) local serving-wenches, claiming royal privileges outside his own realm. But honor and their laws meant that they would not move unless they knew he was in their realm.

The great weakness of royalty is, they are insulated from reality. Thus, they often do not understand that the best course of action is to take the L and distract their subjects with some other spectacle. And so it was with King Atate. His attempts to find the child who had spoken out during the parade fell flat. A nobody can be anybody, after all. Other attempts to address the issue were met with peals of derisive laughter.

So King Atate, having indeed fled to his villa outside Aht-Lann-Tah, drank himself into a semi-functional stupor and commanded his servants to transcribe a speech and take a photo of himself, sitting at a table with his traditional non-swindled regalia, as he spoke.

Unfortunately (for King Atate), he had neglected to remove the Jeroboam’s Pizza box from the table as he spoke. Jeroboam is a popular local chain in Aht-Lann-Tah, and the authorities pounced as soon as they saw the photo. The embassy protested, but only diplomats have immunity—not kings.

And so, King Atate was (to the relief of many in his kingdom, not to mention the girls held captive in his villa) taken into custody. The child who had been brave enough to call out the monarch issued a note: If only that pizza box had been invisible as your clothes.

After a short period of uncertainty, the kingdom righted itself. With no heir to the throne, the dukes formed a council, and managed the affairs of the realm as best as they could (by comparison, they did well). And so, except for King Atate and his hangers-on, they all lived happily… until the next thing happened.

The “next thing” never takes long in the Strange Lands.


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