By Lauren Deville
Once upon a time, there lived a peaceful king who reigned over a peaceful kingdom. The king had been King for so many generations that nobody could remember a time when he was not the king, and it was not the sort of subject that anybody ever thought of, for nobody could imagine that another king could be.
Now it did so happen that the king had a brother. For many generations he had externally conformed to the expectations of peace, but internally his heart burned with jealousy against his brother the king. If I were king, he thought, the kingdom would be a much better place indeed! He did not really consider in what way the kingdom could possibly be better than it was, but it appeared to him that his brother the king really did not have to do much of anything to maintain order; the people were naturally obedient. He therefore began to fancy his brother lazy, and he nursed the idea until he grew to despise the king, and fooled himself that his hatred was on account of the kings laziness. Really he had been searching for a reason to despise the king for generations, and any miniscule provocation would do.
One day a band of gypsies passed through the kingdom, and the brother of the king happened to be out walking through town as the gypsies were about. He watched them as they sold jewels and spices, fancy silk cloths, and combs for the womens hair.
The kings brother watched as desire and greed began to fill the peoples faces, and as the gypsies picked their pockets when they were not looking. At last! He thought, here was a group of people who might honor him as their leader!
And so he continued to observe until he identified the gypsy who appeared to be in charge, and pulled him aside. How would you like to stay in our kingdom forever? he said.
We never stay in any one kingdom for long, the gypsy said distrustfully.
Ah, but I am the prince, the kings brother, and I am his most trusted advisor! he boasted. I can make sure that your concerns are well looked after.
And so from that day forward, the gypsies made their residence in the kingdom, peddling their wares and making mischief where previously there had been only harmony.
The king became distraught, and said to himself, What can I do in order to restore peace? It seems that ever since these gypsies have arrived, the people have begun to quarrel and despise one another. He knew that it was his duty to the people to look after their best interests. So the king issued a decree: The gypsies must leave the kingdom at once! They will be given until nightfall tomorrow to abandon their residence and move on, or else they will be removed by force.
The head of the gypsies was furious when he heard the news, and sought the prince, the kings brother, at once. Did you not promise that if we took up residence here, you would look after our interests? he demanded.
The kings brother, however, was delighted. This had been exactly the circumstance that he was hoping for. Yes indeed, I did, he said gravely. You must stand your ground, and let the king use force if he will!
So the head of the gypsies returned to his fellows and told them what the prince had said. We will stand our ground! he told them. But it was not the gypsy way to meet force head on with force. Instead of fighting directly, they would become as nearly invisible as gypsies are wont to do, and recruit other members of the kingdom to their side. It would not be hard; already they had quite a few, and they knew they could win many more. There would come a time for fighting in the open, but only once their number reached a critical mass. And then the prince would be their king.
Nightfall came the day after the kings decree, and he had seen not a single gypsy depart from the kingdom. Instead, weeks later, rumors reached the kings ears of a brawl, a theft, or at times a beating or a murder in the outskirts of the kingdom. The reports became increasingly frequent, until the king knew he could ignore them no more.
He called a royal council of his loyal brothers and sisters, though he saw that the table was not full. One chair sat empty: that which was usually occupied by his brother the prince. The king pursed his lips; he had suspected his brother for a traitor for some time, but was grieved to see his suspicions confirmed.
Continued in The King’s Court: A Fairy Tale, part 2
Lauren holds a biochemistry degree from the University of Arizona, and she is currently studying naturopathic medicine in Tempe, Arizona. She also has a background in the arts, particularly theater and creative writing, and she hopes that (sometime prior to graduation) she will eventually stumble upon the perfect integration of her seemingly disparate interests.