Courtiers had been briefing him for hours on this most difficult day. King Excelsior sat motionless, expressionless, struggling to maintain his stately composure. For the reports coming in from all over the land were both astonishing and distressing for this legendary monarch. He who had vanquished his enemies with such expert precision, and who had instilled so much awe for his glorious omnipotence, was now experiencing an emotion previously foreign to his being… existential fear.
His great body slowly rose from the head of the Imperial Table. Excelsior drifted towards the exterior wall and gazed out a large stained glass window. The Royal Court anxiously awaited some reassuring words, but the King’s quiet contemplation seemed to last for an uncomfortably long time.
Finally, he turned around to face them. “What do we tell the people?” he prompted the court.
“Nothing!” Defense Minister Rumsberg exclaimed. “We tell them nothing!”
Interior Minister Lowell shook his head in disgust. “Please forgive me, my lord, but we cannot do that.”
“Why not?” Excelsior asked.
“The people are uneasy,” Lowell replied. “They don’t understand this strange new phenomenon. They want answers, and they want to feel that we’re still in control.”
“Are we still in control?” mused the King.
Deputy Interior Minister Cavella responded, “It doesn’t appear that we are, your Excellency.”
“Silence, you impudent fool!” Rumsberg rebuked.
Cavella, the only female on the court, wisely backed down.
“My Lord,” Prince Chaneshire interceded. “If I may…”
“By all means,” Excelsior gestured with an open palm.
“Thank you. Minister Rumsberg is correct. We cannot give any indication that we are not in complete control of this situation even if it was true – which it is clearly not, in my opinion. However, Lowell’s point has merit. It would be prudent for us to comfort the populace. Perhaps if we offered an explanation understandable to the common man, the current unrest could be abated.”
“Go on, noble prince.”
“Well, your Highness, half of the people are Church-followers and the other half are more inclined towards science. But, both groups have one thing in common – a belief that human beings are superior to all other forms of life. Obviously, the present crisis is threatening to undermine that concept and the entire social order upon which it rests.”
“What are you getting at?” Rumsberg inquired.
“Just this, my good friend. Find a simple, believable explanation which reinforces that common belief and we’re home free. Once the people buy-in, it won’t matter what happens to them.”
“A scapegoat?” Rumsberg posited.
Chaneshire smiled impishly.
* * * * *
In the townships of Excelsior, the phenomenon was spreading. Local officials were disappearing from public view. Regional militias were inexplicably standing down. The King’s armed forces had been similarly immobilized. Beloved Queen Dia, and her entourage, had been abducted in broad daylight apparently by some sort of hovering aircraft. The King’s subjects were seeing bizarre lights in the sky and frail-looking humanoid-like creatures. The people were confused, frightened, and demanding action. But, the silence from officialdom continued.
* * * * *
Back in the Royal Court, ministers were finalizing their public relations strategy. The King observed the process detachedly, as he wished to conceal his skepticism. Yet, he remained hopeful because no other viable option seemed possible. Above all else, Excelsior was determined to continue his reign as monarch. Blue blood has always run very thickly.
Chaneshire reread the proposed text for a third time. “Yes, I think that will work,” he mumbled.
Rumsberg was more confident. “I like it,” he proclaimed. “We accuse the Solarian Republic of invading our territory with evil intent and with the aid of ‘dark technological forces.’ It plays right into the people’s animus for that poorly understood nation, which we have so cleverly fostered over the years.”
“Indeed,” Chaneshire added. “Brown-skinned sun worshipers are easy to hate in Excelsior.”
Lowell, who was always adept at voicing the King’s unspoken words, challenged the frequently overconfident Defense Minister and Royal Prince.
“This strategy could work at least initially,” he offered. “But, what if the phenomenon persists? Wouldn’t the people lose faith in the King? Wouldn’t they become more restless and disorderly?”
“We’re trying to buy some time, Lowell,” Rumsberg insisted. “My ministry is already working out the details on a military response. We’ll get a handle on this, I assure you.”
In the main entranceway of the courtroom, stood the figure of Queen Dia. She was stoic, unmoving, and her physical features so perfectly symmetrical it exhibited a kind of unnatural beauty.
The court was stunned. Everyone rose to attention and not a sound was heard.
* * * * *
“My dear wife,” the King began as he walked towards her, “are you alright? We were worried about you. Where have you been?”
Dia was impassive. She neither acknowledged his greeting nor his bodily presence. Her eyes were fixated on the two men at the head of the Imperial Table – Chaneshire and Rumsberg.
“Darling?” Excelsior uttered in obvious confusion.
The Queen brushed him off with a wave of her hand.
“You,” she declared. “I have a message for you.”
Chaneshire and Rumsberg looked at each other with bewilderment.
“What is your message, my Queen?” the Prince asked politely.
“We will give you instructions. You will follow them without question.”
“Now see here, Dia!” the King warned.
He was immediately silenced with another wave of her hand.
“Who are ‘we,’ my Lady?” Chaneshire demanded.
“We are those who will instruct you,” she stated.
Dia raised her arms over her head. Her hands articulated into a geometric pattern that resembled a capital “H” having one upright split into three divergent angles at its intersectional base. The Prince and Defense Minister suddenly realized the purpose of the phenomenon that had descended upon the kingdom. It was a frightening revelation even for these cocky individuals.
* * * * *
The phenomenon was explained to the public in accordance with the court’s p-r strategy. The Solarian Republic was vilified. Subsequent communiqués were disseminated describing how the King’s armed forces had turned back the tide of invasion and were taking the fight to the enemy’s homeland. Rumsberg was labeled a military hero. Chaneshire was honored as a strategic genius. Excelsior received grand adulations and commiserations for losing his wife as a casualty of war.
The abductions ceased. The lights in the sky disappeared. All was right again in the land of Excelsior.
* * * * *
Weeks later, Lowell met privately with the King to discuss his retirement from the Interior Ministry. Excelsior had remarried. His new Queen, Katy, was far more deferential to his stature than the independent-minded Dia could ever have been.
The King’s chambers were illuminated with soft, natural lighting that displayed his impressive art collection in all its magnificent exquisiteness. A marble bust of the intrepid conqueror Napolus sat opposite the King’s desk. Mounted on the side walls were priceless paintings from centuries past. A colorful fresco depicting the reign of Excelsior adorned the ceiling.
The conversation was rather perfunctory to start. Each man conveyed their mutual respect and admiration for the other, and the procedural course for the ministry was plotted. However, Lowell perceived some internal conflict within the King. The tone of his words were atypical for such a powerful leader. There was noticeable hesitancy and weakness in his speech. The person most intimate with the King’s inner thoughts felt obliged to seek them out.
“You and I have fought many battles together, my King. I am and always shall be your loyal servant. You have confided in me with such sincerity that I feel the most privileged subject in the land. Our trust is resolute. Our friendship is unyielding. Please, honor me once more before I leave my official duties. I know you are troubled, and I want to help.”
“You speak of service my friend,” Excelsior replied, “of subjects and servants. In that, there can be no doubt. I now speak of slaves. For in this, there is also no more doubt.”
“Slaves? But, we have done away with slavery… generations ago. We compensate our workers. All are paid.”
“You assume too much, Lowell. I am talking about us, this kingdom, in fact all who govern.”
“I don’t think I understand you, my Lord.”
“Rest easy, my cherished companion. It is better if you don’t. Henceforth, we shall all be brothers.”
Something caught Lowell’s attention. Outside the window, a pulsating light pierced the sky.
* * * * *
Fears of the King. Copyright © 2014 by Robert A. Vella. All rights reserved.