Lord Orgulous

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Lord Orgulous came to our province some time ago, and when he did, he inherited the rule of the province.  As might be expected, he arrived with quite a flurry of rumor swirling about him, for he hailed from a distant land, and he was young and handsome and mysterious.  Some said he left behind a fortune so grand that even the stars looked down upon its glittering magnificence with envy.  Some said he was exiled for some preposterous boast that insulted a very powerful personage.  And there are some among us—the romantics—who believe that he came to our land because he was fleeing from heartbreak.

It was no wonder then that whether out of shame or pride he never looked anyone in the eye.  It was no wonder that he rarely spoke a word, even to his manservant.   It was no wonder that he was often seen standing in the balcony of his palace gazing toward the south, from whence he had come, surrounded in a haze of pipe smoke.  It was no wonder that the people of our province were so curious about him. 

But that curiosity was mostly dispelled, for the people of our province soon discovered something about Lord Orgulous that they found to be rather compelling.  He was an outstanding ruler.

Soon after he arrived, he gathered a group of advisors who each had different strengths.  One was wise.  One compassionate.  One ingenious.  One practical.  Above all these, he appointed a High Advisor, whose great strengths were listening to, acting upon, and answering for. 

For the most part, he heeded the counsel of his advisors.  And for the most part, the counsel of his advisors was very good counsel indeed.

Our province began to flourish under Lord Orgulous’s rule. 

And yet, Lord Orgulous did not take his share in the growing prosperity, as his people expected he would.

***

His carriage passed through towns and villages, but never did his lordship step out and meet his people, even when they wished to give him praise, and thanks, and gifts.  Even when those gifts were rich gifts indeed.  Visitors to our province called him vain and proud.  Perhaps he was, but if he was, he had reason to be.

His people did not need for him to sit atop his carriage and wave to them, and hand out sweets to their children, or carouse with their youths.  They needed for him to do what he was doing, governing.

Still, they did want to see their lordship, at least every now and then.  He never attended any festivals, even in the capital city.

It’s not known who devised the idea for a celebration that their lordship would have little choice but to attend, but whoever it was, they succeeded.

There came to be one and only one great event at which Lord Orgulous could be seen, sitting upon a stage, no less, receiving honors that his people had wished to bestow upon him at other events.

And this one and only great event was his lordship’s birthday.

One year, the mayor of one of the major townships hired a performing troupe to perform the lord’s life story (or what little of it was known).  Another year, five of our provinces greatest bakers came together and baked the most delicious, the most beautiful cake that anyone had ever seen.  The following year, a dozen of our province’s greatest singers wrote and performed an epic ballad to his lordship.

Always his lordship seemed to pay only half his attention, if that, and when the performance was finished or the cake eaten or the gift presented, he would simply say, “Thank you.  That was serviceable.”

And yet, there was some inexpressible quality to his voice, a voice that was at once deep, commanding, quiet, and yet expansive.  There was a slight growl to that voice, a result, no doubt, of his constant smoking.  A child once claimed to hear his whisper from a league away where she was sitting in her bedchamber, having been punished and forbidden from attending the lord’s birthday feast that year.  A wild exaggeration, to be sure, but it expressed, if not the actual truth, the feeling that one felt upon hearing the lord’s voice speaking even the mildest of compliments.  It was equal to having all the kings and empresses in the world sing one’s praises.  The joy and pride lingered so long that those who had received such praise would speak of their feelings, and others around them would be inspired to try and receive the same praise at the next year’s celebration.

Yes, his people knew there was something special about their Lord Orgulous.  And over the years that he had been with them, some tried to discover a secret or two.  Among those were the three people who were the closest to his lordship.

Lord Orgulous had no close friends among the nobility.  He had no relations that anyone knew of, and if he did, none ever visited him, and he never visited them.  So the three people who were closest to him were his High Advisor, Drucasda, his manservant, Phileron, and his personal cook, Whimsy.

As his lordship’s activities went late into the night, his High Advisor and his manservant were often the last to have their dinners.  And the palace cook, who had a soft heart and an ear that was eager for news of palace affairs, came to stay late in the kitchens herself, so that she might prepare fresh dinners for Phileron and Drucasda. 

The High Advisor and the lord’s manservant were grateful for their dinners, but they were also protective of their lord, and so the only news the three often discussed where the general affairs of their province, the happenings of their own lives, and gossip and rumor about any other palace personage.

But this was different on the night of his lordship’s birthday celebration.  It was the one and only night on which they allowed themselves to indulge in discussion about their lord.  And the discussion always started the same way.  They would comment on the lord’s answer to a question.

***

As Lord Orgulous only showed himself to his people on one day out of the year, it was on this day that they established the custom of asking him if and when he would begin a family of his own.  And if Lord Orgulous ever looked in any direction but that of the distant hills upon which he always kept his focus during the celebration, he would have seen the flushed faces and wide expectant eyes of a dozen or so young noblewomen sitting upon a separate stage to his left.

Always he gave the same answer, a dropping of his gaze, a shadow of a smile, and the words, “Not this year.”

The first few years he gave this answer, none questioned it, for the lord was young, and perhaps not yet ready to settle upon one pair of sweet lips to kiss each night.

And yet, come to think of it, his lordship was never seen with any companion.  His manservant never caught any lovers in his lordship’s bed.  His High Advisor never caught a whiff of an unknown perfume as she stood by her lordship’s side in chambers.  His lordship never used a scribe, but wrote his own letters, so no one knew if he ever scribed any missives of love and longing.

There were rumors among his people that his lordship had been promised to a lady back in his home country, and that he must be remaining faithful to her.  Or perhaps he was not promised, but intended to choose a lady from his home country, and to do so at a time when he thought best.  And perhaps his own advisors—who remained silent on the matter—had advised him not to marry too young.

There was always a reason that his lordship’s people could grasp upon.

But his manservant, his High Advisor, and his cook knew better.

And the night after the tenth celebration of his lordship’s birthday, Phileron, Drucasda, and Whimsy were once again gathered in the palace kitchens, discussing their lordship’s future.

“I asked him in chamber again,” Phileron said, “as I always do.  ‘Are you certain, my lord?  Is it not yet time?’  And till now, he has always just furrowed his brow a bit and said, ‘no, not yet time.’  But tonight, my friends, he said something different.”

Whimsy raised her brows as she placed another roll on the manservant’s plate.  “What did he say?”

“He said, ‘I need no wife, no husband, no parents, no children.  I need only myself.’”

The cook frowned.  “No man needs only himself.  Why it’s inhuman to say so.”

“Not so.  Not so,” Phileron said.  “My wife has a cousin who tired of people, and so he built himself a cabin deep in a wood and stayed there for the rest of his days, never again speaking to or meeting with a single soul.  Can you imagine it?”

Whimsy shook her head.  “I can’t.  Inhuman, I say.”

“The people always blame us advisors,” Drucasda said.  “And we remain silent, to protect our lord, but we have never—we would never—advise our lord on such a personal matter.  Perhaps if he were to choose someone whom we discovered was dangerous or evil, then we would intervene.  But, not making any choice at all.  He is young yet, but it is curious.  If he does not want to marry, then why does he not summon a niece or nephew from his home, and begin grooming them as his heir?”

Phileron forked a small potato.  “You are assuming he has any brothers or sisters.  Do you know something we don’t know, Drucas?”

“I do not.  But what kind of lord does not want to cement his rule and ensure his family’s wealth and well-being even when he is gone?”

Whimsy waved a hand.  “It’s not yet time to worry.  I doubt he’s leaving us yet.”

“Leaving us?”

“Well for certain the reason he hasn’t married is that he is planning on returning home,” the cook said.  “He’s been waiting for whatever troubles he left behind to…calm down enough for his safe return.”

“What troubles do you think he left behind?”

“What troubles indeed?” Drucasda said.  “I never questioned it aloud before, as others have.  But it’s always been in the back of my mind, do you know?”

“What has?”

“Where does he comes from?  How did he come to gain the rule of our province?  Why does he never visit his home country?  Why does he never leave at all?  Did you know, he’s never been on holiday?  He does not hide that fact.  His people may find it odd, but as always, they find a reason.  They say it is because he settled here in the best province in the world.  So why would he leave it?  And yet we also say that he does not eat the cook’s meat because it does not compare to the finest meats he has eaten, perhaps back in his home country.  For every question we ask about him, there is an answer.  And yet, if we truly examine those answers, they have no source.  They are…empty.”

Phileron breathed a deep sigh and smiled at his friends.  “It is because we must take care not to appear disloyal.”

The High Advisor peered at him.  She nodded.  “We have no reason to examine our lordship’s past or present or future.  It’s not our place.  Nor is it our business.”

I’ve never been on holiday,” Whimsy said.  “It’s not so unusual to want to stay where you are.”

Drucasda inclined her head.  “No, indeed, it’s not.  And that one detail if taken alone would be meaningless.  But what if it is but one piece in a puzzle, a puzzle that reveals who our Lord Orgulous truly is?”

Phileron raised a brow.  “And who is he?”

“Well I don’t know, do I?  The puzzle isn’t complete yet.”

“The puzzle isn’t started yet,” Whimsy said.

Phileron set down his fork.  “Perhaps we should start it.”

Drucasda furrowed her brows.  “Why?  To what end?

“A gift…our gift to his lordship,” Phileron said.

Drucasda now raised her brows.  “What do you mean?”

“If you want to know the answer to that, we would have to continue our conversation beyond this night.”

Whimsy’s eyes widened.  “We can’t.  We allow ourselves only one night.  We mustn’t speak of our lordship beyond this night.”

“Why not?  It is simply out of custom and appearance that we do not.”

Drucasda narrowed her eyes.  “Come now, Phileron.  You’re being strangely coy.  What is it that you know?  That you would have us know?  Your face tells me that something is wrong.”  Suddenly, she sat up.  “Is his lordship ill?”

“No…not…not as you mean.”  Phileron leaned toward them, though no one but they stirred in the kitchens that night.  “I am certain that his lordship suffers from ill.  But it is not a fever or a pox.”

Whimsy shook her head.  “What is it then?  Tell us, man!”

“It is a curse.”

***

“If we can discover the nature of this curse,” Phileron said, “then perhaps we can discover a way to break it, and that is the gift we can present to our lord on his next birthday.”

Drucasda and Whimsy gazed at him.

Phileron explained.  It was only over many years of drawing his lordship’s baths, dressing his lordship, preparing his lordship’s bedchamber, and packing his lordship’s bags for travels around the province that Phileron began to notice and to mark a detail about his lord’s garb.  There was one part of his lordship’s body that was always covered no matter the time of day or the activity in which he was engaged.  Lord Orgulous often wore jewels even when bathing, but Phileron noted that even though the pieces changed, there was always one that was the same, a band of gold around the lord’s left ankle.  Phileron was simply curious at first.  He tried to research his lordship’s heritage to find if it was a custom of his native country.  Phileron had always hoped that he could accompany his lordship on a visit to another country.  But he found nothing in the public record about Lord Orgulous’s origins.

“I grew reckless one day,” Phileron said.  “I simply told his lordship that I had noticed he always wore a band upon his left ankle, and I asked if that was a custom in his native country.  He said nothing at first, and I thought he might not answer.  But then he simply replied that I had a keen eye.”

“What does this have to do with a curse?” Drucasda asked.

“My eldest gave me the first clue.  You know how she is always reading all those stories about ghosts and goblins and fairies and gods?  She collects new books from all the traders who come through the capital.  I swear she’ll be a scholar someday that one.  Anyway, at dinner one night, she was sharing some new story she’d heard of, and almost to tease her, I told her I’d heard a story about a prince who always wore a band of gold about his left ankle.  I asked if she’d ever heard of that one.  And wouldn’t you know it, she said, ‘Of course I have, Papa.’  Only, she said, it wasn’t a prince but a king and the band of gold around his ankle was the mark of a curse that had been placed on him for being too greedy and stealing the wealth of his kingdom.”

Drucasda sat back and cross her arms.  “It is a far leap from a child’s story to our lordship’s trinket.  It may be that this gold band has some value for our lordship beyond the gold.  It was a parting gift, or perhaps he wears it to remind himself of his home.”

“It would be, had I not pursued the story further.  In the story, the gold band is marked, inscribed with a particular symbol.  Our lordship’s band is also inscribed with a symbol, and before you refute me again, Drucas, hear me one moment longer.  The story my daughter heard did not describe the symbol, but I went to the markets and found the troubadours who knew the story, and I found one who knew what the symbol looked like, and he described it to me.  He drew it for me.”  Phileron glanced between them.  “It is the symbol inscribed on his lordship’s band.”

Drucasda took a sip of her brew.  She gulped.  “Are you certain?”

Phileron nodded.  “And the storyteller also told me what the symbol means in his language, a language of a southern province.  It means ‘you are bound.’”

Whimsy batted his shoulder with a loaf of bread.  “How long have you been keeping this secret then?”

“If you are right, Phileron, then this curse is the answer to all of our questions about his lordship.  It is why he does not marry.  It is why he does not leave our province—that may be part of his curse.  It may be why he does not speak much or let his gaze fall upon another’s gaze.”  Drucasda curled her hand into a fist and banged the table.  “A curse.  Of course.  It could be.  Why did I not see it?”

“I always thought perhaps he was a mesmerist,” Whimsy said, “and that was why he didn’t look into people’s eyes.  Even you two have never looked directly into your lord’s eyes, but everyone says it’s just our lord’s pride.  Some believed that the lord would probably not even look his lady in the eye, when he finally found a lady.  But a curse…could that be why…?” 

Whimsy now leaned forward.  “It could be why his lordship asked me not to tell.  But if it would cause him harm for me to keep it secret, then I must tell.”

***

Whimsy recalled for then that when he first arrived in the province, Lord Orgulous had sent a list of particular and specific instructions to her in a letter sealed with his seal and not to be opened by any but her.  She was instructed never to prepare a meat dish for the lord.  And never ever to serve him mushrooms.  And though he had not sent any list of preferred foods or recipes, Whimsy had prepared every other type of food for him.  Hearty breads, rich cakes, savory vegetable soups.  And she learned their lord ate very little. 

But one day, she went to the stores late at night having forgotten to survey the meat for a great feast she was to prepare for a visiting ambassador.  When she arrived, she found Lord Orgulous there, slicing the meat off a carcass with one of her best knives, and eating the meat raw.  The cook called out to his lordship, who was startled, but who quickly recovered himself.

“You will make yourself ill, my lord,” Whimsy had warned.

“In my native country, I grew up eating meat this way.”  Lord Orgulous slapped a hand to his lean stomach.  “We have grown accustomed to it.”

Whimsy then offered to trim the rest of the meat properly for his lordship, but he did something he’d never done before.  He looked the cook right in her eyes, and Whimsy could not believe how dazzling his eyes were.  They sparkled like veins of gold or silver in the depths of a cavern.   Lord Orgulous asked her not to say anything about what she had seen to anyone, for while it was common custom in his country, the eating of raw meat might be considered crude or even troubling in his new home province.  And his lordship did not want to disrespect his new home’s practices.  He had just been tempted by a rare treat. 

“Perhaps you will speak of it,” Lord Orgulous had said, “for it is such an outrageous thing to not share.  But I do hope that for the love your lord, you will remain silent.”

***

“And I have,” Whimsy said to her friends, “until this moment.”

“You speak of my keeping secrets,” Phileron said, his jaw growing slack, “yet you have looked his lordship in the eyes.”

Whimsy glanced between them.  “Have I betrayed my lord?  What does it mean?”

“Raw meat, and dazzling eyes,” Phileron said, his gaze shifting slowly from side to side as if he were considering clues.  “His voice…his voice too is remarkable, would you not say?”  He turned to Drucasda.  “Come then, you too must have a secret to share about our lord.  Something about his voice?  Something only the advisors would hear when you meet with him in chambers?”

Drucasda’s brows were knit together and her own gaze cast down at her plate.  “He rarely speaks,” she said.  “But…there is something.”  She looked up at Phileron.  “It is nowhere near as spectacular a story as you two have shared.  Perhaps it’s nothing—”

Whimsy grasped her arm.  “Tell us!”

As his High Advisor, Drucasda sat on his lordship’s right side.  On two occasions, she caught that his lordship’s pipe was unlit and yet he blew smoke into the air.  The first time she told his lordship that his pipe was unlit, he took the pipe, turned aside, took a few puffs, set the pipe back down, and showed her that it was indeed lit and that she must have been mistaken.  But the second time, he said nothing.  He continued with the business at hand, and Drucasda turned away to listen to another advisor speak.  When she turned back, the pipe was lit again. 

“As I said,” Drucasda said.  “It was nothing.”

“He is always smoking,” Phileron said.  “He wakes many times during the night to take a smoke.” 

Drucasda suddenly widened her eyes and looked at Whimsy.  “You said his eyes were dazzling.  Could they have been…glowing?”

“What are you thinking?” Phileron asked.

“Do you suppose our lordship might not be quite human?”

“Well of course he might not be,” Whimsy said.  “That rumor is an old one.  Abandoned by most now.  And everyone had guessed every kind of creature he might be—vampire, werewolf, ghoul, merman, demon—shall I go on?”

Drucasda shook her head.  “If he is a creature and he is cursed, then what might lifting that curse do?  Our lordship has been good to our province and our people.  But if we are part of his curse and the curse is lifted, might he not be angry with us?”

“You ask the wrong question, my friend,” Phileron said.  “If he is cursed and we are the ones who lift the curse, might he not be grateful to us?”

“Both questions are right,” Drucasda said.  “We at this table are loyal to our lord, no question.  But there is another we must answer first.  Does his lordship deserve such a gift as the breaking of his curse?”

***

And so the three spent many months seeking the answer to their question.  But they could not discover the answer without knowing who had cursed their lord.  Was he cursed by an evil enemy?  Or was he cursed by a valiant hero?  They could not know, for they could not discover their lordship’s origins. 

Drucasda even took a holiday and traveled as far south as she could manage before his lordship’s suspicion would be raised.  But she discovered nothing.  No one had ever heard of a Lord Orgulous, or any lord who matched his description. 

But she did discover a means to break the curse.  It was a potion with many ingredients and particular instructions for brewing.  But Whimsy could manage it.

And while Drucasda had failed to discover who Lord Orgulous was, Phileron and Whimsy believed they had discovered what he was.

All three watched their lord for any more clues.  And many more months passed.  And though they collected all the many herbs and elements they would need to make the potion that would break the curse upon their lord, they still had not decided if they would use that potion.

A fortnight before his lordship’s next birthday celebration, the three gathered in the palace kitchen late at night.

“The potion must brew for thirteen days,” Whimsy said.  “We must decide tonight.”

“We will make it, of course,” Drucasda replied.  “But we need not decide if we will use it.”

Phileron crossed his arms.  “We need not, but we may, if we are ready.  I am ready.”

“As you have been from the start,” Drucasda said.  She pressed her lips together and gave each of her friends a nod.  “I too am ready.”

Whimsy nodded as well.  “Then we decide.  And we will do as we all agree.”

~***~

Though he did not glance in their direction, Lord Orgulous did arch his brows when the names of the next gift-givers were announced. 

Drucasda, the High Advisor.  Phileron, the Head Servant.  Whimsy, the Chief Cook.

The multitude gathered in the capital square cheered, and after the cheer died down, Phileron stepped forward as they had decided he would do.

“Our gift to you, my honored lord, is a special brew.  Your High Advisor brought back the recipe from her far travels.  Your Chief Cook brewed it with care and skill.  And I, your humble manservant, helped to gather the elements in its making, and now have the honor of presenting it to you.”

Phileron knelt on one knee and stretched out his arms.  He held the neck of a slim vial with his left hand, and rested the vial on his right palm.

Lord Orgulous said nothing, but his arched brows had descended and creased into a furrow.  He rose and stepped toward Phileron.

One of the tasters assigned by the council of advisors also stepped forth, but halted when Phileron raised his right hand. 

“I will do it,” Phileron said.  He uncapped the vial and took a sip from it.  The brew would do him no harm.

Someone in the crowd asked the question that no doubt everyone was wondering.  “What is it?”

A light chuckled fluttered through the crowd.

Lord Orgulous was close enough to Phileron that Phileron lowered his voice when next he spoke. 

“My lord, this will either be the most humble gift you receive today, or the greatest.  I do not yet know.”

And the three friends—though mostly Drucasda—had prepared more for Phileron to say to encourage their lord to drink, but it was not needed.

For Lord Orgulous took the uncapped vial from Phileron’s hands, and he drank.  He tipped the vial up until its bottom pointed to the sky and drank every drop.

And when he was done, he gasped.

Drucasda stepped before him then, to his right.  Whimsy stepped before him to his left.  And Phileron rose to his feet.

“We know you,” said Drucasda.

“We see you, said Phileron.

“We free you,” said Whimsy.

Lord Orgulous’s eyes grew wide, though he still did not look at them.  He dropped his gaze to his feet, and he dropped to his right knee.

“My lord!” one of the guards called out.

Lord Orgulous raised his right hand to signal the guards to hold.  He removed his boot and raised the raised the left leg of his trousers, revealing the gold band around his ankle. 

It was cracked.

He pulled it open and cast it aside.  Beneath it, his lordship’s skin appeared to be covered in scales that gleamed in hues of red and violet in the midday sun.

“There, you are free of your curse, my lord,” Phileron said.  “You may reveal yourself to us, if you wish.”

It was then that Lord Orgulous locked his gaze with Phileron’s.  Then with Drucasda’s.  And at last, with Whimsy’s.

“You know,” Lord Orgulous said, his voice like thunder rolling over the three gift-givers.  “You see.”

Drucasda nodded.  “We do, my lord.”

“The curse…you have freed me.”

Whimsy grinned.  “We have, my lord.”

“Then I owe you thanks,” Lord Orgulous said, his dazzling gaze now drifting between his gift-givers.  “And I owe you the truth.”  He took a breath and took a step back.  And when he spoke, he spoke loud enough for all to hear, but his gaze remained on the three gift-givers.

“My friends have given me a great gift indeed.  And they have given you a gift, for I can now reveal who, and what, I am.  I was cursed, you see.  And that curse is now lifted.  I once possessed an immense treasure, so immense it is difficult for me to conceive of now.  But when I boasted of my treasure in the wrong company, and when I accepted a challenge and a wager that I could not meet, I was punished.  My kind favor solitude.  Indeed, we need solitude.  Being among other beings, particularly humans, is unbearable.  My treasure, the only thing I loved, was taken from me.  And I was made to be lord of the province, a province large enough to contain many people, but small enough so that those people would come to know their lord.  I was warned that if you discovered who and what I am, you would…you would kill me.” 

He paused as a gasp and a murmuring passed through the gathered crowd.  

“I aimed to rule well, believing that if I kept my people content, they would have no cause to come and see me.  I was purposeful in my choosing of the best advisors, in encouraging the most skilled and gifted scholars, traders, and artisans in the province to practice their crafts.  In this way, I hoped that I could pass the thousand years of my punishment in peace.” 

Lord Orgulous spread his arms.  “I did not expect that you would seek me out if you were happy and contented.  I did not expect that you would wish to celebrate your victories with me.”

A great cheer erupted in the crowd then.  Lord Orgulous raised and lowered his hands, gesturing to the cheer to stop.  When it did, he glanced between Drucasda, Phileron, and Whimsy. 

Only they three knew that the people had only half-understood what their lord had just said.

“I wish to show you the truth,” he said.  “But I do not wish to frighten you.  Many may be hurt, trampled underfoot, if you flee.  I will not harm you.  But if you wish it, I will leave this province.”

A confused chatter began.

Then a voice shouted, “Show us, my lord!  Show us what you will.  We will not flee.”

Sure enough, while there were many curious and confused expressions in the crowd, none were fearful.

With a nod, Lord Orgulous pulled off his coat and let it fall to the stage.  “Back away, my friends,” he said.

The High Advisor, the First Servant, and the Chief Cook backed away, and as they did, their lord transformed before their eyes. 

A great ruffled dragon’s head appeared where his lordship’s head had been.  It turned upward and leapt into the sky, and behind it coils and lengths of the dragon’s body burst up in a shower of glittering red, orange, and purple scales.

The dragon had no wings, but he floated in the air, coiling and winding.

The gathered crowd looked up and watched, some gasping, some pointing, but most silent.

Drucasda, Phileron, and Whimsy too watched as their lord danced and stretched in the sky.

At last he descended, in graceful curls, and he swept over the crowd, leaving a breeze in his wake.  His body seemed to shrink as he approached the stage.  He transformed back into a man, and Drucasda swept her robes off her shoulders and onto Lord Orgulous to cover his bare form.

He rose and looked at the three gift-givers.  He dispelled the dazzle in his eyes with a few blinks.

He turned and faced the gathered crowd.

“You are a brave people,” he said.

Drucasda then turned and faced the gathered crowd.  “I will serve my lord,” she said.  “Whatever form he takes, so long as he rules as he has ruled.”

“I too will serve my lord,” Phileron said.

Whimsy shrugged.  “And I will cook his meat, or not, as he wishes.”

Lord Orgulous smiled and bowed his head to all three.  And for a moment, a brief moment, no one spoke.  And then someone did.

“What say you, my lord?” a voice cried out, “Will you marry this year?”

Lord Orgulous looked taken aback at first.  But when his gaze fell upon his people, it was met with smiles and winks. 

“I need no wife,” he said, “no husband, no parents, no children.  But…I do believe I need my people, if they will have me.”

In answer there began a slow but steady cheer from the gathered crowd.  And from the three triumphant gift-givers on the stage.

And in answer to the cheer, Lord Orgulous raised his chin to the sky, blew out a puff of smoke, and said, “Thank you.  That is serviceable.”

But as he spoke the last word, he could not hold back the laughter that burst, that boomed, from his throat.  And his people all laughed with him.

 

Copyright © 2019  Nila L. Patel

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