Although on in years, the smallish king had not been in power long and, as these things go, he’d been awaiting placement so long that he flew like a well-oiled athlete when the ball was finally his and so his reputation spread. With more time on his hands now that his better-half was peddling her wares on the road (and he had to campaign less), he filled the void convening with a merry minstrel and a sarcastic jester, constant companions who honestly did love the king but fed his ego mostly because the royal paychecks fed them. The king, 24% kind and 37.5% well-intentioned, was a poor judge of character so it wasn’t entirely his fault that he entertained the inflated profusions, plus--as these things go--he wouldn’t be the first monarch in history to be led astray by false praise. But if a supple belief in his own beneficence was a weakness (--Did he not often bring himself to tears at his increasingly rare public appearances where he personally addressed his subjects?), then the king’s tragic flaw was an often headless leadership style that forced his affairs to run rather like a circus, which became apparent after the rush of the change of guard had settled.
Hard times and bad luck soon befell the nearly-enchanted castle and the king, not the wisest sage alive, let his fears govern him. Nervous that things weren’t going as planned, he allowed the minstrel to assure him that only the greatest are tested so severely and so continued to spend half the year abroad, engaging in one humbly self-serving activity after another: yachting the great seas and supping at banquet after lavish banquet all in the name of advancing the throne. Meanwhile, Jackass, a renowned brick layer, was so convinced of the king’s mission that he offered his services, and he was immediately put to work housing the king’s gardens as grumblings in the kingdom were growing and the jester had convinced the king that he needed to erect some defenses.
Of course, Jackass being Jackass couldn’t help but finish the project ahead of schedule, pruning roses and watering the orchids as he designed the wall because a thing in need of doing was a thing in need of doing--and wasn’t he a citizen of the kingdom, looking out for its best interests so who cared if the terms of his employment did not cover the extra duties he had taken upon himself to perform? And as the pages of the calendar passed, the tide, once again, turned in the king’s favor.
Not long after, a palm reader traipsed into the king’s thriving court in need of a roof against the rain. Oh, your Supreme Majesty, I am so unworthy but willing a disciple that I should twist myself in knots if given the chance to come into your imperious presence. Well, the king was so moved by this flatterer’s cunning (craftily sheathed in self-deprecation) that he hired the palm reader, who had never accurately predicted the future for a single client.
The king had no real purse for a palm reader, broken or otherwise, but he called forth the bricklaying jackass. “Henceforth, you two shall live as one to save on expense,” but no sooner had the palm reader moved in to the loft that he started rearranging, drinking up the milk in Jackass’s refrigerator with no mind to replace it. Jackass merely continued on, business as usual, while the palm reader spent less and less time at his assigned task and more and more time bending the king’s ear (the king loved a good sob story). Eventually, the palm reader’s burdens fell to Jackass to complete.
Despite the cutbacks, the hairy brick layer seemed to be prospering, and the king could be heard whispering to his cronies, Who does that brick layer think he is? Does he think he built the place? I must not be working him hard enough, and the sanctions worsened.
One day, as Jackass was weeding along the south wall, he noticed mounds of dirt that suggested that a colony of something had tunneled under the wall. But when he reported it to the king, Jackass was not a hero but the villain.
What makes you think that this is the case? the king sighed, passing the pitcher of ale to the minstrel, the jester and the palm reader. Do you have so much time on your hands that you would bother me with nonsense?
Common sense, Jackass answered before quitting the kingdom, knowing there was no worse material to carve an enemy from than the tender cloth of a former fan. It was with sad relief that he left what was no longer palatial, walls that would soon collapse and a courtyard less sunlit than he had imagined. He knew better, now, than to think that although they glistened like mad, the golden hue of the objects inside was just that, a reflection under which no deep value existed.