The audience stood as the King approached his seat at the front of the expansive theater. The man sat slowly, and the citizens behind followed suit. Slowly, the lights dimmed. A few errant children dashed out of the theater, followed by their parents, only to be dragged back in and seated properly, with waist straps intact.
The room was left in darkness for a few moments. Rustling noises were audible behind the thick, red curtain. The King leaned back to better appreciate the view of the stage. It was wide and elaborate. The curtains were heavy with golden tassels. The stage floor was imported white marble that shone with a multitude of colors when light was directed down at it. Circular lights were aimed at the center of the curtain, and a man wearing rich black clothing stepped from between the curtains. He bowed with a flourish.
“Welcome, one and all, to the Great Play, Le Fromage de Sang Vedette. This play, this art, tells the story of how the oldest of the Duchies was born.” He waved an arm expansively to the northwest. “Tradzhek!” He interjected. “Formed from the old lands of Trassia that once were separated by high mountains, now separated only by twin roads that lead to it’s two baronies! Tradzhek, the land of Heroism!”
The crowd gasped, and several members leaned forward. The man rose and walked to one side. At the same pace, the curtain opened to reveal a mosaic of mountains. A band of men stood around a fire as downy feathers drifted from above. One man stood two heads above the rest, and wore a horsehair wig of white. Dramatically, he shot a hand to the sky. His voice was a bellow, filled with power. “Lo, friends!”
The men around this tall man cheered.
“Oh, brothers of mine! These lands will support us no longer! We have hunted and fished all there is, and must search elsewhere, beyond the great mountains to the south!” He turned dramatically on one heel and barely prevented himself from toppling. He pointed south. “To the south, to lands of warmth and plenty! I hear tales of food, drink, and women!”
The men around him rose and saluted. They moved with no grace, and their weapons clattered about. “Yes, Boss Armand!” They cheered, and Armand led them off-stage. The lights changed, and the mountains became a grand castle.
From the opposite side of the stage, a short man walked out. He wore a crown that looked far too large. “Ho, the guard!” He called as two men trotted onto the stage after him.
“Hail, the King!” the two men called.
“I small bird tells me of guests from the north! We must prepare for those of that barbaric land to visit us.” He pointed northeast. “Set your eyes to the spring sun, guards, for that way shall they come!”
The lights changed. In the audience, the king slowly massaged his temples. Certainly, he was being picky, but he saw offense where the playwrights took liberties. He closed his eyes and looked back up. It was an illuminated scene of water, with a few white splotches. “The Sea!” cried the actor who represented Armand. “We will cross the mountains across her breasts, for she is far more gentle than her cruel sisters who stab the very skies!” His voice rolled like a wave over the assembled throng.
The group of Armand and his men milled about for a few moments before they all gathered together and faced the crowd. A boat made of parchment-on-wire-framework quickly assembled itself as though like magic.
The boat was gaudy and looked impossible Streamers lazed about uselessly from bow and stern It looked covered in beads. In the crowd, the king slowly brought his head to rest in his hands. Oh, how he wanted to cry!
The play continued its assault on the good king’s sense of historical integrity. Armand rallied his men against the castle and demanded ‘food of two types’ in what was surely meant to be a clever manner, a sneer on his face. The giant of an actor stood unbowing as the king made himself known.
“And who are you, who calls yourself a king, to commit this evil act? You deny my men their freedom for being true!” He shot a single finger into the air. “I swear you this day, one who calls himself king– I’ll not rest until my men return to my side, for there are no more true men in all the world!” He jabbed a finger in the direction of the acting king. “I will make war on you!”
The play-king cringed. “I only do as I am told, strange man. My advisers speak, and they urge me safe. Lock away the threats and move on with life at its sedate path!”
Armand scoffed. “Advisers? What are they, to rule another man? Are you to allow them rule over your men, too? No, return my men to my side, and I will remove this gelding curse they have laid upon your shoulders, naive child!” The fur-clad barbarian rested his hands on his hips and threw his head back. His laugh was as real as a whore’s moan. “Come, come! You are just a child paraded in fancy clothing, are you not? I will give your power back!”
The play’s king stood from his servile crouch. “Yes!” He cried with conviction. “I will take you as my adviser from here on, and your children shall fill this post after you have passed!” His leaps in logic did not end there, to the disgust of the king who watched from the seats. “I will give you lands of your own, and I will send food when your people do not have enough to fend for themselves! This I do because you have shown me the glory of what it is to be a man!”
“I feel ill.” came a soft-spoken voice in the first row. He sat beside the king, and even sitting– his height was diminutive for a man. His long, silver hair was tied back in a modest tail. “Please excuse me, your majesty. I must freshen up.” The man began to stand, only to stop as the king’s hand rested on his own.
“Not without me, you’re not.” The two fled from the venue, and king groaned. “I apologize, Armand. That wasn’t even tragic comedy. That was…” He trailed off and shook his head.
“I do not blame you, Your Majesty. It is no surprise that the public view on such events is skewed, however I had not realized it had become quite so bad.” He shook his head, shame written in his face.
“I suppose such things happen, when the content of the play is older than most books.” The king sighed. “I think a stiff drink will help us recover.”
“Lead on, my liege.”