Friday, 30 May 2014

The King and the Animals: a tale of university folk

Long, long ago, an eternal winter had fallen upon The Hegemon. Ruled by a cruel Queen, the animals who lived there shivered under the lash, and any who dared disagree with her were lashed into silenced. Nothing she touched turned to gold. Rather she and her henchmen managed to despoil and degrade what had been a happy and harmonious place. One day, having deceived the Gods of Hefce who gave her gold, the Empress of Hegemon announced that hundreds of the animals would have to be culled to make up the shortfall. Cowed and resentful, the survivors retreated to their burrows and nests, fearful that they too would never see spring.

And then, out of the blue, the wicked Queen was gone. In her place was a new ruler. The snow melted, the clouds lifted, the grass waxed green and the animals emerged from their hiding places to sniff the fresh air and nibble on the tender young shoots. The King seemed wise and friendly. Gone was the lash and the cold stare that would freeze young animals into stone. Instead, he was seen strolling about The Hegemon, talking to the kits and encouraging the fauna to speak bravely and boldly. And The Hegemon did prosper.

But alas! Honeyed words soon turned to blows. The animals looked at their hungry cubs and threadbare homes, at the labour tripled by the absence of their fallen comrades, and begged of the King a little more fodder from his bulging granaries, such as had not been granted for many a year. At this the King grew angry and the animals did perceive that though he wore a glove of velvet, his fist was made of iron. They resolved to resist, and withdrew their labour from the King's field, a little at a time, but he waxed imperious: for every short rest they took, he would punish them by removing their fodder for a whole day. Even the neighbouring kingdoms had not been so vindictive, so cruel, so vengeful. It mattered not to the King of The Hegemon that his subjects loved him no longer. The animals returned to his fields and mines, broken and saddened, but victory was not enough for him. The creatures had to be humiliated, lest they ever again were tempted to resist his might.

And yet… hardened to the beatings under successive rulers, the doughty creatures of the air, the forests and the soil. They were many and Kings were few. In every hidden pool, glade, burrow and nest the gathered, sharing their nuts and their strength. Soon they would pour hence to test the King's resolve in the Halls of Justice, and in the meantime, the King's harvest would rot in the fields.

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