King Marjanovic idly gazed out onto the grand stone hall in front of him, relaxed and content in his own power. A soothing breeze flowed through open doors into the stuffy throne room, carrying on it the scent of apples and plums from the royal orchards situated nearby. Feeling the sudden urge for a snack, he beckoned forward one of his servants. “Pluck the finest specimens from the trees out there, and bring them to me.” The king knew that he himself, having been blessed with height greater than any other in the known world, would be best suited to fruit-picking, as he would be able to easily reach the most sun-strengthened fruits, but he saw no reason to raise himself from the comfort of his throne.
Suddenly, there was a commotion at the entrance to the hall. Sitting upright in attention, Boban’s hand gripped the hilt of the sword at his side. A wise king was always ready to engage in swordplay when the need arose. However, there was no need; the man who was in the custody of two royal knights was not in any condition to put up a fight. The portly, mustached fellow was dragged limply to a spot in front of the throne and callously dropped there onto the hard flagstones, where he lay heavily, not speaking, but breathing raggedly.
“Explain to me, who is this man?” Boban asked.
One of the knights removed his helmet and bowed in deference. “My lord, he was found wandering many miles away on the edge of our lands. Confused and thirst-stricken he was, and we were keen to ignore him, but then, we saw that his tattered cloak bore upon it this emblem.” The knight withdrew a metal seal from his pack and presented it to his king.
Boban looked at the small disc, which was embossed with the image of a flaming horse’s head, and immediately recognized its origin. Now he realized who this man was who lay face down in front of him. “King Van Gundy. It appears your own subjects have deposed you, and now you have no crown with which to conceal your baldness.” Boban snickered at his own wit. “Tell me, did you come to these lands seeking asylum, or are you now just another itinerant wanderer who has lost the aim of his life?”
Stan Van Gundy did not respond to these questions, nor did he make any indication that he had even heard them. Only when he was, at the king’s command, turned over onto his back and splashed in the face with a pail of cold water did he become lucid. “Wh-where am I?” he muttered, wiping water out of his eyes. When he saw Boban towering above him, his rosy cheeks became deathly pale. “No…no…”
Boban sneered down at the pathetic man. “Under your reign I was weak, impotent, misused…but I escaped your rule and built a new kingdom that is a testament to my true power. Advisor Tobias, is that not true?”
Tobias Harris, who had been standing silently next to the throne this entire time, unfurled a scroll and read from it. “The official record proclaims that King Marjanovic possessed the highest PER among all who reside in the known kingdoms of the world.”
“Thank you, advisor,” Boban said before turning back to Stan. “You ruled from a position of fear and uncertainty, using obsolete methods while clutching absolute power close to you. It is almost a blessing that your counsel turned against you. Knights, stand this man back up so I may address him face-to-face.”
Stan was picked up off the floor; his legs apparently still had no ability to support him, so he was held up by his armpits. “So, which is it, O overthrown one? Shall you become my subject, or shall you be thrown out the door and banished from my domain?”
“If only I was unhanded, I would bow to you as my new lord,” Stan replied. At this request, the knights let him go, and he stood uncertainly before bending at the waist just enough to complete the gesture.
Without warning, Boban lashed out and struck Stan across the face with the hilt of his sword. Stan crashed to the floor, head bouncing off the stone and creating a cut which began to bleed profusely. “Ha! Ha! How spineless you are, to stoop to such wormlike deference! Never in a thousand moons would I consent to have swine such as yourself befouling my kingdom!” He kicked Stan in the stomach, causing him to curl into a pained ball. “It will be the dungeons for you! But first, I believe we have another matter to attend to, do we not, trusted advisor?”
“We do, your majesty,” Tobias replied. “I will send for the royal musicians at once.” Within minutes, the group of instrumentalists had been gathered from various parts of the castle, and they began to play jaunty, uptempo dance tune.
Boban, still standing next to the collapsed body of his foe, started dancing to the music. “Join me, advisor. I know that your skills of choreography are of much renown,” he called out to Tobias.
Together, the two did a lively circle dance around Stan, laughing and pointing at him as they executed synchronized moves. For hours they danced in celebration of King Marjanovic’s reign. Oh, how they danced.