Karl-Anthony Towns, king of the land of Minnesota, glowered as he stared at one of the windows of his hall. He was draped in a vestment made of a whole polar bear pelt, but it was too warm for him, and he cast it aside. “Not all is right with the world, Ricky,” he grumbled to his most trusted advisor, Ricky Rubio. “It is much too warm for this time of year, and not a single flake of snow has caressed these beloved lands despite the nominal onset of winter two months ago.”
Ricky stood diligently at the king’s side, hands clasped behind his back and gazing out the same window. “Quite strange,” he agreed.
“Not once this winter have I been able to enjoy my favorite hot chocolate drink,” Karl-Anthony pouted.
“I have offered to make it for you, my king,” Ricky reminded.
Karl-Anthony’s glowering face darkened even further. “Neither the scenery outside this window nor the temperature within it have been appropriate for my hot chocolate. Have you consulted with the learned men of science as I asked you?”
“Yes,” Ricky answered. “They possessed the gall to lecture me on such farcical ideas such as ‘weather patterns’. As if Gaia’s whims can be predicted by mere men!” he scoffed.
“Very preposterous,” Karl-Anthony said. “And they do not know of the reports from neighboring kingdoms. King Giannis of Wisconsin reports normal levels of snowfall this year. The message-boys confirmed as much while conveying his message. A healthy layer of snow covers their lands in pure white serenity. I am covetous, Ricky.”
“You do not mean…war?” Ricky replied uneasily.
Karl-Anthony shook his head vehemently, causing his crown to sit slightly askew on his head. “It cannot be risked. The future of this kingdom glows ever brighter, and that light shall not be dimmed by needless bloodshed.” He redonned his vestment, stood up from his throne, and began to briskly walk towards the hall’s grand arched entryway.
“Where are you going, my lord?” Ricky asked, following closely behind.
He received no answer.
Karl-Anthony and Ricky strode through the brick-paved streets of the town. As they walked, they were not accosted, but there were many whispers and pointed fingers among the commoners, for it was not often that the king would leave the castle by foot instead of by horse-drawn car.
“I still do not understand, my lord,” Ricky said, becoming out of breath as he tried to match the king’s long strides. “What knowledge could possibly be gained here, among the rats and filth of the slums?”
Carefully stepping over a foul-smelling gutter into a small alley, Karl-Anthony finally turned and answered his advisor. “Do not underestimate these people, Ricky. Even in the peasantry, wisdom can be found.”
They walked a few paces down the alley before encountering an old man sitting on the rough dirt ground. His clothes were tattered, but clearly had once been very fine, indicating a prouder upbringing than one would judge from his shriveled, malnourished appearance.
“Rise for your king,” Karl-Anthony commanded the man, who, before those words, didn’t seem to have noticed the arrival of royalty. The man grabbed his walking stick from the ground and slowly lifted himself to his feet.
“Why do you waste your time with this dirty invalid?” Ricky asked, staring at the man with plain disdain.
“I would have you show this man the proper respect,” Karl-Anthony responded. “In the olden times, in the fledgling days of this very kingdom, Kevin Garnett led the people of Minnesota out of the darkness.”
“K.G.,” Ricky whispered, awestruck. “I thought that name to belong only to the books of legend. Is everything true? A powerful wizard, a skilled warrior, an augurous soothsayer?”
“I possess no sorcerous powers of my own, only a strong sense for their use by others,” murmured the wizened sage. “And my abilities on the battlefield are not as they once were.” His short laugh turned into a cough.
“What can you tell us about the absence of snow this winter?” Karl-Anthony pressed, placing his hand on Kevin’s bony shoulder as if to help coax out an answer. “What is its cause? What is its meaning?”
“It is sorcery, there is no doubt of it,” Kevin said quietly. “Very powerful sorcery of a most sinister nature.” He broke down into another coughing fit after saying these words; it was apparent that his voice had not seen much use in the past years.
Karl-Anthony’s grip tightened on Kevin’s shoulder. “So I suspected,” he murmured. “Tell me, wise one, from where does this sorcery originate?”
“I cannot say for sure,” Kevin said softly. “I can only relay the rumors I have heard. They speak of a man high up in the mountains, a rogue self-styled king, practicing arcane magic underneath a cloak of secrecy.”
Drawing himself up to his full height, Karl-Anthony felt a flame of anger ignite within him. “Winter shall be restored to this kingdom. So proclaims the king!”