The King of Morphlance was a moderate man.
By this I mean that he was a man who preached moderation in all things and that, rather surprisingly, he also acted in accordance with this doctrine himself. As one might expect of such a man he ruled his kingdom with a natural caution endeavouring at all times to serve his subjects’ best interests without resorting to extremes. He considered himself to be a fair and just King and was, it is true, as fair and as just as any King could moderately hope to be. But with the passing years this moderation came to be a great source of dissatisfaction to him for, as is perhaps natural in a man of declining years, he harboured a secret yearning to be remembered after his death. But his was a kingly desire and he yearned to be remembered not as a moderate King but as a truly great King, for he knew what it was in the minds of men that made them remember.
So it was that in times of contemplation the moderate monarch of Morphlance reviewed his reign and realised with disappointment and regret that nothing very outstanding at all had happened during the thirty years in which he had occupied the throne. There had been no wars: hardly so much as a minor disagreement with any of the neighbouring kingdoms. There had not even been any natural disasters of note. No plagues, famines, earth-quakes. No, all in all his reign had been, upon reflection, a rather dull affair. Indeed, under his rule the people of Morphlance went about their business much as they had done before he ascended the throne, much as he imagined they would do after he had vacated it with no one to notice or remember his passing. If his name appeared at all in the history books, next to it would be an enormous blank.
Thus did the moderate monarch’s thoughts run, so that, as he stood by his window on a good day, looking out far and wide across all his lands, an idea came to him that was at once both pleasant and surprising: the more the King thought, the more he became convinced that it was nothing less than a splendid idea and so all that morning the King wandered about his castle, a secret smile upon his face, a special light in his eye, muttering, ‘Splendid! Splendid…’ to himself and chuckling merrily, it was to be sure, a very immoderate thought.
Towards midday the King wearied of gathering strange looks and questioning stares from his courtiers and friends and so he retired to his chambers, there to set about putting his splendid, immoderate idea down on paper. All the rest of that day and long into the night he laboured, refusing food and drink, shunning all company, until finally the work was complete.
The King stood back admiring his craftsmanship. His idea looked all the more impressive now that it had been expressed upon paper.
“A genuine work of art.” the King declared whilst rolling it up into a scroll and slipping it under his bed where it was safe…
… “Delightful!” Exclaimed the Queen and she clapped her delicate hands together.
“Charming,” agreed the Duchess.
“Exquisite,” chimed the Marchioness.
The King’s youngest children, to whom the decree made precious little difference anyway, squealed with delight and danced joyfully around the throne room.
“A jest…A jest, the juiciest of japes!” laughed the Court Jester and joined the children.
“Mmmm… whhhon-der-full,” sighed Countess Grey dreamily.
The King’s Ambassador cleared his throat, “perhaps?” he ventured diplomatically.
“Ridiculous!” stormed the Admiral of the Kings Fleet.
“Imp… Imp… Impossible!” blustered the Lord Chancellor.
“Outrageous!” raged the General of War.
“Madness!” accused Prince Morphlance, the King’s eldest son.
“Disaster!” declared the Prime Minister.
“Anarchy!” pronounced the Lord Chief Justice gravely.
He shook his head.
“Pure folly,” intoned the King’s Minister of Education.
“Very rash,” ordained the Archbishop.
“er… um… yes, quite,” finished the King’s Ambassador resignedly.
Earl Grae smiled and said nothing.
The King sat, resplendent, upon his throne. He chuckled immoderately and remained adamant.
The decree was passed. It read:
‘King Samuel VI of Morphlance hereby decrees that: the sixth day of the week, being that day which also falls upon the sixth day of the month in this the year Six Hundred and Sixty Six, shall be a free day for all the people of his Kingdom.
Let every man, woman and child in the Kingdom of Morphlance count this day for it shall be free. Upon this day, all laws and all punishments for the breaking of such laws shall be relaxed.
Any acts committed upon this day, that would, if committed upon any other day, have been criminal acts, shall not be punished as such upon this day nor upon any other day thereafter.
Any actions for wrongs done upon this day will not be heard upon this day nor upon any other day thereafter.
Here is Wisdom: upon this day all the people of Morphlance shall be free to do whatever they want to do.
The decree was signed: King Samuel VI of Morphlance…
… “Free Day!”
“Free Day!” sang the town criers throughout the Kingdom. They were, all of them, very happy for they liked nothing better than to bring glad tidings to the people of Morphlance.
By mid-afternoon copies of the decree had been posted in the most prominent places of every town, village and hamlet and from there they smiled their message across the land. By sunset there was not a single soul in the Kingdom of Morphlance who had not heard about the Free Day.
‘Free Day,’ the word was in everybody’s mind and was upon everybody’s lips. From the smallest child who understood, to the eldest citizen and his cronies, the topic of conversation was one and the same, ‘Free Day‘.
The sun shone rays of freedom. The wind breathed freedom through the branches of the trees. The sky rained freedom from the clouds and when night fell, the darkness held hope…
…It happened that there was a stranger abroad that day. He was a traveller from distant lands who had come upon the borders of Morphlance by chance. He strolled aimlessly along the causeway, feeling that today was a good day.
The King looked up and beheld the stranger. Nowhere had he seen the like of this before. The man was as a giant. He loomed out of the summer haze, in long, loping strides. His slender, bronze-cast limbs and his stomach were bare.
The top half of his torso was covered by sack-cloth which was torn and his shorts were ripped and fraying. Upon his feet he wore tasselled boots which danced gaily about his ankles as he walked. His dark hair poured from his head in great, platted spouts, gushing over his shoulders: streaming far behind him in a teeming tangle of snake-like strands: trailing tattered sprays of brightly coloured cotton-string: orange, blue and red, which writhed free, swimming in the breeze. A Rainbow arched, resplendent across his forehead and beneath this his white face paled, encompassing dreadful enchanter’s eyes, black, and still, as night.
He moved towards the King like an apparition and like an apparition he passed him by, unconcerned by his presence along the wayside.
“Minstrel!” shouted the King, lurching, bedraggled, onto the causeway.
“Minstrel, pray tarry awhile. I would speak with you.”
The stranger turned sharply. His wild locks taking long moments to settle.
“Welcome, welcome unto my Kingdom…” the King enthused, moving closer to the man, “you are traversing the Kingdom of Morphlance upon a very special day, for today, is Free Day. I, King Samuel VI have declared it so.”
“What?” laughed the stranger, genuinely surprised but then he caught a whiff of alcohol and was annoyed at him-self for being such a fool. He kicked the tramp back into the ditch.
“Wino!” he called after him, and turning, he strutted proudly upon his way.
But later that day, as the stranger sunned himself upon a small rise, he thought again of the tramp and the curious words which he had spoken and he began to regret his hasty reactions.
‘Minstrel… Morphlance… King Samuel VI? Free Day? ‘…
He took out his journal and began to write…