Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Works-in-Progress Wednesday: "Tales of the Inkweaver"--The Stone In The Road

There once was a king who ruled his subjects fairly and wisely, and in turn, they professed to love him dearly. However, rumors of unrest and murmurings disturbed the king. It seemed as if a new law needed to be made at every turn. Citizens cited grievances against each other, and complaints came in all day long, every day.
The king noticed this, and he wondered if anyone else had. One day he called an adviser in to consult with him on the matter.
"What seems to be troubling you, sire?" the adviser asked.
"It is the people of my kingdom who trouble me so," answered the king.
"How can this be?" the man replied. "Your subjects love you, and they trust you to aid them in troubling times."
"That is what makes it all so troubling," said the king. "I fear that my subjects depend on me to do all their thinking for them."
The adviser laughed. "Surely, sire, the people are not so incapable as all that!"
"Very well, I will endeavor to prove what I have long suspected," said the king. "Come with me; I have in mind a small experiment."

So the adviser followed and watched as the king filled a small pot with gold. He instructed his adviser to bring a shovel. Then the king brought the pot of gold out to the road that led into the city. Here, he stopped. He handed the gold to the adviser.
"All right, you take the shovel and bury the pot of gold. Not too deep, mind you. Just enough to reach the top of the pot."
The adviser was puzzled, but he obeyed the king. When he had finished, the king said, "Help me roll this stone over the top."
When they had done this, the adviser finally asked, "Your majesty, what is the meaning of this?"
The king pointed. "This is my experiment: what do you see here?"
The adviser shrugged. "I see a stone in the road."
"Precisely," the king nodded.
The adviser still struggled to understand. "No doubt it will be in the way of everyone who uses this road."
"Oh, most assuredly!" said the king.
"And all it would take for anyone to have this gold from the king's own coffers is to roll the stone away."
"Then what becomes of your experiment?" asked the adviser.
The king pointed to a nearby thicket. "Let's you and I hide there and watch the stone, to see what people do."
So the king and the courtier hid themselves, and presently two shepherds leading a large flock of sheep approached down the road.
Some of the animals balked at the obstruction, and the abrupt change of pace caused the shepherds to stumble. The flock milled about as the other shepherd helped his partner to his feet. The latter brushed the dust from his sleeves, grumbling to his friend.
"Would you look at that? A stone! A great big stone, just sittin' 'ere in the middle o' the road! Is this what the kingdom has come to, that people would just leave great rocks lyin' where they fell?"
"Aye," the other shepherd agreed. "If the king knew about it, you can bet he'd do something!"
The first shepherd waved his arm. "Now we gotta take the whole flock around the stone. Hurry up, we need to reach the market in time to get a good spot!"
The shepherds moved on, and the stone remained in the middle of the road.
The king looked at his adviser. "Now do you understand?"
The courtier nodded. "I think I'm beginning to see what you mean. But hush! Here come some women!"

Three women approached, richly-dressed and chatting amongst themselves. No one even saw the rock until one woman stopped the others with a scream. She pointed in horror at the rock.
"My sisters!" she cried. "What is this I see before me?"
"It is a stone in the road!" another woman answered.
"Merciful heavens!" sighed the first woman, placing a hand over her heart. "I'll wager the king doesn't know about this; such a thing must not be allowed to happen in our fair kingdom. What say you? Shall we to the king? Let us make sure he knows just how to keep his subjects safe!"
All the women agreed, but when it came down to passing by the stone, none of the women seemed to know where or how to do it. The dirt on either side of the path was muddy and deep. Finally, after much discussion and subtle bickering, the poor women had little choice but to return from whence they came. It was concluded that a committee of Royal Road Safety Generals should be formed, and a sign should be posted guiding travelers down another road till such time as the obstruction could be removed.
"Good grief!" cried the adviser. "Can it be that people are as dependent as those women, who would talk about commissioning others to do the very thing it would be easy enough to do themselves?"
"Now you understand," said the king gravely. "But hush! Here comes a man; perhaps he will do what none before him has done!"

A man dressed in all sorts of fine clothes came walking down the path. His eyes were fixed on the sky, not the path that carried him into the city. Hence he did not see the stone, but stumbled right over it. The man landed in a heap of silk, furs, and gold thread. Immediately, he began to howl.
"My leg!" he wailed, "I think it's broken! The ground must have fallen away during the night and no one noticed. Help! Oh, help! Oh, my leg—oh help!"
The king and the adviser watched as the man yelled himself hoarse and yet did not lift a finger in his own assistance. Finally, at long last, a second merchant came striding down the road. When he came to his fallen comrade, he cried, "What's all this? Are you mad, that you should take up the whole road and endanger yourself thus?"
"Oh, woe is me!" wailed the prostrate merchant, "I've fallen and I can't get up! I tripped on a stone, you see, and very likely broke my leg."
"Here, take hold of my arm," said the second merchant, and quickly hustled the first man out of the way.
The man, far from being grateful to the man who answered his cries, instead grumbled at the state of his clothes.
"Look at this mess!" he cried, "The king should take better care of his roads if he expects us merchants to continue doing business in his marketplace! I shall demand an audience and see that I receive compensation for this outrage!"
"Never mind that!" snapped the second man. "It is you who ought to compensate me, for wasting my valuable time with your own clumsiness! Stand aside, if you please, and let me pass!" And so the two merchants proceeded into town, bickering the whole way.
"Ah me," sighed the king. "Perhaps all is not well in the kingdom as one might believe."
"I see what you mean, sire," said the adviser. "Now let us dig up the gold and return to the palace before some miscreant helps himself to the royal treasury."
"Wait!" The king cried, pulling the adviser back into their hiding place. "Here comes another."
The adviser squinted toward the horizon. "Oh, sire, it's just the sort of person I warned you about—a ruffian, a commoner. The gold is not safe from him!"
"And yet no less than five people have encountered this same pot of gold hidden under the rock, and not one of them has lifted so much as a coin from it!" said the king. "If I wanted to keep this portion of gold safe, I certainly would have made it more difficult to obtain. Be still! You may yet get to keep the gold, for he may be no more industrious than any who have passed by before."
The ragged street urchin ambles down the path. He, like all the others, stopped when he saw the stone in the road.
"Golly!" he cried. "What is this stone doing here? It must have fallen off the mason's wagon as he went into town. That's rum! He might not even miss it, but some unsuspecting animal or wagon might run over it if the stone remains." Forthwith, the lad promptly gripped the boulder with both hands, heaved it off the ground and hurled it into the bushes—just inches, if he knew it, from His Majesty the King.
As they ducked to avoid the rock, the king and his advisers heard the lad cry out, "Gee whoppers!" The lad stared with round eyes at the hoard buried in the ground. "Oh boy, just look at all that gold! I wonder who left it here?"

At that moment, the King stepped out from the foliage.
"Why, lad, the gold is yours," he announced.
The urchin scrambled backwards and threw himself in the dust at the King's feet.
"Please, your Majesty!" he cried. "I did not steal this money—"
"I know, lad," said the king kindly, "for I put it there myself."
Finally, the boy lifted his face with an expression of astonishment. "You, sire? Put the pot in the hole and just covered it with a stone?"
The king nodded.
"Why, then," said the youth with a laugh, "anybody could have moved the stone and absconded with the money!"
"Anybody could," the king answered, "but I have waited all day long and you were the first one who did. Therefore, the gold is yours."
"Oh, Your Majesty!" the boy gasped.
"Consider it payment to come work for me at the castle," the king went on.
"Payment?" he cried. "But sire, what can I do? I'm only a poor beggar."
"My boy," said the king, "in moving the rock yourself for the benefit of others, you demonstrated that you are not dependent on others to serve your needs, but you have the ability to think of the needs of others around you. Such a skill is certainly invaluable in the King's Court!"