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Deal 1260: Remember George?

They slowly gathered dust in the back room of the little theatre, in the dim light and away from prying eyes and fingers. Perhaps in the right hands, they could be used again to amaze. But before that could happen, they would need more than a little repair. And likely fresh paint.

The chair suspension had a loose leg, and could hardly support itself, let alone a volunteer.

The thin model sawing was missing a blade. Without it, the secrets would leak out under the bright lights, and then it would fail to be an illusion. ALthough to be fair the line between illusion and disillusion is always fairly thin. Even when all works perfectly, small slips by the performers add up and the audience may not be fooled in the slightest.

Most of the production props were aging, suffering badly from loss of flexibility. A compressible bowling ball is worthless if it crumbled to dust when packed, or takes too long to spring back to shape when released.

The egg bag seemed to be home to many generations of moths. If picked up and manipulated today, it would fall to pieces. In its glory days it would have been the keystone of an act that produced a dozen fresh eggs and the chicken that laid them.

In the darkest corner there was a box of appearing canes stuck open, and disappearing candles stuck closed.

If George ever remembered he’d left this show here, he was going to need to take some time to bring it back to its former glory.

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Deal 1226: Sticks and stones

Court is not a place for the thin-skinned. While the insults and slights are less likely to be stated bluntly, loud, and clear, they are there beneath the surface as every courtier jockeys for position and favor. To an outsider, this makes court seem like a pointless waste of time and resources. To an insider it is their lifeblood.

He was atypical for a courtier. Whip-thin, tall, and nimble. They called him Stick, but not usually to his face. He was sharp in more ways than one, and was more willing than most to follow up on threats with a visit to a back alley.

Today, Stick was holding court of his own, facing down the leading lawyer over a few beers. Their respective circles of sycophants were keeping the combatants well supplied while the debate ranged freely.

Stick was adamant that free will was behind everything that could be seen happening. Even things that would normally be ascribed to fate. His sparring partner was far more receptive to a fatalistic view. He held that free will was merely an illusion used by men to assuage their egos when choices went badly. That the criminals that made his living for him were fated to break laws, and what little free will they possessed was only good for choosing which laws they would break.

The discussion lasted until closing, and then spilled over into the streets.

And call it fate. Call it free will. Or call it narrative necessity as you will. But Stick had had enough of the snide remarks by this point, and he and his retinue neatly cut the lawyer free of the crowd and herded him into the alley. Where they thrashed him to within an inch of his life.

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Deal 1197: Frogger

Hindsight, they say, sees all.

Which is just a way of taunting those of us without the talent for seeing events from a future point of view. That is, most of us.

The Fates, those weird sisters, they have that talent. Not many others do, or at least not many admit they do.

So if I knew then what I know now, would then me have done anything different? Would present me even exist if then me could have his way?

Deep questions, or just shallow thought masquerading as deep?

Sort of a reflecting pool of thought?

Water always figures somehow. More now than then.

Because I did not know then a key fact I know now.

Then I was just a Prince. A mortal man, who by luck of birth would someday inherit the right to be near the top (but not actually at the top) of the list of people who could inherit control of my kingdom. The top slot belonged to my older brother, as tradition required. And he was that special combination of unreasonably healthy and unreasonably well liked that made the weight of the rule highly unlikely to become my problem.

In other words, I was just a Prince, with no likelihood of duties beyond my own leisure. Not a care in the world. And no reason I could see for developing the need to care.

How foolish I sounded then, from where I stand now. I say “stand”, but of course other positions are far more common now. But then, “stand” it was. I knew nothing about the shape of the world, or the passions that affect great changes in that shape for little more than a whim of a powerful person. I may have benefited from the presence of power, but I was not myself powerful.

That last fact did eat at me a bit. I can admit that now, but then I would have denied any interest in power.

And that denial would provide the crack through which my downfall began.

For I am no longer that Prince.

I met a temptation. I was tempted. I was tempted badly, and then ill used, and discarded since I in fact had almost no power.

Now, I have exactly as much power as then, without the title to go with it.

Not even the title of mortal man.

I was tempted. I acted when offered a chance at a taste of the power and glory.

The lesson I failed to learn is that temptation rarely leads to real glory, only real humiliation and real defeat.

And a taste of flies on one’s tongue that I will never get used to.

I was a Prince, and now I am cursed to be a Frog for the rest of my days. Or until a highly unlikely event occurs. And without a concrete promise that should the unlikely happen, that it will actually help my plight.

Born a Prince, die a Frog.