Once upon a time – for that is the way we start most whimsical and yet unsettlingly accurate tales – in the Kingdom of Britonment, an elderly bard travelled south along the Great Road from Londonis to the coast. His back was bent double and his white whiskers fluttered weakly in the evening air, and yet his grey eyes shone out with such intensity that he looked to have the youth of a man a third of his age.
During his travels, the bard came across what seemed to be a small, abandoned village and decided to stay the night. However, upon entering a nearby barn, he discovered a small group huddled around a small fire next to a stack of recently cut hay. Unperturbed by the potential fire hazard and the curious looks from the local residents, the bard entered the barn and requested that he might stay the night with them. The residents agreed and the bard spent the long summer night drinking ale with them and listening to their problems.
Inevitably, as these sort of gatherings often do, the conversation turned to one topic in particular…
‘I wonder what ever happened to Prince Boris,’ said a middle aged man with sandy hair.
A younger woman replied: ‘Yes, I often thought about that myself. He promised us so much freedom and control and then, at our moment of triumph, he disappeared without a trace.’
The sandy haired man nodded thoughtfully. ‘Almost like a fairy tale,’ he mused.
At that point an older man, who the bard presumed to be the chief of the village, shifted in the shadows from beside the old, burnt-out Ford Fiesta, and cleared his voice with such authority that all around him fell silent.
‘Perhaps our new acquaintance has some ideas,’ he declared, eyeing the bard with interest. ‘I’m sure he has travelled far enough to have heard the tale for himself…’
The bard nodded sombrely.
‘Aye, it is true,’ he replied. ‘I have travelled far and wide across this disjointed and crumbling kingdom. And I have heard many theories and tales of what became of Prince Boris, but each is based on little more than guesswork and personal bias that I could not begin to repeat them with any authority…’
‘But surely you have your own ideas?’ interrupted the chief, banging his hand against the Ford Fiesta. ‘Some inkling of what happened to all our hopes and dreams…’
A murmur of agreement flitted through the barn. As the bard turned to each person, he saw in their eyes the years of torment and destruction that had led them to this point. And he still saw the dull light of hope shimmering behind their eyes – the same hope that kept them all living in such squalor, clinging to a future that was never to be imagined.
Maybe he felt sorry for them. Or maybe he felt anger for himself. He didn’t rightly know the reason. But what he did feel was a compulsion to tell what he thought was the truth…
‘Very well,’ he sighed. ‘I have heard many tales that sound like they are true. Many ideas that may account for what happened. And yet each disagrees, in some way or another, with some fact or another that can be considered irrefutable. For years, I have tried to find a story that could explain what became of Prince Boris and his dream – so far I have only found one…’
And this is the story he told:
Prince Boris was an unusual prince. Whilst all the other princes were slimy, two-faced creatures whose cold and calculated intelligence was utilised only for self-service and self-satisfaction, Prince Boris was of a different breed altogether.
In fact, had you met Prince Boris on the street, you might not have recognised him as a prince at all. He was often reported to be drinking with the common folk in the local taverns; he farted and burped and generally did all the disgusting things that most peasants do and his appearance was so unlike a prince that you might presume he had simply been dragged backwards through a hedge from the sight of him. He was often seen making a fool out of himself and managed to get himself into such ridiculous scrapes that most considered him to be nothing more than a privileged idiot…
He was truly a man of the people.
And yet, behind this veneer of the bumbling buffoon, Prince Boris was quite possibly the most cunning and intelligent of all the princes. And he was ambitious – driven by pure lust for the ultimate power that ruled over the Kingdom of Britonment – the kingship itself.
But power was not to be within his grasp. No matter how much the people loved him, no matter how hard he wished for it, the kingship remained outside of his grasp. None of the other princes supported his claim to the throne and Prince Boris’ life looked set to sink into the shadows of ignominy.
Until, that is, an opportunity arose.
The kingdom had been disheartened. For years, the kingdom had struggled on, as had most kingdoms in the known world, in near poverty and social unease. The ruler, King Dave, had made several unpopular decisions and, despite believing in his own ability, the weak ruler felt compelled to shift the blame on to a higher power – a union of nations that had been created to bind the kingdoms together.
King Dave had set the seeds of the Evil Empire of Europa, but it was Prince Boris who saw the greatest opportunity in the king’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for his own actions.
With the population becoming ever more disgruntled, King Dave announced that he would allow the common folk to decide whether they wished to remain part of the Evil Empire of Europa or to leave and pursue their own separate destiny.
Prince Boris seized his chance.
He had no particular disliking for the Evil Empire, in fact he rather hoped that the kingdom would remain part of it for he feared that leaving the empire would cause irrevocable chaos across the lands. He also realised, in part due to his often understated intelligence, that most people in the kingdom did not want to leave the Empire either, but recognised that there was enough of a presence that he might end up gaining valuable power from what would otherwise be a fool’s folly.
So he started to campaign against the king, knowing in his heart of hearts that he was proving to the populace what a great leader he was in the process – sowing the seeds for the day when he would finally take the throne for himself.
But, still, the campaign weighed heavily on his mind.
‘What if I manage to convince people that leaving the Empire is a good idea?’ he asked himself. ‘I would be damaging my throne before ever I get to sit on it.’
It was on one particularly humid and yucky night, when Prince Boris was tossing and turning in bed, that he came up with an idea. An idea so brilliant that it was certain to succeed…
As the campaign went on, Prince Boris began to make more and more outrageous stories about the Evil Empire. He spun tales of unicorn beatings and puppy eatings. He told fables of how the Empire had destroyed entire villages, despite knowing that the Empire was giving money to build them. He even claimed that the kingdom was giving the Empire their entire supply of gold in order to prop up other kingdoms, an idea that was transparent to anyone curious enough to enquire within the Royal Vaults.
Prince Boris’ tales got so creative and so fragrant of bull manure that, as the day of the final decision approached, he was so confident that he had lost that he could hardly contain his excitement…
But Prince Boris had made one fatal error.
Whilst his stories seemed obviously flawed and untrue to himself, he had vastly overestimated the intelligence of the average commoner. Rather than rejecting his ideas as pure nonsense, the commoners had rallied around his bizarre and pompous personality and, to his complete horror, narrowly chose to leave the Empire.
Within days, the king abdicated and all eyes turned to Prince Boris – the man who had made it all happen.
But Prince Boris had no intention of inheriting a broken kingdom and, with all the pomp and ceremony of a turtle’s funeral, he bowed out of kingdom and disappeared into the pages of myth and history. As the years went by, the people remained true to Prince Boris’ promises and words and, even as the kingdom fell apart around them, they still held on to his dream.
‘And they still hold on to it to this day.’
With that, the bard turned to the people sat around him in the barn and said:
‘There is a moral to this story. Never trust the intelligence of the average person, for they are thicker than you can ever know…’
The bard never told another story again. Before the words had even finished passing his lips, the chief jumped to his feet, grabbed a rusty shovel from off the floor, and pummelled the bard’s head with it, splattering his blood across the freshly cut hay.
Some might say the bard was stupid for telling them how it is. But he didn’t see it that way. As far as he was concerned, he died telling the truth.
And that was all that mattered…