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The Emperor’s Decrees

The Emperor sneezed. Even the torrential downpour hadn’t settled the spring pollen. Curse those catilies! Everyone planted them for the vibrant pink blooms, but he was violently allergic. There should be a law.

The Emperor looked down at the paper he held. No, ninety decrees was enough, even if he’d forgotten the catily flowers. One couldn’t expect one’s subjects to bear too much.

The Emperor stepped out from the doorway where he’d huddled against the rain. Scattered hailstones crunched underfoot. He could feel each one through the worn soles of his boots. Nobody was in the square, but the Emperor knew they would come.

“Decree the First: There shall be no talking goldfish in municipal fountains.” This worried him. A goldfish had spoken to him yesterday while he was washing his face.

It said, “Blurble blurb,” and he couldn’t figure out what that meant, but he knew it was important. The Emperor didn’t want the goldfish repeating its message to his enemies. The simple solution was to ban all talking goldfish in public places. He’d never seen a goldfish swimming on the cobblestones, so he only needed to ban them from the fountains.

A little girl in a grubby dress stopped before him as he read the fourth decree, the one about encouragement of fireflies. They should be offered food and drink in exchange for their flickering lights. He didn’t know what exactly they ate or drank, but that was why one had advisors, to attend to such details.

The little girl threw something at him. He was momentarily distracted by the way her pigtails swirled as she pulled her arm back, then released, but he still managed to dodge the whatever-it-was, and it splatted on the cobblestones behind him.

The square filled with people, flushed couples arm in arm, a few with stern-faced chaperones. The musicians must be taking a break, giving everyone a bit of fresh air before they returned to the whirl of the dance. The Emperor raised his voice, pleased to have such a large audience for his decrees. “Fifteen. The dreadnaughts of the Empire shall be kept free of limpets at all times.” He was a bit fuzzy on what a limpet was, perhaps a large goldfish, but the Emperor was quite certain that they did not mix well with his navy’s ships.

He sneezed again. His throat was getting rough with reading all these decrees, but the Emperor knew that he could make it through all ninety. He was the divinely-anointed Emperor, and he could do whatever was needful. He read on.

“Forty-three.” He was interrupted by a pair of his city guards before he could start to read the body of the forty-third decree.

“We’re sorry, Your Emperorship, but there’s been a threat on your life. You need to come with us, and we’ll protect you. The Emperor recognized the guard who spoke. The man was a loyal subject, often protecting him at night. The second guard grinned foolishly at his companion. The Emperor saw, but chose to ignore the man’s disrespect.

“I must finish announcing my decrees to my loyal subjects,” he replied. “You may wait here until I’m finished.”

“I don’t think so, old man,” the second guard said. “We’ve got orders to bring you in. You’re disturbing the law-abiding citizens, the ones who ain’t crazy.”

The Emperor folded up his ninety decrees and tucked them into his breast pocket, his hands shaking. He would read the next batch tomorrow evening. Eventually his subjects would have heard them all, and the best empire in the world would become even better. He followed the guards, secure in the knowledge that they would protect him for the evening, keep him warm and out of the rain, maybe even feed him. They didn’t bother to take his arms; he’d never given them any trouble.

He felt for the tiny gold coin sewn into the hem of his tattered jacket. It comforted him to feel it there. It reminded him of his mother when she was happy. Before she died screaming, bathed in her own blood and that of his father, as he watched through the fringe that concealed his hiding place.

His father’s face was on the coin, though the Emperor never dared take it out of its concealment to look at his features, so like what he saw reflected in the fountain. Before he got old, at least, and without so many goldfish.

Sometimes, late at night, the Emperor wished his mother’s face had been stamped on the coin instead.

This is another twitter-inspired short piece. I collected prompts, and spent under an hour plotting and writing. No revision, no editing; what you get is what you get, but they’re a great antidote to writer angst.

Tonight’s prompts:

the Universe: 90 decrees (geometry typo); catilies (fascinating captcha word)
Nick: dreadnaught; harassment
@quasigeo: hailstorm; contra dance
@notmoro: fireflies
@notanyani: allergies; pink
@jaymgates: mismanaged schedules; talking goldfish; pigtails
@ravyn the Incredible Mr. Limpet

One Comment

  1. Notanyani says: