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Duke Edward, Editor of the Kingdom Crier

01/12/2011

As foretold in ancient prophecy, here is an excerpt from Royal Flush, a humour novel I wrote a few years ago. It’s about a monarch named the King, who has no special talent for anything. Royal Flush won the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize in 2007.

I chose an excerpt that complements this week’s posts about openness. In it, the King goes to a newspaper’s offices to stop his advisor from relaying some sensitive information. It actually works pretty well if you read it as allegorical of the relationship between the American government and Julian Assange. I guess the advisor is Bradley Manning.

Whether by divine intervention, generosity on the goat’s part or plot convenience, the goat brought him directly to the offices of the Kingdom Crier. Or rather, the animal rocketed past the offices of the Kingdom Crier, and at that moment the King launched himself from its back. The impact knocked the wind from his lungs. The goat carried on running, though the King had a feeling he hadn’t seen the last of it.

He hurried into the lobby, gasping for air. The receptionist—an attractive, efficiently-dressed young maiden—greeted him with a patronizing smile.

“Did a short, womanly man come through here recently?” the King asked her.

“Your advisor is seeing the Editor, Your Majesty.”

“Well I want to see him too. Which way?”

“I’m afraid I can’t allow it. I’m afraid I have specific orders to deny you access beyond the lobby.”

“Aren’t you also afraid I might have you executed?”

“I’m afraid I’m not afraid of any threats you may utter, as they’ve been proven quite ineffective.”

The King smouldered.

A funny whooshing noise came from behind the receptionist, and she turned to extract a small, rolled-up scroll from a tube that ran up the wall and through the ceiling.

Having read the message, she once again turned her condescending smile on the King. In her eyes, he could see his intelligence being reduced to that of a child. A particularly delayed child.

“It appears you’ve been granted special entry to the Editor’s office for today only. Take the stairs on your left.”

The King trudged away from the desk, resentful he did so only with permission.

The Editor, Duke Edward, worked on the seventh of eight floors, or so an embossed plaque told the King. “Why not the eighth?” he said. “Does he expect anyone to believe he possesses even a shred of humility?”

“The eighth floor is the Observatory,” said a passing journalist.

“Hmph,” the King said, certain their telescopes were pointed forever downward, and never up. He started up the stairs.

The seventh floor consisted of a single cavernous hallway, with the double doors of the Editor’s Office situated at the very end. As he traversed its length, the King thought about all the worthless, fraudulent smut that had passed through the doors ahead. He felt soiled.

He knocked on the giant oaken doors, and was made to wait an entire minute before someone opened them. It was his advisor.

“Why, Your Majesty!” he cried, more horrified than welcoming.

The King punched him in the face, sending him staggering back into the office. Then he too advanced into the room, looking to repeat the act two or three times.

“Now, Your Highness,” scolded the man who sat behind an imposing desk, also of oak. “We’ll have none of that here. I have a loaded crossbow in my desk, and I’m loath to take it out—conversation seems to simply dry up whenever I do. If I see it as necessary, however, I will. Please beat your employees on your own time.”

The King concentrated the full force of his rage into making a hideous face.

The man winced. “Your countenance is repellent enough as it is. Don’t do it the injustice of contorting it further.”

The King clenched his fists.

“You do know who I am?” the man said. “Of course you do. I’m the one whose intimacy with the contents of your laundry basket rivals your own. I’m the one who knows all too well about the nighttorch you keep in your room while you sleep—that’s the subject of our next big exposé, by the way.” The King grimaced. “I,” said the man, pausing for effect, “am Duke Edward, Editor in Chief of the Kingdom Crier.”

“You’re a filthy swine,” the King spat.

Edward smiled. “That, too.”

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