Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Merlin & Guastavino
Once upon a time, Merlin -- King's confidant, wizard, advisor, whisperer, magicmaker, blood brother -- decided that something was wrong in the Land. Something had gone horribly awry. It seemed to Merlin that there were 8 Knights of the Roundtable who had become traitors to the King. 8 Knights who had shown that they were not loyal to the throne, that their fealty was hedged.
Though the Knights had been handpicked by the King upon his ascendancy to the throne, Merlin had decided that they were not wholly, unfailingly, and completely devoted to the perpetuation and extension of the King's power. He deduced this because, among other things, the Knights were not slaying the right dragons (Democrats and their ilk), and oftentimes, they were slaying the wrong dragons (fellow Republicans and their ilk). Exercising their own independent judgment, these 8 Knights freely pursued the enemies of the Land at their own pace, with careful contemplation, and without political purpose.
Merlin, who had the King's ear (the King was not very bright and thus relied upon Merlin a great deal), was greatly disturbed by this, which he viewed as a form of political impotence and apathy. The 8 Knights were not moving quickly enough against the enemies of the King. Indeed, some of them had quit pursuing the King's "most wanteds" entirely, which was unacceptable to Merlin.
"This disloyalty to the King must stop!" screamed Merlin to Guastavino, his young apprentice/lackey.
While a mere lackey in relation to Merlin, Guastavino was in fact the Head Knight of all the Knights of the Roundtable. He did not attain this position by his experience, mind you. Guastavino had never bled on the battlefield as had most of the Knights who served under him. He had never had his helmet punctured by an errant sword, or his nose shattered by a chainmail fist.
Rather, the chubby, young, bespectacled Guastavino had been appointed to his position by the King. Most residents in the Land surmised that the King favored Guastavino due to Guastavino's previously demonstrated, unwavering servitude to the King, when the King was merely a Lord in the feudal state of Illiterate. (The fact that Guastavino derived from the southern feudal state of Rosa Espagna didn't hurt either. The King loved those Espagnic votes.)
But now, NOW, Guastavino had attained the position of Knight of Knights! It didn't matter to him how he got there. He now possessed all of the powers associated with his new, exalted status: the Power of Subpoena; the Power of Incarceration; the Power of Eavesdrop; the Power of Knight Appointment; and last, but not least, the Power of Political Recrimination. Drunk with power, Guastavino used his new weapons with little discrimination, and often, with little common sense.
It didn't matter to him that the Landsfolk complained that his decisions curtailed their freedoms. Guastavino had one goal and one goal only. He wanted to be like Merlin. He wanted to be a King Whisperer. Maybe even become King himself one day! The first Espagnic King! So, with these ends in mind, he followed Merlin from place to place, harkened whatever advice and counsel he could, like a good apprentice, and repeatedly did Merlin's bidding without complaint and without conscience.
"Yes, sire, what shall ye have me do?"
"I want the 8 Knights eliminated. Gone, do you understand? They are traitors, all of them. Their loyalty to the King is as weak as the stem of a wilted flower in a cold rain. I need you to be the spring storm that snaps their heads off. They are of no use to us any longer."
"We will replace them with more loyal servants who will do our bidding."
So, as he was instructed, Guastavino summarily dispatched the 8 Knights. Each of them was told (not by Guastavino himself of course, but by one of HIS lackeys, of which there are too many to count) that their services were no longer needed.
Both Merlin and Guastavino thought that the episode would end there, for no one seriously questioned the authority of the King to choose his own Knights. Surely no one would dispute his selective elimination of 8 of the 93 Knights who refused to bend to his political will. Indeed, the prior King, King Wilhelm Clintonian, III had himself terminated all 93 Knights who served under HIS predecessor when HE assumed the throne. It was common practice for kings to throw out the garbage and pick their own people, so to speak.
But then, much to everyone's surprise, a strange thing happened. The 8 Former Knights did not go quietly into that good night. No, they did not. They began to speak out. They held press conferences to tell their side of the story. They talked to newspapers, television shows, magazines, anyone who would listen. They complained that they had been wrongly dispatched for political reasons, not for lack of competence. Their professional reputations forever besmirched by the humiliating demotion to serfdom had left the 8 Former Knights with nothing to lose. And everyone knows that a knight with nothing left to lose is a dangerous lion indeed.
Needless to say, the Landsfolk were quite upset to learn that the 8 Former Knights had been fired for reasons other than incompetence, and that Merlin and Guastavino may have been behind a secret campaign to make the Knights appear hapless. The fact that each of the Former Knights had obtained excellent reviews during their tenure made things quite sweaty for Merlin and Guastavino. Indeed, it appeared that the typically untouchable Merlin had miscalculated this time. He hadn't sensed every variable. Perhaps he had lost his ability to remain above the political fray?
It was not long before governing Vicars and Drakes ("VDs") were calling for Merlin and Guastavino to explain their misdeeds to the Landsfolk, under oath. In fact, a number of the VDs were quite upset that Guastavino, who it seemed was called to appear before them every other week for various transgressions, had misled them during a prior hearing. This time, the VDs wanted to hear from Guastavino AND Merlin under oath. While the inhabitants of the Land held nothing sacred, most everyone in the Land still respected the B-I-B-L-E, even Merlin.
Ah, but Merlin had no intention of testifying under oath. Even though he had orchestrated the entire episode (along with many others from which he had escaped scrutiny, including the ill-advised public disclosure of the name of one of the Land's secret agents, Valencia Ploomage), he had no desire to have this come to light. And he had no interest whatsoever in sitting on the VD hotseat, answering difficult questions from pompous VDs, all under the glare of a white hot television spotlight. No, no, no, this was not for him. Merlin operated best BEHIND the scenes, where he could pull the King's ear and whisper into it.
And so it was, one cold, March evening that Merlin said to the King:
"Why don't you have Guastavino testify under oath about these matters? He is already in bad favour with the Landsfolk. Things cannot get much worse for him than they already are."
"Hmmmm, you have a point, Merlin," said the King.
"Yes, sire, we have far more pressing matters to attend to, with the war in Arabica, ongoing negotiations with Kouria del Nord, and your legacy, of course. We cannot be bothered with these trivial fights with VDs. You are KING of all the Land, after all."
"Yes Merlin, your words make much sense. Guastavino will testify. I am so glad to have you here when things take a negative turn. I don't know what I would do without you."
"You will never have to worry about that, sire."
So, at Merlin's urging, the King threw Guastavino to the dogs. He directed Guastavino to testify before the VDs, and, like a good soldier, Guastavino did not divulge anything that would cast a scent upon Merlin and the King. He did so even though he knew he would lose his title as Knight of Knights before a fortnight was out. The people simply wouldn't have him any longer after this, another messy debacle on his watch.
But the VDs were not satisfied with just Guastavino. They wanted Merlin. And they wanted him under oath.
"Sire, this won't do, this won't do at all! We have to fight this, we must!"
"But what shall we do, Merlin? They are picking a battle over this, and the entire episode does not bode well for us. Everyone holds Knights in high esteem, and as you know, things in Arabica are not going well, and this is the last thing I need right now."
The King had a point. Though he was dimwitted, he was not wholly stupid. Neither was Merlin. So they came up with a plan. You see, both the King and Merlin had learned from the nefarious exploits and ensuing turmoil that had plagued the prior King, Wilhelm Clintonian, III.
Unfortunately, King Wilhelm had been prone to philandering. It was his Achilles heel, a fact that was well known even before he assumed the throne. So it was one starry night, that King Wilhelm made the mistake of getting his Royal Knob shined but good by a young, ambitious, moon-eyed lass who had been working as an apprentice in the White Castle. After having received numerous sceptre polishings from the young woman for many months, King Wilhelm got uh, a bit cocky (no pun intended, heh heh), and stopped taking precautions. Eventually he was caught red-handed, after having left his Royal Seal on the apprentice's blue dress.
Before long, King Wilhelm had so mucked up the situation that he found himself testifying under oath before a Grand Jury of Landsfolk. Rather than confess to his right good knob-waxing (a situation that all the menfolk in the Land surely would have understood, wot wot), King Wilhelm attempted to dance around the Inquisitor's questions with carefully parsed answers.
Oh, that was his downfall, it was! Soon after, the poor King was disgraced and impeached for lying to the Grand Jury. Though he still retained his Kingship, it was not quite the same thereafter. While some (including this Author), viewed the entire lurid episode as a political assassination that did nothing to further the Land's interests, others saw the King's downfall as his just desserts.
The point of all this, of course, is that the current King and Merlin (and likely all future Kings and Queens) have learned a great deal from what transpired with King Wilhelm. But mostly, they have learned thus: If one wants to engage in misdeeds while not suffering a similar fate as King Wilhelm, one has to AVOID testifying under oath at all costs. One has to AVOID placing one's hand on the B-I-B-L-E whose holiness and sanctity are beyond question. One must avoid swearing to tell the truth.
THIS way, no one can be prosecuted for perjury.
THIS way, one can lie and get away with it.
Oh and one more thing, one must avoid televised public hearings before VDs. Those just make you look stupid.
"Make them a proposal," said Merlin to the King.
"What kind of proposal?"
"A reasonable proposal. Tell those arrogant VDs that you don't want a fight over this. Tell them that you are prepared to fight, to assert the King's Privilege. Tell them you will consent to have me testify, but ONLY if (1) I do not have to testify under oath, and (2) I can testify in private."
"Do you think they will accept that?"
"Sure they will. What choice do they have? Otherwise, you can threaten to assert the King's Privilege, and I will not have to testify at all."
"But what if this dispute ends up in the Judicia Supremus?"
"Not to worry, sire. Remember, the majority of the judges in the Judicia Supremus are well positioned in our favour. Nearly all of them are Republicans, and you personally appointed two of them, including the Chief Justice. Moreover, the Judicia Supremus is largely responsible for your original ascension to the throne, do you not remember?"
"Ah yes, you are right again, Merlin! Sometimes I forget and think that I ascended the throne of my own doing!"
(Raucous laughter ensues between Merlin and the King)
"Sire, just remember to keep saying that you are offering them a REASONABLE proposal. Keep using the word REASONABLE as often as possible. We must appear that we are being REASONABLE. They are the litigious ones. The ones who are UN-reasonable. Turn the tables on them."
"Yes, yes, I think I can remember that."
"Sire, our political future depends on your remembering that one word: REASONABLE."
So how will this free-write of a story end? Will Merlin testify? Will he testify under oath? In private? Never?
Good Landsfolk, you must stay tuned for the answer.