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King for a Day by KJ Hannah Greenberg.



Whereas his father, Phillip, had allowed the realm to be mediatized by the Urgens, Leonard had no such interest in annexing his rights or his lands. It better suited him to wax away his vitality in his throne room while remaining under siege by the larger state. The Urgens had not anticipated a revolt, yet had answered it, efficiently, with a sea cordon.

While vital supplies were being blocked from reaching his people, Leonard sat on his oaken chair of state, and presided, “in majesty,” over: the anniversary of his principality’s liberation from Greater Boxia, the reinvestiture of his regents, and the feast of the queen mother, Lula van Trivlas. On that mighty seat, as well, he held council, granted audiences to the leaders of conglomerates that wanted to buy mining rights, received homage from war lords who wanted to extort those leaders, awarded fiefdoms to the warlords who paid him the most generous enticements, and performed other official functions.

Although such goings-on could be transferred to one or more of the other rooms within his palace, or, even, to a location outside of his ambulant, Leonard was content to stay put. He liked being served roast peacock for breakfast and Champagne grapes for snacks. He was fond of the fan girls who decorated his important chamber and, sometimes, he took short pleasure in dipping his hand in one of the many bowls, filled with gold coins, which surrounding that space’s dais. What’s more, as only Phillip had known, Leonard was safest at home since Leonard was illiterate.

That knowledge died during the coup de tete. The details that the conquest had been dependent on patricide, too, were hushed. After all, Leonard did not consider himself psychotic, or see his fragmented family (his mother had abandoned his father to move in with his sister’s ex-husband) as dysfunctional, or feel any hostility toward his former liege, except for some loathing that had been simmering, five years heretofore, at the time when his father decreased his allowance. Leonard conceded that he might be classified, nonetheless, as a tad delusional.

On good days, though, Leonard understood himself as fulfilling his duties with loyalty and integrity, as remaining calm in the midst of confusion, and as respecting public opinion. He was not the psychologically deformed creature, which the media portrayed. He did not have malevolent reactions to kingdom events because his father had kept in a cage for twenty years, and he was not a malcontent seeking a conflict-oriented solution to his father’s power. He was the champion of his people and the small item of a brutish murder had been a necessary means to a significant end. That his followers valued not only their freedom, but also: nonviolence, the performance of royal duties with dispassion, and the characteristic of gentility were not of his concern.

Those merits were significant, though, to the small, periwinkle-colored fairy that perched on the top of Leonard’s crown and admonished Leonard, in three human languages, simultaneously. That din made it all but impossible for the new ruler to take pleasure in the royal stallions being marched outside of the throne room window window, to count the eyelashes on the members of the royal harem marched through the throne room, or to salivate over the pickled pigeons’ feet brought into the throne room and left on the tableau’s stairs.

As the fey jabbered on, Leonard began to cry. It was so unfair that he continually had to sacrifice his own interests for those of his people. In spite of this truism, he held his bearings until the incident with the fantail dove pushed him beyond redemption.

When that pretty pigeon, which Leonard was examining as among a handful of contenders for his lunch, dropped a bit of waste on Leonard’s lap, and then audaciously refused to be recaged, Leonard gave the miniature, fancifully dancing man, still alighted on his head, an order; “clean this,” he commanded. The pixie’s response was less that satisfactory.

With no conspicuous effort, that little man wiggled some fingers and succeeded, with nary a puff of smoke or blast of lightning to remove Leonard from the throne. To wit, Leonard rematerialized in a bear’s den. The mama bear did not take well to finding a human spooning with her cubs.

As for the Principality of Lesser Boxia, the apparition from the woods appointed a Great Dane in Leonard’s stead. That large dog was a splendid ruler. It maintained a high moral order in personal conduct, acted unselfishly, except when served Cornish hens, was cared an iota about other nations’ rulers opinions of his regime. The foreigners destroyed Lesser Boxia’s forests, the royal minions got rich and fled for Greater Boxia and the Queen had someone to warm her feet in the place of her ex-boyfriend.



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