The villagers stood around screaming,
“The village is burning”
and there they were,
standing around looking at the fire
doing nothing but screaming.
“Put this fire out now!!!”
they demanded of the King
who, far off in the distance
was drinking mead
and enjoying the start of this annual tradition.
A traveler stopped and listened to the people’s cries.
The traveler inquired,
“Who grew the hay that the king’s men now use to fuel the fire?”
“We did” the villagers replied.
“So, the king’s men stole it from your fields?” asked the traveler.
“No” replied the villagers,
“We delivered it to the castle for the royal horses”.
“Oh………..” Said the traveler.
“Will you deliver hay for the royal horses next year”? The traveler asked.
“Certainly, and the year after as well.” replied the villagers,
“if not, what will the royal horses eat?”
“The hay, perhaps, that grows around the castle” said the traveler,
“and in the many fields beyond the mountains” they added.
“You are a lunatic!” said the villagers, “for it is our duty, OUR DUTY
to provide hay for the royal horses
for they must remain strong and healthy
should we need them to invade a far off land
in defense of the kingdom” they added.
After the very last bale of hay was tossed on the inferno
the traveler turned, shaking their head.
As they continued their journey
they could feel the heat at their back for miles and miles.
“What a very strange place,”
the traveler thought as they awoke the next morning.
“That must have been a dream.
What a wildly unrealistic dream” they thought.
A week later, the traveler was returning home along the same path.
“Incredible” the traveler thought “absolutely incredible.”
There in front of the traveler were the charred remains of the entire village.
The villagers were beginning to mill lumber to start the rebuilding process.
As the traveler passed by the castle,
there in front of them were the royal horses
fat and happy.
Behind the horses, up in the castle
the traveler could see a fat man
taking a sip from a large mug of mead.
The king’s mother and father had enjoyed the fires alone
but what this new king enjoyed far more than the fire
were the days, weeks, and months that followed
watching the villagers balance their time between rebuilding their houses
and tending their fields,
well, it was that balancing act
that the king enjoyed the most.