A short story, for your reading pleasure.
This is the first new fiction I’ve written in a long while, aside from Crane Girl. I got the idea for this on Saturday while I was vacuuming, and after that, it pretty much wrote itself.
In the ancient days, on a world very much like Earth, there lived a king so great that he conquered the whole planet and put every nation under his scarlet banner. This king seized and drank the Gilded Ambrosia, and thereby gained immortal life.
Millions of subjects vied eagerly for the king’s favor, trying to impress him with luxuries, with secret books, with dark-eyed concubines, with curious riddles and blades of adamant. But as his age grew from decades to centuries, and then to millennia, the king grew ever more difficult to impress. If an acrobat was skillful, the king had seen another one ages ago who was yet more brilliant. If a bomb could level a city, his armory held capsules of fire that would demolish ten cities each. No army could be stronger, no counselor could be wiser, than those he had seen already in his long, long life.
But there was one man, a sorcerer, who had used his art to make himself immortal, as the king was. And this man was no sycophant. He didn’t care about status in the court, or silver, or fame. The sorcerer was truly loyal to his king, on account of some kindness in the distant past, and he wanted no more than to please his monarch by giving him something truly impressive.
He knew that the king had every luxury, that a hundred servants scrambled at his every whim, so he pondered long and deep on what could genuinely impress his king after all these years.
At last, he had it.
With his own vast wealth, the sorcerer hired scores of apprentices, hundreds of jewel-smiths, armies of builders and craftsmen. He scoured the libraries of the world for every scrap of esoteric knowledge. His workers worked, and he began his own Great Work, an incantation so dreadful and intricate that he had thirty boys and thirty girls chanting mantras day and night just to keep the cosmic forces from ripping his temple apart. The spell itself was yet more terrible and took eleven months to cast, and twelve years to sculpt, and thirteen centuries to polish.
But the sorcerer finished his task in the end.
He gained an audience with the king, and in a burst of radiance he teleported them both from the royal palace to a location the sorcerer had prepared, on the other side of the world.
The king didn’t lift an eyebrow.
The sorcerer unveiled the new palace he had built for the king. It had a thousand turrets, ten thousand chambers, emerald ramparts, sapphire gates, and a ruby portcullis. It was geometrically perfect. There was none like it anywhere.
The king gave a tired sigh.
The sorcerer (on foot) led his monarch (in a palanquin) through the palace, showing off vaulted ceilings adorned with billions of tiles, none wider than a hair’s breadth, each hand-painted separately by a master artist. The kitchens had such clever and elaborate machinery that any order could be made and delivered to anywhere in the building within seconds. The bells and the pipe organs could produce any melody, and they could be heard for leagues in all directions.
The king yawned.
But the sorcerer wasn’t concerned, because all these features of the palace were mere trifles compared to what was coming next.
For the sorcerer brought the king (who was still in his palanquin, borne by eight servants) to the last room, and there the sorcerer showed him a machine that stretched half a mile underground. He prostrated himself on the lapis lazuli floor and said:
“May it please His Majesty, this machine is the great jewel of the palace, beside which all other trappings are as nothing. For this machine will transform His Royal Highness, turning him into no less than the Lord God Omnipotent, Commander of Galaxies, Wielder of the Infinite Flame, Master of the River of Time. All this will transpire instantly, as the machine reacts to the merest touch of my lord’s royal fingers, if His Majesty will but press this lever.”
The king didn’t answer.
And now the sorcerer really was worried, because he could tell by the faint downward curl of the king’s lip that he was sorely displeased, perhaps even offended. Any other man would have feared for his life, but the sorcerer’s only concern was that he had failed to impress the king.
He could not understand what had gone wrong. It was impossible that the king had ever received a gift like this before, and still more impossible that he would object to having unlimited power. But try as he might, he could not think of a reason for the king to be upset with his offering.
At last, the sorcerer dared to whisper, “I am certain I have not merited my lord’s approval. I beg that my lord would reveal to his obedient servant the reason for his displeasure. For, if by some chance my lord did not choose to give his attention to what I said before, if he will but press this lever –”
The king spat in disgust.
“What,” he said, “you expect me to press it myself?”
Just a reminder, if you liked that story, you can find a lot more of my fiction (and other work) at BuckleyCreations.com.