-Story- What makes a great leader?
|This is my take on one of those ol' folk tales that people tell to drive home a point or to teach a moral. Enjoy :)
In the days of magic and legend, there lived a king who held reign over a vast and prosperous kingdom. Though his people rarely felt the weight of poverty on their shoulders and were content in their lives; their leader was not. The king was an unhappy man; bitter because he could not see that he had done anything with his life. His ancestors were all great warriors and philosophers but no matter how hard he tried, he could not live up to their standards. For years the king lived in misery, desperately trying to find his notch in the oaken staff of life.
Then one day word reached the king of a mystic in his kingdom. A mystic with the power to grant mankind their most treasured wishes. Elated for the first time in decades, the king dispatched his guards to scour the kingdom and bring this witch-man to him. Surly if anything could help him obtain the status of his long-dead sires; magic could. Every morning, the king would bolt from his bed to gaze out his high, tower window, hoping to see the sign of his returning soldiers.
Weeks past before, finally, the mystic arrived in the king’s court. He was dressed as a simple peasant in clothes made from deer hide and worn sandals. In his left hand he clutched a half-rotten cane that didn’t seem up to the task of supporting his weight and yet was able to. The king looked down him from his high throne, draped in cloth-of-gold and the finest cut jewels.
“My people tell me that you are a mystic and that you can grant men their deepest wishes. Is this true?”
The mystic nodded, “I can.”
“Wonderful!” The king was overcome with excitement and for a moment he did not know where to start. He could have anything he wanted just by asking. What he wanted more than anything though was his youth back. If he was young again, he could train and become the greatest warrior-king that history had ever known. He could relive his life; he could do all the things he had never had the courage to do as a young man!
“Mystic; I wish to be young again. I wish to have my body move without protest and to see the world through the wonder and awe of youthful eyes.” The king ordered.
The mystic bowed shallowly and rapped his cane on the white marble floor of the king’s hall three times. “Thus and thus and thus shall it be. Tonight you will go to rest as an old man but on the morrow you will awaken as a young man.”
Excited and very pleased by this, the king dismissed the mystic with the promise of a huge reward if his spell worked. That night the king found it almost impossible to find his slumber. His mind raced with all the things he would do with his new body. It wasn’t until the wee hours of the morning that exhaustion swept over him and he went to sleep. The next day, there came joyous sound from the king’s chambers. His doors swung open and a strapping, young man walked out wearing the king’s bed-robes. The lad grabbed a nearby guard and embraced him.
“Behold!” He said, “Your king!”
He laughed and danced his way to his throne room, unable to believe that the mystic’s power had given him a new lease on life. But as the years began to pass by, he found that the wisdom and intellect he had garnered over the years was gone. Problems arose in his kingdom that required the attention of a seasoned ruler and as such, turned disastrous when he was unable to address them properly. Feuding guilds pushed the prices of goods to an all time high; greedy land-barons were laying heavy taxes on any grain produced on their farms and the entire land was threatened with collapse and famine. Outraged and convinced he had been tricked the young king sent his guards out into his kingdom once more to find that devious mystic and bring him to the castle to answer for his treachery.
The soldiers were gone even longer this time but they returned with the mystic and brought him before the king. The man had not changed in the least bit nor had his apparel despite the fact that the king had given him a nation’s ransom as payment the last time they had met.
“Mystic! You deceived me. I no longer have the mental fortitude or experience needed to manage my own kingdom and as result all I have been entrusted with is threatened.”
“You asked for your youth back, Majesty and that is what I gave you. Youth and wisdom cannot live within the same person for wisdom is the fruit of age while inexperience is the bounty of the young.”
Vexed but unable to find fault in the mystic’s words the king thought for a moment.
“Very well, mystic. I wish to be the greatest king that my kingdom has ever seen.”
The mystic raped his cane, again, three times on the marble floor. “Thus and thus and thus shall it be. Tonight you will go to rest as a young man and on the morrow you shall awaken as a great ruler.”
The king was very pleased and offered his apologizes to the older man, again offering him a hefty reward if his spell worked.
That night, as before, the king found it hard to get to sleep but just as dawn broke over the eastern lip of the world, the king’s eyes closed. He awoke several hours later, within his aged body and his head almost aching under the onslaught of fresh ideas and solutions to every problem that plagued the kingdom. He wasted no time in issuing decrees and laws to help strengthen his kingdom and as the pages within the book of time steadily turned, his people entered into a golden age of wealth and peace. But there was a price to be paid. The king found himself so focused on governing his lands and people that he scarcely had a free moment to tend to his own needs. His life quickly became a never-ending sea of politics and state. He never had time to listen to his bards play their music; never had a chance to visit his exquisite gardens and marvel at their beauty. Indeed he found himself feeling just as run-down and bitter as ever before.
Certain that he had been tricked again, he sent out his soldiers to bring the mystic to him once more. A year and a half passed before they returned with the unchanging magician.
“Again you have perverted my wish! Why do you torment me so?” The king cried out.
“I only granted you what you asked, Majesty. A man cannot devote his entire life to his station and still find time for himself and, alas, that is what is required of a perfect ruler.”
The king could not argue so instead he offered a third wish, “Make my kingdom the greatest the world has known and allow me to run it as a normal man.”
“As you wish.” And three sharp cracks echoed through the throne room, “Thus and thus and thus shall it be. Go to rest this night and on the morrow your kingdom will be unequalled.”
Fear and uncertainty gnawed at the king as he watched the sun lower from his bedchamber window and he went to bed with an uneasy mind. When the sun’s light reached into his room the next morning, the king awoke to find his kingdom was overflowing with riches and knowledge for all. Fields yielded three-score their normal amount; water from all the wells held a heavenly sweet taste and his people were content. Finally sure that his reign would go down as the most prosperous and wonderful, the king spent most of his time fulfilling all the things that he took pleasure in. For with his kingdom the greatest in existence, the king did not have to fret about actually being a king.
Three years to the day of the king’s wish, there started an uprising in his lands. The people, now educated and no longer forced into day to day survival, began to question the need to stay locked in a needless hierarchy. Since peace had become a hallmark of his kingdom, the king found himself with a lack of armies. For what fool keeps men under arms when there is no threat of war on the horizon. Cowering in the halls of his castle as the rebellion drew closer, he prayed silently for some form of deliverance. Hardly had he finished then there came the sound of a soft step and the clack of wood on stone. The king looked up to see the mystic standing before him.
“Leave me now, fell harbinger. Your magic has brought nothing but discourse and misery to me.”
“A creation cannot be greater than its creator, my liege. This kingdom was your creation and it has out-shown you. This was all inevitable from the moment that my magic went to work.”
“I am doomed.” Was all the king could say.
The mystic waited, his eyes full of sympathy and compassion. “Shall I set this right, Majesty?”
“No. I have aged, mystic. I am getting older still and now it seems like death will claim not a king but a popper. If ever I had a wish that was not brought on by ego or desire it would be to be the king that I was meant to be for my people.” The king buried his face in his hands and began to sob quietly.
Clack. Clack. Clack. “Thus and thus and thus,” The mystic began to fade as if he was losing his corporal form, “shall it be. Rest now my king.”
Sleep accompanied the mystic’s words and when the king awoke he found himself the liege of a simple, ordinary kingdom. His old, tiring body ached and his mind was his own, filled with his own ideas and ideals. He looked up from where he had fallen sleep, slumped against his thrown. There were no angry mobs now; no overflowing granaries. It was the kingdom that had existed err ever he had meet the mystic. He rose a broken man made anew by embracing his old self.
He took up his crown and set about ruling as best as he knew how to. Sometimes he made mistakes and sometimes he was at a loss as what he was required to do but he never gave up. Upon his death bed, as he lay there, drifting in and out of consciousness, the mystic came to him.
“Peace will be yours soon enough, Majesty.” He said, taking a seat on the edge of the king’s bed and taking the dying man’s hand in his own. “Have one last wish, my king?”
The king chuckled, causing him to cough violently, “No, mystic. I have done the best I could with what I was given. Your magic cannot give me anything that I haven’t earned, I see that now.” He coughed again and the mystic smiled warmly to hear such words.
“Rare is the man who finds such truth before his time on this plain is over.”
“Grant a dying man one question, troublesome witch.” He smiled as he spoke and that smile was mirrored by the mystic’s own. “Why was it that all my wishes, when made in good conscious, went astray?”
“Because magic could not give you what you needed; nothing could. You searched for the answers outside of yourself when the spirit of a true king; of a good person, lies in here.” The mystic rested his other hand on the king’s chest and a lone tear rolled down his cheek.
It was then, in that late hour as his last breath escaped, that the king realized the truth. He had been so blinded by his need to be more then he was that he could not remain true to who he was. He was who he was supposed to be all along. He might not have been like the great lords of old but he was what his times demanded him to be and nothing; not riches nor youth or wisdom, could have ever substituted that.