The Miraculous Hide
1240 words long
“It will help the whole Kingdom,” averred the King. “But first I must see its efficacy demonstrated.”
Notes from the author:
The King in this story is not Good King Wenceslas, but the story itself was much inspired by that carol. The character first came from the Four of Pentacles, which the Rider-Waite deck illustrates as a crowned figure hunching jealously over the coins of his suit, eyes darting suspiciously out at the viewer. “He holds to that which he has.” Thus the premise. But I was stumped for a story until I remembered that I’d be publishing this on the fourth Friday of December, with the Winter Solstice behind us and Christmas still before. That’s when I thought of the carol.
I’m sure I’ve read a fairy tale involving a miraculous Hide with the properties described herein, but I can’t for the life of me seem to find it now.
The King was in his counting house, counting out his money. He was in there every day. He had to make sure none of it had disappeared in the night.
The Treasurer was also in the counting house, trying to argue some sense into the King. “There are bridges to be repaired,” she said, “and roadways falling apart. There are fields still flooded out from the spring thaw. What use all this gold if your people starve?”
The King peered up from his counting table with a crafty look in his eye. “Such concerns would empty out the Treasury in a fortnight. Let they with unlimited reserves pay for them. Mine are but finite.”
“Unlimited reserves, your Sire?”
“I have heard tell,” said the King, “that somewhere in my Kingdom, there is a miraculous Hide which, when folded over and caused to squeak, creates gold coins from nothing at all. It can afford to pay for bridges and roads and such; I cannot.”
Now, such an item might well have existed. Miracles and magic were common in those days. More likely it was mere rumor. In any case, the King, already insecure where gold was concerned, was now half conquered by envy for this Hide.
The Treasurer knew it was impossible to reason anyone, let alone a King, out of a position they had not reasoned themselves into. So she went away to think on matters, and to visit her family.
Now, she had a cousin who had an uncle on the other side who was friends with a certain forester. News was, with the season so cold and the forester so poor, he’d had to butcher his cow to keep himself fed through the winter. The Treasurer heard this with pity. To think she held the keys to the Royal Treasury, yet could do nothing! It seemed too bad. Still, she asked if she might speak with the forester, in hopes that something of use might occur to her.
And indeed, something did....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for December 23, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1240 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.
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