The King believed in magic.
He believed in magic the way some believed in God. He knew it was there. He wasn’t expecting it to drop in for breakfast and spell out the meaning of life in his porridge, but he knew.
His people forgave him this foolish notion, he was a good King.
The King knew there were some who thought him a fool. So, he nurtured his belief discreetly.
He sent anonymous letters back and forth with a gypsy woman who claimed her flowers spoke to each other. She’d send him long transcripts of conversations she recorded while quietly sitting in her garden disguised as a sun flower.
The flowers mostly chatted about bees, wind patterns, and whose roots were touching whose. Except for the roses, who just spent the day complaining about each other. Even if flowers didn’t have all the secrets of life and magic he still read and reread each transcript at least once a week.
Once, he had asked the Gypsy to send him one of her magical flowers. One, a daffodil, arrived along with a cryptic note that only said: It was talking about how sickly the sunflower was beginning to look.
Once, two boys had shown up at the King’s palace carrying the body of a third, slightly younger, boy. They said the dead boy was in fact their elderly father. They said he’d brought them on an expedition to find the fountain of youth.
“And did you?” The King had asked.
The boys said they had, and that it was a large pool of water. They said their father had leapt into the pool and immediately began to regain his youth. Right before their eyes. They then said their father had drowned in the pool when he grew so young he forgot how to swim. They said they brought him to the King because they’d heard that the King had an interest in magical things and hoped for some reward.
The King had them put to death, of course, The Bishop was watching. He could not have people going around drowning each other then, dragging the bodies to his doorstep hoping to get rich off of his curiosities. He had the third boy’s body burned, but not before taking a small vial of his blood which he kept next to the rude daffodil.
The only person who was as in love with magic, was the Duchess. Even The Bishop couldn’t scorn him for appeasing the Duchess on her birthday. So, each year on her birthday, the doors of the palace were open to anyone who could bring a magical birthday present to the Duchess.
“She will grow out of this soon,” The Bishop said to the King as the doors were open and a man was let into the hall.
“Then I shall just have to have another child,” The King replied, not taking his eyes off the man.
The man announced that he had a coin that could be coerced into making itself double. The man cupped the coin, brought it up to his mouth and began whispering to it. A few seconds later the man held out his hand to the Duchess and she took two coins off of his palm. The Bishop stood up and walked in between the man and the Duchess. He reached into the man’s pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. He let them drop on the floor one by one. Then, had the man taken out of the room. He looked at the King and smiled, then at the Duchess.
“My dear niece” he said “you must be careful. Belief is the fortune of non-believers. They will use it to gain your favor, your money, your power. You must be certain of everything. Belief should be left to the-“ he glanced at the King “-handicaps of the world.” The King scowled at him.
The Duchess held the coins up to The Bishop and informed him that the man had been telling the truth because, see, there are two coins.
TO BE CONTINUED…