Mad Kings and Handmaidens

My Giraffe (Zebra) Call is open!

Written to alexseanchai‘s prompt.


The problem with mad kings wasn’t so much the madness part, Iounia thought, as it was the shifting of the madness.

The only sign she’d had that she’d fallen out of favor with the king was a slight shift in his giggle.  If she hadn’t watched Maia be dispensed with the month before after just such a slight shift – and before that Abri, and before that Martia – she might not have known it was time to leave.  

But Iounia was known for her sharp eyes and her attention to detail, which was what had brought her to the mad king’s attention in the first place, what had sat her at his feet as his adviser, and what had led her to stop by Nueva’s room and suggest quietly that she might want to get while the getting was good.

Nueva made long-term plans.  Nueva was really, really good at long-term plans. Dessie was really good at making do with almost nothing.  Between the three of them – because Nueva’s plan had led to grabbing Dessie on the way out – they had gotten out of the palace without a hitch.  They had gotten out of the city without a hitch.

And now, rather to Iounia’s surprise – although she should have seen it coming – they were planning a rebellion.

“Not exactly a rebellion,” Dessie demurred, as they sat in an abandoned barn, cooking rats over a fire.  “More of a housecleaning.  Let the Mad King keep his crown.  We’re just going to – ah.  Work around him.”

“Why let him keep his crown?” Nueva countered.  “Why not let the crown sit on an empty throne?”

“An empty throne invites someone to sit on it.  A madman on the throne invites people to stay away.”

“Let him give orders.”  Iounia understood the plan now.  “And let him believe his orders have been carried out.  Meanwhile, the rest of the country can get on with – well, with being a country.”

Safe in his underground chamber, surrounded by his crowns, the Mad King never did learn that he had fallen out of favor.

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2 thoughts on “Mad Kings and Handmaidens

  1. I like their not-quite-a-rebellion. 🙂

    It kind of makes me think of the first of David Gerrold’s Chtorr books in which the main character says he often imagined a few decades earlier, “someone walking into a meeting of the president and the generals as they tried to find a way out of the crisis, and saying, ‘What if we simply let them think they have won?'” In which the US ‘lost’ a war and gained immensely from it.

    • So there is an old, old Doonesbury comic I can’t find right now, back when Duke was in China under Nixon, and Honey Huan tells him that Mao had ordered her to have the Great Wall dismantled and then rebuilt. That’s what I was thinking of by the end of this ficlet 😀

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