What tiny events could lead to a world-changing apocalypse? This fantasy tale about a mighty empire and the tiny pebble might be less of an adult tale in the beginning, but I found it much more amusing in this version. I also think it could be a great prologue for a novel, maybe even a trilogy, which maybe one day I’ll write.
* * *
Droj stood before the emperor’s court in chains, his wrists, waist and ankles encircled by cold iron. The metal drew blood as it chafed his skin, causing pain and an itching he couldn’t scratch. This was the least of his problems, as the emperor himself was glaring at him and demanding answers.
“You are an executioner, are you not?”
“Tell me, then, why the man they call Sirokos, the man you were tasked with executing, was allowed to escape?”
“Highness, I must apologise, but I left the carrot behind.”
“Carrot?” the emperor consulted with his advisers for almost a minute before they turned to Droj for clarification.
“And by carrot you mean the lowly vegetable, the long orange root often fed to the poor and livestock?”
“Yes, highness, indeed.”
“And what is the relevance of this item?”
“Well, highness, Dice won’t go up the hill without a carrot.”
The emperor consulted again, for several minutes this time, before addressing Droj. “I think it wise, executioner, that you explain yourself in some detail, starting at the beginning.”
“Yes, highness, of course. You see, well, as you know really, prisoners are flogged then hung from the hooks on the city walls. It’s my job to hang them there. Me and Dice. We collect the prisoners from the gaol, take them out to the walls and hang them on the nearest hooks.”
“Are you telling me you didn’t do this to Sirokos?”
“No, highness, I mean yes, highness. But there was only one set of hooks free, near the south gate. It’s a bit uphill there, so I usually go up and turn around and then come back down near the wall so I can reach the hooks better.”
“And you didn’t do that on this day?”
“No, highness. I left the carrot behind, so Dice wouldn’t pull the cart up the hill and so I had to do it from lower down. I’m not as young as I used to be, so I had trouble getting the hooks through the prisoner’s skin.”
“And so, because you were negligent in your duties, the prisoner survived and was able to escape.”
“Yes, highness, sorry highness, it won’t happen again.”
The emperor went red in the face and his staff had to rush in and give him water and fan him until he’s calmed down.
“Do you know who Sirokos is?” the emperor asked when he was able to speak calmly.
“No, highness, I just hang ‘em on the hooks, highness.”
“Have you, by any chance, seen smoke rising in the distance?”
“No, highness,” Droj jangled his chains, “I haven’t been outside for a while.”
“Well, if you had been, you would have seen the smoke and heard the sounds of battle as my armies come under attack from a sizeable force of rebels. Do you know who leads those rebels?”
“Guess, just take a wild stab in the dark.”
Droj mumbled something under his breath.
“Yes, you are correct. You didn’t just let a prisoner escape, you let the rebel leader escape, the one person it was important not to let go.”
“I’m sorry, highness. I don’t know what to say.”
The emperor took some time to compose himself again.
“Tell me, executioner, if you would, why did you forget the carrot? What happened to this lowly vegetable that might bring down an empire that’s stood for thousands of years?”
“I didn’t forget it, highness, my wife, she was using it.”
“You mean eating, cooking a carrot stew was she?”
“No, highness. See, I’m getting on a bit and my stamina isn’t what it used to be. So, my wife, she… gets herself warmed up, you know, with the carrot, so I can finish her off.”
The emperor looked confused for a few moments, then consulted with his advisers for quite some time. Finally, they all fell silent, and the emperor spoke, barely controlling his anger.
“You’re telling me a rebel army is approaching the gates of the city with the intention of murdering me and my whole family because your wife likes to pleasure herself with carrots?”
“Not just carrots, highness, cucumbers, bananas, courgettes, corn on the cob sometimes. And she has this carved broom handle that looks like a massive dick… Sorry, highness, I mean yes, highness, it would appear so.”
The emperor buried his head in his hands in a most unseemly show of despair. One of his advisers began whispering to him and he eventually looked up.
“What am I to do with you? What punishment is fit for such a heinous crime?”
Several days later, the city fell to the rebels. Once the smoke had cleared and the cleaning up had begun, Sirokos returned to the place of his intended execution and found a man, a woman and a horse hanging from hooks impaled in their flesh. Each of them had their orifices stuffed with vegetables. Sirokos shook his head and moved on. It looked like he’d arrived just in time.