The Duck King – Part III: The Aggressive King
The Duck King is a short story in seven parts written in 2013. It takes place in the world of Dyne and follows the unlikely duck King Ackerack.
The Aggressive King
The Rule Entrustees had been forced to embrace knowledge of animal care over the years. The recently departed queen’s mental vicinity to zoophilia instituted a royal court where social expertise was often applied to the interaction with animals as much as to that with humans. They were however not equipped to manage the high maintenance relationship of King Ackerack.
The king seemed to grow into his new role at a rather high pace initially. It wasn’t until several weeks into his reign that his personality changed and he became irritable. He refused to be picked up and walked around the castle. He refused to speak when spoken to. He refused to take baths, and his personal chambers were growing rather forest-like. He wouldn’t even eat most of the time.
“Your Majesty, we need your quack of approval for the new tax policy to be implemented,” Eugelius pleaded.
King Ackerack didn’t reply.
“Could this be his way of instating a protest?” Cromhart asked. “I told you we should have shown him to the people on day one. He doesn’t understand the impact his decisions hold.”
“I hardly believe His Duckly Majesty is upset over a few minutes up on the balcony,” Eugelius replied.
“How do you know?”
“I just don’t think that’s the way he works.”
“Fine. I will not cause a stir. But regardless — the people are asking for an appearance. It took them a while to accept a duck as a king, and we don’t want to provide them with yet another excuse for an uprising. My sources claim many are asking whether or not the king actually exists. Do you remember what they did when the old queen tried a pair of glasses on for fashion? Their claim of her being unsuitable for leading our army to battle due to poor sight? That’s what we’ll have all over again.”
“It’s just cumbersome with all the preparations,” Cromhart said, and in some manner of unintended encouragement brought the king to quack.
“Quack!” the king demanded.
“He spoke!” Ramos exclaimed.
“And an expression of such wisdom!” Cromhart agreed.
“Wait, you two understand him?” Eugelius asked.
Cromhart and Ramos eyed each other cautiously.
“I will admit I interpret rather liberally,” Cromhart said.
“From what I hear, the language of ducks is supposed to be quite interpretable,” Ramos added.
“Who told you this? A professor in duck linguistics? At the Faculty of Ducks? You knob heads have no idea what you’re talking about,” Eugelius said. “But we have a very real problem. The people demands to see the new king.”
“Remind me again, why haven’t we already presented him?”
“First of all, he smells like a sewage lump. Second of all, we wouldn’t be able to guarantee the safety of the people.”
“It would be political suicide.”
“Suicide or not, His Majesty appears to insist.”
“Very well — brief the tailors, alert the secretariat and fill up the bath tub! His Duckly Majesty will meet the people.”
Meanwhile, things weren’t quite as cheerful on the opposite end of the castle. The princess endured the agony of a lifetime, shackled to her ankles by a dungeon wall.
“Guard!” she yelled.
“Princess?” a panting chief of guard shortly after replied, poking his big nose in through the prison bars.
“I’m sad. I don’t like being here.”
“I think that’s the point.”
“Give me my freedom back, Scott. You know I deserve it.”
“I know you deserve it, princess, but alas I can’t.”
“Then give me a moment of sunlight and fresh air. I suffocate from the darkness.”
“I know you deserve this too, princess, but alas I can’t.”
“Then give me a bite to eat. I starve.”
“You are well overdue for at least one meal today, but the king has—”
“Yes, princess. The king has requested you receive the worst food the house has on offer.”
The princess turned in anger, twitching and chugging on the chains that held her captive. If only there were a way out, she thought. “How can the king make such a request?” she complained. “He’s a duck! A duck that can’t speak!”
She certainly wasn’t alone in thinking so, but if you asked the philosophers of the time, those on a far away enough spiritual plane that they’d resort to analysing an animal’s behaviour, King Ackerack was a strong-willed ruler who brought to practice new policies based on sound principles and wisdom. If you asked the educated and intelligent, King Ackerack was an illiterate joke of a king who’d qualify as a lower bracket statesman at best. The princess’ compeers were however among the people; if you asked the common man, King Ackerack was unremarkably and factually a duck.
“The question,” Eugelius said. “Is who speaks for him.”
“You have a good voice,” Cromhart answered.
“A good voice but poor ears.”
“You would need the ears of a duck to speak the words of a duck,” Ramos said.
“You couldn’t possibly mean…” Eugelius began.
There was a short silence.
“What?” Ramos asked.
Cromhart shook his head, “He can’t mean that.”
“What are you two going on about?”
“That we… transplant duck ears onto ourselves?”
“Heavens, no! You two are very good statesmen, but at times you are also very stupid.”
“What did you mean, then?”
“We hire an interpreter—someone who understands the words of a duck—to translate the quacks into propaganda.”
On that night, the Royal Castle had a message drafted for distribution to every corner of the kingdom. Emissaries traversed the country roads for a fortnight, and in each house where a lantern was lit or a fire was burning, the following words were shared:
His Duckly Highness, Heir of Queen Marie Salée, King of Midus, Ruler of all Things Feasible, hereby decrees the summon of One Translator Extraordinaire, in the Linguistics and Arts of Ducks, to help carry the king’s eternal wisdom and further the kingdom’s ambitious vision into a lustrous future.
And when the messenger’s echo was also his only response, the following part was added:
There will be considerable remuneration.
The people loved remuneration. In fact, they loved it so much they lived to acquire it. What was there not to love about remuneration? People would wake up in the morning at a set time solely for the purpose of—on that day—performing work in exchange for remuneration. There was a certain madness to the whole thing. Needless to say, the Rule Ensignees received over a thousand applications for an opportunity described in favourable terms even by village fools.
At first, they sorted the applications alphabetically. Then, they removed any name that did not start with the letter ‘J’. After rolling a die three times to determine a single name, a sociable barkeep called Joyous Parsley was requested for further interviews. The interviews in question were all held by King Ackerack himself. It exceeds my imagination in which manner a decision was finally made, but with all told, Joyous Parsley eventually stood in his assigned bed chamber at the Royal Castle, with a bag each in his hands and a broad smile on his lips.