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The Treacherous Advisor

The King’s new advisor was a treacherous man, this much was obvious to most members of the court. There was a scheming air about him, and there had to be supernatural reasons why the King seemed to hang on his advisor’s every word, surely.

It was especially strange how few members of the court could remember or agree on how long the man had been there. Was it just a few months? Years? He was a recent addition, most agreed, but nobody could confidently say how recent.

Well, except those who’d pledged themselves to that snake.

A select few had fallen under his spell alongside the King—or simply sold their loyalty for some promise of reward—and they claimed the advisor had always been here, that the rest of the court was merely confused.

Most of the court did not, however, fear the advisor—at least not for themselves—since they knew how to play the game of politics, to swallow their own doubts and fears and agree with those who could have them eliminated on a whim.

They did worry for their beloved princess—on whom the advisor had clearly set his romantic sights—as well as for the naive, too-bold jester who drew his ire so fiercely.

Those two women were the only ones who didn’t know how to play the game with him.

The King’s daughter coldly rejected the amorous advances of his advisor while the King himself turned a blind eye to what was happening between them. Only the jester, as a longtime confidant of the princess, defended the maiden’s honor, albeit in her own idiosyncratic manner.

The jester found ways to interrupt his efforts to approach the lady.

She weaponized a foolish tumble ending in a mock-accidental collision with the man, or a distracting tap on the wrong shoulder from behind, or a well-timed noisy clatter of dropped tools when he spoke.

A crass and exaggerated imitation of his mannerisms, performed right behind him, even had the power to momentarily defang the strange hypnosis he wielded over the King, such that even the monarch had to laugh at whatever sinister advice the man tried to whisper into his ear.

None quite knew by what means the jester resisted the advisor’s power for so long. Did her mask protect her somehow?

Nevertheless, such antagonizing of as powerful a man as the King’s advisor—even by someone as long-established in the court as she—could not go unpunished.

At first, his methods were subtle. Those loyal to the advisor spread rumors with a strange, rhetorical sleight-of-hand inverting the gossip about him and the jester.

They claimed that it was the jester, not the advisor, who was a new arrival to the court. He had been here the whole time, they said, a childhood friend of the King when he was only a prince, and that the jester had cast some spell to make everyone remember it backwards.

Naturally, the advisor claimed to hold the power to protect someone from such a spell. People needed only to pledge themselves to him and receive his blessing.

Some did, and they joined the advisor’s loyalists in professing belief in their frighteningly rewritten history.

The rest were unsure to what degree the jester was only playing the fool or genuinely unaware of the growing danger. She laughed and danced and did cartwheels even during serious meetings, as she always did, only acknowledging the rumors in the jokes she cracked.

“Which one of us has seniority?” became a recurring routine. One day she’d claim to be a new hire, begging the advisor for directions somewhere and then getting comically turned around immediately afterward. The next she pretended to give the advisor “pro tips” as his mentor.

She had a way of minimizing the advisor’s plotting and setting the court at ease. For all his obvious fury, the jester retained her position in the court, her access to the princess and to the King, and her ability to needle the advisor with relentless mockery.

The hostility escalated. Political maneuvers attempted to keep the jester out of the King’s inner circle, but she always prevailed.

Assassins came for her, but time and again she managed to slip away from their daggers.

The jester turned an attempt to poison her at a celebratory feast into an elaborate, hour-long spectacle. She performed her death throes in the middle of the ballroom with such silly, over-the-top theatrics that the King and his guests could not stop laughing and applauding.

Much of the court privately hoped the jester would somehow prevail over the advisor’s deadly cunning. Was it possible that she could break the spell by which he had enthralled the King? After all, he seemed unable to force the King to move against his daughter’s dear friend.

But the advisor’s fury reached a new peak during the meeting in which he, the King, and his inner circle strategized how to hunt down and purge the demon-worshippers and those under demonic influence from the court. Their influence was growing, and that was cause for concern.

The jester interrupted his passionate speech, leaping onto the table, professing her love for the princess, and proposing to her right then and there.

The princess climbed the table herself to join her, and the newly engaged couple kissed, lips to mask, in front of everyone.

The King himself gave his approval, much to the advisor’s dismay, declaring that the meeting would transition to planning the wedding instead of whatever the advisor had been ranting about.

The advisor, incensed, had to be escorted out of the room by the guards.

Something about that event broke the spell. He fell out of the King’s favor and his words were increasingly disregarded. One by one, those who gave him their service abandoned him.

By the day of the wedding, he was truly alone.

The disgraced advisor should have been in prison, but apparently the princess had specifically intervened so that he could attend on her special day.

He tried to interrupt the ceremony, of course. There was no way he could resist one last attempt at foul trickery.

Chained, on his knees, with spittle clinging to his beard, he shouted, “don’t you all see what she’s done?”

The princess, gracious as ever, raised a hand to command silence from the crowd so that he may be heard. The jester, still in her mask, laughed. “What has who done?”

“Look around you!” the advisor roared. “That jester’s demonic influence is plain to see if you fools would simply open your eyes!”

The jester performed an exaggerated shrug toward the crowd and responded loud enough to be clearly heard, “Well, I guess he’s got me there!”

She removed her mask, revealing an inhuman face with dark pools for eyes and daggers for teeth.

Everyone chuckled. Some pretended to be shocked by the desecration of the holy temple, or with the demonic sigils carved into the statue of some god nobody remembered.

This was always a kingdom of demon worshippers, after all. What did he think he was doing?

Even his pleading look toward the King was met with stony, bemused silence.

When the murmur of the crowd finally died down, the princess spoke. “I’ve dreamed of this day since I was a child. When I first met the love of my life, she promised power. She promised to humiliate my enemies. Today, she proves she is a creature of her word.”

The jester bowed as if at the end of performing a particularly impressive trick, and as the princess and her wife kissed, guards dragged away the raving man who tried to plot against the kingdom.

The court could once again breathe easy with such a happy ending.