Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Omir the Storyteller.

Good morning! Good morning! Welcome once again to Sunday Griot! Come, have a seat. Be comfortable. Today’s story is another original effort, about a faraway place that doesn’t resemble the here and now in the slightest, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s called . . . The Weapon.

Things were not going well in the Land of the Idiot King. It was a hot, dry summer. The terror level had been raised to plaid based on reports from the Ministry of Truth that someone was deploying a weapon that was a clear and present danger to the Kingdom. The portion of the Army that hadn’t been sent overseas to expand the Kingdom’s borders was busy scouring the cities, looking for the weapon. Tensions and tempers were on edge.

In the absence of concrete reports from the Ministry, rumors and stories flew. Some said the weapon was so powerful, there was no defending against it at all. Others said it spread like a disease, into places even ants and mosquitoes could not go. And yet others said even if you saw the weapon, you would not recognize it until it was too late. And still everybody searched for the weapon.

On one particularly hot day, the soldiers scouring the horizon for signs of trouble saw something approaching from the distance. As he neared the city they could see it was a man riding a donkey. The man was dressed in wild motley, with a tricorn hat that had bells on each of its corners that jingled as he bounced up and down. When he got close enough to be heard, the man started calling out in a sing-song voice, “Stories! I have stories to tell!” Then he called out again. “Stories! I have stories to tell!!”

A group of children who had been playing near the city gate heard him and rushed out toward him. The invisible communications network that springs up among children whenever something truly interesting is going on sprang to life, and other children ran out to meet the storyteller. When they had almost reached him he put out his palms, called “STOP!” and halted his donkey. The children, not knowing what to make of this, stopped and waited to see what would happen next; then, a moment later, the storyteller called out “Let’s have a parade!” The children cheered and they fell in behind him, and he led them in singing “I Am A Fine Musician” as they marched. Sliding the slides on their unseen trombones and pounding their pretend drums, the impromptu parade followed the storyteller through the gate of the city and on to the market square, where he dismounted.

“Go! Tell your families! Tell your friends!” the storyteller said. “Tell them to meet me here in fifteen minutes and I shall have stories to tell!” The children rushed off in every direction, except for one or two who stayed behind to pet the donkey and feed it a carrot.

The storyteller took advantage of the relative calm to walk around a little bit and shake off some of the stiffness of the long ride. As he walked, a woman approached him off to the side of the market area. A hatchet-faced biddy with a purposeful walk. He’d never seen her before, but he knew her type.

“Ah,” he said, “The Welcome Wagon!”

If she was amused by this, she showed no sign of it. “How do you do,” she said perfunctorily. “I am Miss Ilmore of the Citizens Orthodoxy Committee.”

I’ll just bet you are, he thought to himself. “Hi,” he said casually as he continued to shake his limbs and walk around, jingling as he went. “Nice weather we’re having.”

“Not really,” she replied. “May I ask what you’re doing here?”

He stopped walking, sighed, and looked up at the cloudless sky. “I’m an entertainer,” he said. “I go from town to town, singing my songs and telling my stories. I thought the people here could use a little cheering up.” He paused and took a deep breath. “You know, what with this weather and the terror alerts and all.”

“I see,” she said curtly. She then turned her attention to the donkey. “Would you mind if I looked in your saddlebags?”

He walked over to the donkey and opened the saddlebags it carried. “I’m not sure you want to,” he said as he brought out the contents. He’d had to prove his harmlessness many times in the past few years, and by now it was something of a ritual with him. “I’ve been on the trail a very long time, and don’t get many opportunities to wash up. A bedroll . . . a change of clothes . . . some food . . . carrots for my donkey. Nothing to worry about.”

The woman continued to watch him as he began to repack his possessions. “Thank you. You know how it is. You can’t be too careful these days. They say someone could smuggle the weapon in under our very noses, you know.”

“How right you are,” the storyteller said as he finished packing and cinched the saddlebags.

“May I ask you a question?” the woman said.

“Of course,” he replied.

“I’m sure you’ve traveled many places and heard many things.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Do you think the stories about the weapon are true?”

He’d run into women like this many times before. Self-important types who loved nothing better than to meddle in other people’s affairs. She was right. One couldn’t be too careful. “You should never ask a storyteller that question,” he said. “They’ll tell you all stories are true, and mean it. But yes, I believe such a weapon exists.” He did not add, because it was once used on me. He merely smiled and said, “After all, the Ministry tells there is such a weapon, and they wouldn’t lie, would they?”

The Orthodoxy Chair sniffed. This one was trouble, but she hadn’t seen a weapon. Women like her never did.

The storyteller pointed to the rapidly gathering crowd in the market. “Are you going to go find a place to watch the show?”

“I’ll watch from back here if you don’t mind,” she said.

“Fair enough,” he said. “Then watch this.” The storyteller walked toward the crowd, waving as he did so, then tripped over an imaginary root, did a double somersault, and sprang to his feet with a big grin on his face and his arms outstretched in greeting. The children cheered and the adults applauded. Even the Orthodoxy Chair seemed amused.

Then, as soon as the noise died down, he told them the story about the emperor who had no clothes.

He followed it up with the story about the man who stole a pig and dressed it up in a bright red coat with shiny brass buttons, and no one could find the pig because what they saw wasn’t what they were looking for.

And as he told them the story about the day the sheep rose up against the wolves, a cool breeze began to blow from the northwest.

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