"You called for me, your majesty?" the royal attorney nervously asked.

"How has your lovely mother been doing, lately?" the king inquired.

"Ah, fine, I believe."

"Such delicious fettucine she used to make for me, when I was a young prince, and she was the Royal Chef."

"Yes, Sire,"Irwin agreed uncomfortably.

"Sit down,"ordered the king.

Irwin looked around the sparse throne room. Various statues lined the walls. High vaulted ceilings were broken up by stained glass skylights, through which multi-colored beams of light were allowed to enter. The floor was made of pure marble, covered only by the single ribbon of carpet, which led from the door to the foot of the throne.

"Where, Sire?" asked Irwin.

"A question," mused the king. "I like questions. They can be rather fun."

"Indeed, Sire," Irwin replied, completely confused.

"Or they can be very annoying. Would you like to hear the last question someone asked of me?"

"I’m sure I would, Sire."

"I’m sure you would like for me to appoint you as Regent, and then kindly nip off to an early grave."

"Oh, no!" said Irwin, shocked. "I wish you nothing but good health and long life."

"Fine. Sit down."

The attorney looked around again, and sat gingerly on the ribbon of carpet in front of the throne. The King’s perceptiveness had put him rather off his guard. He couldn’t remember if his odor-preventing pit pads were fresh. He sometimes wore the same set of pads for several days.

"My wife, Queen Morgan, asked me an annoying question, just a few minutes ago."

"Really, Sire?"

"It seems that our beautiful daughter is quite distressed. The queen investigated, and discovered that some young bumpkin insulted her in the street today. The queen would like to know what I am going to do about it."

"Yes, Sire. That would be Prince Oafer. He’s in the dungeon right now, awaiting execution."

The king looked thoughtfully at Irwin. "A prince?" he said. The king scratched his nose, trying to decide whether to toss the unfortunate attorney into the dungeon next to Oafer. "So we have a prince in our dungeon?"

"Yes, Sire."

"I see. And is my daughter satisfied with this outcome?"

"I suppose so."

"You suppose so," echoed the king. "Have you checked?"

"Well," stumbled the attorney, "I didn’t think it was my position…"

"Not your position," mused the king. Irwin shifted his feet. The king straightened his robe and stood up. Irwin couldn’t decide whether the impropriety of sitting in the presence of a standing king overrode the king’s last order to be seated. Confused, he shifted his feet again.The king walked over to Irwin, walked around him, then paced back and forth behind him.

"It was your position to issue a proclamation in my name on her behalf," said the king. "It was your position to sneak it past me, just before dinner time. It was your position to use my daughter to obtain favor with me. But it’s not your position to check up on her, when your plan fails, and she gets hurt."

The attorney looked at his feet. There was a smudge on his shoe, but he didn’t think now was the time to wipe it off.

"My daughter is NOT satisfied," the king continued. "She has hidden herself in her chambers, and will not come out."

"But she must come out.By law, she must attend the execution or it cannot take place."

The king sighed. "Irwin, stand up," he said.

The attorney sprang to his feet, as the king reclaimed his throne.

"I don’t give a fig about the execution," said the king. "I don’t care a whit about this Prince Rover you’ve jailed. I’m interested in the princess. You drummed up this stupid proclamation on the grounds that it would preserve my little girl from any further distress."

"Yes, Sire. I did."

The king slammed his fist on the arm of his throne. "So why," he demanded, "is she distressed?"

"She’ll feel better after the execution," suggested the attorney.

"She’s distressed because you led her to believe that you could legislate away her problems. The execution isn’t going to change that, but now that the law has been passed, and broken, there’s no going back.To suspend the lawful punishment would undermine the whole edifice of royal authority. I happen to like that particular edifice."

"Yes, Sire."

"Now you get over to her chambers, and you apologize to her, and explain that she is responsible for this execution, and that she is required to attend."

"Yes, Sire."

"And then I expect you to come up with a better solution to the princess’ problem. We can’t execute every unfortunate person who falls into the mud."

"But why can’t people just remember not to say ‘Ugh’?"

The king jumped to his feet. "I STARTED this whole mess," he shouted at the cowering attorney. "I was the FIRST to say ‘Ugh.’ If I can’t help saying it in front of my own wife, how can Joe Six-Flask remember not to say it when he trips and falls into a mud puddle?"

"Maybe we could outlaw mud puddles?"

"Maybe we should outlaw attorneys!" stormed the king.

"But who would prosecute the offenders?"

The king smiled wolfishly. "I guess we’d just have to execute them without a trial."

"L-Look," Irwin stammered. "If we broadcast this execution far and wide, everyone will remember it. They’ll see what happens to people who insult the princess, and they’ll never do it again."

The king shook his head, dusting the seat of his throne before sitting back down. "This had better work. Because if my daughter is distressed again, the queen is going to have another annoying question for me. And if I’m annoyed one more time, there’s going to be another execution. Yours."

The attorney swallowed.

"Did you have something else to say?"

The attorney swallowed again. "No, Sire. Thank you Sire."

"Fine. Now go execute that bungler."
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