KING VLIMPT THE FOURTH, Ruler of the land of Gnigst, Defender of the Crown, Twelfth in the line of the great rulers of the kingdom, Defeater of the heathen army of Hinklewitt, newly consecrated to his holy position, sat in the corner of the darkened room with his legs against his chest, hugging himself, and sucking his thumb.

His clear eyes, which had seen numerous battles, and could discern the difference between two herons at four hundred yards, were currently unfocused and tended to drift to the side. His wide-set shoulders, accustomed to the robes of office and the mantle of leadership, drooped like wilted flowers.
The king had spent the last several hours in that posture, to the great consternation of the members of the inner court, who were quite unused to seeing him thus indisposed. Various attendants had tried to keep the king occupied, but it had been a slow news day, and there just were not many available topics for light conversation. The court jester had given up trying to amuse the king, and was off in his own corner, sulking.
King Vlimpt had tried various methods of diverting himself. He had paced up and down the palace halls for a time. The halls of the Royal Palace were adorned with some of the greatest works of art in Gnigst. A less distracted soul would have enjoyed hours of pleasure, viewing the boundless collection of masterworks. King Vlimpt was too preoccupied for that, however.
The Royal Chef was capable of setting a table for emperors and angels, it was said, and he had laid out the best foods he could prepare. Basted hams dripping with honey sat beside the tenderest veal. Glazed carrots and the wildest of rice competed with chilled shrimp for the honor of complementing the delicious entrees. The finest wines graced the table, and the very best chocolate and cream desserts sat to the side, awaiting the king’s indulgence. He merely picked at his dinner, gulped a glass of wine, and went back to pacing the halls.
The King had even tried catching a matinee at the Palace Theatre. But the graphic scenes of violence, expertly enacted by the Royal Thespians’ Society, failed to cheer him as they usually did. He bought an overpriced bucket of popcorn and left the theatre midway through the first act.
The King, in his days as a soldier in the field, had seen battles to turn one’s stomach. He had regularly engaged in death-defying acts of courage. His daring feats had earned him notoriety throughout the land, and eventually the crown itself, along with his honored surname, reserved for the bravest. None of which had managed to prepare him for the imminent delivery of his first child.
Vlimpt rearranged his legs, settled himself more comfortably in the corner, and switched thumbs. With a creak the door opened, and light spilled into the room. A nervous page peeked through the door, looking for the king. Vlimpt briefly contemplated hiding under a table, but the page spotted him before he could move.
He entered the room and knelt before the king. "Congratulations, Sire," he said. "You are a father!"
Realizing that he presented a somewhat less than royal image, the king gathered himself together. He stood up, and almost fell back down as his legs, which had fallen asleep, began to tingle. Leaning against the wall and rubbing his knees together, the king said, "Thank you. How is the queen?"
"The queen is doing fine, Sire. You have a daughter."
"A daughter," mused the king, his eyes beginning to drift again.
"Yes, Sire. You may go and see them if you’d like."
"What? Oh, yes. Thank you." The king dismissed the page, and let out his breath. He leaned down and massaged his legs, then walked over to the door. Looking out into the hall, the king made sure no one was around. Then he danced a little jig. Having satisfied his need for celebration, he straightened his robes, rubbed his eyes, and hurried down the hall to the queen’s bedchamber. The Royal Physician and his assistants had left, and the room was unoccupied save for the queen, her attendant, and the new royal princess, asleep under a blanket.
Queen Morgan smiled up at her husband and said, "Look, dear! She’s beautiful!"
King Vlimpt, still looking at his queen, smiled and said, "She couldn’t be any more beautiful than you are right now."
Nevertheless, he pulled aside the blanket to look upon his new daughter. The queen’s attendant, respectful and humble, chose that moment to ask, "What, Sire, shall be your daughter’s name?"
Unfortunately, though he had witnessed many battles, the king had never seen a newborn baby. He hadn’t expected wrinkles and a red face, nor was he ready for a bit of infant spit-up. Before he could stop himself, he said, "Ugh."
The queen’s reply was swift and direct. It was delivered with full force, and with little regard for the possibility of any future children.
The king jammed both fists into his mouth to help keep in the nasty words that were trying to jump out of it. He bent double, fell over, and rolled around on the floor. He was more than a little amazed that his queen could kick that hard, in her condition.
"Excuse me? What did you say, Sire?" asked the respectful, humble, and now frightened attendant.
"Yes, Sire," echoed the queen, sweetly. "What did you say?"
"Ugh," repeated the King, this time unable to say anything else, due to his discomfort, and the fists still jammed into his mouth.
Supposing that discretion was called for at this particular moment, the queen’s attendant vanished. The king, for his part, tried valiantly to atone for his unfortunate remark. In spite of his great discomfort, he apologized again and again. He promised to buy flowers for the queen and the princess. He promised to name a city after the queen. He promised to have another city named after the new princess. As he retreated from the queen’s room, he also promised to have the various items replaced that were being smashed against the wall, alarmingly close to his head.
Over the next few days, the king, whom his wife had taken to calling King Pig, tried every trick he could think of to reclaim his queen’s affection. He sent flowers and candy. He sent musicians and singers. He wrote letters to her, and poems about her, and she eventually gave in. Formally accepting his apologies, she sweetly informed him that if he EVER did anything like that again, he was going to be the king of the pig farm, behind the palace.
So preoccupied with these events were the king, the queen, and the entire staff of the palace that no one thought to speak to the queen’s attendant any further on the matter of the new princess’ name. Thus, seven days after her birth, it was duly entered in the Royal Chronicles, set in ink, sealed forever, and proclaimed to the entire kingdom that to the King and Queen had been born a Royal Princess named Ugh.
Naturally, the queen’s attendant, the Royal Writer of Chronicles, and a few miscellaneous other functionaries had to be executed for the mistake. The executions took place in the Great Hall of Executions, and they were well attended, as the Royal Executioner had just taken possession of his new weapon, the Ax of Doom.
The ax looked as if it weighed half a ton, if not more. The handle was carved from a single tree that had been felled by a master logger in the great forests west of the Royal City. It was six inches thick at its narrowest point, and exceeded six feet in length. The blade had been ground from one of the huge boulders that had fallen upon the Royal City from nearby Mount Foofgarble the previous year. A decree had gone out, requiring and demanding that all future executions should be effected via this, and only this, weapon.
Execution fans had their favorite cheers, and they had become quite adept at producing new and inventive chants. The introduction of the Ax of Doom was certainly a novel event, and it called for something special. The most avid fans from all over the kingdom had come to see the weapon, and to take part in the invention of a brand new cheer.
Meanwhile, the executioner stood in front of his dressing room closet, considering which of his several black robes would be most appropriate for the evening’s event. His best black robe hung in front of him, beckoning. It was so black that his eyes were drawn deep within it. He didn’t usually wear this robe. He liked it immensely, and thought he looked quite good in it. As a result, he didn’t want it worn out or damaged.
Tonight, however, was a special occasion. After another moment’s thought, he took the robe off its peg and put it on. It seemed to fit a little more snugly than he remembered. He wondered if he ought to work out a bit, but then remembered that it was common for him to be a bit pudgy at the beginning of the season. He would regain his taut shape soon enough.
"Almost time, sir," called the stage manager from the doorway.
"I’m coming," growled the executioner. He pulled his mask over his head and donned his gloves, drained the last of his power ale, cast a final look into the mirror, and turned to leave. "Is it in position?" he asked.
"Yes sir. Center stage, just like you asked."
"Good," said the executioner. He clapped the stage manager on the shoulder and they left the room. They stopped backstage, and the executioner peeked around the corner. "Wow, what a crowd," he commented.
"Yes sir, everyone’s here to see the ax."
"I suppose so. Well, here I go."
"Break a leg, sir," offered the stage manager, backing away.
"I should hope to do more than that," quipped the executioner as he tossed his cloak over his shoulder and ventured out onto the stage.
The crowd, noting his arrival, began to clap and whistle. He waved at imagined friends in the audience. The crowd cheered and waved back. The executioner took some time to strut around the front of the stage. The audience yelled in appreciation. He struck a pose. The audience stomped their feet. Some of the members also stomped their neighbors’ feet.
The executioner walked over to his new weapon, sitting on a pedestal, and concealed by a black shroud. The crowd grew silent with anticipation. He lifted the weapon, still covered, and the crowd quit breathing. The lights dimmed, and a spotlight picked him out.
"The Great Hall of Executions Event Committee," intoned a voice from above, amplified by twenty thousand watts of power. "Is proud," continued the voice. "To present the new season of executions…featuring the all new, the incomparable, the undeniable, the deadly…Ax…of…Dooooooom."
The executioner yanked off the shroud and lifted the ax above his head. The polished blade caught the brilliance of the stage lights and sent dazzling rays dancing across the Great Hall. The crowd exploded into screams and shouting and pounding. Flashbulbs popped and news cameras whirred and clicked as the executioner paced back and forth in front of the roiling crowd.
Then, amid the noise and confusion, the new cheer was born. The pounding began to settle into a solid rhythm, and first one, then ten, then a hundred, then a thousand people were chanting, "Doom, Doom, Doom, Doom." The executioner walked from one side of the stage to the other, presenting the weapon to the audience. "Doom! Doom!" they responded.
Some of the more innovative members of the crowd added a counterpoint to the cheer. Over the resounding noise of the original chant one could begin to hear the occasional "Chop! Chop!" The cheer settled into a rhythm: "Doom, Doom, Chop! Doom, Doom, Chop! Doom Doom Chop! DOOM DOOM CHOP!" Not to be outdone, the chorus from the Royal Thespians’ Society began singing over the rhythm, "We Will, We Will CHOP YOU!" The new cheer was an instant hit. The executioner pranced around the stage for a full five minutes as the audience continued to sing.
In due time, the executions proceeded. Throughout the event, the audience never quit singing "We Will, We Will, CHOP YOU!," except, of course, at the appropriate moments when the entire crowd chanted, "Hey, batter-batter-batter-batter-BATTER-BATTER-Sa-WINGGGGGG!" Each execution met with great applause, and the event ended with a standing ovation for the executioner, who bowed and exited the stage, carrying his new weapon.
The audience then departed in good spirits, having been greatly entertained by the spectacle. There was sure to be an exciting execution season to come. It had been rumored that an unusually large number of spies from the kingdom of Angz had been caught in and around the Royal City, and were even then in the dungeons, awaiting execution. Some pundits were already suggesting possible post-season activity. Indeed, season ticket sales had reached an all-time high, and the scalpers had made a nice profit.
The king and queen retired to their chambers, generally pleased with the outcome. However, even with the responsible parties (and some innocent ones, too) suitably dealt with, the basic problem remained. The official records were set. The princess had been named Ugh, and she was just going to have to deal with it.

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