The Tale of King Aradax and the Scared Donkey
|Taken from the book 'Lendle Folklore' by the esteemed Old World scholar Jared Milne, this particular story has many variations, and is told in many kingdoms, not only in the Old World but also in Allansia, for King Aradax ruled over a vast area of Irritaria before the Splitting of the Continents. This is the most popular version told in Lendleland.|
The aged horseman gazed over the endless grassy plains, sitting tall in the saddle of the beautiful black stallion that Lendleland was so famous for. Obviously a very old man, with long thinning white hair and a long moustache of the same, he nonetheless rode with the skill of someone who had spent his formative years in a saddle. He seemed to be seeking something over the horizon, before a call turned him back.
Riding along on a group of ponies were several children. Between the ages of seven and ten, they rode just as well as the adult guards who surrounded them. They held a merry conversation as they rode, as if they were sitting around a table at home. One of them called the old man over.
"Grampa?" the boy asked. The old man slowed his horse and brought it over to the ponies. Smiling indulgently at the young ones, he merely smiled and nodded.
"Can you tell us a story?"
"Which one, Chyen?"
"Logaan and the Troll!" one child said.
"Bjorngrim Giant-Slayer!" offered a second.
"King Aradax and the Scared Donkey!" Chyen barked. The other children quieted instantly. The boy smiled proudly, before looking up at his grandfather to continue.
"If you say so...that was, after all, what led to the founding of our country..."
"Once, before our country was created, there was a vast empire that extended across the whole of the western Old World. Our country, Lendleland, was at the hart of it, and Femphrey was a part of it, too. It extended into Gallantaria and Analand, but not entirely. The peoples of both countries resisted full occupation of their lands, which is why historians say that both the modern countries were part of the territory."
"The ruler of this country was a man named King Aradax. He was a very brave man, who fought the orcs and goblins and ruled peacefully. But he was also a very unpleasant man, who could not take a joke or even crack a smile. His country was quiet and peaceful, but very sleepy and withdrawn."
"The people usually didn't do anything except till their fields, sell their wares, or do anything else to have any fun. That is, until Logaan the Trickster, or Lereddin as we call him, came to pay some friends a visit."
"Logaan's friends were bored. Bored out of their wits. They were pranksters and mischief-makers, just like their godly friend, but King Aradax had put a ban on laughing in his country. No one could laugh, or they would be sentenced to hard labor in the capital. Logaan was, obviously, very angry with this man for denying his subjects the right to have some fun."
"Dressing up as a wealthy noble, Logaan met Aradax in his court and asked if the king would be entertaining any bards or circuses. Aradax said no, of course not. What a silly thought. Logaan was, of course, rather peeved to hear this. So he challenged the king to a game of chess. Chess, at least, was something that the King didn't have to smile at."
"As they spent the afternoon playing, it was obvious that Aradax was winning. While he rarely did anything but work, he did play chess on those rare occasions when he was bored, and so he was very good at it. And so it was that Logaan had a group of Elvins magically come up behind the king and give him a..."
"What's wrong, grampa?" Chyen asked.
"I'm trying to think of the word," his grandfather answered. Finally, he shrugged. "Never mind, the Elvins threw the king's cloak over his head. Before the king could get it off, Logaan had switched the pieces around so he would win. When he did, and saw the board, he was furious. He insisted that he didn't move a certain piece, and Logaan said the same thing. However, all the guards, who were watching, clearly pointed out how Logaan was cheating. The furious king promptly kicked Logaan out of his palace, with a threat never to come back."
"Several years later, Logaan stole back into the country to visit his friends. They told him that Aradax had repealed all his old laws, but he more than ever was an uptight, rigid, and disciplined old coot with no sense of humor. The people could do what they wanted, but Aradax himself had become even more of a a grumpy old fusspot."
"The reason Logaan had returned to the kingdom was because of the raiders of Atlantis, who were sacking and burning their way across the northlands. He wanted to warn his friends, and protect the people, who had been kind to him in the past."
"But Logaan knew that he could not warn them himself, because of Aradax's threat. So he sent a talking donkey to warn the people of the coming threat."
"Why a talking donkey? Who would believe that?" a child asked.
"That's one of the mysteries of the Tricksters," the old man answered with a twinkle in his eye. "Some people say even they don't know why they do the things they do. Perhaps those who deserved to live would believe the donkey. In any case, this donkey was very frightened, running from town to town to warn the people. Most of them laughed in its face, glad to have something funny in their lives. Aradax had relaxed his old laws, but was still himself cranky and cantankerous. So, the people sent the donkey to him as a joke, even as the donkey pleaded them to."
"The donkey was admitted to Aradax's court, where he heard its outlandish tale. And, believe it or not...he laughed! He laughed, and laughed, and laughed until he cried. He said it was the most delightful thing he had heard in years."
"The donkey replied that he was fully serious. And yet, now, at the worst time, Aradax was laughing at something funny! He had heard reports like the ones the donkey was giving them, but was now convinced they were simple jokes. Laughing still, he sent the donkey on its way, banishing it to the Anvils of the Gods."
"Several weeks later, of course, the Atlanteans sacked and burned the country. King Aradax's last words before he was killed were reported to have been...
'A donkey, a donkey! My kingdom, better guarded by a donkey!'
Aradax's nation was destroyed, as were all of its people. The One Continent was later split into three from the wrath of the gods, though the donkey is said to have survived. It apparently traveled to what would become Far Analand, built a temple, and became Logaan's first priest after the splitting of the lands."
The children all looked at each other, the sound of pounding hooves filling a void of silence.
"You're joking, right? Don't these stories have morals?" one girl asked.
"Who said stories have to have morals? Who said kings have to be uptight fools? Who said gods have to walk among us? That, children, is the joke." Smiling as he said this, the old man looked out over the plains with satisfaction. They would arrive in Rorutuna by sundown.
The children merely looked at each
other in confusion.