The Corn King
Ezra T. Gray
The King stood on the parapet and looked out across the Valley. To the west he could see the sun setting over the great mountains that formed the western barrier of his kingdom. He turned and looked to the great eastern mountains that protected the opposite border of his kingdom. Luscious rich valleys ran as far as one could see to the north and south, until both ran into the sea.
This was a special kingdom. God had blessed it with protective boundaries and impenetrable natural barriers. In the history of the kingdom no enemy had ever invaded it. Oh, wars had been fought, but not on the kingdom’s soil — save one. The King had just been the victor in the Great Civil War.
The King gave a sigh. His queen walked out onto the parapet with him. She was a haggard thing, hideous, and most men would not have given her an affectionate look, ever. Her eyes were too close together. Her ears were mal-shaped and pointed. She was disfigured, with a short body and long extremities. Her features were twisted like an old woman’s, though she was still relatively young. Her teeth were snaggled and crooked, but she was a Corn person. Actually, she was a Corn witch, a great Corn witch. And her magic had helped win the Great War. Now the King could finish the Wheat people, once and for all. He hated the Wheat people, although his grandmother on his father’s side was a Wheat person.
As he looked across the fruited plains of ripened wheat, the King thought of his plans. He stretched out his arm in a grandiose gesture. “Imagine,” he said to his abominable queen, “no more wheat. As far as you can see to the north and to the south, only corn, beautiful, yellow, ripe ears of corn. Who says corn cannot grow in this kingdom? In my father’s land, corn grew well. All the people were Corn people. We killed or burned out all the Wheat men.”
Now his father’s land was a desolate and dry place, but this land would be much different. He would make it so.
“Most of the people do not like corn, your Majesty,” his advisor said. “Most still believe God hates corn.”
“Hates corn?” the bitter ruler spat. “Hates corn? My God loves corn! He gave me victory in the war because I love corn! I want more cornfields! I want no wheat, all corn!”
“But Majesty, you said you would be a king to both the Corn and the Wheat people,” the adviser said, worried for his own safety, which was a wise thing to do. You see, the King had several other advisors killed because he did not want to hear anything good about the Wheat people. As far as he was concerned, they were just wrong.
“It’s been nearly four years, and there are still too many wheat fields. I want all corn. Corn, corn, CORN! Do you understand?”
“Yes, your Majesty, but…what –”
“What?” The king spat.
“Well, Sire, the Wheat people settled this land…and, well, you know, old habits die hard. The wheat was good to the nation. It made it strong and great, and –”
“Silence fool! Shut up and I will make this nation great! A great Corn nation! You will see. Call my general in right now, before I have your head removed!”
The adviser left, but quickly returned to the large round chamber that served as the King’s Throne Room, with the general in tow.
“Yes, Sire,” the general snapped, “what do you wish?”
“Burn them!” the King hissed. “Burn every wheat field in the kingdom. Burn them to the ground!”
So the general and his army burned and burned, until all the wheat was gone. The people watched as the wheat disappeared, along with their prosperity. You see, corn really does not grow well in the special kingdom. But soon the wheat was gone and the people were sad, at first, and then mad. There was no food, no jobs, no doctors to care for the sick. Hostile nations cruised the North and South seas, waiting for the opportunity to attack the once great kingdom. The Corn King sat in his palace, pretending all was well. Often he played croquet with his lords and ladies, while the kingdom fell into ruin.
The man looked down from the Great Western mountains. He and his friend surveyed the once great kingdom.
“Look at all that corn.” The man’s friend said.
“It’s mostly dead,” the man said.
“Mostly,” the friend mused. “I could have told that Jester King that wheat will not grow here.”
“Yeah,” the man chuckled, “well, you can’t tell him anything.”
“Should we raise an army and defeat him?” the friend asked.
“No,” the man said. “No. We have done the best thing we could have done. We kept the wheat alive.”
For in several protected valleys beyond the western mountains, hordes of Wheat people had planted and cared for their precious crop.
“No, friend,” the man said. “The people will speak soon, and then we will replant the seeds of greatness. It’s been nearly eight years. They are ready.”
The king and his wicked Queen sat in their throne room. The general entered and the king spoke. “What is that awful racket outside my castle walls?” he asked.
“It is the people of your kingdom,” the general responded.
“What?” the Queen hissed. “What do they want?”
“Your head, your Highness, and yours too, your Majesty. They have already broken through the outer wall and will be here soon.”
“Where is my Army?” the king asked.
“Gone,” the general spat, “gone.”
The king and queen, and general, all sat and waited, waited in the great round room for the inevitable.
From a distance the old advisor watched. “Hmmm,” he muttered to himself, “I tried to tell him. God hates corn.”