A Tale of Consequences

Steven Bergom

A long time ago in the now-forgotten kingdom of Rogmeb there lived a king, his queen, all of their children and cousins. The king and queen were good rulers except for the fact that they did not tolerate any sort of pets. Animals, they felt, were meant to do labor rather than be pampered and live lives of indolence and leisure. As such, no cat, dog, hamster nor ferret could be found on palace grounds, and any animal not doing their duty in the kingdom was punished severely, as well as its owner.

It was in this condition that a wandering minstrel arrived. He wore rags and looked more like a beggar than the bard that he was, but the mandolin strapped across his back proclaimed to all his occupation. By his side walking happily and sniffing at whatever came near, was his faithful companion, a dog.

The court of the king and queen was silent as the minstrel tuned his mandolin and began speaking of his travels. The dog, of course wandered around the hall, examining columns and tapestries before settling down by the minstrel's side.

When the minstrel was finally ready to begin the king stopped him by pointing a fat finger at the dog and demanding in a loud voice, "What is that!"

"What is what?" the musician asked in confusion. "That is merely a dog, my companion on the long and lonesome highways."

"And what does he do?"

"Do, your majesty? He is a dog. He follows me where I go and does whatever he wants. Sometimes he performs with me, but he does whatever he wants."

"Does he not carry your things?" The minstrel shook his head. "Fight off bandits?" Again a shake. "Hunt for you?"

"Well, yes, he does. Occasionally, that is," he amended. "If he catches a rabbit or something, he might share with me, and if his hunting does not produce supper, I share from my own bounty…"

The king's face was apoplectic as he listened to the minstrel and the queen wore a matching look of disdain. "Seize him!" the king yelled. "Destroy that useless mutt!"

The poor dog, companion to the minstrel on many adventures, attempted to escape but the guards were too fast. They grabbed him by the fur and when the dog tried to bite one of his attackers, he felt an iron heeled boot in his side. He yelped his pain and surprise to a chorus of giggles from the royal children.

"Stop it!" the minstrel yelled futilely. "Your majesty, you can't do this!"

"Man was placed on this earth to rule over the animals, not to treat them like the people which they are not. That… thing… has broken the law and must pay the penalty."

The minstrel stared at the scene before him. "You won't get away with this," he muttered dangerously to the king and began chanting under his breath. The king, of course, heard the minstrel's declaration and just as he was about to send guards to arrest the man there was a flash of light and the minstrel and his dog were gone.

Needless to say the king and all his guards were stunned. They could not explain what happened so they chalked it up to some bad wine and declared that the minstrel was just a figment of their collective imaginations. With that, they all went to bed and thought no more of it.

The minstrel, of course, was not just a minstrel. He was a powerful sorcerer who enjoyed the open road to sitting high in a tower doing magical things. Wandering through the land he had seen many beauties and many people who were blind to those beauties, just like the king. In those instances he had been obliged to teach the people a lesson, again, just like the king. With a jaunty whistle the minstrel and his companion walked into the sunset, away from the kingdom of Rogmeb.

The next day the kingdom was plunged into chaos when the king awoke and found that he had been turned into a human-sized version of the very animal that he disliked: a dog. A golden retriever, to be exact. The queen had been turned into a fine specimen of a Siamese cat and their children were not even spared their indignity. Eventually they found that all persons who had any royal authority were now kin to the very creatures that they were supposed to rule. There were mostly various types of cats and dogs, but there could be found a few parrots, an iguana or two and a giant weasel which the seneschal had become.

Not many of the royal duties were performed in the following weeks and the people wondered if their beloved kingdom was on the verge of collapse. Eventually, the king came forward and addressed his people. The minstrel did him a favor, he said, and in seeing the error of his ways, declared all the laws which locked animals into slavery a travesty to justice. "Furthermore," he said, "no animal shall be forced into labor, but shall work with the people as people."

Rogmeb soon became known for its overwhelming emancipation of all animalhood and was quickly inundated with animals of every type from neighboring lands who were treated unkindly. To ensure the animals' rights the king and his advisors closeted themselves and drafted new laws ensuring that everyone he ruled over would be free for years to come.

It was not a smooth transition, however. With so many new laws and so many new creatures inhabiting the kingdom, there were bound to be accidents, and just such an accident occurred when a shopkeeper stepped on a small dog in his shop.

Immediately the shopkeeper was dragged before the court and, amidst his protestations, was sentenced to thirty days in jail for abuse of a small animal. "But, I didn't see the dog!" the shopkeeper argued. "She was small and shouldn't have been under my feet in the first place!"

"That is no excuse!" exclaimed the magistrate. "One should always be careful of stepping on poodles when it's reigning cats and dogs!"