Friday, September 19, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: The Wine

One of the Golden Emperor’s displays of his own grandeur was the annual court wine ceremony. A bottle of the empire’s best was carted from lordship to lordship, left in the charge of one of his fifty lords for a week each. For the last two weeks of the year the bottle was left with his wife, the Jade Empress, and his oldest son, a man of little reputation. Any of the fifty-two culprits could have poisoned the bottle in any number of ways without the chance of being caught; with each lord in the position to grab more land and his family was in line to grab the throne. Then at the ceremony the emperor would take the bottle from his son and drink the entire thing, without a food tester. It displayed the amity of his reign.

Cynics say the bottle is switched the day before the ceremony. Cynics, as the Jade Empress is immortally quoted, “are short-sighted and will be tried in a court of law.” The bottle is actually switched several hundred times. If the Golden Emperor only switched it once someone, quite probably his wife, would pay off the single switcher and he’d die disgracing his throne. No, a staff larger than that which runs most of his wars is in charge of replacing, destroying, disinfecting, sanitizing, unpoisoning, fact-finding, blackmailing, threatening, extorting and kidnapping until every possible conspirator had either given up his plot or executed it thinking he’d finally shown that blasted Golden Emperor. His highness would never allow all plots to simply be pre-empted; in fact, he wished as many to be implemented as possible, and then quietly thwarted. He was a ruler who understood the virtue of embarrassment. It was why he always has his loving wife uncork the bottle at the ceremony.

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