The once glorious kingdom had fallen into despair.
It happened soon after the great drought ravaged the land of Cartebuz.
Where once there were vast, unending fields of golden grains, stalks healthy, and forcefully stretching their extremities to the heavens, there were limp clawing abnormalities, blackened and weak, inching their way skyward and failing too close to the ground, compelled to hang languidly to the side and slowly gravitate back to earth.
The forests surrounding the kingdom had grown thin and light shown betwixt the trees where once the expansive canopy occluded the persistent rays of the sun. The trees shed their leaves like the molting of the fair birds that had laid roost in their eaves. Small creatures took refuge from the increased heat in intermittent alcoves of brush and fallen trees. Those larger of stature found river beds and an occasional cave as reprieve from the sun-backed forest floor.
The seeds in the gardens at the rear doors failed in their germination. Limp, desperate sprouts penetrated the hard soil only to yield dark purple, and shriveled, tomato. Seemingly optimistic sprouts yielded shriveled and rotten turnip, carrot, and radish. Even the resilient beet provided naught but a wrinkled apple simulacrum when wrenched, with fervent hope, from the soil.
The cherry shrank steadily to become the facsimile of a cranberry. The sumptuous tart and sweet first taste was replaced by a harsh, bitter, mouthfeel. The apple shifted from red to green to bruise purple over time. The taste adjusted itself just as quickly, from sweet to tart to vinegar with each subsequent bite.
The cattle grew restless and frail. They skittishly roamed in their enclosures, daily looking thinner and more malnourished. Snatches of grazing occurred, like the cattle were sneaking snippets of nurture from the ground, almost guiltily sustaining themselves. But they never plumped. They never gained stature capable of slaughter. They never gained constitution to provide milk. Wool grew thin upon the sheepfold, thus no longer provide the means to clothe the populous. The goat heard limped about and was unable to give milk.
The winged sources failed to produce eggs. Goose, chicken and quail alike succumbed to the malaise and pecked languidly in the square for scraps of sustenance. Screech and chirp slowly gave wave to chip and peck as the food sources dwindled in the kingdom. Falconry wandered in the clouds for hours at a time, some never came back. Others returned with scraps of, assumed, flesh. No one even ventured to attempt mastication of these “offerings,” no matter how deep the hunger sank in.
The hunters found that their arrows strayed uncannily from their mark. Where the sun seeped into the forest the hunters gravitated like they were beacons. But the creatures strayed from the light. They had lived under dark canopy of the lush forest for too long. Malnourishment was the culprit for inaccuracy. The hunters findings then thinned with the forest. The game that was so plentiful in the lush forest had vacated with the perforation of the leafy firmament.
Even the rat scavengers had vacated. Any home, on a daily basis, would have found those visitors to the larder worthy of a swift broom swat. Spiders seemed dissatisfied with payment from their webs and never seemed found after the crops started failing. Those who had thought to beg pursued not anymore. All were destitute.
Neighbor solicited neighbor for answers. Citizen propositioned constabulary. Sheriff sought knight. Knight proposed to counselor. Counselor sought King.
And the King sought everyone he could, for he was a good King.
He loved his people and wished not for any degree of suffering.
He loved his counsel, his court, his people, and all creatures in his kingdom.
Yet he knew no recourse for the malaise that assailed his kingdom.
He sought seers. He sought saints. He looked far to the sky, and he looked deep in to the ground. He searched his soul, and he searched the souls of others, but he found no solutions to the pain that was causing his world to dry up.
And it continued to die.
Distrustfulness festered in the hearts of the people, even though the King, who was a good king, suffered with his people.
Sickness permeated the kingdom when nourishment slowed. Families sought everywhere for the means to feed their young as resources dwindled. Answers disappeared in the evening mist as hunger pains mounted in the morning.
The trees wilted and blackened and perished as the days passed. The bark upon the trunks withered and blistered as if being burned by fierce fire. The branches dipped and drooped and fell as if of just extinguished lives. Leaves fell like part of an emerald downpour. The floor of the forest was a green shimmering chlorophyl blanket of despair.
The remaining creatures slipped and scattered about the forest in desperate search for shelter. Frantic behavior ensued as nuts, fruits, and other hanging sustenance failed from the limbs of natures salvation. Clamoring for a tenaciously clinging walnut created turmoil amongst squirrels. Bloodshed ensued when a last remaining walnut tree clung to several tenacious honeycombs.
Then two desperate grizzlies, apparently aware of their impending imposition on food supply, rent each other to pieces to get to the honey comb. The surviving contestant, was supplanted by an eager mountain cat, ribs protruding from his sides, who sauntered, uncontested, to the honey source.
The need to solve these concerns was abundantly prescient. Though the King had hair wrenched in had in attempt to solve his kingdoms aches.