"Keith, if anyone can pull this off, it's you."
Keith sighed. Everyone in town - certainly everyone in the Riverside Tap Room this night - knew he was great at telling tall tales and making them believed. No one called him a liar, but they turned a blind eye if he was taking advantage of an outsider. He was a good guy to those he loved, and he loved this place. "He'll know it's a scam if I'm involved."
"Really?" Came a sarcastic voice from near the bar. "You think the King knows the first thing about any of his subjects?" It was a fair point. King Fredrich ruled this valley and all the visible mountains surrounding it. He called in taxes and fees from every corner, but never provided care or needed services. The people took care of themselves and their neighbors as best they could, with no aid from the King. So where did the taxes go?
This late-night discussion in the Tap Room included prominent citizens from most of the towns and big businesses, and some of the area farmers. Basic aid was needed and they devised a plan to get the King to share some of the gold in his coffers.
Not share. He would never do that.
Keith would have to con him out of any gold they could get. "To make this believable I"ll need at least one partner. No designer does all his own work." Not to mention, Keith knew nothing of fashion design.
Frieda stepped forward. A farmer's daughter who was back on leave from design school, few in this room knew her, let alone the king. "I can help. I can draw up the designs, you can make it look like we are catering to his fashion tastes." King Fredrich was a clothes horse. That was the weakness they would target to get him to spend some of his wealth on his people.
Not spend. He would never do that. Not on them. But he'd spend it on clothes.
A young man slowly rose from his seat at a table in the back, looking to his father for approval. The father's eyebrows rose, but he waved Jonas ahead. "You'll need to have a go-fer. I can do that. Every designer has someone to run and do things."
It was settled. Keith accepted the help offered from the two young people. Everyone else returned to their homes to allow the trio to work out details.
By dawn the trio were gone.
A week later the keeper of the Riverside Tap Room was telling the latest news that a designer and his team "from the Coastal Kingdom to the west they came!" to King Fredrich's court. He was leaning over a table where Jonas' father was drinking ale with some farmers of the nearest hamlet. "Aye, this man, this 'designer' brought a team with him and presented himself at court, bold as y' please, saying the King's fashion sense was 'known far and wide' and wouldn't it be his honor to make him some fancy togs!" He laughed at his own tale and saw relief on the faces at the table.
Meanwhile at court, over a bottle of wine, Keith was sowing his seeds in the King's ear. His team stood to the side, having grown by two since leaving the tavern and village behind. "I see your people are very loyal to you," he was saying.
"My trusted advisors. They handle everything for me, and yes very loyal."
Keith smiled. "It is good to be surrounded by wisdom."
"True. I don't even have to leave my own halls," King Fredrich replied, refilling his cup. "Advisors, counselors, servants. You understand. You have servants, I see." He nodded back to the four people along the wall.
Keith followed his gaze. "Ah, my staff. They are each useful in their way." He took a sip of wine in silence. "You know why I am here."
"I am given to understand you wish to make me a suitable ensemble." The King was fingering his cuff as he said the words, not making eye contact.
"If you are interested. Let me show you my work." Without waiting for approval, he waved Frieda to come to him. She had a book full of her designs from school. Keith took the book and opened it before the King. "Most of these would not be fitting someone of your eminence, of course, but I..."
The discussion went on until they were escorted to rooms in the castle. Keith had promised new designs by the morning.
Frieda and Keith were up late working together. She was drawing, and explaining to Keith the fabrics and colors that her designs were based on so that he'd sound knowledgeable to the King. When they showed the King in the morning, he had some alterations to suggest, which they agreed to, of course, and then Jonas came forward to take the King's measurements, with one of the new kids jotting them down in a book.
As Jonas was acting the part of tailor, Keith reviewed the altered designs and broached the subject of payment. "Now, these fabrics are not cheap, Your Highness."
"Good. I do not wear cheap clothes."
"And this change you suggested here? Will require an extra yard or two..."
"I do not care. Spare no expense."
"Very well." Jonas and the lad finished and moved back to stand in the shadows as the King and "Designer" Keith walked through a garden to ate cakes in a gazebo. The King was interrupted by no less than three of his advisers as they walked. When their conversation resumed, he was not in a pleasant mood.
"You are from the coastal kingdom. Your people manage to keep streets in repair and wells functioning. My people do not do anything." The King settled into a seat in the gazebo as a servant poured for them. "I'm surrounded by idiots." Looking back across the lawns he added, "I'm not sure which of my advisors I can truly trust."
It was the final part of Keith's plan. "Of course, Highness. If I may be so bold..."
"I have an enchanter on my staff who could enchant the clothes so that only the wise and intelligent see them. That way anyone who displeases you could be removed." Their point was to accept his payment and remove the gold into the Kingdom to repair roads and village wells as needed. That was the only removal required.
Over the next week, an advisor came to check on their progress every other day. "Why do I not see anything happening?" he asked Keith, as he stood in their suite of rooms, where Jonas was sewing air and Frieda pinned nothing onto a mannequin.
"You cannot see this gilded fabric?" Keith asked, wide-eyed as he lifted and pet the air. The young "enchanter" standing by the basin smiled at the advisor. "Best you say nothing to the King then," he said.
"There is an enchantment to separate the wise from the foolish." Keith trusted that this advisor would spread the word among the household. The King's staff might all be taking advantage of him, individually or as a team. But he bet they'd all tell the lie to get away with it.
At the end of the week, King Fredrich returned for his fitting. "My advisor tells me these garments will glitter in the sun brilliantly," he gushed as Keith walked with him to the workroom. "I cannot wait to wear them, and to see who is worthy of being my loyal servant."
Keith watched the King's confused face as the staff went through the motions of fitting him in his new clothes, to the extent of snipping extra stitches to make them hang better. "Look in the mirror, Highness," urged Keith. "You will surely be be dazzling on such a sunny day!"
The King led a processional through his grounds, but not out into the city where he never went. He had doubts, but dare not skimp on the payment. Keith and his team left with the gold, which was used to do the things in the Kingdom that the King should have been doing all along.
Thanks for visiting my #AtoZChallenge! All month I'll be writing flash fiction, with the theme "Audience Participation".
Now it's your turn, lovely reader. Do you have a writing prompt to suggest? Don't worry about choosing a letter of the alphabet, just leave me a word, a thought, a place, a concept... anything! I'll add it to the list.
My "For King or Kingdom" story came from the suggestion that I try writing "fractured fairy tales". A suggestion provided by Gail M Baugniet of Gail M Baugniet - Author, in a comment left on my G post, here. Not my best, but it's written.