The Third Prince

By Marylou Barry

The First Prince
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there lived a prince in a faraway Southern kingdom.

The prince was very sad because, although he had always wanted to rule the world, the people of the world had other ideas. So, the prince thought to himself, what would make the people listen to me?

The people of the world at that time all believed in a god, either the Creator-God of the Universe or a false god of one description or another, although they could not agree on exactly who or what he was.

“I know!” the First Prince thought enthusiastically. “I’ll tell them that I heard from God, and that He says everyone must obey my orders, and then I will be able to take over the world.”

So he gave his command, but to his dismay, everyone still did not follow him. This made the prince very angry. So he gave the order that anyone who did not obey him must be killed. “Submit or die!” he cried out, and proceeded to steal much land and murder many innocent people. After a while the First Prince himself died and had to face the Creator-God of the Universe, who was not very happy with him.

The Second Prince
Many centuries later there lived another prince, this one in a Northern kingdom. He, too, wanted to rule the world, but again the people were not listening.

The people of the world at that time were divided. Some believed in the Creator-God of the Universe, some believed in false gods of one description or another, and some, who didn’t want to be held accountable for their actions, decided not to believe in any god at all. The leaders of most lands, however, at least pretended to believe in a god and used this perception to maintain control over their subjects.

“I know!” the Second Prince decided. “I’ll use these people with no god at all to make the others envious of their freedom. Then the people will follow me and I’ll be able to rule the world.”

So he, likewise, gave his command. “Your leaders are only using the idea of a god to make you slaves!” he cried. “Throw off the yoke of oppression and follow me!” But, again, everyone did not follow. This made the prince very angry, so he, likewise, gave orders that everyone who did not follow him must be killed. After stealing much land and murdering many innocent people, the Second Prince also died and went to face the Creator-God of the Universe, who was not very happy with him either.

The Interim
For many years the descendants of the two princes held onto the peoples and kingdoms they had conquered, and much of the world remained divided between them. Yet old dreams die hard, and both sides still secretly clung to the hope of eventual world conquest – with their group, of course, at the top of the pecking order. And both sides were sorely annoyed, having waited as long as they had, to find the other group still there, just waiting to pounce.

“What are these Northern unbelievers still doing here?” the Prince of the South’s followers grumbled among themselves. “Our ancestor told us that all lands were to be ours, yet we are still not powerful enough to vanquish them.

“Well, no matter. We’ll just charge them good for our precious fuel that they can’t function without, and we’ll wait. After all, they do have one advantage we could use: weapons technology. This way, we’ll get them to do our dirty work for us and build us advanced weapons systems; then, when they are of no further use to us – off with their heads!”

“Ignorant savages,” sneered the followers of the Prince of the North. The Northerners were still smarting from a coup in their Western provinces a generation earlier, in which they were forced to open the gates and free the serfs to avoid becoming the world’s laughingstock.

“If we didn’t need their pathetic fuel so badly it would be all over for these guys,” they muttered. “Yet they do have one resource we lack: soldiers who are actually willing to die for a cause—millions of them. Can you imagine? It won’t hurt us to keep them around for a while, just long enough to do our dirty work. And when the world becomes collectivized – under us, of course – they will find out how expendable they are.”

The Third Prince
So preoccupied were the followers of the First Prince and the Second Prince with maintaining the standoff against each other, that they barely noticed what was happening in the Land of the Far West. But sure enough, high on the hill above the winding river, where neither of the two princes had ever been able to prevail before, a new prince had been crowned.

This Third Prince was unlike any other who had ever ruled there, and many of his serfs had fallen deeply and inexplicably smitten with him. No one was really sure of his name or where he came from, but he was tall and well spoken and most people followed him without question. Many heralds and criers, as well as performers from the Far West imperial amphitheater, sent him their jewels and precious items and invited him to speak on their stages. Some even worshipped him as a god, even though they had never thought there was a god before.

“He is one of ours!” the followers of the First Prince exclaimed proudly. “He wears our traditional dress and was trained in our traditional academies, and his own relatives say he was born in our land. And when he first held court after his coronation, it was with our heralds and criers, before any of the others.”

“No,” argued the followers of the Second Prince. “He says he is a citizen of the world. See how decisively he seizes power and pits the classes against one another? See how swiftly he consolidates all government activity into his hand? Surely he is one of ours.”

Some of the more analytical Western peasants were perplexed about this as well.

“The First Prince’s ideology and the Second Prince’s ideology are mutually exclusive,” they reasoned. “The Third Prince can’t possibly adhere to both at the same time, so he must be serious about one and just be stringing the other group along. But which way is it?”

The heralds and criers who had remained faithful to the Creator-God of the Universe mostly took a dim view of the whole affair. They had tried pointing out that maybe such uncritical acceptance of a total stranger wasn’t a very good idea, but their warnings kept being drowned out by the cheers of the crowd.

However, the Third Prince knew exactly what they were thinking. So, to fortify his claim to the throne and prevent any possible uprising by the bourgeoisie, he promptly opened the people’s coffers. Drawing out many precious gold pieces, he redistributed them – to the Western knights who had helped him obtain power, to the Western merchants who had been so careless with their wares, and even to the followers of the first two princes, just as some rulers before him had done.

The heralds and criers, however, received a divided lot. Those who had called out kind words about the prince might get some gold out of the deal, they heard the courtiers say, but those who had questioned him would receive only a lesson in “fairness,” whatever that meant.

The prince himself, as was his wont, declined to answer the people’s questions. He did, however, invite both of the other princes’ generals to meet with him in private at a future time.

“I never dreamed it would be this easy,” the First Prince’s general said, clutching the redistributed gold pieces in his hand. He could almost taste the armaments they would buy, as he pondered how best to subdue the Third Prince’s kingdom – and then the kingdom of this unwitting moron beside him.

“It’s amazing, all right,” agreed the Second Prince’s general. He smiled, realizing that having to humor greedy Neanderthals to maintain fuel supplies might soon become unnecessary. “And if this is just the beginning of his reign, can you imagine what it will be like at the end?”

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