Liber Jonae CAPUT FIVE Page THAU


If Quintus is unmarried, I replied,
Dynastic continunity is threatened.

Adoption and name-change suffice for kings.
Genetics is not key, it is sequence,
Always keeping track, that has importance.
Thus Quintus, as King, can indulge himself,
Knowing always where he stands, his number.
Marriage is secondary for a despot
Whose early experience with women
Scarred him and left him a strict misogynist.
And it was that episode with Beverly
That turned him against close relationships.
He now contents himself with concubines.

And who, might I ask, is this Beverly?

Beverly: a name soaked in damnation.
All of us know the dreadlocked Medusa:
Who remembers her twin sister Beverly?
They were never, of course, identical twins.
Beverly did not possess the writhing mane,
The hissing hairstyle her sister sported.
Nor did she possess the red, baleful gaze,
The Algol eye that turns your flesh to stone.
Beverly's look was much more inviting,
But it would prove just as deadly in the end.
This is attested by holy Hittite texts
Recently published in their totality,
Despite long-standing court gag-orders,
In inexpensive paperback translations.
It would be gravely redundant, therefore,
If not a copyright violation,
To repeat that whole sorry business.
A talk show host once raised the subject
When Quintus was seated in his studio,
Only to have his guest begin to scream
Beverly! That scatophagous hag!
The next day the host's head was on a pike,
And his torso somewhere else entirely.
The topic, ever since, is not broached.

I want to hear more about Beverly.

I'm sorry, Marguerite, I can't oblige.
That was all that Oroe related.
This failure to anticipate your needs
Was all my fault, I'm afraid to say.
My nascent talent wasn't good enough.
Instead of pressing for more of the tale,
I turned conversation back to Quintus.

But if Quintus is such a non-entity,
How can he exert his royal power?

Make no mistake, although nondescript,
The power Quintus wields is absolute.
In this he resembles the God of his age,
An omnipotent and omnisurveillant,
But discreet, apparently bland deity
Who nonetheless demands that all submit
And acknowledge his unsurpassable glory.
However, Quintus was not always thus,
He was not always the control freak
Who now micromanages our Nineveh,
Who must oversee every matter
From declaration of war against foes
To the placement of temporary latrines
On any of a hundred construction sites.
At his coronation he was, like Sextus,
A figurehead only, leaving the rule
Of his empire to the career bureaucrats
And performing ceremonial functions,
But only when required by protocol,
And when convenient, during office hours,
When not at home mornings playing tennis
Or splashing around in his indoor pool
With a dozen or so of his concubines.
He hosted state dinners, dispensed awards,
Conferred knighthoods, opened parliament,
Visited orphanages, made speeches,
And did everything but do something,
Do something, that is, of import,
And none really paid him much attention
Or even noticed when he began to change,
So slow was the change, the transformation
That took him from carefree to paranoid.

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