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A Grim Fairy Tale

A GRIM FAIRY TALE, by Robert Stirniman

Once upon a time the brave knights of the realm captured a
strange wizard of unidentified foreign origin - UFO. There were
no majic amulets or potions found with him, but he did have a
remarkable bottle with an unusual cap. During interrogation, the
wizard would say little, except that the bottle contained powerful,
and possibly dangerous majic, and should probably never be opened.
Shortly thereafter, he vanished mysteriously, leaving only the
bottle as proof that he had been there.

The king convened a committee of twelve of his ablest ministers
to discuss the majic bottle. Each examined it carefully, and each
reported that it was an important find, unlike any ever seen before,
and that further study was necessary. Nearly all the members of
the committee were practitioners of the powers of majic, and all
believed strongly in the ability to use majic in a just fashion
to smite the evil empire that was the realm's main adversary.

Knowledge of the existence of the strange wizard and the majic
bottle was declared a matter of royal blue security. Disclosure
of the crown secret was a treasonous act punishable by sentence
of insanity and psychic torture. Rumors about the majic bottle
were quelled with the story that it had proven to be a simple
precipitation conjuring instrument used by the Agricultural
Bureau of the majicians guild.

The committee of wise men recommended itself as a permanent
advisory council to the king, with the authority to interpret all
matters of majic for the benefit of the crown. The king being an
adept politician, but with a natural fear of the power of majic,
agreed that the majic council could continue to convene and
advise him, but only on a temporary basis until the matter of
the origin and purpose of the bottle was settled. Other issues
dealing with majic would continue to be handled through the
normal channels of the majicians guild.

After months of study, nothing of import was learned about the
majic bottle. The majic council unanimously decided to recommend to
the king that the bottle cap be removed briefly in order to take a
quick look inside. The king had strong reservations, but could find
none amongst his ministers who opposed the opinion of the council.
He reluctantly agreed.

The realm's most reliable knight was selected for conducting
the bottle opening experiment, and a room was carefully prepared
in the deepest and most secure dungeon of the castle. The
knight was instructed and trained in great detail in how to
quickly remove and secure the bottle cap. All possible precautions
were taken and all situations and scenarios were considered in
utmost detail.

When the knight removed the cap, a slightly odd looking Genie
appeared instantly, and said "Thank you sir for allowing me to
visit you. My name is meNoframoit. It is my duty to serve others.
How may I be of service?" The knight had no idea how to respond,
and immediately replaced the cap. The Genie remained and again
asked, "How may I be of service?" The dungeon and Genie were
thoroughly secured with a full-time watch of the realm's most
diligent knights.

Some of the members of the Majic Council were alarmed by the
existence of the Genie, and other members were curiously
elated. All had opinions, but none were confident about the
best course of action. There was a diversity of recommendations
and suggestions in the council's report. The king saw the confusion,
and felt danger in the Genie's unknown authority. He quickly
decided that it would be best to command the Genie to return
to the bottle.

Most members of the Majic Council were disheartened by the
king's decision. The council was able to convince the king
that it would be prudent to wait a short time and give the
problem thorough and careful consideration before taking any
possibly rash action. Mumblings and ugly jokes about crown
cowardice and backwardness began to be heard in cloakrooms
and barrooms of the kingdom. At the same time, the majicians
guild began to increase its clamorings for greater expenditures
of crown gold, for training more wizards, and discovery of
new spells and conjuring devices, for defense against the
increasingly powerful majic of the evil empire.

The council prepared an updated report for the king. The
consensus recommendation was that before asking the Genie
to return to the bottle, it would be prudent to at least
inquire about his knowledge and capabilities. They convinced
the king that there could be little or no danger in a few
carefully considered questions.

When asked about his powers, the Genie replied, "I am called
meNoframoit. I have knowledge of majic and capabilities far
beyond your wildest comprehension and my purpose is to share
it with you if you so desire. I am of course compelled by the
Genie of Genies to tell you that possession of majic which is
not thoroughly mastered by your wizards can sometimes be
dangerous. And, if you choose to refuse my services, I must
return to the bottle for another thousand years. So -- How
may I be of service?"

A majority of the Majic Council were encouraged by the Genie's
response, some members were astounded, and some were fearful. All
agreed that the Genie could possibly prove to be very valuable,
but might or might not be trustworthy. All on the council agreed
that it would be an act of foolish cowardice to command the Genie
to go away. The king was apprehensive and silently wished that
the bottle had never been found.

Months of hard work were spent in preparation and discussion
of what to ask of the Genie. Some of the council preferred to
seek answers to general questions of majic, and some were more
interested in specific majic devices for immediate use against
the evil empire. After lengthy arguments, a brief list of useful
requests was prepared. Extensive efforts and all possible thoughtful
considerations were made to assure that these requests were
absolutely foolproof and inherently safe.

The Genie responded to the requests with the immediate
materialization of a variety of majic formulas, articles,
composites, and drawings -- as well as a few working devices.
He then commented, "Perhaps when you are done examining these
trifles and gadgets you will ask me for some things of real value."
The Majic Council was delighted with the scope of the new found
majic and became joyfully optimistic about the promise of future
power and glory for the realm. The king tried to share their
enthusiasm, but could not shake a feeling of dread.

Most of the members of the council did not have the expertise
in wizardry required for proper evaluation of the materials from
the Genie. A new branch of the majicians guild, named the
MASON Majicians, was founded to interpret and apply the new
knowledge. Some of the realm's best and brightest wizards, after
passing a most thorough crown loyalty test, were invited to join
the new priesthood.

Security was increased to an unprecedented level. In order to
garner the greatest political effect from the new majic power,
it was decided that other kingdoms and empires, friend and foe
alike, should be left in awe of the advanced and apparently
unmatchable capabilities of the realm's wizards. Extreme care
was taken so that everyone outside of the Majic Council, the
priesthood of MASON Majicians, and the necessary security and
logistic staffs, would remain completely unaware of the unusual
source of the realm's new majic.

The council also reminded the king that control of the kingdom's
own population, and most importantly the ability to enforce tax
collection, had always been a tenuous thing, and could be greatly
diminished if the people became aware that there was an authority
in the kingdom which might be more powerful than the crown itself.
One of the scribes to the council who was overheard chiding --
"Yeh, plus you guys might all have to get real jobs", was promoted
to a new and important position, maintaining the royal HARP, in
one of the realm's strategic frontier regions.

In spite of extreme security precautions, rumors of the existence
of an unusual new source of powerful majic began to spread throughout
the realm, and also into other kingdoms. People who persisted in
talking about the rumor were fiercely ridiculed and generally
considered to be goofy. None the less, many continued.

The MASON Majicians proved to be marvelously successful at
interpreting and implementing the Genie's majic. After a short
time, the forces of the evil empire collapsed in disarray in the
face of the clearly superior powers of the realm. And eventually
all the world's kingdoms and empires developed a grumbling respect
for the fearsome and instantly destructive power of the realm's
majic. The king became recognized worldwide as an authority figure,
but in truth, knew himself to be an impotent illusion of a popular

An increase in royal income and crown gold was severely needed
to repay the large debt which had been incurred in implementing
the new majic and in producing the devices and forces necessary to
subdue the evil empire. There were also substantial on-going costs
for providing sufficient majic forces to maintain the Realm's ideal
version of world peace. It was unfortunate but absolutely necessary
to impose a temporary increase in the people's royal gold tithe.
Some subjects became unduly upset by the temporary increase, and a
few unloyal curs began to spread the false rumor that the increase
might become permanent. Popular morale and overall commercial
activity decreased. Tragicly, even with the higher tithe, crown
revenues diminished rather than increased.

Fortunately the Genie was able to provide a variety of new majic
formulas and portents for increasing crown income. A new branch
of the majicians guild, the Financier Bureau, was founded to
implement new majic such as: special paper imprinted with the king's
image to serve as a promise to pay real gold which did not actually
exist in the treasury, regular monetary inflation and devaluation
of the people's wealth, convenient credit cards and easy usurious debt,
psychic advertising and creation of an insatiable desire by people
to give up savings and future security in return for the pleasure of
ownership of a never ending stream of new and relatively valueless
possessions, lotteries and gambling casinos, royal license and service
fees for nearly all conceivable activities, crazily complicated laws
and court systems revised and further confused on a regular basis,
financial gambling instruments and artificially rigged financial
market-casinos, license fees and fines at every turn and minor
indiscretion, and crown regulation and control of important commercial
activities such as utilities, communications, transportation, and
addictive substances.

With the new financial majic, the Financier Bureau always managed
to create as much money as was immediately needed for crown activities.
But due to bad luck and a variety of one-time emergency requirements
there seemed to be a never ending need to create even more money,
along with a continually increasing amount of royal debt. A new
branch of the majicians guild, the Economist Bureau, was founded to
study and analyze the situation.

In spite of all the realm's powerful majic and notable successes,
a spiritual malady settled over the land. Many people were
dissatisfied. Some were angry, and a small but alarming number
were becoming uncivil to crown authority. The usual small number
of sociopathic criminal elements seemed to be abnormally high.
Opinion polls consistently found that a majority of subjects
did not have automatic trust in the words of the king. And for
some reason the most important crown ministers, especially the
Majic Council, all seemed to have developed a knack for completely
avoiding the public eye.

The Genie was asked to provide new majic which would increase
popular morale. He replied, "I am meNoframoit. It is my duty
to serve others, and I have vast experience in how to make people
happy. There is more majic available for this purpose than for
any other. Nearly all of this majic follows three simple rules.
Occasionally, and not infrequently, provide your subjects with more
than too much of whatever gives them pleasure. Provide them with
sufficient on-going scandals and distractions for them to expend their
need for derision, and thereby dilute their feelings of dissatisfaction.
And, do not reason with the people or overeducate them, or they will
never achieve contentment. Here's a few formulas and conjuring devices
to start with. If your subjects become bored with these, do not be
concerned, I have many many more."

The Morale Bureau of the majicians guild was founded to implement
the new majic. The new bureau was successful in producing a
measurable, but relatively modest, increase in public satisfaction.
However, an ever increasing amount of majic, as well continual
introduction of new majic tricks became necessary to maintain
this level. Within a few years, a variety of divisions had become
established within the Morale Bureau, including: Show Makers and
Entertainers, Publishers and Journalers, Opinion Makers and Psychers,
Tabloiders and Muckers, Advertisers and Imagers, Ball Gamers and
Athleters, Culters and Occulters, Rockers and Rollers, Beautifiers
and Body Shapers, Arcaders and Gamers, Betters Bookers and Brokers,
Welfarers and Dolers, Pushers and Dopers, Panderers and Pornographers,
and Socialers and Status Setters.

The budget of the Morale Bureau was continually rising to new and
ever higher astronomical amounts. Any slight decrease in expenditures
by any of the many divisions of the bureau was found to result in
an immediate and alarming plummet in the level of public satisfaction.
In a probably unrelated development, people were becoming generally
less conscientious in the performance of their work and a small but
growing number of people had somehow acquired a perverse disdain
for performing any duties whatsoever. Manufacturing of goods became
a second rate profession, and people of above average ability quickly
migrated to socially fulfilling and better paying positions in the
morale and financial sectors. By all measures, the realm's production
of real goods was in decline. The Economist Bureau was expanded to
analyze the situation.

In spite of extreme security and secrecy measures, rumors and
stories about genies continued to circulate and spread throughout
the realm, and also throughout other kingdoms. Intense and prolonged
efforts were made by all bureaus of the majicians guild to discourage
and ridicule belief in genies. None the less, in the very face of
crown authority, many people continued to believe in genies. Some
even organized bizarre political cults to demand an end to genie

Oddly enough, many more than a few people began to claim to have
seen genies personally. And a few people and genie cults, within
the realm and in other kingdoms, began to exhibit highly unusual
knowledge of heretofore unseen majic. The Majic Council became
concerned, and commissioned an in-depth and ruthless investigation
of all reported genie phenomena. In face of irrefutable evidence,
the council was forced to conclude that something strange and
dangerous seemed to be afoot in the land. It was decided to inquire
of the Genie about the genie phenomena.

The Genie explained casually, "Of course its true that many people
know of the power of genies. I am meNoframoit. I am here to serve
others, including anyone who has the knowledge to request my services."
The council did not see how he could serve others when he was under
constant and extremely vigilant surveillance in his secure room in
the dungeon, and was kept busy nearly full time serving the MASON,
Financier, and Morale bureaus. The Genie patiently explained, "Its
no problem. Its my duty to serve others. When someone requires my
services, I provide them with a clone of myself. There are now
thousands of genies just like me operating throughout your world."

The Majic Council was aroused to near panic and beseeched the king
to personally command the Genie to make all the other genies disappear,
and to return immediately to the bottle. Upon hearing the king's
command, the Genie laughed uproariously, and said, "I can not. It is
my duty to serve others as well as yourselves. The best way for me to
serve others is to continue to reform this world in the proper order
of the Genie way."

The genie problem was spinning out of control. The king saw that
outside help was desperately needed and asked the Genie to bring
back the strange wizard who had originally brought the majic bottle.
With a good humored condescending smile, the Genie said, "I am
meNoframoit. I must be of service to you, and the wizard is not
the best way to serve you. He was created by me to be my deliverer,
and can do nothing for you that I can not do. So -- How may I be
of service?" The king became overcome with morbid curiosity and
began to ask the Genie a variety of personal questions, including
the meaning of the name meNoframoit. The genie replied, "There is no
good translation in your awkward language, but if it will serve you,
you may call me Pasture Maker."

And they all came to know that living happily ever after was
something that only happens in fairy tales and to domestic animals.


Next: Hale-Bopp Comet Madness, by Alan Hale