**Winner!!** “Born” by Madeline Bobrowski ’23, Graphite Pencil

Follies of a King

by Tobias W. Stettler '24

Once upon a time, there sat a kingdom in the forest, ruled by a greedy king. The king craved the luxuries of life, and would hoard great amounts of treasures in his expansive castle. His daughter, his only child, on the other hand was very generous and giving, and would sneak small jewels and coins out to give to whoever needed it the most.

The king often wandered the vast halls of his castle, admiring the beauty he’s stockpiled within. Traversing the massive stone corridors, he could remember every piece of treasure he had, from the smallest coin to the largest decanters. He was wandering one of the rooms one night, and his daughter approached. “Ah, my sweet child, what brings you to the reaches of the storerooms?”

“Father, I was just admiring the gleaming gems and golds, nothing more.” This answer pleased him. She was a spitting image of her mother, and he loved her more than any baubles or trinkets he could imagine. The daughter was cunning however, and she was there to steal some treasure to give to the townspeople. When she returned later that night, the courtyard was in a haze. “Daughter, where have you been? It’s beyond dusk now, and there is a thief about.”

“My apologies father, I was merely throwing some bread out for the townsfolk, nothing more.” She smiled warmly at him, and he couldn’t help but smile back. “You’ve the face of an angel, and the heart of a saint, now go get some rest.” The next day, the king made a decree. “Any person found taking from my stocks shall be executed publicly, and be made an example.” One night, the captain of the guard caught the daughter, and dragged her to the throne room before the king. The king was baffled. “But why my sweet child, you who is so golden of heart, why would you do something like this?”

“That’s why I did it father, you have so much yet give so little, where is your compassion for life, for your fellow man? I was simply doing what is right, nothing more.” When the king dismissed them from the court, the captain stopped him. “My lord, she broke your decree, she must face the consequence.” The king opened his mouth, but no words came out. He realized the situation he placed himself in, and there was nothing to say. He sat in his bed that night, wide awake, millions of thoughts racing through his mind, like swarms of night bugs swarming firelight. He fell asleep that night knowing the dues he had to pay.

The king showed up the next day, but instead of being adorned with royal purples and golds, he was in tattered rags. “My loyal subjects, I have made a tremendous mistake, I have prioritized my wealth over your welfare, and for that, I’m sorry, so as my final act as your king, I declare that any relative to a person, when facing punishment, can stand in place of them; as for my daughter, release her from those chains, I am taking her place.” The townsfolk were in awe, and while hesitant, the guards couldn’t disobey him. His daughter was distraught. “Father, you can’t do this, I refuse, can’t I refuse?”

“My daughter, my sweet, sweet, daughter, you are more generous and wonderful than I can ever be, so if that means my head must replace yours in that terrible basket, then so it shall be, and nothing more.” The king then gave a weak smile, and marched upon the executioner’s block. He thought of his life, his follies, and his moments of hubris, and he chuckled. “To be so occupied with such frivolous things, I’ve been a fool.” And as the gleaming blade fell down, he couldn’t help but smile as he came to terms with his end, just realizing how much he had.