Long ago, there was a little island kingdom plagued by a great menace. It was not the menace of conquest, or death, or disease, or famine, which every kingdom must deal with. It was a plague more elusive and cunning than any of these combined, and put the land in a crumbling state of unrest. The land was, quite simply, plagued by lies. And at the heart of these lies, was a Forger.
The Forger believed only in lies. He believed them because they brought him out of his squalid beginnings and let him wander the land as he pleased. He had no name of his own, as names were his specialty and found no reason to have one himself. That was why he was known only as the Forger, a master of titles and deeds in a land ruled by a King whose name the people had already forgotten. That is, until the King requested the Forgers service.
They arranged to meet in the highest room in the tallest tower of the King's castle. It was a thousand steps to the towers base, a thousand steps to its center, and another thousand to its top. It was a dreadful climb, but to the Forger, each step up the twisting staircase served as a reminder to the thousands of false lives he'd predicated in a long, slanderous career that now brought his skills to none other than the King himself.
The room was small and bleak, with a cold draft that kept the King curled in his robes awaiting the Forgers arrival. He reserved this room only for the most secret of meetings, and before he could endure another wave of chills from the brumal wind outside, there came three knocks to the door where in walked a wiry, tunic-clad man armed only with a satchel at his side and a sly smirk etched across his face.
"Your highness," smiled the Forger, closing the door behind him.
"Sit," said the King, and the Forger sat at the small table in the center of the room while the window sills racketed in the wind.
"I've little time, so I will be quick," he continued. "I'm in need of your services."
"And I thought I was here for chit chat," the Forger jested.
The King slouched deeper into his chair as dozens of ant sized peasants formed an angry mob below and called for his blood. Kings, you see, quickly become scapegoats after witches and demons have been exhausted from the populace.
"My reign is at an end, Forger. The people are unhappy with my rule and wish me dead just as those who came before me. I need a new life so I can escape to the mainland and live out my days in peace."
"But my liege," answered the Forger. "You've attained the greatest title in the land. Surely you will pay no heed to those commoners who want your blood."
"There is no other way," the King replied.
"You're sure of this?"
"So you've tried everything?"
"I'm only jesting."
"I'm beginning to think you don't want to help me," the King suggested.
"My Lord," the Forger said, "I do not simply walk into strangers homes and give them a new life per their request. I must know all I can of my clients before I make a proper decision."
"What decision?" the King asked.
"Why, to help you, of course."
The King fumbled in his seat hearing that. "So you turn down clients, is that it?"
"Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't," the Forger answered. "But those who are calm and not desperate always seem to have something to hide."
"Do I not seem desperate?" asked the King.
"You do not seem calm," smiled the Forger. "Does that answer your question?"
And with that, the King slammed his fist on his armrest, leaned out of the darkness and said "Damn you, Forger. I've never conversed with such petty disregard of common courtesy as the likes of you. I ought to have you thrown from this very tower where those foul smelling commoners will feed off your innards and let your remains sink into the dung pits below my castle -- now what do you think of that?!?"
But the Forger only paused, cleared his throat, and said "I have laid in much worse than a Kings feces, I'm afraid. But I get your point."
"Enough of this!" the King demanded, reaching into his robe and throwing a small leather sack at the Forger, who not only caught it at lightning speed, but snatched the half dozen gold coins that spilt out before hitting the ground.
"There's more gold in there than you'll ever need," said the King. "I've only one more sack to last me a simple life on the mainland. The rest has been spent on luxuries and riches I can no longer afford. The treasury has been depleted. My wife and children have been killed by bandits. My own soldiers are brewing a revolt, I can feel as much. Are you still not convinced of my desperation?"
Not answering, the Forger counted every last coin in the sack and spent a moment thinking it over. He'd been paid in copper, bronze, even silver once by a band of smugglers who were now rising the ranks in the church, but never had the Forger been paid in gold. It was not surprising, then, that he quickly opened his satchel, retrieved a small piece of parchment with a hawk’s feather and leviathan's ink, and said "let's begin."
Spreading the parchment across the table, he readied his quill, dipped it in the blackest ink the King had ever seen, and prepared what he decided would be his last job on this little island kingdom.
"Now, what will your new name be?"
"Feliks," the King said without hesitation. "Feliks Han."
"And what is your occupation, Feliks Han? Lord? Earl?"
"Cobbler," said the King, and the Forger jolted his head up and laughed.
"Hah! That title does not fit a name like Feliks Han! Why not a Merchant, or perhaps an Alchemist? That is a favorite amongst my clients."
"Cobbler," the King stoically repeated, and so the Forger scribbled down 'Cobbler' next to the name 'Feliks Han' and they continued.
"Where are you from, Mister Feliks Han?" the Forger asked.
"Then what, may I ask, is a Cobbler from the mainland doing here, on this lovely little island?"
"And what business would that be?"
"Is there no Cobbling to be had on the mainland?"
"Is there no end to your questions, Forger?"
"I am simply making Feliks Han come to life, my King. It is in the details that lies become fact."
"I thought you were not an expert of facts."
"Nor are Kings experts of Cobbling."
"Touche," said the King, and he thought his answer over. "I tried a life on the island, but failed. So back to the mainland I went."
"Good enough," the Forger smiled, writing down the last bit of details as another waft of cold air blew through and let the ink dry. Then he rolled up the parchment, placed it back in his satchel, and stood up. "Well, my King, this has been pleasant."
"Where are you going?" asked the King. "You've just arrived. And where are my papers?"
"They are nowhere, my Lord. I'll need a day or so to create them. It takes time and skill to make them look just right. I'm sure you understand," he answered, and walked to the door.
"Stop!" shouted the King, and the Forger stopped and turned.
"How do I know you will make good on your promise?" the King asked.
"I am paying you the last of my gold."
"My Lord, in a land stricken with lies and fraud, a Forger is easy to be found."
And before the King knew it, the Forger was gone.
By morning, the Forger paid a local sea captain passage to the mainland under the name "Feliks Han" and stepped aboard his modest little sloop. With the last of the Kingdoms treasury in his pocket, it seemed only natural he take leave of his island home and see what prospects lie on the mainland. As the sloop left the harbor, he wondered what would become of the King, foolishly waiting in his cold tower while his subjects would soon discover the state of their islands condition. What a foolish little King, thought the Forger as the great tower disappeared in the fog. What a foolish little King for a foolish little Kingdom.
It was not long before they reached the mainland, but Feliks Han was ever grateful when the ship docked at the mainland port and smelled the fresh, balmy air of the continent as a Porter approached him and said "Papers, please."
"Feliks, Han, sir, a cobbler returning home," he answered with his usual beguiling smile.
But the Porter did not smile back. Instead, he gave Feliks an inquisitive glance as if there was something horribly wrong and said "Feliks Han, you say?"
"None other," said Feliks, and the Porter laughed and called over several guards who dragged him away to the nearest dungeon where he pleaded and protested his innocence to the gaolers who were no more imprisoned than he was.
"Please, my good man, there's been a horrible mistake. I am Feliks Han the Cobbler and I demand an explanation!" he shouted as the cell doors clanked shut.
The gaoler smirked and stood up, revealing behind him a worn poster that read 'Feliks Han the Cobbler -- Wanted for Murder', and caused the poor Forger to sit back in his cell and realize the King, having chosen the name of a common criminal, was not at foolish as he thought.
Bio: When not surfing the net for a living, Noah Griffith enjoys reading, writing, more reading, and enjoying Asian food in his Koreatown neighborhood. He lives in Los Angeles.