King Alfred sat on his throne, bored and tired. Although it was great that his Kingdom now exisisted unmolested by any credible foreign threat, the lack of wars, and all that entailed, meant he now spent all his time back at his castle. Being at his castle meant he had to deal with his subjects. Dealing with his subjects was one of the many reasons he had started his campaigns of war in the first place. War had meant excitement for him, and for most of his people. When you are fighting for your lives that really is all you could concentrate on. When you weren’t, well, any old nonsense became something ‘you should take to the King’.
Before him stood a farmer (why did he rule so many bloody farmers?) who was droning on about about something corn related. He tried his hardest to keep his eyes open and feign interest, but deep down he knew he wasn’t fooling anybody. Wisely his Butler had made sure wine was off the menu for today and had instead filled his many drinking vessels with Witch Blood Coffee (the Witch Blood made sure the coffee stayed hot). Even so, coffee could only do so much his fight for awakeness was one he was starting to lose. And as his mother, nursemaid and many now dead ex wives could attest, King Alfred was very, very, very, grumpy when tired.
He noticed belatedly that the farmer was no longer talking. Worse, other than corn he had no idea what the complaint had been. He thought of asking the farmer to repeat himself but didn’t for two good reasons. Firstly he did want to look an attentive idiot, and secondly, he did not want to be bored anymore. So instead he did what any good monarch did and refused himself so he could visit the privy.
Of course he did not go to the privy. Instead he went to his room, opened some wine, and settled in for a good long drink. Before he could even take a sip of wine his Butler appeared and removed the bottle from his royal hand.
“The farmer Giles still awaits your response. He is keen to travel home before third sun. Understandable given his predicament.” Butler said.
Ah, so Butler had been listening and knew what the farmers’ issue was. This was good, and also bad. Butler was in many ways Alfred’s superior. Even though Alfred was the King and was the one true ruler of the realm, he was not left to rule by his whims alone. Although Butler was his man and servant, he was also the one who could first question the word of the King. He was also famously opposed the many years of war Alfred had waged against the other Kingdoms that had once shared the land. To say Butler wanted Alfred out was an understatement. Alfred was only lucky that Butler was a stickler to the rules and would not remove Alfred via means such as poison or assassination. In turn, Butler was lucky Alfred was very much afraid of him and would do nothing to provoke the slightest wrath. Indeed although Butler did not know it, he had been a very big reason Alfred had started the many wars and left the warmth comfort of his castle for many years.
“Yes, the problem, with the corn…” Alfred prompted.
“Yes, the corn. Corn is why the farmer is desperate to be home before darkness, because we all know corn is a scary thing to behold at night.” Butler replied.
Alfred looked nervously around him, then laughed half heartedly.
“You have no idea what that farmer was going on about, do you?” Butler said.
“No” Alfred replied.
“That tears it! You cannot handle all of these complaints, and we can only expect more. Already you have emptied a quarter of the royal coffers with your haphazard payouts and solutions. This aspect of your job needs to be removed from you. We need a Civil Service.”
“And this Civil Service would listen to these people, meaning I don’t have to? And would handle the budget for the Kingdom?”
“Among other things, yes.”
Dealing with people and budgets were two things he hated, but he couldn’t give in easily, it was not his way. But he was tired and really wanted some wine, wine he wouldn’t get until Butler was satisfied.
“Fine. Draft out what a Civil Service means and what it would do. When ready you will present the idea to Mother and I and we will move from there. Now, give me my wine and leave me be.”
“What of the farmer?” Butler asked.
“Give him what he needs and add it to the ledger. Wine?”
Butler nodded and handed Alfred the wine before leaving. As he drank his wine he pondered on the civil service and how it could be positioned to remove the red tape around Kingly functions.