by Megan Auffart
Far, far away was a grand imperial palace, the most magnificent in the world. Its turrets rose grandly over the castle walls, with long banners and tapestries hanging from the roofs and towers. The common folk of the kingdom were happy and well-fed, but there were always those who were downtrodden and abused.
One such man was a peasant who had been maltreated by his neighbors because of his religion. He packed his things and went to the palace to see if anyone could help him. While he was crossing the imperial courtyard, however, the dogs of war, loosed from their cages, leapt upon him and began to snap at his face.
"Help me!" He cried and struggled against the foul creatures. His cry was heard by six visiting kings, each more handsome than the last. They hurried into the courtyard to see what was the matter, stopping when they saw the terrible scene before them.
"Look!" exclaimed one king, his crown of gold as noble as the form of a stalking tiger, "Someone should help that poor man. It is our fault the dogs of war were set loose. We should have been guarding them, but we were busy tending our own kingdoms. Let one of us help him, but I have new robes and cannot do so myself."
The king with a crown of emeralds, each greener than the eyes of envy, shook his head. "It was not my fault. I was not responsible for the dogs of war. It was the job of others better suited for the task. I shall not help him, for I have my own problems."
The dogs of war had, by this time, torn the peasant's clothing and bitten his flesh. The six kings stood and watched as the dogs barked and mauled, making no move to help the poor man.
The king with the crown of diamonds, each glittering in the sunlight with cold malice, said to the other kings, "Someone call their servants to help him. I would call my own, but I have need of them all and cannot have them damaged, for who should serve me if they were harmed?"
The other kings agreed that this was a good idea. When asked who would call his servants, each king refused. Their servants were more useful to them whole than injured. "Let someone else call them," they said. "Why should we do so when someone else can do it?"
As they debated, the sharp teeth of the dogs of war pierced the eyes of the peasant and blinded him. Still, he cried out to the kings to save him even as his sight was lost forever. The king with the crown of gold took a timid step forward, but the dogs of war growled at him and the king went no further.
The youngest king, his crown being a crown of rubies as red as the blood on the courtyard floor, turned and hid his head in his hands. "There is no one there." The king declared loudly as the shrieks of the peasant were hard to be heard over. "There is no man being eaten in the courtyard, for I cannot see it. Do not try to convince me otherwise, for I shall not believe you." The ruby king hid his eyes and refused to look up, leaving the rest of the kings to deal with the problem.
The fifth king had a crown of opals which shimmered with colors like some vibrant nightmare. "We should at least try something." He argued and adjusted his cloak. When the dogs of war had their backs turned, he reached forwards and grabbed the peasant's shoe, meaning to drag the man away.
Alas, the opal king grew frightened and jumped backwards, pulling the shoe from the peasant's foot that had previously been undamaged. With no tough leather there to protect the skin from their sharp teeth, the dogs of war ravaged the foot till there was nothing left but bone and sinew.
The five kings turned to the sixth king, whose crown of silver glinted as mercilessly as the rays of the moon. They asked the silver king, "What would you suggest? We have tried many things to deal with this problem, but our ideas have come to naught. You are the only one left."
The silver king eyed them for a moment without emotion. "You would know what I will do? I shall answer your question then, oh kings. I shall do nothing, for the man is not only a lowly peasant, but a Jew. Why should I help someone who is not even worth being food for the dogs? You may do what you want, but I shall do nothing at all."
The five kings stared at the sixth, each feeling a small twinge of guilt. The silver king had spoken what they had all secretly felt on the inside to a varying degree. That was why they hadn't been more motivated to the help the poor peasant; a simple hatred that had grown with them, influenced by the cruel words and prejudices of their fellow men. They had said to themselves, "He is but a Jew. Let some other person do it." And sadly, no one had helped.
A low growl interrupted their contemplation and the kings turned as one. While the sixth king had spoken, the dogs of war had devoured the peasant whole. With nothing left of the poor man to eat, the dogs surrounded the six kings in a rough circle, for each animal had discovered that it liked the taste of human blood and wanted more to satisfy its savage appetite.
"Help us!" The kings cried. "Someone save us!"
But, alas! Who could save them now that the dogs of war had fed and were stronger than ever before? With glaring eyes and pointed smiles similar to the grin of the silver king, the pack closed in around their victims. This time there was no one there to help them.