"Mighty Midas! Mighty Midas! Mighty Midas!" the animals of the savannah whooped and cheered as the large, golden lion stalked through the grass. He raised his large head proudly, mane flashing like fire in the blazing sun. He let out an inspiring, thunderous roar. The cheers from all the other animals became even wilder. He was their hero and celebrity, nobody was as glorious, big, strong and beautiful as he!
"Mighty Midas! Mighty Midas! Mighty Midas!" they continued to hoot and holler, singing his praises wildly. Midas, meanwhile, looked very smug and pleased, flashing them all a large, toothy, pearly smile. His fangs were massive, but the crowd thought his smile was charming. It earned another round of applause and Midas' grin managed to grow even larger still. He was more than happy to accept all of their compliments.
His very favorite thing in the whole wide world was basking in the praise of his fellow animals. It felt as good as a warm, summer sun.
"Of course, it only natural that they should praise me so!" he muttered to himself as he continued to parade through the crowd, basking in their blind adoration and celebration. "It is good that they recognize a creature of superior strength and skill!" He gave his glorious mane another proud toss. He wasn't just the strongest or bravest of all the animals, he was also by far the most handsome!
There was only one creature in the crowd who refused to join in wild revelry. It was Samael, a snake. Instead, he sat quietly as the great lion passed by. Although he could not deny that Midas was handsome and strong, he knew that Midas' heart was cold and hard. That was not to say he was evil, but he was far from the chivalrous, honorable hero he liked to present himself as. In a way, he was liar and a coward. All of the glorious deeds he'd ever done had only been done for the sake of praise and attention. He wasn't really doing it out of the goodness of his heart.
Sam, meanwhile, was just the opposite. He performed many acts of kindness and never expected, or asked for, anything in return. He was humble and down to Earth (literally and metaphorically). While Midas would show off and dazzle the crowd, Sam would do what needed to be done. He was good for goodness' sake. He never parade himself around, not before or during or after a good deed. He would simply do the deed and then carry on with his day like normal. Midas, meanwhile, always needed an audience.
Meanwhile, Sam didn't even mind if his deeds were overlooked, ignored or uncredited. It was somewhat disheartening to think how many of his good deed went unnoticed and unappreciated, but he understood why. He was a snake, after all, and snakes weren't very desirable creatures. Lions, meanwhile, were much more palatable. As such, Midas' good deeds were bathed in respect and admiration, while Sam's were forgotten or dismissed. It was sad, but such was the life of a snake, constant misjudgment.
But there finally came a day when Midas' coldness caught up to him. A band of humans reached his savannah, and all the animals were quick to look to him for protection and advice.
"Save us, Midas! Do something!" they begged, but even Midas feared the humans and their weaponry.
"I think it would be safest to wait things out," he tried to say with confidence. "It we act too soon, we may be defeated. I need more time to plan!"
And the other animals believed him. Or at least, most of them did. But Sam saw right through him. He knew the cowardly lion had no plan. He knew Midas was terrified of the humans, and would never even approach one, let alone fight it. Midas could dupe the crowd, but he could not dupe Sam.
"You'd better think of something fast, Midassssss," Sam hissed as the lion not-so-subtly fled to his private den.
In the end, though, Midas failed to come up with a plan. Instead, he made something up, and sent all the animals scattered in different directions. While they entered these supposed battle formations, Midas himself took the opportunity to sneak away unnoticed. Or at least, he thought he was unnoticed. But Sam watched him flee the area, seeking a newer and safer place to hide until the humans left.
"Coward!" the snake whispered to himself as he watched "Mighty" Midas go thundering away, tail shaking between his hindlegs. The other animals were left to wait for a signal that would never come.
Without a proper battle strategy, the humans were able to snag quite a few catches, and even those whom they did not manage to kill were left wounded and afraid. And Midas was still nowhere to be found.
"Where is he? Why did the signal for battle never arrive?" the surviving animals whimpered. Sam only shook his head sympathetically before slithering out to talk to them. He did not tell them about Midas' deceit, though. Instead, he only went to help the survivors recover from their wounds. As a snake, Sam was an expert in poisons and venoms, and even his own could be used as something of a painkiller, so long as it was used in very small, precise, careful doses.
"Allow me to help," he told a zebra, who had been shot by a human gun. The zebra was still alive, but the wound looked painful.
"Are you sure?" the zebra looked scared of allowing a snake near her wounds, but when Sam gave her a calming look, she yielded. It unsettled her to think about Sam's hypnotic eyes, but she still allowed him to work over her leg, adding a tiny bit of venom, among other things, to the wound.
In a matter of minutes, the pain had dulled into a strange buzzing sensation, but at least it no longer hurt. The zebra thanked Sam tentatively, but he brushed it off with an amicable hiss.
"I'm always happy to help," he said before slithering off to the next needy animal. He went on his merry way until every animal had been treated. But as soon as his work was done, he slithered home, not expecting or desiring any sort of thanks, compensation or praise. Only a few animals even remembered him after he slithered away. The rest, however, had already forgotten. But that was due in part because Midas was still missing!
It was when they started fretting about their handsome, heroic champion that Sam finally slithered home, laughing to himself at the animals' foolishness. He had a feeling that it would be quite a while before Midas found the courage to come home again. Unless he had a good cover story, he'd be forced to out himself as a coward. Sam doubted Midas had the bravery, integrity or honesty to do that.
Instead, the snake was willing to bet the lion would try to wait things out before returning, so that he might keep his mighty title. He'd probably come up with some brilliant lie to save his sorry pelt. The thought alone made the snake roll his eyes, but because this sort of thing really didn't bother him, he found no difficulty in trying to get to sleep that night. It was no skin off his body.
In the end, though, Sam was wrong. Midas never returned. When he had fled, he had fled so far and fast that he eventually lost his way. And it took him so long to even get on the right path home that he died before he could return. Halfway home, the lion collapsed from exhaustion, no one to help him back up. It was a slow, painful, humiliating death for a pathetic and deceitful creature.
AN: Just a snake vs lion thing. And in true Aesop fashion, it ends with a death, LOL