The Queen’s Gamble

Sentilong Ozukum

In a distant land, cradled between majestic mountains, lay a kingdom where wine flowed as freely as water as the rivers that nourished the land. From peasants to nobles, citizens revelled in the vineyards' bounty, toasting life's milestones and successes. At festivals, the air buzzed with merriment fuelled by endless goblets of wine passed around with abandon. As time went on, the people's excessive indulgence in wine led to widespread indolence and drunkenness. The once harmonious kingdom began to unravel as jovial celebrations turned to incessant squabbles and brutal brawls. Drunken youths brawled in the streets over petty squabbles. Chaos was rampant throughout the kingdom, with workers neglecting their duties, husbands mistreating their wives and infidelity becoming commonplace. Even within the opulent halls of the royal palace, the princes and princesses followed suit, their senses dulled by wine, forsaking their responsibilities. 

Deeply troubled by the deterioration of her once-glorious kingdom and the debauchery that gripped her own children, the Queen contemplated long into the night, seeking a solution to this insidious issue. Imposing an age limit for wine consumption could potentially alleviate the problem, but enforcement would prove nearly impossible. Who would patrol the kingdom to verify the age of those indulging in the nectar? Educational programs to inform the masses of the detrimental effects of wine would likely prove futile, as the people drank not from ignorance, but from an insatiable desire for pleasure. It seemed that it was too late to save the kingdom from its descent into chaos. Outlawing wine altogether appeared the only solution. 

Hence, the Queen beseeched the King to enforce a complete ban on wine, convinced it was the only remedy for their kingdom's descent into chaos. Though such a decree had never been enacted in any known realm, their kingdom was in dire need of one. The King, heeding his wife's counsel, summoned his advisors to the palace to discuss the Queen's proposal.

The King's advisors challenged her proposal at an emergency council. “Without wine revenues, we cannot fund the kingdom's basic needs,” the treasurer objected.

“We will find other sources of tax revenue,” the Queen responded firmly. “What use is wealth if our people have become indolent drunks?”

“Wine has been part of our culture for generations,” the elderly abbott argued. “This tradition connects us to our ancestors.”

“But at what cost?” the Queen countered, eyes blazing. “Wine has eroded the virtues our ancestors stood for - honesty, discipline, loyalty. Our children now drink themselves into daily stupors for want of purpose.”

The abbott fell silent, unable to dispute the collapse in values.

“Walk the streets yourselves rather than debate in this ivory tower!,” the Queen challenged. “Every corner is now tainted by the debauchery and inebriation that was once scarce. The once pristine streets reek with the stench of immorality and the filth of drunken men. Prostitutes swarm in every shadow, men lie with whomever they please, and wives are cast out of their homes.”

Despite reservations among his advisors, the King bowed to the Queen's wishes and decreed an outright ban on wine production and sale. Vineyards that had sustained generations rotted on the vine as stockpiles were seized. Strict border patrols aimed to make the kingdom airtight against alcohol. In the short term, the streets grew quieter. Taverns shuttered, brawls ebbed, and domestic violence declined. The royal children regained sobriety and a semblance of duty. The King congratulated the Queen on restoring order and morality.

But rebellion simmered below the calm veneer. The people sought alternative means to satiate their cravings. They ventured to neighbouring kingdoms to purchase and consume wine, exchanging their hard-earned coin for cheap, foreign libations. Border guards, tempted by bribes, enabled a thriving black market within the kingdom. The plight of the kingdom's people only worsened, their financial burdens escalating as they squandered more and more of their wealth on their vice.

Whispers of discontent echoed in the King's court as his advisors lamented the depletion of the kingdom's treasury and the prosperity they had once enjoyed.

“With no taxes, our treasury is dwindling, Your Majesty.”

“We must repeal the decree and return to our former ways.”

“Neighbouring kingdoms are reaping the benefits of our suffering.”

“Our people are growing sicker and poorer with each passing day.”

The King wavered, moved by his advisors' pleas.

But the Queen would not equivocate.

“Would the return of vineyards and wine bring prosperity to our kingdom?” she questioned. “Are there no other ways to ensure our kingdom's prosperity?”

“Why has the decree failed?” she continued. “Because the guards sworn to enforce it are easily bought. And you, my king, have done nothing to punish their corruption.”

The King shrank under her accusation.

One day, while the Queen was away visiting her subjects, the King convened with his Hand in the secluded palace chambers.

“You are a genius,” the Hand of the King proclaimed. “Despite the kingdom's bankrupt coffers, your secret wealth has grown tenfold since the decree was issued. We now peddle the cheapest, crudest wine at twice the price while the people remain drunk and dull.”

The King, pleased with his own cunning, smiled.

“Your diplomacy has allowed us to establish refineries in bordering kingdoms and smuggle enough wine to keep our people appeased for years,” he continued. “We've amassed more than enough riches to crush any uprisings against your rule for years to come.You will reign unchallenged, Your Majesty.”

“Continue to advise the Queen to protest against lifting the decree,” the King ordered, his smile growing wider.
“Splendid!” the Hand exclaimed.