“The Rule of Three” by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Sebastian Tobias Uris Donovan had not wanted to ascend the throne. He had been quite content in the fields, where he had spent an incalculable number of days and nights watching the brooding females and championing the young against creatures that might otherwise audition them as prey. Although he had been apprised of his legal obligation to move upward, per genealogical succession, that cat would much have preferred to remain under his favorite jacaranda tree, batting at flies. Sitting on a golden dais, surrounded by stone-faced sentries, brought him no enjoyment or pleasure.

What’s more, Sebastian Tobias’ dominion had been challenged by his cousins. Those louts, decked in the felid equivalent of pink and purple sequin-covered suits, possessed delicateness similar to that of the bright blossoms adorning Sebastian Tobias’ favorite perennial woody plant. Yet, those thugs were not as useful, by half, as were the flora and they assuredly did not smell as sweet. In addition, those goons devoured any and all carp, wildebeest haunches, and other tributes, which the minions brought their king. Not only was Sebastian Tobias uncomfortable being set out for public gawking, but he was also hungry.

Flicking his tail in true big cat fashion, the world-weary ruler sighed. For the seemingly hundredth time, that hour, he unrolled his tongue and tried to feel some of that organ’s horny papillae again his chin. Lavender Saffron barked in laughter as Sebastian Tobias made himself cross-eyed.

The young lioness’ mother had bid her to sit at Sebastian Tobias’ feet and to purr. She had been obedient for the greater part of two periods of heat. Now, she was tired of vibrating. Let some other nubile cat tonally buzz their new leader. She would rather chow on gazelle or rub noses with Stanley Timothy Ulmer Delroy.

Stanley Timothy, though, was tied up litigating against Sebastian Tobias. Through a mind-numbing series of legal tactics, Stanley Timothy was attempting to prove that whereas it was just and proper for himself and his brothers to have been appointed Counselors of the Veldt, it would be that much more appropriate for him, not Sebastian Tobias, to be appointed monarch. Not only was it the case that Stanley Timothy’s mother, Lucerne Sonchus, not Sebastian Tobias’ dame, Laburnum Syringa, had been Similien Thurlow Uxio Dacey’s original mate, but it was also the case that Stanley Timothy and his siblings had been born a full week earlier than Sebastian Tobias.

Sebastian Tobias stifled a yawn. He’d rather watch lionesses chase zebra than adjudicate among warring troops. He had no interest in management and would gladly have ceded his rank if only he could have done so without losing his pelt; on the hot savanna, abdication meant death. His kind did not abide chiefs who relinquished their social standing. Whereas others of the area’s kingdoms allowed nomadic status to be attached to fleeing individuals, Sebastian Tobias’ group meant to live in a fashion that was unmistakably “civilized.”

So, Sebastian Tobias left triflings, like court couture, the acquisition of dental floss and other of other pharmaceutical necessities, and appointments with the land’s top manicurists, to his cousins. He opted to focus on important issues, like territorial boundaries, paternity (the girls tended to engage in serial promiscuity), and the care of orphaned cubs. To boot, he worked to limit his arbitration time to the spans just before and just after his daily naps. Mama Laburnum Syringa’s “Rule of Three” had enabled him to expedite matters of governance.

His mother’s law for problem solving was simple; whoever put forward a problem helped to dispose of it. More specifically, any complainant who approached the royal terrace had to come prepared with three, prioritized solutions. Furthermore, distressed parties had to be willing to implement any of their offered alternatives. Failing to stand by submitted plans or failing to appear with feasible answers to grievances meant being mauled by the palace guards.

One breakthrough resulting from Sebastian Tobias’ stringencies was an overall improvement in communal cub care. One of the pack’s smarter females had suggested putting into play the nursery rules of the most local herd of elephants. To that end, the authoress’ studies had yielded surplus meat as well as had freed her sisters up for additional instances of mating. That increased pairing up, however, had resulted in a bigger call for cub care.

Eventually, without Sebastian Tobias having to lift a paw, or other appendage, to sort things out, his public reached equilibrium; there were just enough functional teats for all needy cubs. The king remained nervous; nevertheless, each time he appreciated the fecundity of his harem. If his cousins ever ousted him, they would murder his generations. Sebastian Tobias had already observed them surreptitiously cutting a swathe through some of his litters in order to encourage additional procreation. Sebastian Tobias despised such practices in general because he valued his many sons and daughters. He despised that practice specifically because local lore held that his mother had died defending her youngest batch of babies.

Another, similarly disturbing result of Sebastian Tobias’ implementation of Laburnum Syringa’s Rule of Three was his community’s recycling of older lionesses. Rather than suffer starvation at the periphery of their sovereign lands, those former huntresses were salvaged as guards or as errand girls. The sentinels around Sebastian Tobias’ throne, for instance, all sported gray fur. Interestingly, their age did not reduce their pluck, but reinforced it; palace guards were ferocious lionesses since losing their positions was suicidal. Not-as-feral Sebastian Tobias cringed when in their company.

Lucerne Sonchus, for example, had survived to become a royal defender. Always present at court, she huffed at her boys to encourage them to approach the throne frequently and with poor cause. If her line could not accomplish its goal through litigation, perhaps it could wear down their monarch. It was a pity that Lavender Saffron refused to take up housekeeping elsewhere.

Lavender Saffron’s preference to be served rather than to labor was poor reason, in Lucerne Sonchus’s mind, for Stanley Timothy Ulmer Delroy and his brothers not to get top billing. Besides, that younger lioness, that Queen-of-All-of-the-Visible-Plane-and-of-Much-of-the-Scorched-Earth-Beyond, was known to have the hots for Stanley Timothy. If Stanley Timothy would stop filing briefs, he could make ore brief filings.

In the least, whether they cloaked themselves in the mantel of sexual activity or not, Stanley Timothy and his brothers ought to form a coalition with Sebastian Tobias. There were more than enough giraffes to go around and too few reasons for females to get possessive over pathetic Sebastian Tobias.

Besides, Sebastian Tobias’ Rule of Three had lost its novelty. Even during times of intense heat, of water shortages, and of food scarcities, that felid’s approach to dispute resolution kept his queue of supplicants small and kept his brand of administration feared.
Grassland denizens ought to be able to challenge their lord. It was abnormal for a cats’ society to be so easily brow beaten.

One midday, Lucerne Sonchus organized the kidnapping and murder of Lavender Saffron. Unfortunately for the culpable matron, in less than a fortnight, she and her sons were apprehended and then brought before their king. Sebastian Tobias’ father’s first recognized mate, who was as clever as she was gray, came prepared with three solutions to the dilemma of their young queen’s murder.

First, Lucerne Sonchus recommended that their community, en total, denounce Sebastian Tobias and thus be freed from his system of judiciary. Alternatively, she suggested that Sebastian Tobias immediately, and retroactively, recognize her sons as part of a new coalition. As queen mother, Lucerne Sonchus would receive both status and impunity. Third, that matriarch she offered that Sebastian Tobias break with lion tradition and mate with her postmenopausal self, hence propelling her and her family to the social apex.

While Samson Thomas Uba Derwin, one of Stanley Timothys’ two brothers was preoccupied with farting and while Siegfried Thane Ulfred Dunham, Stanley Timothy’s other brother, was belching loud enough to be heard in the next realm, Sebastian Tobias passed his verdict; he opted to break with tradition.

Springing uncharacteristically quickly from his throne, he lunged for Lucerne Sonchus’ neck, grabbed and snapped it. Her progeny sniffed at her pooling blood, looked at their glaring lord, tucked tail and ran.

Not too many days later, Sebastian Tobias again napped under his beloved jacaranda tree. His guards had been dismissed, his dais had been deconstructed and his pride was returning to a more ordinary schedule of breeding.

That fully fashioned lion had realized that if he could snuff out one law he could do away with all of them. Accordingly, he remained master of his district until the night when he ate from an antelope infected with a particularly nasty variety of larva.

Sebastian Tobias excommunicated himself so as not to taint his followers. It is said that the closest band of jackals was decimated by their devouring of his carcass. It is said, as well, that Lucerne Sonchus’ sons had been killed when warring with those lowland wolves over that prize.


Profile: KJ Hannah Greenberg

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