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Doomed to Repeat

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The hall of government, built as an extension out from the old palace, is beautiful, aged, and solemn. This is the gallery where foreign dignitaries are brought to admire artworks and artefacts. A vast and vivid weaving from a small island nation with important trade links hangs on the far wall. The pen with which a peace treaty was signed fifty years ago rests on velvet, next to a facsimile of the treaty.

In the largest glass case, the old crown is displayed by itself.

The politicians who stroll through here with their guests remark little on the crown, or distance themselves from it with carefully disparaging remarks. They point out that their mandate is not divine, but democratic. Such bloody days are past, for those days ended with the crown, and its bloody removal from a head.

And yet, in recent years, politicians' words have rung particularly hollow: promises broken in the making, lip service uttered without conviction, magic words chanted for luck.

Magic has no power without belief.

They have forgotten what it is they should believe.

But we have not.

The shining cars arrive in the forecourt, and their discreet, polished drivers whisk them away as the guests climb the great stairs. The Premier and her Cabinet mingle with the new elite: generals and CEOs, judges and commissioners, directors and artists.

All are as steeped in blood as the crown, and it matters just as little that that blood has been washed and polished away. At this function the elite will extol each other's cunning. Those who have sucked life from the very bone marrow of the poor will praise those who have poisoned lakes and rivers. Those who have sold their souls to the devil and trash to the desperate will compliment those who have hidden truths and woven lies, who have fostered apathy and ignorance. Those who have fed, and fed on, this government's corruption are here to receive the signs of its favour and power - power that would not exist but for the support of others like them.

Only the weakest and the bravest dare to say: this cannot go on. Only the weakest and the bravest dare to listen to each other. But they are right. The enormity of this rule has its appointed end.

It may not be tonight. It may be weeks from now, at some other concentration of excess, or when the Cabinet creates its next illegal policy, or when the Premier pardons some other criminal who is more valuable to her free than fettered.

But it is coming.

The kings of old secured their thrones with sorcery. The people rose against them only to fall, and yet they rose again, as people do.

One revolution attracted a scion to its cause - a distant relative of the ruling family with enough magic to threaten them - but when she won, she claimed the throne, the crown, and a legacy as tyrannical as her predecessors'.

The next revolution succeeded, and will succeed again.

When the people at last removed royalty from the palace, their victory was achieved with the help of a scion who was a fanatic and a necromancer, and his work was not done when the king was dead. He bound the souls of both sides' slain to the crown.

For the old kings may be dead, but greed and selfishness and arrogance do not die. Where one tyrant falls, another, in time, will rise. Will take on authority they were never meant to have; will betray those whom they promised to serve.

Tonight, in the gallery, in the function rooms, shivering through the spotlights, the signs may appear.

There is already something a little strange about the glass case that holds the kings' crown. From some angles, in some lights, it seems as though there is no glass at all. Look again and the glass will be there, but all that can be seen of the crown is a reflection.

And when the case is empty and the velvet lies bare - then let the modern kings beware.

It is unlikely that any here remember the old stories. But if they do - then those who remember, those whose consciences are guiltiest, may catch themselves looking not at their Premier's face but at the space above her head, and they will be the first to see the crown.

They will see the gathering fill with shadows, shadows armed with daggers and swords. And they will die under the onslaught of this long-dead force: revolutionaries whose souls are bound to their cause, courtiers compelled to seek out those of like corruption and deal the same punishment to them.

For there is nothing new under the sun, and nothing dead that is truly gone, and power corrupts again, and people forget their history, because it is convenient to forget. So be it.

The kings will fall again, the people will rise again, and the shadow army will grow.