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Enlarge: Gwen has strong opinions about the nature of kings

Gwen tried to summarize. "So the problem with Kings," she said, "is that they've just about always been bad ones. They amass wealth for themselves by bleeding their kingdoms dry: the only thing they usually contribute is a war or two. They gather support from people who want the very same things the Kings want, so that life at Court turns into a wrestling match. The best kings of all are the imaginary ones."

The Myrmidon didn't look pleased. "Why do you admire these imaginary Kings?" it asked.

"Because the imaginary ones are almost always great at it. They're just. They think more about their people than about themselves. They're responsible for the well-being of their entire kingdom, and they take that seriously."

She wasn't trying to play for time any more. She didn't think she was getting through to him. But she was kind of on a roll, and she just couldn't stop.

"Imaginary Kings do fantastic things. When their kingdom is threatened, they sacrifice themselves to save it. When times are good, they disguise themselves and wander around their kingdom doing good deeds, rooting out injustice, and finding out what their people really think. Imaginary Kings are wonderful. We'd all love to have an imaginary King. It's just that we still remember what the real ones were like."

The Myrmidon was pacing again. "People follow kings that are not real? Kings like the ones you describe?"

Gwen nodded. "The earliest Kings acted kind of like you do. They got the very best the land had to offer." She waved at the piles of tribute. "But when the crops failed, or a disaster struck, the people sacrificed their King to make things right again. Then they'd choose a new King, and give him the best of everything, and they'd do it all over again. But eventually the Kings decided they'd had enough of that, and they stopped dying for their people. That's when they set themselves up in the business of owning everything and giving nothing back. So, yes, we love the legends about sacred Kings and just Kings and Kings that go anonymously among their people. Even though the Kings you actually get are nothing like that. Maybe because the Kings you get are nothing like that."

Finally, she'd run out of steam. She started to wonder what she'd just don

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