King Arrelus sat upon his throne, tapping his thumbs together with his attention focused entirely on the matter at hand. Something amusing without being distracting. If he wasn’t careful he risked jeopardizing the safety of the kingdom. No, it couldn’t get in the way of the safety of his people, that was paramount.
Of course, he could do something simple, as he so often did. Last time he had the guards rotate dramatically, moving entire battalions worth of soldiers throughout the nation to see who complained about being stationed in the far reaches while growing ecstatic at being placed inside the palace itself. But it didn’t yield very positive results. Even guards he knew were loyal weren’t happy about being stationed so far from their homes. Almost everybody preferred being as close to the capital as possible, it didn’t tell Arrelus anything about the loyalty of his men. And it had cost far too many resources to move so many soldiers, besides. No, he had to do something that was far more subtle. Something that would test their resolve and bravery.
But then, what was the point? He knew that there were more important matters than borderline paranoid about the men around him. There hadn’t been an assassination attempt in years, unless you counted one of his servants dropping a bowl of hot soup onto his lap during supper. That one had gotten what was coming to him. No, he was beloved by his people. A little crazy, perhaps, but beloved. Most held him in a high regard, and everyone agreed he was better than his father, Targelus. What was the point of testing the loyalty of his guards if he knew the vast majority were already devout?
“Your majesty?” a voice said.
King Arrelus snapped out of his contemplation and noticed a young man bowing at his feet some distance away. In front of the boy was several squares of cloth bearing a coat of arms: three small variations of a gold and green dragon emblazoned on a black background.
“Yes, what is it, boy?” It was hard to keep the anger from his voice, but for all he knew the boy had been waiting for several minutes without the king’s acknowledgment or even notice. Arrelus had been known for falling asleep on the throne. It wasn’t his fault the servant’s problems were so boring.
The boy looked up slightly. “Um… Master Terrin sent me. He wished to ask of your approval of the new coat of arms design you had asked for. One with a sharper yet simpler look, he said.”
“Terrin, eh? You the tailor’s apprentice?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
Suddenly, Arrelus had an idea. A new coat of arms was exactly what he needed. There would have to be enough made for every soldier, anyway. There would be no waste of resources if he…
“I hate all of these. What is the point of a new coat of arms if it looks the same as the old one!”
“Oh! I’m sorry, Your Grace, Master Terrin said–”
“I don’t care what Master Terrin said! What we need is a completely new design. The new coat of arms will be a white rabbit among flowers around a pink background. No more of this dragon nonsense, got it? And I want soldiers all across the kingdom to bear this new design on their chests! Got it?”
“Y-yes, Your Majesty!” the boy said, scooping up the cloth squares before hurrying out the throne room.
Something atrocious. Only brave, loyal soldiers would wear that ridiculous design. Their loyalty would truly be tested once and for all.
Prompt: Every once in a while, the king likes to test the loyalty of his guards