Hercules reared and Pero fell from the saddle. Nobody laughed. Two of his men rushed to his side and helped him back to his feet. Pero pushed his shoulders back and raised his chin, squinting at the men on parade. They were stood a metre apart, arms by their sides but at least half of them were making a symbol with their fingers.
“Cease whatever it is you’re doing immediately.” Pero said truculently. The soldiers complied and Pero walking forwards regained some of his composure.
“My men, I love you all. Let us not be enemies.” On the word enemies he stared into the eyes of the men on the front row, they shifted uncomfortably; worried about what he might do next.
“Men, my horse as you all know she is called Hercules. She represents the mighty tasks that lay before me, your commander. Sometimes doing the difficult makes you land on your behind. Hercules knows.” He gestured for the horse to be brought over; standing stroking her mane he continued:
“Don’t you my pretty? Hercules the man had to perform twelve tasks to please the gods; I, Pero, only want one task from you. To follow orders and make the world better. Yes, two tasks only. This way we can all have a golden fleece and eat apples.”
The men who mostly originated from small hamlets, villages and towns in rural areas had no idea why they wanted a golden fleece or to eat apples. A question formed on the lips of a less than bright private, he raised his hand. “Yes.” Pero peered sharply at the interlocutor invading his domain. “Can we sell the fleece?”
Pero looked intently at the soldier, was he pulling Pero’s leg or was he serious? “No. You keep the fleece; anyway the fleece isn’t important. It’s what it symbolizes.” The question irritated him, how could a man of learning like him explain to these idiots how to turn the world the right way round. All they care about is money. “It isn’t about money my friends, but happiness. And power.”
Pero carried a black leather bound notebook in a pocket; in it he recorded his wisdom. Taking it out he read:
1. The first labour of Pero – educate these peasants.
Labours 2 to 4 were concerned with his appearance. His father had become interested in Pero of late and decided he needed to look and act more like his sophisticated pater. A fitness trainer was employed, a hairdresser was harassed and a tailor was press ganged into making Pero more acceptable to his business friends, both here and abroad. Pero took to self-improvement with a zeal both pleasing and alarming to his father; he had not realised that his son was perhaps more ambitious than he had come to expect. An eye would need to be kept on his precious heir and prodigy.
Pero snapped the notebook closed and addressed the men once again.
“I see discipline and strength here, I see men of steel. But I will not have these indiscretions – you there, what is the meaning of that hand sign thing you were doing?”
The soldier looked straight ahead. “Sir, if it pleases Sir, it was the Evil Eye Sir.”
“And what, pray tell, is the, evil eye?” He exhaled the words through his teeth.
“Sir, bad luck, Sir.”
“Bad luck eh? Not for your King, not today. And it is not Sir you stupid peasant it is Your Highness. Guards, to the shed with this one.”
The soldier was dragged away, he turned and over his shoulder he shouted, “Up yours, your highness!”
Such disrespect for their beloved Leader would not do. The men were chastised by being denied their evening meal and sent to bed early. To think about what they have done. Pero raised his chin once more. Justice had been served, Pero had spoken.