Tag Archives: strategy

Fishing

Fishing

 

001-Fishing-Rod---Final-Painting--800

A popular idiom, the trick of “passing off fish eyes as pearls,” in a military context refers to, respectively, false and actual manoeuvres. First, the commander offers the enemy some bait, which can be a body of weak troops, poorly guarded provision carts, or a herd of oxen or horses that seem to be unprotected.  At the prospect of sure gain the enemy will advance to swallow the bait.  In this way the able commander has gained initiative by maneuvering the enemy of his own accord and so the victory is assured even before the battle is fought.

Give profit to the enemy to lure it. In warfare, the so-called baiting does not refer to poisoning the enemy’s food.  Instead, any force used to tempt the enemy with the prospect of gain is called a bait army.

 If, during an engagement, the enemy troops scatter oxen and horses, abandon property or jettison supplies, we must not seize them, for that would lead inevitably to our defeat.  The principal goes, “do not swallow the bait army.”

When the enemy comes from far to mount a challenge it aims to entice you to advance. Abandon goods to throw the enemy into disorder, abandon troops to entice it, and abandon fortresses and land to encourage its arrogance.  When it is expedient to apply abandonment, success can hardly be won with too much attachment.

One who is good at manoeuvring the enemy makes the move so that the enemy must make a corresponding move, offers bait so that the enemy must swallow it, or lures the enemy with the prospect of gain and waits for it with one’s main force.

Cao Cao’ s note: entice the enemy with profit , lead it away from its fortress, assume a vantage point, and attack when the enemy is weak and lacking in support.

(Strategy Seventeen in Art of War)

01-Zhuge-Liang-Final-Painting-800

This excerpt from the Three Kingdoms will demonstrate this principle:

Zhuge Liang vs Sima Yi

 

1-Zhuge Liang observes enemy camp.

Zhuge Liang:  The camps remain the same, and the soldiers are unchanged. But with one glance, I can tell there is a new Grand Commander.

2- Wei Yan asks

Wei Yan: We already have Chenchang in our hands. With the supply lines open, what can Sima Yi do?

Zhuge Liang: You mustn’t think like that. Sima Yi knows the art of war well and is a master of strategy. He is my arch-nemesis.

Wei Yan: Your Excellency, pardon me for my poor understanding, but I really can’t tell how Sima Yi is a master of strategy. In the last northern campaign, your “empty city ruse” scared the wits out of him!

Zhuge Liang: Let me tell you about Sima Yi’s mastery of strategy. Sima Yi does not excel in attacking, but in defending. He is the best defense strategist in the realm.  As for us, we detest their deep ditches, tall ramparts and their other defensive tactics, because time is not on our side, but on their side. Sima Yi hopes that we will attack each and every city by force. At this rate, we won’t arrive at Louyang for another 50 years. Now you should understand that defense is Sima Yi’s strategy. Though it may seem like a foolish move, it’s actually quite wise.

Wei Yan: I understand now. Your Excellency, what is your plan?

Zhuge Liang: If we can’t get rid of Sima Yi, we will never take the Central Plains. We need to lure Sima Yi out and engage him in a decisive battle.  Jiang Wei, how is the enemy’s defense in the cities of of Longxi?

3- Zhuge Liang questions Jiang Wei

Jiang Wei: I have investigated that among the 15 cities of Longxi,  Wudu and Yingping’s defenses are the weakest.

Zhuge Liang: Wei Yan, can you take down Wudu and Yingping?

Wei Yan: Your Excellency, there is no difficulty in capturing two small cities.

Zhuge Liang: Good. However it’s not as simple as just attacking the cities. You know what to do right?

Wei Yan: I do. First besiege without attacking, and then attack without occupying the city. Wait until Wei’s reinforcement’s come.

……………………………

4- Sima-Yi

Sima Yi:  Have you investigated the camp thoroughly? Does Shu really only have 3,000 men?

Reporting Scout: I’ve seen them very clearly.  Shu troops are very few indeed. They might not even amount to 3, 000.

Sima Yi:  Have you investigated the area surrounding the city?

Reporting scout: The Mountains surrounding the city have been investigated, and there are no hidden enemy troops.

Sima Yi: You may leave.

Sima Yi (addressing Generals next):  Since I’ve just assumed command, I am eager to report victory to the Court. Generals, who among you is willing to bring me honor by destroying the Shu army at Wudu?

5-Sun-Li_Final-Painting

General Sun Li: I will go.

Sima Yi: Good Sun Li, you are truly courageous general. I will give you 3,000 men. Here are the conditions- If you seize Wudu, you will be granted riches and noble rank. If you do not, don’t return.

General Sun Li: Yes sir!

6-Sima-Yi gives orders to Guo Huai

Sima Yi: All of you may leave, except Guo Huai.  

Guo Huai; do this task for me, but do not let the other generals know.  Prepare 3, 000 coffins. Sun Li will not be returning. I don’t want their corpses exposed in the wild. Wudu is at the flank of our camp. How would Shu dare to attack the city with only 3, 000 troops? Zhuge Liang is trying to lure me out for an ambush.

7-Zhang-He-Final_Painting-800

Zhang He: If you already knew that Sun Li wouldn’t succeed, why did you let him go?

Sima Yi: I have no choice. If I don’t send reinforcements and Wudu falls, the troops in the other cities will think I won’t save them when they are besieged. They will falter before the battle even begins, and thus all the neighboring cities will fall. If that comes to be, how will the main camp survive? Sun Li is loyal and brave. Just as mentioned sending reinforcements to Wudu, he eagerly volunteered.

8- Sima Yi's pain

Sima Yi:   Though I could not have explained things openly, the thought that such a courageous general should not return, I…my heart is racked with pain!

9 -Guo-Huai--Final-_Painting-800

Guo Huai:  Grand Commander, please give me another 3,000 men. I’ll go and support Sun Li’s troops.  I’m sure I can save him.

Sima Yi:  Guo Huai , do you really dare to brave this danger?

Guo Huai:  At worst, it’ll just be another 3, 000 coffins. As a general, I don’t fear death.

10 - Sima Yi's gratitude to Guo

Sima Yi:  Allow me to thank you. Go with peace of mind. I won’t let you die.

Guo Huai: Thank you, Grand Commander.

11-Guo-Huai_Final-Painting

………………………………….

12

Scout meeting the first contingent: General, Wudu is just 10 miles ahead. Shu troops are attacking the city.

Sun Li:   Scout again. Then addressing the army, Brothers! The time has come for us to demonstrate our loyalty and our might! Follow me!

The way is blocked.

13

Wei Yan:  Listen up, I’m Wei Yan. The Prime Minister has instructed me to wait here for you. You petty scoundrels are not my match. Dismount and surrender now.

14

Sun Li:   Wei Yan, I Sun Li specialize in beheading generals! Your life is mine!

Wei Yan:  Shoot them.

(The second reinforcements arrive just in time.)

 

Guo Huai:  General Sun Li! Grand Commander has sent me to save you! Hurry, follow me!

15-Wei-Yan blocks the way

Wei Yan:  The enemy has sent reinforcements! Do not let the enemy generals flee! Charge!

Guo Huai:  General Sun, I’ll bring up the rear!

16- Charge

Sun Li:  General Guo, you came just in time! Fight your way out with me! Charge !

……………………….

17-Zhuge Liang

(Sometime later, Wei Yan reporting back to Zhuge Liang)

 

Wei Yan: Your Excellency, the Wei troops have been routed.

Zhuge Liang:  How many enemy troops did you kill?

Wei Yan:  The Wei general, Sun Li , led 3,000 to rescue Wudu. I killed more than 2,000 of them. I was about to kill Sun Li, but unexpectedly, Vice Commander Guo Huai broke through and rescued him. I didn’t expect there to be another regiment behind the reinforcements.

Zhuge Liang:   Sima Yi guessed my intentions.

Wei Yan:  Your Excellency, why do you say that?

Zhuge Liang:  I had you besiege Wudu and Yinping in order to attack the reinforcements.  A rookie general would have seen right through such a simple ruse.   How would Sima Yi be unable to guess my intentions? If he had chosen to abandon the cities, the Wei troops in the neighbouring cities would lose all hope when we attack them. They might even surrender the cities to us.

Jiang Wei:  However, Sima Yi didn’t abandon them. He sent men to their rescue.

Zhuge Liang:  He sent that boor, Sun Li , to rescue Wudu, and then sent the Vice Commander to rescue Sun Li. The first rescue was clearly a ruse, a show for the Wei troops defending the cities. The second one was the real rescue. But Sima Yi would never lead the reinforcements personally.  We need to lure Sima Yi out and engage him in a decisive battle.

Jiang Wei: That cunning fox, Sima Yi …

Zhuge Liang:   We can’t lure him out without attractive bait.

Wei Yan:   Your Excellency, who should we send as bait?

18-

Zhuge Liang:   Me.   Sima Yi dreams of taking my head.

Wei Yan, return to camp and prepare the troops for battle. Jiang Wei, tomorrow morning send 5,000 men with me to go reassure people of Wudu.

Jiang Wei:  Your Excellency, it’s too dangerous.

Wei Yan:  Your Excellency, if Sima Yi sends all his troops against us, I will not be able to rescue you in time.

Zhuge Liang:  I Understand. Life and death are matters of fate. Return to camp and get ready.

………………………………

19-Spy reporting

(Back at Sima Yi’s command centre)

 

Spy: Grand Commander, Zhuge Liang is leading his troops towards Wudu.

Sima Yi:  Drag this man away and execute him.

Spy:  Grand commander, why do you want to kill me?

Sima Yi:  Because you have reported false information. I truly despise liars.

Spy:  Grand Commander, I am not lying! I saw Zhuge Liang with my own eyes!

Sima YI:  How tall is Zhuge Liang? What was he wearing? Was he riding a horse or in a cart? Who were his guards? How many troops were with him? No hesitating. Reply at once.

20- The spy gives account

Spy:   Zhuge Liang had a feathered fan and silk cap. He sat in a four-wheeled cart, so I could not tell his height.   He was guarded by Jiang Wei, who is just over six spans tall.   They had around 5, 000 men with them. I followed them for more than 20 miles and saw Zhuge Liang enter the city.

Sima Yi:   Indeed, you’re not a liar. On the contrary, you are bold and meticulous. I promote you to colonel and reward you with 3, 000 cash.

Spy: Thank you, Grand Commander! Thank you, sir!

21--1200_Final-Painting

Guo Huai:  Grand Commander, can this be true? Zhuge Liang left his main camp for Wudu?

Sima Yi:  I’ve studied Zhuge Liang for several years. This man has a habit. He has personally inspected every city, parapet and post that has capitulated to Shu, in order to comfort the officials and the people. I also have heard that Zhuge Liang prefers to handle these matters personally.

Zhang He:  Grand Commander, this is an excellent opportunity to kill Zhuge Liang. Wudu is a small city that’s easy to attack but difficult to defend.   I’ll lead 20,000 elite troops there at once. By dawn, I should arrive at Wudu. Before the end of the day, I will have either killed or captured Zhuge Liang.

Sima Yi:  Though Wudu is a small city, it is surrounded by mountains, even if tens of thousands of soldiers were to hide there, they would be undetectable. Don’t forget, Wei Yan set an ambush there in the past.

Zhang He: Grand Commander, you are absolutely correct. Last time, Zhuge Liang used Wudu as bait. This time, he himself is the bait.

Sima Yi:   Zhuge Liang is so bold.  How impressive. How impressive… If I don’t take his bait, then Zhuge Liang will be like the man who picks up a rock to crush his own foot- Overly brilliant men are often victims of their own cleverness.

Zhang He:   Instead of going after Zhuge Liang, we will attack them from behind- Attack the Shu camps directly!

Sima Yi:   General, your experience in the battlefield shows. You see what truly matters right away. Their supplies and provisions are in the main camp. That is their lifeline. If we use this opportunity to attack and burn the main camp, Zhuge Liang’s army will crumble before us.

22-Zhang He

Zhang He:  Grand Commander, it’s my turn to lead this attack. I volunteer to lead 20,000 elite troops to attack the Shu camp.

Sima Yi:  General, you have served Wei for three generations. Your fame is well-known already. Let someone younger lead this battle.

Zhang He:  I haven’t gone to battle for a long time. My sword is rattling with battlelust in its case, and my entire body is itching for a fight. I must be part of this battle!

Sima Yi:  Please supervise this battle then. You don’t need to kill the enemies personally.

Zhang He:   Attack the camp!

23- Attack on the enemy camp

We’ve been tricked! Retreat quickly!

Zhang Bao:  Charge ! Exterminate the enemy! Do not let their commanding general escape!

Zhang He:  Brothers, we’ll fight our way out!

Zhang Bao:  I’m General Zhang Bao! You are surrounded! Dismount and surrender!

24- Fighing way out

Zhang He:  Coward! Don’t you know that I am Zhang He?

Not even your father, Zhang Fei, was a match for me!

Guo Huai:  General, there are too many enemies! We can’t breatk through!

Zhang He:  Charge that way! Hurry!

………………

25-_Zhuge Liang observes fierce fighting

(Zhuge Liang observing  the situation from far, asks)

 

Zhuge Liang:  Who is fighting against Zhang Bao?

Jiang Wei:  Zhang He.

Zhuge Liang:  That explains it. Even 20 years ago, he was already one of Cao Cao’s top commanders. His bravery today is no less that it was then.

26--Jiang Wei observes the enemy

Jiang Wei:  If that man is not killed, he’ll be a thorn in our flesh. Let me capture him.

27-Zhuge Liang

Zhuge Liang:  The road towards Jiange is just ahead, and is flanked by steep cliffs.

28

 Zhuge Liang:  Take 2,000 archers and set up an ambush.  I’ll have Wei Yan leave an opening and lure Zhang He towards Jiange. Remember, do not let him get out alive

……………………

29_Gloomy place

Zhang He:  What place is this? It’s so gloomy.

30--1200_Final Painting_edited-1

Jiang Wei:  Zhang He! Considering your old age, I will ask you this: Will you surrender or not?

31Defient Zhang He

Zhang He growls in defiance.

 

Jiang Wei:  Shoot them.

32-Ambush---Final-Painting

……………………..

33- Sima-Fishing---Final-_Painting--800

Sima Yi:   I’ve spent so many years of my life fishing that I consider myself an angling master. Yet, I’ve taken Zhuge Liang’s bait.

34 Sima Yi's hopeful interpretation

Sima Yi:  But who in the world would set a hook like this?

The bait is at Wudu, but the hook is in their camp!

35-1200_Final Painting_edited-1

Guo Huai:   There were 37 arrows found in the body of General Zhang He!

36--1200--Final, final_Painting_edited-1

Sima Yi:   Why are you crying? Though General Zhang He fell in battle, the morale of our troops has been resurrected. Did you know? Of the 20,000 elite troops by General Zhang He, not one fled from the enemy. This is our victory! With such strong resolve in our rank the Shu army will certainly be defeated!  Sima Zhao; Slaughter my horse and use its hide to wrap General Zhang He’s body! I will personally lead the whole army to send him off one last time!

37- Funeral procession for Gen Zhang He

Fini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Lips Gone, Teeth are exposed to Cold

With Lips Gone, Teeth are exposed to Cold

(From: Spring and Autumn Annals)

 Re-written by BoSt

01-Horseand-Groom-800_Final-Painting

Long ago, Duke Xian of the state of Jin wished to expand his realm and power; the Duke hence, bade Xun Xi to launch an expedition against the powerful State of Guo. The great distance however was of some concern and the campaign’s success depended on traversing the State of Yu. At the time there was a tentative alliance with Yu so Duke Xian asked Xun Xi for his counsel on this matter.

02-Sovereign-and-Xun-800_Final-Painting-Colorized

“In order to secure Duke Yu’s promise to let our army pass …. Hmm…” Xun Xi remained hesitant for a moment, before resuming, “The surest way My Lord, would be to present Duke Yu with our Chuji Jade and good number of Quchan steeds.”

(Note: Xhuji in Xhanxi Province was famous at the time for producing excellent jade stones and Quxhan in Shanxi Province was renowned for its fine breed of horses.)

03-Horse-and-tamer--800-Final_Painting

“Is there no other way?” The Duke Xian was displeased with the suggestion. “The stone is an inherited treasure and should remain so for the next generations. And the idea of losing my steeds to that loathsome, pompous Lord is quite unacceptable. “Duke Xian grumbled, “Perchance, what if Duke Yu accepted our gift but refused our request, what then?”

Xun Xi braved Lord’s fury with this quick riposte: “Well my Lord, if Lord Yu refuses the fine gifts, we can be certain of his veiled hostility and look elsewhere for the safe passage. If however, his Lordship does accept it, we’d only be allowing his Lordship temporary custody of the treasures. What is there to be worried about?”

Duke Xian nodded with approval and soon after sent Xun Xi to the State of Yu to negotiate the army’s safe passage.  

04-Stone-disk-800_Final-Painting

Xun Xi was quick to gain admittance to the Yu court.  He presented a splendid figure in his fineries holding the large precious stone before him.  Many courtiers gasped witnessing the magnificent steeds that were corralled into the courtyard, dazzling everyone. 

Duke Yu greedy for the fine gifts, was about to make the emissary of Jin Xun Xi a rash promise when one of his loyal subjects, Gong Ziyi, came forward to protest: “My Lord, I beg a private council with you, if you please.”

“What, now?” Duke Yu was annoyed.

“How preposterous an intrusion! Has propriety and good sense left Gong Ziyi” Many courtiers grumbled under their breath.

Nevertheless Guo Ziyi was a well respected, loyal minister and Lord Yu was bit intrigued. He signalled Guo to advance and gave him permission to speak his mind.

Guo Ziyi was most direct. “There shall be no promise of any kind, your Grace.” His strong, resounding voice simply ripped through the stone cold silence that had enveloped the court.

“What Yu is to Guo is like gums to the cheeks. Gums are closely related to cheeks and cheeks to gums; which is exactly the present situation of Yu in relation to Guo. As the old ancestral saying goes, ‘If the lips are gone, the teeth will be exposed to cold.’  The fact that Guo is able to exist depends on Yu while Yu’s ability to survive hinges on Guo.  This inter-dependency will be jeopardized, if we make way for Jin army, allowing Guo to perish.  Their demise will transpire in the morning to be followed by Yu in the evening.”

05-Warring-800-Final-Colorized_Painting

Guo again spoke in good strong voice: “Why should we ever let Jin pass?  Why seek a small gain, only to harm vital interests?”

Duke Yu, however refused to listen to reason and, blinded by greed, in the end still gave the Jin army convenient access to Guo.

Thus Xun Xi attacked Guo and conquered it, and on the way back attacked Yu and conquered it too.

Xun Xi then triumphantly returned to Jin. The jade and the horses were once again restored to Duke Xian who, greatly pleased, said in good humor: “The jade remains the same, but he horses have got some more teeth!”

06-Charge-800-Final-Colorized_Painting

Fin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Warrior’s Way – Strategy One

The Warrior’s Way – Strategy One

An effective offensive has twin facets: the superficial and the underlying. By concealing both one can take the adversary completely by surprise. But such secrecy can seldom be attained; in fact it’s nearly impossible to keep an opponent entirely ignorant of one’s actions. Therefore the best way is to play tricks right under his nose and make the foe misinterpret your offensives till it’s too late for any retaliation. Remember also that familiar sights do not rouse suspicion. While you drive the opponent into fighting with shadows, seize the opportunity to mount a surprise attack to annihilate him.

A good defender, while concealed, assumes no posture and reveals no shape.  Being undetectable he gains the advantage of unlimited maneuvering and transformation.

A good assailant, when on the move, is so swift that the very moment a chance for attack is perceived, the intended enemy has no hope for defense.

Forming a Government

Forming a Government

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a very famous election pundit who was reported to have almost psychic abilities and could  accurately predict the future. So renowned was his ability that reporters from the farthest reaches of the country came to seek him out for his counsel.

It so happened that a minority government in this fairly opulent country had caused several elections in a very short span of time.  Now on the heels of yet another non- confidence vote, an election was being held.  The incumbent was fearful of minority government and fearful still of a coalition that would force another election. Among the countless politicians vying for the coveted position the three frontrunners found themselves to be campaigning in the pundit’s riding and decided to seek out his wisdom.  They scheduled separate appointments and at the appropriate time secretly called upon him to enquire which among them would be the successful candidate.  They were surprised to see each other there at the same time.  After exchanging wide- eyed glances the trio was met by an assistant and swiftly ushered into a musty, dimly lit room where a heavily carpeted floors, ancient tapestries and antique furniture along with wall-to-wall bookcases immediately intimidated any visitor.

The aged wise man seated by the cosy fire signalled for the trio to come forward and be seated before him.

The boldest one bowing his head slightly put the question forward in a respectful tone.

After a momentary pause he closed his eyes and silently pointed an index finger at the trio. The frontrunners were baffled by this gesture and exchanged quizzical looks. Then one of them, professing his ignorance, politely requested an explanation.

The pundit rose up in anger, “The will of the people cannot be any plainer.” He then exited the room in a huff.

Shaking their heads and somewhat miffed, the trio quietly left the premises.

That evening the assistant, no longer able to hold his query, asked, “Sir, which of the three will be the successful candidate?”

The pundit answered quietly: “The exact number is already known.”

“Does a single finger mean that only one of them will form the government?”

“Yes”

“But what if two of them are successful?”

“Then it means one of the three will fail.”

“And can all three of them be successful?”

“A single finger implies that all will succeed at one time or other.”

“And what if all of them fail to form a government?”

“My single finger means that not even one of them will be successful.”

The assistant quickly saw the point and said, “So this is Democratic Will!”

The Newly Elected Official

Newly Elected Official

An official on taking up his new post, asked his predecessor: “For efficiency sake, how should I proceed?”

The retiring official sporting a big smile, begrudgingly replied: “In your first year in office, act honestly and with decorum. Act in a semi-upright way and somewhat cautiously during the second and third year.  Then you can muddle along in the fourth and final year.”

The elected official heaved a deep sigh and shook his head. “How can I hold out until the fourth year?”

Two Tigers Fighting

Two Tigers Fighting

Once upon a time there were two powerful nations at war.

As each were equal in might the fierce continuous engagement had lasted for over two years wasting away manpower, arms and draining the treasury with neither of them gaining an advantage.

The long drawn out war presented certain advantages to an adjoining kingdom.  The Sovereign of this neighbouring country, was considering intervention to bolster his country’s prestige and might.  He called a war counsel and asked his ministers for their opinion. The ministers were divided; some claimed this was an opportunity that should not be missed, others claimed it would only draw their country into this never ending conflict and the losses would far outweigh any advantages. Only one junior minister, Roltan, had remained quiet on the subject.   After several hours of discussion the King, left with a serious quandary, dismissed the entire counsel, save for Roltan.

“You have abstained from voicing your opinion, any reason for that? “  The King addressed Roltan when the chamber had emptied.

“Your Majesty is most discerning, “Roltan begun with certain eloquence. “ Your Highness, if I may I be so bold as to relate a short story about what had happened to me once. When I was in my teens, to test my mettle, I had once undertaken to hunt a pair of Tigers that were terrorizing a village.

To lure the tigers to a trap, I had first tied an ox to the trunk of an ancient tree in a clearing just outside of the village perimeter.

When the tigers, as expected, descended upon the captive prey, I readied myself to strike.  Fortunately, I had with me a seasoned hunter, who quickly advised me to hold still. “Wait, he said. “ If you confront them now they will both attack you in unison. The beasts are just beginning to devour the ox. When they are halfway through, finding the meat rather savoury, they will fall into strife as they contend for the choices parts.  After the fray the smaller one will be bested while the big one will suffer injury.  Then you will easily finish them both and win certain fame for killing two tigers at once. “   Roltan paused, collecting his words before he spoke.” Never before has our Kingdom been in a more advantageous position to reach its true potential. “

The king eyed this young recruit with an appraising smile. It was in fact his secret ambition to ultimately subjugate these other kingdoms all under one rule, his rule.

Call a Stag a Horse

Call a Stag a Horse

Call a Stag a Horse

(Another story from Prickly)

Once upon a time there was an old kingdom that had for many years enjoyed the wise rule of its Sovereigns. There came an unfortunate period when a young weak Prince, not particularly adept at ruling, ascended the throne.  As it is with such rulers, a particularly power-hungry uncle became Regent to the new King and sought to seize power for himself before the boy King reached the age of maturity.  There remained one snag in his plan of usurpation however, as many of the senior ministers remained loyal to the old Dynasty and would mount an effective opposition.  To ensure his success the Uncle needed to ascertain with absolute confidence who among them were not his staunch supporters.

On the King’s birthday, last among many rare handsome gifts, the Uncle offered a very beautiful, white stag and said” Your Majesty, I’m privileged to also present this rare white stallion for your Highness’s riding pleasure.”

The King laughed good humouredly and said, “Your eyes must be failing you Uncle, for I see before me only a stag.”

At this point the Regent turned to address the many ministers that were present at Court, and with a grand gesture pointedly asked, “Good ministers, pray tell, is it a horse or a stag that you eyes behold?”

Some kept their silence, others, to please the Regent acceded readily that it was a beautiful white stallion. Proud but unwise ones protested haughtily that it was a stag and further grumbled under their breath that the Regent had gone a bit too far this time with this shameless posturing.

In the days that followed those loyal, steadfast ministers who had dared to speak the truth were one by one demoted, framed, besmirched or libelled.  Subsequently, all likely opponents were either publicly executed or quietly perished in the dungeons.

The young King, last of his line, was methodically driven to madness and then suicide, paving the way for the Uncle to seize the throne.