This is probably flavour text rather than a story. More for the Craneverse. Largely a braindump so I can remember how Rand City works, but you might like it anyway.
‘Must we go through this charade every time we pass a new law?’ the Shadow Minister enquired. ‘It’s not as if he’s really giving assent.’
The First Minister was trying to ignore the Shadow Minister. It was the job of the Shadow Minister to be the one nobody wanted to talk to. He was the spycatcher, thieftaker, and all-round wetworks man, but seemed to spend more time second-guessing every single democratic convention than actually doing any work. The job of the First Minister, however, was to listen to these complaints and give them the attention the People had decided they deserved.
‘You know full well that he is,’ the First Minister said.
‘What I know,’ the Shadow Minister replied, ‘is that every time we pass a new Act, we bring the document up to the Royal Chambers, read it to an unconscious and most likely deceased man, then grab his hand and forcibly make him write a signature.’
‘He’s the only King on record as having over two hundred different signatures! Half of them aren’t even his own name. We all know he’s dead, why do we insist on putting on a song and dance just to make the people think he’s still hanging around?’
The First Minister turned suddenly and slammed the Shadow Minister into the nearest wall. The ceremonial briefcase used for transporting the original document of any given Act fell to the floor with a clatter. The First Minister’s eyes were bulging.
‘The King is NOT dead, Shadow Minister, and to assert as much is treason. I thought you of all people would be aware of this. He has lived for nearly five hundred years!’
The Shadow Minister squirmed. ‘But he’s been comatose for over four hundred of those years.’
‘Because he isn’t needed! He only awakens when democracy fails, that’s what the Hansard says. Sometimes the world needs a tyrant, and we’ve got one in reserve. Legally he is still the head of state, whether awake or not, and a law he doesn’t approve cannot be a law!’
The First Minister’s eyes were bloodshot now. He was very close to the Shadow Minister’s face.
‘Kings are the anchors of humanity,’ he continued. ‘What is it that makes people obey laws, huh? It’s fear. Fear of a good and tyrannical king. It’s not the Watch that’s keeping people in check, they number barely a thousand in a city with over fifty times that number. If the populace get it into their mind to do something, nothing can stop them.’
‘But what can the king do about that?’ the Shadow Minister spluttered.
‘He doesn’t need to do anything! It’s the fear of what he might do that keeps them in check, reigns them in a little. Sure, it doesn’t stop them completely, but it keeps them a little civilised! How would you maintain that civility? The belief in human kindness?’
The First Minister exhaled slowly and gently removed the Shadow Minister from the wall. He ran a hand through his own hair and straightened his tie. The Shadow Minister did the same, albeit in a much more nervous fashion, then stooped to pick up the briefcase.
‘You may think this is but a mindless convention, a throwback to the old day,’ the First Minister said softly. ‘The thing is, we are nothing without convention. We only manage to exist in a society because someone, long ago, managed to instil upon the world the great lie that we are social animals. We’re not, of course, but everyone thinks they are. This little convention is part of that.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Then answer me this,’ the First Minister said as he recommenced his journey to the Royal Chambers. ‘Are you afraid of what would happen if the King woke up?’
And there, hiding in the pit of his soul, sat that very fear.