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Op-Ed: King Skarl Did Nothing Wrong

by likelife96


The air is cold up there, even in the summer. Darigans pull on their coats, squeezing every bit of warmth out of them. Discontented murmurs in the audience gradually quieten, and the voice of the Usurper Kass becomes the only one booming throughout the citadel.

     "--But there are those who has brought ruin about our nation, and given the chance, would bring ruin upon it again! They would take our newfound freedom, my friends, rob it from us, just as he had done so many years ago. In the name of selfishness, in the name of greed, in the name of King Skarl!" On cue, a banner near the usurper unfurls, revealing an exaggerated caricature of the King of Meridell.

     Like so, the Usurper Kass put fuel on the flame to wage an unjust war against Skarl the King of Meridell, one that resulted in the loss of thousands of good lives. He was not the only one to deploy this rhetoric against him. Since the Discovery of Meridell, King Skarl has always been a controversial figure in Neopian politics. It would seem that everybody has a point of view regarding him. And while it may be fair to criticise him on any number of topics, it is the myth that he is a warmongering, dishonest monarch that seems to be the most popular one of all.

     Dispelling this myth is not a matter of national pride; it is this myth that is responsible, in part, for starting the second Meridell-Darigan War. It was a very prominent part of Kass's grievance campaign against Meridell, and various segments of the Darigan political coalition still cling to it today.

     This is quite an odd view of Meridell to have, considering that foreign policy is by far the issue where Skarl is the most lenient. Consider the founding of Brightvale: in many other kingdoms, such a separation of a singular power would lead to dispute and civil war, and yet nothing of the sort happened here. The two kingdoms remain friendly with each other despite the brothers' rivalry, and never has Meridell attempted to sabotage Brightvale's sovereignty.

     If it is a kingdom to be leery of, it is the Darigan Citadel, which has, in contrast, started two separate wars of aggression, but a well-crafted story endures in the minds of people more so than the facts. It is easier to blame the rise of Kass's rule on sinister, supernatural whispers than to the simple realities of political interests and complex societal ideals.

     To be clear, the Darigans' regrettable fate after the loss of the orb was not the fault of Meridell, or even of King Skarl himself. The orb's magic functioned in a way--was perhaps designed in such a way--so that it was inevitable that some version of the events that so heavily devastated their kingdom would come to pass

     King Skarl just so happened to be the unlucky impetus. As expected of any self-respecting king, he had ordered a band of restless, errant knights to fetch a magical artefact to solve a most dire issue: his people were suffering under a famine the likes of which had never been seen before.

     Unlike many kings who would simply lock the castle and ask that the common folk feed themselves with faerie biscuits (or a diet of knowledge), he sought out a solution--any solution--even if it involved consulting the infamous Seer.

     There was no cost King Skarl thought greater than the present suffering of his people, and we shall take a moment to acknowledge this cruel irony, for it is the result of the Seer's knowledge that brought down much suffering onto not only the Meridellians, but the Darigans as well.

     Because it was destroyed, nobody quite knows how exactly the orb functioned, but it is clear from the subsequent events that while it gave sustenance to those who had it, it brought much more destitution to those it was taken from. Moreover, the orb contained an obviously sinister conscience, a fact that had been lost to time by the Darigans. Perhaps it was the generations the Darigans spent living in near-utopian bliss; some Darigan historians contend its true nature was deliberately concealed from the people.

     Whatever the case, neither King Skarl nor the knights had any way of knowing that taking the orb would have such a deleterious effect on the Darigans until it was too late.

     It is clear that no malice was meant here, but one could simply make this argument: after Meridell was cured of the famine, why did King Skarl not give the orb back? The answer is simple: the Meridellians studied the orb while it was in their possession, and its effects had been discovered as a result. If the orb left Meridell, it would decimate the land. Would you, seeing what the loss of the orb had done to another, give it up, knowing your kingdom would be sent barreling down the same fate?

     Alternatively, King Skarl could have handed compensatory aid to the Darigans. There is one problem with this line of thinking, and it is that the Darigans, having had their lands destroyed, were not in a diplomatic mood. When they came to Meridell, they did not send an emissary in an attempt to explain their presence; they did not send a handful of errant knights; they launched a full-scale surprise invasion.

     Given that they thought the orb was of supreme importance, this is not surprising, but it was a rather disproportionate act of aggression, to say the least.

     Were it not for the brave heroes who fought to bring the truth of the orb's side effects to the Darigan leadership, and the subsequent courage of the Darigan troops to rebel against their leader, Lord Darigan would have succumbed to the sinister whispers of the orb's apparent consciousness. Not only would Darigan Citadel not have regained its former glory, it would have utterly destroyed many other kingdoms in the process.

     We should all obviously be thankful for the actions of the brave Neopians who decided to do the right thing. The first Meridell-Darigan war was obviously complex, but the orb's nature would have revealed itself one way or the other--if it were not Meridell who took it, someone else would have chanced to take the artefact. Its nature made conflict inevitable from the start.

     In this world, tragedy sometimes strikes seemingly without reason, and one will do many things to make up a reason for its happening, to believe it was all for something. This tendency explains why Kass rose to power to wreak havoc on our bucolic kingdom, but it is crucial that people do not lie to themselves, however much the truth would sting.

     But even after King Skarl and the Darigan generals had negotiated peace and an agreeable relationship between the two kingdoms, even after fair concessions were made, another war erupted under Kass. Neopians not from these lands love to stir the pot as to the possibility of a third war by slandering King Skarl's actions. They do not realise how dangerous this is.

     By all rights, King Skarl has been forgiving. He, along with Lord Darigan, have forged a lasting peace--one that would last a thousand years. I suspect any other king would have demanded extremely harsh reparations after two gruelling wars, but Skarl has never been even slightly harsh to the Darigans.

     Any other monarch would not be able to sleep knowing that, just above, the kingdom that had attacked them twice hovered freely. The reason for King Skarl's easygoing attitude is up for debate. It seems that he is preternaturally forgiving; after all, he still mysteriously lets Lord Brunley into his court, despite his repeated attempts to steal the throne.

     Some may attribute this to simple buffoonery, but it may very well be one of King Skarl's best traits--or even, if one particularly dislikes him--his only good trait. After all, he knows what it is like to make a difficult decision with no straightforward courses of action. Perhaps, then, we could all benefit to learn this lesson, to let go of petty grievances, if only to stop history from repeating itself again.


     LARR KNIGHTLEY is a foreign policy expert at the YE OLDE MEDIEVAL TANK FOR THOUGHT.


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