The king was displeased. His queen’s post had gotten more likes than him again. Seven hundred and ten likes to be exact. The post was a picture of her visiting the local blacksmith, whose muscles protruded as he flexed his arms next to the queen. His majesty was almost certain that she was doing this to spite him, so in response he did not like her post. Or the one from yesterday where she posed with some sheep in the fields, or another post from last week where she was shopping for a new dress.
The introduction of what is called ‘Scroll Media’ had changed things. So many things. In all his years of being king he had never seen anything like it. He almost had the subject, a young man by the name of Yeoman Betrand, who introduced it hanged, as he had been reading his scroll all throughout a meeting. He could still remember that day, when all eyes were on this particular subject, a mere two years ago.
“How it works is simple.” Bertrand explained, pulling out a scroll. “Is magic really.”
He demonstrated this by merely touching the parchment, words enlarged and could be visible by everyone present. The words on the scroll could move up and down upon the mere touch of the user. But that was not all, in addition to words there were pictures. Hand drawn but clear as day, and filled with colour as though a painter of great skill had drawn them.
“Any picture stuck onto the parchment will become a masterpiece.” He explained. “It’s also a part of the magic.”
The church officials present gasped, some crossed their heads as the text began to move on the parchment. Those same officials now used Scroll media more than they prayed.
The jesters made funny movements, thinking that the enlarged words were a form of entertainment and that they had to play along. Those same jesters now don’t work for the court.
The knights attending to the king and his children had their shields up, expecting the scroll to explode or the words to become a fiery ball of fire. Those same knights now had their own scrolls and one of them had to be exiled the other day for posting too many military secrets on his feed.
“And how do these pictures come about?” The king asked.
“Well, it’s simple really. Just have the contents of the scroll facing you, press this little button and….”
Everyone in the court gasped. The king tightened his grip on his throne, expecting some king of attack. No one had noticed that there was a small copper button by the side of the scroll, one that could be pushed.
“….then you write a status and post it. Simple.”
Bertrand took out a quill and wrote ‘at the royal court’ before swiping the post into the feed. He raised the scroll, an accurately hand drawn picture of him and his background was now on the feed. Joined with the other blocks of swirling text.
“Interesting.” The king admitted. “But what actually powers this? Surely it has to run out of power at some point.”
“Well, this scroll was a gift from one of my friends from a foreign land. I have been using it for a good month now and it does not seem to run out of power. Or words and pictures for that matter.”
“Dear.” The queen nudged his arm. “Why don’t we give this a try? I’ve heard about this from my friends from my homeland. It is better than sending messages by pigeons.”
The queen herself was from a foreign land, so it was only natural that correspondence between her and her family was by the occasional pigeon with a message tied to their feet. But the pigeons haven’t been arriving for months now.
“My liege.” One of the King’s closest advisors said. “This is clearly the precursor to an attack. I recommend we throw this man into the dungeons and study the scroll before disposing of both.”
“No my majesty!” the subject cried out, the scroll is open and the words flowing. “Imagine what these can do for the kingdom. It would allow for everyone to be connected. Connected I say!”
The king scratched the side of his head and thought long and hard. The queen and his daughters watched him intently. Finally he shook his head and relented.
“Alright. Let’s try this out. We will let a couple of subjects be able to use this…..erm…..scroll media. These subjects will be closely watched and in a month we will decide whether or not we will keep or dispose of it.”
And so, with the help of the local merchant’s guild, the subject distributed the magic scrolls to a couple of subjects. For days the knights watched them, and every night without fail they would report to the king on the subjects.
“No sign of anything dangerous really.” One of the older knights reported.
“They can now correspond with their families from other lands. It’s really quite something.”
“Really now?” the King asked. “What about the scrolls? Did you find any sort of secrets on their….erm….”
“Yes, that’s the term.”
“No your majesty. I think it is safe to say that, so long as the user is careful with what they post, it should not be a problem.”
“Other kingdoms and lands are using it too apparently.” A young knight said.
Before the month ended, the queen and princesses all got their hands on some scrolls, and it became a daily ritual for them to check the feeds. Even during the daily court meetings.
“This is going out of hand!” The king complained to his queen one night, who was admiring a new post on ‘Top ten dresses in the land’.
“My dear, this is a useful piece of paper to keep. Why don’t you give it a try? I am certain that you’ll come to understand.”
“You’ve been bewitched my dear! Can you not wait until the end of the month!?”
She shook her head and took out another scroll.
“Here, why don’t you give it a try. Instead of whining like a left out child.”
He forgot how the rest of that night went, or the rest of the week for that matter, for he was now hooked on scroll media. It took some time for him to get the hang of it. There was the matter of liking and posting, though he much rather there have been a dislike option. One could only like or react to posts (as of the latest update), but without any form of dislike it would seem a little one sided. He thought that perhaps the creator of scroll media dared not have such an option exist, for if it did it was sure to be the cause of many wars. But for a kingdom to go to war because another disliked their post would be a foolish thing indeed.
Days turned to months and every subject in the kingdom had a scroll with access to scroll media. The merchant’s guild made a killing as more and more scrolls were shipped in from wherever they came. As the months rolled by even the farmers and their children got their own scrolls, not wanting to be left out on the craze that had become a daily routine. The king, and everyone for that matter, would wake up in the morning and check their feed. Occasionally there would be random posts, farmers rearing cats instead of cows, some diplomat from another land showing off his dancing skills, or even an ex-town crier who posted a long rant about how scroll media had made his line of work obsolete. Which was a sad reality, for all kingdoms had their criers retire after scroll media came into power. Not that anyone at the town square under the midday sun minded.
But there were consequences as well.
Which brought him to today. Where scroll media was banned from court meetings because every second there would be a person looking at their scrolls and not paying attention to the matter at hand. Where farmers had to lock up their scrolls, for their sons preferred to see what their friends are up to instead of tilling the fields. Needless to say, life had to accommodate more discipline than usual. Especially within the courts of the king.
“Another farmer your majesty.” The advisor said. “Didn’t pay his taxes.”
“Lock him up with the others then.”
“Please sire! Give me more time. Ah promise Ah’ll pay em taxes.”
It was the third farmer this week, and as the guards dragged him away all the king could do was wipe his face with his hands.
“We don’t ask too much from them right?” The king asked his advisor. “A couple of gold coins is all the tax is. What’s so hard in bringing a goat or a lamb to the nearby butcher? There’s one client for a farmer right there.”
“Your majesty, I believe that farmer in particular has been on scroll media for too long. I’ve seen him like the queen’s pictures.”
“Well good riddance then!”
“If I may add, your queen has become rather popular since the introduction of scroll media. Would you like me to have more guards following her?”
“Why yes indeed. At the rate she is going she’d need the whole order of knights with her.”
I’d wager she’d put a picture of them up on her page.
After the events of court, the king retired to his chambers and had a look through his scroll. The parchment burst with colour and activity, and hordes of words dances across it, updating the feed to its latest quality. The king always had the fear that the words would pour out onto the floor, but that had never happened yet.
A traveling painter showcased his portraits of many queens, a jester posted a funny joke that had four hundred likes, a sleazy merchant was selling another kind of cure all ointment. It was all so very much the same for the king, he could only read a few before getting bored. Finally, he went to his own page, where he had posted an announcement announcing the commission of the royal family portrait. He almost dropped his scroll when he saw it.
“Fifty nine likes! So little!?”
The queen, who had just finished her walks around the castle gardens entered. Her timing was impeccable thought the king.
“What’s wrong dear?”
“See this? My post does not even have likes in the hundreds! No one even shared it for crying out loud.”
“But that does not make sense.” The queen studied her husband’s scroll. “It should have more likes, you’re the king.”
“Exactly! Gods I feel so cheated! What am I doing wrong?”
He got up and paced about the room, the queen put on the scent of Lavender which never failed to calm him down.
“I know.” He stopped. “Maybe I should have a law in place where everyone living within the kingdom must like my posts.”
“Don’t be silly dear. That would make people fear you, not respect and admire you.”
“Huh, that is true. But what am I to do?”
“How about you start accompanying me on my daily walks? If more people see you, I am sure that they would be able to relate to you as a fellow man.”
“What? Do explain.”
“All you ever do is stay in this musty old castle. When was the last time you ever came out?”
“That one time we had to attend sweet Claudia’s school play. Why I’d never forget it, she makes the worst tree in the history of stage arts. No tree should ever be allowed to talk like that.”
“Dear. You need to get out of the castle.”
And that was the end of the conversation. The next day, the king went out with his queen by his side. Court ended early in the afternoon and the king saw that everything was in order before they left the castle. The princesses were all at school, the knights were all on their various quests and even the jesters were gathered to think of new ways to entertain the court. The king had his bodyguards close by as he walked through the town. A few blocks down and he noticed a common recurrence.
Every single person was looking at their scroll.
“Goodness! Has this how my kingdom has turned out?”
He looked behind and caught one of his bodyguards peeking at his own scroll, which had been inside his pocket and cut down to a handheld size. It was a neat innovation, but it did not stop the king from noticing. The king’s face flushed red with anger and he dismissed the guard with the wave of his hand.
“Even my own bodyguards can’t do their job! Dear, this is getting out of hand.”
“Not you too!”
The queen put away her scroll as the king wiped his face. He called back the guard who was dismissed and made him take the queen’s scroll. When he gave the order the queen clenched her teeth and tightened her lips.
“No! Don’t you know what you are doing? Without the scrolls how would we be able to share our moments to the kingdom? To the land!?”
“I don’t care if it makes you the fairest of the land! When I go on a walk on the streets I don’t have it in front of my face at all times. How would I see where I’ll be going!?”
“Oh stop exaggerating! And overreacting for that matter. You’ve barely been walking around for an hour!”
The king folded his arms.
“Enough. I’ve heard enough. A king does not carry himself with a scroll in front of him. CARRIAGE!”
One of the bodyguards rushed back into the castle and had a carriage prepared. The light afternoon stroll was now a ride, as the royal carriage approached. The king checked the driver, who tipped his hat to the king while having a steady grip on the reins. Satisfied, the king went inside along with the queen.
“Don’t be paranoid dear. If the driver was on a scroll how would he be able to do his job?”
“Tell that to the bodyguard who took your scroll.”
“Which reminds me. Give it back already. Or let me at least use yours.”
“I don’t have mine on me.”
“What? How is that…..why?”
The king sighed as the carriage moved off into the town. The kingdom was far different from what he had expected. Years of being in the castle was indeed a mistake on his part. There were new buildings of cobblestone or whatever material is was these days and new streets that bled out from the various districts into god knows where. He remembered giving the approval in court to build them, all part of the kingdom’s development they said. And while it proved to be a good thing for visitors from other lands, there was another thing he noticed.
Every single person they came across had a scroll with them.
“Goodness! It’s like an infection.”
“Calm down dear. Have you forgotten why you wanted me to bring you out of that old castle in the first place?”
“I don’t think it matters really. What good is being out here when everyone who is supposed to see me is looking at their scrolls?”
“Well, maybe you should do something. Like make an announcement or something.”
“I’m a king, not a town crier.”
“We don’t use criers anymore dear. That’s what announcements are for now.”
The king watched as a merchant tried to peddle his wares on the open market. Whenever the flow people came to a halt he would take out his scroll and swipe it a few times, updating the feed of text.
“At this rate, our productivity will be at an all time low.” The king commented.
“Don’t worry dear. That’s what the motivational posts are for.”
“The what post?”
“Here. Hand me your scroll.”
“I already told you I don’t bring mine outdoors!”
The queen put her head out of the window and asked the driver for his scroll. The driver complied and handed her a worn scroll, much to the king’s shock and dismay.
“Remind me to fire him once we are home.” He muttered, as the queen updated the feed.
She maneuvered her way through the driver’s feed with deft precision. Her fingers moved like they have been swiping the surface of parchment more than the years of doing needlework. The king could not help but be impressed.
The queen stopped at a point on the feed and showed the king a post. He took the scroll in hand and began scrutinising what it said.
“Live now or die young. You only have one life, live it?”
“Everybody can be something someday? A farmer today may be a knight tomorrow?”
“What is this nonsense?”
“What?” The queen asked. “I don’t recall any motivation being so negative?”
“No, that last one was a question.”
“Ah. This is one of the many, many pages people view for inspiration my dear. You should try it.”
“I guess that explains the increase in the number of applicants for the knight academy. Most of them were from farming backgrounds. But won’t that be bad for our fields? How many farmers do we have out there?”
“Don’t ask me. I’m not one of your subjects.”
As the king made a mental note to bring the topic up in court, he spotted a little girl running about with a scroll in hand. Chasing after her were two boys, who also had scrolls in hand.
“Stop the carriage!”
As the wheels grind to a halt the children stopped and gazed at the window, where the king reared out his head. When they recognised who he was, the children gave a bow.
“Why do you need those scrolls with you?”
“We need them for classes your Highness.”
“Yes your Highness.”
One of the children showed his scroll’s feed, which showed a variety of text. Mostly about agriculture and basic arithmetic progressions. The king nodded, an impressed look and waved at the children to carry on their business.
“Bring up the topic of using scrolls in education at court.” He told the queen, as he signaled the driver to move off. “We might no longer need schools if children can learn everything off a single scroll.”
The children bowed their heads as the king’s head went back in and the carriage rolled on. When the carriage was around the block, the children opened their scrolls and continued taking pictures of each other as though no one was around.
“Kids these days are so privileged.” The king complained. “Had scroll media been a thing in my childhood I would have tons of qualifications.”
“Well, my mother told me over the scroll that the children back home have scrolls in the classroom. All they do is read the feeds and not pay attention to what the teacher is saying.”
“Hmmm, that is true.”
The ride through the city made the king uneasy. True, this was the kingdom he had built and fought for all his life. And yet, the introduction of something like a magic scroll was changing his impression of it. Where most would see an expanding kingdom that was keeping up with other lands, the king saw hints of a parasite slowly in wait. But for what he did not know.
The impression strengthened when they got to the fields outside the city walls. There were many farmers out on the field. Tilling, watering and leading the animals. But most of the time they were on their scrolls. The king could not stand the sight of the productive yet not fully productive farmers, so he had the carriage driven back into the city.
The royal carriage was passing the square for the second time, and along the side of the roads were some peasants on their scrolls.
“Aren’t those people the ones who were protesting the last time I was here?” the king asked.
“Yes they are. But it appears that they are too fascinated by their own scrolls. Probably on the page of successful protests in other kingdoms.”
Ah, at least there is some good to it. The king thought to himself.
“How do they even get access to scrolls anyway?”
“The merchant’s guild have been doing free giveaways to the poor. I dare say that everyone in all kingdoms and all lands now have access to their own scroll. Isn’t it wonderful?”
“That is very charitable of them.”
And very suspicious as well, the king thought to himself.
“Driver. Take us to the merchant’s guild.”
“Why are we going there my dear?”
“Well, I just want to thank them that’s all.”
The merchant’s guild was situated at a harbour, where ships of wood and metal stayed afloat on the choppy seas. The royal carriage had to be parked outside, and guards accompanied the king and queen as they walked on the cobblestoned grounds. Every person bowed as they walked past, some tried to take pictures of them only to get shoved to the ground by the guards. The wide spanning doors of the guild were opened when they arrived, inside was the hustle and bustle of merchants and customers.
“Ah, your majesty.” The guild leader, a plump bald man with skin tanned from the sun’s rays, walked out, “What an honour it is to have you with us.”
“The honour is all mine. I am here to inquire about the scrolls you’ve been distributing. Actually, why don’t you tell me all about scrolls. Where they come from and what powers them.”
“I am afraid I can only tell you how we get our scrolls.”
The three of them went inside the head office, where boxes and boxes of scrolls laid on the floor while some were on the only table in the room.
“So many scrolls!” the queen exclaimed. “Can I take one?”
“Yes, go ahead your Highness.”
The queen took one from the box on the table, and in moments the feed was catered to her page. Almost as though it knew it was her.
“That one worked rather quickly.” The king commented. “What, is it a newer model?”
“That we do not know. For you see, we get boxes of scrolls like these every month.”
“We do not know. We’ve contacted the other guilds, who by then have already begun distributing them. That was the instructions we received.”
The guild leader turned the boxes and writing in clear black letters were the words:
“What’s ASAP? Asap? A sap?”
“We don’t know, your majesty. But once people found out how the scrolls worked, there really was no stopping.”
“Huh. Interesting. Mind if I take a box?”
“Sure, go ahead. We have so many that we decided to give it out free.”
“And you say that every month these boxes just…..randomly appear?”
“Thank you for your assistance.”
“Your welcome your majesty. And if I may be so bold as to ask, could you like the merchant guild’s page?”
And with that, the king was done with the tour around his city.
“Get me Yeoman Bertrand.” He ordered his head knight.
An hour later and the knight returned empty handed.
“He’s gone, your majesty.”
“WHAT!? What do you mean gone?”
“He was not in his quarters. At least, not for several days.”
“Did he leave a note? A message? Anything?”
“No your majesty. But I shall ask around.”
After his head knight left, the king took out his scroll and made correspondence with the kings of the neighbouring kingdoms.
“Good evening fellow kings.” He began. “I am writing this to call for information about how scroll media was introduced to your kingdoms. I fear that we as kingdoms under the same land are in dire and complacent times. This is of course due to scroll media, and I need help in finding the subject who introduced it into my kingdom…..”
Writing the letter took longer than he had anticipated, but once it was sent out he got a few replies. Most where away messages while others were strange, like vague threats or pictures of the royal cat family. Though in the case of the last one the king suspected that one of the royal children of that land had gotten a hold of the king’s scroll.
A few days later, the king still received no support from his fellow kings. The search for Yeoman Bertrand turned cold as well.
“Ugh.” The king gave a pained sigh. “I guess if nothing can be done about it, I’ll just have to get used to it.”
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
By Agent-87 (Bertrand)
By the fifth year of the implementation of scroll media, the people of the land had gotten more complacent. More farmer’s sons joined the knight’s academy, spurred on by the rallying posts about living more than just doing farmwork. Schools were eventually shut down when a scholar from another land started a self learning page on scroll media. The queen’s posts now had their likes in the thousands, as she had figured out that the best way to get more likes is to have a cat or a dog around her.
A notable controversy that blew up everyone’s feeds that year was a war between two kingdoms. The cause of the war was because the king of one kingdom did not respond to the other’s event invitation for a ball. A silly gesture to go to war over, but if anything it did make the king careful when it came to such invites. He was not keen on going to events taking place outside his own kingdom, so his response was always a ‘Not going’.
Foreign relations improved and so did trade. More and more adults who joined the working populace turned to finance, since that was where all the big gold was being made.
And then it happened. The eighth year, where all the scrolls went blank.
There was panic on the streets, people could not function without knowing the news. What the queen had for her forty third birthday ball, or what new clothes were in fashion, whether their favourite knight won the latest jousting tournament. The influx of information was gone. All of it gone.
“There. That’s the whole report.”
“Well done, agent Bertrand.” A voice behind the monitor said. “Another successful experiment.”
Bertrand winced at the coldness of the tone.
“But, we just ruined a world. How is this even allowed by the ethics board?”
“So long as we are not messing with our world, we aren’t breaking any laws in the space time continuum. Besides, it was a fun thing to see wasn’t it? A world still in its medieval stages acquiring a thing like social media so soon.”
“True. At any rate, I am certain that they will figure it all out. And hopefully piece their lives back together.”
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Year nine since the introduction of Scroll media. One year after the collapse.
“Your majesty.” The head knight said. “The protesters are still out there.”
“Ugh. Can’t I have a moment to myself these days!?”
“But your majesty. What shall we do?”
“Drive them off. Use force if necessary…..”
“Dear.” The queen nudged. “Have we found the reason why the scrolls went blank? Oh, I do hope we get it all back. I haven’t heard from my parents in a few months.”
“They will send their letters by pigeons. As it should be.”
“What was that?” The king asked, jumping in his throne.
“One of the protesters your majesty.” A knight reported. “Just threw a shrapnel bottle at the castle door. Nothing we can’t handle.”
“Ah. I’d thought they’d forgotten how to make those. What without scroll media and all…..”
“People are just scared dear.”
“They think we are somehow responsible for the collapse. Like hell we were!”
The situation differed for various kingdoms. Some kingdoms were fortunate enough to go back to the way things were, before the introduction of scroll media. Others had it worse, their people just lazing around all day and waiting for the day the scrolls would show something again.
The scrolls they always held so dear to their being.