There once was a king who ruled over a troubled land. He was a good king, just and kind, but his people were starving, his lands plagued by bandits, and bordering his kingdom were several hostile nations who constantly threatened invasion as a way to demand tribute. His land seemed so hopeless that the king didn't know what to do.
One day, a kindly old man in a festive red cloak arrived at the king's castle. Describing himself as just a poor wanderer, he asked for shelter, saying that the people in the kingdom had robbed him for what little money he had.
The king knew that this was something the people might do in their desperation, and so he invited the man in red into his castle, giving him what little food he had to spare.
After the man in red had eaten his fill, he lit his pipe and spoke. "Dear king, I see that your land is a troubled one," he said, his kind face glowing with concern. "I will repay your kindness with a favor, for I am a magician and wizard. For you, I will fix your lands."
The king had never dealt with a magician before, and so he was not quite sure what to say. "Red Wizard," he said at last, "If you could but ensure that my people could feed themselves, I would be forever grateful."
The Red Wizard nodded his head.
For the next three days, he rode all about the king's lands, examining the way the farmers grew their crops. On the third day, he returned to the castle.
"Good king," said the Red Wizard, "Your farmers are growing their crops in all the wrong ways, drying out the good land. You must change the way they grow their food."
And so the good king sent out men to all the farms in the kingdom with instructions for how the farmers should grow their crops. The farmers, though, who had been robbed by the bandits that the king could not control, drove the king's men off their farms.
"Good king," said the Red Wizard, "You must change the way they farm or else your people will continue to starve."
And so the good king sent his men back to all the farms in the kingdom. But this time, instead of instructions, they had with them swords. They kicked all the farmers off their land, and put on the farms men hired by the king, who grew the crops like the Red Wizard told them to.
The years passed, and the farms produced more crops and better food than ever before. The people stopped starving. But now they began to cry out against the injustice of the bandits, whom had swollen in number ever since the farmers who had their lands taken from them became bandits themselves.
The king went to the Red Wizard, who lived still at the castle. "Wizard," he said, "I do not know how to deal with these bandits. They rob the people of my kingdom and make the roads dangerous to travel, and yet they always seem to be able to escape my men."
The Red Wizard considered this, then told the king, "I will find a way to get rid of these bandits for you, but you must let me take your firstborn son as my apprentice."
The king barely thought this a favor at all-he would love for the Red Wizard to teach the prince and make him wise and sharp. "It is done," he said.
For the next ten days, the Red Wizard rode all about the king's lands, inspecting the guards and watching for the bandits. On the tenth day, he returned to the castle.
"My king," said the Red Wizard, "There are a few things that must be done." And he handed the king a long list of several hundred names. "Those are the names of guards that the bandits pay to leave them alone."
And so the good king had the guards hung for treason. When this was done, the Red Wizard handed the king another list, this one with the names of several unimportant villages in the kingdom. "This list," he said, "Is a list of the towns which the bandits claim as their own."
"Are all the people in these villages bandits?" said the king.
"No, but there is no way to tell who is innocent and who is not," replied the Red Wizard.
And so the king sent his men to these towns. The men locked everyone inside their houses, nailing planks of wood against the doors and windows, and then lit the houses on fire.
And so the years passed, and the bandits were no longer a problem. The king's farms produced more food than ever, and his people were happy and well-fed. Several deposits of iron and gold were discovered in the king's lands, and eventually the kingdom became very rich and prosperous. The hostile nations that surrounded the kingdom, which were very poor despite the tribute they recieved from the king, took noticed at how rich the little kingdom had become. Eventually, they banded together, deciding to take the kingdom's gold and split it up amongst themselves.
Once again the king turned to the Red Wizard, who was now tutoring the prince, and had taught him the magic to turn himself into a black dog.
"Wizard," said the king, "My enemies have gathered together before me, and threaten my people with destruction. My people are not warriors, and I fear all the progress we have made will be undone by their wrath."
"I will help you in this," said the Wizard, "For I have found in your prince an exceptional student. But you must lead your people into battle personally."
And for a year and a day, the Red Wizard travelled the king's lands, and his speech set the people on fire with hate for their enemy. On the last day he returned to the castle with a sea of men behind him, all clamoring for weapons and to meet the enemy in battle.
And so the good king led his army in the field, though he could no longer recognize his fellow countrymen, who were feverish with hate and the desire to do harm. The soldiers of his enemies were killed to the last man, and when they had finished defending their kingdom, at the urging of his own men, the king invaded and conquered the neighboring nations. His men, under no orders but their own, torched the buildings and salted the earth.
Eventually, the bloodlust of the king's men died down, and the war ended. Unfortunately, the king himself died on the march back to his castle, thrown off his horse when it was bitten by a small red snake.
The prince, who had grown from a boy into a handsome young man during the war, was crowned immediately, and the people of the kingdom found that he would be a king to fit their new tastes, as he promised them upon his coronation that he would bring further glory to the kingdom, and be a man for their enemies to fear.
And as the new king took his place upon the throne, the Red Wizard appeared by his side.
"I have honored our agreement," said the man in red. "I have delivered to you the crown, and with it a stronger kingdom. I have taught you magic and bought ruin to your enemies. Remember well the debt you owe me, for I will come to collect in the future."
The new king nodded, distracted by the scope of the power that had been placed into his hands. And when he sat upon the throne, visions of burning fields and dead men filled his head.
The man in red left the castle that very night, and he barely managed to make it out of the kingdom before the next war was declared.