Chapter 4 - A Good Deed

Good Ol' Claus

On the morning of December 6th - the day of the village festival - King Softmax mounted his horse in a good mood. Not long and the festivities would start. He could not await to proclaim his plans of how to alter the kingdom. Besides moderate, well-tempered reforms of the crowns’ social policy, the central component definitely was the new summer residence. Locating it in the most gorgeous region on Artificial Island and consulting the most renowned architects in the Great Kingdoms, the residence should lead the way into a new future. All citizens of Artificial Island should be proud that their country’s building arts will forever be in the long short-term memory of all peoples on earth.

At the border of the village, Claus took advantage of the pleasant morning temperatures to engage in his favorite occupation: date collection. The dune landscape at the beach offered the optimal climatic parameters for finding ripe, tasty fruit. Contrary to popular belief, their harvest from the palm trees was no easy task, but great care was needed to ensure a homogeneous output. Appreciating high quality dates was something he had already been taught at a very young age. Inferior features could cause a lot of unnecessary work in their subsequent processing, culminating in severe physical and mental problems.
On his way home, a knocked over signpost braught Claus’ thoughts back to the currently worrisome situation in Seaborn. He looked with great concern to the king’s’ upcoming speech at the marketplace. It was hard to comprehend how good-tempered people could become that confrontational in the blink of an eye. Lost in this troubled thought, he continued his way home.
But what was that? On the horizon, Claus saw a shadow waving anxiously. Approaching the scene, cries for help accentuated the uncertain situation. He did not manage to classify the man, but as he wore the crown symbol on his coat it was clear that this was the king in front of him. King Softmax was standing at the wayside, right next to a steep slope leading to the river. Pointing downwards to the stream, pure dismay was written in his face.
On their way to the village, the king and James took a short break at this spot to check the saddlebags of their horses. Usually, important goods were to be saved with robust square brackets. Unfortunately however, James only carried some provisional curly brackets along, leaving the two travelers in the constant apprehension of dropping some of their belongings. When the king unsaddled, it happened: He brushed a bag with his right heel and loosened the fastening. Quick as thought, James tried to control the situation, but he could not prevent the disaster from unfolding: The sculpture of a crane - the royal heraldic animal - fell out the bag and rolled down the slope. James could do nothing more than to observe the drama. Understanding the gravity of the situation, King Softmax became completely pale and horrified. The golden sculpture was his family’s most highly valued possession, especially since it was crucial to ceremonially introduce new territories to the crown’s property. This must not happen to him on his first official mission as king…

When Claus finally reached the scene of the accident, he could sense the desperation. Before King Softmax could say something, James came climbing up the hillside, gasping for air. »My King, the situation is hopeless. The crane model got stuck in some shrubs close to the riverside. The descent is just too steep for a man to reach it…« Addressing Claus he added: »Thank you for your commitment, my sir. However, there’s nothing you can do.« James and King Softmax exchanged a long gaze, full of consternation. Especially the young king was overwhelmed by the events. Without the sculpture, the whole proclamation was meaningless.
Claus still was a little perplexed. Over the last days, he heard a lot of horrible things about the king. And now this king was all of a sudden standing right in front of him. Despite the general toxic atmosphere in Seaborn, however, Claus primarily felt compassion for the two men. He grasped their predicament to its full extent and thought about a solution strategy. Apparently, he knew exactly what had to be done. In his homeland, mastering a gradient descent was a crucial part of people’s general education. With a focused step, he moved past the puzzled king and his companion, taking one step at a time down the hillside. A gradient descent of this kind had to be approached with care. Every mistake could cause him to slip past the precious model, right into the raging river. After all, he was making good progress. The closer he got to the sculpture, the smaller became his steps. Finally, under the trembling eyes of King Softmax, Claus mastered the gradient descent and reached the targeted model.
Back on top, he handed over the crane sculpture. King Softmax could do nothing more but to stare at him with wide eyes: »Um, thank you … I really don’t know what to say…« After collecting himself for a brief moment, he began to speak with more confidence: »Dear Sir, you have saved my day! This shall not be forgotten. You know, the weeks since the death of my father, old King Sigmoid, have been hard on everybody’s heart. And I haven’t seen such a selfless act in a very long while. In the current times, I cannot think of many men who would put themselves in such danger only to help me out.« The king still struggled to pretend a confident appearance. »How can I ever thank you for what you did?«

An outraged atmosphere lay over the marketplace. The feelings of anger and incomprehension were still pervasive among the people. A significant part of the villagers wanted to directly chase the king out of Seaborn. For now, Mayor Pareta managed to keep the turmoil under control. But each slight stumble of King Softmax could be the final straw.
Interrupted by constant interjections, the king began his speech: »My dear subjects. I looked forward to this day for a long time.« The tension in the crowd was almost tangible. »I came to Seaborn since I have big plans to announce,« King Softmax continued. »With your support, major optimizations will be performed in the near future. We will substantially improve the region of Seaborn. I promise, you will hardly recognize your village when we’re done,« he added with a slight, hard to read smirk.
The villagers’ anger increased noticeably when they heard that they should actually help the king with his devious plans. More and more glances wandered to the right corner of the stage. Bud, the tailor, had positioned himself there. He was the person to give the final signal for the riot.
King Softmax proceeded: »The new summer residence is a crucial part of our plans to again point the way to a more popular policy. As you all know, the guiding principle of the royal family is to offer the prospect of a decent life to every hard-working man.« Whispers full of suspicion could be perceived. The weeks since the death of the old king have led to severe disputes in the crown. Many self-important men had tried to make use of the situation and deeply poisoned the mood in the Great Kingdoms.
»This morning, a man from your ranks opened my eyes.« Slight hints of confusion entered the gazes in the crowd. »He took a great risk to help me in a desperate situation. Without him, I would probably not be here right now. To honor his good deed, I readjusted the royal plans.« The people tensely listened his words. Over the last moments, complete silence had fallen over the marketplace. »The new summer residence should not become an isolated place for the royal family. It should become a beautiful, welcoming site, with parks open to every citizen of AI. It should become an occasion for the people to praise the wonders of the local nature. It should become open and welcoming. Just like the good soul of the local folk. Just like the good soul of Seaborn.« All villagers gazed at him with pure confusion. They couldn’t believe what they just heard. Was this really going to turn out positively?
The anger was still prevalent among the villagers. Some still held on to their torches and pitchforks. Confusion lay over the crowd. Over the course of the last days, the king had shown an incredibly low precision in identifying the people’s needs. His assessment significantly differed from the actual truth, leading to all types of errors. But that day’s developments lead the way to a more positive sentiment. Truly positive? The convincement in Mayor Pareta’s pose was the final evidence for accepting that they didn’t have to reject their hypothesis: The festivities of Seaborn were saved!

In the evening, everyone was committed to the local celebration. It was still hard to believe. All the preceding issues and conflicts were resolved. Pitchforks were not needed anymore, history really had turned to the better. The stored delicacies were pulled from their repositories. Black grapes, still attached to their delicate branches, were merged with whine from remote origins.
Little by little, the news went around that Claus was the one who rescued the village festival. Every citizen, no matter the age, requested their hero and eventually thanked him effusively for his deed. It almost seemed odd to see the modest man in the attentions’ center. »Claus, you stubborn git. What a masterful hotfix!«. Bud added a playful wink and pushed out a deep laugh. From this day on, the village festival was only subordinately dedicated to the villages’ foundation. Primarily, the people of Seaborn celebrated the kindness of Claus’ deed. It should remind following generations that civil courage and a positive mindset are superior to anger and selfishness.

A little ways down the road…
Claus loved to rest in his cozy armchair by the fireplace, enjoying freshly picked dates and writing down novel workflow ideas in his jupyter notebook. A few moments ago, Loretta turned up and brought some oat milk and cookies. Over the years, the village community had become like family for Claus. Loretta joined him by the fireplace and tasted the fruit from today’s harvest. She faced him with an intimate, acknowledging look. »You know, Claus, these are by far the best dates in the Great Kingdoms. How do you manage to assure such a high quality?«. Claus returned a confident grin. »Well,« he replied, »good dates hang high. Don’t settle for the low-hanging fruit, always try to reach for the top. You will see, it’s worth the effort.«