The Liar in History (part II)

(part I)

By most accounts, the Liars’ talents were put to distinctly petty ends- spreading rumors about the sickliness of a rival’s livestock, which would invariably sicken accordingly- inventing tales of treasures hidden in a given place, then going to find the money hidden exactly where their stories said it would be.  However, accounts exist of certain extraordinary Lies that shaped events on a grand scale.  One such Lie was told in the 15th century, in what is now Hungary, following the assassination of Prince Lazlo of Elgenburg.  Historians agree that Lazlo’s death was arranged by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund I in an effort to seize control of the city state over which he ruled.   Shortly thereafter, a cadre of Lazlo’s followers sought assistance from the famed Liar Nicholas Hermány.

It is said that Hermány arrived at the appointed meeting place masked and cloaked from head to foot so as to conceal his identity from the almighty, as was the custom of itinerant Liars.  Impassively, he heard out the conspirators, and when he finally spoke, even his voice was masked by a rapidly shifting series of affected intonations and dialects, now coming out in shrieking falsetto, now in a guttural snarl, now in a heavy Turkish accent with a pronounced lisp.  He described his plan in the briefest possible terms, and left without formality.  Whatever payment he demanded for his service (if any), remains lost to history.

The very next day, leaflets appeared across Elgenburg, all handwritten and many illuminated in gold leaf, announcing a triumphal parade to celebrate Prince Lazlo’s survival of the recent assassination attempt and victory over the invading Austrian forces.  These announcements were met with puzzlement, as Lazlo’s funeral had just been held and Sigismund’s occupying soldiers patrolled every street.  These same soldiers were immediately put on alert for some inscrutable act of rebellion, but despite their vigilance, the next morning found the streets bedecked with flowers and banners for the impending procession.  As the day wore on, dignitaries from surrounding cities began to arrive, each bearing letters in Prince Lazlo’s own hand inviting them to bear witness to the celebration.  By midday, the Austrian soldiers were nowhere to be seen, and at the strike of noon, the palace gates swung open and out marched rank upon rank of knights wearing the royal colors of Elgenburg.  Behind them were acrobats and musicians and exotic beasts from the prince’s menagerie, and finally, Prince Lazlo himself, seated upon a throne of gold borne upon the backs of a hundred manservants, each one costumed as a buffoonish mockery of the Emperor.

Having returned to power, Prince Lazlo set about expunging all memory of his assassination, which by that point had never occurred.  The only ones aware of the Lie were Nicholas Hermány and the conspirators who had hired him.  These latter were discreetly arrested and executed, but when the royal guards arrived to apprehend Hermány, he had already fled the city, and though they searched the countryside, they failed to find any trace of the Liar.

Over the coming months, across Europe, a large number of documents went missing.  First to vanish were those mentioning Prince Lazlo- his life, deeds, birth, etc.  Next, those concerning his father, and so on backwards until even records concerning the city state of Elgenburg and its founding disappeared.  Within the year, rumors began to circulate throughout the courts of the land that the texts in question had never existed to begin with, and that Elgenburg itself was nothing more than a fairytale.  When at last explorers were dispatched to find the now-mythical city, they found in its place an empty field.

And that, of course, is all that had ever been there.

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