A FOOL’S ERRAND
The music of pipes and drums filled the throne-room of the Quelandi monarch. Most of the guests reeled around the room, whooping in their merriment.
‘A gift for his majesty on his birthday,’ announced a comely girl from the desert, nation of Dabal B’aque.
Asleep in his throne, unconscious from the freely flowing wine, the king lounged with gaping mouth, oblivious to both the noise and the olive skinned beauty.
His queen looked down on the girl sourly, contemptuously waving her hand aside, signifying that she was to place it beside the king’s throne with the others.
Bowing her head, cowed in her presence, the girl did as she was bid, placing her phial of alabaster oil, amongst the lavish donations of jewellery and gold.
On turning her head to her husband, the queen curled her lip in disgust. All knew the source of her disdain; the Quelandi king was an insatiable man in all aspects. There was never enough gold, not enough food or drink, never enough women. All of these things he took at will, never considerate of the consequences it was to have on others. Even his country was not enough for him; tomorrow he would march on the southern nation of Nusalle. No one doubted that he would conquer the south men, but everyone knew that it wouldn’t end there; after that, he would more than likely go west to vanquish Soravia.
In painted face, the jester sat bored at the top of the stairs before her, leaning on his hand, gazing into the joyous faces as they danced. He idly flicked at a bell from his cap which dangled between his eyes, when he felt an abrupt nudge to his back.
‘Amuse me fool!’ she shouted.
‘Aye your majesty, immediately, if not sooner,’ he said hurriedly, tripping to roll down the stairs.
Laughing raucously, the revellers, peeled away to make room for him.
‘An apple, if you will,’ he called into the crowd.
A serving wench lobbed one to him, which he plucked from the air then continuously tossed it up and down in his open palm.
A second apple flew at him to be caught in his other hand. With two now in hand, he began to juggle the fruit.
‘And another,’ he commanded.
In mid juggle, he caught a third, not interrupting the spinning circle in front of him, making the crowd groan.
‘Ah but have you seen juggling apples eaten before?’ he queried, taking a bite.
Chewing vigorously, he took another bite from a different apple. Continuing to do this, he filled his mouth to overflowing, allowing bits of semi-chewed fruit to spill to the floor, amidst boisterous laughter.
‘Enough,’ shrieked the queen. ‘I will have music from you!’
‘Aye, your majesty,’ said the jester, allowing each apple to thump down on his head.
Trotting up the stairs, he extracted a small flute from his belt, his lute slung over his shoulder slapping against his back.
‘I have a tune for the king,’ he said, bringing the flute to his lips.
The queen rolled her eyes contemptuously.
A haunting melody emanated from the tiny instrument as he waved it at the king’s sleeping face in front of his elite guards, while they stared ahead impassively. Without warning, he played a shrill note. Taking a breath, he played more sour notes.
‘Get him out of my throne-room,’ ordered the queen.
Two burly guards took hold of his arms, taking him through the guests and hurling him through the doors into the street.
Only when they slammed shut, did the jester bother to rise, and divest himself of the bell covered garment, exposing another set of garments underneath.
Picking up his hat from where it fell, he wiped the paint from his face, revealing the visage of a Nusallean man.
Slinking into the shadows, he wondered how long it would be before anyone in the court discovered that their king was dead.
Smiling to himself, the Nusallean spy prepared himself for the long trek back to the southern border, his only regret that he wasn’t able to see their faces when they detected the minute poisonous dart, blown from his flute. He wondered what they would say when they discovered that a mere jester had killed their king as he slept in front of them all.
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