Invitations had gone out early to a most unusual guest list. It was lowly servants who would be served on this special day. Obie’s final assignment was to summon each one to the feast, for all was now ready.
With steady step, Obie continued from one place to the next. Along the way, thoughts of the planned festivities filled his mind. Silver tableware and beautiful cameo glass already adorned the banquet hall. Tantalizing aromas had been luring him into the kitchen all week, so he knew the menu would include pork, fowl, and fish seasoned with the rarest spices. Everyone was sure to be amazed by the elaborate baked goods. This was sure to be a feast fit for royalty.
His path now led him into the trees and the welcome shade they provided. The soothing sounds of the bird on the wing, and the rustling of squirrels at play gave way to the frantic sounds of splashing, thrashing, and sputtering. Concerned, Obie ran toward the sounds until he came to a steep riverbank. Ten feet below, he saw Jahan struggling in the water, trying to gain his footing. Even with Obie’s assistance, it took some time before he was back on dry ground.
Jahan was relieved, and spoke his thanks as he wiped at the mud and slime that covered him. “It’s a good thing you came along. It would have been tough to get myself out of that mess.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have gotten so close to the edge in such a dangerous place.” Obie looked him over. “You are obviously not prepared to attend the banquet now.”
Jahan leaned his head to the side, trying to shake the water from his ears. “What? Bank wet? Well, I’ve figured that out on my own. How do you think I ended up down there? That’s one slippery slope.”
“That’s obviously true, but what I said is banquet. It is time for the banquet.”
Jahan stared and listened, then tipped his head and pulled at his ears. “What? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
Exasperated, Obie responded. “Your foolishness has left your head full of muck and scum. My words can’t reach you now.”
Shaking his own head, Obie went on his way. His empty stomach turned his thoughts back to the banquet. He was almost certain Lord Walfred had arranged for a troupe of acrobats to provide the entertainment. While he considered that, Obie happened upon Aeolus as they both approached the village. A noisy tumult, that increased with every step they took, warned of a crowd of malcontents ahead. Obie would have circled around, but Aeolus wouldn’t have it.
“There’s Shamus, leading that rowdy crowd. He’s a rebel, through and through, and one that won’t be quieted. I wonder why they’re all in an uproar. Can you make out any words?”
Obie, however, had only business on his mind and refused to encourage Aeolus’ interest. “I bring a message from Lord Walfred. The banquet begins.”
“What? Ban? Quit? Sure, that could be what they’re saying. Everybody’s against the ban on sowing oats. People need crops, plain and simple. Plus, I’ve heard a lot of people say the sheriff needs to quit catering to Lord Walfred. I go along with that, too.”
“No. Not ban. Not quit. Banquet!” These things you’ve heard are only gossip and rumors. But now it is time for the banquet.”
“I have better things to do. The Lord of the Manor will never know if I show up or not. There’ll be plenty of others there to coddle his ego, anyways.”
Aeolus’ brash words startled Obie. “On the contrary, your absence will be noted, and will grieve My Lord. As for coddling his ego -- this banquet is not about him. It is to be a blessing to his people. It appears you have been deceived, and already you have changed your allegiance. Even now, your head is filled with so much nonsense that your ears are incapable of accepting good news. It is no light thing to refuse the Lord’s invitation.
Aeolus’ look of defiance said as much as his words. “I believe Shamus is looking for more supporters.”
Alone, Obie hurried back toward the manor. Anticipation overcame his discouragement, for he had a place at the banquet table. It was a day to rejoice, and that is what he would do. Unlike Jahan and Aeolus, he had chosen to be a faithful servant, and today he would receive his reward.
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