Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STEW (11/26/15)
- TITLE: The King Who Loved Stew
By Donna Powers
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His subjects lived in fear of displeasing him. Rumors told of his mistreatment of his own family. He had a reputation for ordering banishments or executions. Because his subjects wanted to humor his every whim, they made certain he got the thing he loved most.
This king loved stew. The stew he loved came from a recipe that had been created by the King’s late mother. Because he was King, and could do as he pleased, he ate stew for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The kitchen kept a pot of fresh stew ready at all times. As long as he had his stew, the King remained contented.
One day, a man came before the King. He walked quietly into the throne room and requested an audience. All were astonished at the man’s calm.
The man said, “I want you to end the wars. It’s not right for you to take the lives of our young men for your frivolous desires.”
The King’s cheeks darkened. “Explain yourself; sir!” the King thundered.
The man calmly continued. “These wars are waged solely for your pleasure. I have lost two sons. One, because you wanted a carrot field; the other for a herd of spotted cattle. Many of your subjects mourn while you live in luxury. It needs to stop.”
The King’s cheeks grew even more flushed. Then, the King bellowed, “Banish him from my sight! Take him to our furthest prison!
“But your majesty….” began one of the guards. One look from the King stifled his words. The guards took the man away.
The King snarled in displeasure and retired to his chambers. That evening, when the King demanded stew, a servant delivered an unthinkable message: no stew was ready.
“How can this be?” the King raged. “Bring me the cook!”
A terrified cook stumbled into the throne room. He quavered, “I could not prepare the stew, Your Majesty.”
“And why not??”
The cook swallowed, convulsively. “Because the recipe is gone.”
The poor cook was questioned and threatened with execution, and finally revealed the recipe had been in the sole possession of the man the King had recently banished. This one who had so audaciously challenged the King had been the keeper of the royal stew recipe.
The King made it clear: he would have his stew, and the man who had stolen his mother’s recipe would die. The King ordered guards to go and fetch the miscreant.
The King waited in ill-humor. Although the trembling cook offered to cook something else, the King would have nothing but his favorite stew.
When the banished man returned, the King could hardly contain his anger. “What were you thinking? I am your King! Do you not realize I have the power to take your life? How did you have the temerity to steal my precious recipe?”
The man only smiled. “Don’t you recognize me, Phineas?”
The King turned redder than an August sunset. Phineas! His birth name! How could this knave use his seldom-spoken birth name? He blasted, “You have exactly five minutes to live, sir. I suggest you use them to explain not only why you dared use that name - but also to explain why you took my recipe.”
The man answered, “Of all people in the land, I have that right. I am your younger brother, Coriolanus. There is no written recipe for that stew. I was taught to make it by our mother, and although I have the right to be a prince, you cast me into disfavor after Mother died. In order to stay in the palace where we grew up, I chose to be your cook and prepare your beloved stew. I was content to remain as I am until my sons – your nephews – were killed in your cursed wars. I am prepared to die if you so order, Phineas, but you must examine yourself. Our beloved mother’s heart would be broken by the way you are conducting yourself.”
A look of astonishment crossed the King’s face. After a long moment, while everyone held their breath in anticipation, the King spoke his judgement:
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