Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: EMBARRASS(ED) (11/03/16)
By Holly Westefeld
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One by one, my fellow ambassadors report on their travels. Most have succeeded in procuring oaths of fealty to the king, even if but a single one. I have no such news to report. Yes, their are some who never crossed the border of the kingdom, living a passive existence, with little to no impact on anyone. Oh that even that could be my lackluster legacy.
I knew better than to hold out hope that I would remain unnoticed. The king catches my eye and motions me forward. Under his expectant countenance, I crumple to my knees and weep. His scepter prods my chin gently upward. "Impart the tale of your travels."
Trembling, I begin.
"I was determined to take your message of hope and rescue to those endangered in the farthest kingdom. It commenced well enough. Many listened to me in the first village, but lost interest once they understood the journey involved. The next group welcomed me enthusiastically, extending great hospitality, sharing food and drink. I am ashamed to admit that I overindulged, playing the jester to such an extent that when I sobered up and attempted to convey your offer of friendship, they understandably mocked me as being no different from themselves, and sent me on my way. In the next settlement, I was so determined not to embarrass you that they declared me a bore, accusing me of coming to rob them of all of their merriment. My next stop seemed more receptive. They had met other ambassadors, some of whom I knew. Before I realized what was happening, I had been drawn in to the conversation, focusing on the shortcomings of those servants instead of your honor and message. Needless to say, they wanted no part of your kingdom after that."
"The next town was most intimidating. It was immediately clear that they were suspicious of outsiders, on guard against "spies," and that a dungeon awaited anyone even hinting of association with your kingdom. I was certain the chambermaid had been rifling through my pack, though she appeared to be fussing with arranging the pillows and blankets when I returned from table without having lingered for the proffered ale. I hurried on, slipping out well before dawn."
I pause, dreading the next part, yet knowing that nothing escapes him.
"Please go on."
"The next place was a small city. I was greeted warmly, and introduced to other supposed ambassadors already sharing the good news there. They told me that the entire city was yours. I was so excited! I settled in to a luxurious chamber they offered. The food was amazing, and they assured me that a single glass of their wine would solidify our unity. I know now it made no sense, but somehow they persuaded me. Believing my judgment unimpaired, I fell in to conversation with a young woman, strolling with her under moonlight through exquisite gardens. She led me to her chamber, even more luxurious than my own. I told her it was not proper for me to enter, but her tinkling laugh and enticing words about freedom you offer..."
The disappointment in the king's eyes is unbearable. "You need not go on. You have learned a hard lesson. I urged you to travel in groups, and review my scroll regularly for a reason, because there is strength in numbers, and it is harder to be deceived."
"I am so sorry for having embarrassed you and your kingdom. Your judgment is just, and I have returned for you to execute it."
He steps from the dais, takes my sweating hands in his once-pierced ones, and draws me to my feet. "I have never, and will not ever revoke the ambassadorship I confer when one accepts citizenship in my kingdom. Do you think you are the first to have fallen prey to the wiles of the princedom?"
I look at the compassionate faces of my fellow ambassadors, shaking my head. "I suppose not."
"Go, spend time with your own, and never let my scroll sift to the bottom of your pack again."
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