Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: FUSSY (11/17/16)
TITLE: Contrary Captives
By Holly Westefeld
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"What is it, Arioch?"
"It is some of the captives."
"Captives can be executed."
"Yes, sir, but these are some you selected to be trained for the king's service."
"Even so. There are enough of them that we can spare a few, if they are being contrary."
"Ordinarily, I would agree, sir, but these are the four relatives you deemed most promising."
"I see. Are they refusing to do their lessons?"
"Having trouble with learning the language?"
"Speak, Arioch, and tell me what is wrong!"
"They are requesting a dietary change."
"Surely you jest! They are provided the choicest morsels from the king's own table, along with his best wine. What more could they want?"
"It is not more, sir, but less. They want vegetables and water."
"Something to do with their customs, god and such."
"Would they make me look inept before the king by appearing wan and emaciated?"
"I asked them just that, sir, and they assured me that would not be the case. They requested a ten day trial, then to be compared with their countrymen who are eating the king's fare."
"Ten days will certainly do no harm. They will not be presented to the king for three years. There is time for them to recover, or to be executed if they persist in being fussy. Report back in ten days."
"What have you to report, Arioch?"
"I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. The four of them not only do not look worse than the others, but actually appear more robust and healthy."
"Amazing! I am glad to hear it, though. I believe that one young man to be especially promising. I just had such a good feeling about him the moment I laid eyes on him. Keep me up to date on their progress."
"Arioch, we have a problem."
What is it, Ashpenaz, sir?"
"The king is distraught and angry. He had a dream, and demanded that the wise men not just interpret it, but first tell him what he had dreamed. Of course they were not able to do that, but then had the audacity to tell him that no one could, and that no king in all of history had ever asked such a thing of his wise men."
"Moon and stars! What were they thinking?"
"I suppose they thought they had nothing to lose, as he had already told them that failure would mean execution. So alas, it falls to you and your guards to round up all the wise men, even the young exiles still in training, and execute the lot of them."
"It may take some time to gather them all, since you deemed them trustworthy enough to allow them to live in houses rather than cells in the palace."
"I suggest you make as short work of it as possible, lest you become a target of his wrath."
"Sir, you remember Belteshazzar..."
"Of course, but why have you brought him here?"
"When my guards and I went to his house to take him and his relatives to the prison in preparation for execution, he politely inquired the reason for the decree. When I told him, he pointed out that he and his friends had not been afforded the opportunity to try to discern the dream and its meaning. He wants to appeal to the king for some time to do so."
"It could mean our lives as well..."
"I know, sir, but he has always exemplified wisdom and tact, so I am willing to take that chance to possibly spare this needless bloodshed."
"I suppose you have a point. Come with me, Belteshazzar."
"Arioch, can you believe it? He actually did it! Now the king has made him ruler of the province and the wise men, and his friends administrators. I am thinking that letting them be picky about their food may have been one of the best decisions we ever made."
"Indeed, sir! I shudder to think what would have happened had they displeased their God."
"Hopefully the other wise men will exhibit gratitude for their lives, instead of their usual jealous competition."
"I would not count on that, Ashpenaz, sir, but I will count on their God to protect them from any schemes they may devise."
"I agree. I doubt if even fire or wild beasts could destroy them."
Author's note: This speculative fiction is based on chapters one and two of Daniel.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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