“I am bored,” said the King.
He put down the leg of lamb on his plate and pushed it away and drank deeply from the goblet set before him.
“Is the music displeasing, Sire?” asked his manservant, rushing to his side.
“Whatever,” said the King, waving his hand indifferently. “I can’t be fucked.”
The banquet table fell silent. The guests looked expectant. The King scratched his testicles and belched.
“A courtesan sent to the King’s private chambers, perhaps,” said the servant, “for his pleasure?”
The King stroked his beard thoughtfully for a few moments, for he was a bawdy man, but then sighed and said, “Can’t be bothered.”
The nobleman seated beside him said, “Perhaps Sire wishes to be regaled with ancient fables by the storyteller?”
“Boring,” said the King.
“Or entertained by the whimsy of the court jester?”
“Or attend to matters of State?”
The King glanced at the man severely then motioned to the hesitant musicians to continue. His goblet was refilled by a buxom wench. Quiet conversation resumed among the knights and ladies at the table. He toyed absentmindedly with the gold medallion on the chain at his breast and drew his fur around him. He was not ill at ease. He was the King. He was bored.
“I’m bored,” said the King.
The court theologian came forward and bowed deeply.
“A page of scripture, perhaps?”
“Do I look troubled, Priest?” demanded the King.
“Of course not, Sire, for you are a wise and steadfast monarch.”
The King snorted dismissively at the man, and waved him away. He picked at his food. He picked his nose. He looked at the great stone walls of the magnificent chamber and studied the faces of the noble banner men gathered at the long oak table.
“Poet!” he roared. “What ode have you for me?” He waved his knife expectantly, for the bard did usually please him greatly with ribald ditties and ancient lore.
“None yet my lord,” squeaked the man, “for I am vexed.”
“Pray tell,” said the King indulgently.
“The muse doth desert me. I am perplexed.”
“Yes, yes,” said the King impatiently.
There was some muttering around the table, then silence. Now the King was frustrated. He drained the dregs of mead from the goblet and gnawed at the bone on his plate.
“Summon the court computer,” he snapped, waving a hand at the nearest page boy. The flustered man appeared, clutching reams of paper and scrolls by the dozen.
“How many steeds in the King’s stable?” asked the King.
“One for each knight,” replied the man hesitantly.
The King raised an eyebrow.
“Quite a few,” said the man.
“And how much gold in the King’s treasury?” asked the King.
“Try harder,” said the King.
The court computer ummed and arred and consulted a large scroll.
“More than enough,” he said finally.
The King grunted, then eyed the man suspiciously and waved the bone at him.
“Enough for what?” he asked.
“For whatever the King so desires,” piped up one of his knights from the end of the table. There were yea’s of approval from around the table.
“A jousting tournament,” said one. There were hearty growls of agreement.
“A holy quest,” said another, to greater acclaim.
“A barbeque,” said a small and timid knight.
The King spluttered.
“We did that last year,” he snapped, and there were snorts of derision from the lords and ladies.
“But it was fun,” said the small knight, protesting meekly.
“No one died,” pointed out someone else.
A fat knight that no one knew who’d wandered in by mistake said “Mmm, roast boar…” and there was general approval and the licking of lips.
“Roasted every damn day,” grumbled the cook, who was tending the fire. “How else do you think I cook it?”
“Yes but… outside,” said the fat knight quickly.
“Gonna rain,” said the court seer, and everybody groaned. He was always either cretinously obvious, or totally wrong. Always. This made him rather handy to have around. (…)
© andrew wheeler