This is my story for Day 8 of the 14 day Flash Fiction Challenge I’m participating in for Mythic Scribes.
When I started writing it, this morning, I planned to make it a very short story. It was just going to be about King Norbit complaining about needing to renovate his throne room.
Then, this afternoon, I reread it and wrote another 1400 words as the characters had started to come alive for me and I could see the plot developing.
I think the biggest surprise was Doran Rustin being ousted from the quest by Sir Hugh Pendleton, and Princess Fenella revealing his past history.
Reading between the lines, I suspect that Sir Hugh has a secret agenda and a reason for wanting to prevent Sir Lanceypot’s squire from going on the quest.
I’m glad that Princess Fenella cares about her sister and wants to help her, despite their sibling rivalry.
I had fun writing this today, and I hope you enjoy reading it!
Day 8-Setting Prompt-Write a story in which the setting is slowly being destroyed.
A Departure, A Portrait and A Plan by Jacqueline Miller
The following morning dawned fine and bright, if a little chilly. There was much bustle and excitement in the Royal Court as the knights prepared for their departure.
The company had been asked to assemble in the castle courtyard around sunrise, but they were delayed because many of the knights had hangovers from drinking the red ale at the Bloody Banguet the previous night. Several had been sick or overslept. Messengers were sent to rouse them, usually by throwing buckets of cold water over their heads.
The wizard, Zol, secured the services of several servants to carry down his luggage, which included a gigantic cauldron, two changes of robes and three large books. He hobbled along the corridors, groaning loudly to anyone within earshot about the stupidity of sending an old man on a quest.
Sir Hugh Pendleton, who was to lead the expedition, strode up and down the courtyard, inspecting horses, grooms and supplies. He gave lists of items to Doran Rustin and the other squires to check. A few page boys were also accompanying the party, and their tearful mothers had assembled nearby to hug them and wave goodbye.
The Royal Princess, Charmane, was also tearful. She was attended by her lady in waiting, Iris, and her maid, Susan. These ladies were to travel in a special royal coach. The Princess groaned and moaned and pretended to faint. She had to be dragged out of the castle by force and carried, kicking and screaming, into the coach.
A fresh portrait of the princess was strapped to the roof of the carriage .
The Royal Artist, Roger Pigasso, had finished painting it during the early hours of the morning, and the paint was still wet on the canvas.
The artist did not consider it one of his best creations for he had been in a foul mood when he painted it. In trying not to flatter the princess he knew he had rather veered to the other extreme. The girl in the portrait had an impossibly long, very pointed nose, green skin, red rimmed lopsided eyes and an unattractive scowl. He had hesitated before placing his signature at the bottom.
King Norbit, however, had been delighted when he saw the picture.
“That’s more like it,” he said. “Perhaps this will do the trick, Roger. This should put the Goblin King off any ideas of marrying into my family!”
“Perhaps we should also send a portrait of yourself, your majesty” Roger remarked bad temperedly. He had dark circles below his eyes and wore an expression as black as his clothes.
King Norbit peered up at the artist who was at least a foot taller than he. His majesty was unsure whether this was a remark of flattery or insolence. He decided to give the artist the benefit of the Royal doubt.
“No, no, this should suffice. But, once we’ve renovated the throne room, I’d like to commission you to paint me a new portrait, Roger. Take note: I’d like an enormous one of me which we’ll hang on the Southern wall of the chamber. I shall be depicted sitting on the throne, dressed all in gold, of course, and holding my new golden Geranium Cup.”
Roger merely scowled and nodded. He muttered to himself about artistic integrity and creative freedom, slunk moodily back into the shadow of the castle wall, and hurried off in the direction of his studio and his bed.
Princess Fenella was also up early. Having witnessed her sister’s tantrums and been unable to persuade her father to change his mind about sending Princess Charmane to Verucka, she gave it up as a lost cause and decided she would have to work subversively to save her sibling and her lover.
Now, trying to look as natural as possible, she wafted into the Royal stables, expecting to meet the Green Knight, but there was no sign of him.
“Oh, where can he be?” she asked, crossly. “He promised to be here at daybreak.”
Fenella’s suit of armour was hidden under the straw in one of the haylofts. She checked that it was still there, together with her sword and some other essentials. She sighed and walked over to the stable yard. Knights in full armour had mounted their horses and were trotting in procession out towards the drawbridge.
A couple of the knights saw her and nodded their heads as they passed.
The princess recognised one of them as having written a sonnet to her only last week. It was called, ‘Ode to a beautiful fair haired maiden’, and was about noble courtly love as viewed from afar.
She felt compelled to shout: “Good luck and god speed,” and to smile as if she didn’t have a care in the world.
When they were out of sight, she reentered the stables and hurried over to the stalls. Her stallion, Sonar, greeted her, shaking his chestnut head and nuzzling her arm.
Fenella kissed the stallion’s nose.
“What shall we do, my darling, if he does not come?” She gave her horse some strips of carrot. “Perhaps I was foolish to trust him?”
Sonar nuzzled her again, then whinnied as someone entered the stables.
Fenella looked up, expecting to see the Green Knight. Her hopes were dashed as she recognised Doran Rustin. He was limping and there was a gash across his lip.
He seemed to be in some pain.
“What’s wrong?”Fenella asked.
Doran tried to bow. “Good morning, your Royal Highness.”
The squire sat down on a small wooden stool.
“I thought you were leaving this morning?”
“So did I, your Royal Highness, but Sir Huge – I mean, Sir Hugh Pendleton has decided he does not want me as his squire. He’s taking his own squire, Horatio Higgins, instead, and leaving me behind.”
“Oh, how terrible!” Fenella cried, sympathetically. “But your lip is bleeding and what’s wrong with your leg? And how will they find Sir Lanceypot without you to guide them?”
“I gave them directions. Sir Hugh fought in Verucka once before and knows the lie of the land. Truth to tell, I think Sir Hugh dislikes me. We…er…we had a bit of a row.”
Fenella screwed up her face.”I must admit, I find Sir Hugh a bit of a pompous brute,” she said. “He persuaded my father to knight him and to give him land when he returned from that quest. I believe he took far more land than was gifted. But my father was too stupid to notice. My sister told me all about it. Sir Hugh wanted my sister to marry his son, you know, but she would have nothing of it. I admire her for that! I’m distressed that she’s been forced to go to Verucka. I thought she was made of sterner stuff.”
“Sir Hugh labelled me a sissy because I wept for our lost comrades,” Doran confided. “He struck me and called me a coward because I said I’m war weary.”
Fenella handed him a handkerchief to wipe his lip.
She looked at the squire with interest as a plan began to form in her mind. “I know you are not a coward, Doran. I’ve seen how loyal you are to Sir Lanceypot and how you respect him.”
The squire looked at the princess with troubled eyes.
“Not only that: Sir Lanceypot respected me. He said he would make me a knight at the end of our quest. It was he that persuaded the goblins to send me here with a ransom note. He particularly told me to tell the Princess Fenella not to worry, and that he loves her.”
Fenella sighed and moved closer to the knight. She lowered her voice to a whisper.
“Doran, listen carefully, I have a proposition and a plan. You may yet be able to save your master…”
Up in the Royal Chamber, the King stood at the window and watched the company departing below. He waited until the last horseman and flag bearing the Zanderlands emblem had passed through the drawbridge and disappeared along the road.
“Good luck, my brave fellows,” he muttered to himself. “And may you succeed in bringing back the golden Geranium Cup.”
The castle seemed quiet and empty. He wandered into the throne room but that was deserted too, except for the guards standing at the door.
The room still bore all the marks of the dragon’s attacks. The Mayeaux Tapestry was burnt almost beyond recognition. Solid gold cups and bowls were dented or partly melted. They were haphazardly stacked in piles around the room.
The King had a sudden inspirational thought. He hurried over to the royal gong and hit it with the golden hammer.
Within seconds, his royal adviser, Ethelbert the Wise, had hurried into the room.
“You rang, my Leige?”
“Yes. I have been thinking.”
“Well done, your majesty.”
“Look around you, Ethelbert.”
“Yes, your highness.”
“What do you see?”
“Why, the throne room, sire.”
“Do you? Do you know what I see?” This was evidently rhetorical and so Ethelbert did not reply. “I see a setting that is slowly being destroyed!”
The King walked over to the molten mass that had formerly been the throne.
“I cannot sit on this without sliding to the floor.” He pointed at the tapestries. “Look at these: all burnt and charred.” He indicated the red velvet chairs. “The seats are black.”
He frowned and continued, “Everything needs to be repaired, renovated or replaced. Please see to it, Ethelbert.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
The King walked over to the door.
“I shall require a new cabinet to house my collection of golden cups. Make sure there is a space for the Golden Geranium Cup, which we should have obtained within the month. Perhaps this very week!”
The king smiled, hopefully, and added,
“Oh, and Ethelbert.”
“Make sure you get costings from different tradesmen. Go with the cheapest. This latest quest is a big drain on the Royal Purse. Please inform the peasants that their taxes will be rising by a penny a week forthwith.”
“Are you sure that’s wise, your majesty?”
“It may not be wise, but it is necessary!”
And so saying, the king departed.
Ethelbert sat down wearily on one of the damaged chairs. As usual, the king had left it to him to do his dirty work.
Written by: Jacqueline Miller
© Jacqueline Miller 2014: Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given, and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.