Sunday, July 26, 2015

Send in the Crowns

Queen Carisa and her family were pretty excited when the wedding took place a few years back. They all, especially the queen, figured that the king had chosen her because of her charm, talent—great singer, dancer, artist, quilter—and good sense.
Truth is King Gascon chose her because her family owned a strategic watering hole, a place his troops could refresh themselves and their horses when far from home, kicking the crap out of other soldiers from neighboring kingdoms. By rights the spring was now his. By rights Carisa was now his, too.
Gascon was hostile toward anything that wasn’t him. Carisa had only one talent he was interested in. He resented anything that distracted his queen from worshiping her husband. Any singing, dancing, painting, or quilting had to be performed for him alone. That took the fun out of it. Good sense? She did not know anything about battle strategy; ergo, she had no sense.
That nonsense got old pretty quick, but Carisa thought that surely the king would lighten up over time. He didn’t. Carisa wanted to be more, much more than dutiful and beautiful. She sang to herself, danced in her head, drew on her inner strength, and created colorful monogrammed covers for her hostilities. (She tried to keep them tucked in, but they were restless and fitful.)     
Gascon returned from a great victory. He crossed the drawbridge carrying the keys to a new kingdom. Trumpets blared, peasants cheered, and children flapped flags. Once in his chambers, King Gascon called for his pipe; he called for his bowl, and he called for—get those three fiddlers outta here!—his queen.
Queen Carisa tried, but she could not maintain a jubilant spirit. Well how could she with that deplorable man running around the kingdom saying those awful things about Gascon? This man who hid in the woods and raided the storehouse and treasury by night! This horrid individual who claimed to be the real king and who swore by Zeus that he would use the black heart of King Gascon to decorate his next winter solstice tree. This lovely man—did I say lovely? I meant to say loathsome—who dared to hide himself away in the queen’s wardrobe and, well, you really don’t want to hear about what he tried to do. The animal!
Gascon bellowed and fumed until she thought he would blow a seal. “This man must perish! Bring him to me!”
“Yeah, well, he’s pretty good at hiding and scheming. He’s not just gonna walk in here and volunteer to let you kill him.”
“If it please my lord, I’ve rendered this likeness of the scoundrel.”
Gascon snatched the portrait from her. “Durst this be him?”
“It most certainly durst.”
“Have this picture distributed to every citizen, with orders that the man be rendered asunder on sight!”
“Sure will.”
“Offer a reward of 23 gold Me-coins to the person who brings in his head!”
“You got it.”
Carisa spent the next three days drawing, for there were no copy machines back then. The portrayals were posted throughout the palace and in every ale house within a day’s ride.   
That night, Carisa made sure that the king got drunker than a waltzing pissant. It was easy. All she had to do was brag about the superior quality of the wine produced from the king’s vineyards and gush about how much she admired him for being able to drink more than any man alive and still be coherent.
After Gascon passed out, Carisa tiptoed to the side door and let in the eunuchs. They applied a depilatory to the king’s great beard; the only hair left on his head was at the crown. That hair was braided into a ponytail and left to flop behind. Is the ribbon a little much? Nah, leave it.
Next morning, King Gascon awoke with a mighty thirst. He staggered out the door, aiming for the well. The guards smote him repeatedly until he gave up the ghost.
“The usurper is slain! The reward is mine!”
“Hey, I helped!”
“Me too!”
Carisa gave each guard 23 gold coins. Then she pinched her nose behind her handkerchief hard enough to produce tears and informed all gathered that the impostor, that vile ill-mannered creature, had sneaked in during the night and evaporated the king.
“Good heavens!”
“What kind of nasty magic is that?”
It’s okay. He’s dead now. Toss his carcass over the falls; let the catfish and vultures have their way with him.
       They had no heirs, so Carisa got the castle and the kingdom and everything that went with it. She sent for her family and appointed her father dean of the world’s first liberal arts college.
Carissa taught the other rulers of the region how cooperation was superior to kicking ass, how win/win beats win/lose every time. Peace, purpose, and prosperity were the happy results for everyone.

This story is from The Lonesome Wizard Boys’ Campfire Tales. Find a whole passel of them here.

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