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The Wrong Song

Meanwhile, in a tower, in a castle on the other side of the great land known as Tamora, a woman dressed in a flowing red gown was busy bruising her hand by smashing it into the heavy wooden door.

“Let. Me. Out!’ she screamed to whoever would listen. The crow, perched behind her on the iron curtain railing, watched her with a trace of amusement in its eye.

“Geht es dir gut?’ he asked gently.

“What?” the woman said, whirling around. “What did you say, you stupid bird? Don’t start with me!”

“I said, are you, all right?’, the crow responded in the same language that he had begun in but that I will translate for you so you don't have to keep doing it. “You’re going to hurt your hand if you keep banging on the door like that. I don’t think anyone can hear you anyway.”

“Oh, for god’s sake.’ She cried. ‘Only I would get saddled with a pet bird that can speak and it only speaks a language that nobody understands. Stupid bird!"

"Actually, lots of people understand this language. It’s just some that have a hard time with it. I can only speak the one language although I understand all the rest. Strange thing, isn’t it?"

“Oh, shut up,' said the woman and threw herself with renewed vigour at the door. This woman was Everso Lovely, professional entertainer and singer of songs. And she was in this predicament because of her profession. Specifically, the song part. And even more specifically because of the words that she had sung the previous evening in front of the Prince and about two hundred of his favoured guests.

She had been asked to entertain at the Queen’s behest. And that because a friend of a friend of her lady-in-waiting had heard about Lovely’s vocal gifts and in addition, her ability to form hilarious poetry into a song based on the traits and foibles of the guest of honour. In this case, The Prince of the Land. Lovely had jumped at the opportunity. To perform for royalty. What could be better than that? Why her appointment book would be filled for the next five years. If she had one, that is. It scarcely seemed necessary to have a date book when you only had two or three bookings a year. But she would buy a date book now, she would, and then fill it with… dates.

Well, that’s what she had thought at any rate. Unfortunately for her, what she didn’t count on was the relatively fragile ego or the Prince of the Land. She had been told that he was slightly overweight, didn’t dress particularly well and had a penchant for drinking and eating to excess. Also, he wasn’t very well liked in this corner of the world. Or any corner, for that matter. So, Everso had sat down with her pen and paper and her garrulous crow gripping the back of her work chair and penned the following verse:

(To be sung in the key of C sharp or thereabouts)

Poor little fatty, his clothes are so ratty

He barely can look in the glass.

He drinks all the ale and he eats all the quail,

And it all goes straight to his ____

(Everso had left this part blank for the others to fill in for themselves. She felt it was more involving this way. More, what was the word? Organic. Second verse:)

The man is so royal that even his soil,

Tends to be held in regard,

Which isn’t so odd, given this sod,

Is feared more than the slaves in his guard!

(At this point, Everso had realized that the room had become strangely quiet and nobody was looking at her any more as she strolled between the tables strumming her lute. They were all looking at the Prince. Everso stopped herself and turned towards the throne. The Prince was standing up now and his face was, well, purple would be a generous description. More like the colour of a blood-pudding. His hands were shaking and his mother, seated by his side, had her face in her hands. It looked as if she might be crying. Or laughing. It was hard to tell. Everso started to back out of the room.

“NO!,’ bellowed the Prince. “Please go on.”

“But your highness…, “ Everso started to say. “I thought…”

“I said go on!!!”

“Um, very well… as you wish, your highness.” Everso decided to try to improvise her way out of this mess. But improvisation had never been her strong suit. Thus, the third verse:)

The Prince is a guy, who used to be shy,

But now is a man full of wit,

And laugh, well, you should, and you’d better laugh good,

If you don’t you’ll be in plenty… of…

“Take her away!’ the Prince had screamed. Guards flung themselves instantly from out of nowhere and dragged Everso Lovely out of the room backwards by her gown. She clutched wildly at the nearest table cloth and pulled the pork and dressing and bowls of hot soup onto the laps of the lords and ladies that sat there aghast, their mouths open in amazement. One of the lords leapt up in pain and knocked over a brazier which in turn set fire to the one banner hanging from the wall that celebrated the birth of his royal Princeship. The Prince screamed with rage and ran from the room as the rest of the guards tried to pull the banner down and douse it out with flagons of nearby ale.

Manhandled roughly up the stair way, Everso found herself where she now was, in a very dingy tower cell, with little in the way of amenities. Save for a cot and a chair. Somehow the crow had found his way up and through the single small window high up on the wall. Everso had actually been glad to see him show up for she was just a little frightened and really had no idea what was going to become of her.

She had had the crow for about a year now, having found him with a broken wing in the bushes outside her small house on the edge of the town. She had bound the wing, nursed him back to health and, when she realized that this was no ordinary crow (as it could speak, albeit in an unknown tongue), she named it Roofus and decided to let it stay with her. She had been very lonely for the last few years, since her mother had died and, despite her declared vocation as a professional entertainer, didn’t socialize much and had few friends.

But before you feel too sorry for her, know that she was fiercely independent, almost annoyingly so, and when the neighbours or other well-wishers offered to take her in or even marry her off, she quickly refused. She didn’t need any pity, to be sure.

“I’m hungry,’ she said to the bird, stopping her pointless beating of the doorway.

“So am I,’ he replied. ’should I go and look for something for us to eat?”

Everso had become so used to the vocal tones of Roofus that she could understand his meaning sometimes if not his actual words. “Yes… find us something to eat.” She fell down onto the cot full of straw and began to massage her bruised hand under the shredded blanket.

Roofus turned and flapped his way up to the window ledge and took off into the morning sky. He flew up and over the castle wall, along the following promontory and then over the town itself. The folk were just stirring, and people were beginning to appear in the streets. Some carrying tools, others leading goats or donkeys, some cleaning the stoops in front of their houses.

He flew to the main square and spotted a bakery stall there. Loaves and buns were cooling for the first early morning customers and the baker’s assistant, a tall pimple-faced boy of sixteen or so was assisting the first of them.

“Lovely day,’ he offered to the old man who was there to collect his rye bread.

“What’s lovely about it?’ the old man complained. ’Probably going to rain before the afternoon. Everything’s going to hell.”

“Um, sorry to hear that sir.’ The boy replied. “Things have been a bit… odd lately. But I’m thinking things are bound to get better.”

“I wonder if he thinks so too,’ said the old man, smiling at last.

“Who?’ asked the boy.

“That bird that just flew off with one of your meat pies.”

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