Chapter 8: A Greedy Scheme
Greedy Fool was beside himself with such excitement it was hard for him to contain it. He giggled while he schemed for a mischievous way to use his new-found knowledge.
“Why keep this from the King?” he wondered. “Perhaps the child does not belong to the King? Surely, the King will reward me for this information, maybe with a castle of my own? Still, I must be certain he would intend to keep it should it be his. What a marvel for the Queen at her age to even be with child, but if this is indeed a child belonging to another man than the King, then this little marvel is mine in the form of riches.”
In the middle of the night, the King was awakened by loud cries and moans. Peeking out of his window he saw Greedy Fool in the courtyard. He immediately sent a guard down to remove him so the King could go back to sleep. And it was so. The King had rested without anymore disturbance for the night.
The next day, while the King sat on his throne to think of himself, he heard the familiar cry from the night before. It was, once again, disrupting him and he was greatly annoyed. He stood up from his throne and walked over to investigate. Turning the corner, he saw him again.
“Greedy Fool, what is the meaning of this childlike display?”
“My King!” he said with a surprised tone, “Please forgive my suffering, I dare not intend to
disturb your time alone. I know how important it is to you.”
The King scoffed at his response. However, he could not deny his curiosity.
“What is this suffering you speak of?”
“My suffering will bring great dishonor to my family’s name. It is of a doing I wish not to speak to anyone about, but because you are my King, and you demand an answer I shall give it:
My wife lives in a nearby village as I attend my duties here. After you ascended to bed this night’s past, I made it a point to see her, being as it has been a month since my last visit. To my shame, I could see that she is with child. However, I have not lain down with her for some time. She tried to keep the truth hidden from me by saying she has simply gained weight and nothing more. The type of clothing she wore was too large for her body, as if she was trying to hide it. I could not bear it any longer. I had her thrown into prison for her iniquities. It was only then did she confess to me her crime. Now, I am shamed.”
The King paused for a brief moment before he replied, “Your duties to me are far more important. Do not let this interfere again.”
“Of course my King.”
“Now, keep it quiet and make sure nobody else disturbs me.”
The King turned to escape back to his throne, but Greedy Fool was not finished.
“My King, before you go, may I ask for your wisdom in this matter?”
The King prided himself as a man of wisdom so he could not resist.
“Very well. Make it quickly.”
“If you had a child…”
“That is impossible!” he interrupted, “I do not and will not have a child. This is neither for you to ask nor suggest again or you will lose your place here and be banished forever to the forest!”
The King turned quickly one last time, without waiting for a response, and retreated back to his throne. Greedy Fool remained, once again, unable to contain himself.
By the end of the three day journey, the Queen could see the sunlight approaching ahead, finding its way through the dark forest. After they exited the last wall of trees, both the Queen and her maid servant had taken deep breaths of the fresh country air.
The Queen stretched her head out of the window of the carriage to let the heat from the sun hit her face.
“It will not be much longer my Queen.”
The Queen could not have felt anymore pleased to hear those words. However, the pleasantry of the news was only momentary. She felt the sensation of water running down her legs. In a panic, she called out to her maid servant. There was no time to waste. The child was ready.
The maid servant commanded the horses to pick up their stride. They galloped with a new sense of purpose as if they understood their need to hurry. The home of the maid servant’s sister was not much farther ahead, but to waste as little time as possible, she shouted out for her sister.
Her sister came out of her home and saw the horses approaching fast. Although they were still a long way off, she could see the terror in her sister’s face.
“We must hurry!” the maid servant shouted to her as they arrived. “The child is ready.”
“So soon?” She responded in disbelief, “Something must be wrong.”
The sisters helped the Queen off the carriage as she moaned in agony. After they entered the home, the maid servant’s sister, as quickly as she could, prepared the bedroom for delivery.
“I’m sorry sister, my husband is away. Had I known the baby was coming so soon, I would have
made the appropriate arrangements.”
“We have no time to worry about that now. We will bring this baby into the world ourselves.”
The pain of child birth was unlike anything the Queen had felt before. It was a very long and exhausting ordeal. Still, she never considered giving up. She gave every ounce of her strength for her baby. The source of strength was a picture she created in her head long before. An image she carried with her both day and night and even in her dreams: holding a child of her own, in her arms.
She persevered through her pain knowing full well it would come at the cost of her life. She pushed and pushed, until finally she heard the most beautiful sound, the sound of her baby’s cry.
“Here she is my Queen. A beautiful baby girl,” said the maid servant.
The Queen wept as her child was handed to her.
“She is beautiful, she is so beautiful!” The Queen cried out.
Her daughter gripped her finger tightly as she searched for the first taste of her mother’s milk.
This was the Queen’s moment. Even through her struggles, even as she began to fade, she knew it was worth it. The baby got her fill and had taken a gaze into her mother’s eyes before falling fast asleep in her arms.
“She is my daughter, my beautiful baby, but you must promise me you will care for her as if she were your own and love her the way a mother should. Tell her stories of Hope. I want her to believe as I have come to.”
“With all my heart,” the maid servant replied. “Have you a name for the princess?”
“Yes. She shall be called Elise.”
The Queen turned her attention back to her child,
“My daughter, I do not know what troubles await you, but be strong and courageous. You will not be alone and your birth is not in vain. We will meet again someday.”
The sisters cried as they watched their dying Queen. They watched her kiss her daughter one last time in her arms before she slipped peacefully away.
A Heavy Heart
The King slept-in, uncharacteristically. The last few days for him felt heavy. He turned over to feel the cold spot of his bed usually occupied by his wife, the Queen.
Having started his day later than usual, he set himself back from his normal routine which began a series of regrettable decisions. He was not happy about that. He was unable to control his desire to start the day late.
As the King, he desired control over everything, especially with the menial tasks in his daily routines, something he had given his life to with much discipline. Yet, things were different and they changed as if overnight.
His breakfast tasted bitter and so he replaced his head cook of over twenty years. He was enraged shortly after his impulsive decision because he then realized he would need to grow a new taste for another man’s cooking. Once again, something he had been familiar with for many years had changed. There was no going back on his hasty decision as this would prove, not only to himself, but to those familiar with the incident, he was no longer a man in control of his emotions. He was respected as a King who knew what he wanted, whose decisions had been predetermined without fault. There was no room to cause doubt.
His lunch did not go much differently, but not to the fault of the new cook. The King simply had no appetite. Still, to feel in control, he demanded a new cook without explanation to his staff.
The King was having an unfortunate day so to brighten his spirits he decided to skip ahead to one of his favorite moments in his daily routine. He thought, surely it would bring him back to his senses.
He stood atop of his castle, overlooking his Kingdom. All he had built with his success, power, and vision. Unfortunately, for him, the day was overcast. While, this occurrence was not uncommon, he wanted to witness all of his glory. He needed to. His eyes failed to give him the satisfaction he sought. Anger burned inside of him again and he cursed the day, hurling insults, and vowed to take command of the sun and sky.
Rather than make his way to his garden for solace, his next routine, he retreated to his bedroom. A daytime slumber had never been an option for the King. It didn’t matter. It was not like before. He climbed onto the cold side of his bed, empty of its Queen. A lonely place for what felt like months. He took a deep breath in the pillow and fell asleep.
The King had awakened as the sun began its decent. The hour to attend his chamber for his nightly entertainment was near. A nagging headache accompanied his half-hearted attempt to force himself out of bed. He hung his head low as he walked about, still trying to get his wits back from his sleep.
He sat down on his throne at the right moment. All the players had come out to greet the King and they immediately began with the night’s ceremony.
Unmoved, the King stared off as if in a trance, having vague visions of a past he had long abandoned; little moments, flashes of a previous, happy life in which he may have lived long ago. He had forgotten what it felt like to be happy. The tiny glimpse of this other life was refreshing.
Time passed with other acts trying their hand at amusing the King. Nothing. Greedy Fool, being the best at his position, was well aware of this. He had heard stories of the days earlier, moments of a King short tempered, even sulking, and so he was prepared. He knew if something would be needed to cheer him up it would be to remind him of his power, the control he has maintained over his entire Kingdom.
“Guards!” Greedy Fool shouted, “Bring them in.”
The King’s guards had come forward with a family of three.
“My King,” Greedy Fool began, “I present to you this family. A family of ungrateful peasants having the audacity of ignoring the tax you have bestowed upon your great Kingdom.”
“No, my Lord,” the man, head of the family, cried out, “please let me explain!”
“Silence you filth!” Greedy Fool shouted as he slapped the man across the face. “How dare you speak to the King out of turn? Are you his equal?”
“No, forgive me.” the man said shaking his head as he leaned in to huddle with his wife and child. They were terrified.
“Very well, now that they know their place, my Lord, what do you command for their punishment?”
But the King was silent. He stared at the family as if he knew them, or as if he had seen an apparition. Greedy Fool did not know how to respond. He was confused.
“My Lord?” he asked.
“All these years,” the King said to himself, “and what do I have to show for it? Perhaps this is my curse?”
“My Lord,” Greedy Fool tried again, “what is your will? How shall I handle this pestilence within your Kingdom?”
The King was staring at the shivering family when, the young child, a girl, turned toward the King. They looked into each other’s eyes before she spoke.
“May we go home now?” The child politely asked.
“Silence!” Greedy Fool shouted as he raised his hand to strike the child.
“Stop!” The King roared in such a voice none had ever heard before.
He stood up from his throne and started walking towards Greedy Fool in haste.
“How dare you make a mockery of me?”
“My King, I assure you…”
“No! I shall have none of it and neither shall you, not anymore!”
The King reached out at Greedy Fool and started attacking him. Greedy Fool was overmatched and pleaded for the King to stop, but being in such a rage, the King could not. Nor could he be reasoned with. He hit him over and over again. No one dared to intervene.
The King screamed one last time at Greedy Fool before exhausting himself. Greedy Fool, in a broken state, laid in agony on the floor. The King turned his attention towards the family, now more frightened than before. He re-gathered himself as best he could and walked cautiously over to them and knelt before the child.
“Forgive me,” he said gently, “for I know now what I’ve done.”
The King could no longer control himself. He wept.
“Please,” he said as he stood back up. He motioned to his guards to walk over to them.
“They will take you to Greedy Fool’s dwelling. There you will find plenty of treasures to last you three lifetimes. Take what your hands can carry and then take more. We will have a carriage outside waiting for you. Go now and thank you for restoring my sight.”
The family was in disbelief but expressed their gratitude for his blessings on them. After they left, the King turned his attention back to Greedy Fool.
“And you, you will no longer carry your title here, nor keep what you have earned, kept, or taken for yourself. I have put up with your nature long enough. It has been a poison to me. I do not wish to surround myself with men like you. Not anymore.”
Greedy Fool tried to speak, but the pain was too unbearable.
“Guards!” The King commanded, “Take him away at once. Give him little food and provisions. He is to be exiled into the forest. He must never return to this land or he is to face a punishment most cruel.”
The guards took Greedy Fool away to the tree line of the forest. They dropped him at an entrance and watched him as he slowly crawled out of their sights and deep into the dark forest.