I aspire to publish a Scifi/Fantasy novel series one day, perhaps a graphic novel series. Until then articles will suffice.
A mighty king sat upon his throne, and next to him stood his new steward. It was time to hear the pleas of courtiers and paupers alike.
"My lord," the steward inquired in a respectful bow, "your subjects have gathered beyond the palace doors; shall I bring them in?"
The king adjusted in his seat, now leaning slightly forward keeping his eyes on the door, "One at a time," he said bluntly.
"It would be quicker..."
"One at a time," he repeated, the biting hint of command behind his voice; and so did the steward head to the palace doors to inform the guards outside that all were to line up and be addressed one at a time.
The steward ushered in the first man, a lowly pauper in drab and tattered clothing. He was dirty in appearance, and smelled of the city gutters.
Approaching the foot of the king's pedestal at the behest of the steward, the pauper immediately fell to his knees and began to sob.
"Your majesty," he cried out, "to be here in your throne room is a greater honor than one such as me deserves! I beg you, help me and my people!"
His cries echoed through the large, quiet halls, and the king responded kindly, "My good man, what could be so pressing that you would fall to your knees before me bleating like an injured fawn?"
"Your majesty, our oxen were taken to slaughter for a nobleman's feast and our fields lay unsown! We cannot provide for our king, and we fear what may befall us!"
"How have you been making bread for the family without sown fields?"
"By begging in the streets, your majesty...." His crying turned to sniffles and cautious hope.
"Which noble family is it that took your oxen?"
"Your majesty, I dare not say!"
"If you want your oxen, you will tell me which nobles are responsible for my fields going unsown," the king was concerned, but it was clear he wanted justice to be dealt.
"It was the Dautori family, your majesty," and the pauper lowered his head in shame so as to hide his fear.
"Steward," the king stood to his feet and walked to the side of the pauper, "are the Dautoris here to seek favor today?"
"Yes, my lord," the steward replied dutifully.
"Good," the king said amused now reaching down to bring the pauper to his feet, "I want you to arrange for a room in the castle for this man and his family tonight. They will dine with me, and we'll discuss his future in my kingdom."
"But, my lord..."
The king interjected, "Do as I say, steward."
"Yes, my lord," the steward gestured to the servants in waiting, and they escorted the man to the bath houses.
"Now, bring in the Dautori family," the king said with sarcastic excitement.
The Loyal Courtiers
The king stood strong, hands interlocked behind his back and with a smile on his face atop his pedestal as the Dautori nobles approached. An old but spry couple, pompous despite being raised from peasantry by the king himself, they stopped at the base of the pedestal.
The king feigned a welcoming tone, "My friends, it has been too long since you last graced me with your presence. To whom do I owe for this auspicious occasion?"
The wife shook her head and crossed her arms in disdain as she looked on at the king, her husband blurted angrily, "The peasants have left their fields unsown, my king, and they do not care that your coffers are draining! We need a regiment to beat them into shape!"
The king played along, "That is quite concerning indeed, my friend. Why have their fields gone unsown?"
"They see fit to beg in the court streets, as if tilling the fields weren't good enough for them! We demand they be dealt with as the lazy fools they are!"
"I see," the king took a second to think as he went to sit back on his throne, "and how goes the negotiations with our friends to the south?"
The husband lit up with a shit-eating grin, "Splendidly my lord, we've been hosting their generals at our home and we are making great headway."
"Excellent! Come take a seat on the balcony here just behind me."
They made their way to their seats, questioning as they did so, "Yes sire, but what of the peasants?"
"In due time, friends, in due time. Is General Osterhaus waiting to see me?"
"Yes sire, he is waiting eagerly and losing patience."
"Steward, invite General Osterhaus in!"
The steward complied and made his way to the palace doors to call for the general.
Just as the palace doors shut behind General Osterhaus, so did the king call out to him, "General Osterhaus, I'm sorry to have made you wait so long. I trust my subjects' hospitality has been to your liking?"
Jesting, the general responded, "Good king, your subjects' reputations precede them! I've dined on your fresh oxen, drank of your fine wines, and laid in the beds of your beautiful women!" The general let out a snorting laugh at his own cruel joke.
"Lovely general, absolutely lovely! I hear southern men's reputations in the bedroom precede them as well; as impotent and flaccid as their blades!"
The verbal jousting was wearing thin on the general's patience, "Yes, good king, pray you that my blade be so flaccid it can't pierce the armor of your men."
"Forgive my poor jesting, general, I meant no offense. No, in fact I'm glad to see you here in my court as I have an offer you won't want to refuse."
The general's hand went from his waist to the pommel of his sword, "Is that a threat, good king?"
The king stood to his feet laughing, "No, no, no my friend! The opposite in fact. I'd like you to meet someone."
"Who might this someone be, good king?"
"Steward," the king intoned, "bring out the peasant from earlier."
The king turned to the Dautoris watching onward from behind the throne and ordered, "You two take your place next to the kind general won't you?"
Everyone but the king was absolutely confused and offended as a bathed peasant smelling of cloves and soap entered the room and bowed.
The king commanded, "Take your place next to the Dautoris my good man," and so did he follow the order.
So stood before the king a pauper, two courtiers, and a sworn enemy; the king gestured to the pauper to come to his side atop the podium they all stood in front of and he did so.
"My good man, what is your family name?" the king asked as he adjusted the pauper's new, glistening white tunic.
The pauper answered warily, "I-I don't have a family name, your majesty...."
"Well that just won't do! A man of responsibility needs a family name, to speak and stand proud under his own title! How does Dautori sound to you my good man?"
The Dautoris shouted out, "Sire, such a lowly being isn't worthy of the name Dautori! This human swill wouldn't even till your fields, how...."
"Silence you fools," the king yelled sternly, the room went silent as he continued, "you came to me and spit lies in my face. You wanted this man beaten for your glutinous behavior. Feeding the enemy and blaming the commoners no less! The next word out of your mouths will come at the cost of your heads!"
General Osterhaus was amused at the sight of this debacle, and the king knew it. The king turned to the general, "The current Dautori nobles are known to be trade overseers between our kingdoms, are they not, general?"
The general responded in turn, "Yes they are, good king."
"And the reason you are here is to reestablish trade or to take my head, is that not correct, general?"
"Indeed, that is why I am here good king."
"In exchange for one-hundred heads of oxen and peace between our kingdoms, I offer the heads of the Dautori nobles and all of the excess yields from every harvest for the next four years. What say you?"
The Dautoris screamed out in anger and fear, "Sire, but why...!?"
General Osterhaus punched Sir Dautori in the face knocking him unconscious, and his wife fell silent as she shrunk back in fear.
"I'd say that's a deal, good king!"
The king smiled, "Excellent! Guards!"
The king's personal guards rushed in from outside of the palace doors and stood at attention.
The king commanded, "General Osterhaus has been bequeathed the heads of the Dautori family, assist him with bindings and transport! Also, allow him and his escorts access to the storehouses, they may take all they can carry themselves!"
General Osterhaus chuckled, "A generous offer, good king! Many years of success to our newfound friendship!"
"I expect twenty heads of oxen by month's end, general. Safe travels to you, friend!"
The king took notice of the fearful peasant man, now the new head of the Dautori family, and laughed as he took him by the shoulders and looked him the eye.
"My friend, do not be afraid! You came to me with respect and honesty, and you saved yourself from the lies of those imbeciles. As I said earlier, you'll dine with me tonight and receive a formal education from our kingdom scribes. My new trade master can't be an illiterate!"
"My king, I do not know what to say," the pauper responded with tears of joy and bafflement welling in his eyes.
"Say nothing, and serve well! Now, steward, have the servants bring wine and bards. Offer a feast to those waiting outside still, and apologize on my behalf. Starting tomorrow the real battle begins!"