Of Things Forgotten
Of Things Forgotten
The castle stood atop an escarpment, pennants clearly visible even from below. The colours of the flags showed that not only was the land at peace, but that a great event was about to take place. Anyone who wanted to know what was happening at the castle, had simply to go there and join in the celebration.
From below the escarpment however, there was no obvious sign of a way up. The travellers made their way through the forest looking for a gentler path. The young man guiding the horses looked carefully ahead. The path he was on was meagre, not travelled by more than deer he supposed. The trees were well grown and spaced far enough apart that the sun had pulled up the greenest grass he'd seen in a while.
"You idiot!" screamed the toothless old woman from the back of an equally old wagon. "'ow many timesh do you ‘ave to take a shortcut before you realizhe you have no senshe of direction you know your shortcutsh alwaysh take longer than the long way ‘round when are you ever goin' to shtart lishtening to me the road wash a perfectly good plache to be but no you alwaysh ‘ave to ‘shee' a shorter path to where we're goin' and I don't know how many timesh I have to tell you that I'm the sheer in thish family not you you never got any talent…"
"I can see enough to know that you're going to finish up at the bottom of ravine one day," the young man muttered to himself.
"What'sh that you're shayin' you woebegotten shnippet not big enough to fill a hole in the tooth of Brinker you should've been more like your father but would you take up the shmithy no not tall enough to even handle the bellowsh by the time you was shix and now we ‘ave to live by me talents alone going here and going there and why'sh it so damn cold here anyway I thought it wash shummer look there'sh flowersh out everywhere…"
Surprised by the silence, the young man took his eyes from the scant path to look at his aging grandmother. Her face was knotted in concentration and her eyes were crossed. Truthfully, she looked like a small child, trying hard not to mess her pants. He knew this look and waited.
A quick shiver passed over the old woman as her eyes refocussed. Looking up at the castle she said, "'ave to ‘urry now shweetie, it'sh goin' to ‘appen shoon."
The young man took in the pained expression on his Grandmothers face and turned his sight inwards seeking the quickest path. Finding what he wanted, he sent the image to the horses and began to concentrate on the road further ahead.
The King walked around the marketplace and distractedly picked up another feather duster. Without a backward glance, he passed it to the ever-present guard at his back. The guard took the duster and carefully gave it back to the vendor, trying desperately not to drop the goods the King had actually paid for. The guard was even tempted to return those items, what in all the Kingdoms would the King do with a virgins' veil? Trying his hardest to look mean, despite what he was carrying, the guard continued to scan the crowds for danger. Too many strangers in one place made him very nervous.
Everywhere the King looked, there were smiling faces, people he'd never met; and they knew what was happening within his family. How did this happen? The price of fame, he supposed.
‘Fame!' he snorted to himself. ‘What fame?' There hadn't been a war to fight, a despot to depose, a monster to kill or a wizard to maim in years. He's spent his youth with his best friend ridding the lands of all troublemakers and now there was peace. Well, peace had it's own rewards; a wife and children, prosperity for all - which really cut down the list of supplicants and plenty of time to spend with his friends. All in all, peace was good, it was just a little… boring.
‘Well', he decided, ‘I'd rather be at peace and slightly bored than out on the battlefield wondering whether my home and family were being attacked by yet another foe'. And there was always the matter of a pair of small arms around his neck, face snuggled against his chest, pleading for another few minutes before going to bed.
"Yes!" he shouted. "Life is good!" and the cheers of all his people answered him.
From behind a vision scope, a wizard smiled.
The inside of the Queens bedchamber looked and sounded just like the battlefield the King was just then missing.
"Milady! You are a Queen!", pleaded the Lady in Waiting.
"I am the Queen of a man who has planted within me the seed of a demon', snarled the perspiring Queen. "Let him come here and see what devil is trying to pull me apart with its birth. Let him come here and I'll pull his…"
The Lady in Waiting, Friel by name, was witnessing her first birth. By tomorrow, her hands would be bruised and she would be excused duty for the next five months. She would also spend the next six or seven months after that spurning the advances of even the most handsome suitors. Right now, she was on her knees beside the bed of her Queen, pulling the kind of face a Grox could fall in love with. All thoughts of the glamour of serving Royalty had fled. Her Queen was sweating and her hair was limp, she no longer had a faint blush of rose in her cheeks, rather, her entire face looked as though she had spent the past week carousing with drunken guards.
The silk bed sheets had been replaced by the Royal Birthing Cloths, which were in a state of disarray. The Royal bedchamber, usually a place of calm when Friel was dressing her Queen, was bustling with activity. The midwife was noisily encouraging her Queen to push. The Queen was pushing, but only in response to her attempt to get hold of the midwife's head and twist it off. Several maids were rushing back and forth between the great windows and the door, not achieving anything, but certainly making themselves feel useful.
With an ear splitting shriek, the queen threw herself back on her pillows. "Heirs be damned, I'm not going through this again", she groaned. With the air of one whose life's work was about to be dashed against the rocks, the midwife exhorted her queen to calm.
"Milady, you have no choice but to continue. The child is but a few minutes from birth, the worst will be over and you'll have a new little one to coddle. And if it's like it's elder, what a joy it will be!"
"I know that!" the Queen snapped, "It just doesn't help matters now. Get that damned wizard in here to help with the pain! Get me some alcohol! Or get me a damned cudgel! JUST GET THE DAMN THING OVER WITH! Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh, it's starting again!"
"This is it Milady, I can see the babe's head! PUSH! More Milady! PUSH! The head is out Milady! PUSH! Milady… oh!… Milady!"
The child's tiny body slipped easily at the last, into the sturdy waiting hands of the midwife. With no need for the usual spank on the behind, the newest addition to the Royal house filled it's lungs and let out a might wail.
"Oh Milady, it's a fine and handsome boy!" beamed the midwife. The Queen wept anew at the sight of the strapping lad and held out her arms for him. Surprised at the release of her hands, Friel fell to the floor. "Oh Friel," panted the Queen, "Be a dear and pass the word. I have a fine son for His Majesty." With an enormous sigh of relief, Friel went to the door of the Royal Bedchamber… and stood there.
"Well girl, what are you waiting for?" called out the midwife.
"I can't move my fingers to open the door" Friel sobbed.
The word passed down the passageway of the tower, "IT'S A BOY!"
The word flew down the stairs to the first landing, "IT'S A BOY!"
The word carried across the grand ballroom, "IT'S A BOY!"
The word reached the guards at the castle entrance.
"Well Fred, whadya know! It's a boy!"
"Yeah Harry, a boy."
"No one down there seems to care, does they?"
"Down where Harry?"
"Down there Fred, in the courtyard and the marketplace."
"Well, ‘ow would they about it Harry? No ones told ‘em yet."
"Who's s'pposed to tell ‘em? Fred"
"You are you dolt."
With a signal to the trumpeters, Harry moved forward and yelled, "IT'S A BOY!" The crowds looked up at Harry strangely, cupping their hands to their ears.
"What're they doin'?"
"They're waitin' to hear whether it's a boy or a girl."
"But, I already told ‘em!"
"Try again you idiot. This time wait until the trumpets ‘ave finished."
The crowds began to part and both Fred and Harry could see the King making his way to the stairs. "Better do it now Harry, or the Kings likely to eat your liver right here." With more purpose than he had ever shown in his life, Harry took another step forward and for all to hear shouted, "IT'S A BOY!"
The crowd erupted into cheers and applause and not a few scowls (the bookies would be happy tonight). The Kings progress up the stairs was impeded by the numbers of his loyal subjects congratulating him. He'd never been one to keep his people at arms length, but right now, all he wanted to do was throw everyone out of his path. A few guards quickly made their way down the stairs and rescued their King from his well wishers.
Finally free, the King raced up the stairs, winked at Harry and Fred, turned to his people and declared, "No more work today!" An even louder cheer from the people, "And tomorrow we celebrate!" and with a wave to the crowds, the King entered his castle.
Servants appeared from around the castle; cooks, under-worked and over-paid dungeon guards, dressmakers, groomsmen, royal beer-makers, smithy's and scullions, the bee keeper and her apprentice, the glassmaker, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, everyone made their way to the grand staircase to cheer their King upward to the Royal Bed Chamber.
Upon reaching the door, the King was greeted by Friel, her face swollen and drenched with tears. "Ah my dear, your tears of joy are accepted as the heartiest congratulations." Grasping her hand he added, "Thank you." Friel fell to her knees, in abject pain of course, but the King mistook her intention and pulled her up. "No need for kneeling today my dear!", he said, planted a kiss on her cheek and swept through the door.
"You're welcome Milord" Friel whispered and promptly fainted… down the stairs.
Inside the Royal bedchamber, the Queen lay back on the still crumpled Royal Birthing cloths. She looked a fright but had a serene smile on her face. She looked up at her husband and beamed, "It's a boy, my love."
Ignoring the still running servants, the King moved across to the Queen's side and knelt in the same place the now unconscious Friel had recently vacated. He searched his Queen's face and steeled himself to ask the question he dreaded, "Is he… whole?"
"What do you mean, ‘Is he whole'?" the Queen screeched. "Of course he's whole! And yes, I'm fine! Thanks for asking!" As she paused to take breath, the King stood up and quickly sat on the bed beside her. "I'm sorry, my love. It's just that with the troubles we've been hearing of I thought I'd better ask. Bad news is better heard quickly." He reached across and gently moved her hair from her forehead, caressed her face with his fingers and moved his hand to rest on his new sons head. "Can we unwrap him, love? I want to count his toes and his fingers. I want to see the colour of his eyes, I want to hear him cry. I want to hold him in my arms."
The Queen's face softened as she passed their son to his father. She wiped a tear from the King's face and watched him carefully unwrap the small bundle. As the King began the age old examination of a new born, the door to the bedchamber opened and a small boy entered the room with a young woman.
"Can I come see it?" he called out in an exaggerated whisper. "Nurse said if I were quiet and careful, you'd let me see it!"
The Queen looked up at her first born and called him across, "Mind that you're gentle and we'll even let you hold him" she said. The youngster bounded across the room, stopping just in time to avoid colliding with his father. By now, the newborn was completely unwrapped and beginning to stir at his father's attentions. His older brother carefully raised his arm and picked up the baby's hand, the tiny finger's curling around his thumb. "He likes me!" the young prince said with awe. "He's really small though. How can I teach him to play games if he's this small?"
The King took his eyes from his youngest son and moved them across to his eldest. "Once, not very long ago it seems, you were this small too. Your brother will grow just as quickly as you did and by the time he's as old as you are now, you'll have even more things to teach him. Is that all right?" The prince looked at his father and said, "I guess I can wait. How come he's so wrinkly? He looks like a skinned rabbit."
"I think that's enough now young man" called the nurse. "You can come back and visit tomorrow. You're mother and brother need to rest now." The young prince looked up with an argument in his eyes, but changed his mind. He could wait until tomorrow, there were plenty of things he could do before going to bed.
Standing on his tiptoes, the prince kissed his mother and father and walked across to his nurse and took her hand. Stopping at the door, the prince turned and called to his father. "Yes son."
"What's his name?" Looking at his wife, he raised his eyebrows. She nodded her assent and the king turned to his son.
"Your brother's name is Geoffrey, my son."
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