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The Gift of Soup
“Sire! Sire! The villagers have organized a petition for thee,” my squire, James proclaimed. He quickly shut and locked the rioting doors behind him.
I stared at him, his face filled with uncertainty. “What could I have done to beckon this?”
“I’m not positive your highness, but take a look.” As he unraveled the rolled up scroll, I felt my jaw drop. The parchment was filled with signatures from every townsperson in the village, or all of England for all I knew.
“What’s the meaning of this…this absurd petition Squire?” Then I had sudden recollection of the speech I gave about the new taxes. That couldn’t possibly be the cause of this. Not unless the villagers were being arrogant, selfish pests again.
James took a timid gulp and started to read the parchment. “It reads, ‘King Robert. Thy people of the land feel that Thy sudden raise in taxes is profoundly unnecessary. Thou shalt lower them, or Thy people of Barnes shall proceed to the new land, whereby Thou shall have no rule.’”
It took me a moment to regain control of myself. Anger wouldn’t solve this. I unclenched my jaw and took a deep breath of air. “Peasants are so clueless. Don’t they realize if they don’t pay their taxes, they will be sentenced to Massachusetts for an eternity of imprisonment? More importantly, without their taxes I wouldn’t have half of the luxuries I do now. I’m going to come to terms with these low- lives. Squire, go inform them that the king is holding a town meeting. Anyone in the town that doesn’t show up shall be executed. That should be fair enough terms!”
“Yes your highness.” He made a quick bow and scurried to the front door.
Once I heard the doors of his departure slam, I quickly dressed into my most immaculate furs and polished my crown. Squire suddenly appeared in front of me.
“I told them the meeting would be held at the town square. We are to travel by horse to get there.”
“Lovely! A just adore horses,” I couldn’t help but get angry at the thought. It was a terrible experience last time I rode a horse. I was on my way to give a speech to Parliament when all of a sudden, I was on the ground. Apparently, my horse had just been released from the stable and was a “new comer” in these parts. It wasn’t too hard to figure that out, only because he got frightened at every little chipmunk and squirrel that walked by.
I could tell by the expression on James’s face that he knew exactly what was running through my mind.
“I checked with the royal stablemen. They picked the mildest horse of the herd. However, we can always travel by cariag…”
“No need. You have convinced me Squire. Bring forth my steed!” Right then, I heard the clacking of hoofs hitting the marble floor. Before my eyes, a horse as dark as the night sky presented itself.
“Her name is Storm. Quite a beauty isn’t she?” Squire said while patting her neck.
“Let’s just hope she’s as graceful as pretty.”
Things went better then I expected on the journey to the town square. Storm didn’t get frightened by any rodent she saw, and kept a moderate trot pace. Once we arrived, I rolled off the side of the saddle and tied her to a nearby tree.
The view ahead finally proved that my terms drilled through the villagers cement heads. In the middle of the square was a stage, where I supposedly was to give my speech. If you closed your eyes and someone took you here, you would think you were at a rock concert. I could barely make my way through the peasants, pushing them aside like doors. When I finally reached the stage, James held my speech in his hands, staring innocently at me. If it weren’t for all the witnesses, I would have socked him one in the face. I snatched the scroll angrily out of his hands and cleared my throat.
“Citizens of Barnes! It has come to my attention that you have no intention on paying your taxes. Well, your little rebellious act will not be tolerated. Your insolence is what has caused me to place more guards at the ports. I hoped you learned your lessons peasants! Never start a fight with the king, for I am no one to mess with!”
Leaving the stage wasn’t nearly as hard as getting on it. None of the villagers dared to speak a word. Once I reached Storm, I untied her from the tree and mounted the saddle.
“Squire, do you think I said what was needed to be said? I mean really, they had to know what they did was intolerable!”
“Of course you did your majesty. I couldn’t have said it any better,” James said in an irritated manner.
It was dusk when we reached the palace. I took off a few of my robes and laid my crown on the pillar next to me. It was approaching dinner hour, and I hadn’t had anything to eat all day.
“Squire! I would like to put a request in for the kitchen!” James usually was within a hearing range whenever I bellowed to him. After a short ten seconds, he appeared at the door.
“How can I be of service, your majesty?”
“I would like to place an order for chicken soup! Make it quick!”
“Yes sir!” he quickly bolted out of the door with the order.
A short interval passed while waiting for James to appear with the soup. When he entered, the bowl he carried had wisps of steam coming from the surface, releasing mouth watering aromas.
“Here you are your majesty,” James said while handing the white bowl to me. I took it without hesitation and dug my silver spoon straight in. As my mouth processed the distinguished flavors, one I couldn’t decipher appeared.
“James. What is in this soup? There’s an ingredient that I can’t place my finger on.”
“I’m sure it’s just for taste sir,” he said in an eerie tone.
Ignoring his attitude, I went to take another spoonful when suddenly my hands started to shake. It felt like an earthquake was erupting in the veins of my fingers. I glanced down at my nails, only to notice they turned a ghastly yellow color.
“JAMES WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME,”I shrieked on my knees, feeling like my temples were about to explode. I reached for them only to notice that my once curly hair was gone.
“Just a little lesson your highness.” He then shut and locked the door behind him, laughing manically.
“YOU’LL PAY FOR THIS JAM…” I was cut off by a sudden rush of heat that passed through my throat. It felt like someone had shoved a curling iron down me and set it on high. I looked around the room for anything to stop the fire inside me. My bathroom door was locked, which was the near source of water. Calling for help was out of question. During my search of extinguishers, the fire had spread to my arms and legs, where I lost my ability to kneel. I fell to the ground, watching the walls around me spin and turn black.
A sudden burst of pain in my side awakened me from my unconscious state. Someone was speaking to me.
“Get up you lazy cow! GET UP!” the voice yelled as the pain in my side occurred again. This time I realized it was from a kick. Who dare kick the King of England? As I turned my head to see, I realized that I wasn’t at the palace.
“Where.....am…… I?” I quivered weakly. My hands reach up to my head, in search of my crown, only to be unsuccessful. The once elegant furs that enwrapped my body were replaced by thin rags. The shoes that I had imported from India were now bare feet. This is how a slave at my palace dressed.
“What do you mean Where are you? Get back to mopping the bloody floor!” he ordered while throwing a wooden bucket and mop in my direction, hitting me in the head.
“HOW DARE YOU ORDER ME LIKE SOME DOG! I WILL HAVE YOU ARRESTED FOR ASAULTING THE KING!” I shouted, unable to control the anger in me.
“What are you, King of the Drunks? The King of England was claimed dead yesterday at the Buckingham Palace. Me and my mates threw a party here once it was confirmed. You must have engorged yourself with too much liquor and passed out on the floor.”
WAIT! I was claimed dead? JAMES! He did this to me! “Listen chap. This is a huge misunderstanding. I am the king of England. I don’t know what happened yesterday, but my Squire Ja…”
“I DON’T CARE! You can go rule your kingdom once you finish your shift!” he mocked, then stormed to the other side of the room.
It wasn’t even worth explaining my story to these people. I was one of them now, even slightly below. I don’t know how, but the soup I was given must have contained some potion that did this to me. The sooner I could get out of this nuthouse, the better. I grabbed the bucket and mop and swabbed the floor to the best of my ability. Finally, when the entire area was washed, I went for the exit.
“Eh! Where do you think your going?” the man that consulted me early remarked.
“I was going......er.....home,” I stopped at the thought. Do I even have a home?
“You were going home?” he snickered “I think that ale has really gone to your head. You can’t even afford shoes, much less a house!”
“So you’re saying I live on the streets?” I felt a mixture of stupidity and embarrassment rush through me. King’s don’t talk like this.
“Along with your kingdom of the homeless! Go ahead and leave, though I’m not sure what you’re planning to do,” he chuckled while lifting his up mug to his lips.
I took a dejected sigh. Never in my life would I ever imagine myself in this position. There had to be an antidote somewhere back at the palace. If I was going to retrieve it, I would need to get inside the palace. But how? was the question that kept running through my head. I slowly deliberated in my head the possibilities as I left the pub.
It was approaching night as I wandered the streets of my new “home”. I finally decided to settle in an alleyway next door to a closed bank. Sleep didn’t come easily that night, as I unceasingly pondered about how to get in the palace.
“I’m telling you Barney! I saw it with me own eyes!” I heard a man say to his mate as they walked down the road. Suddenly, they both came to a stop in front of me.
“Well I’m telling you that’s its rubbish!” Barney replied.
“If it’s all rubbish, why did I see a sign that read ‘Fairy God Mother’s Potion Factory’ hmm?”
“Alright. Where did you spot it?”
“East of the village, near the woods.”
“Are you sure you didn’t have one too many drinks at Edward’s party?” Barney pressed while punching him in the arm. They both began walking again and disappeared in the darkness.
The conversation I just witnessed gave me a brilliant idea. If that man was right about what he saw, I would be able to get a potion that could change me back into a king. As I drifted to sleep, I began to wish for the best in encountering a sign.
I watched as a ball of yellow illuminated the horizon, turning twilight into daybreak. With no time to lose, I worked my way east of the village.
After walking a few miles outside of the village, I finally reached the woods. Not a single patch of green was visible from where I stood. Trees that reached the sky, however, filled the space. The aroma of evergreen trees wrestled with my nose as I began my search for the sign.
Making sure to be extra observant, I circulated the woods very slowly. As I looked to the west, I saw little puffs of smoke blowing in my direction. Curious, I followed the trail to what seemed to be hours when finally the smoke began to darken. This meant that I was close to whatever the producer was.
As the trail came to end, I gazed in front of me to see a sign that read “Fairy God Mother’s Potion Factory”! That man wasn’t joking after all. However, its not how I pictured it would look. Instead of being a little cottage, it was a large gray factory. I headed towards the entrance, eager to get the potion.
“How can I help you?” a woman as tall as my thigh asked.
“I need a potion that can change me back to a king again.”
“Fairy God Mother will be with you shortly and help you find it.”
She made a hand gesture for me to sit on the leather couches to the side. After a few minutes a much taller woman appeared. She wore a sparkling silver dress and had her white hair tied up in a bun. As she turned around, I saw that she had wings on her back.
“Are you Fairy God Mother?” I asked, knowing in the back of my head she was.
“Yes indeed I am. How can I be of service to you?”
“Well, I was hoping you could change me back to a king again. I was given soup that turned me into this,” I said as I dragged my hand down my body.
“Ahh! The old soup switch er roo trick. Let’s see what we can find for you,” she said while opening a closet of potions.
“Truths potion…..no……super strength …..no,” she said while riffling through the shelves of beakers.
“Yes! Here it is. Pauper to Prince Potion.” She grabbed the mixture and placed it on the table. “I must warn you though, read the directions before taking it!”
Storing her warning in my head, I quickly thanked her and took the potion. Once I was outside, I read the directions aloud the back. It read, “‘In order to be switched back to a king again, you must speak the lesson you learned through the eyes of being a peasant at midnight.’”
As dusk approached, I took the potion behind my alleyway. I tried to think of the lesson I learned over the past three days. It was definitely clear that I was being a jerk to the town. That’s probably why they wrote that petition to me and why James put that potion in my soup. As the clock struck 12:00, I made my decision.
“The lesson that I learned was to be nicer to the town and not be as full of myself as I have been.” I then took a big swig of the liquid and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, my surroundings began to spin and get blurry. I suddenly fell on the ground, experiencing the same symptoms as before.
“Your Majesty? Are you feeling well?” James questioned while walking closer to me. I realized I was back at the palace, sitting in my chair.
“SQUIRE!!! I’M GOING TO....never mind. What did you do to me?” I said, trying not to get mad at him. I’m sure what he did to me was for my own good.
“I had the chef put a potion in your soup that would change you into a peasant. The plan was for you to see things through your subject’s eyes, and hopefully learn something from it.”
“Thank you Squire. Things are going to change around here, starting now!”