As promised, here is my “challenge” story. I would like to share a few things about Jester. Though I did not go into great physical detail where he is concerned, I truly felt I knew him. To me, he was every bit as real as Vira whom I’ve been writing for a while now. Beoming attached to him made writing this story more difficult than I anticipated. Coming in at 1,935 words, I give to you my ‘challenge’ short.
Once upon a time in a village built atop bodies and ash, there lived a wistful troll by the name of Jester. Jester yearned to be part of the Royal army and share in the glory of strength, skill and bloody triumph, but Parish was ruled by a fat King of leisure, a King who had seen Jester bear arms and let his laughter crack through the court loud as thunder.
“You are no warrior,” King Saphron spat cruelly. “You are but a talentless troll.”
“I have talent,” Jester argued without care of consequence. “In point of fact, my talent has brought great happiness to all who have sampled it.”
“What is this talent?” King Saphron demanded skeptically.
Jester lifted his blunt chin stubbornly. “I nourish body and soul with sustenance so divine the God’s wish to sample a taste.”
“You speak of the God’s wishes as if you have cause or station to do so.” Though his full, bristled beard hide his mouth, Jester could see King Saphron wore a grimace. “You are very different from the trolls who fight for my army. They live a life of violent obedience, but not a one would speak of Heavenly deities so presumptuously. This behavior is intriguing. Either you are truly as talented as you say or your brain has turned to mush as a result of inept defensive skills.”
Jester hung his ledge-like brow embarrassed that the King had seen him training. Every day, he came to court and practiced alongside the militia. Every day, he mirrored their moves though he had no partner to correct his countless mistakes. Every day, he ran from home with an armful of quarry stones meant to bolster his muscles so that he might one day hold the sword of Parish with a fortified grip.
As days passed, a troll by the name of Hayber took pity on Jester’s efforts. He approached with a flurry of attacking movements that had poor Jester scrambling away in fear. “Never flee your enemy,” Hayber instructed solemnly. “If ever I see you flee an enemy again, I shall kill you myself.”
From that day forward, Hayber shouted commands at Jester while he trained with his comrades. Occasionally, after training broke, Hayber would stay to act as the sparring partner Jester never had. In all that time, Jester never imagined the King of Parish could be looking on as he failed numerous trials and gained more injuries than knowledge. This made his personal defeat all the more shameful.
“I did not realize my endeavors gained audience, King Saphron. I am honored you took time to look upon them.” Jester didn’t enjoy lying, but the Parish King already thought him a weak character. To further such an opinion would mean undoing the lenience his candid tongue earned.
“I looked upon them for I could scarcely look anywhere else. Your lack of vigor is truly astonishing.” The rotund man in his fur lined crown and plush robe stomped to Jester’s side then. In a gruff, clout filled tone, the King insisted Jester prove his claims. When the troll held true to his talents, King Saphron turned the royal kitchen into a royal cage.
Sunrise to sunset, Jester slaved to fill his rulers belly. Every morsel was fashioned with hope that someday the King’s appetite would be sated and Jester could go free. To pass time, he envisioned himself beside Hayber. In the afternoon while his helpers acquired fresh meat and vegetables, Jester filled a castor pot with water, lifted it to his chest then set it on the floor with great care. He did this over and over making sure his biceps throbbed in pain before stopping. During the morning lull, while his helpers gathered eggs and milked cows, Jester’s broom and pan became sword and shield.
To practice his attack techniques, he would lunge and thrust at the oven fires smiling savagely when his imagined opponents fell into the flames. Finally, the humiliation of his past began to fade. Jester’s body pulsed with vigor and speed. These improvements ensured admittance into the royal army of that he was certain. The next challenge was creating a meal so enchanted King Saphron would be moved to emancipate the troll of his services.
While the helpers slept, Jester stood over boiling pans and charred roasters. Every concoction melted his palate, but none submerged him with a need to liberate the indentured. It seemed the nights were simply not long enough for such an undertaking, so Jester took to working all hours. During meal preparation, new recipes arranged themselves in his mind’s eye. At first, Jester kept them inside his head and experimented only in private but soon that wasn’t enough.
A helper, desperate to keep Jester from trouble, warned the troll against such split focus, but Jester knew he was capable of working on more than one meal at a time. He gave his helper a clap of appreciation then went back to juggling cuisines.
King Saphron enjoyed all of Jester’s feasts, but the taste of waning attentiveness soured aspects of his consumption. For a time, the ruler remained tolerant of Jester’s atypical banquets, but an effective sovereign cannot lead with a soft fist.
The morning began with a tune. Jester moved around his kitchen whistling brightly. Eggs popped in their skillet; boiling water steamed the air. His creation was finished! It had taken an immeasurable amount of time, but he had done it. Each bite of today’s harmonious breakfast would appeal to the King’s sense of decency until he had no choice but to free Jester of his shackles.
The troll had experienced this thrall for himself just yesterday. Warmth and generosity the likes of which he had never felt spread through him. The intensity could not be denied, but being its designer allowed Jester to refuse such pull. The King would not be so lucky. His soul would have to answer the call.
“Your aptitude has been unimpressive as of late,” came the King’s voice.
Jester’s music died on his lips. He whirled around, intimidated by such an unexpected presence. After a moment, he asked, “Your meals have not been flavorsome, King?”
“They are succulent and prepared to my liking, but conspiracy taints each swallow.”
Terror choked the troll’s response. “I only conspire to feed you, my King.”
“Were that true,” King Saphron growled. “I would not have a growling in my stomach this very moment.”
Jester pointed to the frying eggs, eager to appease the ravenous man and ensure his liberation. “Your plate shall be ready soon. Please? Allow me to fill your void with a spread unlike any you have tasted before?” King Saphron’s gaze darted between Jester and the eggs. Hunger held him tight. He craved nourishment over suspicion. Believing he would concede kept Jester’s fear in check until the King reached inside his belt.
“You possess a cunning I did not recognize before, but this persuasion reeks of deceit.” A gold dagger snicked from its sheath. Jester flinched when King Saphron pointed the blade at his chest and stepped forward.
“Wait!” Jester pleaded throwing up his hands. The King began to laugh just as he had the day they first met. Jester’s mind reeled with fear and panic. A need to fight back, to live beyond this day stirred, but it wasn’t stronger than another much simpler need; the need to be free of King Saphron and the four walls of his Godforsaken kitchen.
Jester saw a bloated figure advancing and knew he had to move. There was a door not far behind him. It led to the chicken coops outside. A tall fence protected that part of the property from predators, but Jester could scale such a barrier if he leapt onto a coop roof. With lightning speed, Jester spun away from King Saphron’s blade and bolted outside.
The King’s voice boomed behind him. He was calling for his guards, but they were too far away. Jester would be over the log barricade and halfway through court before they understood what their wrathful King required of them. Jester’s lungs filled with free air and though he knew his life in Parish was over he did not regret the decision to run.
King Saphron had kept their kingdom safe. He wasn’t a bad ruler, but he had taken possession of a troll with dreams. One dream. To be part of the royal army. That would never happen here now that he was a fugitive and yet the complication suited him just fine. Starting over in a realm where nobody knew him was better than spending another moment as King Saphron’s chef.
Jester’s heart sailed as he glided over the high, knotty fence. The landing shuddered up his legs causing a considerable amount of pain, but he did not slow down. As Jester rounded the palace into court, he saw the gate standing open and smiled. Freedom. His pace quickened. The forest was less than half a mile from Parish castle. Since he had lived within the forest rather than inside King Saphron’s walls, Jester more than knew his way around those woodsy planes.
His muscles were sore and screaming. Plans for the future pumped vitality into him. He would stay hidden in the forest for a time. Eventually, King Saphron would call off his guards though the search would never truly end. Not much further now. A few more feet and Jester would be outside the gate.
A dark cloud pushed beyond the gap. It moved across space as a shadow might, fluttering with ethereal grace that both frightened and fascinated Jester. Suddenly, the shades became broad, known figures and one moved ahead of the rest. Jester’s heart slammed inside his chest. Hayber. He had aged since last they met, but his body remained dangerously preserved.
“Halt!” A thick arm reached to the sky, five stubby fingers spread wide.
Jester’s feet dug into the earth. His body turned numb with the certainty of a fate long promised. “If ever I see you flee an enemy again, I shall kill you myself.”
“How have you come to be here?” Jester asked, voice trembling.
Hayber clomped across the court his strides equal to that of a banging gavel. “I have come to be here out of necessity. Our trainings begin at this hour.” Hope stirred inside Jester’s chest. Should he act in a casual enough way, escaping these walls might yet be possible.
“It is good to see you friend. Unfortunately, I am needed elsewhere this moment. Train well.”
Hayber caught Jester by the neck. His gigantic hand locked tight suspending all of Jester’s movements. “I do not know what we have stumbled upon, friend, but the truth swims inside your eyes.”
Jester tried and failed to speak. The crushing of his windpipe made breathing difficult and forming words impossible. Hayber took heed and adjusted the pressure. Rasping, Jester said, “I did not flee thy enemy. I fled thy King. I could not commit violence against my King.”
Hayber’s powerful eyes flooded with sadness. “Any person who seeks to end your life becomes an enemy. I explained what would happen if ever you fled an enemy, did I not?” Jester hadn’t the strength to answer. Memories of a better time, a time when he had been free swept over him. The grasp from which he hung constricted. Breath stopped. His neck began to ache. Points of light formed behind his eyes and just as his lungs began to burn for air a loud snap freed Jester from the walls of King Saphron’s kitchen.
Here are the questions I’d love for you to answer:
1) Did you love my Main Character?
2) Did you want him to succeed?
3) Did it hurt when he didn’t?
THANKS for stopping by and reading my story. Happy writing. Feel free to send me your ‘challenge’ stories even though nobody actually said they were going to do it. LOL