THE KING’S JUSTICE
Spring was traditionally considered a season of abundance and wealth for the farm people of Castletown. This year, however, the once fertile soil of the small village was now dry and barren. Ryan, the village leader, couldn’t say it was a surprise, considering that the terrible drought ravaging the lands had already lasted for twenty-three days in a row. As a result of not having any rain, the nearby rivers dried up entirely. Even Meridell, the kingdom capital, was greatly suffering from the ruthless drought.
The people of Castletown were living with what they had stocked up from the last year, but their resources were running lower and lower. Ryan had even heard that Meridell was the city being most affected by the drought, considering they had a much larger population and fewer natural assets. King Skarl was certainly known for his moody temper, but rumour had it that lately he was completely infuriated, imposing unnecessary punishments and bluntly accusing his own servants and citizens.
It was early in the morning but Ryan was already awake, gathering the best Castletown patrolman to go on an exploring mission. He then heard the high-pitched sound of the trumpets. Ryan looked at a few citizens and they seemed gravely scared. Everybody knew what the trumpet sound meant. The Crown. The trumpets were an ostentatious way King Skarl found to announce the arrival of The Crown in any of The Kingdom cities. He thought that this way the residents of The Kingdom could know of his presence in advance and therefore properly prepare to give him appropriate treatment.
Ryan ran to Castletown’s entrance gate and there he was. Skarl was being carried on a luxurious chariot.
“Are we there yet?” Ryan could hear the angry voice of Skarl coming from inside the chariot.
“Yes, Your Highness!” one of the knights who accompanied the king respectfully said.
Skarl then slowly got out of the chariot. The second he saw Ryan, Skarl pointed his finger to Castletown’s leader.
“YOU!” Skarl was almost screaming. “You are the one who stole Meridell’s water!”
“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Your Highness...” Ryan said carefully. “We are all largely suffering from this atrocious drought.”
“You think you can fool me, villager?” Said Skarl with a sarcastic tone. “The Crown is well aware that the rivers responsible for irrigating all of The Kingdom come from this area!”
“Castletown was fortunate to have had a water source close to it, Your Highness!” Ryan said with a neutral tone. “But the weather is beyond our control.”
“Nonsense!” Skarl accused. “If you villagers had taken proper care of the available resources, we wouldn’t be facing a scenario like this!”
“But my king….”
Skarl abruptly interrupted Ryan. “I don’t want to hear another word!” Skarl paused for a few seconds. “You have committed a nefarious crime against our Kingdom and you’re going to pay for it. Your trial will happen today, villager.”
“Trial?” Ryan just realized that the rumours weren’t rumours after all.
“Arrest him, guards!” Skarl ordered.
Two knights came out of the chariot and tied Ryan’s hands. Skarl entered back inside the chariot and commanded the horseman to take him to Meridell’s Castle.
The trip didn’t take long, maybe 15 minutes at maximum. Upon arrival, Ryan was abruptly removed from the chariot and taken to the castle’s main hall. The place was located in the highest tower of the castle, which Ryan was only able to tell because of the wide-open arc-shaped windows in the walls.
“Your trial will begin soon, villager. Let’s see how it will turn out!” Skarl giggled.
“How is the trial going to happen? Who’s going to be the judge? What is the punishment?”
“You will find out the rules while the judgment takes place.” King Skarl said calmly.
A green Blumaroo entered the room. He was adorned in a purple and yellow full-body outfit. He also had a headpiece with little bells on the tips. Ryan stared at him for a moment and suddenly recognized the figure. It was the Court Jester. Ryan knew the occasion was extremely unusual when even the clown didn’t have a happy face on. Ryan also noticed the Blumaroo had both of his hands closed very tightly and he was walking towards Ryan.
“Go, Jester!” King Skarl paused for a few seconds. “Let’s show this traitor some justice!” The King couldn’t resist smiling a little bit.
The Jester was getting closer and closer to Ryan with both his arms stretched in front of the chest. The hands were still closed firmly, forming fists. Ryan wondered what was going to happen next. Why did the Court Jester have his fists closed? Was he going to… beat Ryan? Was King Skarl this bad? Ryan looked at the King for a moment and reminded himself that yes, the King was capable of that if necessary.
The Jester finally reached Ryan’s location, standing right in front of him. Arms and fists still in the same position.
“Choose!” King Skarl ordered with a deep voice.
Ryan didn’t understand. What was the King talking about? What was he supposed to choose? It didn’t make sense.
“Psssssst!” The Jester whispered.
Ryan looked at the Blumaroo. The Jester looked back. Did the Jester just talk to him? Why was he whispering? He could be trying to say something he wasn’t supposed to. Ryan wasn’t sure though.
“Each hand of mine contains a piece of parchment. They used to contain the words “guilty” and “not guilty” in each of them.” The Jester stopped for a minute to make sure King Skarl wasn’t noticing the conversation. “But lately King Skarl has just removed the “not guilty” piece. In other words, both hands contain the “guilty” piece of parchment. You must run!” The last part came out so hastily, it was almost impossible to correctly understand the words.
Ryan wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do next. The one thing he knew for sure was that he needed to gain time. To do so, he pretended to analyze both hands of the Jester. The Blumaroo said he should run. “Where to?” Ryan wondered. They were in the highest tower of the Meridell castle. There was no way out, except the huge windows.
“Choose one of the Jester’s hands right now, traitor!” Skarl had a bitter expression on. “If you don’t, you’ll be immediately considered guilty.”
Ryan knew he had to make a choice right now. And so he did.
“I choose the left hand, Your Highness.” Ryan stated.
The Jester opened his left hand and just like he described there was a little piece of old parchment. Ryan couldn’t see what was written on it, considering it was carefully folded and tied with a tiny ribbon.
“Bring it to me, villager.” King Skarl said cheerfully, clearly anticipating good news. “Let’s see what your fate will be!”
Ryan had to do something right now. Otherwise, he would be convicted for something he never did. Ryan would receive an unfair punishment without any idea of what it could be. The only thing Ryan could remember at that moment was the Jester’s last words: “You must run!”. He looked around and there was definitely no way out. He couldn’t just run down the stairs, because the guards would catch him in two seconds. Should he jump out of the window? The window of the highest tower of the Meridell castle? Ryan pondered for a moment.
He stood up, took the piece of parchment from the Jester’s hand, and started walking in the direction of King Skarl. Ryan carried the verdict on top of both of his open hands with palms up. As Ryan walked, he got closer to the King. And also closer to the windows. As he was almost reaching King Skarl, Ryan purposefully tripped in the direction of the windows. The parchment flew out of his hands and passed through one of the windows. The howling winds immediately carried away the parchment until it couldn’t be seen anymore.
King Skarl looked at Ryan suspiciously.
“Your Highness, excuse my lack of manners! Since I lost the first piece of parchment, I guess we have no other choice other than to check the remaining parchment.”
King Skarl kept looking at Ryan sceptically.
“Come closer, Jester!” King Skarl ordered.
The Blumaroo promptly obeyed and moved to the King’s side.
“Open your hand and reveal the piece of parchment” King Skarl ordered.
“Yes, my king!” The Jester opened his right hand and unfolded the parchment. The word “guilty” could be read in capital letters.
“Since the “guilty” parchment is still here, Your Highness, we can only assume the parchment I originally chose contained the “not guilty” verdict,” Ryan stated slowly.
King Skarl looked Ryan deep in the eyes and pondered for a while. After a few moments of silence, the King said angrily, “It does seem like it, villager.” King Skarl stood up and left the room.
Ryan couldn’t even believe what had just happened. He didn’t even know how to begin thanking the Jester.
“Thank you very much, sir!” Ryan was gasping. “You saved my life!”
The Jester flashed a big smile, after which he quickly said, “You should get out of here before the King changes his mind!”
Ryan looked to the Jester and knew exactly what we had to do.
“I'm definitely getting out of here! Maybe you should consider coming too!” Said Ryan.