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Dining with Skarl


by kushbi

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One fine day in Meridell, something unusual happened. When the first rays of the morning sun lit the sky, a messenger bearing a command from King Skarl arrived at the most famous house in the land.

      It belonged to Lisha and Jeran.

      The blare of a trumpet jolted the Lupe from his sleep and he stumbled to the front door with a grumpy sigh. The lowly messenger was extremely relieved to see the bravest knight in Meridell appear, for he did not wish to face the wrath of his King if he failed to deliver the important decree. Ignoring the stale morning breath of Jeran, the messenger cleared his throat and found his most pompous voice.

      "Our most honorable majesty his highness King Skarl wishes to bestow upon Jeran, bravest knight of the land, and Lisha the incomparable honor of dining at the castle this evening. Please note that attendance is compulsory and it would be most appropriate to be dressed in a most decorated form."

      Jeran blinked in disbelief. This was a most uncommon occurrence indeed, for Skarl was not known for his willingness to invite others, no matter how important, to dine with him. Everyone in Meridell knew about the Skeith's obsession with monopolizing food set in front of him and never shared anything, not even a crumb of bread. The Lupe's mind was clouded with suspicion for a moment. Perhaps the grumpy king was displeased with him and his sister? Could the Skeith be so devious as to use the invitation as a front for something sinister? He shook his head; Skarl was not known for possessing outstanding wits and his sole source of wise advice, King Hagan, was miles away in Brightvale nursing a wounded ego for losing out to his brother in a berry-eating competition.

      What would Lisha say? Jeran thought as he secretly wished that his sister did not have a habit of sleeping in. He caught the impatient look of the messenger and immediately accepted the decree, promising their attendance at the court of Skarl that evening. Now, how bad could dinner be?

     -

     "I can't believe that you accepted the invitation!"

     Jeran winced as Lisha's shriek echoed in the small room. He pinned the last of his badges to his formal coat and dabbed a bit of polish on his sword. Rubbing vigorously, he wore an expression of nonchalance.

     "Lisha, attendance is compulsory. No one turns down a king."

     The Aisha's widened eyes looked abnormally large behind her huge glasses as she glared at her brother in consternation. She never hid her dislike of Skarl, or of anyone who fell under the spell of court dancers. Having to dine with him would be a torture. Who knew if she had to watch more court dancers entertaining the king during the meal? Lisha felt sick at this and banished all silly thoughts from her mind. She looked at Jeran preparing for the audience so feverishly, and realized that the invitation could mean a lot to him; any request from the king was an honor to a knight after all. For her brother, she decided that she could put up with an evening of Skarl.

     "Well, now, what do I have to wear?"

     -

      Not long after the two siblings left their home, they arrived at the castle, for the king had sent a magical carriage that flew above the unpaved ground and avoided the messy traffic of vegetable carts and harried farmers. A nervous servant, who was already waiting at the entrance of Skarl's abode, ushered them into the castle.

      Lisha gasped in surprise when they entered the dining hall, as it had changed significantly since she last saw it. Silky Meridell flags hung from freshly painted walls and there was a Brightvale stain glass window customized for the king, showing him biting into a large drumstick, one of his favorite snacks. But what caught her attention the most, and that of her gaping brother too, was a portrait of the latter in full armory, lifting a sword in the air triumphantly.

      Jeran regained his composure quickly. Now, he was absolutely certain that King Skarl had something up his sleeves. There was no reason to honor him with a portrait, for Jeran could not recall having committed an act of commendable courage since Meridell attained peace. On the other hand, the royal Skeith was extremely talented in coaxing others to do his will by making them feel important. What did he want of Jeran? This could be an interesting evening.

      As the siblings looked at each other knowingly, a herald entered the hall and cleared his throat three times.

      "His Highness King Skarl has arrived."

      This announcement was followed immediately by the entry of the king, who grinned widely when he saw them. Lisha tried not to roll her eyes as she curtsied. She sighed when she realized that her brother had gone on his knees in a formal greeting. Taking his seat at the head of the long marble table, Skarl gestured for the siblings to be seated on either side of him and for food to be served. As they waited for the dishes to arrive, Skarl turned to Jeran and pointed to the portrait of the knight.

      "I commissioned it last month especially for you, my bravest knight, you make be beam with pride."

      Oh my, thought Lisha, stifling her giggles, who knew that Skarl could rhyme?

      "Your majesty is too kind," Jeran replied, smelling a fish.

      "Oh, we must begin the meal. Here comes my chef, presenting the best catch of the day from the moat," said Skarl, as a timid Chia approached the table, balancing a large plate of steaming delicacy precariously on one hand.

      Soon, various dishes of all shapes and sizes were presented to Skarl till there was no more space left on the large table to accommodate any more plates. The presentation of each dish was accompanied by a commentary by the king, which nearly bored the siblings to tears. They were getting drowsy when the last dish, dried gourmet berries, was placed on the table.

      Finally, Skarl announced that they could tuck in. Lisha immediately realized that the king had expensive gourmet cuisine placed strategically in front of him and just out of the reach of the siblings, which was typical. She bit into a piece of smoked meat and began to ponder on what Skarl might want of them. There was no such thing as a free meal, was there?

      However, the king made no mention of any favor he expected in return during the meal. In fact, he made no conversation at all, doing little but gorging on the food. As Lisha watched, she noticed that he let soup trickle down his chin and bits of vegetable got stuck in between his teeth. Skarl never sipped from his goblet; he swigged. The meal ended when the king swallowed the last bit of minced pie and burped loudly. Jeran's ears pricked with anticipation. His intuition told him that Skarl would make his intentions known soon.

      He was right.

      "So, the meal was good," said the king and without skipping a beat, "I had my cook prepare the best food just for you both."

      Jeran looked at him expectantly.

      Skarl returned the look, saying, "As you know, I commissioned a portrait for you, Jeran, and gave you two the best meal anyone in my kingdom could have."

           "Anything for you, Your Highness," replied Jeran. Just get on with it already, Skeith.

      "Ah, it's good to have such an understanding knight. So…well, you know, how did you get the potatoes in your garden to grow so big?"

      Lisha bit her lip hard to stop the laughter that threatened to burst forth. A huge feast and a commissioned portrait just for this? Everyone knew the secret to huge potatoes: fertilizer.

      Skarl frowned at the stunned expression that Jeran was wearing. He knew that getting the secret recipe of a good fertilizer from the knight would be difficult. But it was absolutely necessary because he was tired of the small pathetic potatoes that the royal farmer supplied his cook with. Looking at the tiny potatoes in his dishes at every meal made him grumpier, knowing that there were larger ones in Jeran's garden. He first came to notice the tubers when he went on a tour of Meridell. They had bugged him ever since. Surely the feast and portrait were enough to make Jeran spill the beans?

      "Uh, I use fertilizer, Your Highness," said Jeran when he found his tongue. It was not an everyday thing to have the king show interest in potatoes that grew in one's garden.

      "I'm sure you do, but where did you get it from? Do you mix it with anything before using it?"

      "I buy it from the Meridell Dumpster. Nothing was added, the fertilizer is always used just the way it comes."

      Oh, thought Skarl, I import mine from Brightvale.

      Thus, that evening, Lisha and Jeran left the castle snickering at all the effort that their king had put into learning about fertilizer from his own kingdom's Dumpster. When they reached home, Jeran hung the commissioned portrait in his room. As the Meridell saying went, once a knight, always a knight. That meant being honored whenever one's King bestowed one with a gift.

     And after that evening, King Hagan was left wondering why his brother suddenly stopped ordering Brightvale dung from him.

The End. ^_^

 
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