King Skarl's Birthday and the Giant Cabbage
"King Skarl is traditionally presented with the largest cabbage in the kingdom during his birthday celebration.” - from the ‘Cabbage (TCG)’ description.
The trumpets are boasting the celebration’s beginning, the gates have been oiled so there isn’t a squeak as they open, and the castle grounds are festooned in bright primary colour flags, streamers and banners. As the other residents of Meridell (and those who have travelled from other corners of Neopia) file into the courtyard the band strikes up the traditional Skarl Waltz - what better tune to begin the Birthday Celebrations of the longstanding, grumpiest of royalty, King Skarl?
Giant boards promote the day’s events, including the Joke Procession, Cabbage Presentation, and Fabulous Feast. As you wander further through the throngs of Neopians, food stalls are creating an enticing aroma and as you look around you can see that even Hubert has brought his hotdog stand to serve the party attendees.
There is plenty of time to mingle and explore before the main celebrations truly begin so you head over to grab a ‘Figgy Jacket Potato’ to line your stomach and then meander to the edge of the red carpet where you find a perfect spot to watch the elaborate opening procession. The trumpets ring out again to announce the start of the procession - one that winds through the streets bringing performers, jokers, jesters and musicians along with the star of the show, King Skarl. His brother from Brightvale, King Hagan is also in attendance, but today is not about him.
King Skarl, dressed in his finest robes, rides atop a majestic carriage, waving to his subjects as they cheer and applaud. He doesn’t look particularly happy, but when does he ever?! The honoured Skeith looks out over his royal guards, entertainers, and citizens on all sides of his carriage, creating a colourful and lively parade. He must be enjoying it, you think, even if it doesn’t show on his face.
Seeing as feasting is a central aspect of the celebrations too, you wonder ahead to what delicacies might be available for sampling later. Not only are there the aforementioned and explored food stalls and stands, but when the Feast begins there will also be a lavish banquet and you wonder whether this year it will descend into a food fight as it is rumoured to do every few years. You suppose it depends on the troublemakers are feeling up to the potential repercussions. You know you wouldn’t start such a thing, but would it really be so bad if you threw a handful of peas, just to be part of it all?
You stare up, as the procession heads through the courtyard, past the crowds gathered, to the doors to the castle itself which are swinging open. Some of the crowd started to follow the carriages and their occupants into the castle proper and towards the extended party held in the grand reception hall. The colours on display are simply magnificent.
Throughout the festivities, you know there will be entertainment of a hundred kinds - both inside and outside of the castle. It certainly would be impossible to have the kite festival inside and fireworks. Jugglers, acrobats, musicians, and dancers entertain you and your compatriots with their skills and artistry everywhere you look. Perhaps this year you will also witness one of a few talented bards who compose songs and poems on the spot, based on what they are seeing as the day progresses. Some of these songs are lost to the moment, others get captured and shared, becoming firm favourites and returning year after year. You think to yourself to keep an ear out for any particularly charming verses.
You are tempted to stay outside and take part in some of the competitions and tournaments, especially the archery, which you are a dab hand at. Alas, you know you don’t want to miss today’s renditions of Jokes or later the Presentation of the Birthday Cabbage, so you make your way inside the castle to get a decent vantage point.
The Joke Procession is part of daily castle life in Meridell, as you know it is how King Skarl got his moniker of ‘the Grumpy Old King’. You’ve never taken part before because you don’t want to be ridiculed for your attempts, but it sure is fun to watch others have a go. There is already a queue forming and you can see an assistant setting up a table of prizes (and it looks like token gifts too) for even attempting to make the monarch chuckle. Maybe today will be the time that the King laughs so hard that he can’t stand and hands over one of his mythical Charms.
As it turns out, today you witness a pretty average selection of jokes. They get chuckles, sure, but no guffaws from the King. However, the audience tends to find more of the attempts funny than he does as he scowls across the room. You can see in his face that he’s not quite in the mood today - perhaps he too is thinking forward to the Feast as you are.
Then again, the highlight of King Skarl's birthday celebration is the presentation of the Birthday Giant Cabbage. It is a tradition that has been passed down through generations and holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Meridell. The presentation usually takes place in the castle courtyard, where the king sits on his outdoor throne, surrounded by his courtiers and the most esteemed guests.
The Birthday Cabbage itself is no ordinary vegetable. You know from experience that it is a massive, meticulously cared for cabbage, grown to perfection in the royal gardens. It is tended to throughout the year to ensure its size, colour, ruffles, and shape are flawless. The flavour will be exquisite too as the varietal has been selected and nurtured and improved upon for longer than anyone can truly recall. The head gardener of the castle oversees its growth with the utmost care and attention. This year is no exception, the huge beast of a brassica is probably one of the most outstanding specimens of the last decade.
When the moment arrives, the prized cabbage is presented to King Skarl with great pomp and circumstance. The head gardener, accompanied by a group of gardeners and assistants, carries the colossal cabbage to a large plinth placed just to the side of the throne. The cabbage is then paraded before the King, who inspects it with a critical eye, making dry, yet amusing, remarks whilst the audience ‘oooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the spectacle. This year, of course, the King is pleased with the cabbage's size and quality, so he declares acceptance of the gift, gives thanks to the gardeners, and decrees it to be an excellent cabbage. The crowd erupts in cheers and applause, and the celebrations continue with even greater fervour.
You can’t believe how the time has flown, so you head back to the outer courtyard to take in some of the entertainment for the afternoon - you know that it won’t be long until the main feast. You can imagine what it will be like now with the tables laden with a wide array of delectable dishes, including roasted meats, savoury pies, fresh fruits, and a variety of mouthwatering desserts. But those treats will have to wait as you have been beckoned over to play a game of Gourmet Club Bowls by your cousin and you can’t really refuse.