Friday, April 20, 2012

Day One-Ninety: A merry jig





The contest went ahead today as planned. It took place outside the castle, like Jeffmas, so Queen Daena could watch. Giant stands for the nobles surrounded her tree on all sides, and merchants brought out their wares in carts to sell people food and stupid little trinkets that nobody wanted.

Everyone participating in the contest had to form a big line. And because every entertainer who'd shown up wanted the prize, whatever it was, it was a long line. I snuck in somewhere in the middle with Edmund, and we nervously watched everybody before us.

King Jeffrey, sitting on his throne beside Daena, was a brutal critic. He had a ranking system with his royal guards: whenever he yawned, the entrant got dragged away. Whenever he put his thumb down, the entertainer got dragged away to the DUNGEON. And whenever he pounded his fist into his knee, the entertainer got beat up, dragged away, and THEN put in the dungeon. The dungeon got reeeeeeal full, reeeeeeal fast.

The guy before Edmund left Jeffrey in a particularly foul mood, 'cause he was doing his miming stuff and accidentally spoke when he stubbed his toe. Since the dungeons were already full by that point, Jeffrey ordered the poor man banished from his realm. Guess we'll never see him again.

Edmund went next. He wished me luck, then strode up in front of the king, bowed, and removed his necklace, a little wooden lute. With a wave of his hand it became a full-sized instrument, and he began to strum out a jolly tune with more skill than I've ever seen in a musician. He was a hell of a lot better than any of the minstrels before him, and managed to couple his music with a huge poem that I'd be incredibly hard-pressed to recite here.

The nobles were awed. Half of 'em clapped before Edmund was even done. Daena, too, looked utterly delighted.

King Jeffrey, though…

Our noble monarch rolled his eyes as the final note faded. He yawned, and the guards dragged Edmund away, dumping him near a cart of onions. The expression on his face damn near broke my heart. I felt so bad for him.

So when I walked up to King Jeffrey and handed him my story, printed out on a tidy bundle of parchment, I should've expected his reaction.

"Reading?!" he roared, waving the story around. "We're not here to read! We came to be amused! You continue to vex us, Dragomir! Why are you even here?! We should imprison you for abandoning your post!"

I wet myself. In front of royalty. So much warmth.

"Now that," Jeffrey said, laughing and pointing at my crotch, "is funny! But not funny enough. Guards! Take him away and deposit him on top of that boring bard over there."

They flung me on top of Edmund, who was still recovering from his own failure. Then they took the story I'd spent all night writing and fed it to an ox while the king watched and clapped. Queen Daena argued violently with him over this, but she couldn't do much, so…

My story. Gone. Missed a night's sleep to get it all fixed up for the king. Now it's probably manure.

Edmund and I, both of us VERY depressed, sat on the sidelines and watched the rest of the entrants filter through. We didn't pay much attention to who was performing for the king… until Edmund pointed at the very last entrant.

"Penguin ho!" he cried, "I know the blackguard! / 'tis the villainous fiend, Kierkegaard!"

The penguin bowed before the king, tipping his hat and twirling one of his mustachios. Then, adjusting his pointy little mask, he opened his bill and said one word, in a low, cultured voice:


The king sat forward on his throne. "Fuck?"

"Fuck," the penguin agreed. "And balls."

"Balls." The king looked to the sky, repeating the word. "Baaaaalls."

"Fuck and balls and shite!"

"Fuck and -"

But Kierkegaard cut King Jeffrey off, dancing forward on his tiny legs, twirling in the grass, doffing his hat this way and that. With every movement there was a new swearword, the curses becoming more and more intricate as Kierkegaard's dancing picked up in pace. Eventually, it became a deep, sonorous, vulgar song, and the king, clapping his hands and stamping his feet, joined in. It didn't seem to matter that he wasn't saying the same things as the penguin.

After five minutes of awkward penguin ballet and a rousing crescendo on the word 'twiffershat', which is so weird that it's barely offensive, Kierkegaard dropped to his knees in front of the king. Assuming penguins have knees.

Jazz hands.

The king stood. He roared his approval, clapping and cheering and swearing. He was the only one in the entire area; everybody seemed shocked into silence. Until the king turned around and glared at the stands, that is. THEN the nobles went crazy over the penguin. Damned suck-ups.

So that was that. The king found his winner, because, apparently, all he'd ever wanted out of life was a singing, dancing, swearing penguin with a top hat, a pointy mask and funny facial hair. As his prize, Kierkegaard was given a job: he's the king's new jester. No doubt he'll spice up court by shouting random words like 'domblewank', 'cockalockalocka' and 'pansydiddles'.


That was the end of the contest. The king took his new jester back to the castle, ordering everyone back to work on the spot. The entertainers who escaped imprisonment gathered up their things and left, and that, sadly, included Edmund. I shook his hand, thanked him for giving it a try with me, told him his song was excellent, and apologized for my king.

He took it in stride, friendly chap that he is. Told me he'd met lots of weird nobles like the king, and that he'd been tossed about more than once while trying to earn money. Guess that's the way of the bard. He did, however, give me a warning that put me on edge:

"I travelled with that penguin there, for many moody days, / And in that time I learn-ed well his tricksy, crim'nal ways. / He will not halt to lie, or cheat, or sin, or steal, / And now he has in his new post a power quite unreal. / Watch you well, friend Drago, this flightless little bird, / He hides a sly evil under count'nance absurd."

So Kierkegaard's an asshole. Just what we needed, another one.

Truth be told, I don't care that much about the stupid penguin. Or losing. Or even Edmund leaving, even though that was kinda sad, 'cause I like him. All I care about right now is the strong mental image of an ox eating my story.

My story.

I worked so fucking hard on that story, diary. I put so much care into it, so much depth and feeling, that… I…

I don't even have… any of it left to… to put in here, or… I can't even remember what it was about anymore, so I can't…

That son of a bitch…



  1. Like I said. Jazz hands. Very subtle.

    1. It takes a seasoned entertainer to get them right. Otherwise, disaster.

  2. There is no way that the penguin could be evil. He has a awesome tophat and facial hair! Nobody with a tophat and facial hair could EVER be evil!