Daily Words

by Friday Jones

Friday in a pink beret and a blue dress, cartoon version.

Last Wizard

[A Kingdom Story]

Back in the day, he was the greatest wizard.

Back in the day, when he served kings and queens, reigns were based on his power.

Back in the day, he had servants and lackeys, toadies and fawners.

Now, he had a potato, and he looked at it in satisfaction before placing it aside and gently forking up some more. The small lad beside him took the potato and placed in a basket with some others. He moved the basket, with difficulty, along the row.

The Great Wizard looked at the lad.

“Want a hand, lad?” The little boy shook his head fiercely, a mop of fine blond hair flicking about his head. The Wizard shook his finger casually, and the basket became a little easier.

“It was stick in the mud.” The little chap said.

“Stuck,” said the Wizard, “It was stuck.”

“Stuck.” Repeated the little boy. “Alright.”

“You’re alright now though.” Said the wizard kindly. The boy nodded, and then gestured with his head at some riders.

The lead rider looked a serious sort, a black stallion under him, snorting and puffing with impatience. There were six riders with him, two by two behind him, armed with crossbows. Nominally armed. They were stowed away.

The lead man slid down from his horse, and approached on foot, carefully stepping over the furrowed rows of plants. He looked at the two and addressed the old man.

“The new King requests your presence at the palace at your earliest convenience.” He announced, formally. “We have been sent to accompany you back to the palace and have been instructed to await your pleasure.”

The Wizard looked at the man with a scowl.

“Ain’t interested in no King thank you very much. Got a harvest to bring in. Can ye not see that?” He said, pugnaciously.

“Yes, sir,” the man said, with unexpected politeness, “I can see that. I have been instructed to await your,” he paused, “convenience at the nearest village.” He unrolled a scroll and checked the wording, “‘…causing as little inconvenience to the locals as humanly possible…’ it says here.” He rolled the scroll up and tucked it away in his doublet.

“Supposing I don’t wants to come.” Said the Wizard.

It is at this point that one might inspect the Wizard and see what it is about him that demanded such respect from the King’s Man. Little of his appearance invited it; he was wearing rough, loose weave trousers, under a smock that, well, was once white, but would probably never invite that description again, the whole tied with a rope belt. His hair was grey and tousled, overlong, as was his beard, which he jutted out at the king’s man.

“We have not been instructed about that circumstance, sir. Only that we are to wait until you do come. Our orders were to persuade you to come, or die trying. Actually.” The man looked harassed.

“And that’s what he said was it? ‘Persuade.’ Not whip out yer sword and give me a poke. Not clap me irons and drag me long behind the cart. No threats to the family or nuthin’ like that?”

“No sir. We were tasked with persuading you by force of, forgive me, by the power of reason alone. The King was very explicit about it.”

The Great Wizard looked over the man’s shoulder at the horsemen. Two of them had dismounted and were having a quiet smoke. Two more were feeding the horses.

“Die trying?” The Wizard said. “That sounds a bit harsh. What yer gonna do that’ll get yer killt?” The man opposite him looked uncomfortable.

“Actually, nothing, except await your pleasure in the local inn. If necessary for the rest of our lives.” He said.

“And you lot just come then?” The Wizard gestured to the other men.

“Yes, sir. We’ve all sworn fealty to the king, sir, it’s our duty.”

“Seems like a bloody silly duty to me.” Again, the king’s man shifted uncomfortably. He thought for a moment before replying.

“I don’t think so, sir, and I’d be grateful if you would not describe the King in that manner. As King he deserves respect; but more importantly, if you think it through, you will see the logical and ethical considerations here.” He said this somewhat snippily.

“Just checkin’, just, you know, making sure you know what you’re doin’, right?” Said the Great Wizard. “You know what happened to the last lot wot tried to fetch me to the King.” He glanced over at the small pond in the garden, rich with the kind of life that comes from being replete with frogs. “Jus’ sayin’.”

“The King would like his men back, also at your convenience. I believe they are to be sent to a monastic institution.” Said the King’s man, simply. “He has also, if I may say, become very much more careful about how he issues orders, sir.”

“Has he? I bet.” Said the Wizard with a snigger in his voice. “Still though, credit where credit’s due. None of the old King’s ever learnt anything o’ the sort.” He looked at the little lad, who had been hiding behind the Great Wizard’s legs the whole time. “Run along home young Tom and tell your mMa I’m bringing company. She’ll know what to do. Seven of ’em. Can you remember that?” The little boy nodded, repeating the number, and dashed away.

“You’re all married.” Said the Wizard. “And most of yer got kids, right?” The King’s man looked impressed.

“Well worked out, sir. How did you know?”

“Ain’t gonna sent no single blokes on a free-for-all indefinitely to some little village. Young fellers ain’t got the discipline not to cause trouble, though they’d get crack from Maisie’s pot if they did try anythin’. And the lads o’ the village know ‘ow to deal with the wrong sort, and so do I. So, he sent sensible men ‘ere, and that usually means married men, who ‘ave somethin’ to lose.

“And that dumps the moral imperative right at my door, don’t it? If I keep you ‘ere, I’m keepin’ you from yer loved ones and all that. It’s a manipulation, but a damn clever one.” He sucked air through his teeth for a moment and then blew out a big breath, puffing his cheeks out. “Surprised he didn’t just send the wives.”

“He thought about it.” Said the King’s Man. “I put him off.” he scratched his slight beard. “It took some work.” The Wizard looked at him.

“What’s yer name then, King’s Man?” He asked.

“Sir Robert of Loxley.” Came the reply.

“Well, there’s a name wot hangs a tale.”

“Not mine, just a coincidence.” Said Sir Robert.

“Right then, Ser Robert.” Said the Wizard. “We’ll go in the morning. In the meantime,” he waved a hand and seven forks appeared, stuck in the ground. “You lot can make yourselves useful before we lose the light.”

Published January 2022


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