Bard of a Different Feather
Interview with Bernice Gordon
News for October
Break Out the Colored Pencils
The Sad Kingby Nicole Trissell
Once upon a time there lived a King. The King had a son who was the joy of his life. The Queen died giving birth to their son, so the King raised the boy, doting on the boy in memory of his beloved wife. On the boy's tenth birthday, he received a small bow and a quiver of arrows. After the feast to honor the young Prince, the boy went out into the woods to play at being a hunter. When he did not come back, the King sent every man in the city out to search the woods. The Prince was never found. When the search ended and the men went back to their lives, the King decreed:
"I shall never be happy again."
Ten years later, the kingdom was doing poorly. The King's sadness seeped into the people and into all aspects of the city. Even the birds sang less and clouds always covered the sky. One day, to this gloomy capital city, came a bard. Dressed in brightly colored silks, he stood out against the drab grays and browns the townsfolk wore. He had a shaggy mop of bright gold hair that shone like the sun next to the deep browns most common in the region. And he came to town wearing a big grin that set him apart even more than the rest of his appearance.
With a harp slung across his back and a pack over one shoulder that seemed fit to burst with unusual items, the bard strode into the city, grin firmly on his face. He looked around him, astounded at the extent to which the whole town had withered. He was barely past the city gates when he spied a small girl playing with an old and battered doll. He stopped and bent down next to her, his lanky frame folding over almost double.
"Hello," he said brightly to the little girl.
"Hello," said the girl in a tired voice, barely looking up at him.
"You're doll looks so sad."
"Everyone here is sad, even dolly has to be sad."
"And why is everyone sad?"
"Because the King is sad. He lost his son ten years ago, so the whole city is sad for him."
The bard looked thoughtful for a moment. "How old are you?" he finally asked.
"I'm seven and a half," said the girl, stroking her hand over the doll's ropey locks.
"So you weren't even born when the little Prince went missing!"
"No I wasn't."
"Then why should you be sad?"
The girl looked up at the bard, her eyes wide. "Because everyone is sad for the King."
"Nonsense," said the bard as he un-slung his. "You can't be sad for someone. It doesn't fix them, it only makes you sad." He pulled out a few strips of brightly colored cloth. "Now I know just how to cheer dolly up," said the bard as he snipped at the cloth with scissors. He lay out on the ground two pieces of dress shaped cloth. With a flick of his hand, the two pieces jumped together to form a perfectly doll sized dress. The bard snatched it out of the air and presented it to the little girl with a flourish. She giggled and clapped her hands, wearing the first smile of her young life. She eagerly took the dress and changed her doll while the bard snipped away at more cloth. When he again had pieces laid out in front of him, he glanced at the girl to make sure she was watching. Then he snapped his fingers and the pieces again jumped together to create a big, pink rose. He presented this to the little girl, but when she reached for it, he drew it back.
"Now I would love for you to have this," he said in a serious tone. "But I need you to promise me something."
"Promise me that you will no longer be sad for the King. It does him no good and only makes your life worse."
"I promise," said the girl, her eyes shining with new light.
The bard smiled and leaned forward, tucking the flower behind the girl's ear. She thanked the bard and skipped off, her revitalized doll clutched tightly to her chest and the flower glowing faintly in her hair. The bard gathered up his bag and again began walking down the cobblestone road towards the palace.
The bard could see the drab pennants on the palace walls when he came upon a young woman hanging out a large, white quilt.
"Hello," he said, reaching out a long arm to hold up the quilt so she could secure it to the clothes line.
"Thank you," she said by way of greeting. Then she cried out, "Oh no!" and lifted up a corner of the blanket that had been eaten away by mice.
"What am I going to do!" she cried and hid her head in her hands. The bard immediately pulled the quilt off the line and spread it out on the ground.
"Fear not Madame, it is easily fixed. This looks like a dowry," he said as he again un-shouldered his bag.
"It was to be. For my marriage, but now it is ruined!"
"Fear not," repeated the bard as he laid out a few strips of cloth. Then he clapped his hands and the scraps lept up and patched the hole in the quilt. The bard stood, gathering the blanket in his arms. He held out the patched corner. "See, good as new."
The young woman took one look at it, then threw herself at the bard, wrapping her arms around his neck and cried, "Thank you." She pulled back a little embarrassed by her display and took the quilt from the bard. As she hung it up again, the bard asked, "Forgive me for prying, but if you are soon to be married, why did you seem so sad when I approached?"
"Oh, well no one's been happy ever since the Prince disappeared. I was twelve at the time, and I can still remember the celebration like it was yesterday. But afterwards, the King got so sad and we felt so bad for him, we haven't been happy since."
"I will do one more thing for you before I go, but you must make me a promise first."
"You must promise me that you will no longer be sad for the King. You are getting married, you should be happy."
She cracked a small but genuine smile. "I promise."
"Well, then," said the bard as he slung his bag back over his shoulder. He scooped up a hand full of dirt and brought it to his mouth. With a few murmured words he opened his hand then slowly blew the dust at the blanket. Everywhere the dust landed, color appeared and within seconds the plain white quilt was a whirl of bright patterns. The woman jumped and clapped her hands in delight. She might have hugged the bard again, but he was already walking down the path, towards the palace.
When the bard arrived at the palace, he was given entrance reluctantly. It had been a long time since a bard had bothered to come to that place. However, it was still the law that no performer was ever turned away. After a moment of magic, the guards' spirits were lifted and they offered him chambers to freshen up.
"No," he said, "I must see the King."
A page led the bard through the maze of corridors that was the inside of the palace. Every woman they passed be she servant or Lady, received a glowing flower and every boy or man, a glowing stone. The bard left smiles and laughter in his wake. The whole feel of the palace began changing, lightening as the bard moved through it. At last they arrived at the throne room.
"Here we are sir," said the page brightly. "He's always in there sir, hasn't even slept in his own bed since the Prince disappeared. I'll announce you." The young page opened the door just enough to squeeze himself through.
"Your highness," he cried. "You have a guest, a bard has come to grace your halls." Then he squeezed back through and opened one door wide.
The bard walked the long walk towards the throne, his eyes flitting around the room. Walls that should have been hung with bright tapestries were instead hung with black cloth, sconces that should have lit up the room like daylight remained cold. The carpet leading to the throne that should have been royal purple was so faded that it looked grey.
The bard approached the throne to within several paces before he stopped and sank into a low bow.
"Your highness," he said as he straightened. "I am here for your pleasure sir, to lighten the halls of your palace and lift the weight that has too long been over your city."
It was a grand proclamation and stirred up the crowd of nobles gathered around the King. The King however raised his great, grey rimmed head slowly. When his face was finally visable, his dead eyes stared, unseeing from a sunken face. The bard stifled a gasp.
"Your highness," he said when the King did not reply. "I wish to sing and perform, here for your court, in hopes of lifting this melancholy that afflicts you all."
The King stared for a moment more, then slowly, raised one skeletal hand and gestured weekly at the bard.
"Go on," said the King bitterly. "Prance around like a deer for the hunter, it matters not to me, nothing matters."
The bard stared as the King sunk back into his throne, then determinedly un-shouldered his pack and harp.
He began with juggling and by the time he finished he had juggled two lords daggers, three apples and one Lady's broach all at once, to the delight of many there. It only took a little tumbling after that before the bard started to see smiles from the whole court. While the King showed no sign of smiling, he was at least watching the display. Soon after, the bard gathered up his harp and began a fast paced song that even had some of the Ladies up and dancing. Color began to show in the King's cheeks, but his eyes remained dead, and his mouth slack. After several fast paced songs, the bard switched to a slow ballad.
A tale I'll spin for you tonight
Of Galadrin the Bold
And his quest to find the Light
Of Yeomand the old.
As he sang, the bard watched the King very closely. It was just a small crack at first, the barest twitching of the mouth, but as the song went on, the King's face began to soften. Before long there was a tear, then another and the King was crying. The bard ended the song with a soft strum of his harp and then the only sound in the room was the quiet weeping of the sad King. After a moment the King quieted and looked up at the bard.
"Why did you play that song?"
"Because it meant something to you."
The King looked thoughtful. "That is the song I used to sing to my son every night when I put him to bed."
"And why have you not sung it since?"
"Because it was a reminder of what I lost."
"But you loved that song. Do you really think your son would want you to give up something you loved?"
The King looked closely at the bard. "You are wise beyond your years."
"I was raised by a troop of gypsies, I have all the knowledge of their wanderings. If I sing the song again Highness, will you sing it with me?"
The King sighed and the glimmer of a smile shone in his eyes. "I will." The two of them sang in perfect harmony to the gentle strumming of the harp. As the song went on, the King's smile crept out of his eyes and lit up his face for the first time in ten years. When the song was done the whole court clapped in delight and the King smiled at them.
"Your highness," said the bard once the applause had died down. "I have another gift to give you, but I must ask for a promise from you first."
"What more can you possibly give me?"
"Will you promise?"
"And what will I be promising?"
"You must promise not to be sad anymore. What happened is done, you have a life to live and a kingdom to rule."
"I can promise that, master bard, now that you have opened my eyes."
The bard nodded and carefully took a cloth wrapped bundle out of his bag. He strode forward to the steps of the throne where he knelt. He carefully unwrapped the cloth, then placed a small bow and quiver of arrows at the feet of the king. He bowed his head and waited.
The King stared at the familiar items for a long time. Then he stretched out a trembling hand and rested it on the bard's gold locks.
"This hair," he said quietly. "Few people have such pale hair in these parts. My wife did, she was from a land north of here."
The King's hand reached under the bard's chin and lifted it.
"And those eyes, that grey, is exactly like mine. I have only ever known one with my eyes and that hair." The King's lip trembled and a single tear slid down his cheek.
"You promised me you wouldn't be sad anymore father."
The King fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around the Prince. "Tears of joy, my son. Tears of joy."
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