26 September, 2017 by katelaity
Tansy did at once lower his voice. ‘Who is that king in red?’
The lady did not at once answer. ‘He is the king,’ she finally said with some apparent reluctance.
‘Of whom?’ I could not help thinking that there was something of a mystery here that she wished to conceal. We all gave her kindly looks of encouragement, as if to assure her it was right to vouchsafe any secret with us.
But the lady only shook her head. ‘I cannot say.’
‘Cannot?’ Tansy quizzed her. ‘Or must not?’
Her surprised look confounded us further. ‘I do not know anymore who he is king of. He has been sleeping there as long as I can remember?’
‘And in all that time he has not awakened?’ Tansy looked speculatively toward the sleeping monarch, which made me feel distinctly uncomfortable.
‘Steady on, Tansy. Don’t go doing something reckless.’
My friend smiled in that way that cats do when they think no one can see it. ‘I am only wondering if he can be awakened after all. Perhaps he is under an enchantment and it would take something quite extraordinary to wake him.’
The lady Ælfscinu looked askance. ‘No one has dared wake him in my lifetime. I expect he would be quite angry to be startled out of so peaceful a snooze.’
‘I know I should be,’ I muttered, if only to dissuade my impetuous friend from doing something as rash as he no doubt contemplated, to judge by the contemplative look on his face.
Chambers flipped through his book, doubtless looking for a charm for sleeping kings or waking kings or some such thing. ‘I know the story of the Seven Sleepers, but I’m not sure that would apply here…’
‘Perhaps he would appreciate being woke,’ Tansy said, idly pulling on a leaf as he stared more intently at the slumbering figure. ‘He may have had some very important things to do and did not mean to sleep so long.’
The lady looked from him to the king and then back again. ‘From the time I was small, a time so long ago I can scarcely recall it, we were admonished to keep quiet in the garden to avoid waking the king. I cannot think there was some frivolous reason behind it. One wakes a king at their peril. I recall that the ancient Holly King once beheaded a soldier who dared awake him for a war though he went eagerly enough along to the battle afterward. I suppose it is the way of kings to neglect the feelings and necks of their subjects.’
‘We could hail him from a distance, out of range of swords. Has he one with him?’ Tansy crept closer despite my hiss of alarm. ‘He has! A lovely scabbard there, too. Do you suppose the leather was died red or is there some creature that has skin that red?’
‘Don’t distract from the issue,’ I said, feeling my patience grow short.
‘Oh, let me take a closer look,’ Tansy said with a naughty sparkle in his eye, turning on his heel to trot toward the greengage tree.
‘Stop!’ I cried and then clapped both hands over my mouth. Good lord, why did I shout so loudly?