The Height of Absurdity: The King Awakes 9.10
16 January, 2018 by katelaity
The tapestry that hung in the sheltered corner of the library was not as huge as the one that hung in the grand hall. Though it lacked the impressive element of size for its canvas it was no less grand, for the detail had been worked minutely and it looked as vivid as life.
Which of course made it all the more disturbing to us.
‘Yes.’ Tansy nodded grimly.
‘You might have the decency to allow a chap to finish a sentence,’ I said with a huffy air of irritation.
‘But that’s us!’ Chambers said with due alarm.
‘And that’s the king’s army,’ Tansy added unnecessarily for we could all see it plainly.
Our figures stood on the ramparts of the castle whilst below us the king’s army of riders gathered for the attack. It was a good likeness of both, though we had never stood on the walls of the castle with our backs to the viewer or tapestry maker as I suppose it was. ‘Are you really taller than I am?’ I asked Tansy.
‘I hardly think that’s a pertinent question at present,’ Chambers interrupted. ‘Whatever shall we do?’
‘Accept our fate,’ Tansy said.
It was easy enough for him to shrug off the uncanny wyrd that awaited us—he was accustomed to oddities. I was more circumspect, to turn a phrase. ‘Surely we need not rush to meet it, however. We should make a plan first. How are we to arm ourselves for instance?’ Looking at the tapestry I had noticed that we were bearing arms of a sort though I appeared to have no more than a small buckler and a rusty brand, which rather disappointed me. If I were to stand on the ramparts of a castle to defend a lady’s honour or whatnot, the least I should expect would be to have a rather flashy sword of some kind.
‘Is there an armoury?’ Tansy asked the black queen.
‘Yes, of course,’ the queen responded coolly, then frowned. ‘Somewhere.’
I groaned. ‘Any hints?’
She gave me a reproving glance. ‘It has been some time since there was any need to visit it. I have been peaceably restrained for some time. Once the quarrelling was less heated, the king’s troops left us alone. Quite alone,’ she added with a touch of melancholy.
‘What kind of argument preceded such a break,’ the lady Judith asked with gentle tones, ‘if I am not treading upon some private woe in asking such a thing.’
The black queen considered the matter for a moment. ‘Oh, it was something about cheese. I rather forget what, though it made me furious at the time. I shall have to check my memorandum book.’
‘Shall we make a search for the armoury?’ Tansy asked perhaps in order to sidestep the thorny issue of cheeses. Good heavens, but they could be both delicious and contentious.
‘I think that would be wise.’
I had assumed that the ladies would remain behind, but they dutifully accompanied us though the image had not shown them to be facing down the horde of soldiers who came with the Red King. He had been in the thick of the crowd as they trampled the thorns beneath their boots. Rather thick hobnails they must have indeed.
We started on the ground floor as that seemed most likely. I could hardly imagine troops needing to make their way to the top of the castle to fetch their weapons in case of attack. We found nothing inside, however, so we headed out onto the ramparts to search further. It was a gloomy day that suggested not so much rain as the persistence of mist. Hardly good fighting weather, surely.
We found some rather dilapidated weapons piled in a crenelated corner. ‘I fear these are all we have,’ Chambers said with an air of disappointment.
‘I recognise this rusty brand from the tapestry,’ I agreed with an equally dismal tone. ‘I suppose we should take them up, for we have no idea when the king’s men will arrive.’
‘I have an idea,’ the lady Judith said suddenly. ‘Your majesty, shall we go up into that tower? I believe that is the perspective from which your tapestry was envisioned. Perhaps we will see something more up there.’ The queen agreed and the two women departed, leaving us to make ourselves ready for the conflict.
‘It’s good they’ll be away from the fracas,’ I said as I gazed upon my small buckler. It would hardly provide much cover from the usual sort of sword soldiers were fitted with. ‘They would be frightened by the combat, I’m sure.’
‘It may not come to armed combat, you know,’ Tansy said in a tone that was meant to reassure me. ‘But we must be ready.’
No sooner had he said so than a strange noise made us look over the crenelated wall to the forest of thorns. The king’s army was coming!