This is a stand alone story from Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Sagacious Sapling (in progress). Feel free to share this post. Sophia Mouse is reading the story to a group of prehistoric birds in another world. It’s about the effect of our words on others and on ourselves. (includes a little easter egg to any Psych fans out there– and Princess Bride fans!)
A Thousand Bees
by Master Inigo
There was once a poor but happy vegetable farmer named Westley who lived with his lovely wife and two children in the small village of Thrumpton. Each fortnight he would load up his cart with fresh produce and wheel it to the King’s Market, an arduous trek along fifteen miles of winding and rutted dirt roads. The silvers gained from the sale of his vegetables went toward necessities for his farm and family, never failing to include a few sweets for his wife and little ones.
The King’s Market was in Burton-On-Guster, a bustling city surrounding Castle Umbra, the home of King Basil, a harsh ruler more feared than loved by his subjects. Westley had never set eyes on King Basil and had no illusions that he ever would. His was a simple life, far removed from the glittering heady atmosphere of the King’s world.
No one was more surprised than Westley by the events that lead to his first glimpse of the King. Truth be known, King Basil was the last thing on Westley’s mind as he wheeled his heavily laden cart down the narrow streets of Burton-On-Guster to the King’s Market.
A great commotion arose in the streets as a golden carriage drawn by eight enormous snow white rabbits clattered down the cobblestones on a direct course with Westley and his vegetable cart. Realizing it was King Basil’s carriage rolling toward him, he quickly maneuvered his cart to the side of the street. He was already imagining the look on his wife’s face when he told her he had seen the great King Basil with his own eyes.
The eight rabbits loped through the narrow street toward him, the heavily armored King’s Guard astride ten black rabbits, shouting out warnings to make way for the carriage. Westley pressed himself against the building as the white rabbits thumped past.
Unfortunately for Westley, there was sufficient room for the rabbits to pass, but not for the King’s gold carriage. The glittering coach came to a terrible grinding halt, jammed between the far wall and Westley’s vegetable cart. The King’s guard bellowed at Westley to move his cart, but try as he might he could not. King Basil leaned out of his carriage, glaring angrily at the vegetable cart, then directly at Westley.
“Worm!! Move your filthy cart or forfeit your life!!”
Westley froze, his fear so profound he was unable to breathe. The King’s guard leaped from their black rabbits, flipping the cart on its side, spilling the produce across the cobblestones, clearing the way for the King’s carriage.
Moments later Westley stood alone, his body shaking uncontrollably, his eyes on the ruined vegetables crushed by the golden carriage and the King’s guard.
Salvaging what he could, Westley took what produce was left to market, the profits barely enough to buy flour and eggs. There were no sweets for his wife and two young ones.
The icy terror he had felt during his encounter with the King transformed to a dark and simmering anger on the journey back to Thrumpton. The King had called him a worm, said his cart was filthy. Not once in his life had Westley uttered a harsh word against King Basil, not once had he failed to pay his taxes. His family worked long hours each and every day, barely eeking out a living from their small vegetable farm. He had done nothing wrong and yet the King had looked directly at him and called him a worm. His anger grew deeper with every step.
As he rounded a bend in the road a wizard stepped out from the shadowy forest, an indecipherable smile on his face. Westley stopped, his eyes wide. He had seen a wizard once before, but had never spoken with one. They were not to be trusted, that much he knew.”
“You seem quite distraught, young sir. What unfortunate event has befallen you?”
An uncontrollable flood of words poured from Westley’s mouth, the story of his humiliating and terrifying encounter with King Basil. The wizard nodded sympathetically.
“Dreadful, simply dreadful. How could he call you a worm? You have every right to be furious.”
Westley sighed. Sharing his story with the wizard’s sympathetic ear had calmed him somewhat. Perhaps he was overreacting.
“I suppose it is my lot in life and nothing more. The King is King and I am a poor vegetable farmer.”
The wizard placed his hand on Westley’s shoulder.
“Perhaps all is not lost.”
He pulled a long white feather pen from the arm of his cloak.
“How can a pen help me?”
“The power of words is known to all. You have seen for yourself how a few harsh words from the King changed your life in a single moment, filling you with a deep and seething anger.”
“Am I supposed to write him a letter? Ask for an apology?”
The wizard smiled.
“This is no ordinary quill, it is the Mighty Pen, and it harnesses the power of words, turning them to reality. Whatever words you write with this pen, so they shall be. Remember to choose your words carefully, using wisdom and compassion.”
“I don’t understand.”
A piece of yellowed parchment appeared in Westley’s hand.
“Write the words ‘one gold coin’ on the parchment.”
Westley frowned, taking the pen. This smacked of dark magic. Nevertheless, he wrote what the wizard had told him. When he was done, the words faded away, a gold coin appearing his hand. Westley dropped the coin with a yelp.
“Dark magic! Nothing good can come of this.”
“Your words vanish, but their power lives on. With this gold coin you can buy everything you need for your family, even a box of delicious chocolates for your little ones. What fault can be found in such a kindness?”
Westley hesitated. Maybe the wizard was right. One gold coin couldn’t hurt anything.
The wizard bowed deeply before Westley.
“The pen is yours for one year, payment due for the harsh words spoken by King Basil, words which shall unerringly circle the world and return to him, as sharp as any arrow ever forged.”
Before Westley could ask the meaning of this cryptic statement, the wizard vanished, leaving him alone holding the gold coin, the parchment, and the Mighty Pen.
When he greeted his wife, Westley made no mention of his encounters with the King and wizard, saying only that his cart had been knocked over, the vegetables ruined, and fortune had smiled upon him by leaving a gold coin lying in the road.
Two weeks later, Westley saw the King again, this time sitting in his golden carriage near the market in Burton-On-Guster, four guards working furiously to repair a damaged wheel.
Westley was filled with an unexpected burning rage at the sight of the King. He pulled out the Mighty Pen and parchment, quickly writing, “Let King Basil feel the sting of his own words.”
A bee streaked past Westley toward King Basil. When the bee stung him on the lips the King squealed in pain. Westley grinned.
On the way home a curious thought grew in his mind. Why should such a despicable creature as Basil be king? Why shouldn’t a good and loving person like Westley be king? He grinned again. Harnessing the power of words would make it so.
Removing the pen and parchment from his coat pocket, he wrote,“Let King Basil and all his guards and soldiers feel the sting of a thousand bees, a thousands arrows, and ten thousand heartless warriors. Let me rule in his stead as King Westley.”
Chaos reigned in Burton-On-Guster for almost a month. When it was over, Westley was king. He moved his family into the luxurious quarters of Castle Umbra, riding daily through the city in a gold carriage drawn by eight magnificent snow white rabbits. He visited his treasury every other day, smiling with satisfaction at the roomful of chests overflowing with gold coins and gems.
Westley’s wife and children quickly adopted their lavish new lifestyle, soon becoming spoiled and complacent. Simple sweets from the market no longer satisfied them, only the most magnificent cakes and elaborately decorated confections would do. They mocked the vendors at the King’s Market, forgetting their past life as humble vegetable farmers, smirking when they drove past in their fine gold carriage.
One year passed to find Westley nodding in his great silver throne, his eyes half closed. With a flash of blue light the wizard appeared before him, giving a gracious bow.
“King Westley, your year with the Mighty Pen has come to an end. You have used it to teach King Basil a profoundly important lesson, that our own words circle the world and unerringly return to us, sharper than any arrow ever forged.”
“You bore me with your tedious words, wizard. I no longer have need for you or your ridiculous magic pen.”
King Westley pulled the pen from his robe, tossing it carelessly to the floor. The wizard nodded politely as he retrieved the Mighty Pen, disappearing before Westley could command him to leave.
King Westley gave a great yawn. His coffers were overflowing with gold, his soldiers loyal to him. He had everything he could ever want.
He rose at noon the following day, strolling idly onto the balcony overlooking his kingdom. He never saw the bee that stung his lip, a sting that caused him to shriek out in pain. He reeled back at the sight of a thousand angry bees streaking toward the castle, followed closely by a thousand arrows hissing through the air. Amidst a cloud of pale yellow dust on the horizon he saw the silhouettes of ten thousand heartless warriors marching toward him. The wizard’s voice echoed in his ears.
“Our own words circle the world and unerringly return to us, sharper than any arrow ever forged.”
Sophia closed the book. The birds around the cage were silent. Captain Beaky had tears in his eyes.