CHAPTER ONE ~ The Juggling Clock

“The Queen, perhaps?” Lord Hemnen forced himself to say, though not without an internal wince.

The King, to the contrary, did not shirk at displaying his own wince outwardly. He, unlike Hemnen, had no such obdurate fortitude which might compel him to disguise his discomfort. “That is part of it.”

“I see.”

There was a short silence.

“Go on.”

“My wife’s wish to me…it is rather unusual.”

“Please—don’t mind me.”

“I shan’t. You are, after all, my oldest friend. Yet I am afraid that you will think it is stupid. I myself find it a charming idea, but I have no wish to…”

“How can I be a judge if you feel unable to put the notion before my judgement?”

“Forgive me. I do not try to beat about the bush.”

“No.” There was a pause, as the King resolved to cease his incessant digressions and divulge the subject of his imminent narrative—and Hemnen prayed that his friend would soon do so.

The King sighed deeply, his eyes straying to a wooden clock on a shelf across the room from the alcove. It was a picturesque little timepiece, carved by a master craftsman in the naked shapes of wise-eyed cherub attendants, flying, feasting and making music with the guiltless ease of pagan deities.

Besides its quaint beauty, it was also a clock enfabled by the people of Carmun. It was said that this very clock had been juggled by King Duaryth II’s jester: 'twas an impromptu act at a banquet party. But the legend also went on that the jester had lost control of his juggling items, being ‘slightly’ tipsy, and, losing all spatial awareness, had accidently thrown the clock halfway across the hall. The heavy object had struck the King squarely on the temple, the pointy nose of one of the cherubim embedding neatly inside his head—and the monarch was rendered dead within the minute.

This story perhaps told itself to the King in that space of a few seconds, for he shivered violently, and turned quickly back to his visitor.

“My wife’s dying wish,” he said weightily, “is that every citizen of Carmun, if he names his son Duaryth, will be blessed with a knighthood and certain other privileges. All for a name—my name—Duaryth, Duaryth, Duaryth, Duaryth.”

The End

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