Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Media (in any form) (11/11/10)
TITLE: Priscilla and the King
By Marita Vandertogt
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The old man’s voice broke through the busy street, over the sound of clopping horses’ hooves against the cobbled stone, of voices bargaining their wares in high spirits. His bell clanged as he walked. It was his job to let them know, to bring the “breaking news” so to speak.
The deep rumble of his words hit the ears of the younger women. “The King will be visiting the village in a day hence.” He repeated the sentence, like he did every day, till it became a meaningless blur.
But they weren’t a meaningless blur to Priscilla. “When shall this be?” A young woman of exceptional beauty, but ragged clothes and hair, stopped him. “And where exactly shall he come to?” Her words were desperate as she tugged at his sleeve.
“I will post this information tomorrow, on the door of the inn madam.” He looked down at her face, saw the intenseness in her eyes. And with a quick sense of compassion, “And I will read it aloud so you have every part known.”
Priscilla sat at the end of the cobbled street, and pulled her hair away from her face. She was in no shape to meet a king anyway. What was she thinking. His eyes wouldn’t land on her face for even a moment. She’d seen him once before, many years ago, from a distance, and from that day on, spun her world around his riches. She dreamed a dream that she was sure was truth. That he would someday notice her and whisk her away from this life, into the luxury and riches in the castle far from here.
She watched the town crier move slowly out of the village, his bell silent now, along with any more information he might have. She would have to wait until tomorrow to see the big black horses shining with polished silver harnesses in a carriage of gold that carried her dreams.
The next morning, the old man began again. “Hear ye, hear ye, the King is coming today. “ Over and over his voice droned into the crowds. He stopped long enough to nail the parchment paper to the inn door. The deep purple stamp of the king’s ring lay at the bottom. And just as he promised, he read the note for those who couldn’t. Pricilla listened, memorizing every word.
“He will greet his subjects at two hours past noon, in the village square,” was all it read.
Priscilla had cleaned her face and tied her hair in a braid that hung down the centre of her back. The black hair shone in the sun as she waited.
When the sun hit the sky shining straight down on the village, Priscilla knew the time was close. Her nervous fingers unbraided the hair, making it fall in waves around her shoulders. She smoothed the folds of her simple dress, and pinched her cheeks to bring out the red. Then practiced her smile.
“Hear ye, hear ye,” she heard the words again. “The king is coming, clear the roads.” The clang of his bell seemed to hit her heart with each stroke. She moved to the side of the road with all the others, but kept herself out front. As the carriage came up over the hill, she felt the excitement mount in her chest. It drew closer and closer, until she could see the outline of his crown through the darkened glass. She stood, mesmerized, unable now to move as the coach slowed down in front of her.
“Stop” he called to the driver. The horses stood still. His face was across from hers now.
“What is your name beautiful lady,” his voice was powerful even in its gentleness.
“Priscilla,” was all she could say, her lips frozen.
“A beautiful name,” he said. “For a beautiful lady.” Then the coach lurched forward again.
“Come to my castle,” he called out the window. “There will be a position there for you.”
The coach moved slowly to the Square. Priscilla was weak from the encounter. This is what she dreamed of all her life. She turned and moved toward her home, content now that he had noticed her.
The season changed to rainy wintry days. “Hear ye, hear ye,” the crier called again. “The king is coming. The King is coming.”
But this time she didn’t care. She had what she wanted. The attention of a king.
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