At table, King Turtle and his squires wrestled their words together and wove the tale of their having faced down the coming storm, only to find it no worthy opponent to one’s own hunger.
“Courageous,” said the ladies in waiting.
“First among turtles,” said the keepers of record.
“Next time maybe they’ll let us join!” said the young lads.
And from the far end of the table, where sat the queen and princesses, “Brave indeed,” came the remarks from the august regent. “But we are all so very glad you found the time to make it home for supper.”
At this the table erupted with laughter, for the king and his squires could be called many things, but never did their adventures entail missing supper.
Then, just as the echoes of the laughter began to fade into shadow, came the deep whisper of Charles, once one of the king’s closest squires. “So,” he began, “you faced down a storm. Many faces have storms, and from the sound of it, I’d say this one was but a small fry. Bah!”
The silence that fell over the hall was thick, and no one knew where to look. Everyone knew the king was a kind and gentle spirit quick to laugh even at himself, but one thing he did not tolerate was a sourpuss, especially not at dinner.
After five breaths of silence, King Turtle knew that Charles had said his peace and was waiting for a response.
“Ah, Charles,” the king begin with a smile. “How right you are! Many faces have storms, and none like another.”
Charles’ smirk grew.
“Perhaps you are right, and this storm was just a small fry on his first ranging.”
Charles nodded with pride.
“But,” said the king before whispering something to the guard to his left. “But, as well you know, small fries too have many faces, and many fins to boot.”
Now Charles didn’t know what to think, but his smile slowly started to fade into the shadow under his nose.
“Once,” the king continued, “I met a fry. We became fast friends, careless as to what would become of us down the road. I was a turtle, and not likely to grow, but little did I know just how big my fry friend would grow.”
Under the table, Charles slowly tucked his feet into his shell.
“Years went by, and my friend continued to grow, until soon he was as large as I.”
Charles tucked his left arm into his shell.
“Then, before I knew it, he was twice my size!”
Charles tucked his right arm into his shell.
“And last I saw my fish friend, he was big enough to eat me whole!”
Just then, the doors at the far end of the hall burst open, and quick as lightning a giant carp swam right in! Charles, knowing for certain that the carp was coming to eat him whole, quickly tucked his head into his shell and shivered loudly with fear.
But above all the rattling from inside his shell, Charles could still hear the king. Laughing. Pounding the table with glee. And then more laughing as down the table the ladies in waiting joined in, followed by the keepers of record, young lads, and finally the queen and the princesses.
Charles slowly poked his head out to see what was happening, only to find the carp resting softly on the table before king. “Gulp,” it said, and the hall rang with laughter once more.
“Everyone,” shouted the king, “meet my friend the small fry!”
And never again did Charles question the king.