The Archminister Quidat walked quietly by the walls, remaining at the edges of the room. Banquets of excess and extravagance were no longer unfamiliar to him, no more than it would be to any long-time resident of the castle, but never before had a single celebration been sustaied for so long. For the past three evenings, night after night, King Lazir had thrown parties in anticipation of his birthday, and the days, too, were filled with hunting trips, falconry, and tourneys. It was a wonder that the courtiers could stand up straight the next morning, the amount of merrymaking they get up to.
"A song, milord, or a garrulous jest? Or perhaps a poem would suit milord best?"
And for some, it is their bread and butter to merrymake in perpetuity, the Archminister added to himself. He turned around to see the Jester leaning against the wall behind him, having emerged seemingly out of nowhere. Then again, the great hall is packed with people, and rumours were that when they said the walls had ears, they were not being metaphorical.
"Jester," the Archminister greeted him. "Have you no-one else to pester tonight?"
The Jester laughed, a hollow cackling noise that grated on the Archminister's ears, and his painted face twisted to an exaggerated grin. "Ah, milord!" he chattered quickly, words stumbling after each other rather as if there was an overabundance of them vying to get out. "But I have pestered so many people already in these nights! I have yet to pester you, though, and pestering is exactly what milord needs at such a time as this. Shall I imbue you with one of these newfangled ballads? Or mayhaps I tell your fortune for you? I can see the future, you know, milord, and I reckon in mine you shall tell me to be quie- "
"Hush, Jester, your speech is nerve-wracking," the Archminister Quidat scolded, cutting the motleyed man's ramblings short. "Why don't you run your mouth off at some other hapless guest? Perchance some distraught noble lady or other?"
"Oh!" the Jester's eyes twinkled with delight, and the Archminister distantly wondered if Lonesq had created the man to be as effervescently animated as he is, or if it was a product of meticulous training and practice as a court fool. "Indeed! I know just the anxious lady; she seems to be mulling around instead of touching her food - I call it a case of the mulligrubs, I do!"
"Well, spout your witticisms at her, then, and get her to cheer up," the Archminister said flatly. "This atmosphere is not good for everyone. Perhaps you should show her the way out, if she be lost within this mob."
The Jester leant forward and stage-whispered conspiratorially: "Oh, she'll enjoy my jests, she will! By the time I throw a smile on her face, she shan't be recognisable no more!"
The Archminister's eyes darted back to the Jester, and for a moment their gazes met. Then the Jester winked, and was off, bells jingling gently that hung from his cap. And the Archminister was left pondering on his own. Volont had always played the perfect fool, raucous, irrepressible, and with limitless sprightly energy, but every time he chanced to look into those watery blue eyes, he could see a glimpse of the brilliant mind beneath the jester's mask.
LaRe An omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles.
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