A friend asked me about a fable I wrote so, so long ago...and I realized I hadn't been doing ANYTHING to get it out there. It's of a length that makes it awkward to publish -- 56 pages. So I'm wondering what I should do with it an am asking for suggestions.
I don't think I could shorten or lengthen it; the story seems to like how much of it there is. I could add illustrations to make it longer and see about that. Maybe I should just self-publish it through Amazon. I'm at a loss.
Anyway...here's part one of the story. I'll be posting the rest over the next week.
“David Martin is going to meet Sir Richard!”
The news danced through the village of Whitlock with breathless wonder. Here it was but a dozen years past the first millennium, and one of their lads already was called to an audience with the ruler of the land. Oh, this would be a great and glorious honor for all the townsfolk -- except no one believed it. David Martin? Meeting the King?! Why, the very thought sent many of them reeling into laughter.
“It’s a mistake,” chuckled a stout woman. “Sir Richard would never summon a boy whose head is always in the clouds!”
“She’s right,” said a burly man. “My Timothy is stronger.”
“And braver,” added his wife. “He’d be a much better choice. He’s already trained in defense with the town master.”
“What about my Bradley?” asked a tall woman. “He already knows some Latin; just ask the priest!”
“While David barely knows English,” laughed the burly man.
But David’s grandmother, an elderly widow wrapped in a thick knitted shawl, wagged a finger in his face and snapped, “You forget, it was David who saved your hens!”
“How can we?” the man snapped back. “You won’t let me!”
“Because you won’t give the boy credit! For months we were all plagued by a fox stealing chicks, but no one could stop it. Not until David caught it burrowing under your new stone fence, sir. He yanked the little beast back out by its tail and sent it away with a kick to its haunches!”
“And just what good did chasing it off do?” asked the stout woman. “Should have been killed.”
“Have we lost a hen or rooster since?”
They had to agree, she was right.
“And remember how he saved my son, Corey, from drowning?” the town carpenter piped in. “David can’t even swim, but he was smart enough to think of using a plank of wood to help him float out to Corey and pull him back to shore.”
“He does have some wits about him,” the tall woman sighed.
“But he talks to squirrels as if they can understand him,” cried the stout woman.
“And behaves as though he were a knight of the realm,” fumed the burly man. “Marching about with a wooden stick for a sword – you would think him still a toddler rather than a lad of twelve summers. I can’t believe Sir Richard could ever accept such foolishness.”
And many people agreed with him. After all, Whitlock was naught but a small farming community on the western edge of the world and held no importance to anyone. They had joined with Sir Richard’s provinces a mere thirty years earlier and had not even so much as a garrison of his army nearby, let alone a fortress. The fact was, in all these years the only time they knew Sir Richard was aware of them was when his knights called for a portion of their harvest, in duty. So to have one of their own youths invited to meet a man who was so strong, his people were left in peace; and who was so modest, he refused to be referred to as “King;” and who was so wise, he was idolized as a hero by all...well, the honor was doubled in greatness.
But why-oh-why did it have to be David Martin? He was a mere orphan living with his grandmother in a tiny hovel of a shack on the edge of the village. His education was mostly self-learned, and he was still too undeveloped to join with the town master’s defense force. He had no property, no special skills, no trades to draw upon. He was just “David.” It made no sense.
And yet, each person in turn had to admit that there stood one of Sir Richard’s knights before David’s door, tall and proud. His clothing impossibly white and trimmed in maroon and gold. His helmet, chain mail and sword so polished, they gleamed in the noonday sun. And with him were six foot-soldiers with lances, all in perfect array. Even the knight’s dapple-gray stallion seemed properly regal. No, it definitely was David who was being called.
So came the question – just where was the boy?
David’s grandmother and many of his friends had already checked the stream to see if he was tickling the trout; he wasn’t. They had searched the orchard to see if he was sitting in a tree, munching on a crisp apple while trying to chirp with a robin; he wasn’t. They had scoured the fields and meadows to see if he was helping farmers weed their crops, but they still could not find him. They had checked with their sons to see if he was practicing his swordplay with them; none had seen him for hours. The town master was about to make their apologies to the knight for David being absent when Corey remembered something David had once said and raced off to a nearby glen.
There he found a boy who was not so tall and not so fair and not so sturdy or strong, but who was just David. He was seated cross-legged by a thick tree watching a pair of fox cubs play with the remains of a fish they had just eaten. Nearby rested the mother fox, a wary eye fast upon him. But his manner gave her no reason to fear, so all was fine...until Corey appeared. The instant she saw him, she uttered a soft “yip” and the foxes vanished into their den.
Corey was stunned. “Was that the fox that stole our hens?” he asked.
David nodded and said, “Her kits were hungry so I’ve been catching fish for them.”
“Don’t let anyone find out,” said Corey. “They’ll chase them down and kill them.”
“I won’t let them,” David smiled, in answer. “What a knight swears to protect remains protected, no matter what.”
Corey shook his head and said, “We’ve been looking for you all morning.”
“Sir Richard has sent for you!”
David laughed. He could not believe the news, himself.
“But it’s true!” Corey cried. “Come and see!”
David rose, still skeptical, and grabbed his “sword” – two strips of wood tied together and rubbed to a fine smoothness – then the boys raced each other back to town. There they found the knight and his company still waiting patiently before his door, a crowd milling about them. David slid to a halt, stunned; what Corey had told him was really true.
When the townspeople saw David, they swarmed around him, chattering and calling so loudly he could not understand a word they were saying. Some seemed to be congratulating him. Others appeared to be upset. Others were asking him to do things for them or ask favors for them or just pass a message to the King for them. All of it was so confusing, David grew dizzy.
Then his grandmother yanked him away from them and dragged him into their hovel. Before he could regain his senses, she had given him a hot bath and dressed him in a clean but well-worn tunic. And as she dried his hair before the fire, tears trailed down her cheeks.
Surprised, David tenderly touched them and asked, “Why are you crying, Nana?”
All she could whisper in answer was, “If your parents could see you, they would be just as proud as I.” Then she ran her fingers through his hair to comb it and took him outside to present him to the knight.
The instant David appeared in the door, just about every child in town gathered around him, begging to be taken along. But the knight would not hear of it. “Master Martin must come alone,” he said.
“Of course, Sir Knight,” replied the town master, who hushed the children with a stern glare. Then he stood David before him, took his little sword away and said, “You are called to meet a man of great responsibility and courage, so you may not behave like a silly boy around him. Be humble. Be silent except when spoken to. And for once do as you are told when you are told to do it. Do not bring disgrace to our village.”
“I...I won’t, sir,” said David, feeling a bit ashamed.
Then his grandmother brushed the man aside. “Silly old fuss-budget,” she chuckled as she wrapped a warm cloak around the boy and tied a pouch with a paring knife and three copper coins around his waist. “I know you will do what is right. You always have, and I’ve always been proud of you.”
“Thank you, Nana,” he said. Then he jumped on the back of a brown pony. It belonged to Corey, but he had insisted David take it so he would not have to walk.
“You will return to see us?” Corey asked.
“Of course,” said David. “You’re my friend and Whitlock’s my home.”
The knight mounted his stallion, the soldiers took their positions behind the boy and they solemnly started off. David’s grandmother waved farewell from her door as the townsfolk lined the path to wish him luck. David rode taller and straighter than anyone could remember, but as he left the edge of the town and people returned to their chores, many of them thought, “He’ll need more than luck if he’s to impress Sir Richard.”