Banyon entered the keep. There was the aristocracy, their fine dress half eaten by insects. They may have nibbled on it themselves in their struggle with hunger.
Banyon smiled and walked towards the stairwell. Before he got there a guard with sunken eyes stopped him.
“Sir, the Queen, requests your company in the throne room,” the sunken-eyed guard said.
“The throne room is back in the palace, no one goes to the palace,” said Banyon.
“That was the old one; there is a new one now in the ale store,” sunken eyes said. Banyon nodded and went on his way.
The door to the ale store had become lopsided and dragged along the ground. It was heavy as Banyon lifted it to open more. Upon entering Banyon saw the barrels and at the far end, there was the queen. A throne of barrels improvised for her to sit. As Banyon approached, he saw Miregard at her left-hand side. Someone was standing before them, slouched forward, head bowed. It was not until Banyon passed the person that he could see that it was Flotsom. Flotsom the court jester, a grey blanket, holes left by moths covering a long stained shirt. Barefoot, bare legged, cuts on every part of exposed flesh and knees shaking.
Banyon approached the throne, bowed then instructed to rise with a gesture from the queen.
“Gald that you could join us Sir Banyon,” Miregard said.
“To be of service is to live in pleasure,” Banyon said.
“A great injustice has occurred.” said Miregard
“Yes, the men are exhausted. We’re not getting the required reinforcements.”
“Silence,” the queen said.
“We talk not of military matters, something far closer to home,” Miregard said.
“I see,” said Banyon.
“That is why you are to bear witness to this trial”
“Formal trials can wait for there is a far more pressing one that we must deal with.”
“How do you expect an army to stand united if there is discord in the ranks?”
“You speak of mutiny?” said Banyon
“Worse, insubordination, Flotsom has been found to be a dealer of offensive material.”
“Present it then.” said Banyon.
“It is not physical; it is spoken, the words wildfire burning through the keep.”
“He is a jester; it is his job to lighten the mood of the court.”
“Not when the queen herself put restrictions on merriment, Flotsom is in breach.”
“And I am to be his defence,” said Banyon
“No, we have you here as a formality, to bear witness, so that there are no accusations of a secret trial. When they ask you was justice done, you are to say yes.”
“As a knight, it is one of my sacred duties to tell the truth. If you want me to respond in the affirmative, then I must see justice done.”
“You always find a way to slow progress,” Miregard said.
“You’re trying to say that killing someone over the killing of a joke is the most important matter for us right now. I disagree with that; there are far more pressing concerns upon us that need to be addressed.”
“And you will want to attend those concerns promptly, all you need to do is agree to the set conditions.”
“I would ask to postpone the trial until a later date. Provided there is one.”
“It would take more effort to abandon the trial now. Seeing as it is so close to the end of proceedings, all you need to do is say yes.”
“I must know what I agree to.”
“You know Banyon, your insistence on slowing us down is what is causing the real problems.”
“Fine, get on with it.”
“Well, we were wrapping up, closing statements.”
“I need to see the evidence.”
“Repeat yourself Banyon; I did not hear you.”
“I am to send a man to his death over a joke then at least let me hear it so that I may judge.”
“That would not be appropriate.”
“Unless he has denied that he has told the joke.”
“That is irrelevant; it doesn’t matter if he told the joke or not.”
“You don’t even know if he told the joke, that isn’t fair,” said Banyon.
“He is the court jester; he has a responsibility for humour.”
“Flotsom, the devils come for you.”
“Do not speak of devils in these times.”
“The joke, let me hear it.”
Miregard looked at Flotsom and nodded.
“It’s more visual humour than anything,” Flotsom said lying down on the stone floor. Flotsom lay on his back. Folding himself in two, bringing his legs over his head he began to moan and convulse as if possessed by a demon.
“I don’t get it; this is neither funny or offensive,” Banyon said.
“Hold on,” Miregard said, “Flotsom, tell me the name of this piece.”
“I call it, “The Queen next week,” Flotsom said.
“Right that is enough,” said Miregard. Flotsom got back to his feet. There was a smirk noticeable on his face.
“That isn’t a joke Miregard,” said Banyon.
“I agree it was the worse judged attempt at humour I have ever seen.”
“That’s not what I am saying. A joke is a small truth exaggerated. What Flotsom did was a big truth diminished. Nothing in that act was untrue. Flotsom is being tried for telling the truth.”
“Remember yourself Sir Banyon,” the Queen said.
“With how things are going, Flotsom’s piece will be regarded as an act of prophecy. The orc will get through that gate, and they will take you as plumbers do an old pipe. They will plug every leak.”
“There is no need to be so coarse.”
“There may be no need, but there are those out there who will not care for need and only concern themselves with want. As for me and my needs. I need to get back to the gate.”
“If you need to get back to the gate then there is nothing stopping you except for one thing.”
Banyon looked at Flotsom. Flotsom raised his head and met Sir Banyon’s gaze.
“The kingdom is at stake.” Banyon said.
“I understand Sir,” Flotsom said. “I would sooner be dead than the horror that will be coming through that gate. You lot will look at me with envy. Her highness will wish that those who have their way were as gentle as my joke. Although roughness
may give her the pleasure that she so badly needs.”
“Get on with it,” the Queen said.
“Very well,” said Miregard. Miregard turned went out through a door and when he returned there was an axe wielder with him.
Banyon took off a glove. A crate was dropped in front of Flotsom. The axe-wielder forced Flotsom to his knees and his head on the crate. Banyon approached and held Flotsom’s hand.
“Get away from him,” Miregard said.
“I only mean to help ease his passing.”
“His passing should not be easy; he was instigating insubordination.”
“Fine, then I am no longer needed here. Dismiss me so that I may be able to return to the gate.”
“Very well,” The Queen said.
Banyon bowed and left for the gate.
As Banyon approached the gate, he saw the lever. Banyon continued to walk towards the lever. Banyon heard shouts and cries. Banyon felt the strike of the arrows. Banyon slowed but continued forward. More arrows, his hand reached the lever.