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REAL MASCOT SECRETS: COURT INTRIGUE

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STICK WITH ME ON THIS ONE

I was known as much for my style as for my actions, but make no mistake — I was a warrior.

If the royal court faced a challenge, I’d be the first to draw arms and defend it, and I would defend it ably and with elan. But I think the style began to undermine my authority. You see, I loved the finest things — fancy clothes, debonair hair, all of it — and who could deny me that? I provided a valued service to the court, and in return, I was going to live my life to the fullest.

I heard the whispers, though.

“He doesn’t actually defend us from anything.”

“He hasn’t faced any real threats — if he did, he’d crumple in the face of it!”

“He’s all style, no substance.”

Frankly, I began to wonder if there was some truth to it. Sure, I’d chased off a pack of wolves, some panthers, but were those real threats? Once I saw the ladies of the court giggling at me, though, I knew I had to do something.

I’d arrange a tournament.

I couldn’t look insecure. It had to be framed as a move of pure bravado. Send a call out over the land, far and wide — anyone could challenge me, and I’d stake my significant wealth against them. Defeat me, and you’d take my chests full of baubles, my wardrobe of finery, and my very position here on the court.

All I asked in return was a small entrance fee. You’d have to stake your entire wealth, too. I figured this would cut out any real challengers. A true warrior from another court wouldn’t be so brash as to risk that against someone of my stature. I’d draw in some foolish rabble, dispatch them with ease, and cement my reputation once again.

The day of the tournament drew near, and there was a palpable buzz around the court. I’d achieved my first goal — people were excited. The mere fact that I’d issue such a dare showed bravery, a swashbuckling imperiousness that I relished. And when the challengers began to filter in, I felt as though my plan had worked. A sad lot they were, the whole bunch of them. Not one I’d be concerned about.

I figured I’d rattle their cages a bit. Show off for the crowd. I began to strut around, examining what they’d brought to stake against my fortune. And I began to taunt them.

A bulldog, jowly and ill-bred, slobbering on the fine carpets of the Great Hall. “My word, you cur, I daresay your mere siring was a mistake! Was your mother a junkyard dog? I say, I shall take your bone and bury it in my yard!” The courtiers laughed.

Some dirt-poor settlers, no doubt passing through our lands seeking land of their own to stake. “I say, this rabble must not have had a bath since they departed,” I sneered, feigning holding my nose against the stench of the common man. “Once I dispatch with you, I shall take this silly wagon of yours and burn it to cook my goose!” Louder laughter from the court. I was winning the crowd back.

“A rebel? I shall take your guns, and make you regret ever doubting your place in the social order!”

“A monarch? Not of any realm I’ve spied, but I’ll be happy to take that crown from your head! I can give it as a teething toy to one of my illegitimate sons!” I shot a wink and a leer to the ladies of the court at that one.

“A wildcat? I shall take your pelt and hang it on my wall!”

Finally, at the end of the line, I sauntered up to a humble farmer, dressed in rags. Who could this ragamuffin be that they’d consider even wasting my time with a challenge. I chortled.

“Perhaps the dog has left another bone lying around? Or am I truly to believe that this sad excuse for humanity darest challenge me!” Laughter. “Now then, knave, what could you even have brought to stake against my considerable fortune?”

The farmer spoke softly, but without fear. “It has been a hard season, my liege. The land is fallow and dry, and my crops have wilted. The sun scorches the dirt, and I have little left. But what I do have, I have brought every bit of.” He produced a small piece of cloth, tied with string, and opened it.

Seeds, scarcely more than a baker’s dozen.

I guffawed. “Your entire fortune is a handful of seeds! And you think you’d have the ability to defeat me!?” Gales of laughter from the gathered courtiers. “Well, my boy, if you wish to suffer defeat at my hands, it’d be uncouth of me to deny you that, but I won’t even bother to draw my sword. I wouldn’t want to stain the carpets with your deficient blood!”

I snatched the bundle from his hand, and shoved him to the ground with ease.

“My first victory!” I bowed mockingly to the crowd. “A rousing match, and to the victor go the spoils!” I held the packet aloft. The farmer lay on his hinds, watching me. “I suppose I should enjoy them now, mustn’t I?” I poured the seeds into one hand, and shoved them in my mouth, making a show of consuming them in a single gulp.

Seconds later, I began to gasp. My vision grew blurry, and my throat closed up. I looked at the farmer, pleadingly, but I could muster no words.

“The only things I could grow this year were poisonous,” he said, standing and dusting himself off. “But it seems they’ve borne fruit.”

I fell to the floor, my vision growing dark. The last thing I saw was him removing my scabbard and placing it on his own hip.

And that, dear reader, is the story of the Cavalier felled by sixteen seeds.