Nabil, the Jester
By Tina McB
Prince Mair reclined in his couch as the servants went around his bedchamber preparing for nighttime; stoking up all of the braziers, lighting the oil lamps, and crushing the dried beans for the Prince’s evening cup of coffee. His manservant stood at the doorway, softly clearing his throat.
“Yes, Ala’i; what is it now?” Mair grumbled.
“Your father’s court jester is here, to see you your highness.”
“Would you like for me to tell him to go away?”
“No! See him in.”
The Bard watched from across the courtyard on a small balcony that was hidden within the shadows of the quickly approaching night. The servant bowed gracefully as he backed out of the room; a moment later he returned with a tall, lanky man. The man bowed and stood back up waiting to be invited further into the Prince’s private chambers.
“Thank-you Ala’i; that’ll be all.” Dismissing his manservant who had served him since his twelfth birthday.
Ala’i was always polite and respectful; but Mair understood that he was a spy for his father as were most of his servants. He had found out the hard way, when he had just turned fourteen trying to sneak out with his new stallion. Two hours after riding towards the mountains that bordered the capital city of Aerd; a group of his father’s warriors caught up with him with King Ginse’s orders that they bring his son back. Ala’i was the only one who knew where he was headed.
“As you wish.”
“Would you care for some coffee?” The Prince offered as he took the tiny porcelain cup from the nameless servant.
“Isn’t that a Maritkan tradition?”
“Yes, it is. It’s one of the few ways in which I’m still able to defy my father’s hold on my every move.” Motioning to some stools that surrounded the couch where he was still reclined, “Please have a seat, have some coffee. You do still drink it don’t you?”
Taking the cup, Nabil lowered himself down onto one of the stools closest to the couch. Looking at the servant, “Ice please.” The servant held a small bowl while Nabil spooned up three shivers of ice and into steaming hot black liquid.
“Now leave us,” Mair demanded. Quietly the servants bowed as one by one they left the room. When only the two men remained, Mair began speaking again; “I wasn’t expecting you to come.”
“How could I not when you requested my presence, my Prince?”
“Please do not put on airs with me for you are one of the few people who I feel like I can trust. I’ve known you as far back as I can remember, we practically grew up together.”
“I am honored by your friendship Mair, but you must be careful of what you say. The walls do have ears.” Nabil said looking around the room with a knowing look. The walls were intermittent patterns of dark blue ceramic tiles that gleamed in the firelight with ornate pieces of golden latticework. The arched ceilings were covered with hand painted scenes from their holy books, mostly triumphant battle scenes, all of which were centered around the image of their God, a blazing sun, which was painted with gold overlay.
“Believe me, I am all too aware of that fact. The king wants to make sure that he controls everything!” Mair stated. Nabil whispered to try to keep the servants from overhearing, “What is it that you wish to talk about?”
“About this battle that’s coming, my father must put me in control of our forces. He’s too old to be doing battle.”
“Mair, I am your friend and I would never betray your trust; but why are you telling me this? Even though I may agree with you, I can do nothing about it. I’m just a lowly jester in your father’s court.”
“That you may be, but you still do have the king’s ear. He would listen to you if you asked him on my behalf.”
“You are his son, he would come closer to listening to you than he would me.”
“That’s not true and you know it. You’re there everyday in my father’s courts, you see and hear everything that happens. You know like I do that he will no longer listen to what I have to say.”
Hearing a quiet rustling sound from behind one of the panel pieces of latticework, Mair spoke up again; “Would you care to see some of my flowers? I have a rare variety of tulip that will be blooming for only about week or so, and only during the full moon.”
“I would love to, I haven’t been in your gardens for months now.” Nabil said, setting his cup on a small side table and standing up.
Picking up his robe of off his enormous bed, Mair led the way out of the side door.
The bard watch in silence as the two men walked the distance around the rectangular courtyard towards the back end. Sounds of crickets chirping and croaking frogs intertwined with the bubbling water fountain that was in the center of the Prince’s private garden.
Pointing to the ivory tulips that reflected the moonlight, giving them an almost iridescent look, Mair began speaking quietly. “It’s safer to talk here. No one can overhear us as long as we’re quiet.”
Nodding his head, Nabil responded, “Even if the King would listen to me, I still do not see what good it will do.”
“You know the king better than most people, even to his viziers and myself. You hear everything he hears and know his moods afterwards. If you could catch him when he’s feeling susceptible, you could speak with him then. Tell him that I can do it. You’re my only hope right now.”
“But what reasoning should I use, I can’t go in there and tell him he’s too old. He would have me beheaded for sure.”
Looking up into the heavens, Mair watched as the stars shimmered through the cloak of darkness. The time of day when the Maritkan God, Ohim, would not show his face; but instead left thousands of tiny warriors to shine in his place. He could feel their watchful eyes upon his shoulders, telling him that he was worthy to carry on the fight for his father. Why would his father not listen to him?
“Go to my father, tell him in your own words about the stories of these raids from the djuhah and how his warriors have failed to protect the people of Aerd; the stories that his viziers do not speak of. Tell him of their suffering; of all the orphans, widows, and children murdered because his men are unable to protect our villages. Tell him that a strong leader would not allow these things to happen as long as he was alive and in command.”
“The king would have my head, you cannot ask such a thing of a friend.”
“If you say it in your own words, at the right timing; he will not hurt you. He likes you, because he knows that you haven’t any ulterior motives.” Staring directly into his Nabil’s eyes, “I ask this of you for this, not on the basis of our friendship, but as payment for a debt. You once said that you would do anything for me for saving your life from certain death; I have never asked for anything until now. Will you help me to save our land?”
Nabil turned away from his friend and stared into the small fishpond that was peacefully tucked away into the corner of the courtyard. He watched as the breeze blew gentle ripples upon the water. It amazed him how something so subtle as a whisper of a wind could affect so many other things, how it made the flowers sway back and forth over the edge of the tiny waves of water.
“I will do it, but I will not promise that he will change his mind.”
“Thank-you my friend, I am eternally grateful for your help. Now shall we go back to my room before my servants start boring a hole through the stone wall to hear what we have to say?”
Heading back down the pebbled path, Nabil returned back to his normal speaking voice; “Your tulips are quite lovely, I must get some from you, when they multiply, for my mother; with your permission of course my Prince.”
“I would be delighted. She’s got a birthday coming up hasn’t she?”
* * *
It was late as Nabil watched Ginse; all of his viziers had retired for the night, leaving the king alone in his throne room except for his pair of hunting dogs and Nabil.
Nobody paid attention to Nabil; he’d been there for so long growing up along side of Mair and was of such little importance that most people treated him like he was not even there. Stretching his tired legs, he picked himself up off of the cushioned stool that sat to the left side of the massive dais.
The king sat there in a daze almost, tired from all of his advisor’s ramblings. He looked up when he saw the movement out of the corner of his eye, “Nabil, I didn’t even realize that you were still here.”
“Yes Sire, I am still here. I am not trying to pry, my liege, but I can tell that something is bothering you.”
“It’s nothing for you to worry about,” staring at the marble floor; how it gleamed from the moonlight and the braziers that warmed the room from the advancing night chill.
“I have never betrayed your confidence, my King.”
“I know that you wouldn’t, it has nothing to do with that.” Standing up, Ginse walked down the three steps of his dais. “Walk with me Nabil.”
“Yes Sire,” he said quickly following the king’s long stride’s out into the long corridor that ran from the throne room to the King’s private quarters.
Mair certainly has large footsteps in which to follow.
“It’s these djuhah. They show up without warning, burning our villages and murdering whoever gets in their way.”
“Have you been able to stop them in any way?”
“That’s the vexing part; with their robes, it seems that we can never hit one.” Walking through the double doors held open by two of his servants. His head manservant removed the King’s outer robe, handing it off to one of the other servants. ”Your bath is ready milord,” the man spoke softly.
“I’ll be there in a moment.”
The man bowed elegantly, backing out of the room, “Your wish is my command.”
“Sire, what of Prince Mair? What is his role in all of this?”
“I’m not sure yet. He is the heir to my throne, the next king to carry the weight of Aerd on his shoulders. Many people say they wish to live like the king, but they do not realize the price they would pay.” Sitting down on the divan, he motioned for Nabil to a small stool.
“Sire, I mean this in no disrespect, for I truly admire you, but you are not as young as you once were. The great stories of you and Beorn will forever be told around the campfires of our people, but these djuhah eat at your kingdom like a cancer eating away at a man’s skin. A plague is almost impossible to stop unless you’re able to cut it off at the source, where it’s feeding from, in time to stop it from devouring the whole body.”
“Why not let your son lead the battle that’s coming? He is able because he has your strength, the strength of your youth that you have lost with age.”
“Yes, he is strong and swift with the horse and he is one of the finest swordsman I have; he has defeated most of my best warriors during training events.” Ginse paused for a minute and studied the young man’s face; choosing his next words carefully. “I would love for him to be triumphant in battle; there is no other feeling like it in the world, but I will not allow it.”
“May I ask why my Liege?”
“I know that you speak these words from your heart, but I also know that you would not have spoken them if my son had not asked you to.” Taking a sip of the cool sherbet that one of his numerous servants had brought for him and Nabil. “I do not hold this against you for I know you mean no harm. With all of my son’s attributes, he still is too impulsive to lead my armies. He may have my strength of youth, but he does not have my wisdom of age. You may go and tell him now if you wish, but my answer is no.”
“Yes sire.” Nabil said, bowing his head as he left the kings chambers.