Jasmine entered the room, her shimmering, light-blue dress decorated with white trimmings pre-empting the day that she would become royalty. She breathed in the combined smell of numerous dishes, each cooked with passion and love. The clanging of swords against armour bounced from one stone wall to the other as the two guards on either side of the thick, wooden door worked together to push it shut, giving Jasmine no choice but to stay until the rules of the game had a chance to be heard. Jasmine already knew the rules, but no exception could ever be made against this tradition. That was the law.
In the centre of the room was a table, its four, dense, hand-carved legs betrayed by a white tablecloth not long enough to reach the ground. On the table, a banquet that could feed fifty men was presented with such precision, Jasmine thought it would make the perfect subject for one of her mother’s exquisite paintings. Platters of fruits positioned eloquently on white china; warm meats and vegetables hidden under the finest of silver-wear and drinks of various colours waiting to be paired with each delicious mouthful. A single chair, not fit for a princess, but not fit for a commoner either, sat exposed at the end of the table. Nerves flew through Jasmine’s veins, knowing that she would soon be sitting in the chair. Glancing away from the bounty laid out on the table, Jasmine looked up and stared at the blue sky and contrasting white clouds through the only source of light in the room; an arch window carved out of the stone wall.
Jasmine’s gaze drifted back down the cobblestone walls and towards the far end of the room where The Queen and her assistant were waiting. The jewels on The Queen’s gown occasionally caught the sunlight as she bent down to whisper something into her assistant’s ear. The assistant, dressed in a traditional all-white outfit, walked with some authority towards the chair and dragged it across the polished-stone floor, the grating sound of their contrasting materials causing a palpable unease in the room. The assistant then looked over at Jasmine and waved his hand across the seat of the chair, beckoning her to take a seat.
The subtle sounds of the frills at the bottom of Jasmine’s dress brushing against the floor filled the room as she made her way over to the table. She sat down and adjusted the bulk of her dress, the assistant pushing the chair in on Jasmine’s signal. The Queen took three steps forward, standing directly in the beam of brilliant light shining through the arch window. Jasmine found it difficult to maintain eye contact given the hundreds of dots of light reflecting from The Queen’s dress and dancing around the uneven surfaces of the room’s walls. The assistant passed The Queen a scroll which she promptly unravelled while maintaining eye contact with Jasmine, her eyes dropping once she had revealed the script in its entirety.
“Jasmine Elizabeth Conroy,” The Queen began, “It has come to the kingdom’s attention that you wish to claim yourself to be a princess and, if fate permits, to one day call yourself queen.”
Jasmine knew not to say anything, choosing to nod instead.
“Then you must follow the rules and complete a task so monumental in its demands, that it will forever prove you worthy of wearing the royal crown.” Jasmine stopped herself from moving even the smallest of muscles.
“You are to eat and drink your way from one end of the table to the other. Only then can we know that you can do what is best for the people of our kingdom. You are free to leave, though doing so forfeits your right to wear the crown.” There was a tremendous pause as The Queen packed the scroll away. “You may take as long as you need. May the grace of the kingdom be with you.” The Queen and her assistant drifted towards the door, signalling to the guards that they must now open it. The two guards, The Queen and her assistant left the room, the booming sound of the shutting door causing the silence that followed to be all the more prominent.
Jasmine’s attention zig-zagged slowly across the table, her eyes settling towards the front of the table. She leant over, plucked a purple grape from its stem and delivered it to her mouth.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
Illustrations by Alisha Towers: FACEBOOK
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