“You cannot know how good it is to see friendly faces!” bellowed King Lewes from the head of the table.
“Well then. Time for dinner!”
The guests did not so much as blink. Lord Figgle had his signature pout on, the one which not even good food could apparently dissolve. Fair Countess Sybille frowned over her plate beside him, the deathly intensity of her expression twisting her pale face to a most unhomely state. On her other side, the Chieftain Symbord was grimacing in a way that bespoke the inherent barbarity of his people, all bared teeth and spittle. The last two guests at least had the decency to try and appear content—Prince Cobble and Princess Continentia both wore smiles that one could have called handsome in the right light, had one some slender inclination for overstatement. These lords and ladies of the realm were notoriously difficult people to please, of course, and Lewes had hardly dared to expect a better response, yet it still smarted some seeing them so glum.
“Doesn’t the duck taste well?” he asked of no one in particular, silverware diving into the soft flesh of the bird as he cut away. He speared a bite with his fork and held it to his lips, waiting for an answer. None came. “Well then. Suit yourselves.” Soldiering on despite the challenge, his father had once said. That is being king.
The dinner proceeded with some stiffness. Lewes munched on whatever the chef brought in, occasionally glancing at the guests, dealing out good-natured smiles, eager nods, conspiratorial rolls of the eye. No one spoke a single word, but then that could have been on account of the delicious victuals. In any case, it did not matter. A king has no reason to find reasons, his brother had once said. Leave that to the peasants.
Lewes wiped his lips with a napkin as the dregs of his dessert were whisked away. He flashed a grin at his guests, and said, “I’m full. What about you?”
Lord Figgle continued to pout, a veritable champion of the charmless craft. Countess Sybille’s frown had hardly twitched an inch in any which way; perhaps her eyelids were slightly heavier than before, if anything. The barbarian Symbord looked nothing short of a screaming, angry baby, one which Lewes found he had little patience for anymore. At least the princely pair was still smiling, though the room’s weak lighting made that detail hard to appreciate. Suddenly … everything was hard to appreciate.
Lewes sighed. He was very tired. Tired of the dead silence. Tired of the vacant stares. Tired of being the bloody king, taking care of everything, getting nothing in return. Not even conversation. He pushed himself up, served his guests a scornful look across the table, and turned to go.
“George!” he called for his secretary. “Please show these lords and ladies … the way out.”
George and a gaggle of servants even lower in stature scurried over with their heads bowed. One procured a large sack and another held it open, while George, may God grant him long life, manfully tossed the severed heads of the guests inside. One by one, each made a dull thud at the bottom—the only sounds they deigened to give. When they were all inside, a servant cleared away the plates they had rested upon, after which the retinue scuttled back into the shadows. And that was that. Another demented dinner done with.
King Lewes closed the door of the dining room behind him to a satisfying click. He smiled, despite everything. You have to enjoy the little things in life, his mother had once said. It will all be such a dreary affair otherwise. He turned around and walked to the table at the centre of the new room, where his next guests were already waiting.
“You cannot know how good it is to see friendly faces!” he bellowed, and took his seat at the head of the table.
Header picture: screenshot taken by the author