Thank you, Kaylin.
[The Budding Genius, continued from Post #17]
The king swallowed hard. He blinked twice. He swallowed hard again. “I will do as you advise, my daughter.”
He left her alone, as she preferred to be, and hurried to his study. Summoning his High Chamberlain, his Man-at-arms, his steward, and his head chef, he spent the morning rapidly composing and sending invitations and discussing strategy. On his Chamberlain’s advice, he spent the afternoon with his most flattering and false admirers, practicing lying convincingly. When the dinner hour arrived, he felt sure of himself.
The four royal couples arrived promptly and were seated with a minimum of fuss. All were expectant, for they had not received such pressing invitations so vague and yet so promising in quite some time. The king was a widower, and so he greeted them alone and began the lie immediately. “No doubt you’ve noticed the extra place setting. It is time to tell you all something incredible. My youngest daughter is a seer.” She stepped out of the shadows and came to her seat with perfect timing, placidly joining the group as if nothing were out of the ordinary. “Here she is. She has abiliities that I do not understand. My darling, would you explain?” He sat back to taste the soup before it was served, and nodded for service to continue as she began to speak.
“The gods come to me in my mother’s garden. Some of you perhaps know that she died there giving birth to me. I have good news, father. I have been granted miracle seeds.”
No one had touched their soup, some in clear disbelief, some in confusion, some in fear. The king faked an indulgent smile and said, “Please tell our guests what you mean.”
“They would not believe it, father. I will show them, with your permission.”
At the king’s nod, she rose and led the five kings and four queens from the table straight to her garden. There, in a small wheelbarrow, was a small bagful of seed. She gestured for a servant, who wheeled it after her as she led them to the keep. The stench was overpowering. She pointed to the northern king, known for being unable to smell, and said, “Good King. Please look inside and tell us what you see growing there.”
“Nothing?” he said in a moment.
“Quite” she said with a smile, reached into the bag, and cast a handful of seeds past him. But a moment passed, and seven vines began to fill the hall they stood in. In the time it takes to draw seven breaths, seven different vegetables were showing ripe and ready for picking. At a gesture from King Midiko, the servant brought him a large carrot, wiping it clean. The hallway smelled like newly turned soil. The king tasted it and all could see it was good to eat. The guests were properly amazed. King Midiko whispered to his Chamberlain, who began calculations at once, and whispered back: “Less than a month, sire, surely, and we will have a bounty for the coming winter.” A squabble broke out at once among the guests. They were arguing over who she should marry. Blinking with amazement, King Midiko called for silence as produce started falling from the vines. As the Chamberlain called for servants to come and carry away the bounty, the king said: “I know that some of you realize she is my YOUNGEST daughter. I do have the right to marry her off last. But you are ALL my allies. Surely there is some arrangement we can come to?”
The king from the west said, “Hang the wedding! You’ll have cheap food for me to buy. Six strongboxes of gold for twelve silos full of grains and vegetables!” (A fantastic price, even considering the time. But gold he had aplenty.)
The king from the south said, “I have two sons for her to choose from, but with or without a wedding–farmers to be idle or poor? Eight strongboxes of gold for you NOT to share your bounty or sell it to ANYONE!”
The king and queen from the east, after a moment of whispering said in unison: “Share the bounty or not. Such a blessed woman should not be long unwed. Her magic and our eldest son’s magic could make the most wondrous sorcerer child. We offer a bride-price of one hundred enchanted swords and shields, and five hundred target-finding arrows.”
The king from the north looked desperate. “Nine strongboxes of gold, and my army will fight your wars FOR you. She may marry anyone from my nobles she’ll have. Our growing season is short, and we need to defend ALL of us from the barbarians in the icy wastes. My son is handsome and strong, and he is admired by many! I can have him here in moments.” He gestured at his wife, angrily, and the queen from the north scurried out of the hallway. The others conferred in angry, quiet voices.
King Midiko cleared his throat, as the northern prince arrived. “A gracious offer to be sure. I should agree immediately–“
His daughter broke a stick under her foot, startling the party. She appeared to go into a trance, and said: “If anyone does owe King Midiko more than they have offered already, let them pay it now, or everyone will regret it until ALL present have paid a like amount. The gods have spoken.”
Several guilty looks were exchanged, but silence reigned. The northern prince stepped forward and said, “I pledge my troth to you, before all here present. With luck, we can marry quickly.”
King Midiko saw his daughter move a hand oddly within her dress as she said, “I accept your pledge.” Then foliage sprouted within her body. She erupted with growth in a most hideous fashion. Branches grew bloodlessly right through her skin. King Midiko ran for his daughter and caught himself as she winked at him, gave each arm to a servant, and departed.
The denials began. They began to argue. King Midiko called for order, understanding his role at last. “The gods have spoken! You all will give to me the same amount proclaimed as the pledged bride-price. We do not wish to suffer! Through it all I will feed your hungry as it is only the right thing to do! You will recompense me fairly, and I will release you, prince, from your troth when these debts are settled. I will not condemn us all to MORE suffering. I am a fair man, and a fair king! Now I will go to ease my daughter’s suffering. Make your arrangements with my Chamberlain.” He fairly ran to her bedchamber and demanded admittance.
His daughter sent away the physician and explained. “Dear Father, please don’t think ill of me or worry. My mother’s assistant gardener told me before he died that she had a seedling in her bed when I was conceived. The gods really do come to me in her garden. Through the plants. This plant is my sister, as we were in the womb together. It is a joy not to hide her anymore. Someday I may bud and produce you an heir, but I need no husband to do it. My sister loves you too, Father, and was very pleased to grow you the miracle seeds that will save us from the injustices and troubles facing us. Open the curtain, Father! Let me and my sister have more sun?