Close your eyes, and picture a glorious castle that seems to float upon a cloud. Inside this gilded castle, imagine a queen as cruel as she is proud. Can you see her majesty sitting in all her wealth and grandeur upon a red velvet throne? She is beautiful to gaze upon, but the ugliness of her heart shows in how she threatens her subjects and works their fingers to the bone.
Her name is Queen Trudy, and she truly is ungrateful and snooty. She always has a complaint and a request. She calls out during all hours of the day and night, with no concern for those at rest. Queen Trudy must continually get what she wants, or she exacts a nasty price. She is a sorceress too, and she uses her magic in ways that aren’t very nice. She thinks only of her whimsies, and doesn’t care about what others need or desire. All of her subjects, especially the Royal Fetcher, are repeatedly pressed to find the things she longs to acquire.
Now the Royal Fetcher, whose name is Fletcher, is the most kind hearted man you’d ever want to meet. He’s tall and well mannered, he’s great with a hammer – and truthfully his good looks can’t be beat! Unfortunately for Fletcher, the queen’s Royal Fetcher, his many talents are always in high demand. For nasty Queen Trudy, who is always terribly moody, endlessly barks out a command.
“Fletcher! Come here this instant or I’ll scream. Why is it taking you so long to fetch my ice cream?” Fletcher races into the throne room holding her majesty’s frozen delight. Even though only 37 seconds has passed since she asked for it, Queen Trudy acts as if she’s waited all night. There is never an ounce of gratitude for Fletcher’s service that is shown by her majesty. She continually takes and asks for more, due to her vanity.
“For heaven’s sake, Fletcher, what am I to do with you? Don’t you know how to hurry? I simply asked you for ice cream, and it’s clear you’ve no idea how to scurry.” Before Fletcher can respond, the queen continues, “You now have another opportunity to make up for your sloth. I’m sending you on a journey, so you can prove you’re more useful than a dishcloth!”
Queen Trudy hastily demands, “On your journey, you’ll fetch me a purse and a matching wallet with a clasp that twists, and some new crown polish too. I also want a new dress, and not just any dress will do. I demand one that is the color of midnight on a summer’s eve. I want accents of silver, precisely the color of moonlight, upon the trim and each sleeve.” Fletcher wrote her requests on a piece of parchment as she spoke. “Oh and by the way, if you think this is all I want, you’d be dumber than a bad joke. I also command you to bring me a new horse for my pearl colored carriage and it must be two shades off from pure white. I’ll have your head too, if this is not all delivered to me when the sun sets tomorrow night!”
She continues, “Fletcher, you are my Royal Fetcher, and as such you must do all that I say. When I give my commands, they must be fulfilled perfectly, or you know there’ll be a heavy price to pay. I know just how much you love your family. If you are wise, you will never again disappoint me.” Fletcher is struck deeply by her words, but he keeps this hidden and well concealed. He forces a smile, because it’s part of his employment deal.
There is only ever one response that Fletcher is allowed to express to the queen. It must be uttered exactly this way, or else she gets angry and increasingly mean: “Your majesty’s requests will be finished according to all you say. By the sweat of my brow, I’ll labor in your service night and day. I shall bring all that you require, nothing less, and if it pleases you, much more. Is this enough for now, your majesty, or shall I wait for another chore?”
Queen Trudy says nothing, so Fletcher, the Royal Fetcher, bows formally and dares to ask her for just two loaves of bread. “Please, your highness, I’d appreciate food for my journey and for my children to also be fed.” This most fair and polite request is not at all pleasing to her majesty. Queen Trudy looks sourly down upon him and replies, “Your children’s hunger is no great tragedy. I shall only provide you with enough money to purchase these items I desire. If I find out you spent any of my funds for yourself or your family, you’ll incur my furious ire!”
Fletcher is indignant, but he keeps it hidden and well concealed. He forces a smile and offers the queen the response she wants, as it’s part of the deal. “Your majesty’s requests will be finished according to all you say. By the sweat of my brow, I’ll labor in your service night and day. I shall bring all that you require, nothing less, and if it pleases you, much more. Is this enough for now, your majesty, or shall I wait for another chore?” Exasperated, Queen Trudy tells him for the moment, she’s reached the end of her list. She then shoos him away with a flick of her elegant wrist.
Watching Fletcher submit to her will brings Queen Trudy a feeling of dark joy. She laughs as he walks away, knowing she’s causing hardship for him and his children; a girl and a boy. “So what if they’re a bit starved and short on food? I have plenty to eat and new items on their way to lift my mood.” Queen Trudy, who truly is the absolute worst, sets off placing new demands upon her maids and her cooks. She wants a different dessert immediately that isn’t in any of the royal cookbooks!
Meanwhile, Fletcher is dashing around, preparing for the journey ahead. When his horse and wagon are ready, he has to tell his hungry children that there isn’t any bread. “I’m sorry children, please know I’ll do all I can to bring food home tomorrow night. Perhaps the queen will finally be pleased, and let us eat until we’re stuffed with delight!” The children giggle at the idea and wish their father a fond farewell. It is especially times like these that make his heart ache for their mother, Isabel. How he wishes she were there to care for him and their young girl and boy. He misses her and the way, even during hard times, her eyes always shone with joy. Not knowing where she is tears him apart. He asks the stars each night to guide her home and end the aching in his heart.
Thinking of his lost wife, Fletcher leads his horse away from their village, and is now officially on duty. As the Royal Fetcher, he heads to the nearest town to procure the first items for Queen Trudy. He reaches into his dusty, blue waistcoat to retrieve her list. He must locate an exquisite purse with a matching wallet that clasps with a twist. Fletcher is tormented by the thought that he may fail to satisfy all of the queen’s commands. He questions where he’ll be able to locate the colors of midnight and moonlight for the dress she demands? Soon he sees apple trees near the side of the road, so he stops to eat and give his horse a rest. Out from seemingly nowhere, a cloaked figure emerges that looks ancient, and isn’t well dressed.
“May I help you, kind stranger?,” Fletcher calls out across the road with trepidation. The stranger immediately croaks back, “No, but I may be able to help you,” with no hesitation. “Is that so? How can that be? I don’t mean to be rude, but you don’t know what I’m after or anything about me.” The haggard looking stranger replies, “Be that as it may, it may not be. I may know quite a lot about you, and you may also know quite a lot about me.” This stranger is speaking nonsense, but Fletcher is not tempted to act unkind. “Yes, perhaps you are right, however, I’m on a royal errand and must be on my way now, if you don’t mind.” The stranger hobbles closer to Fletcher, close enough to whisper in his ear. “Indeed I do mind, so tell me what you might need, and what you need might appear.”
Stunned at the brashness of this unsightly stranger, Fletcher decides to reply, “Queen Trudy demands many things, but first a purse and wallet I must buy.” The stranger’s hood falls back with a tilt of the head in a cackle that sounds just like an old hag. This reveals bad teeth and a face with skin as wrinkly and rough as canvas, and this makes Fletcher gag. However, Fletcher feels compassion too, and decides from this place to speak and act. “Please kind stranger, could you tell me where to find an exquisite purse and wallet, so I may fulfill my royal pact? I’m uncertain what it is about my quest that seems so funny to you? It’s gravely serious for me, for if I fail, the queen will have my head and my children will suffer too.”
The stranger stops laughing and ponders all Fletcher has said. It’s obvious that the poor Royal Fetcher is filled with dread. So the stranger extends a gnarled hand and says, “My name is Lebasi, and you may consider me a friend and ally. For you and for the children’s sake, I’ll help with all you need to buy. However, for my service there’s a price to pay, as nothing in this world is ever given for free. I’ll reveal what I want in good time, but you must promise when the time comes, you’ll give it to me!”
**** Is this stranger Fletcher’s friend or foe? Find out in Part II: Fletcher the Royal Fetcher due on Tuesday, April 2nd! ****