Part II: Fletcher the Royal Fetcher

Fletcher, the Royal Fetcher, doesn’t know why, but he trusts Lebasi. He agrees that when the time comes, he will pay the undisclosed fee. He then carefully helps Lebasi climb into his wagon and together they continue down the road to the next town. As they draw near to it, Lebasi makes a heartfelt declaration, promising to not let Fletcher down.

“Queen Trudy is a tyrant, and demanding she may always be. However, I promise she’ll have no more cause to harm you or your precious family. For I am here now, and I believe together we can obtain what she sent you to acquire. Please, all I ask is that you trust me, as I assist you with the objects of her desire.”

Fletcher ponders this and then asks, “What if I trust you, but you decide to change your mind? How can I really know for certain your intentions are pure and kind?” Lebasi doesn’t hesitate, “I suppose you don’t, but don’t you suppose you ought to try? I have my own reasons for assisting for sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m not your friend and ally.” Fletcher decides once and for all to follow his instinct to trust this odd stranger. He hopes this will not lead to any type of danger!

As they make their approach, the town’s gatekeeper opens the creaky, wooden gate and allows Fletcher and Lebasi to come in. The very first thing they see is the Downtrodden Inn. There, they secure the horse and wagon, then set off for a fancy fabric shop the queen would adore. However, the shopkeeper doesn’t have a matching purse and wallet with a clasp that twists, like they’re looking for. Anxiety sweeps over Fletcher, but he tells himself there’s still plenty of time and he shouldn’t be filled with dread. He has until the sun sets the next day to find everything on the queen’s list and earn his children’s bread.

Disappointed, Fletcher and Lebasi wind through the town, until they find a woman in a window who is feverishly sewing a red dress. Hope then fills Fletcher’s heart, and he goes into the shop to speak to the seamstress. “Good afternoon, my lady, how do you do? My name is Fletcher, and I’m looking for a dress that’s blue. Specifically, it needs to be the color of midnight on a summer’s eve. It also must have accents of silver, precisely the color of moonlight, upon the trim and each sleeve. I need it tonight, if possible, can you help me?” She sharply replies, “No! I don’t have time to sew two dresses tonight, so let me be!”

Feeling increasingly nervous, Fletcher reaches into his dusty, blue waistcoat to take another look at Queen Trudy’s list of demands. The heaviness of the situation he’s in adds great weight to each of the commands. He knows something terrible will happen if he doesn’t please the queen. He must find a way to procure all of the items to prevent her from becoming vengeful and mean.

Unfortunately, the sky is growing darker, and there are still items on the queen’s list that have yet to be addressed. Like the horse that must be two shades off from pure white, which may prove harder to find than her ridiculous dress. Fletcher and Lebasi pass a blacksmith on their way towards Downtrodden Inn. “Kind sir, do you happen to know where I can find a white horse in this town, because I have no idea where to begin?” The blacksmith smiles a toothy grin, and introduces himself as Blacksmith Ben. “Indeed, I do, but it will cost you a lot to take her away from my pen.” Fletcher is elated that such a horse might exist, so he asks to see the pretty mare. When Blacksmith Ben leads her out to meet Fletcher, all he can do at first is stare. She’s exactly what he thinks the queen would consider two shades off from pure white. It seems luck is finally on his side tonight!

Fletcher finds his words and says with a twinkle in his eye, “How much are you asking, because she’s exactly the type of horse I need to buy.” Blacksmith Ben has a twinkle in his eye as well. “Give me everything in that satchel of yours, and I’ll be happy to sell.” Fletcher’s smile vanishes in a flash. “No, as I must make other purchases with this cash.” Blacksmith Ben’s toothy grin fades too. “Then I’m sorry, I cannot help you.” He leads the beautiful white horse back to her pen. Fletcher starts to panic, because he can’t strike a deal with Blacksmith Ben.

Lebasi offers a comforting pat on Fletcher’s shoulder, but the kind gesture doesn’t help the matter. Fletcher must focus on acquiring at least one item on the queen’s list before nightfall, so they head to the hatter. Upon entering the hat shop, Fletcher inquires if the hatter has any solution worthy of polishing Queen Trudy’s crown? “Indeed, I may have just the bottle, one moment, and I’ll track it down.” A few moments pass, and then Fletcher is holding a solution that he is told will give the queen’s crown an extraordinary shine. He gives the hatter a few coins for the elegant bottle from the royal satchel, and they leave the hat shop behind.

When Fletcher and Lebasi arrive at the stables of Downtrodden Inn, Fletcher remarks that the place is appropriately named. “I’ve travelled all day and I’ve not obtained all the things the queen demands, and so I’ll be blamed. I feel downtrodden, and I have no idea what to do. My children and I are hungry, and we’ve no money to buy a room. I brought you along on this journey, because you said you’d help me. Please, tell me you’ll follow through, Lebasi.”

Lebasi pats Fletcher’s shoulder again and assures him that all will be well. “Be patient, get some sleep, and on this negativity no longer dwell. For I have made you a promise, haven’t I? Trust me now, and be reassured I didn’t lie.” Lebasi looks Fletcher in the eyes and wills him silently to stop with the worry and the feeling of dread. Fletcher feels for a moment that there’s something familiar in Lebasi’s eyes, but he decides it’s nothing, and goes to bed.

When Fletcher is fast asleep, Lebasi grabs the red glass and gold plated bottle of crown polish they bought from the hatter, and quietly leaves the stables at the inn. There is a lot to be done between now and when the sun rises, so the important work must begin. In the stillness of the night, Lebasi silently picks herbs and flowers from a nearby meadow in a glen. Then, the time comes to pay a visit to the pen of Blacksmith Ben. Just before dawn, Lebasi returns to the inn and gives Fletcher’s shoulder a good shake. “We must be on our way back to the castle now, as it is nearly daybreak.”

Fletcher’s anger quickly reaches a boiling point and his fingers tighten into a fist. “We can’t leave, as we only have one item from the queen’s list! I placed my trust in your promise that you’d help me with what I came here to do! Yet, it seems you’ve lied to me, haven’t you?” This is terribly hurtful to Lebasi. “Be that as it may, it may not be. I haven’t let you down, and I hope you will understand. I have been busy all night making preparations for a big plan. I told you I’m after something as well, and what we both want remains for us to receive. Once again I ask you to be patient, find trust, and agree to leave with me.”

Fletcher is furious, and questions how he can go on trusting that everything will be alright? He’s the Royal Fetcher, but he’s running out of time to fetch Queen Trudy’s items before the sun sets tonight. His thoughts constantly remind him the welfare of his children is at stake. The suspense of not knowing just how he will accomplish his mission is nearly too much for him to take. “Lebasi, I have not told you, but my children and I have suffered the loss of our mother and wife. You must understand that I have to obtain all that the queen desires tonight, so she’ll spare my children, as well as my life.”

Lebasi watches Fletcher with empathy. The distress on his face is heartrending to see. “I have also lost much at the hands of Queen Trudy. She has ripped me away from what I love most with her evil sorcery.” Then Lebasi adds sofly, “Under the cover of the wagon, we have what we need. Don’t ask how, just steer us over that hill and there we’ll find a white steed. That is all I will say for now, so do not ask anymore questions of me. When we get to the castle, just follow my lead.”

As they reach the far side of a hill, Fletcher sees a lone white horse standing underneath a tree. It is precisely two shades off from pure white, and this fills Fletcher’s heart with glee! “Were you able to strike a deal with Blacksmith Ben for his horse?,” he asks with a grin, wide and bright. His elderly companion shrugs and says, “No more questions, at least not until later tonight!” Without another word, Lebasi deftly climbs down from the wagon and up onto the horse’s back, much to Fletcher’s surprise. This makes him wonder how much more there’s to discover about Lebasi beyond what meets his eyes?

Many hours pass as they travel, and this affords them each time to prepare to face Queen Trudy in their own way. Fletcher can feel something transformational is going to transpire later that day. He’s nervous, and is hoping things go well so his children will be fed. As long as Lebasi comes through, there ought to be just enough money from the queen to buy them some bread. He pats the pocket of his dusty, blue waistcoat where the satchel of money ought to be. To his utter panic, he finds a few coins in there, but it’s mostly empty!

Fletcher screams, “Lebasi! I don’t understand how this can be? You ask me to trust you, but how can I when you’ve stolen from me?” Lebasi stops the horse immediately and indignantly looks him square in the eyes. “I have always told you the truth, and I will never tell you any lies. I asked you yesterday to tell me what you need, so that the items might appear. Have you forgotten these things you require do not come freely, my dear?” With that, the horse gallops away, and it’s too late for Fletcher to argue or do anything but follow Lebasi. They must hurry straight to Queen Trudy’s castle and hope she doesn’t use her evil sorcery!

Soon the trumpets blare declaring their arrival, and the royal court and guards appear inside the castle gate. Queen Trudy summons Fletcher at once remarking, “It’s very good for you that you aren’t running late! Now, where are the things I asked you for? I can’t wait to behold new treasures for me to adore!”  With barely masked irritation he responds, “Yes, your highness, I have the items in my wagon for you to see. But first, here is the horse you requested, and the stranger riding it is Lebasi.”

Lebasi’s hood stoops lower that it ever has before. So low in fact, it practically reaches the floor. From underneath the rough, crumpled fabric an old, hag like voice calls down. “Queen Trudy, I am your new loyal subject, please allow me to honor you by polishing your crown.” Lebasi’s gnarled, outstretched hand reveals the hatter’s ornate red glass and gold plated bottle for the queen to see. “Please, your highness, it’s the least I can do in return for your gracious hospitality.” Queen Trudy is taken with the beauty of the bottle and the promise that her crown will be shinier than the sea. So she removes the gold and jewel encrusted crown from her head and hands it up to Lebasi.

Lebasi opens the bottle and uses a sleeve to polish, while whispering ancient words from under the hood of the ugly cloak. The words come out so soft, no one hears a single syllable the elder croaks. Lebasi then rasps audibly for Fletcher to help her down off of the horse. Still clutching the queen’s crown, Lebasi’s gnarled hands draw Fletcher in close. He hears this whispered command in his ear: “Kiss me sincerely, my dear! This is the only way to protect your children and it’s the price you agreed to pay. Do it quickly, my love, before the queen gets in our way!” Stunned, Fletcher pushes back the hood just enough to see Lebasi’s lips, and then leans in to fulfill his vow. Never did he think he’d be kissing Lebasi, but his children’s welfare is on the line now. When the kiss breaks, Lebasi quickly pulls the hood back down. After a pause, a hand comes out of the unsightly cloak to give Queen Trudy her crown.

When Lebasi’s hand extends to the queen, it is suddenly clear that a transformation has taken place! The hand isn’t gnarled, it’s youthful and moves with grace! This beautiful hand sweeps the hood back to reveal the face of the woman Fletcher loves most in the entire galaxy! His wife, Isabel, is now standing before them all, not Lebasi! Fletcher wonders out loud, “Isabel? How can this be? I thought you were lost or had been taken from me!”

Isabel proclaims loudly for Fletcher, the royal court, and villagers to hear: “I was taken away from my family and all I hold dear. This was my punishment for selling wildflowers to feed my hungry children, when we ran out of food. The queen found out about this, and it put her in a vengeful mood. Queen Trudy used her evil sorcery to turn me into a hideous, unrecognizable thing. She locked me away in one of her dungeons with no hope of escaping. She told me there was only one action that could return me to the way I used to be. My husband would have to sincerely kiss me! I thought I’d be doomed for all eternity, but hope took shelter in my heart when I discovered the dungeon contained a few discarded books. I read about old, white magic that can alter the way a person or a thing looks. With each passage I read, my knowledge grew, until I felt I was ready to use white magic to make my getaway. I finally made it to the road where I saw my husband appear yesterday! Lucky for me, he had stopped his wagon to take a rest. I was able to convince him to bring me on his journey, even though I was haggard and not well dressed. With the first part of my plan complete, in that I was reunited with my husband, it was time to focus on part two. I needed Fletcher’s help, and so I promised I could help him too!”  

Everyone, including Queen Trudy, gasps the moment Isabel finishes her terrible, woeful story. Fletcher takes her into his arms to hold her once again in her restored glory. Queen Trudy screams, “How can this be? How did you escape and convince your husband to kiss you, when you looked so ugly? My banishment and curse on you should never have been undone! You outsmarted me, but I can assure you both, you have not won!”

Isabel exclaims, “Be that as it may, it may not be. Let your attention be turned to the wagon now, your majesty. Your demands have been dealt with fairly. Look at what you deserve, please come and see.” Queen Trudy’s lust for pretty things is momentarily at odds with her desire to discipline. She ultimately decides to fling open the cover of the wagon to grab what lies within. Fletcher silently hopes his wife has filled the wagon with the queen’s treasures during the night. If not, he knows things will not be alright!

Queen Trudy screeches and rears back from the wagon to threaten Isabel and Fletcher. She demands an explanation as to why the wagon is empty from her Royal Fetcher. “How dare you only bother to obtain the white horse and polish for my crown! For your offences, I shall bring you both down!” Before Fletcher can speak, Isabel retorts, “You don’t deserve any of it, because you’re a terrible tyrant, Queen Trudy! This horse will be coming home to be loved by my family. Like me, it was treated unkind and kept locked in a pen. I struck a deal for most of your gold coins with Blacksmith Ben.” The queen is in dumbstruck and can scarcely believe her ears. Never has anyone dared to speak to her like this during her reign of many years!

The queen turns and proclaims, “For all of this, you shall be doubly punished, Fletcher! I hope you enjoyed your short reunion with Isabel, because you’ll never again be able to fetch her!” The queen touches her crown in preparation to hurl a bolt of dark magic at Isabel. Her intention is to bind her to the dungeon forever with this black spell!

Isabel giggles and points at Queen Trudy, then gestures towards the crowd. “The queen’s power has been dissolved with the solution I used to polish her crown! Ha! The rest of my plan came together, once we bought the crown polish from the hatter, you see. I used my knowledge of white magic to combine it with a potion of herbs and flowers to end her dark sorcery!” The crowd erupts into thunderous applause and loud shouts of good cheer. Everyone except Queen Trudy who is full of hate, as well as fear.

Without her evil sorcery, how can the queen stop Fletcher and Isabel? How can she manipulate her subjects and obtain exquisite treasures as well? As if Queen Trudy’s mind is being read, the crowd suddenly shifts their focus to her. “Trudy is no longer our queen, because she possesses no more power! Fletcher’s family is safe starting today! Hip-hip hooray! No one has to lift a finger or do anything she might say. As a matter of fact, we should banish her to a boat and sail her far, far away! From now on, we don’t need a queen to tell us what we can and cannot do. We’ll give everyone an equal voice, a vote, and we’ll ensure we all get plenty to eat too!”

Before the crowd carries Trudy away, Fletcher steps forward with something to say. There has only ever been one response that he has longed to express to the former queen. He has wanted to utter it exactly this way every time she was angry and treated him mean: “Your majesty’s requests have been finished according to all you have said. By the sweat of my brow, I’ve labored in your service for years without gratitude or sufficient bread. I have always brought all that you required, nothing less and often much more. Now I’m telling you once and for all, I have had enough, and I won’t do anymore!”

Trudy bursts into tears as she realizes she has been overthrown. This causes her to thrash about, throw a tantrum, and moan. Some of the villagers wonder why in her lowly state, she isn’t apologizing? They shout, “She has no remorse for how she’s treated us, so we should banish her with nothing!” Isabel chimes in, “Be that as it may, it may not be. Someday, I believe Trudy will feel very sorry. However, it’s clear today is not that day. Proceed with placing her on a boat, and sailing her far, far away!”

Once again, the crowd erupts with thunderous cheers of pure elation and joy! Feeling triumphant, Fletcher takes Isabel to the royal kitchen, then home to be reunited with their little girl and boy. Not only does Fletcher, the Royal Fetcher, bring home their mother, he also brings plenty of bread and stew! The whole family is filled with food, happiness, peace, and love…and so is their new white horse too!