Now Hiring

"No, no, no, that's all wrong!" screeched the King, ruler of the kingdom of Weswhaal. His face was a bright shade of red. Tomato red, to be specific.

A boy dressed in a jumpsuit with red, yellow, and silver stripes stood before the King; he could not have been any older than fifteen. As if his life depended on it, he clutched two tomatoes in both hands. "I…I'm sorry, your majesty. I didn't mean…you see, today's my day off work, so I was just thinking—"

"Heed my words, boy," said the King through gritted teeth. Unable to control himself any longer, he stood up to his full Royal Height, and yelled, "Get OUT of my castle!" Eager to obey, the boy sprinted towards the doors. "And stick to farming, you lazy oaf! I doubt you'll ever be good for much else!" The doors slammed behind the poor farm boy; he never came back.

Scowling, huffing loudly from the hard physical exercise he had just been forced to endure, the annoyed King sat back down on his throne; one servant girl rushed to readjust the heavy golden crown on his head, while another had brought a linen towel and was wiping away the splattered tomato from his Royal Visage. Ignoring them, he leaned over to the fair blond woman sitting by his side. "Enid? Why are we doing this again?"

"Please, Egbert," she said. She rubbed her husband's wrinkled hand with her own smooth one in a reassuring way—she hoped. "We have to get a new jester, dearest."

Queen Enid knew what was coming: the whining. "Yes, but why, Enid?" There it was. She could not help but sigh when she heard the same old questions she had heard time and time again: "Can't you choose for me?", "Can't one of my advisors pick for me?", and "Can't we at least do it some other time?"

To each of these she had to answer, "No, dear. Don't you remember what you did with the last jester we picked for you?"

A foolish grin crossed King Egbert's face as he remembered. "Of course I remember! I had him drawn and quartered; everyone called it the ultimate entertainment of the century! Yeah, that was fun!" For just a moment, shadow fell across his face, obliterating the grin. "He called me a fool in front of the whole court."

"Yes, dear," soothed Queen Enid. She resorted to giving him an encouraging pat on the knee, barely hiding a look of disgust. "Yes, we all remember. It was in poor taste." Realizing she had said the wrong thing, she added, "And a complete falsehood, naturally." She knew the subject had to be changed to diffuse his simmering anger; it was best not to dwell too long on any one topic for fear of enflaming his mighty Royal Temper. "Come now, darling. Call in the next jester."

King Egbert signaled to the two beefy-looking guards by the throne room doors, who gruffly nodded back in return, pushing them aside to make way for a wizened old man whose long, gray beard trailed against the floor as he walked. The man, to the King's Royal Disgust, had not bothered to change out of his peasant's garb, a ragged set of robes that had the patched, woven consistency of a potato sack. He had tied a rope around the long, thin neck of a goose that looked like it had been run over by a passing wagon; it looked tired and was covered with nasty mud that was a mix of brown and green. All the flies and gnats in Weswhaal were living in a paradise of stinking, rotting decay around these two bottom-dwellers.

Before King Egbert could ask a single question of the odd-looking man, however, the peasant let out an insane laugh that ripped through the chamber. The hair on the back of every courtier's neck stood on end. He pointed towards Queen Enid, still chortling to himself. "How'd a bloke like you manage t' bag a girlie like 'er? Was she beaten over th' head at birth?"

A few courtiers laughed sycophantically, but they quickly ceased when they saw the King's face; for King Egbert was not used to being insulted in such a way. "How dare you? Is that an attempt at vulgar humor? I could have you sent to be tortured at the rack for my own amusement, you know."

"Oh, no, sir. My act ain't to insult you people. I ride my Goosie 'round, you see." He pulled the rope surrounding the goose's neck tightly to secure it, then hopped aboard. Led by the old man, the goose pranced about in front of the King, who was still miffed at the wife joke.

"Yes, yes, very good. You may go now." When the man did not stop, however, the King, not known for his Royal Patience, rose his voice. "I tell you, get off that goose—NOW!"

The old man shrugged, sliding down his Goosie's side. Goosie looked relieved. "If you say so, sir. You all'll probably like the kid outside better, anyway. He's the best—'tis why he is going last." With a smirk on his face, the man escorted his Goosie to the throne room doors at a casual stroll, unlike the previous auditioner. As the doors opened for him, he yelled back at the court, hardly controlling his laughter, "I lied about the kid, by the way. Looks like you'll have no jester for another year!" Everyone could still hear his insane laughter as the door began to close.

"You have to stop him," whispered Queen Enid to her husband, her tone urgent. "There's no one else, and we need another jester. You know we can't have tryouts for another year, darling. It's against regulations."

King Egbert shook his head in an adamant Royal No.

"Come on, dearest! We can't afford another scandal!"

He still shook his head no.

With no other options, Queen Enid sighed and kissed him on the cheek. "Please, Eggie?"

The Royal Nickname seemed to work. His face turning a tomato red tinge having nothing to do with actual tomatoes, King Egbert called out, "You're hired!"

Just in time, too. Looking at one another in bewilderment, the guards, who had just about closed the doors, reopened them with a mighty yank. Just as surprised as the guards, the old man returned to the throne room, the doors pushed shut behind him. "All right, I accept the job on a few conditions." He pulled a scroll out from within his robes; it rolled out all the way from the doors to the royals' feet. Clearing his throat, the man began to list his conditions. "You'll have to sign the Jester's Union contract I am holding now. It guarantees many things. Firstly, it guarantees higher pay for me than all other jesters in Weswhaal. Secondly, beheadings, hangings, burnings, or any other forms of execution used on me are strictly prohibited. Thirdly, all forms of torture, including but not limited to the rack, impalement…"

As the new Court Jester's voice droned on, King Egbert turned to his queen, whispering, "Are you sure we have to hire this guy?"

She smiled indulgently at her husband. "Positive."



A/N: This was written for the second Lounge Forum challenge, by Nainaaa.