Friday, May 1, 2015

The Camping Trip (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

“So the prince and the farmer’s daughter got married and lived happily ever after.” Lydia finished up. 

The boys expressed their thanks for the story. Julia, however, was less than pleased. 

“That’s it? That’s your story?”

“ there something wrong with it?” Lydia asked, genuinely concerned.

“Yeah, it sucked. How fucking girly.”

“Come on Jules, lay off,” said Andrew. “It’s a better story than you can tell.”

“Oh yeah? Fine. My turn. Alice and the prince didn’t live happily ever after. Alice’s dad died a month after they got to the castle. Alice had ten kids, but only three survived infancy. And, because they grew up with money, they were all little shits.”

“Jules, you’re proving his point” Jeff said. Julia glared at him.

“Fine. One of the kids wasn’t a total shit. He was the youngest of three boys and the other two picked on him a lot, so he made up his mind to run away from home. He told everyone that he was going for a quick ride and then got the hell out of Dodge. He wasn’t heading anywhere in particular, so he just kept riding through the day. A little before sunset, he ran into a traveling merchant who had set up a small campfire. The boy - uhm Peter - asked if he could join and the merchant said he could if he had any food. So they shared a couple things that Peter had brought from the castle while they talked. The merchant eventually asked the boy what the deal was and Peter told him about his brothers and running away and whatnot. So the merchant offered to take Pete on as an assistant and Pete, having no real plans agreed.

“‘Now, boy,’” Julia did her best to make a gruff merchant voice, “‘There’s one condition to working for me - under no circumstance will you open the small red box in my cart. Peter thought this would be an easy enough rule to follow, so he agreed. The two spent the rest of the night getting to know each other before hitting the hay.

“The next day, Peter dutifully prepared the merchant’s cart for travel, swapping out his own finery for the simpler clothes the merchant wore. The two set out and traveled near and far, buying and selling as they went. All was well.

“A few months in to his adventure, the two came across a lone traveler at night. Peter called out in greeting and was mortified when he was answered by his oldest brother. The brother rushed to the campsite and began beating Peter and the merchant - Peter for running away, the merchant for helping. Finally, the merchant was able to convince the brother to stop the beating in exchange for whatever he desired from the cart, except the red box. The brother, being an oaf, took the box and dared the merchant to do something about it. Through some wordplay, the merchant got the brother to agree to wait until morning - and the sun’s light - to open the box. Exhausted and hurt, Peter and the merchant fell asleep.

 “The next morning, Peter’s brother was no where to be found. His clothes, horse, and other goods remained exactly where they had been placed earlier, and the box now sat on the log where he had sat. The merchant merely tsk-tsked as he added the brother’s possessions to his wares for sale.

“What...what’s in the box?’ Peter asked. ‘That is not for you to know. Know only this: never open the box.’ And with that, the two continued their travels.

“A month later, the pair were staying at an inn when the door burst open - it was the other brother. He, too, began wailing on Peter and the merchant, before finally being bribed to stop, with the same caveat. Naturally, the brother immediately chose the red box. And, again, after the night passed, the brother was no where to be found.

“What...what’s in the box?’ Peter asked again. And once again, the merchant replied. ‘That is not for you to know. Know only this: never open the box.’

“Another month passed, and the curiosity was getting to Peter. After a bad argument with the merchant about the box, Peter hatched a plan: he waited until the merchant fell asleep, then got the box from the cart. He put his clothes out like his brothers’, set the box upon his seat, and hid. 

“The next morning, the merchant awoke and found the scene. Much to Peter’s surprise, the man was overjoyed! The merchant packed up and started traveling, and Peter followed at a distance, stealing food from the cart at night and doing his best not to be caught. 

“After a week of travel, the merchant’s intended destination was obvious - he was going to the castle! Peter walked through the night and was able to catch up to a cart making the same journey - he hitched a ride and beat the merchant to the castle by a day.

“Peter told a couple of trusted guards to keep his presence secret and keep tabs on the merchant. He soon learned that the merchant wished to gain an audience with his parents. He snuck in to the audience chamber with the help of his friends and waited for the day's activities.

"Finally, the merchant arrived for his audience with Peter's parents. Alice - holy shit, remember her - and the prince - who I assume is king or some shit now. Alice was visibly upset and had puffy eyes from crying. They asked the merchant what he wanted.

"The merchant told them that he had news of their sons. The assembled court became quite excited and agitated at the prospect of the three boys returning. When the murmurs died down, Alice asked what news the man had. He pulled out the red box and said 'I Have them here, in this box.' Some laughed, some cried out in frustration, but Alice merely asked what the merchant wanted. After a short pause, he told her that he wanted the golden calf as his reward for returning the three, safe and sound.

"Alice and the prince hemmed and hawed, but in the end they knew their boys were more valuable to them than any token. The arrangements were made and the calf was handed over. The merchant then placed the box on the ground in front of the two. As the merchant began to speak his words of power, Peter jumped out from the crowd.

"'Mother, Father, do not trust this deceiver - destroy the box and kill him before he utters another word!' Everyone stood, stunned for a moment. Then Alice yelled 'What are you waiting for!?' and the crowd descended upon the merchant, killing him, recovering the calf, and destroying the box. And that's how Peter became the sole heir of the kingdom. The End."

The four sat for a moment, rain pattering away.

"Well, that was kind of fucked up," Andrew broke the tension. “It wasn’t a bad story though, I’ll admit.”

To be concluded in Part 3, on June 1st.

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