Pick Your Poison

[WP] "My majesty. Here is your wine." The king took the chalice and took a sip. "Hmm. This is some high-quality poison." from WritingPrompts

“Hmm. This is some high-quality poison,” the king chuckled and tossed the jeweled chalice to the floor. Deep red liquid poured out over the marble floor of the King’s throne room. The Captain of the guard that presented the drink to him shook his head.

“Please do stop calling it that, your Highness,” the Captain lowered his head to show he meant no disrespect. “Our land’s vintners have already begun to leave the city for other kingdoms. Might I suggest the possibility that you simply do not like wine?” The king’s crown tilted forward as he lowered his gaze to glare at the Captain.

“I am a King. Of course I like wine!” He dismissed the Captain with a hand gesture. “Bring me more tomorrow. I better like it.”  The Captain bowed deeply and left the room. He walked into the kitchen where a small group of men and women waited for him.

“Well?” One of the men, the one who produced the latest sample, asked. The Captain shook his head.

” ‘Poison’ again,” he said.

“That was my best wine!” He yelled in frustration.

“I know! Those were my best grapes!” Another man joined in the frustration. A third man, the best dressed of the group, stepped forward.

“I’ve had enough, let the dim King rule his empty castle. My traders and I will move to another kingdom and establish a new route to trade our wine and other goods. Within a year this palace will be dust and cobwebs.”

“What about the people?” The Captain asked.

“That’s who I’m doing this for,” he gestured at the small group around him. “We all have families, and we’re starving because the King refuses to acknowledge our wine.”

“Please, one more chance. He demanded another tasting tomorrow. Is there nothing left to try?” The Captain begged the crowd. They stood around looking at each other for several silent minutes until one of the women spoke up.

“What about the Brewer?” she said. Several of them erupted in laughter, but the elegant guild leader shook his head.

“This is a serious matter.”

“Who’s the brewer?” the Captain asked.

“No one,” the guild master replied.

“Who is the brewer?” the Captain repeated his question slowly while staring at the woman.

“He lives up on the hill by the barley field. He’s been experimenting making wine from grains.”

“His liquid abominations don’t deserve to be called wine,” the guild leader said. The Captain turned to face the well-dressed man.

“I don’t doubt that you’re ready to move, but it will still be more difficult than staying put. The King doesn’t know what ‘wine’ is. If we give him a drink that he likes and call it wine, then your goods will sell.” He took a moment to think but nodded his head.

“Take him to see the brewer.” The woman nodded and led the Captain out of the kitchen, out of the castle, and to a small house on a nearby hill. She pounded on the door.

“Brewer!” A short, bearded, rotund man opened the door. He immediately recognized the Captain of the guard. His eyes went wide and he shoved the door closed.

“I’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG!” He yelled through the closed door.

“I need your help, brewer.” He opened the door a crack and peeked through.

“With what?”

“The King would like a sample of your best brew,” the woman explained. The Captain shrugged and nodded.

“Really?” The door flew open. “I’ve got just the thing!” He disappeared into his house and Captain moved to step in. The woman put a hand on his shoulder and shook her head.

“You don’t want to go in there.” The Captain turned to complain, but his nose caught the foulest stench he’d ever smelled, and he agreed.

“I think you’re right.” He stepped back again. The pair waited outside for quite sometime before the bearded man returned holding a dark bottle.

“The door was open, you should have come in.”

“I thank you for your hospitality, but we are in a rush.” The Captain took the bottle, bowed, and walked away with the woman next to him.

“Let me know if he likes it!” the brewer yelled. “There’s more where that came from!” The Captain waved over his shoulder while they trekked down the hill.

The next day the Captain met the guild leader and several of his tradesmen in the kitchen.

“It smells so foul,” one of them commented while the Captain poured it into a chalice.

“Are you sure it isn’t just urine?” another commented on the yellow frothy liquid. The Captain shrugged.

“It doesn’t matter so long as the king likes it.”

“Good luck!” the woman said. The Captain took a deep breath and marched the chalice out to the king.

“My majesty. Here is your wine.” The king took the chalice and took a sip.

“My god!” he exclaimed. “THAT is poison. I’ll stick to the other stuff, it’s not so bad.”

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