Chapter 11: In Which Someone Speaks With His Mouth Full

Madison awoke the next morning quite stiff and a little confused. She had not seen the cottage in the daylight, and it looked like a much less-inviting place without the sound of lake-frogs singing and a fire casting romantic shadows on the walls.

She turned over on her cot to see the Knight, still in his mask, making breakfast.

“Ah, Your Highness. You are awake. Come! Breakfast is served.”

Madison sat down on the tree stump beside the table and looked in amazement. Upon two clean plates Sir Cummerbund had served strawberries, mangoes, fried eggs, slices of green pepper and cheddar cheese, and at least eight or nine slices of crispy bacon. There was a glass of orange juice for each of them, and some of the bread from their supper the evening before.

“Hey … how did you get all this food?” Madison asked incredulously. “You can’t have hidden it in your cloak.”

“Oh dear, no. Of course not. I did have pepper and salt and some other spices, but everything else I bought.

“You bought it? How?”

“From the grocery vendor, of course. Who else?”

Princess Madison Jayne was dumbfounded. They were in the middle of the woods, far from the castle or the sounds of village life.

“How did you find a person selling food?”

“Funny story, actually,” the Sort-of Knight said, sitting down to the table and taking a bite of bacon. He motioned to the Princess to eat, which she quite willingly did.

“You were still sleeping, you sleepy-head, so I decided to go for a walk. After a few minutes I came to a country road, and as I walked down the road I met a strange man who was selling magic beans.”

“Magic beans?” Madison asked. “You didn’t give him our last cow, did you?” Madison chuckled at her own joke about Jack and the Beanstalk, but the Knight did not seem to get it.

“No. Of course not. That would be ridiculous. Besides, we don’t have a cow. Anyway, I decided we could use some magic, so I used all my money and bought some magic beans.”

“And the beans grew into this food?”

“Absolutely … not,” the Knight responded. “You can’t get bacon from beans, even if they are magic. Although, I do love bacon. I think bacon is magical, don’t you think?” Madison smiled at the Sort-of Knight as he continued his story.

“No, I walked along the road a little ways when I came upon a strange man sitting on the edge of the road. It turns out that he was buying magic beans. I had already grown weary of holding them—each one was the size of a coconut; actually, come to think about it, perhaps they were magic coconuts—anyway, then I sold them to the man buying the beans. He actually gave me twice as much for the beans as I had bought them for.”

“But how did you get the food?” Madison asked.

“Ah, well that’s the clever thing. I took the extra money I traded, and I walked up to a farmer’s market, and I bought everything you see here. Everything is gluten-free. And organic. It was a farmer’s market specializing in people with allergies. Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Madison nodded with her mouth full, though she doubted the possibility of finding two magic bean vendors and an organic farmers market in the middle of nowhere. But the breakfast was indeed beautiful, and as they ate and chatted about the strange economy of magic beans and magic cocunuts, Madison was able to forget her doubts, and avoid the empty feeling she felt inside her, the one where she had not hugged her mother or father for a very long time.

As they were chatting, Sir Westley Cummerbund, III asked how she slept.

“Well, just okay,” Princess Madison answered. “I found the mattress really uncomfortable.”

“Ah yes,” Westley nodded. “They made us sleep on straw ticks too at the Knight-in-Shining-Armor School of Rescuing. Rough going at first but you soon find it quite a lovely way of sleeping. It’s all I sleep on now. I actually think they will become quite popular in the future.”

Madison shook her head in disbelief, unable to imagine having to sleep every night on such a bad mattress when she had such a beautifully comfortable bed in her room—well, what used to be her room. The Knight noticed her reaction.

“Why were you so uncomfortable?” he asked.

“It’s just that every way I turned I felt like something was poking into the middle of my back. It was like I was sleeping on a little wooden box.”

“Perhaps,” he responded, swallowing a mouthful of berries. “Perhaps it was because of the little wooden box you were sleeping on.” He pointed nonchalantly to the cot and reached for more bacon. “There’s nothing better in the world than bacon,” he added, again.

But Madison wasn’t paying attention to the bacon. Slowly she got up from her seat at the table and walked over to her bed. Right in the middle of her mattress, half-covered by the dusty blanket she had slept on, was a small wooden box, just a little bigger than a deck of cards. Madison picked it up in her hands. There were small spirals carved on the sides, with four red hearts on the lid pointing the direction of each of the four winds: north, east, south and west. It was clearly handmade, and while it had a simple beauty, it was not pretty and perfect like many of the jewelry boxes inside her castle.

Intrigued by the box she had shared her bed with in the little cottage, she brought it to the table.

“What is it?” Sir Westley asked with his mouth full, so that it sounded more like “Vwaf if zitch?” Madison ignored how impolite it was to speak with one’s mouth full, and stared at the little box.

“I don’t know,” Madison said.

“Well, open it,” the Sort-of Knight said after he swallowed.

Madison nodded and cupped the little box inside her hand. Slowly she lifted the lid to find a tightly folded piece of paper inside. Madison’s heart began to beat quickly, and Westley even stopped eating for a moment as she slowly unfolded the paper. Westley scurried to move aside the breakfast dishes so Madison could smooth the paper out on the table.

Unlike the notes and secret messages the Princess had discovered before, this paper had a series of strange squares and dashes. There were strange roundish shapes and sketched square shapes, and a few words jotted here and there.

As Madison soaked in the strange markings before her, she allowed her mind to wander through the hundreds of books she had read in her short life. She had read books about mysteries and adventures and strange animals that wear clothing and act like children. She had read about princesses and chariot races and pirates and lost islands and children that went through time with magic books, and she thought she knew exactly what this little piece of paper was.

It was a map.

Now, dear reader, why don’t you find what is hidden within your own bedroom, and see what’s inside, and where it might lead.

Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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