Music and Flavor in a Dying King's Quarter

Music and Flavor in a Dying King's Quarter

A Story by Joe

“Music and Flavor in a Dying King’s Quarter”

            The palace quarter was a large, round room of marble adorned in banners of wars won celebrations past. Pumping from hidden speakers came the abrasive sounds of traditional Araimav music. To its rhythm, the quarter’s lights transitioned through a rainbow of soft colors. Sitting in the center of the room, upon a mountainous pile of ornate pillows and mats was King J’Sepp Entayta. Six feet below the Rex was his translator and advisor, Zadra Yuchall, sitting cross-legged on the floor. Both were seated in silence, staring out the open north side of the chamber, toward the palace’s emergency landing courtyard.
            The two had been sitting like this for three long hours when King J’Sepp croaked, “When is he coming?” The king knew not a word of Common and spoke the rasping language of the Araimav, his voice more frog-like with no saliva in his enormous green mouth. Dried spittle that had hung to his bulbous lips for hours crackled and fell upon his pillows as he spoke.
            “My king,” Zadra replied in his native tongue, his voice worried and sympathetic. “The doctor will arrive soon, surely. Please do not fret. It is not good for your condition.”
            J’Sepp waved an amphibious hand and scoffed, which caused a bout of rasped, harsh coughing, turning his dried green lips a gleaming crimson with blood.
            “My ‘condition’, as you so call it cannot possibly become worse. My head aches, my vision is blurred. I’ve gone in and out of consciousness several times already, and each word I speak rends my throat as knives would, producing life blood as well as decrees.”
            With a small sigh Zadra said, “I am well aware of your signs and symptoms, my king. And if your throat hurts you so, might I suggest you be silent?”
            Unable to hold it in, J’Sepp laughed at his advisor’s quip. Blood poured from his throat and down his fat, gelatinous body, some disappearing into his stomach folds and most seeping into the royal fabric of his pillows and mats.
            “I’ve always appreciated your flavor, Yuchall,” the king said softly once the laughter and blood stopped issuing. “I shall miss it greatly when I am carried to my tomb.
            “To think,” he added a moment later, sadness in his broken voice. “I shall never see my hatchlings grow to maturity. You must promise me that you will see to their royal conditioning after this ordeal is over. And tell them tales of King J’Sepp Entayta that Once Was. And tell them-”
            “Silence, my king,” Zadra interrupted. “Here is the doctor’s ship now.” He pointed out into the night sky, following the path of a small atmosphere craft that was coming towards the emergency landing courtyard.

            Dr. Gwendolyn Meyer, XP&Sd, disembarked from the atmo-boat, carting her medical behind her, its wheels making light whooshes over the long, marble veranda. Coming from the quarter in front of her was the anthropomorphic-toad figure of an unremarkable Araimav male, his three-fingered, webbed hand outstretched for a premature greeting.
            “It is good you have arrived,” the Araimav said in broken and croaking Common as the two closed the distance between each other. “Where is the doctor?” He asked expectantly, looking over Gwendolyn’s shoulder and towards the atmo-boat.
            “You’re looking at her,” Gwendolyn said with a small, forced smile. She despised working on a*s-backwards, backwoods planets like this. “Dr. Gwendolyn Meyer,” she introduced herself, shaking the toads slimy hand and forcing herself not to wipe it on her jumpsuit. “Please, take me to my patient.”
            “Ah, yes, of course,” Gwendolyn’s greeter replied, wringing his hands together in obvious worry and leading her to the palace quarter. “I am King J’Sepp’s advisor and translator, Zadra Yuchall.” He added. “I must again remind you that this visit is, ah, confidential.”
            “It’s what I do,” Gwendolyn shrugged. “I imagine the king is not in a position as of late where illness is acceptable?”
            “Indeed,” Zadra nodded as they crossed the threshold of the flamboyant private chamber that was loudly pumping and irritating series of sounds that immediately gave the doctor a headache.
            To the enormously fat, slug-like ruler atop a towering display of garish pads and pillows Zadra spoke in the ribbiting tongue of the Araimav. After a moment of staring disturbingly at Gwendolyn, the king J’Sepp spoke back to his translator, who passed along his message.
            “Just as I imagined, my king is not happy that you are of the female sex. It plummets his already sunken expectancy to survive this ordeal.
            “Well,” Gwendolyn tutted, irritated. “I could stand here and maybe try to grow a penis if it so pleases your king, but that would take more time than he has. I’m who was sent out and he can either accept it or die.
            “Also,” she added as she opened her medical kit and began to take out the pertinent tools and elixirs for the job. “That’s the last time I hear from Mr. Zadra Yuchall.”
            “What,” Zadra exclaimed, taken aback. “But I am my king’s translator! He knows not a word of Common, and I’m sure you don’t know any of our tongue either.”
            “Exactly,” Gwendolyn pointed, placing her stethoscope over her neck. “And as his translator, you should know to be your King’s mouth, translating his words verbatim. None of that “he says” s**t. Got it?”
            Now understanding the Human’s meaning, Zadra nodded and the two approached King J’Sepp Entayta’s “throne.”
            “”I know what ails you, Rex,” Gwendolyn said softly, Zadra’s running translation a shadow of her voice. “And the diagnosis ain’t pretty. First things first, though, I’ve got to check your heart rate. Am I coming up there or are you coming down here?”
            “You may mount my throne, woman,” the king’s croaking, dry language was translated.
            Gwendolyn climbed the pillows and pads and sat across from J’Sepp, affixing her stethoscope’s ear pieces and placing the chest piece to the royalty’s warm backside, the resting place of his heart cavity.
            “Not very strong or regular,” she sighed, dropping the stethoscope to the pillow beside her. “Means the poison’s going fast.” Looking into the king’s gleaming, bulged eyes, she added, “It looks like you have some vision left. That’s somewhat of a plus. How far can you see?”
            “Enough to see your mammary glands,” the king answered with a laugh that produced blood.
            “Cute,” Gwendolyn sneered. “But that’s a pretty s****y distance. The poison hasn’t blinded you yet, however, so there might still be a chance to save your froggy fat a*s.”
            The doctor took a readied syringe of antidote from her breast pocket and, with a quick prick (much like the present company, she thought with a small smile), she injected it into J’Sepp’s neck.
            “Is that it? Am I cured?” the toady ruler asked.
            “No way, Jose, now comes the dull part. I’ve got to sit with you for an hour or so to make sure the antidote works.”
            “And if not?”
            “Well,” Gwendolyn shrugged. “Round two with an emergency drug. And, before you ask, if that one doesn’t work it’s sayonara Frog Prince.”
            J’Sepp let out a sigh of sullen resignation that initiated a long bout of harsh coughing, and then the waiting began.

Ten minutes later and Gwendolyn had had enough. The so-called “music” pumping throughout the room was causing her head to split, its pseudo-rhythm beating her brain.
            “Can we turn off this racket?” she exclaimed loudly in the otherwise dead silent room.
            “You do not like this classical ensemble?” J’Sepp asked in surprise.
            “Hell no,” Gwendolyn shook her head vehemently. “It sounds like a robot jacking off.”
            After a long and awkward translation from Zadra, J’Sepp smiled lightly and clapped his hands twice, abruptly ending the noise.
            “My people,” he said slowly, obviously struggling against the poison that was, hopefully, being taken care of in his bloodstream. “My kind finds the predominant bass of the music to be invigorating. It makes them feel alive.”
            “Alive or on edge?” Gwendolyn retorted. “There’s a huge difference.”
            “The rhythm does not give you a feeling of readiness and willingness?”
            “Sure,” the doctor shrugged her shoulders. “It makes me ready and willing to find whoever invented it and string him up by his intestines.”
            This gave the king a good belly laugh, and this time less blood came up. A positive sign.
            “You may have the same rare flavor as Yuchall,” he smiled.
            “You bullshitting me, Zadra?” Gwendolyn asked with exaggerated suspicion.
            “Not at all, doctor,” the king’s advisor exclaimed with horror. “I would never use my king’s voice to selfish ends.”
            “Okay,” she replied with a small laugh. “Don’t get your court panties in a bunch.” She turned back to J’Sepp and asked, “And what flavor might Mr. Yuchall and I share?”
            “First tell me something,” the king said. “If my people’s music is not to your taste, what is?”
            Thinking for a moment, Gwendolyn replied, “I enjoy instruh. Are you familiar with it?”
            “I’m afraid not,” J’Sepp shook his head. “But please tell me about it.”
            Crossing her legs into a more comfortable position, Gwendolyn began, “Instruh is this smooth music, generally played with astringed instrument like a guitar or, maybe, a fiddle. Sometimes it’s quick and energetic and sometimes it’s mellow and slow. A lot of the time it’s somewhere in between.
            “Now, I’m no music expert. My only personal instrumental experience was playing the flute in school as a small girl for about a year or so. But just because I don’t know all those fancy notes or words doesn’t mean I can’t share my personal thoughts on music, does it?”
            J’Sepp nodded in agreement and the doctor continued.
            “I’ve always loved instruh because the lack of vocals and the pacing really opens your mind. Some music, like your people’s, with its loud, in-your-face style, really limits your range. It focuses you into a singular emotion. Other music, like ones with vocals, shoves a single narrative into your head, leaving no room for your own ideas.”
            “But your preferred music?” the king asked softly. Color was slowly returning to his fat face. “Your instruh music. How does it differ, my dear?”
            “Its ambiguous nature, its smooth rhythm, instead of focusing your mind, it opens it, allows it to roam. Instruh guides your emotions and thoughts through an open world, while a lot of other music pushes you down a cramped corridor.
            “When I listen to instruh, my own little story plays out, and it’s totally internal with only a little influence from outside. And the wild thing is, depending on my mood the same instruh tune can influence a brand new story than the last time I heard it.”
            “For example? J’Sepp gestured, slightly confused, but absolutely intrigued.
            “For example,” Gwendolyn answered. “If I listen to one instruh song when I’m feeling s****y, the story my mind pictures may be about death. But, if I listen to the same tune when I’m happy, the story may be about a family reunion or a party.”
            “Utterly fascinating,” J’Sepp was in awe.
            He smiled and leaned over, putting a meaty hand on Gwendolyn’s leg. To her surprise, she didn’t mind it. In fact, she appreciated the touch, as though receiving it from her father or a dear male friend.
            “I was correct,” the king said softly, affection in his voice, as he stared deeply into the doctor’s eyes. “Which also means I was wrong.”
            “What do you mean?” Gwendolyn asked.
            “I was correct in my belief that you and Zadra Yuchall share the same flavor. And that fact makes me foolish for believing you an incompetent healer imply because you are a female. I was foolish, my dear. I should have seen it in the way you came across the courtyard and the way you worked, though briefly, upon me. Yet it took your words on a seemingly inconsequential topic for me to see it. Please, dear, forgive an aging, dying man.
            A small smile upon her lips, Gwendolyn said, “You are forgiven, but what do you see now? I can tell it’s more than just me being a competent sawbones. Is it,” for some reason her voice caught in her throat and she had to swallow before continuing. “Is it that flavor Zadra and I share?”
            Grinning a deep and sincere smile that seemed to present the king’s soul and speak of returning health, J’Sepp nodded slowly.
            “And what flavor is that?” the doctor leaned closer to the ruler, feeling a conspirator being told an imperative secret.
            “Passion,” J’Sepp said. “Passion and unyielding. Now that I sense it in you, I know it is in everything you do. Many will give up and follow,” he said, stroking the doctor’s short, brown hair. “But not you, my dear. You will remain loyal to yourself and stay strong for what you believe. You will allow yourself to be influenced, but only if you can keep control. You are a rare kind, child, and also the best kind. You wear your flavor like a crown and even if people cannot see it directly, no doubt they know there is something deeply special about you.”
            Though she had not cried since her mother died years ago, Gwendolyn felt tears streaming down her cheeks as she hugged the Araimav king, spouting gratitude into his stomach folds.
            Rubbing the doctor’s shoulder in his own embrace, J’Sepp said, “These are merely the words of an old man who has long since given up on his own flavor, my dear. You have lived with what you have for your entire life. There is no reason to thank me.
            Ending her embrace to look into J’Sepp’s eyes while wiping tears from her own, Gwendolyn said softly, “You’re wrong. You have not given up on your own flavor.  You’re wearing it as obviously to me as I wear mine to you. You have a flavor of generosity and love. You, in looking into others, allow others to look into you. You sit on this throne of pillows not just because your pockets are full, but also because your heart is full. You are a true king, in body and spirit.”

Dr. Gwendolyn Meyer, XP&Sd, stayed with King J’Sepp Entayta for an hour longer to make sure the antidote had rid his body of poison. Then, as the king regained health in slumber, she bid farewell to Zadra Yuchall and left.
            She made two promises to herself as the atmo-boat carried her from the king’s palace to the medical starship: she would learn to play the guitar and she would return to J’Sepp to personally show him the beauty of instruh.
            Gwendolyn achieved her first promise only a year later, but upon returning to the planet of the Araimav she found her second impossible to keep. King J’Sepp Entayta had been assassinated by a member of an extremist organization shortly after her emergency trip to the palace. This time, instead of poison, a gun was used and ended the king’s reign and life instantly with a single bullet.
            On a sunny day, Gwendolyn visited J’Sepp’s memorial in the royal cemetery. She took her guitar from its case, sat upon the grass in front of the king’s grave, and began to pay a soft, smooth instruh tune. Closing her eyes, she smiled, feeling her flavor,, the deceased king’s flavor, and the sweet music waft into the sky, intermingled and inseparable. 

© 2013 Joe

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Added on August 19, 2013
Last Updated on August 21, 2013



Des Moines, IA

I am a Christian-raised Agnostic who loves to read and write, particularly the science fiction and horror genres. My main philosophy on life is this: There is no predestined point in our lives, so we.. more..

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