It was noon on a cloudless day and the men had been marching all day. Lucky to be on a mount, GarGar, le comte des Deux Chat was still parched. Reaching out to his aide-de-camp who was riding beside him, he said, “Wine, if you please, François.” “Yes, my lord,” replied François, handing le comte a bursting wineskin. Popping the cork with his teeth, GarGar drank deeply until the red liquid ran down his chin.
“Perhaps we should stop to water the horses-” GarGar paused. “And the men.”
“Halt!” Shouted François, while GarGar raised his arm to indicate that the order was coming directly from him, rather than the speaker. A trumpet sounded the command as well. A collective sigh of relief could be heard up and down the line. “At least it ain’t rainin'” GarGar heard one of his foot soldiers say. “Indeed!” Replied GarGar. “Here, my good man, have some wine.” He handed the wineskin to the soldier’s eager, trembling hands. “Pass that along to your comrades, if you would be so kind.”
Poor old King rose from his bed every morning at seven sharp. His chief gentleman of the bedchamber would pull the curtain aside on his bedside and say, “Your Majesty, it is time!” Poor old King who could never sleep more than a few hours at a time would groan and thank his gentleman. Next came the royal dressers who would pull his nightshirt over his head and begin dressing him from head to toe. With half a dozen hands to help him, it still took His Majesty nearly an hour to dress fully from his wig to his shoes. The gentleman of the mirror would drag the full-length mirror to his bedside so that His Majesty could inspect the work. At this point in his life, he barely gave it a glance. “Thank you, all,” he would intone and with a wave of his hand, the royal dressers would leave.
As his chamberlain would lead him to the chapel to hear mass, the poor old King would look wistfully at his bed and then, leaning heavily on the chamberlain’s arm and with the assistance of a cane, he would proceed to hear mass. Sometimes, he would be so tired that he would sleep through the entire ceremony. After Princess Pirouette entered the court, nobody dared disturb the old King while he snored through the Agnus dei. One stern glance from the Princess would belay any would be beadle from nudging the King.
GarGar was always a gentleman famous for his bonhomie and cheerful demeanor. Sounds of music and laughter usually came from his room in an endless stream. Recently however, that stream had run dry. Even for one as optimistic as GarGar, the future looked dark and dismal. Now that Princess Pirouette was barely even talking to him and the King was looking askance at him, his situation was beginning to look hopeless. Usually visitors to his suite in the palace tore in and out endlessly, but that river of humanity seemed endless. Now it had dwindled into a mere dribble. Those who did come to visit appeared to do so merely out of curiosity. That is, they wanted to be there when the le comte des Deux Chats finally surrendered to fate and gave up his pursuit of Princess Pirouette.
GarGar’s ill-advised decision to wear white to court had been a bad one. He’d hoped to prove to his enemies that his position in court was unassailable. The fact that the King didn’t just throw him into the dungeon, surprised many, so it was possible that he was fairly unassailable by most everybody at court, except the old King. What he needed was another plume in his hat, like another victory against enemy armies. He was certain that another victory of this sort would put him back in a high place in the Princess’ esteem. A nice victory parade through the heart of the city would put things aright, all things aright.