A trill of laughter brought Erik back to his present surroundings. The gallant Sir Knute hovered near the Queen, re-filling her goblet, feeding her dainties, and generally monopolizing her attention–the selfish bastard. Now and then Knute glanced in Erik’s direction while whispering into the Queen’s perfectly-formed ear, which always caused her to laugh with lady-like mirth. Such a charming fellow, Sir Knute.
Erik was eager to speak to the Queen in private, to ask about his friends. He didn’t feel comfortable talking about it in front of the other guests, or Sir Knute, who would probably work against him. So, he’d have to get rid of Knute. But first, he needed to get the Queen’s attention. He recalled a funny riddle he’d heard from Arashi, changing it a little for the occasion.
“My Queen,” Erik called out, interrupting Sir Knute mid-boast. “May I present thee with a riddle?” He tried to stifle a grin. Too bad Corrado wasn’t here.
Queen Numinae turned to face Erik and inclined her head with a playful tilt. “Prithee, challenge us with thy riddle, Sir Erik.”
The Knight Captain smiled without mirth as his eyes bore down on Erik.
“What is the difference, my Queen, between a knight and a bag of wind?”
The Queen thought a moment then shrugged her lovely bare shoulders. “I do not know. Tell me, Sir Erik. What is the difference?”
Erik raised an eyebrow. “Ah! I think that explains how Sir Knute came to be Captain of your knights.”
The dinner guests stiffened, notably averting their eyes from the Knight Captain.
The Queen’s mouth opened and she blinked in apparent shock. A tentative smile crept over her features like a ripple across a pond, blossoming into a broad grin. Finally, she threw her head back and laughed, glancing sideways at her Champion.
It wasn’t that funny, but Erik chuckled anyway, feeling a bit giddy. Being the guest of honor entitled him to certain liberties, and he’d certainly gotten the Queen’s attention back from Sir Wind Bag. He raised his goblet to Sir Knute, whose eyes glinted dangerously.
“Most amusing, Sir Erik.” Sir Knute spoke with the air of one accustomed to dealing with fools. “I believe I once overheard a similar jibe from the stable boys. Perhaps you should avail yourself of their company during your visit. You may acquire more such … high humor for your repertoire.”
Erik had to admit, the knight recovered well. “I meant no disrespect, good Sir Knute. Where I’m from such jests are a form of camaraderie. If I didn’t like you, I would have made some remark about your breath or the way you walk, for example.
The Queen’s eyebrows rose. She lifted her goblet to her lips, but her amusement was plain for all to see.
Erik raised his empty goblet to the tight-lipped knight. “A toast then–to the Queen’s Champion.” He spoke in a mock formal tone. “I now wish to present a limerick, which is an old Irish word meaning small drunken poem.” He’d seen Corrado, half blitzed, spout off-the-cuff poetry in pubs. It didn’t seem too hard. He pondered for a moment and lurched to his feet.
“There once was a knight named Sir Knute,
Who tried a few tunes on the flute,
He played for the Queen,
But caused quite a scene,
When he bent over–and blew out a beaut!”
It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it would do.
Queen Numinae spit out a spray of wine and burst out laughing. “Well said, Sir Erik. Thou art both a bard and a knight.” She clapped her hands.
Erik bowed low, trying not to wobble.
Sir Knute turned away, fangs bared, and left the table. Perhaps Erik had pushed the game a little too far, but after all, he was the guest of honor.
“On that note,” the Queen said with a wink, “bring forth yon entertainers!”