The creak of the barn door excites him as much as it did four years ago. Echoes of “weirdo”, “misfit”, “oddball” fade as he sees the shimmer of gold shell,the faint fissure crack, the ooze within.
Just a few more months.
He inches closer to the eggpen,pats the straw, wipes the struts of protective wire. Hiding in plain sight was a phrase he learned years ago and it serves him well. The jester-prince is in his thrall; bestowing years of flattery and bamboozelement have stuck in his throat but his creation is complete. Lowering himself has come to fruition.
The urge to cradle the egg is strong – he turns. Discipline is essential for some, on carefully curated occasions, and he needs to experiment with how it might feel. Also he there is a faint chance it may fall from his hands.
As if. He could never be so foolish. No this is the time to open the cage and breathe in its beauty for one last time before….
“Sir, sir, there’s another egg. Quick sir they say it’s important. More important. “
the boy glances sidelong at the eggpen. No one is supposed to know. Many do, but the knots of acceptability are so tangled most workers stay silent for fear of each other. Especially errand boys like this one.
“I’ll have you whipped for falsehood and fakery! Nothing is more important than this. Nothing. We will be richer and more powerful than the outlanders and northfolk ever imagined.”
“But it’s here. Here,packed in a velvet lined box. It looks more important …”
the boy tails off at the sight of his glare. It was a new one he’d been practising. Good to have chance to try it out. He flashes it again. The boy scurries out.
He lopes off, carefully arranging his face somewhere between sullen and smirk. The crowds of scroll masters and criers irk him more than usual. Whispers about an egg that would change the world play about his ears and he feels the work, all the work begin to whittle away. He makes a note to organise those monks to amend his ledgers.
Battling through the odorous masses, enraptured by the jester-prince on the steps, he steps on the cats tail. Not for the first time. He would have kicked it – but the masses never approve. Another thing to iron out.
He reaches the main hall. There it is. Small. Much smaller than his beautiful golden wonder . Darkest green, iridescent, a jewel in its centre. The kind of dark beauty he dreams of but always slips from his pallid grasp.
Scowling at the chattering fools gathered around, plugging his ears to their talk of how mysterious – almost powerful – it looks, he clatters out of the room to his basement,bellowing instructions that he is not to be disturbed and issuing demands for ink and candles. This sort of thing always finds its way beyond the walls and he fancies it makes him more fearsome.
He dreams of the egg all night. Outshimmering his glorious gold creation. His moment. His chance to show them that he is the cleverest of them all.
He wakes with a start! This could work to his advantage – the people could pay the price of both eggs. He’d just tell them the new egg was a fake, a hoax a lot of nonsense. Bide his time. Once they’d seen the hatching it would be too late. But he needs to act fast.
They line up as instructed. Alchemist, jester, taxman. Monks have been scribing just three words on parchment since his three am epiphany
The phrase adorns the walls of the courtyard,on banners sewn by the tailors. He even hears it whispered.The sound of his genius muttered by the masses gives him a thrill like no other. Finally.
The egg bearers assemble. Three for the imposter,fourteen for his. That kind of thing is important. The carpenters have worked for hours constructing the egg carriage,lined with silk, not a whisp of straw in sight. Imposter egg? A plain brown box,turned so the dark hearted jewel could not be seen. At the last minute he fashions a few artful tears to make it even more lowly. Oddly satisfying to work with his hands.
At the sight of his nod from behind the drape, the egg bearers begin their parade. The crowd begins to chant Gold Beats Green, Gold,Beats Green. He feels his foot tap. Frivolous nonsense. He allows a smile. It will work. They will forget and just get back to paying attention his beautiful, beautiful golden marvel.
The cat saunters. The cat turns. The cat stares. Green eyes lock with insipid blue.
The cat saunters. The crowd purrs. The cat darts. The eggs tumble. The shells shatter
The stench. The stench. The stench seeps to throats and nostrils, tears spring to eyes, skin begins to blister.
“Gold beats green
Gold beats green
the jester-prince stops beating his marotte, looks around to see if anyone is still joining in. He stops and scans the courtyard for an exit.
The crowd turns. A small girl whispers to her mother, who whispers to her sister who speaks a little louder and the clamour begins to rise. The stench is from the egg. No one knows which one. They both look so different but even the lowliest amongst them knows a bad egg is a bad egg. There are mutterings that the torn box egg is still intact, people begin to look, but it is no-where to be seen.Not even the torn box. Fragments of gold shell lie all around and the stench is rising. But the golden egg cannot be bad. The golden egg cannot…be bad?
Those who can begin to move, to march. Jester-prince has fled. Taxman counts. Alchemist tries to treat the sickest. The drape flutters. The cat sniffs at a speck of yolk.