King Eric Olliphaser the Fourth woke up with a headache. This was probably caused by the chorus of trumpets blaring at his bedside. He scowled. “What is going on?” he asked.
No one heard him. The trumpets were too loud. It took him a few minutes to recognize the tune. Ah, that’s right. It’s his birthday. He counted the trumpets. Thirty. Yes, apparently someone gifted him with a birthday serenade. He winced. Were they really going to play thirty verses? Apparently so.
When they finished, King Eric politely applauded. They bowed and raised their trumpets again. King Eric jumped up and began speaking. “Kind citizens, I appreciate your birthday greetings. Allow me to say a few words in honor of your performance.” The trumpets lowered. The king continued. “I have always thought that music is a great treasure that stirs our emotions and inspires our thoughts.”
The musicians smiled and raised their trumpets again. The king raised an arm and began speaking again. Any time he paused, they raised their trumpets again and he had to think of more to say to make them stop.
They were at a standoff until his assistant came in to call him to a meeting. The assistant hurried the musicians out the door. “Really sire, this was a terrible idea. Why are you in here listening to music in your pajamas? You are double-booked all day. Go get dressed now, or you won’t have breakfast.”
King Eric rushed into the bathroom. The outfit sitting out for him was all embroidery and jewels. It looked like it could stand up by itself. He pulled it on. It scratched him every time he moved.
His assistant opened the door. “Good, you’re dressed. Let’s go.”
“Do I have to wear this?” King Eric asked.
“It was a gift from King Effelheim for your birthday,” the assistant said. “It would be an insult to not wear it.”
“But he hates me. What if it’s poisoned?” King Eric asked.
“Then your people will avenge you,” the assistant said. “Do you want breakfast?”
“I have a headache,” King Eric said. “Could I have some medicine with breakfast?”
“If you hurry.”
So, the king hurried and his sparkly, heavy outfit scratched him the whole way to the table. And a choir of children serenaded him and watched him eat. And some terrible person gifted him with golden dishes and golden forks and spoons and knives. They bent in weird contortions as he tried to eat, so the food kept falling off his fork and spoon.
And there was no headache medicine anywhere.
He’d only managed to eat a few bites, and the children were singing about monkeys, when his assistant returned. “Why are you eating so slowly? What have you done to your fork? Who cares? There’s no time for this.” And he rushed him off.
“But, my medicine?” King Eric said.
“Later,” his assistant said.
And King Eric found himself in a meeting were he was given a set of golden toothpicks and serenaded by a band of bagpipes and accordions. He managed to smile by thinking about outlawing gold. And birthdays. And assistants.
Soon enough, the musicians were sent away, and he accepted more gifts and listened to more songs. At lunchtime, some one had straightened out his fork and spoon. It was a nice thought, but did little good. Soon enough, they were bent in odd shapes and he was unable to use them to eat.
He was hungry, and his headache was worse, and he felt like he was covered in tiny scratches. And then, suddenly, the opera singer and the banjo player left, and his assistant was handing him a cup of water and two little pills.
“You did well, your majesty. I think you have time for a short nap.”
King Eric smiled. “At last. Something is going well. Maybe my birthday won’t be so bad after all. A nap sounds lovely.”
“You have twenty minutes. Then you need to listen to an epic poem written in your honor, accompanied by a laser light show and a drum solo.”
King Eric sighed. “But…”
King Eric pushed the ridiculous gold plate out of the way and rested his forehead on the table and closed his eyes. It was a good thing birthdays only came once a year.