A Lord’s Drink

I sat the wine jug down on the table. It thudded heavily, though it was nearly empty. This is the fifth time I’ve refilled it! I thought, as leaned over the cool wood surface. Those Yorks sure can drink. It’ll be a miracle if the wine lasts till the end of the wedding. I peered into the large container. There was about half a cup of the dark red drink remaining.

King’s wine, I thought.

You could drink it.

The idea jumped into my mind. I shook my head, trying to scare off this crazy thought.

There was a cup on the table, just out of arm’s reach. What if someone finds out?  I thought.

They won’t, you’re all alone. I stepped toward the cup.

But what if – I stepped again.

No one will see it.

I picked the glass up and walked back to the wine jug. In an instant the cup was filled and I drew it to my lips. I heard footsteps echo down the halls. I whipped around looking for a place to hide. There were cupboards, but none big enough to fit me. I considered pouring the wine back into the jug.

No, I thought, This is mine.

I ripped open the cupboard door and slide the cup inside. I eased the door closed and ran over to my jug, lifting it just as the head servant came into the room.

“Oi,” he shouted, his face red like the wine, “get back out there. You’re not here to take a nap.”

“Yessir,” I muttered, filling the jug from a casket and walking out of the room as fast as possible.

The sound from the wedding hit me like a wall. The din of party goers, laughing and drinking and dancing, slammed against my head.

I crossed the room with the wine jug, looking for someone who needed more wine.

“You, servant, bring that wine here!” a voice rumbled at me. Meekly, I brought the wine to him.

The man was lounging on a chair draw up to one of the many round tables in the room. He had long, slick hair, which hung underneath a feathered hat. There was food spilled on his doublet. He held out his cup. I took it and began to pour.

“That’s some good wine,” he slurred. “I had my doubts about these Lancasters, but anyone who drinks like this is good by me.” He grinned at me, like we were two friends sharing an old joke. I smiled back and handed him his cup. He drank it in one gulp.

Another servant sidled up to me. He told me, “Go serve the King’s table while I get more food.”

I nodded.

I hurried over to the head table. The new king and queen sat in the middle of the table. King Henry was laughing heartily at something that the man to his right had said. He was a tall man, built like a whipcord, thin and strong. His smile was infectious and rather boyish. Queen Elizabeth was sipping wine from her chalice, trying to hide her own smile. She was a slight woman, with pale skin, long blond hair, and bright blue eyes.

I stooped as low as my jug would allow.

“My lord and lady,” I mumbled. If the king heard me, he did not show it. The queen barely glanced at me.

“My lord and lady,” I repeated, loudly this time and more clearly. The king turned to me, visibly angry, until he saw the wine jug. Then he was only mildly annoyed and disdainful.

He waved his hand. “Please, serve.”

As I had been told, I served the king first, then the queen, then I began on the rest. I walked behind them, pouring carefully and quickly. The wine was mesmerizing as it jumped from the jug to the silver chalices on the table. Once I was complete, I tried to hurry away, hurry to the backroom and the cup filled with wine.

“You there”—that was the king—“my cup is empty. Fill it again.” I stepped behind him to pour. He had already turned back to his conversation. When his cup was about half-filled, the king threw his arms back as he laughed.

I saw it coming and managed to move the jug mostly away. He still hit it.

The wine sloshed out of the jug. A small amount landed onto the king’s sleeve. A lot more landed on me.

The king seemed more shocked than angry. “You spilled the wine,” he muttered. “You spilled the wine on me.”

I stepped back. He rose and turned to face me.

“I’m sorry, milord.” I said as I fell to my knees.

The wine dripped down my chest. It had completely ruined my white uniform. I would need a new one, which would come out of my already small wages. The king, meanwhile, had tons more lavish doublets and jerkins. He would forget about this one in a week. But I kept my face a mask of groveling fear.

“I’ll spare you, insolent fool,” the king snarled. “Get out of my sight.”

I scooped up my jug and hurried away. I swept across the party and into the back room. I slammed the jug onto the table and ripped open the cupboard door. I grabbed the cup of wine and raised it in the air.

“To Hell with the king!” I toasted. And then I drank.

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