The tale of twenty gold coins

How to find your queen, what do novice kings get to eat, what for do they get beaten up in the Floresti principality, what sometimes happens under the table and why not all dues should be paid?

Once upon a time, in far off lands, in those far off-times – about 16 years ago – there was a king. In those times, the far off land was tiny and poor, because of this the King ate only pelmeni and was renting a one-roomed castle on the edge of the city.

The King was doing alright, but he was so lonely. He wanted to find a queen, a match to himself: not necessarily with a dowry or residence in some local castle, but a woman of character, who would believe in him. Only no one was paying attention to him, because he was wearing an old denim jacket and shorts – who needs such a groom, even if he is a king?

One day, a baroness – a friend of his – invited him to an extra-important business meeting with noblemen, in the most expensive and prestigious tavern of the capital – McDonald’s. The King pulled on the jacket on the bare chest, washed, took off his huge old glasses (yes, he couldn’t see well) – to look more attractive, ate some mayonnaise sandwich (he always did that so he wouldn’t waste money in taverns) and headed for the meeting.

The Baroness and her bridegroom were already waiting for him in the noisy tavern. After they sweeped a curtsey, passed on to drink a cup of tea. All of a sudden, a girl came in. At this very moment, even the troubadours began to play more quietly. The girl looked like a princess. She was astonishingly beautiful, a little mysterious and modest at the same time.

– “Viorelia the Beautiful”, the Baroness introduced the young lady, “Princess of Sculeanca lakes, Botanical roses, Riscani roundabouts and Something else” – simply the King turned a deaf ear to Princess’ regalia – he used to judge people not by ranks, but by actions.

– “The King of far off lands” – she presented the King.

In response, Princess Viorelia smiled, because the bare-bellied King in ragged shorts from an unknown land couldn’t help putting a smile on her face. Or perhaps, she smiled out of politeness, because she was a Princess, and the princesses are well educated.

It is tales that are quickly spun, deeds are sooner said than done, the King shook hands with the lady and invited her to have a seat at the table. They initiated a conversation about the difficulties and needs of people, the expansion of bordes, insufficient finance in the treasury and other very important things. The King quickly became bored, because honestly, he did not understand any part of it, he just sat there wearing an intelligent face, nodded as if he understood, and waited for the possibility to run home and continue building his kingdom. Girls for entertainment (night fairies) would not interest him. Although Viorelia was beautiful, the King did not notice anything special about her.

Meanwhile, the Princess also became bored. She was a very smart Princess, and such conversations were not new to her, but she probably expected something else from this meeting. She was expecting another King. A nice, spick and span one, on a red chariot with 300 horses. But she was a true Princess, that’s why, dear friend, we will never know what Viorelia the Beautiful was thinking at that moment. And then our Baroness, who probably did a Fairies course at the Institute for Noble Baronesses, noticed that the King and the Princess were sad. The Baroness came up with the idea to throw a party in the pub: getting to know each other better won’t hurt. The King tried to slip away, explaining he had important matters, but the Baroness was persistent. So, the four heroes went to feast.

In the pub the table groaned with food: Italian flat cheese cakes, overseas salty crackers, home-raised chicken broth, aubergine paste. The beer flowed as a river and the honey was brought by bees themselves. The King and the Princess relaxed, and soon they began to chitchat. The King was telling unfunny stories, but the Princess pretended that they were terribly funny and giggled. The Baroness and her friend ordered more and more food and beer. It was the feast of feasts! In a word – it was fun! Until the pub-keeper brought the bill.

The bill was as long as a royal decree – such a long piece of wallpaper. Its end was reaching the front door, as if hinting that only those who could pay, could get out. Everyone in turn studied this piece of “wallpaper”, clicked their tongues, and handed it to the King, saying: “Time to pay, Sir”.

The King looked at the Baroness with perplexity, trying to convey in a magical way the idea that everyone should pay, not just him. But the Baroness explained that they have nearly had no money for a long time, and after all, who is the King here? The entire gang were looking at the King; and he, while holding the bill worth the weekly income of his kingdom, pretended that everything was under royal control.

Under royal control was almost everything, except money in the King’s pockets. Maybe he could pay for a cup of tea without sugar and tea leaves, but not more than that. Then he remembered the story of how, ten years ago, he and his friends were violently beaten up in the Floresti principality for not paying for dinner; so the King began to fidget in the chair. On top of this, the Beautiful and sweet Viorelia was glancing at him in a gentle smile, so he didn’t want to look like a ragged beggar in her eyes.

To kill the clock, he began to pat on the pockets in search of non-existing money, wrinkling his brow, as if trying to remember – “where did I put that bag with gold coins?” The owner, having sensed something is amiss (that wasn’t the first time he faced such wrinkled brow), came closer. The situation was getting more difficult. Ah, if Princess Viorelia wasn’t there, our King would have explained in a straightforward and accessible language – using an untranslatable local dialect – to the Baroness and her friend that they all should pay for it. But the King couldn’t nickel and dime in the presence of the Princess.

Sweat appeared on the King’s face and he realized that only a miracle could save him. He had already opened his mouth to shamefully confess bankruptcy, but at that very moment someone touched him by the knee under the table. The King slowly lowered his eyes and saw under the table a woman’s hand that held out twenty gold coins.

He raised his eyes and met the eyes of Viorelia the Beautiful – she was looking directly at him and still smiling in her beautiful smile. It took a second for the King to realize that this girl – saving him from humiliation and giving him her last money – is a true Queen. His Queen. The one he was looking for.

The music was playing and all vanished. Now he saw no dirty pub, no people around, no bill, and no money. There was only the Princess and the music. The King fell in love.

– “So are you paying?”, the voice above the King’s ear brought him back on earth.

– “Yes, of course!”, the King took the money and negligently threw it on the table.

– “Keep the change!”

“Thank you, your Highness”, muttered the owner.

But the King was no longer interested in money, business affairs, or his image. He did not take his eyes off Viorelia; but she pretended that nothing had happened and only glanced at him from time to time. What happened next? The Baroness left the two alone, anticipating that if things go well, it would be nice to receive a case of champagne and one of cognac. Everyone laughed; it must be a joke – to give all family’s annual budget for that?

They spent the evening together, when it turned out that he had a TV, and she had a TV stand. In the evening, he ran out to buy her the scarlet flower, but she waited so long and thought to herself that the King was eaten by a wolf or met John Barleycorn. The Princess thought that he would not return and left. But he came back and did not find her. Suddenly, he saw her again. She did not believe that the King could be easily defeated and returned to check it. And, of course, the King was waiting for her.

He gave her the scarlet flower, took her by the hand, and they strolled under the night sky. That night the King walked her home. This was the first and the last time when he walked the Princess to her palace, because after the second date he brought her to his palace. From then onwards they lived together.

A year later, on the same day, they got married. The troubadours were playing, the guests were dancing, but the lovers did not notice anything around, because they were kissing all the time. They were not ashamed of their bare feet: they had to sell even their shoes in order to celebrate the wedding!

Since that day, 16 years have passed. The far off lands became wider; the new two-storied palace overlooking the park is now fitted out with more than a work-desk and an empty refrigerator. A young princess and a little prince are running around; and many friends of royal family love to visit them.

The case of champagne and cognac was given to the Baroness a few years later, when things in the kingdom started going all right. That is actually a great merit of the Queen from far off lands.

Even so, the King has not returned the twenty gold pieces to the Queen. Because he knew that a true king must always owe a favour to his queen ????

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