Chapter 8: King Persimmon the Wise

 

The King’s Chamber was at the top of the Tallest Tower. And to get to it you had to climb up the long stone staircase that spiraled all the way to the top. Unfortunately, since Raggedy Lyme Castle was a Fairy castle, and, since all Fairies can fly, the King and Queen had never bothered to install a lift. So, the spiral staircase really was the only way to the top for non-flyers.

Jenny stood on the bottom stair and frowned upwards: ‘Grandma, why don’t the Witches ask the king to build a lift?’

‘Because, usually, the Witches never visit the Towers, Jenny. They like to keep their feet firmly on the ground.’

Jenny’s frown grew deeper: ‘But don’t Witches ride on broomsticks?’

Grandma Lily laughed: ‘Only the Broomstick Witches can do that. And only when there’s a Blue Moon. The rest of us travel with our minds. Jenny, you shouldn’t believe everything you read in story books. It’s mostly just Fairy Stories.’

Jenny turned to Molly: ‘But, Molly, we flew along the Purple Path. Can’t we do that here?’

But Molly shook her head: ‘That doesn’t work here, Jenny, because the air here is even lighter than the lightest bubble. I’m afraid we have to climb.’

So Queen Peony and her Fairies floated away up the staircase. And Jenny, Molly, Grandma Lily, Witch Dewdrop and Witch Cornflower started to climb.

It was not too difficult a climb really, as long as you didn’t look behind you. Because behind you was straight back down, and looking back down the spiral staircase was bound to make you dizzy. But at last they reached the landing at the top of the Tallest Tower. They found the Queen and her Fairies waiting outside a large Golden door. There was a note hanging on the doorknob. It said:

KEEP OUT.

DRUMMING IN PROGRESS

The drumming was very loud, so loud that Jenny couldn’t hear herself think.

BOOM … BOOM … BOOM

Queen Peony floated over and banged heavily on the Golden door: ‘King Persimmon,’ she insisted. This is your Queen. I demand that you stop that drumming and open this door!’

The drumming stopped and someone shouted from inside: ‘Go away. I am very wise but my head is empty!’

Then the drumming started again. And now it was LOUDER than ever:

BOOM … BOOM … BOOM

‘Oh dear,’ whispered Molly. ‘That sounds serious!’

Queen Peony turned to Molly. Her eyes were bright with anger: ‘This is serious, Princess Berry! I fear we are forced to use magic against our King. Fairies, prepare yourselves! We must break through the Royal Door.’

The Fairies began to buzz around the doorframe. They sounded like a swarm of bees and hornets. But Jenny stepped forward and held up her hand. She knew that breaking things often made everything worse: ‘Stop!’ she said. She was almost shouting: ‘Queen Peony, might I try?’

The Queen stepped away from the door: ‘But what do you think you can do, Sister-witch Jenny Berry?’

‘I think I might be able to talk some sense into King Persimmon,’ said Jenny.

The Queen looked at Grandma Lily and Grandma Lily shrugged her shoulders: ‘My granddaughter can be quite sensible when she needs to be,’ she said. ‘And it would be a shame to break such a beautiful door.’

So Queen Peony stepped back and allowed Jenny to walk over to the door.

Jenny stood very still for a few moments, studying the door from top to bottom, and trying to think above the noise of the drumming. Then suddenly she smiled. She put her hand in her pocket, pulled out her packet of chocolate buttons and knelt down. Then, one at a time, she flicked one, two, three chocolate buttons through the space at the bottom of the door.

Once again the drumming stopped. And Jenny could hear the King’s footsteps approaching on the other side of the door. So she flicked another three chocolate buttons into the King’s chamber. Then, all at once the key sounded in the lock, the Royal Door swung open and King Persimmon stood in front of them. He was wearing stripy pyjamas and his cheek was bulging with chocolate.

Jenny held up her packet of chocolate buttons: ‘Your Majesty, I will give you these chocolate buttons if you tell me what you were doing just before you lost your memories.’

King Persimmon the Wise was a very thin King with long arms and legs and very big eyes, and a big pair of spectacles perched on his forehead. He looked a bit like a short-sighted grasshopper, although his saggy wings were more silvery and a lot more flickery. And he clearly loved chocolate buttons. But he smiled at Jenny and gave a long sigh: ‘I cannot remember before my memories were LOST,’ he said. ‘That is why I am banging my drum. Because it will help me to remember.’

But as he said this he caught sight of his drum floating past him, carried high above his head by a host of tiny Fairies. He tried to jump up and catch it but the Fairies were too fast for him. So he wandered back into his room and sat on the edge of his Royal Sofa: ‘Now I have no memories and no drum,’ he groaned.

Jenny looked at Molly but, before Jenny could even ask her question out loud, Molly smiled and said: ‘Yes you should go in.’

So Jenny strode into the King’s chamber, walked right up to the Royal Sofa and sat down beside King Persimmon. She knew that this was probably not the most polite thing to do, but the situation was urgent. She could see Queen Peony and Grandma Lily and the other two Witches and Molly all standing in the doorway, with a cloud of Fairies buzzing around them.

‘Your Majesty,’ said Jenny, handing King Persimmon a chocolate button, ‘your drum will not help you. Only you can make yourself remember. And it is always easier to think without a lot of noise going on. Please, try very hard to remember what you were doing before your memories went away.’

Then, one at a time, Jenny started to hand chocolate buttons to the King. And, as he chewed each delicious dollop of chocolate, he began to smile: ‘It IS easier to think without all that noise going on! And I think I do remember what I was doing before my memories went away.  I was on a Royal Tour!’

‘Where?’ said Jenny.

‘I don’t know,’ said King Persimmon. ‘I am very wise but, at the moment, my mind is all of a jumble.’

Jenny gave her audience a hopeless look. The Queen shook her head. But Grandma Lily summoned Dewdrop and Cornflower to follow her, and the three Witches hurried to stand before the King.

‘Your Majesty,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘Will you allow the Witches to help unjumble your mind? We are very good at unjumbling.’

The King looked at Grandma Lily and slowly nodded his head. So Jenny stood up and allowed Grandma Lily to take her place next to the King. And Witches Dewdrop and Cornflower knelt down in front of him. Everything was still and quiet. Apart from a slight witchy humming noise.

Then suddenly the King said: ‘I was on a Tour of the LOST things. Then I went to see the Garden of Errors and then … and then all is blank.’

‘Were you alone?’ interrupted Jenny.

‘The King never travels alone,’ said Molly.

‘Then, your Majesty, who were you with?’ demanded Jenny, holding up her half empty packet of buttons.

King Persimmon listened to the Witches humming. He looked at the chocolate buttons in Jenny’s hand. Then suddenly he knew: ‘I was with my brother Sorrel, the Knave Prince,’ he cried. ‘Please, may I have another chocolate button?’