Thursday, March 23, 2006
In a small Kingdom a terminally ill King was pondering the future. His wife had failed to bear him the son he had so desired to inherit his throne. Surrounded by several powerful kingdoms, he knew a successor had to be wise and strong.
....While she was beautiful and intelligent, he feared that his only daughter would not have the strength to rule and to preserve their Kingdom. His Kingdom was the richest around, and it had been the target of jealous rival monarchies for centuries. He felt that only a King could protect his legacy. His daughter would have to take a husband.
....Thus it came to pass that he issued forth a decree throughout the land for all suitors for his daughter's hand and the throne of his Kingdom. On a prescribed date, there would be a feast in honor of any prospective man who thought himself worthy.
....So many were they that traveled to his castle on said day, that he could not justly choose a husband for his daughter. Although he weighed considerably his daughter's attraction to any individuals from the plethora of suitors, he wanted to be certain the right man would be chosen.
....Under advisement from the court wizard, it was announced that there would be a test to determine which of the suitors would be the next man to ascend to the throne. The young princes, knights and commoners all gathered around on the day that the King unveiled the details of the test they would need to pass.
...."Hear ye! Hear ye! All men from all lands before God and the King," said the wizard as he read from the royal scroll. "On this day before the sun rises on another, go ye forth out into the lands. To prove you are worthy of the hand of the King's daughter and so shall one day sit upon his throne by her side, accept the terms of the following challenge. On the eve of the 18th birthday of the Royal Princess, two years hence, the one man who returns to this very throne room and has fulfilled those terms, shall be declared the winner. That winner will be the one among you who returns having collected the most pink ping pong balls."
....There was a hush that came over the throne room. Curious glances were exchanged among many of the suitors. A large number of the crowd, heads held low, turned and walked away. After those who had conceded, admitting they weren't up to the challenge of such an arduous task, there remained yet a large contingent who felt confident. There was a large feast and a night of revelry to honor those brave men who had accepted the strange test. Not since the Crusades had such a gathering of gallant men been assembled.
....The next morning, from the balcony adjacent to the throne room, the King, the Princess and the wizard watched the long parade of suitors crossing the drawbridge as they left the confines of the castle. The King was impressed just how driven some of them were as they jostled and pushed one another trying to gain an advantage over their rivals. Several fell into the moat below, propelled by the mass of bodies. The wizard remarked that the resident crocodiles would be well fed that morning. When the last of the men had disappeared in the distance, the three returned to the throne room. It would be business as usual in the Kingdom for the next two years.
....There was unrest throughout the kingdom as the months passed. If not for the King's strength, the Kingdom might have fallen against two sieges from the neighboring realms. Hostilities were eventually abated as mere days remained before the eve of his daughter's 18th birthday. The twenty-three months had seen the beautiful heir to the throne blossom into a radiant young woman. She was surely the most beautiful woman in all the known lands.
....On the last day, amid much pageantry, each retort of the troubadours' horns was met with breathless anticipation. The first of the suitors to return marched in, a confident demeanor about him, lugging a gunny sack over his shoulder. He proudly declared that he had collected 112 pink ping pong balls. He was led to a huge table overflowing with food and ale. It would only be minutes before the troubadours played again as the next adventurer strode in to the throne room. This suitor was a well regarded Knight from a neutral domain by the sea. A hush fell over the throne room as he boasted 385 pink ping pong balls. So it went with each passing hour; suitors returned with their booty, but none had collected as many as the Knight.
....Darkness had long since fallen when there remained but 5 minutes before midnight. From the original 750 suitors who set out on the trek to win the princess' hand, only 20 had returned. The perils of traveling about the lands had apparently taken a toll on most of them. By now the Princess and the Knight had begun to exchange suggestive nervous glances in the other's direction.
....As the King's guards were beginning to raise the drawbridge to seal the castle shut, there was a sudden flourish of horns. It was with only seconds to spare, that another young Knight appeared in the doorway of the throne room. There was a gasp as the eyes of those in attendance caught sight of him. He was covered in blood and his once magnificent armor was dented and soiled. At his side he carried the broken remains of his sword. He was dragging behind him an enormous blood-soaked sack. He collapsed at the King's feet and looked longingly at the Princess. It was determined by the wizard that nearly every bone in his body was broken. It was miracle that he had managed to make it back to the castle at all, much less bear the weight of the large sack.
....The King stepped forth and knelt by the valiant Knight. Lifting the man's head that he might speak to him, the King inquired, "Brave Knight, how many pink ping pong balls did you find?"
....As if his face wasn't ashen enough, the young man's face turned pale. His eyes widened in panic. He was attempting to speak aloud but he could not, he had not the strength. The King turned his head and lowered his ear next to the Knights trembling lips.
....Just a trice before he died the man whispered, "Ping pong balls?" After an agonized cough his last words were, "I thought you said King Kong's balls!"
The moral of the story: No matter what trials you face, he who succeeds has the biggest balls.
Curmudgeon responsible for this post: Hale McKay at 12:10 AM