art by Steven R. Stewart
by Maria Melissa Obedoza
Prince James winced as he watched the court jester stumble back into an open cabinet in a futile attempt to catch a wayward juggling ball. The jester fell amidst a shower of colorful props and knick-knacks ranging from odd to downright ludicrous.
James sighed. Pantolino was undoubtedly an awkward, bumbling fool. The only thing worse than his jokes was his bad sense of timing. For all his clumsy ways, though, he was beloved by the entire court--from the lowliest servant to the king himself. Pantolino had a heart of gold and a gentle nature to match. He had a warm smile and a ready ear for anyone in trouble. Simply put, he was everyone's friend.
That was, of course, until he had hit the king square on the face with a heavy juggling ball.
"Papa said it's your head on the line if you can't learn to juggle in time for tonight's gala," James reminded him.
"Well, then," Pantolino huffed as he struggled to stand. "Perhaps I ought to lop his head off, see how he feels."
The prince graced him with a withering look.
"What, you don't think I can do it?" Pantolino retorted. His expression sobered. "Maybe there's more to me than meets the eye, Your Highness. Maybe, just maybe, I am actually some great dark mage hiding in plain sight. Perhaps I am merely waiting for the opportune time to strike and take over the kingdom."
James stared back at Pantolino in all his foolish glory, donned in a patchwork costume of contrasting colors, the bells on his hat jingling merrily with each movement. The prince burst out laughing.
"Oh, Pantolino! Now that was funny!"
Pantolino's face broke into his usual easy grin. "So you think there's a chance for me yet?"