The hall was, as ever, bursting with laughter, song and the clatter of cutlery. Many of the children were running wild, adults long since passed the point of caring. Servants moved gracefully between the the chairs and tables, filling goblets and clearing plates. The king surveyed his gentry with pleasure. All of this came at the end of many months of war. Yet they had won, prevailed despite the odds. The tables groaned under the weight of heavy plates of meats and poultry, breads and spreads, puddings and wines.
If you looked closely you could see the strain of war, clothing that was patched and meats that were thin on the bone, bread made of more air than wheat. Even some of the lower class gentry were here, filling empty spots. Still, the king thought it about time that things changed, and after the toils of the war he wanted to do right by his people.
‘My lords and ladies,’ he said, standing to catch their attention, even though his booming voice had already caught it, ‘I welcome you to this most fantastic feast, even those of you no so accustomed to attending such events,’ some of the lower class squirmed uncomfortably, ‘this war we have fought has not been an easy one. Our crops have failed, our houses burnt, and our forces slain. But we are victorious!’
A cheer echoed throughout the hall. Hundred of voices yelling in triumph together. He allowed them their cheer before raising a hand to ask for silence. ‘Thank you for your support, and for everything that you have all donated to the war effort. Now, I must ask you one last thing, let us raise of goblets in a toast, to those who did not make it!’ An echo rose from the crowd, their goblets glinting in the candlelight. There was moments silence.
‘Now I ask you, join me in giving thanks to those of our forces who made it home to us!’ The great grand doors at the bottom of the hall swung open, revealing two lines of soldiers, tired and battle weary, they stood to attention for their king. ‘I have not told you why I summoned you here,’ he said to the soldiers, ‘for all you know I am sending you off to another war. Yet, you have all still come, and to honour that courage, bravery, and most of all loyalty, I give you not only my thanks but my table and my goblet. Tonight my food is yours, and tomorrow all the kingdom shall know your names and the deeds you have done. I will hold a ceremony to honour you all!’
His decree was met with a wild cheer from the gentry in the hall. More than one of the soldiers was wearing a nervous smile as they relaxed. Then they were spread out around the room, one of them even taking the kings throne (at his insistence), while the king himself sat on a stool beside him.More food was brought out, everything from full pigs to succulent beef joins, vegetable dishes, mashed, stewed, boiled. Pitchers of wine and gallons of water. Every resource the king had came to the tables in front of the soldiers. A never ending parade of pies, crumbles, tarts, cheeses, and even a sponge cake.
That night was talked about for months after and the king was never more widely respected or loved. the food had never tasted better nor wine sweeter since.