Disturbing the Peas
King Veggible was a cabbagey old man, with the sort of personality you might expect from a turnip, if turnips were to come alive and have personalities. He didn’t do much for his country and left most of the governing to his Royal Aides. That was fine with the people of Gardenia. They didn’t want to be governed by a turnip-like man.
Of all the fruits and vegetables in the King’s royal garden, the ones he was most fond of were the peas. He had sugar snap peas, honey snap peas, winter peas, summer peas, English peas, Chinese peas, and just about any other sort of peas you could possibly think of, plus a few that you couldn’t possibly think of.
Strict laws were in place protecting the King’s peas. Anyone caught disturbing them was sentenced to harsh punishments, the most common being six months in prison, fed on a diet of Brussels sprouts and eggplant juice. Six months of eating only Brussels sprouts and eggplant juice left the offenders gagging constantly and wishing they’d never been born. Most of them left Gardenia and moved to a more civilized country like Afghanistan.
‘Raid the Pea Patch’ became a popular game among the rebellious youngsters of the area, who cleverly fashioned shoes for themselves that left rabbit tracks. They would sneak into the royal garden during the inky darkness of night, and, using live domestic rabbits, clip off loads of ripe peas. Rabbit snares sprang up all over the garden, at which the mischievous youngsters laughed. Every once in a while they would sacrifice a rabbit to the snares, just to keep the royal gardeners convinced.
One evening, a drunk man who was staggering home went too far astray. Singing uproariously, he blundered right into the King’s pea patch. A guard rushed to his side and accosted him.
“Good evening, drunk sir,” the guard said.
“I oog a pea indink!” the drunk exclaimed.
“I’m sorry to inform you that you are under arrest for disturbing the peas.”
The guard led the unfortunate man away, and he was put on trial the next morning.
“King Veggible, sire, I present unto you your most loyal and assiduous pea patch guard, Sir Tomate,” the Royal Announcer announced.
“Sir Tomate,” the King croaked, fiddling with a plump sugar snap pea, “what news do you bring?”
“Sire.” The guard knelt. “Last night I apprehended a drunk man who was romping through your pea patch. He awaits your judgment.”
King Veggible’s eyes opened to their widest dimensions. “Bring yon drunken dud to me at once!” he roared, leaping to his feet. “He will await my judgment no longer!”
The ill-fated man was shoved into the room. He fell to his knees, moaning and holding his aching head.
“Hear me, ye intoxicated idiot,” the King shouted. “I hereby sentence you to six months in prison, to be fed a diet of exclusively Brussels sprouts and eggplant juice.”
“Oh, sire, have mercy on me!” the man pleaded. “I was severely drunk and did not know where I was.”
“Oh, all right. You may also have boiled beets. Now, guards, take him away!”
The convicted man was led away to the dungeons, where he would spend the next six months, or less if he happened to choke to death on the anomalous diet.
King Veggible had a daughter, and a very beautiful one at that. Her name was Princess Orangepeel. Her brilliant orange hair and dazzling, pale complexion were the most discussed topics among the young knights of Gardenia.
It so happened that Princess Orangepeel was strolling in to see her father at the very moment he pronounced sentence on the drunk. When the man was gone, she went to her father’s side and put her delicate hand on his arm.
“Father,” she said, in a very princess-ish voice. “I have noticed that you are becoming increasingly mean. Why must you be like this?”
“I must protect the peas!” King Veggible said in a noble voice, putting his hand over his heart. “I took an oath, many years ago when I was young, that I would always protect the peas.”
She seated herself at her father’s feet and looked up at him with her irresistible pleading eyes. “Will you tell me the story of that oath?”
The King grunted. “Sure, but first…everyone else, get out!”
The Royal Announcer and the Royal Aides and all the Royal Guards scrambled out the door, none of them wishing to be the last one out. When they had all gone, the King turned back to his daughter and began to tell the story.
“When I was but a Princeling, my father, King of Gardenia, took sick. As soon as I heard of it, I began to eat all my vegetables and more, much to the surprise of my nurse and the Royal Cook. I needed to grow big and strong, you see, so I could go on a quest to find the Eternal Fountain of Magical Strawberry Juice. If I could bring just a sip of the potent stuff back to my father, he would recover.”
“For a month I ate vegetables left and right, and then finally I was deemed big and strong enough to go on a quest. I took with me my sword, my horse, a sack of vegetables, and a stupid kid. The journey was difficult, and a horrible monster ate the stupid kid before we got far. I escaped it, only to find myself face to face with an evil witch soon afterward. I chopped off her head and continued, eventually meeting the fabled Magician of the Mountains. He was a kind old man, and he took me in and fed me. When I told him of my quest, he informed me that the Eternal Fountain of Magical Strawberry Juice was but a myth. As you can probably imagine, I was very dejected.”
“I returned home to find my father on his deathbed. His final words to me, before he passed into the big garden in the sky, were, ‘Son, you are to be the next King of Gardenia. You must take an oath to always protect the peas. As long as it depends on you, never begin a war with another country. And son…’”
“That was all, and then he died. I took the oath the next day, to always protect the peas and keep the country from war if I could. I was crowned King, and now here I am.”
“Father, is it possible he meant ‘peace’ and not ‘peas’?”
The King couldn’t reply, as the shock of the realization struck him speechless. He was embarrassed to death and was buried in a fancy grave outside the city. His firstborn son, Broccoli-Head the Third, took the throne in his place and there were no more outrageous punishments for disturbing the peas.