“He’s done it again.”
I pretended to ignore the young man in uniform as I continued to devour my dinner much slower than was necessary. He had been promoted just a few weeks ago, and it was entertaining to watch his desire to be the first one to respond to any calls to duty battle with his desire to be in my good graces.
“Who’s done what?”
I could almost hear the lieutenant’s eyes rolling. “Who do you think?”
I muttered a curse into my drink as I took a swig. “Do we have to report?”
“We’re king’s men, aren’t we?”
And any other day I would have been proud of that fact, but as it was I would have been fine with any other occupation.
“Horses, too?” I asked, sliding my drink back across the table and standing to belt my sheathed sword around my waist. At least I was in full uniform this time; last time this whole mess had started, I had been off-duty for three hours.
Luckily, by the time that the lieutenant and I got there, the other soldiers had already managed to collect all of the tiny porcelain shards from around the inside of the castle wall. Now all that there was for us to do was join the ranks of mounted soldiers wondering why no one had ever told them about this part of our job description as we watched the castle physician’s nimble fingers breathe life into the lifeless.
The tiny prince watched anxiously as his best friend was slowly but surely glued back together, and every once in a while he would turn to see that my comrades and I were giving the fallen hero the respect and attention that he deserved. We weren’t, of course, but he was too young to tell boredom from reverence.
Then, finally, the physician held up the porcelain soldier for all of us to see.
“Good as new,” he lied.
“Humpty Dumpty!” the little prince exclaimed, ignoring the new cracks that marred the porcelain as he hugged the doll to his chest.
“Now, sweetheart,” said the queen, who had come to witness all of this for lack of anything better to do. “What have I told you about bringing him up on the castle walls?”
“Don’t do it,” the prince said absentmindedly as his nurse picked him up and scurried after the queen, who was already making her way through our ranks and back into the safety of the castle.
We were dismissed shortly after, and as soon the lieutenant thought that I was out of earshot I could hear him taking bets on how long it would be before Humpty Dumpty “fell” again.