With his chambers' door locked behind them, Constantio plopped comfortably into his favorite chair, topped off a flagon of stout, and heaved a deep, deep sigh. He offered Quotes a seat at his desk. “I've been stressed to the gills of late, a condition none of my court joculars, bards, or minstrels have been able to remedy with their pandering prose and dribble. On the other hand, at eventide sometime, I hear your odes and melodies in the breezes blowing in from those idyllic hills skirting our town. I find them … how shall I put it? ...”
“Soothing?” Quotes didn't mean to interrupt, but while His Majesty grappled for the right word, it seemed only helpful to suggest one.
“No!” Constantio said without hesitation. “Your tunes do nothing for my headaches except compete with them. I do however find the lyrics to your ballads … distracting. Honest. They take my mind off the irritants of office.
“If it's not viscounts and courtesans cloying and craving my favors at Council, it's the masses, begging for solutions to domestic issues better resolved between themselves. I would rather face a horde of ogres than another cue of potato farmers and pimpled queens. As for my own Queen, bless her heart—she's fallen victim to my moods, becoming an interminable nag every bit as cross and pigheaded as her husband.
“And my two sons—heirs apparent? Apparently are not. The eldest is a worthless sot unfit to succeed me, the other is unwilling. He prefers grousing or hawking in the woodlands. Not that I blame him … Before having this Crown thrust upon me, that was my calling. How I relish those carefree days on the hunt ...”
The King's eyes glossed over. Red, from a potent blend of frothy ale and bittersweet memories. “I'm no fit leader while under the thumb of this melancholy. Nowadays, more often than not, I'm ill-tempered and indisposed to rule those in need of a sovereign. Who do I turn to solve MY problems? If I don't find respite from this affliction soon … I'll …” Constantio's leaden gaze fell on Quotes. “I've sent for you, harper, because I'm quite taken by your lifestyle and peaceful countenance—it reminds me of my own rural ways before bending under this Crown. Take me back … Play ... Recite … Whatever it takes. Take me back to that carefree, faraway place … Well, what do you say?”
Quotes pretended to tune his lyre while squirming just a little bit in his seat. “Um, Majesty, if I might ask? You have summoned other troubadours before me? … To replace those in your Court that failed to 'entertain'?”
“Yes,” answered the King, his eyes now hard as steal. “Regretfully, it did not go well—especially for them!”