Lore: Feast of the Forest King/Shaed

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The Feast of the Forest King

One day, the Forest King announced an enormous feast and invited every animal of the forest. “And one of you will receive my boon,” the invitation said. “But whomever displeases me will receive a bow.” Which meant a noose, for every animal knew of the king’s capriciousness and cruelty.

So, all the animals came. The jubhawk put on his finest clothes, preening his feathers and polishing his horns. The haan fluffed its gills and licked its eyes cleaner than they had ever been. The nara shed a new skin and combed its tails. Every animal presented their very best... All except the droper, whose coat dripped with cave slime and smelled of wild fungus.

“What are you doing?” the jubhawk snapped. “Why have you not groomed for the king?”

The droper yawned. “Your posturing looks so unpleasant. Everyone is stiff and miserable.”

“You should at least have bathed,” said the jubhawk. “If the king notices you, then you will surely hang.”

The droper shrugged. “At least I am comfortable.”

The feast was served, though the king had not yet arrived. The animals praised the spread, though they ate little for fear of appearing gluttonous. The droper, however, appreciated none of it, tearing into his food like one half-starved.

“You fool! The feast is for show!” hissed the jubhawk. “The king is surely watching!”

“Then I may die,” the droper said. Crumbs from a large piece of applecake spilled from his mouth. “But I will not die empty.”

Afterwards, and with loud fanfare, the king arrived and took his place at the head table. The animals rose and bowed—all except the droper, who was so full he could not stand. While the others stood in front of him blocking his view, he scratched his belly and let loose a roaring belch.

All in attendance gasped in horror, but the crowd was so great that the king could not see who was at fault. “Who was that?” bellowed the king. “Tell me, and you may yet live!”

But the animals were afraid of drawing attention to themselves, and so no one moved. But the jubhawk feared staying quiet even more, and so, though it betrayed his friend, he raised one clawed wing and pointed it at the now-sleeping droper. “It was him, Your Majesty. The droper dishonored your otherwise divine feast.”

The droper snored like a woodbeetle. His fur was caked with drink and apple crumbs. The king barked his name. “Wake and speak for yourself!”

The droper startled awake. He looked around and saw all eyes on him, most notably the Forest King’s. He swallowed. “It was a good feast,” he said. “I enjoyed it very much, though I may never eat again.”

Silenced boomed throughout the feasting hall. Everyone watched the king, both excited and terrified by what he might do.

Without warning, the king’s head flew back and he roared in laughter. The other animals remained silent, paralyzed in their fear. The foolish droper grinned sleepily.

When the king stopped laughing, he said, “You will eat again, droper—this and much more. For more than any other, you have enjoyed the feast I laid out before you, and so you shall receive my boon.” And the king ordered that food be brought to the droper’s cave every day, enough to keep him fed and fat for the rest of his days.

Then the king pointed at the jubhawk. “But you? You betrayed your friend for a boon. You are more treacherous and selfish than any of my subjects. And so, your neck shall receive a bow.” And he ordered him arrested.

But the droper said, “That’s not right,” and as the king’s guards moved to arrest the jubhawk, the droper rose from his chair and knocked them down with his great claws. Then he picked up a fallen tree and crushed the king beneath it. “There,” he said. “Bows and boons for none.”

The other animals cheered (though whether out of fear or joy, none could say), and the jubhawk hailed the droper as their new king. And so it was, and the droper was, and still is, happy to this day.

Moral: Posture for no one, boons and bows be damned.