The King sat his camel like he'd been born there, hardly noticing as it shifted and fidgeted. His lower body seemed to automatically adjust to the animal's movements so that his upper body, and especially his regal head, hardly moved at all.
The skinny boy had worn a dirty white tunic that left his bare calloused knees exposed. This child was lifted onto to back of a small camel, clinging to the hands that held him, rigid with terror but refusing to let out the wail building up in his chest. Five minutes later the boy was sprawled in the dust and the camel was placidly chewing its cud as if nothing had happened.
He was always afraid of camels.
"Blessings to all!" the King shouted as we passed between the bulging rows of citizens lining the streets. One of the ministers gasped, then quickly covered his mouth. The King was too important to waste his breath on commoners. As he turned to look back at the shocked royal party I saw the mischievous twinkle in his eye, the ill-concealed grin.
The boy was taller this time, and dressed in fine clothes, but still grubby. Holding grimly to his saddle, he tried out every peasant swear word he'd ever overheard on the camel. It only grunted in reply and still refused to do more than rock from side to side. Someone had gasped then, too, at the words the boy dredged up to shout at his mount. And the boy's eyes sparked and he grinned. Later he was whipped for the bad language, but he had never regretted it.
Our King was resplendent in deep purples and blues and greens; he seemed a bright temple painting next to the unfinished sketches of the citizens in desert hues. Even the royal party was but a pale wash of colour, a test of the brush, beside his brilliance. Our King sat shining atop his placid camel, bathed and scented with vanilla and cinnamon, waving solemnly to his subjects.
It seemed so little time ago, only the time it takes for a memory to surface, that he was just my snot-nosed little brother.
[This was originally titled "King of Kings, Master of Camels" and it won a character description contest at the now defunct fantasywriterswanted.com. The prize was a replica of the One Ring in a light-up case.]
Little Fictions are tiny stories. I originally posted them on another blog (also called Little Fictions), but decided I have too many separate projects/blogs on the go. These stories will eventually be hand letterpress printed on postcards, book marks and little posters.