The Royal Milkmaid From Verona (Part 1)

I started telling this story to my sister last December. Well, I say started, technically there was a beginning and an end. Just no middle.

     Once upon a time in a beach in Verona there was a milkmaid named Kasandra. At four o’clock every morning Kasandra would make the long hike up to the castle. When Kasandra got to the royal dairy farm in the morning in question everyone was running around in a panic. There was a storm the night before and a limb had fallen and crashed into a part of the royal gate keeping the royal cows in.’

     Most of the cows had escaped except for the ones too stupid to realize they could leave. There were no hoof prints to follow. The cows could be anywhere. So the milkmaids decided to split up to search for the cows. Kasandra took a path to the left of the castle. She walked and walked every now and then calling out “here, cow” absent-mindedly. She didn’t really care if she found a cow or not. What was she doing here, at five o’clock in the morning, looking for cows?
     Finally she saw a dark shape in the distance. Walking up to it, she discovered that it was indeed a cow. She slipped her rope over it’s neck and tried to get it to follow her. The cow was enjoying a patch of grass and had no interest in going back to the castle. Kasandra stood there, pulling on the rope until the cow was tired of the grass and would walk with her. As they walked in what Kasandra hoped was the direction of the castle, she began to get worried. “If you close your eyes and try to walk in a straight line, you can’t.” She said to herself. “Is this the same thing? I think the castle is to the right, but what if I overcorrect and just start walking in circles?” And this, of course, is exactly what happened. Fortunately, another milkmaid and cow found them on their way back to the castle, and between the four of them, the got back. There were now seventeen cows back where they belonged. Seventeen. Out of five hundred. Kasandra sighed. It was going to be a long week. But, seventeen was better than nothing, so she began milking them.
     Meanwhile, back at the Castle, the courtiers were grumbling about the lack of milk and butter. The king didn’t see what the problem was. Being lactose intolerant, the king had never really cared for cows. So what if some had gotten loose? More power to them, the stupid creatures. “Your majesty! Your majesty!” It was the Duke of Chester, a good friend of the king. He had apparently been trying to get his attention for a while. 
“What is is Ferdinand?” Asked the king.
“I was only asking, your majesty, what you could do about this cow problem?”
“Do? Do? What’s to be done? They’re only cows.”
“But, your majesty-“
“Fine, fine. I’ll issue a proclamation. We’ll post it throughout the kingdom. That’s all. Fetch me a scribe.”
“Won’t that take too long?”
“Yes. It probably will. Fetch me a scribe.”
“Yes your majesty. You! Boy! Come here. The king wished to write a proclamation.”
“Yes sir!” Piped the scribe. “I’m ready.”
“Good.” Said the king. “Write this down. I hereby declare that the first team to find two hundred cows shall receive a prize of… Oh, what’s a good prize, Ferdinand? I know, a lifetime supply of butter. Are you writing this down boy?”‘
“But, your majesty,” Protested the Duke “The dairy workers will have enough butter, and the courtiers don’t need it either.”
“You’re right, of course Duke, how about a horse instead?”
“I’m not sure. Wouldn’t that be saying a horse is two hundred times better that a cow?”
“Yes. Boy! Cross off ‘lifetime supply of butter’, and substitute ‘prized horse instead. There, now. That’s done. That’s the end of this cow business.” But naturally, that wasn’t the case. His own queen was already in the mix, having gone down to the dairy personally to divide dairy workers and courtiers alike into cow catching teams.
     The king sighed. As queens go, his wasn’t bad. She was certainly beautiful, but she didn’t have the manners a queen aught to have.
     Kasandra’s day was getting weirder and weirder. She was in a group of dairy workers and courtiers. There was a countess next to her in a muddy dress who seemed almost too excited to function. Her husband however, seemed less than thrilled. In fact, the only redeeming quality he seemed to posses was his excellent taste in boots. They really were amazing. Kasandra wondered how much of her salary would go to boots like that. Probably all of it. The queen came up from behind her and surprised her with a hug. “I hear you’ve caught a cow already! Good for you!” She practically squealed before flitting off to see another group of cow-searchers.
     Then off they went. Eventually, the Countess who was walking (almost skipping, really) next to Kasandra, pointed to a brown lump in the distance and shouted, ‘Cow! Cow!’. She sprinted ahead of the party in pursuit. They were headed into the forrest. The forrest made Kasandra nervous. She never went in there.’
     But she went in anyway. If the Countess could do it, so could she. Besides, at the moment, one of the courtiers, a young man, was attempting to lasso what he thought was a tame palace cow, but was in fact a wild bull. The bull didn’t like that one little bit. He ran off, dragging the man behind him. He let go of the rope, and managed to get to his feet, bruised and muddy, but inexplicably happy. The manliness of being dragged behind a bull apparently outweighed the embarrassment of being dragged behind a bull. 
     When they got back to the stables at the end of the day, all of the cows were accounted for. Out of the five hundred, they had caught an unimpressive eight.
     James had never had so much fun in his life. He had always believed his fellow courtiers to be too uptight. Not that he didn’t care about matters of state, it was just that it could be good for a person to let loose and go chase a cow every now and then. But it probably was not good for their health to chase a bull. He learned that when he attempted to lasso one. Truth be told, he was still sore from that. That bull had caused a lot of trouble, and it had been all his fault. It was just leaving us alone, he thought to himself. But I had to go chase it down, expecting it do be a normal, docile cow. The bull had behaved like a one-animal stampede, and might of trampled them all if Kasandra hadn’t been thinking on her feet. That milkmaid was marvelous. There had been several milkmaids there, he meant, of course, Kasandra. Despite all Kasandra’s efforts (and of course the efforts of the rest of the group), a lot of the cows they were trying to herd at the time got away.
     James looked up, and realized that his feet had taken him almost all the way to the royal dairy farm. He had absent minded moments like this a lot. He frequently paced as he thought, and as his mind was occupied, his feet would be on their own. It had gotten him into several embarrassing situations. He wasn’t sure now that it would be such a bad thing to be found at the royal dairy farm. If the day before was any indication, it would be a marvelous place to be.
     Does he have nothing to occupy his time? Kasandra thought. Apparently not, for here he was again, a day after their cow catching party disbanded. The “he” was James. James had been wandering around the royal dairy farm for a quarter of an hour before he found Kasandra. Not that he necessarily thought of himself as having been looking for her, more that he happened to walking around a dairy farm, and then decided to stop. After seeing Kasandra.
     “Have there been anymore rouge cow spottings?” He asked, after they greeted each other. “No. I believe they were all accounted for yesterday.” Kasandra replied. Why are you here? 
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