It did not take long for guards to burst into her room, weapons drawn. Who had attacked the queen?
Damascus, 17th Century
Shlomo Hamelech’s wife secluded herself in her royal chamber and pulled out a few leaves from the deadly plant perched on her windowsill. Her heart beat in fear and anticipation. What kind of spell had the African king put over her to convince her to perform such a dangerous and treacherous act? Doubt filled her mind, and her fingers holding the plant began to tremble violently.
Then her monkey screeched playfully and swung off the rafters above her hand and landed in front of her. She then remembered when Shlomo Hamelech had showed her the authenticity of the plants when he used them on the monkey. Her monkey had seemingly died, and the life-giving plant had brought it fully back to good health within seconds. Surely, she reasoned, the same should happen to her without any complications.
Before she could scare herself out of it, she hastily boiled the plant in a pot and drank from its broth. Then she hid the evidence underneath a loose floorboard. She suddenly felt extremely faint and tottered over to the wall. Her vision began to swim, and a tremendous weariness overtook her bones. With a frightened shriek, she fell to the floor, motionless.
It did not take long for guards to burst into her room, weapons drawn. Who had attacked the queen? They searched high and low, but only the curious monkey watching them from the windowsill was found. They tried everything to revive her, but there was no pulse. She was, for some unexplainable reason, dead.
Amongst much crying and eulogizing, the queen was buried. There was only one man in the entire country who knew what had truly occurred. Under the cover of darkness, the African king approached the guards standing at the gates to Shlomo Hamelech’s palace.
“Good evening, my friends. Please allow me to enter, I forgot something here when I was given a tour of the palace grounds recently.”
“We will retrieve the items for you. Tell us what you lost and where you lost it.”
“No, no, I could never do that. What I lost was something extremely precious, and I fear you would simply take it for yourself and claim you never found it!”
“You are clearly unfamiliar with how things work around here.” The main guard frowned. “This is the palace of Shlomo Hamelech, in the holiest country in the world. Do you think us so low that we would lie and steal? Perhaps that’s how things work in your country but not here and not with us.”
“You are right, in Africa even my own men are not trustworthy, and disloyalty, cheating, and lying are rampant. But even so, for the sake of my nerves, just let me in. I will retrieve my belongings and be gone before you know it. It is no trouble to you, so why give me such a difficult time? Am I not a royal guest, worthy of being treated with respect befitting a visiting dignitary?”
“Sorry, but you cannot enter alone.”
“Wait a minute, isn’t there a time limit for the queen to be saved?” The children in the shul interrupted Akiva as he was telling the story. “Didn’t Shlomo Hamelech tell her when he first showed her the plants that if 24 hours pass then the person would remain dead? If the queen died that night and now it is almost 24 hours later, then the African king only has a few hours left of nighttime before she stays dead forever!”
Akiva chuckled, appreciating the quick wit of the children.
The African king broke out in a sweat as he realized time was slipping through his fingers. The queen had warned him that if 24 hours were to pass before she received the life-giving plant, she would never awaken.
“Listen to me very closely. If you do not let me in this instant I will cause such an uproar that I will wake up everyone in the palace. Look at me closely, and check me for weapons! I do not have any! I pose no threat to anyone! Give me five minutes, and I will retrieve the items I left, and you will never be bothered by me again. You have my solemn promise!”
The soldiers begrudgingly let the king inside.
The African king raced toward the queen’s chambers, aware that he had less than hour to bring her back from the grave. He entered her royal room and looked around frantically. Where had she told him she was going to hide the life-giving plants? Aha! She said she would put it underneath her bed!
The king raced over to the empty bed and tipped it over. But there was nothing underneath.
The sound of a monkey cackling happily made him leap in fright.
“What are you doing up there?” the king growled at the monkey. Then he caught sight of a plant dangling from the monkey’s fist. The life-giving plant!
“Your five minutes are up!”
The soldiers were coming toward the room very fast. The king was stuck.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 878)
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