King Canute

Over there,” he said, pointing to a dry patch at the water’s edge. It was one of the few remaining places where the sand seemed flat and solid enough to bear his throne.

A stiff wind off the sea ruffled the waves, clawing at their white crests, sending flecks of spray skywards. Gulls swooped low over the grey-green water, their cawing echoing over the crash of the waves.

He pulled his fur-lined cape tight around his neck and firmly grasped his scepter as his throne lurched upwards and sideways. Clumsy idiots. Couldn’t even get things right on such an auspicious occasion.

A motley crowd trailed behind the throne, their backs bowed against the wind, capes and hats pulled tight around their ears, their heads leaned close together, whispering. He’d show them! How dare they think he wouldn’t succeed. Was he not king and chosen by the gods?

The soft sand gave way as the bearers plunked his throne down, leaving it listing perilously to one side. He shifted his weight, trying to counter the growing slope of his seat. The effect was immediate; the thrown lurched sickeningly. He would have been thrown to the ground had it not been for one of the bearers who grasped him by the arm.

Snarling at the man for having touched him, he leapt forward, planting both feet squarely on the sand. A wave came to rest only inches from his toes. Enough! He brandished his scepter in front of him and cried out: “Cease!” drawing out the word in a long hiss the end of which got lost in the wheeze of the undertow as the wave withdrew. In the short silence that ensued he heard a murmur of approval go up behind him. So now they were beginning to believe him.

Then the next wave broke and rolled up the sand, licking at his toes.

Cease!” he shouted, shaking his scepter angrily at the waves.

Once again the wave withdrew but the next one broke higher and bigger than those before and rushed up towards him, engulfing his feet and the legs of his throne. Ill concealed sniggering reached him as the wave drew back down the beach.

He gripped his scepter even harder and stamped his foot, sending sandy water splashing in every direction.

Cease!” he screamed, waving his scepter wildly above his head. Gulls plunged down, screaming mockingly as a new wave rolled up the beach and swirled around his ankles. His entourage scrambled back out of reach, several of the women squealing.

He turned, intending to reprimand them, when the next wave caught him by surprise. Much bigger than any wave so far, it hit him full force sending him sprawling in the salty water. His scepter flew from his hand. Floundering in the wave, he scrambled to recuperate it but the scepter was dragged away as the wave withdrew. Salt water filled his mouth and flowed up his nose, stinging as it did.

Struggling to get to his feet, he felt a welcome hand on his shoulder, but, to his horror, whoever it was pressed him down instead of helping him up. A new wave rolled over him submerging him completely. It was then that several heavy boots replaced the hand, holding him face down in the water. Fight as he would he couldn’t get free and the more he struggled the more his lungs screamed for air. Cease, he beseeched, and with that thought his breath hissed out of his lungs and water rushed in to replace it…

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