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June 24
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A crowd of children stream into Pewter City Elementary School's auditorium and excitedly take their seats. But backstage, Brock is silently preparing himself to perform. Okay, guitar's tuned, other instruments are tuned, props are where they should be, I know which voices to do and when...

He takes a deep breath and lets it go to quell the last few Beautiflies in his stomach. It's time--let's do this! he grins as he takes his guitar and quickly makes his way onstage while the lights are down and he is being introduced.

The children applaud as the lights come up on him. "Thank you...it's great to be here once again." he begins. "Today I'm gonna try a little something different...rather than a few random stories that may or may not have a theme tying them together, the stories I want to tell you today actually have a backstory of their own."

Intrigued murmurs go up as Brock settles in a chair close to center stage, takes his guitar, and starts a relaxed melody that evokes a time of brave heroes, magic, dragons and adventure. "There was once a king who had two children--we'll call them Prince Rufus and Princess Maya--, and they lived a happy, peaceful life in the royal palace and its gardens." he begins. They had their own retinue of servants, their chamberlain and a variety of masters that taught them everything a prince and a princess had to know.  There was also a minstrel that served the prince and the princess--his job was to sing songs and tell stories, both old favorites and brand new ones, every evening from 7 PM to around bedtime, in the huge bedroom suite the prince and the princess shared."

Awed whispers go up as the children picture what the bedroom suite may have looked like. "But at the time this story takes place, no minstrel was present in the prince and the princess' tower, and the grown-ups were concerned. The old minstrel, who had filled the tower with story and with song ever since Prince Rufus and Princess Maya were born, had joined Arceus in heaven, and it was no easy task to choose a successor. There were already a number of potential candidates seeking the ofiice, and their friends were beginning to fight with one another as to who was the best minstrel in the land.  One of them was an old man from a village near where Mt. Moon is today, who said he knew more wonderful stories than anyone in the world. Another was an old woman who some people believed was a witch, and who said her great-grandmother had taught her all the tales that her great-grandmother had learned when she was young. A third was a young girl who claimed she knew the fey, and the things they told her were in her eyes the stories that everyone wanted to hear."

He then stops his song for a moment. "Meanwhile, Prince Rufus and Princess Maya were getting bored waiting for someone--anyone to come tell them a story. They had read all the books in the royal library at least a million times..."

Laughter goes up from the teachers in the audience. "and were eager for something new; yet they didn't want to listen to any of the candidates for the vacant post, because they wished to be totally fair to them all." Brock explains before starting an innocent yet regal song to represent the prince and the princess.

“I hope they find a new minstrel before too long,” he sighs in a mimic of a young boy for the prince. “But how do we know which one is the best one?"

“I think,” he interjects in a mimic of a young girl for the princess, “that we should hold a contest--a tournament of stories, if you will--and let the post be given to the winner.”

As himself, Brock explains "Now, it was common in the kingdom to have tournaments, where knights, archers, mages, and many others competed for fabulous prizes, and Princess Maya on more than one occasion had sat in the seat of honor and presented the laurel wreath that was given to the victor. But at that time, no one had yet heard of such a thing as a storytelling tournament."

“Why not?” he smiles as Prince Rufus. “But how will it work? How do we know who has won? In a tournament of battle it is easy to see which warrior has downed his opponent or broken his lance; but it will not be so easy to say who has beaten everyone else with a story.”

“The stories will be told in our bedroom, for as many nights as the contestants may need to show us what they can do." he explains as Princess Maya. "Then you and I will decide which one is the best.”

“But what if we don't agree?” he asks as Prince Rufus. “Besides, you know very well that we want the minstrel not only for ourselves but for our friends and the other children of the land. So it would hardly be fair to do the judging by ourselves. Let's appoint a judge's panel of children, and leave the decision with them.”

As himself, he continues over an excited melody "Princess Maya loved her brother's idea, and they immediately started planning for the Tournament of Stories. First, they appointed a panel of hundred children from the royal city--fifty boys, and fifty girls--to listen as each competitor told his or her story in turn, and in the end choose the victor by their votes. Then a great proclamation was sent out and posted everywhere throughout the kingdom, inviting any one with any musical or storytelling skill to compete. Hundreds came to try their luck, and many more came to watch."

He slows down his song into his relaxed melody from before. "When the first official day of the tournament finally arrived, the number of competitors had been reduced to nine. It was plain to see that it was going to be very hard to say who was the best out of this final field of nine; as they all were equally skilled. The prince and the princess agreed that the contest would be held for three nights, at the usual time. This way three stories would be told on each of the three nights."

As the last chord fades, Brock goes on "When it was time for the tale-telling to begin, the prince and the princess took their seats on a gigantic dais at one side of the audience hall. Directly below them were the nine storytellers, and on the other side were a hundred seats for the hundred children that would judge. Each of them got a pencil and some paper, to take notes on the stories if they wished, and a box of treats if they got hungry. On the far side of the hall was a huge box containing story topics, if they wanted to know what the prince and the princess and their friends particularly liked. Every storyteller knew that they could tell their own story if they wanted, but if they needed a suggestion, the suggestion box was right there in plain sight."

He grins. "The suggestions included, but were by no means limited to, a story about a girl and some fairies, a story about a boy who, though poor and unknown, became the most famous person in his land, or went seeking adventures under the earth or under the sea, riddle tales, tales of dark forests and bottomless pools, dragons, heroes, magic, ghosts, treasure, and ancient castles--and that was only the tip of the iceberg!"

He then plays an expectant chord. "When the prince rose to declare the tournament open, everyone cheered, and a herald's trumpet sounded..." Excited whispers go up as a trumpet playing an attention call from offstage echoes through the room. "to let the whole royal city know that the first storyteller was beginning their performance. The contestants had cast lots to determine in what order they would perform, and the first lot fell upon a courtier who had known the royal children all their lives. He was especially fond of Prince Rufus, and guessed that it was the prince who had contributed the suggestion about poor boys and poor girls becoming famous."

He sets his guitar aside  and gets up from the chair. "As he came forward, he made a low bow before the prince and the princess..." Brock proceeds to bow before two imagined thrones at stage left. "...and announced that his story was named 'The Boy Who Found the King'".

He looks out on his enthralled audience. "It is there that our first tale begins..."
Brock kicks off a performance of  "a story of stories", for the children of Pewter Elementary...

(real tale:
babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?vi…
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