WEP, but I haven't participated in a bit. I hit a fizzle moment with Captain Wrath, so I won't be returning to that story cycle at the moment, but this prompt just kept speaking to me. I tried a few different things for it and wasn't really satisfied.
I'm still not satisfied, but here is an attempt at a poetic retelling of King Wenceslas (who was actually a very young king murdered by his brother in his twenties - despite all the depictions of him as an old, St. Nicholas figure).
At 449 words:
Footprints in the Snow
In a land far away and long ago,
a man followed footprints in the snow:
By his cozy hearth window, he had seen
A family laboring in the harsh cold
Bringing wood in stacks tall and clean
To Noble house hearths and stoves.
As the day waned and darkness fell,
The wood-cutter family walked home.
Their arms were empty, but they rang a bell,
Singing Christmas carols to praise the Son.
The King marveled at their joy so replete.
In his wondering he gazed at his empty luxury,
And with a sudden shout, he leapt to his feet.
With a hurried dash, he called out to me.
And together, we packed a full leftover feast,
including candles, dishware, presents, and all
For a celebration fit for Wise Kings from the East.
Then I followed him out into the cold snow fall.
We followed the family into the night.
Following deep footprints in the snow.
My young king laughed with joy and might
He hardly seemed to feel the freezing cold.
His purpose clear as he knocked on their door.
They answered but bowed exceedingly low.
But instead, he knelt down on their dirt floor,
Presenting himself as their servant now.
My king served them every morsel sweet,
He even cleaned every spoon and dish.
No one, not even I, could stop his feet.
As he danced about, as was his wish.
His song and laughter rang through the dark
and in the early morning, as the family slept,
My king and I, we woke with the morning lark
To leave the presents on the hearth he'd swept.
Back in his castle and his royal-filled life,
Nothing seemed to sate the Nobles greed.
My King had to deal with much Noble strife.
But they caught him looking to his servants' need.
Time passed, plots made, the passing of a year.
As winter's chill grew in the castle yard,
My king went out to pray with his brother dear.
But his brother's heart had become tarred.
The deed was done, my king was brought low
In bloody, muddy footprints in the snow.
The nobles wanted a puppet on the throne,
But the truth pierces the darkest of hearts,
So the light has ever, ever shone,
and the king's brother fell to love's darts.
He repented his sin, his murderous deed.
From that day forward, he ruled as his brother,
And now, with my help he has decreed,
On Christmas, we give to one another.
No one is to live in greed,
but all are to give to those in need.
For once, on a chill winter's night long ago,
My King followed footsteps in the snow.
And I, I follow my King.