There was a quiet knock on Queen Pirouette’s bedroom door. “Your Majesty?” Queried Lady Abigail Hoffenhoff. “I’ve brought you some broth. We are all worried.”
In the darkness of her bedchamber, Abigail’s voice was like a trumpet blaring in Pirouette’s ear. She couldn’t find the motivation even to reply to her best friend and chief lady-in-waiting. While she appreciated her friend’s concern, she didn’t want any intrusion. All she wanted was GarGar, her lost love. Without word of his whereabouts, her mind was wandering into places that she never knew existed. Hellish scenarios played out in her imagination. Am I going mad? She asked herself.
“Your Majesty,” persisted Abigail. “I have a note here that might interest you. I shall slide it under your door.” With a single lit candle, Pirouette examined the envelope on her floor. It was embossed with strange patterns that were exotic, yet familiar.
Never in all of her brief little life had Pirouette felt such grief. If her beloved GarGar were a hostage or prisoner of war, then she would know how to bring him home, safe and sound. On the other hand, if he was just a corpse, rotting in a field, providing food for crows and vultures, at least his caloric contribution to the ecosystem would be of some value.
For many days, Queen Pirouette had sequestered herself into her private chambers. Black curtains were draped on every window. It was the not knowing that was crushing the young Queen. How does someone simply vanish? Especially someone as well-known as le comte des Deux Chats? The only person granted entrance into the Queen’s bedchamber was her friend Abigail, whose rank as the Queen’s chief lady in waiting made her the second-most important person at court. She would gently knock on the door, just twice and then enter unannounced. Despite all attempts, Abigail was unable to to tempt Pirouette to eat. She consented to the occasional cup of tea, but besides that, Her Majesty was refusing all sustenance.
The last thing poor, young Pirouette felt was hunger, at least physical hunger. Her heart ached for news- any news- that might dispel the fears that her fertile imagination conjured up.
Zippy, the Queen’s fool, had known her since she was a newly born infant. So weak at birth, little infant couldn’t even utter a cry, and her poor mother succumbed to the rigors of childbirth less than an hour after the ordeal, leaving the child an orphan. Her father preceded her mother to the grave just a few months beforehand, sacrificing his life in the defense of the kingdom that he’d every hope of inheriting from his aging uncle, the old King. Never in the old Fool’s life had he ever felt the slightest fear from his charge until this outburst when ejected him from her presence. Would she really have cut my head off? He asked himself.
That Pirouette had been born a female, rather than a male, was considered a colossal tragedy. Never in the annals of the Kingdom’s history had a woman inherited the throne by her own birthright. The old King, who was still in full control of his mental status, hurriedly pushed legislation through parliament that designated the newborn infant as the undisputed heir to the throne. Nobody expected the child to live, so the law was considered moot. As fate would have it, the sickly child thrived, exhausting three wet nurses a day. Before she was even a year old, she was walking on her own two feet. By the time she was two, this prodigy could chatter in not one, but two languages. The old King, who had sired many children, who themselves had sired many offspring, had outlived all of them, leaving this bright toddler his only indisputable heir. Without need of an act of parliament, the old King could happily designate the heir to his throne to anyone he chose.
Queen Pirouette had been in her office for several hours reading reports, dispatches, letters and proposed legislation. When she got the next document in the pile, she read it over twice and without a word, let it drop to the ground. Lady Abbigail Hoffenhoff, her chief lady in waiting and best friend, scooped it up and gave it a perusal. Her reaction was until the queen’s. She put a hand to her mouth and passed it to Lady Granville, the queen’s personal secretary. When Lady Granville read the contents, she suppressed a cry and passed the parchment on to the Prime Minister, always present, nearly always silent. The letter had been written by le comte des Deux Chat, GarGar’s aide de camp.
Glorious news Majesty, it read, the enemy was met today (that is, two days hence) and because of the ingenious military tactics of le comte des deux chats, victory was secured. Bravely he led the cavalry charge against the center of enemy lines.While it saddens me to report that there were heavy casualties on both sides, the enemy left the field in disarray. Thousands of enemy combatants were captured, as was all of their artillery. The joy of this victory; however, has been tempered by the fact the exact location of Lord GarGar, des deux Chats, is at present unknown. Every effort is being made to find out whether he is a captive of the enemy, or of he has fallen in the field of valour. As his aid de camp, I swear that I will spare no effort in order to locate him, and it is my sincere wish the his lordship will be found in good health and high spirits.Your devoted servant, Emile du Par.
Pirouette rose from her desk and calmly said, We wish to be alone. My lord, Prime Minister, give me that letter.” He bowed and extended a shaky hand holding the letter. Once the doors closed behind the Queen’s retinue, she could feel her body trembling uncontrollably. Before she could summon a thought, the door knocked and Zippy, the Queen’s fool, tumbled into the room and then outstretched his arms, “Ta-dah!” He said proudly. Grabbing a letter opening, she threw it at Zippy and shouted, “Get out! Get out before I have your head separated from your neck!”
When battle was joined, it went exactly as GarGar had planned. The diversionary assault on the enemies left flank drew all the fire power the enemy had at its disposal. The center of GarGar’s line retreated slowly, and in orderly fashion. When the enemy paused to reload their canons, he let let loose a barrage that wiped out their artillery. It worked like a charm. As the cream of the crop of his cavalry charged the center, he basically split the enemy ranks into two. His infantry simply sorted the left from the right, accepted their surrender in gentlemanly fashion.
To add to his joy, the casualty rate was quite low. Out of thousands of combatants, the number of individuals killed or injured was obscenely low. A few hundred of the enemy died or were injured. Of his forces less than a hundred lost their lives and a few hundred were treated in the field hospital. Of course, the Prime Minister and his allies accused GarGar of conflating the casualty figures, but when his victorious army marched back in parade fashion, everyone could see that he spoke the truth.
Waiting for her beloved at the steps of the Great Cathedral, Queen Pirouette presented le Comte des Deux Chats with a meddle of exemplary valor, a gold coin with his likeness in profile on two ribbons that were yellow and light blue. As he knelt before her, she placed it around his neck and gave him a little tickle as she did so.
GarGar looked at the enemy’s position with his field glasses. Stifling a sigh, he could see their cannons arranged on a distant ridge with the infantry and calvary lined up in orderly fashion. To charge into their ranks would cost many lives, especially on his side. The only recourse was to wait. Wait and see.
Soon the sun would be in the enemy’s eyes. That would be the best time to strike. Of course, he could also wait until the wee hours of the morning, in the dark of night to attack, but that was an old strategy that the Imperial generals had incorporated into their planning. Perhaps he could create a diversion, send a few regiments at one side of their ranks and then throw the full force of his army at the very center of their position. The one thing he knew he must do was neutralize those cannons.