When the enemy arrived, the peasants of the outlying villages had done as King GarGar instructed. They burned their crops. They drove the livestock including the horses hither and yon. They even burned down their modest homes. This scorched-earth policy left nothing for the Caninites to take for succor. All the larders were empty. By the time they reached Catapolis, they were a mass of starving, barefoot rabble, unfit for battle.
To fight would be suicide. To retreat would also be a death sentence. There was nothing to do but to surrender without ever fighting a single battle. It was GarGar’s greatest victory and it cost him not one soldier. It did however, rain hardship down upon the farmers that fed the capital city. It was Queen Pirouette who brought them relief in the form of gold coins and caravans of supplies. Thanks to Her Majesty, no one starved. On the contrary, the sacrifices of the landed classes brought them great rewards.
Long live Queen Pirouette! Long live King GarGar!
It was from her maternal grandmother that Pirouette learned to scry. “It is the women folk who pass this ancient art down from one generation to the next,” the old woman explained to her on the occasion of her thirteenth birthday. “Thirteen is an important year,” Grand-mère la duchesse had explained solemnly. “By this time next year, you will know everything you need to know to live a successful life as a noblewoman.”
She handed her granddaughter a crystal ball that was so heavy, the poor child could barely hold it. “It will get lighter the more you use it.”
Queen Pirouette’s childhood was unique among the nobility in that her father took great pains to be intimately involved in his daughter’s upbringing. The norm among the exalted was to betroth their daughters at an early age and then ship them off to be raised by the parents of their future bridegroom. The Queen’s father, Prince Merveilleux paid meticulous attention to every aspect of his daughter’s upbringing from her diet to her education and even her dress.
Since the child had lost her mother at an early age, the Prince was the only parent Her Majesty ever knew. Merveilleux made sure she would never forget him. He refused to marry her off to the highest bidder, as was the custom of the day. He kept her home, close by, even taking her with him when he visited the Court. It would be there, under the King’s roof that she would meet her future husband, GarGar.