When Maxwell first saw Mr. Richard Cringeworthy, it took all of his inner fortitude not to burst into raucous laughter. The man was inordinately tall in the leg, giving him an insect-like appearance. Adding to the effect was his fondness for long, black boots that went all the way over his calf. His short-waisted coat with tails was the cherry on the Sunday.
In days of yore, our erstwhile hero was the gadfly man-about-town that left a broken heart in every parlor. Now he looked like an out-of-date wannabe who only made public appearances on the basis of sheer personal fortitude. Isn’t it funny? Maxwell thought to himself. He is the human. I am just a cat. Yet I have the power to destroy his life!
“Satan give me strength!” Exclaimed Maxwell. Richard looked around but only saw a large black and white cat lingering in his front yard garden.
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.
The Spirit of Sally lived on in the house on Riverview Road. Open to tourists, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. it was staffed with volunteers, some of whom claimed to have seen her. Their stories were always the same. She was climbing the stairs. She was weeping. On her head she wore a bonnet reminiscent of the Colonial era. Her legs poked out of a billowy dress. Oh! How she wept and moaned! There were some who suggested that one’s ability to see Sally was dependent on the amount of hallucinogens one had ingested a few hours prior. Others were certain that Sally the Ghost was real.
When Parliament gathered, there was barely enough space for all the sitting members. The King’s representative, the Chancellor sat behind a long wooden table in a large ornate chair. From there, he directed the activities of the members of the House according to the rules of Saint Olaf. Lacking ornamentation, the chamber was adequate for the purposes of parliament; that is, endless debates.
It was the royal prerogative to issue monopolies to their friends, usually as rewards for a job well done. Joyful as this may have been for the King and Queen’s cronies, for merchants responsible for actually shipping certain products it was onerous. For instance, if King GarGar issued a monopoly on red wines to a friend, then the people who import red wine would have to do so under the lucky person’s name. In essence, it was giving people a cut of the profits that they did nothing to earn.
When parliament tried to curb the practice through legislation, Queen Pirouette personally tore up the draft of the bill that was sent to her in the top secret red box. While this did little to improve the merchants’ opinions of the crown, it did create an atmosphere of intense competition for royal favor, primarily among the nobility- those who had the most ready access to the King and Queen who ruled jointly as equal partners in government.
The King looked down at the two little bundles that shared a single crib. Twins had been born to the royal family- a boy and a girl. Needless to say, they were viewed as prodigies for their very status as compliments to one another. Additionally, many had considered the birth of any more children to the King and Queen to be an impossibility. God had other plans. Somewhere deep in the mists of forgotten time, from a shared time of a tribal past, wasn’t there a prophecy involving twins who start an empire? Was it right that the hopes of an entire nation should rest on such tiny shoulders?
GarGar felt an intense level of joy that in the past had only been the result of similar births. Maybe the earlier children weren’t miracles, per se, but to both the King and Queen each child was greeted with that mixture of hope and worry that accompanies the birth of any child anywhere in the world.
“God bless you,” said the proud father to his babies. “And God bless your mother.”
“Come on in, Maxwell,” said Satan in a deep, gravelly yet vaguely fatherly voice. Max obeyed immediately, padding into the bedroom without a second thought. When dealing with the Evil One, Maxwell had learned that Satan liked enthusiasm. If anyone complained about any little thing, Satan would take it as a personal affront.
Satan sat on the edge of his little single bed- a bare mattress. It smelled of stale beer and pizza. Maxwell rubbed his whiskers against the edge of the Evil One’s hand, and let the shivers of pleasure run from his head, down his spine and down to the tip of his tail.
“What egregious acts of mayhem may I perform at your behest, Master?” Asked Maxwell in his cheeriest tone.
With their arms around each other’s waists, King GarGar and Queen Pirouette surveyed the giant map that was etched and painted into the floor of the War Room. The great river that fed their capital, Catapolis, was painted blue. Known simply as the “Great River,” it coursed through the center of the kingdom, then curved broadly and emptied into the sea in the east. Pointer in hand, the new general in command of the army scurried back and forth on the illustrated floor.
Pointing at that very curve, the general traced a tangent that moved North. “This is the route the enemy will try to take as they move southward toward Catapolis.”
“Why haven’t you intercepted him?” Ask the Queen tersely.
Queen Pirouette looked closely at the document in her hands. It was the new charter that her husband, King GarGar had granted to the capital city, Catapolis. She couldn’t believe her eyes. His Majesty was giving the merchants the bestof everything. It gave them the right to summon a parliament comprised of their caste that would regulate taxation. It gave them the right to form gilds. They could even raise funds and organize their own militia. That last point was beyond the pale, as far as she was concerned.
We pay for the war and they profit from it! The Queen thought to herself.