Ragtag Daily Prompt: Frost

Moored in a tiny village with the ridiculous name of Saint Germain-en-Laye, the royal flagship had accumulated a thin layer of frost on its deck. It was the Festival of Saint Charles de Foucault after all. After hearing mass below deck, Queen Pirouette nearly broke her neck when she ascended to begin her hand-waving duties. If not for GarGar, who was nearly always at her side, she would have fallen on the slippery surface.

Unable to contain his anger, GarGar, le comte des Deuxchats shouted, “Sand! Salt! Why hasn’t this deck been treated properly for Her Majesty? Where’s Admiral Crank? I’ll have his guts for garters if any mishap should befall our Queen!”

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Tattoo

The new flagship for the Royal Navy pulled from its moorings. Crusty Admiral Crank stood on the poop deck in order to survey the activities of the sailors under his immediate command. To his right stood Queen Pirouette and to his left, le comte des Deux Chats, GarGar. The blessings of calm seas and low breeze meant that most of the crew were required to sit at the oars. That put most of the men below deck.

During the reign of Pirouette’s predecessor, slaves operated the galleys. The first act that came from the Queen’s hand upon her accession was to abolish the detestable institution; therefore, the rowers were all volunteers. The emancipation of tens of thousands of human chattel was immensely popular with the majority of her subjects (with the exception of the nobles, who with the wave of her dainty, royal hand had lost millions.) Jealous of her power and eternally suspicious of the nobility, Pirouette’s mind constantly turned on ways to weaken the upper classes.

“Let’s go below,” said GarGar cheerily. “I don’t think you’ve ever gone down there, my love. Have you?”

“No,” answered Pirouette. “I’ve been told that the smell is unbearable.”

“That was in the old days,” said GarGar. “Things are completely different nowadays.”

So down they went. As they descended the steps, the first thing Pirouette perceived was the time keeper with his big kettledrum. The grunts and groans of the men, along with the thump-thump-thump of the drum, created a hellish symphony. The first lieutenant roamed up and down the central aisle, his ceremonial whip hanging uselessly from his belt, bouncing against his thigh. From his expression, he appeared more than ready to use it. Catching the Queen in his flinty eyes, he immediately fell to his knees. The timekeeper stopped drumming. An audible sigh rose from the sweaty ranks as they folded their calloused and blistered hands into their laps.

With the exception of the First Lieutenant, all of the sailors below deck were stripped to the waist. For the first time in her life, the Queen saw a tattoo. It was on the shoulder of the burly timekeeper. Made entirely of blue ink, the design featured a mermaid with her scaly tail wrapped around an anchor. Six inches tall and four inches wide, it was impossible to miss. With so much room in which to work, the artist succeeded in fashioning a beautiful face for the ocean nymph. Unseen and imaginary forces below the surface of the sea caused her hair to split into numerous locks. With both hands, she held a trident, normally the sole property of Poseidon.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Spectacular

To the Prime Minister’s chagrin, Tata Sous-sus was included in the party. As the nearest thing to a family member of the Queen, she felt entitled to board the ship before it set sail down the Great River into the Kingdom’s heartland. Standing at the prow, Tata practiced waving at the crowd below. Someone who was deeply disappointed that Tata wasn’t the Queen threw a rock at her. “Look out!” Shouted a crew member as the missile whizzed by her head.

“Perhaps you should go below until we set sail,” said the Captain gently. “Once the sun sets, there will be a fireworks display. I assure you. It will be spectacular.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll just stay put until Her Majesty arrives,” replied Tata Sous-sus drily.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Law

“Oh, no,” murmured Lady Natasha Rambovalina. “Here she comes.” For a woman who was nearly as wide as she was tall, Tata Sous-sus was amazingly fast and lithe on her feet. Walking like a woman with a purpose, she reached Lady Natasha in a few seconds, arm extended with a folded piece of paper in her hand.

“This is for you,” blurted Tata. “Read it now.”

“Would it kill you to be a little more discreet?” Asked Natasha as she snatched the note from Tata’s hand. “What’s this all about?”

“Just read it,” sighed Tata in exasperation.

It read: To my devoted servant- leave my Court now. -P

“What law have I broken,” demanded Lady Natasha. “Why should I leave Court like a thief in the night?”

“I’m just the messenger. I’ve no idea why someone would want you to leave.” Unspoken was the fact that the “someone” was Queen Pirouette.

JUST FOR FUN

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

GarGar sat on the edge of his bed. Queen Pirouette bent over and kissed his forehead. To GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats, it felt like a blessing of sorts. Without saying a word, he could feel her love coursing through his body, warming him better than any mulled wine. Taking his chin in one hand, Pirouette used her other hand to comb her dainty fingers through his thick, brown hair. It had been allowed to grow all that time he was away from Court. She like the way he looked. Maybe it was time to get rid of wigs altogether, mused the Queen.

“I shall require you to tell me of all your exploits and adventures, monsieur le comte,” she said playfully. “What can I do to breakthrough this terrible amnesia that currently plagues you?” Her hand moved from the top of his head, down his spine, causing her upper torso to move closer to his face. GarGar sighed and collapsed on his back on top of his bedcovers. This is heaven, he thought to himself.

“Ever the gentleman!” Laughed the Queen. “Well, once we are wed…” Her voice trailed off. Truth be told, the Queen was utterly ignorant of what actually happened between a man and a woman when they were alone in bed together. The only person in the entire Court who might be in a position to discuss such a sensitive matter with Her Majesty was Tata Sousus who was too scatterbrained to discuss a lunch menu for a guest list of ten people.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Visitor

Lady Natasha Rambovalina Ulanova heaved a huge sigh of relief as she disembarked from the carriage that had brought her from the waterfront to the Queen’s palace in the very center of the capital. The narrow roads and alleys of the city were forever clogged with others in carriages, with wagons full of produce and other wares that were pulled by large beasts of burden and then there were the people on foot, risking life and limb in order to move from one part of the city to another, often just a block or two away. If she’d left the pier on foot, unencumbered by luggage, she could have made the journey to the palace in about an hour. By carriage, it took twice that time.

Speaking to her lady’s maid, who doubled as her sole traveling companion, Lady Natasha said, “Go on, Sally! Lead the way!”

There was a sizable welcoming party for Lady Natasha. Included in the mix were the Archbishop for the Capital who had several lower prelates, abbesses, monsignors, and even acolytes swinging their censors, belching incense into the air. The Captain of the Guard was there with a small contingency of men carrying their pikes against their shoulders. The Prime Minister was there as well to greet the daughter of his oldest brother.

“At last, our visitor from the frozen north has arrived!” Exclaimed the Prime Minister with open arms to embrace his niece. “You look even more beautiful than the last time we met.”

“Well, when you wrote to me telling me that the Queen needed a new lady in waiting, I had to respond in person.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Lantern

“Watchword!” Said the guard to the shadowy figure with a black cape pulled over the lower half of his face, revealing only his eyes and forehead. Even his head was covered with a tricornered hat. At first, the unknown person, caught prowling around the ramparts, refused to respond. Annoyed, the guard lifted his lantern to get a closer look.

Finally the man responded, after noticing the guard touch the pommel of his sword. “Humpty Dumpty! You fool! It’s me. The Prime Minister!” The man dropped his hold of the cape, showing the guard his entire visage.

“Forgive me, Your Eminence. I mistook you for -” The guard paused and scratched his head. He was searching for the correct word that would not give offense.

“Never mind! Never mind!” Said the Prime Minister impatiently. “Get out of the way. I’m inspecting the wall.”

Even a person of limited intelligence would recognize this as a bare-faced lie. Who conducts inspections in the dark of night?

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Capricious

From Monday through to Saturday, the ladies in Queen Pirouette’s circle were obliged every evening, after supper, to gather in the Queen’s private (and more relaxed) presence room. There they would take turns reading some of their favorite passages from the good book. These bible studies rarely lasted more that forty five minutes or so- never as long as an hour. Today, the minutes seem to drag painfully slowly. All of them, with the exception of Tata Sous-sus knew what was to transpire as soon as the bible study ended. And when it was over, they looked around at each other, simply at a loss of what to do. Did the Queen wish for the others to stay in order to hear what she had to say to Tata, or did she want absolute privacy with Tata in order to give her a no holds barred dressing down.

Perceiving the discomfort of the others, Queen Pirouette snapped her bible shut, clapped her hands and said, “If you gracious ladies would care to retire, I have need to speak with our beloved Tata Sous-sus about some personal family matters. Gathering up their bibles, embroidery, and other sundries, the ladies-in-waiting, well-bred women who know when to make a quiet exit did so, retreating through the double-doors that led into the antechamber to her bedchamber. Because of the etiquette of precedence, Lady Abigail Hoffenhoff, as Chief Lady in waiting was the first to leave. Lady Eleanor de Grave-Nuoro-Oschatz, the youngest memory of the corps and the newest member was charges with pulling the door as quietly as possible.

Queen Pirouette motioned to a comfortable-looking daybed with lovely, realistic floral designs woven into the silken upholstery, coverlets, bolsters and pillows. It was a cherry addition to the sunny room, with its giant planters with giant ferns. The black and white marble tiled floor was almost entirely concealed beneath thick, cozy, velvety carpets of mysterious provenance and exotic design. The entire effects was meant to be elegant, restrained, but also inviting and comforting. That, and the recent and comforting words of spiritual comfort that the women had shared with each other, made this the ideal place and time to lower the boom on the capricious Tata Sous-sus.

Once Tata was ensconced on the daybed, with the assistance of two valets du chambre, Queen Pirouette turned on her, twisting her signet ring that encased the base of her right index finger, a nervous habit she’d picked up after the deaths of her Father and Mother. “Tata, darling, it had been my fondest hope that after all those months that you spent confined in the Tower, you would have gained some insight into your own behavior. You swore to me with one hand on your heart and another on a holy bible that you had learned your lesson. That you would never take money from people anymore in return for favors, like gossip, stories about what goes on in my private bedchamber and even what I’m eating! it’s intolerable. I’m sending you away for a few weeks. I think it’s best to keep you apart from the rest of the court. And I want to give your ill-gotten gains, whatever is left of it, to the church, or an orphanage, that sort of thing. Now go! I can hardly bear to look at you, Tata!”

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Heal

Before the unification of the Kingdom, various autonomous regions were subject to the rule of a female. The titles under which they operated were usually “Princess” or “Duchess.” In the case of the latter, they could be “Arch” or “Grand.” At any rate, Pirouette was the first woman to bear the title of Queen, in her own right. In other words, she was “Regina,” not just a consort. For this reason, Pirouette was extremely jealous of her rights and prerogatives. God have mercy on the man (or woman) who sought to limit the extent of her authority.

When the Queen appeared at her first Privy Council meeting after surviving the Great Pox, nobody bowed lower than the Prime Minister. So low did he bend at the waist that his poorly secured wig fell to the ground. One of the councilors rushed to pull the Queen’s chair from the table. Another swept in and snatched the PM’s wig from the floor and then waved it in the air like some kind of trophy. This caused an air of restrained merriment in the room. Hiding her giggles behind her fan, Pirouette took her seat at the table.

“We are all amazed at Your Majesty’s ability to heal,” said the Prime Minister. “The strength of youth has carried you through and saved your Kingdom from wrack and ruin.”

“I may be young in years, Monsieur, but I praise God for making me wise beyond them,” she replied modestly, smiling and nodding at each individual in the room.