I previously shared with my beloved-blogity friends chapter 2 of my work in progress: The Three Princes of Serendip. The very unfortunate collapse of my hard-drive over Christmas taught me the importance of not procrastinating the days of my publication-probation and so I have decided, hastily, to share what I have written in small, chronological chunks. I’ll try to post a chapter a week. (Feww, I put in print—that should make me more likely to do it.) Feel free to share input as you desire. I’d love to hear from you, unless you are going to be rude, in which case keep it to yourself. In this introductory chapter we learn a few things about the Glorious Land of Serendip and some it’s delightful and not-delightful inhabitants.
Without further ado:
The Three Princes of Serendip
by Miranda Giles
Chapter 1: After which Silda altogether avoided worrisome melanomas:
There once was a land, My Dearest most darling, where the sun shone nearly every day. In fact, it shone every day from May the ninth until November seventeenth exactly. In between these days it was cloudy in the morning, somewhat rainy in the afternoon, and clear and nippy at night. Once, about twenty-three years before our story begins, on May twelfth the people woke up to find that the sun was not shinning. It was cloudy, just as it had been on May eighth. Several persons very nearly threw them selves off a peak of Mt. Frangipanini that morning believing that it must be the end of the world. Luckily, just as they reached the heights of that steep summit the clouds parted, the sun shone out, and life went on just as it had every other year.
The people of Serendip, for it is the peculiar name of this land, were a rather jumpy lot. They were generally happy, very often generous, and were most especially known for their cleverness. This is no poor combination for making a prosperous country, but they had one very troublesome problem that kept them from developing mutually beneficial international relations. Dragons.
No one could quite remember when the dragons had first appeared in the waters surrounding the island nation. The very old sometimes asserted that there had been no dragons in their youth, though they seemed to have a penchant for remembering things to have been much pleasanter in general in their youth. However, most of the middle aged agreed that the problem had grown worse during their life time.
Silda, a hair dresser of no small reputation, would tell anyone who would hear it the story of her first encounter with dragons. She had been on a whale-watching trip with her older cousins. They hadn’t seen any whales, not really being sure that it was even the right season for whales to be near Serendip, when they suddenly felt a cold chill come over them. Now, this was more than unusual for the cousins because it was August twenty-first and there were not supposed to be any cold chills for another fifty-eight days. This was the biggest problem with the sea dragons of Serendip. Not only could they bite a boat right in half and ingest a poor sailor in one swallow, just as a python eats a mouse, but they also seemed to put off an unsettling air of fear and mistrust when anyone got with in ten feet of them. Perhaps it was that awful atmospheric change, rather than the weakness ship hulls that was the real reason that the wealthy merchants and regal kings of other lands avoided Serendip. It gave them the heebie-jeebies to imagine crossing that little bit of water.
But as I was saying, Silda believed that after noticing the cold chill she had caught a glimpse of a dragon tail that day. It had been black with a terrible ridge of yellow spikes on its back. Though her boat was not attacked that day, it was the last time Silda ever went with in 100 yards of the sea. But, like most Serendipians Silda could find a silver lining even around the cloud of the sea monsters, “We’ve never had a problem with pirates here in Serendip, and I’ve not had a sunburn since that day either.”
And if anyone missed the previous post—here is chapter two (slightly reedited.)
Chapter 2: Genetic Heredity and Custard:
Serendip, being, My Dearest, if you haven’t yet guessed, a fairytaleish sort of land, had pretty good king with three handsome sons. (I never could discover what had happened to their mother, it was all very ‘hush-hush.” As far as I could gather, it had something to do with a lawn chair or a stray goat, but no one will say for sure.) The king had been ruling for many ears and the people loved him only a little less than they had on his first day. He blamed the loss squarely on the dragons. But it was more likely a symptom of the boredom that had inevitably settled on a country that had enjoyed no royal gossip since the lawn chair/goat incident had taken their charming queen many years before. To make up, at least impart for their boredom, the whole kingdom, the young ladies in particular, were enamored with the princes.
Silida’s 15 year old daughter Orbin was nearly always talking about them, their interests, their shoe size, and their many talents. “I’ve heard from the palace gardener’s daughter that Prince Admir and Prince Saud always play rugby at 3:30PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that Prince Zaki reads his books in the sunshine instead.” Her information was nearly very accurate, although of course Admir and Saud sometimes tired of rugby, and it wasn’t always sunny enough for Zaki to read outdoors.
The three princes were indeed very handsome, very talented, and uncommonly wise. When I say wise, Most Darling, you may get a picture of a bespectacled librarian with a long nose and a white beard, so I should instead say sagacious, which unless you yourself have along white beard probably gives you no picture at all. Don’t worry I will not ask you to stop reading and look that word up. I shall take the pains of telling you myself.
Sagacious: wise, clever, or perceptive. Sagacity
Yes, this word is a more complete picture of the princes, for they were unusually perceptive. They had become so by the express desire of their father. He had determined early on that he wanted his sons to be wise. He knew they were handsome and strong enough to get by without many brains at all, as so many handsome and strong men do in this world. But the king also knew that their potential for power—the good kind—would be infinitely increased if they were well educated.
So it came to pass that the King called for the best teachers in the Kingdom for his sons. They were not only taught the regular subjects of literature and long division, but also the exciting subjects that normal children like you and I can only dream of learning; subjects with beautiful multi-syllabic names like Quantitative Economics, Organic Biochemistry, and Philosophical Theory of Postmodernity. There were also trained in the simpler sounding, but equally complex subjects of Modern Art and Classical History. One would think that with learning so many things their princely heads might swell up, but they seemed to remain as handsome as ever and, indeed, the only effect their learning had on their outer appearance was an increasingly sharp twinkle in their eyes.
Beside the handsome princes, within the palace there also lived a many dozens of other people: cooks, washers, cleaners, maids, butlers, and all kinds of servants. Having no mother of their own the princes developed a strong affection for the head chef whose name was Merrily Winifred Soup, but who they had always called Cookie. When they had time between their many studies they would often slip into the kitchen to ask what was for dinner, and also to chat with this succinct, maternal woman who planned their meals. They would tell her about the silly mischief they worked on their teachers and she would scold them and slap their hands away from the custard bowl. She had a very peculiar knack for frowning from the nose down and smiling all above.
“We convinced Ms. Chuirnopel that she had forgotten to teach us about sub-atomic particles last week, even though we had the lesson months ago.” Saud bragged easily, “She spent most of the hour writing equations on the board while we planned our next imperial expedition.”
“Have Your Highnesses no shame!” Cookie rebuked, with her eyes still laughing, “You’re Father, God save him, spends fortunes so that you may have the finest education in the world, and you go wasting your time and talents on planning more silly adventures.”
“Cookie!” cried Admir, “Our expeditions are not silly. There are many important quests to be undertaken for the greater glorification of out country.” Admir, being intelligent beyond his 13 years at this time, knew very well that they journey to the North Pole they had been planning during their astrophysics lesson would do very little for the glorification of Serendip, but he liked the idea of it anyway.
Cookie snorted cheerfully, “Oh yes? Hadn’t you better spend your time figuring out how to get rid of those dreadful dragons before you worry about leaving home for the glorification of our lovely land?”
The princes could see that she was right and as their brains began spinning on this new idea they each stole a taste of custard from the bowl. Cookie kindly turned her back so as to not have to feel that she aught to slap them away, for she knew they were deep in thought. At this moment Cookie’s daughter, Diana, came into the kitchen with some silver she had just finished polishing.
Having more or less grown up with the princes Diana was not in love with them or even reverential in hearing their opinions, as she had quite enough of her own. Sad to say, our young princes who, like all young men, enjoyed being flattered didn’t always think kindly of Diana.
“Hey DeeDee,” Zaki called after a moment, “What is round, has blue spots, and walks on four legs.”
“Hey Zaki, I don’t give a fig.” Diana replied tartly.
“Come on, Dee, take a guess.” Admir chimed in.
She stared at Admir, “A bruised apple being carried by a quadruped.”
“Haha, My Boy, she’s got you there!” boomed a voice from near the door. The King himself had smelled Cookies first custard pie baking and had slipped into the kitchen hoping for a pre-dinner sample.
“Good afternoon Father.” said the Princes
“Good after noon Majesty” said Cookie and her daughter.
“You have a clever girl there Mrs. Soup” declared the king as he reached his finger to the custard bowl.
“And you have three sons who enjoy custard pie as much as you do Majesty.” said Cookie as she slapped the king’s hand lightly with her wooden spoon.
“How old are you now Dear Diana?” questioned the King.
“12, almost.” she answered quietly. Though Diana could easily forget that the three boys who caused her so much trouble were princes, their father was still every bit a king in her eyes. She was sorry he had overheard her being saucy.
“Indeed. And how do you get on in your studies?” queried the king as he peered at her.
“My Diana seems to be a far sight cleverer than any of the teachers I can find for her.” answered her mother.
“Just as I thought. Well, Diana, how would you like to study with my boys and their teachers?”
“Father!” cried Admir
“Father!” yelped Saud.
“Her?” questioned Zaki, who was still wondering how she had guessed a better ending to his joke than what he had come up with.
“Majesty!” breathed Cookie and Diana.
The king ignored all this and simply looked at Diana with the question still hanging on his eyes.
“I would… there is nothing…I…” Diana stuttered for a moment, then drew a steady breath, “I would be honored.” She said calmly, as if she had been invited to take an evening stroll with the ground’s keeper. And with that Diana quickly set down the silver she had brought in and walked out of the kitchen.
The Princes were shocked at their father’s offer, but they knew better than to question what he had done. They may also have felt a twinge of guilt when they considered their own fortunate circumstance and their childish selfishness in wanting to keep their lessons to themselves. They knew it was not really right that they alone should benefit from the excellent education they were receiving and they remembered their father’s repeated admonition which made clear that their education was intended to prepare them to one day be great servants to their people.
So it was that with three sets of unspoken protest from the princes and the shortest of glances from their father that seemed to say, “I didn’t think so.” the princes returned to their study room, the King to his throne, and Cookie, with a grand smile, to her custard.