Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapter 6
A Pinky for A Kingdom
© Eso A.B.
When Prince Goldenlocks first heard the croak of the frog, he froze as if caught in a piece of ice. As the son of the King of Havsburg, he had heard of conspiracies against his father, but he had never imagined that a conspiracy would be directed at him, while he was still at such a young age. He wondered—what else the frog might think to say?

To Prince Goldenlock’s mind, he had reasons to worry.

Neither he nor his sister were exemplars of ‘good’ children. They both were spoiled, lonely, and used to getting things done their way. Their biggest problem was that their governesses kept them from playing with children who were not born of other princes and princesses. According to rules of the Havsburgian Court, their friends had to be approved of by the King himself.

They also had no mother, who, when they asked about her, was said to be a “Blue Lady” who had been exiled to a far away island. According to rumors, she had died there while giving birth to a wooden doll with a long nose. This doll, too, had died at birth. At the time of its coming into the world, it had turned into blue smoke and then into pieces of charcoal. It was rumored that this still born brother was conceived by their mother, the Blue Lady, after she had become too friendly with a carpenter of the Havsburg castle, who had come to her apartment to build a coat rack.

However, nothing was said; no words escaped. Everyone present in the castle courtyard stood still. The only sound heard was the splash of the frog as it fell back into the well.

Prince Goldenlock’s mind remained uneasy however. He continued standing in the Court of the Havsburgia castle hardly daring to blink an eye. As he waited, the Prince recalled how he and his sister had presented their fancy toys to the children of the kitchen maids and servants hoping to bribe them to become their friends. King Goldenlocks had more than once wondered why so many of the expensive toys with which he presented his children became lost almost overnight and were later found in the servants’ quarters.

King Goldenlocks, however, was too haughty to demean himself by asking his tailor, cobbler, or chamber maids as to why the toys disappeared. He explained the phenomenon to himself as follows: all those who worked as his servants were on a government dole (the so-called “One hundred hours employment shift for the unemployed”, which program was sponsored by the European Union’s “Rompuy- Bilderberger Fund”), such people were, to his mind, naturally born with a talent for thievery. To make sure he was right, King Goldenlocks ordered the Minister of Domestic Affairs to investigate. The minister reported that, indeed, King Goldenlocks had it right, and all the children were born with ‘slavery’ genes spontaneously spawned by the bodies of alcoholic parents.
“I want the guilty one brought before me!” bellowed King Goldenlocks, as soon as his retainers had made sure that the frog could not be fished from the well and the gold in its stomach recovered. Somehow the king’s eyes fell on his son, and they would have nailed the Prince to his spot if they could have done it. Prince Goldenlocks looked so guilty.

“So it was you who betrayed me!” the king shouted without further ado. “To think that in less than twenty years you could be the next King of Havsburgia. What a shock and surprise! But don’t worry. You will suffer the punishment of traitors. You will be made an example of what happens to persons disloyal to the Crown.”

No one who that afternoon was at the Court of the Havsburgia Castle dared move or utter a sound. All anyone heard was the gravel under their feet. This did not stop the King from issuing orders which he believed were necessary for the maintenance of the Empire.

“I herewith order that young Prince Goldenlocks is taken to the Waldensee Wood. When there, he must be trussed (his hands and legs should be bent backward, tied), and he should then be put into the hollow core of an old tree. If the Prince is as witless in the wood as he has been at the Court of the Empire of Havsburgia, let him not be able to untie himself, and let him lie there until the wolves tear his buttocks into shreds and crows pick out his eyes. But if he does untie himself, let him become lost in the wood, and become food for the Queen of the Wood, the Monster Sphinx,, she who loves to eat lost dogs, small rabbits, and small children!”

When Prince Goldenlocks heard his father lay such a curse on him, he suddenly lost fear and his limbs began to move as if on their own. His feet flew as if they were made to be wings and they flew for the wood.

As he ran, Prince Goldenlocks cried out such words as were instantly remembered by all who heard them, and which have since time become known around the world. Prince Goldenlocks cried: “There is but one place on Earth where everyone is equal, where everyone is ever fully employed, and where democracy rules—it is the wood!”

When the prince had reached the wood, he immediately called out: “Zhant! Zhant! Zhant! Help!”

The Prince was indeed in need of help. The moment Prince Goldenlocks had begun to run, the King’s retainers, too, began to pursue him. They were so close on the Prince’s heels that their hands were almost on his shoulders. In the next moment, they would almost have had him by his scruff.

Suddenly, the thick of the brush in front of the runners parted and from the  underbrush emerged a grunting herd of wild pigs. The pigs were a hundred in number. As if knowing why they had come, the herd of wild pigs parted and made a passageway for the prince to run through.

When the Prince was in their midst, the pigs closed their ranks. The retainers of King Goldenlocks were stopped short and could pursue the prince no further.

As the King’s retainers stood not knowing what to do, a young pig herd came through the ranks of the pigs. He was blowing a hazel whistle made from the hazel switch in his hand. The two items of hazelwood went together and the wild pigs had respect for that. They respected the whistle, because the herder always blew it when he had come on some fresh hoard of acorns, and they knew what a whack by the hazel stick meant. The pigs let their young herder through. In the quick of an eye, the pig herd stood before the king’s retainers.

“What’s your rush?” the pig herd asked. “It is my brother you are chasing.”

“Is that what he told you?” cried the king’s retainers. “Though he may be a prince, he is also a liar. He is not your brother. He is King Goldenlocks son. He is running away from home. The king is afraid that he will come to harm. We have orders to catch him and bring him home.”

It was the pig herd’s turn to look surprised. “I hear told,” he answered, “that if the prince is caught, he is to be trussed and tied, and left in a hollow of a tree to untie himself if he can. My father, King Greentop, does not like to see children are brought to the wood to be sacrificed. He and my mother, the Sphin, has sent me to stop you.”

“The Havsburgs are very nice kings,” answered the retainers defensively. “They would never do such a terrible thing as harm children. We, too, though unshaven, are fathers of children. Indeed, we have come to make a deal with you.”

“How’s that?” asked the pig herd.

“It is easy, John, ” answer the guards. “All you have to do is kill your dog, cut out his eye, and cut off his tongue, and bite off your little finger. In return, we will present you with Prince Goldenlocks’s clothes.”

“Hmm!” said John. “That sounds like an awful thing to do. That’s no bargain.”

“Don’t worry, John,” answered King Goldenlock’s retainers, “if you don’t like to do it, we will do it for you.” Having said that, one of the men speared Kranz, John’s dog, right through the heart and pinned him to a tree. The dog did not even give a yelp. In an instant the retainers had also cut out the dog’s eye and cut off its tongue. Then they turned to the pig herd and said:

“Now, John, you go behind that tree there and bite off your little finger. When you are done, wrap it in a leaf and bring it to us. We will take it to King Goldenlocks, and he will think it belongs to Prince Goldenlocks. He will be happy and give us a big reward, which will make us happy. You, too, will be happy, because after your wound heals you will be able to pretend that you are a prince.”

“That is against the First Commandment of the Wood: Never tell a lie or or you will have to chew the stem of a wild rose all day long,” protested John. He was shocked by the effrontery of King Goldenlocks retainers.

“That’s a commandment fit for a forest barbarian,” came the retainers answer. “If you don’t believe us, you can come with us and watch King Goldenlocks reward us with money that does not wrinkle.”

“I’ve heard that money has to be backed up by some value or it is worthless,” countered John.

“We are not worried that this will happen anytime soon,” came the reply. “Our empire stands on solid footing. If the King of the Wood knows how to balance himself standing on his head on a ball, in our empire our politicians float the ball on water and then headstand on it.”

“I would like to see that!” answered John, then went behind a big tree.

After a minute, John reappeared and handed King Goldenlocks’ retainers his pinky. As he gave them his pinky (it was still dripping blood), he said to  them: “When you give these things of flesh to King Goldenlocks, tell him that the day will come when I will ask them back.”

“John,” answered the guards, “we cannot do that. If we do, the Emperor of Havsburgia will chop off our heads.”

“Alright, keep it a secret,” answered John. “I’m glad to see that in spite of your rudeness, you are ready to hand me my new clothes. Before I accept them, however, there is one more thing I have to ask. With the clothes of a prince must come food fit for a prince. When you get back to the castle, tell Princess Goldenlocks that swine herd John would like to flavor his supper of boiled potatoes with caviar of Danube sturgeon.”

“The princess will be happy to oblige, we are sure,” answered the retainers and were off. They had seen the bushes move and heard the tell-tale croak of the Sphinx

“Don’t forget!” called John behind them. Then he turned to Prince Goldenlocks, who was standing in his underwear:

“I am glad to meet you Prince Goldenlocks. Are you ready to exchange your clothes with me and take my place as a swine herd?”

A sus ordenes,” said Prince Goldenlocks in Spanish. It meant: “I am obliged to you.” He spoke both German and Spanish, because at that time the Havsburg Empire owned both Austria and Spain.

Even as the boys were conversing,  the brush parted and before them stood King Greentop. Beside him stood the Queen of the Wood, the Sphinx. She was a huge frog.



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