A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!
Curry night – the ghastly aftermath
The next morning, when the various kings, queens, knights and others began to stir, Velcro – always an early riser – entered the hall quietly and with great reverence and respect for the delicate state in which his masters and their guests found themselves. He brought with him urns of tea and coffee, which he carefully placed on the long table he had earlier set up along one wall and on which he had carefully and discreetly laid out the most sumptuous of breakfasts. A breakfast not just fit for a king, but fit for five kings and their queens, as well as a knight who had travelled all the way from the sub-continent just to attend this single event. That’s devotion to duty for you. Not to mention the Price Mite.
Where, you ask, does the Prince Mite fit into all this.
Uh-oh. Fail. I did say not to mention the royal son, did I not? And yet you persist in asking questions about what has been clearly stated to be a taboo subject. Yes, I know the heir to the throne of Oh! probably isn’t technically a subject, being a senior Royal, but that’s not what I meant anyway.
Having carefully and as near as possible silently placed the breakfast dishes and beverages on the table, Velcro tip-toed to the cupboard at the end of the hall, where he soundlessly extracted the ceremonial gong from its corner and stood it in the centre of the room. He then drew out the long staff, the one with a padded hammer at its end and, with a backstroke and swing that was of such strength and accuracy that it would likely cause some people in high positions to give up the game of golf and sell all their courses, realising that they had been comprehensively bested, he sounded it. As the padded hammer hit the dimpled surface of the gong – full force and dead centre, of course – Velcro released the breath he had held to steady his swing and let out a hearty bellow of the single word “BREAKFAST”.
Velcro had served King Kannot and his queen for many years and believed that he had heard every oath, profanity and expletive recorded in the common tongue. One result of his call to breakfast was that he was sure he heard at least four new ones. He turned to face the curtain and uttered the four new words in that direction adding, “One day, there will be a device that will remember things I say to it. Until then, this will have to do.” Behind the curtain, Jack the stable-lad repeated the words to one of the court scribes, who wrote them in what he called his lexicographic journal.
Another skill that Velcro was able, indeed needed, to practice after his call to food was that of evasion and avoidance: ducking, diving and weaving to avoid the large number of missiles in the form of shoes and empty flagons that began to fly in his direction from all corners of the hall.
Slowly, ponderously and with, given the situation, a not-unexpected amount of grumbling, winging and moaning, the hall’s occupants each adjusted their position from one of a range of variations on the recovery position, to erect. That, in itself, was no mean feat after the previous night’s indulgences [and not the sort the Pope was wont to dispense in exchange for wads of cash, although…], but the coffee was strong and quick-acting; Sir Parvin had brought a sizeable sack of high-grade robusta beans from his homeland in anticipation of the need for stimulants.
The great door creaked open. There appeared through it a being that was not immediately identifiable as alive or dead, human or spectre. It made dull moaning sounds as it staggered, as though in a stupor, towards their assembled Graces. It looked up to Kannot, and said, “Ugh waaa buffaa.”
“Help yourself,” Kannot replied, “plenty there.”
“What have you been up to?” the queen asked the apparition.
“Addu… addu… addu no.”
The Prince Mite [don’t try to tell me you hadn’t guessed; I didn’t hide it very well] drank in quick succession four cups of what would become known in later times as double espresso, which seemed to help.
“Dad, Mum;” he mumbled.
“Well?” the queen asked in her most Judgerly manner, “What have you to say for yourself?”
“Can’t find it,” he replied.
“Can’t find what?”
“I had it when I came to the party last night, but I seem to have lost it.”
“What, your innocence?” Kannot guffawed, then for reasons known only to himself and legions of younger generations in times to come, added, “Lol.”
Kings Hoomey, Fred, Sandy and Thingy also laughed; Not because they saw the humour in what their neighbour had said, but because protocol demanded it. The queens were required, by the same conventions, to blush prettily and giggle a little; but since only Wotserface could possibly satisfy the conditions precedent to the application of the appellation ‘comely’, they settled for blushing and giggling (with the exception of the queen of Oh!, who never, ever blushed and whose giggle made Kannot’s guffaw sound by comparison like a little titter).
“No,” Mite replied, my; erm… no, it’s gone.”
“Your memory, dear?” his mother asked.
“Maybe. What’s a memory look like?”
“What do you mean, what does it look like.”
“I think, my dearest,” Kannot interrupted, “he is asking you to describe what you would see if you were looking at one.”
“I’m aware of that, husband, but the memory, being the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information, does not have a physical manifestation, does it?”
“It’s not that, then,” Mite mumbled, “what do you call the nice warm furry thing you snuggle up to at night?”
“Does it have to have a name?” King Thingy of Yu! asked. His wife, Wotserface the comely replied on behalf of the assembled royals by way of a firm but fair contact between the palm of her right hand and her husband’s left upper cheek.
“It does,” the queen replied, “Its name is God and it’s the royal puppy.”
“Ah,” Thingy said, his embarrassment causing his right upper cheek to match its partner in hue.
“God?” Sandy asked.
“He’s like a dropout from Hogwarts,” the queen explained, “he can’t spell.”
“Dyslexic?” Queen Yeyoo asked.
“Just a bit of heartburn,” the queen replied, “it’ll pass.”
Finally pulling the helmet from his head, Sir Parvin Khatri suggested, in a most sober tone, “It is my view as a Knight Exemplar that great benefit could accrue to all of your Graces and Highnesses if you take advantage of the Prince’s dilemma, and spend this day finding God.”
Sandy, King of Aye! Said, “There must have been some prescience in the hall last evening, judging by the number of times some of the ladies seemed to be calling the Prince Mite’s pet.”
The men thought that was funny.
“May I?” Wotserface asked.
“Be my guest,” Jules replied.
The men stopped laughing.