A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!
So what’s the deal with this dog?
We have said before that there is no magic in the land of Oh! And there isn’t. Absolutely. No wands a-waving, no owls a-flying and, let me assure you in a most definitive manner, no spells a-casting.
There are things, for the want of a better word, that could be described as singularities. Not the singularity of astrophysics – that one-dimensional point like, for instance the centre of a black hole, which contains a huge mass in an infinitely small space, where density and gravity become infinite and space-time curves infinitely, and where the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate. No, what we have here is the kind of thing (again, for want of a better word) that would have Lady Bracknell (of ‘A handbag?’ fame) reaching for her smelling salts and declaring, “How very singular!” That kind of thing.
I’ll bet you’ve guessed, haven’t you?
Alright, I’ll tell you.
It’s the dog, God.
But not just the dog. You see, he has a very special talent. One that not a lot of people know about. In fact, the only person who knows about God’s special ability is the Prince Mite. The reason he knows about it is that he shares the same gift. The reason no one else knows about it is that he is the only one who shares that talent. Okay, there may be others somewhere out there, but the important point is this: no one else in this story shares it.
“What is this mystical talent of which you speak?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you.
In addition to an intellect roughly comparable to that of a child brought up by a pack of wolves who, miraculously, is reasonably proficient in English (and I think you all know to whom I am referring), he also has the capacity to communicate telepathically with others of any species who share his intellect and whatever it is that allows the communication, and who was born at exactly the same time on exactly the same date (albeit in a different year). Alone in the five kingdoms, King Kannot’s sixteen-year-old son, the Prince Mite, meets all those criteria.
That’s right, the prince and the dog share a single mind – of which, to all outward appearances, they have roughly half each. So much so, that unlike the rest of us, when the prince says he has half a mind to do something, he means it. Literally.
So the dog heard and understood the words the abbot had used to dismiss the royal party. It follows that if the dog knew, so did the prince. Whilst I wouldn’t describe what they have as a hive-mind – that would be to insult bees (and the Borg), it’s more like distributed co-dependent intelligence. Such is their link, that since the dog’s birth, neither can function without the other. Happily for them, Kannot and the queen know nothing about this. If they did, they would worry as much as I do how the prince will carry on after the dog dies. We can only hope that he manages to bond with another compatible creature before that happens. However, that isn’t our immediate concern. Our concern now is: what will they do with the information; the knowledge of how the abbot verbally abused his parents and the other kings, their spouses, offspring, advisers and hangers-on, with the exception of Roger, the queen of Yu!’s rather fetching lady in waiting? Will they use that knowledge to undermine the abbot’s hold on the monastery? Or, perhaps, they’ll see the veracity of the abbot’s comment and use it to build a case against Kannot and the queen.
Have no fear. Given the level of sophistication of their shared, collective intelligence, they did exactly what you would expect a young child to do. They sniggered.
“What are you laughing at, boy?” the queen demanded of her son who, by then, had progressed beyond a mere giggle to a full-blown guffaw.
“Sorry, Mum,” the prince replied, trying his best to calm himself enough to communicate comprehensibly, “it’s just something God said… I mean did.”
“Why, what did he do?”
“Well, when the old abbot said whatever he said as we were leaving, God ran out with his tail between his legs. He was looking back and running, and splatted himself against a tree. Ha ha ha.”
“That’s not funny. He might have hurt himself.”
“It’s okay, he didn’t.”
“How can you be sure of that? Did he tell you?”
“Not in so many words, Mum, but… erm… he has an expression on his face when he’s hurt and he didn’t have it then.”
“Okay, but it’s still not funny.” The queen stormed off to join her husband and the rest of the party, leaving the Prince Mite and God alone together.
“Why did you tell her I did that?” the dog asked, “makes me look stupid.”
“I had to tell her something. I couldn’t tell her we were laughing at the abbot’s unintended pun, could I?”
“Perhaps not. It was funny though. ‘I have entertained many rulers in my time, but I draw the line at your conduct.’”
“Drawing the line at a ruler. I loved it. Pity none of the others heard it, though, isn’t it?”
A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!
The search continues
Finally, the party made it to the gates of the monastery and through to the main entrance. Their arrival was not unanticipated, though. Before Velcro could pull the bell-cord, the massive, solid oak doors creaked open. A young novice stood at the entrance to the holy place, his gaze directed squarely at King Kannot.
“Do you know who I am, boy?” the king asked.
“Of course, your Majesty. You are Kannot, King of the land of Oh!”
“And of course, you know who I am?” the queen demanded.
“Begging your pardon, Ma’am, but I’m still learning. I see from their attire, many kings and queens here, but I fear it is only the king of this land, King Kannot, whom I can positively identify and name.”
The queen was about as far from being pleased with that snub as is the moon from making a surprise landing in her royal garden.
“Never mind that, lad,” Velcro said, “we are here looking for God—”
“Then, my lord, I believe you have come to the right place, for this is God’s house,” the novice replied.
“So you have seen him, then?”
“I am new here, my lord, and still under instruction. I have no doubt, that when I have reached a sufficient stage of my journey to monkhood, God will reveal himself to me. Alas, I am not yet that far advanced. Would you like me to call one of the monks for you? Or, as it is for his Majesty, the abbot himself?”
“Sounds like a plan, young man,” Velcro replied.
“Oh dear, where are my manners?” the boy asked.
“How should we know that?” the queen snapped, ”you didn’t have anything with you when you came out and we are certainly not here to help you look after your possessions. You must accept responsibility for—”
“I meant, Madam,” the lad said pointedly, then, in a more conciliatory tone, “here you are, all royals and similar, and here’s me keeping you all at the door. Please, come in; all of you.”
“Me too?” Roger, the queen of Yu!’s rather fetching lady in waiting, asked.
“The holiest place is only open to gentlemen, their male children, and those of the female persuasion who are of high station and thus accorded the privileged status of honorary men, I’m afraid,” the novice said, “but I’ll come back for you quite soon and show you to my… I mean the guest quarters.”
The rulers, their spouses, offspring, advisers and hangers-on, with the exception of Roger, the queen of Yu!’s rather fetching lady in waiting, filed through to the central hall of the monastery, where they were met by the abbot and his retainers.
“Excuse me, please,” the abbot said, removing his retainers, “my Dennis says I need these, but no-one can understand what I’m saying when I have them in. Doesn’t matter normally, as I am accustomed to speak in a dialect of the Latin language, which nobody here understands anyway. However, for honoured guests…”
“Quite so,” Kannot said. This was high-level stuff. One couldn’t expect the Abbot, being the highest ranking religious bloke in the kingdom, to do business with anyone lower than the king himself. That would just be wrong on so many levels. Alright, probably only on one level, but I think you get my point.
“Now listen here, my Lord Abbot,” the king uttered. Kings do that, you know. They make utterances. And pronouncements. So much more regal than simply saying stuff, don’t you think? “We have come looking for God. Have any of your people seen him?”
“Why, yes, Majesty. We all have, save for the young novice, but his turn will come. Where is he, by the way?” the Abbot asked of his not inconsiderable entourage.
“I believe, my Lord,” one of his acolytes said, “the young apprentice said something about going to roger the queen of Yu!’s rather fetching lady in waiting.”
“Lucky young fellow,” the Abbot replied, “best do that while he still can. Once his training has finished and he takes his oaths—”
“He’ll have to swear to celibacy?” King Alexander of Aye! suggested.
“He can if he likes, but it’ll be something of a moot point.”
“Because,” the Abbot replied with, it seemed, a wistful tone – and was that the first hint of a tear descending his right upper cheek? “What he now refers to as his wherewithal will become his wherewithoutal.” At this, all the men in the room (with the notable exception of the monks) blanched. No, that doesn’t mean they were dipped briefly in boiling water, it means that all the colour drained from their faces. It’s a shock reaction. Yes, I know being dipped briefly in boiling water would be a shock, too, but that’s not what we’re… Listen; can we please just get on with it? Thank you.
“This isn’t helping us to find God!” the queen yelled in her very best Judger’s voice.
“Mistress nothing, I’m the bloody queen!”
“Apologies. Patience, Bloody Queen—”
“Not Bloody Queen. My name isn’t Bloody. I was using the word bloody as a bloody expletive. My name is… sod it: I haven’t got a name. Ahem. I am the queen. The queen of Oh!”
“Queen consort,” Jack the stable-lad muttered – yes, he was there, too. Ever since the curry night, he and Velcro were inseperable. It’s as though they were destined to be together.
“Shut up!” the queen screamed, “Or it’ll be off with your head.”
“Sorry,” Kannot said to the Abbot, “she does go on a bit sometimes. She makes a good point though. We’re here to find God, nothing more, nothing less.”
“And, if I may say so, Your Majesty, there can be no greater or more worthy quest in the life of any man or woman, be they of high or low station, for the Lord sees through all that palaver to what’s on the inside… Where was I? Oh yes, that’s right. There can be no greater etc etc etc than to find God.”
“Stop it. Have you or have you not seen God?”
“By His infinite grace, I have.”
“Describe him to me. What does he look like?”
“The indescribable cannot, by definition, be described The Incomprehensible cannot, by definition, be comprehended. The Ineffable cannot, by definition, be… well, never mind that. God is pure spirit. God inhabits each and every one of us, if we take the trouble to look for him. Who knows God, lives in God, and God in him. God is—”
“Are we talking about the same God?” Velcro asked, rather impertinently I thought, given his lowly station and the Abbot’s more holy than lowly one, “White with tan and black patches on his hindquarters and head, short legs, tail that makes him look like a peacock when he’s really happy, about a foot or thirty centimetres high (depending on your preferences) at the shoulder, yaps a lot?”
“That’s not God,” the Abbot fumed, “that’s a dog.”
“My son doesn’t spell so well,” the queen said, semi-apologetically.
“Neither does Ron Weasley, but I’m sure even that little squirt knows the difference between the Creator of the universe and a sodding ratter!”
“We have taken up too much of your time, my Lord Abbot,” Kannot said, just as his royal son, the Prince Mite, bounded into the room with God in his arms.
“I’ve found God,” Mite yelled, to which the assembled acolytes responded with much rejoicing, praising and ululation.
One of the newer monks shouted out, “There is more joy in heaven over one—”
“It’s a puppy!” the Abbot shouted, though no-one understood him, as he’d replaced his retainers by then. For the same reason, not a soul present was aware of the precise terminology the Abbot had used to encourage the royal party to vacate the monastery.
None, that is, except for the dog.
Because, you see, this was no ordinary dog.
A brief series of tales from the land of Oh!
The queen, in keeping with royal tradition, walked three paces behind her husband. You see, it was Kannot who was the ruler of Oh!, not the queen, and it was a necessary part of the protocols that no-one walks in front of him. The king turned and addressed his consort.
“Darling,” he said in the tone that a child uses to its mother when it wants something it knows darned well it isn’t allowed to have, “do you suppose if I speak nicely to Velcro, he’ll see if the council of ministers will revisit the protocols and arrange it so you can walk beside me? It’s dashed inconvenient having to be in the lead when I have no idea where I’m going, and your sense of direction is so much better than mine.”
“That’s a good idea, husband,” the queen replied, “except for one small detail.”
“And what would that be, oh light of my life?”
“There is no council of ministers.”
“There isn’t? How long has that ludicrous situation existed?”
“There has never been a council of ministers.”
“If I may be permitted an observation,” King Sandy of Aye! Aka Big Ears interrupted annoyingly.
“What happens if I say you mayn’t?” Kannot asked.
“Then, of course, as a guest in your realm, I would be bound by the King’s wishes.”
“You mayn’t,” Kannot said.
“You mayn’t,” Kannot repeated.
“Sorry, but can I just say?”
“No, you cannot.”
“No. You Kannot, me Alexander.”
“It’s just that… well, I, that is to say, we, my queen and I, have a council of ministers, and it’s a jolly good thing to have. They advise me, us on all manner of matters.”
“Do they ever advise you to shut up, butt out, that sort of thing?”
“Not that I can recall. Let me ask my fair queen. Darling?”
“What now?” Queen Juliette of Aye! replied.
“Has our council of ministers ever advised me to shut up, butt out, that sort of thing?”
“And you never do.”
“Ah.” Turning back to Kannot, Sandy started to speak, but the latter interrupted before he could say anything.
“My advice to you, Sandy—”
“Shut up and butt out.”
Turning to his wife, Kannot continued, “Never?”
“Why ever not?”
“Because, my love, every time the topic has been raised—”
“By me, by your son and by your retainer. Every time, you shout ‘no’ and go off in a sulk.”
“Doesn’t sound like me,” he said. The rest of the rulers, their spouses, offspring, advisers and hangers-on coughed into their fists something that sounded uncannily like bull-something-or-other.
“Velcro!” Kannot shouted.
Velcro left the congenial company of Roger, the queen of Yu!’s rather fetching lady in waiting, rearranged his apparel and hot-footed it to his king’s side. “You called me, Sire?”
“I’m hardly likely to do that, am I? You call me Sire, I call you Velcro.”
“What the queen and I were talking about. Make it happen, will you?”
“What might that have been, Sire? And, Sire, I was asking politely. I don’t need you to list out the things it might have been but wasn’t. Perhaps I should rather say, ‘what was that, Sire?’, Sire.”
“Weren’t you listening? I thought everyone was.”
“Not I, Sire, and not Roger, the queen of Yu!’s rather fetching lady in waiting, Sire. We were discussing matters of, shall we say, lesser importance.”
“Bound to be less important than what your king says.”
“Quite so, Sire.”
“Well, the queen informs me we have never had a council of ministers.”
“That accords with my understanding of the situation, Sire.”
“Well, I jolly well want one.”
“For what purpose, Sire, and who would Sire like to see serving on it?”
“I think you’re coming unstuck, Velcro. I lake decisions, you carry them out. Kapeesh?”
“So Sire wishes me to nominate councillors and draw up a constitution.”
“Constitution? Constitution? Why do we want a constitution?”
“Not the realm, Sire, just the council.”
“That’s alright then. Do it. And its first job…”
“Its first job is to make it so the queen can walk beside me when we’re out together.”
“May one ask to what end, Sire?”
“No, Velcro, one may not.”
“Royal protocol is always under the king’s prerogative, Majesty. If the king wants any part of the social protocol to change, he has only to order it, and it will be so.”
“Gosh. Can I do that?”
“You are the king, Sire.”
“Yes, I know. But… can I do that?”
“You can, Majesty.”
“Wife! Come beside me.”
“What… here? Now?”
“Of course. I want you to stand and walk beside me, not three paces behind.”
“Oh, that. Okay.” The queen approached. “Now what?” she asked.
“Which way is the monastery?”
“Follow me,” the queen said.
“If I may, Ma’am,” Velcro said, “his Majesty does not follow anyone. In the new order of things, you may walk beside his royal person, but his majesty will never, ever walk behind you. Ma’am.”
“Well, husband,” she said addressing Kannot from her new-found position at his side, “may I take the king’s hand in mine?”
“You may not. Ours is not that sort of relationship, and you know it.”
“It was once, husband,” she pouted.
“Yes, and once was enough. You know the old saying – once a king, always a king.”
“But,” Velcro interrupted, “once a knight is enough.”
“That’s the saying, Sire.”
“Not in this kingdom, it isn’t. Here, once is enough. End of. Are we clear?”
“Are we clear?”
“Good. Now, wife, lead on – beside me.”