Royal Palace Intrigue

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“The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.” Philip Barry and Donald Ogden Stewart 1940.

Queen Smeraldina and Prince Eckles of the Bozartene Royal Grapes family lounge near a large reflecting pool in the second courtyard of their dry-season villa. In the center of the pool is a bronze statue of the Great Awk, the principal god of the Bozarts.

The Dry Season Villa of the Royal Grapes family. Image Credit: K. Kris Hirst and MidJourney
The Dry Season Villa of the Royal Grapes family. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst

Near the fountain, the queen and prince consort lie on padded couches basking in the steady drizzle of the season and sipping Beaux Artes blue martinis. Smeraldina is flipping through the pages of the forthcoming Hello Bozo! magazine—the queen receives an advance copy from the publisher every month because of an unfortunate incident some years ago. Eckles is cheating at a studoku puzzle. Bobo, the youngest member of the Royal Grapes family, paddles in the pool’s shallows. It is an idyllic scene.

A courtier wearing the proper livery of the Royal Grapes family enters through the archway, bows deeply, and after a minute, coughs discreetly.

“Oh, look. It’s Fobus, dear,” says Eckles.

Fobus the Luckless, properly attired. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst
Fobus the Luckless, properly attired. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst

Despite his courtly demeanor, Fobus (known as the Luckless) trembles and quakes inside, eyes on the tiled floor, thinking, "Don't let her look at me, most-beloved Great Awk, please not this morning, not today, not again, I devoutly pray to you, O Great Awk, keep me safe from the Royal Pain!"

“Is he properly attired this time?” asks Smeraldina, paging through her magazine.

“Yes, dear.”

“Ah, Fobus, properly attired now. What do you have to tell us?”

“Your Royal Highness, a visitor has arrived. The President of the Board of Regents of Bozartene University, Dromedary Pingo, requests an audience with you.”

“Show them in, Fobus, and you may go.”

Dromedary Pingo, palace stooge and university conman, wearing his badge of office (a subtle bowtie and an obsequious smile), enters the courtyard.

“Ah, my dear Pingo. How lovely your topfeathers look today; you must lend us your feather arranger; James, isn’t that his name? But, surely this isn’t our binochle day?” asks Smeraldina.

“No, Your Royal Highness, I come on another mission.” Pingo’s skin coruscates a dark blue cloud pattern. “As you know, HRH Princess Ruby is studying exo-anthropology under Helmstrubble Stilts, using the pseudonym Cranberry Molly.”

The queen drops her magazine and picks up her martini. “And you remind us of this because…?”

Pingo sees that his queen’s epidermis has broken out into stripes and quickly adds, “Ma’am, of course, Stilts isn’t aware of her royal connections.”

Official portrait of HRH Queen Smeraldina II with some of her children. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst
Official portrait of HRH Queen Smeraldina II with some of her children. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst

“Waste of time, waste of time,” pronounces Eckles. “She will be married to Bilberry Loppy as soon as she tires of this foolishness.”

“That remains to be seen,” says Ruby’s mother, flushing a bitter orange and sloshing some of her martini into the pool for emphasis. “Get to it, Pingo.”

“Ma’am, the Board of Regents would like to add to our, I mean the royal off-planet holdings over the next few years, and we have funded—with a large anonymous donation from one of our illustrious alumni—we have funded Professor Stilts to send a handful of graduate students to scope out—er, that is, to investigate the indigenous situation on the more promising planets.”

“Yes, they told us about their plans last quarter; we signed off on some investments. Good plan. We want a few more planets. But is there a problem? Is there a concern? What does this have to do with our second daughter?”

“Well, your highness,” says Pingo. “Since Princess Ruby, er, Molly, is one of the more promising students—as I have reported in the past, she has proven an excellent student—she will likely be tapped for this assignment.”

The queen and prince block their skin coruscations, and silence drops over the atrium. Eventually, Smeraldina gets a grip on her temper and her martini glass and says, “Well. That is a pickle. How long are these assignments?”

“Two years, ma’am. It will extend her stay at the university for three more years but should give her a suitable topic for her thesis.”

“Oh, hang the thesis. That means she’ll have to be away from the royal compound for another three or four years. Is there any way we could avoid this?”

“No, ma’am, not without providing a reasonably complicated cover story for why a person not related to the Royal Grapes court couldn’t go on what would be a chance of a lifetime for anybody else. And we'd need a reason good enough to convince the princess herself not to go barhopping with tabloid journalists. But I have a suggestion.”

“Yes, Pingo? By all means, spill.”

“Ma’am, I’ve seen Stilt’s list of possible planets. There is a suitably safe option: she could be sent to Sylvan Green.”

“Sylvan Green? Isn’t that where that all-inclusive resort is? Whatsit called, Club Sylv?”

Private beach house at Club Sylv. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst
Private beach house at Club Sylv. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst

“Yes, Your Highness, in the Gabor system,” says Pingo.

“Tacky place. Remember, Eckles, your sister Lucinda was there last summer,” sneers Smeraldina. “But still. At least we’d know where she was and could send someone to watch her if necessary. And she would be far enough away that any scrapes she gets into would not get back to us, and if they do, we could always… You know that is not a bad idea at all, Pingo. Very interesting. You can arrange for her to be sent there?”

“I don’t think that will be a problem, ma’am. Stilts will have to run his assignments by the Board; I will ensure she gets to Sylvan.”

“Very satisfactory. We shall speak with the elders. We'll have to develop a long-term story, and we’ll have to fend off the Bilberries. They believe Ruby is at an off-planet finishing school with an intensive waxing program, preparing for the wedding. But three or four more years? Not even the Bilberries would fall for that. Perhaps Daffy would do for them, especially if… Would it be possible for Ruby to have an accident on whats-it-called—Sylvie?”

“Hey, that’s my daughter, too,” snaps Eckles.

"No ma'am," says Pingo. "Not likely. It's completely safe. Modern exo-anthropology is conducted through the use of a waldo."

"A waldo? What's that again?"

Adamantine Waldo, Mach 2. Image Credit: K. Kris Hirst and MidJourney
Adamantine Waldo, Mach 2. Image Credit: MidJourney and K. Kris Hirst

"Well, your highness, it's like a transformer droid that the user completely controls. The royal princess will stay safely in her hotel room and send the waldo into indigenous communities, formatted to look less threatening to the natives and conducting her fieldwork for her. Your royal highnesses no doubt recall that we use waldos in our nuclear disaster clean-ups or when we need a peacekeeping force on one of the colonies. They make excellent miners. We haven't lost a soldier in days."

“Oh, is that how we do that? Okay then. Pingo, if we follow your plan, she’ll be safely out of our way for at least two—maybe three—more years. Just so we’re clear, Pingo: she will sign up for a two-year stint on Sylvan, you will deal with the social niceties, and no one will be the wiser. Correct?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Fine. We’ll see you next Wednesday for binochle then. And send our regards to your feather arranger.”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

As Pingo leaves the courtyard, Smeraldina calls, “Time to come out of the water, Bobo dear. You need your nap!”

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Created by KKris. Last Modification: Friday 20 of October, 2023 09:15:45 EDT by KKris.