I have just finished a book that intrigued my ability to predict the mysteries that the writer was unwrapping in the course of the tale. Usually the hidden components that the writer tries to hint at without giving too much away are either too hidden or too plain to see. This book ‘Ready Player One’ built up a degree of suspense regarding the identity of the main protagonists and their allegiance to which side. What the story encouraged was to predict what was going to happen in light of your hunches. Too many times a story has closed the door of my musings before I’ve had long enough to ponder these things through to a conclusion. This time I was pleasantly surprised and even though my ideas were completely wrong I was able to mesh my ideas with the actual ending and come up with two that were both intense and thoroughly entertaining. The real ending was a might too black and white for my liking. My ending involved a high degree of  subterfuge and chicanery that would have pitched the hero even further towards ultimate failure before bringing out the trump card and storming through at the end against all the odds. However, even though I was a little disappointed by the conclusion I was forced to read, I was also strangely satisfied that there were no hidden twists and turns with any deception or duplicity – the four friends were just that and Og was a good ‘un too.

When it came to writing a short story for Inkspot this month, it was to twists and turns I turned. What began as an idea in real life where a series of old people passed a message along by phone and causing a distortion to that message, I wondered about the ramifications of these Chinese whispers on a fairy tale kingdom. The conclusion is anything but black and white. I think I’ve given you just enough to dot the t’s and cross the i’s!

 

The Secret’s Out

The crime was reported and that was the beginning. Little did anyone know that it was a lie  to hide the fact the Royal Hotel had been burned down by accident. There was no royal help for clumsiness, but for espionage there was sure to be a degree of compensation. The chamber maid who had been in the room where the fire started and the guests who the manager held responsible were sent away while the court police investigated.  And rumour was born. Idle tongues wagged. Insatiable gossips gossiped. Speculation built as half truths were embellished with an observation here and a point of view there. Add in the myriad of dialects, speech impediments and a large proportion of deafness within the population and it was small wonder that what began as a series of lies ended up being continually passed around and around until it reached the ears of the King. By this time it had changed a thousand times and been morphed out of all recognition from the original whispered tattle amongst the market scrub daughters and herd hands. Presented to the royal ears as the plain truth, the news was well and truly out, the secret laid bare, Fangia was on the brink of war with its neighbours.

Of course this is only what it seemed like to the King. The speculation outside the castle was debated over and altered for weeks until the rumours gradually began to fizzle out as no armies appeared and no war descended from the mountains surrounding the city state.

Within the walls of the head of state, the King decreed that the arsonists be found before the situation escalate further. The names of the suspects were made known to the Generals. The Generals departed to brief their respective Captains. The Court Guards were ordered by the Captains to search out the men. By the time the militia had been rallied, the slight inflection the King had given to the name because of his lisp had meant all the men at arms were searching for a woman. By the time the posters had been printed a few days later in the dusty vaults of the castle’s under passages where news and rumours rarely seeped, the order was put into writing but it became confused with a whole ream of paperwork to announce the ball for the betrothal of the royal prince. The ball was following royal protocol of the royal house of Orgresia of which Fangia was just a part. The finest princesses from all the royal houses of the nations that surrounded Fangia would attend and the prince would choose his bride from among the amassed raiment of the collected royals.

The soldiers scattered throughout the kingdom armed with the leaflets and posters and within days  of painstaking searching a girl was discovered hiding in fear of her life for indeed this was none other than the hotel serving girl. She was brought with much pomp and ceremony back to the capital. The royal fanfare rang out as the message was passed back from militia to guard to captain to general, that the prince’s bride had been located and was being readied for the ball.

If the generals were declaring it then the King was in no position to question as the authority of the order had come from his office, however he was deeply confused that from the edge of disastrous war he had imagined to be coming, he was declaring the marriage of his son weeks before the official ball and she being a subject and not a princess from his extended family of royals. The immense relief he felt that certain disaster was averted led him to celebrate and welcome the girl who was dressed in the finest silks, her beautiful face and perfect speech unlike anything the royal houses of the surrounding nations had to offer. So it was with a happy heart that he confirmed the betrothal but insisted the matter should be kept secret or as secret as possible. Unbeknown to the king the posters had been plastered everywhere declaring about the girl and the royal order. Envoys, site seers and spies from the surrounding nations who were in Fangia at the time were swift to pass the news back home. These tidings and the official invitation to the betrothal ball reached the various palaces and castles of the surrounding states and this led to the panicked convening of royal war councils across the continent. State advisors and government officials pondered the meaning of the happenings in Fangia and the invitation of their princess to a ball where they had no hope of gaining the hand of the Fangian prince. The centuries of royal protocol looked set to be usurped.  Distrust stoked the fire of war as each royal house took the news as a slight on the honour of their princess. Armies were readied and advanced on the mountainous city state. The machinations of war were set in motion and the heightened tension of impending combat made the warriors eager…almost too eager. No-one could have predicted the carnage that ensued as the battle standards of the troops marching to war were mistaken not as allies equally slighted but forces to be wiped out by the rising bile of anger towards Fangia. As each army came across the fighting on the road to  Fangia they joined the frey and expended their men fighting all the other Kingdoms as if they were trying to wipe Fangia from the map.

The defeat of every Kingdom and the surrender terms sent to Fangia caught the King by complete surprise. His army sat at their border posts, on the battlements and in their barracks oblivious to the doom that had very nearly descended upon their nation. Fangia, pearl of the mountains, smallest and least of all the nations  that were joined by the royal bloodline of Orgresia, how had it suddenly risen so that all the other nations should surrender to it?

The King broke with the letter of royal law and sent for all the other Kings and Queens, the other threads of the mighty house of Orgresia. With their entourage of wives and children the throne room became a truly pitiable sight, the amassed crowd of the misshapen and ugly dressed in their finest clothes. And here was his son, hump backed, monstrous and snarling his dislike of being wakened so early. The King smiled his toothless grin as he thought of the beautiful girl that was about to become his daughter in law, not from royal blood, however more regal and noble than any of the collected families of Orgresia….but where was the girl?

The fire that engulfed the castle was put down as an accident; the clumsiness of a spilt candle. The confusion that ensued wiped out the heads and heirs of every nation. That they were all ogres, that fact has been lost in the mists of time. No mention was ever recorded of the celebrations in every capital declaring freedom from the royal line.

What is remembered is the coronation of a new ruler, a queen of immense beauty and a cunning and wise leader even if she was a bit clumsy!

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