Prince Dobalob Builds a Zeppelin (Part One)

Spoiler Alert!

Right now, this story has no ending. I am writing that now and have enough confidence to post the beginning, though the end is driving continuity changes throughout. Not surprising, since I started writing in 2014! My goal is a novel length creation, and that is two years worth of posts. I am going to be rude and edit as I go, so what I am posting today could will evolve.

I have precious few illustrations, and I used them all for part one, but I do have a Pinterest Zeppelin site where I have been stashing images as I research for my writing. Comments are welcome, and will let me know if anyone is reading along.

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Portrait of a Capybara on a Segway, by Sonya Rupnick

Prince Dobalob was feeling rather ordinary. A Prince who has everything should feel special, pampered, and, well, princely. He had acres of lettuce: romaine, red leaf, green leaf, and even butter lettuce. The Prince had quickly dismissed the farmer who had foolishly planted kale. The rows of corn stretched into the distance, with entire sections strategically planted so that the Prince could bite the tops off plants as he strolled his Principality. The boring potato and yam fields had been removed to distant acreage to make room for the new pasture with its strawberry border and raspberry maze. Prince Dobalob was surrounded by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What more could a royal capybara ask for?

Without much hope, he looked around for his butler, Kipling, but the little nocturnal mountain beaver was asleep. Again. Vincent, the tiny valet, was by his side in an instant. Always eager to please, he was proud to be second choice, for voles were rarely selected for royal service. Vincent may not have projected the dignity of the larger rodents but he had an infinite reserve of energy to make up for it.

“May I be of service, sir?” said the tiny valet.

“Yes, indeed, Vincent. Can you fetch me something, please?”

“What did you want, sir?”

The capybara stared off across his fields of plenty. He flared his nostrils to catch the scent of ripening blueberries, he squinted his eyes to focus on some distant doves, and he adjusted his enormous bottom on the red velvet cushion with gold braided trim that magically appeared underneath him wherever and whenever he chose to rest.

Prince Dobalob on his cushion, by Sonya Rupnick

“I just don’t know, Vincent. I just don’t know what I want to do next.”

For the next few moments, they both admired the vista, hoping that the answer to all of life’s dilemmas would fly in the window and perch where they could examine it. Behind them, a cloud of flies dispersed as the little housekeeper, a fussy but very untidy duck, cleaned up a small mess that she herself had created.

Duck maid, by Sonya Rupnick

“Perhaps, Sir, the answer is in your library. Shall I fetch you a volume?”

Prince Dobalob looked down his long nose at the tiny valet, and considered how he would accomplish this enormous task. It always astounded him, the inventiveness of the smaller creatures who served him. When the vole had first applied for the valet position, The Prince had almost discarded his resume, but in deference to the fellow rodent, he had invited him for an interview out of politeness. The vole’s references were impeccable, and compared to the enormous hippopotamus who was also under consideration, was far better educated. Now the vole was indispensable, and I do mean now, as the nocturnal butler was currently asleep in his bunker.

“By all means, bring me some inspirational reading,” he said, all the while wondering by what means the little vole would accomplish this task. He would probably use his tiny flatbed tricycle with the boom. He patiently waited for the Vincent Valet Show to begin. He was tempted to wander over to the library, whose shelves reached as high as a capybara on hind legs could reach, about six feet. Old volumes mixed with the new and were arranged top to bottom, A to Z.

From the distance came a dull screeching noise, then a shuffle and bump. There followed more shuffling, then finally a repeating squickety-squeak and around the corner appeared the tiny valet, pedaling furiously, a tiny three-wheeled bicycle followed closely by a book connected to a grappling hook and chains.

“I have had my eye on this one for quite some time, sir. Perhaps because it looks fascinating, more possibly because it is at the end of the alphabet, on the bottom shelf, and easily accessible to my vehicle” explained the valet. “I have not yet reviewed and catalogued the Z’s so I apologize in advance if it doesn’t meet your high expectations.”

Chuckling to himself, Prince Dobalob grinned at the vole and removed the hook and chains from the dusty volume. He would have to speak to the duck about the library dusting, but when he exposed the cover (Cough, sneeze, and cough. Dust went everywhere!) he saw that it was indeed not an A book, from the beginning, but a most extraordinary Z book, from the end of the alphabet. There was nothing ordinary about this valet! This was not his dull book about zeros, it was not that ridiculous old Zorro comic book, nor was it his Zebra coloring book, which had been deeply disturbing. It was a book about zeppelins.

The Butler, Kipling, had heard everything from his sleeping alcove under the stairs. While he was relieved to have the new valet relieve him of his daytime shift, he was not yet comfortable with the deportment of the little rodent. He had, in fact, not gone to sleep in the generously appointed but distant bunker, but had furnished himself a napping nook near the kitchen where he could easily eavesdrop without being noticed. Vincent’s enthusiasm was infectious, and his ideas were brilliant at first glance, but he rarely considered the consequences of his suggestions. Consequences that he, Kipling, would eventually have to sort out.

Mountain Beaver, by Sonya Rupnick

The Prince was quite gullible, and with his unlimited funds he could set plans to action in the wink of an eye. Kipling recalled in horror the Walking Palace that the Prince designed and his millwright assembled from the discarded pieces of an earlier botched invention, the Treehouse Swimming Pool he had built for the hens to encourage their swimming lessons. The concept for the Walking Palace came to The Prince when his corn and salad snack arrived just a moment too late, and he decided to save the Naked Mole Rats the trouble of dashing out to the fields and storerooms. “I’ll build a palace that can carry all of us directly to the fields!” The Prince had excitedly declared. After the ridiculous lurching palace (for it never did walk properly) churned up the nearby potato fields on its way to the watercress and subsequently became mired on the mucky stream bank, they had fortunately all escaped to safety. The “palace” now lay on its side, quietly rusting in place. No one blamed the beaver-millwright for the failure of the apparatus, so efficiently had the redundant safety devices activated, thus allowing for an immediate and flawless evacuation. Now the stalwart Mountain Beaver mulled over the possible consequences resulting from a Zeppelin project. Fortunately, the millwright would not consider a new project before the cocktail hour. The butler would have a few more hours to sleep before he was expected to produce the evening beverages.

The portly capybara was contemplating his tea, but the snack sounded a tad shy of the mark. To embark upon such an important enterprise as reading a book about zeppelins without suitable fortification made absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the Naked Mole Rats had never yet produced a seed cake as fine as the biscuits his little hens brought him. In fact, it had been quite some time since they had been able to procure bird seed at all. He was beginning to regret encouraging the pompous roosters to sign up for the Guardia Principale, but the recruiter had appeared rather conveniently. The roosters were always inserting themselves, tall and proud, between The Prince and the friendly hens. No, if he was to enjoy the company of the hens, to say nothing of the seed cakes, it was necessary to dispatch the roosters, where their strutting and posturing would reflect well upon the Principality of Bolabod.

“Vincent! Could you please alert a sentry and have him fetch me some seed cakes? Have the hens bring a dozen over for tea!” He knew that the sentry, a neighborhood crow, would gladly help in tea preparation. He would have to remind the duck maid not to tidy until after the crow sentries had picked through the leftovers.

Prince Dobalob thought fondly of his hens. They would never think of him as boring, especially after his last surprise exhibition of dancing, when the tea service had gone flying, the hens and ducks had scattered, and the Naked Mole Rats had nearly been trampled as they rushed in to save the last of the watercress sandwiches. Shortly after that incident, the roosters had become constant accoutrements to the hens. A bunch of worry warts, and besides, they hogged the seed cakes.

The Prince wandered over to his royal scratching post, an apparatus with a variety of rollers and bobs to massage his majestic morrillo, the scent gland on the bridge of his enormous snout. He had already rubbed the gates and low hanging branches, the draperies and the table legs, and even all of the hens and various minions that he claimed as his own. The post had been a gift from his father, King Clyde, and was one of the few mementos remaining from his childhood. Barely noticing the kitchen clatter as the rabbits prepared the vegetables the Naked Mole Rats had hauled in from the fields, he rubbed and rubbed, and as he rubbed he pondered another of those troubling questions that had presented themselves so frequently since he had moved away from the King and Queen and into his own palace: “What is a zeppelin?”

The hens were expected this afternoon, like most afternoons. The capybara was a gregarious creature, and his subjects naturally gravitated to the palace grounds for entertainment. The Prince often provided music, tea and light snacks. Occasionally an acrobatic troop would perform. The neighboring kingdom offered an even more sumptuous afternoon tea, but King Schist had three uncharming and extremely eligible daughters to marry off. The king was perturbed that Prince Dobalob preferred his silly hens to bona fide princesses, but Prince Dobalob had attended school with the daughters and was not interested in a most vehement way. They were poor students, wretched musicians, and prone to giggling fits. Though these same characteristics coincidentally describe our Prince, he was also handsome, charming, and extremely wealthy. The daughters simply were not, though their diminishing wealth could be directly attributed to the ridiculous collection of gowns that filled entire wings of the palace. Wearing a new gown every day called for new shoes and matching accessories, and because the daughters insisted upon matching outfits, the poor king’s residential chambers were rapidly filling with a rainbow of satin and tulle, brocade and lace, frothy and frilly, and every one of them in triplicate.

School days had been agonizing. For as long as he could remember, the three princess capybaras had been laying in wait, like trapdoor spiders or the black plague. They had attended every single royal celebration for every stupid royal holiday for as long as he could remember. The King Schist had even proclaimed additional holidays when the calendar was skimpy. Between school, birthdays, and holidays, there was no escaping the prissy princesses.

In those days, Prince Dobalob was known simply as “Prince Dobby.” The Princesses had other pet names for him, though. Tiffany called him dibbity dobbity doodle-bug, Felicity called him her big fat ugly poopoo stinking capybara, and Priscilla called him Sir Poopsalot. This infuriated the young prince until he figured out that mud puddles had more than one purpose. He discovered that if he waited patiently, eventually the princesses would wander near a mud puddle. Then he would engage them in some irresistible conversation while slowly aligning them so that their backs were to the puddle. Upon command, his friend Garibaldi would scream through the puddle on his Segway, the rooster tail of mud expertly splattering the back side of all three identical gowns. Oh how they loved his attention back then!

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There are way too many characters in this story. You’re going to need this:

Stay tuned for part two!

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