I’m not mixed up. “Prince Dobalob Rides Around on Segways” wasn’t as fetching a title, even though he does a fair amount of riding around on them. And I’m nearly finished writing and still there is no zeppelin. I am pleased to announce, however, that our Prince has completed Conceptual Design and is currently moving into Design Development. There will be a zeppelin, I promise you. Whether it will survive our accident prone Prince is entirely another matter, and even I don’t yet know the answer to that question. Meanwhile, here’s another chunk of the story for you.
The household at Prince Dobalob’s palace kept very different hours than that of King Clyde and Queen Bonnie. Once REDTASQ (Remote Ectoplasmic Digital Tracking and Summoning Queuer) confirmed their departure, Vincent plopped onto his own tiny red velvet cushion with gold braid and munched away at a seed cake that he had secreted in his waistcoat. The butler, Kipling, set his overloaded tray on a low table, hung up his jacket and set his derrière onto a medium sized red velvet cushion with gold braid. He poured two glasses of distilled potato juice, one for the millwright, Rodney, who could be heard coming from quite some distance away. The beaver was plump, loquacious, and ambling. There would be no pretense of server and served with the hard working but hard headed rodent in the parlor. He was gruff, but straight-talking, and had no patience for class distinctions. Because Rodney’s all-encompassing contraptions ultimately kept the household safe and informed, no one dared suggest that the Prince and the millwright were anything but equals. Several members of the household referred to him as Sir Rodney, but it was no longer a joke.
“Yo! Rodney! Bring your drink over here and let’s look at this book!” said the Prince.
“Dobster, my man, I hear The royal parents just left. So sorry I missed them again,” said the beaver. “I hear your mother was in classic form today!”
“You hear because you were listening in! I still have my doubts about REDTASQ, though I do understand how useful it is for those of you who can get away with avoiding my parental units. I am stuck with them. What miraculous device do you propose creating to get me unstuck?”
“I am ill prepared to remedy emotional entanglements. I recommend you take up the matter with Kipling.”
A small choking sound indicated that the mountain beaver had been listening. Neither beaver nor mountaineer, Kipling’s forte was indeed one of sympathy and negotiation. However, he had on more than one occasion found the Queen to be difficult if not downright exasperating.
“Rodney, have you ever built a Zeppelin? Take a look at this book! Moneypenny, do you think you could rig up a mobile wireless version of REDTASQ for my zeppelin?”
“Hold your horses, Dobster!” said the millwright. “Are we building a zeppelin overnight or something? Zeppelins are very complicated devices. I’ll have to do some research first, order materials, apply for permits– ”
“Rodney, we have the zeppelin book!” said the Prince.
“That, my dear man, is a picture book. It has no plans, no specifications, not even detailed sketches! I can’t build from that book. I can, however, build you a zeppelin.” The millwright puffed himself up a bit, thumbs in his suspenders. Because, of course, he could build a zeppelin. He could build anything. In fact, he was at odds when he wasn’t building anything, and he was between projects just now. He wasn’t bothered at all when the Prince took all the credit for his inventions. Without royal sponsorship, nothing would be built, and the beaver would be left very unbusy, indeed. He pulled a notebook and pencil out of his back pocket and started making a list, and the first items on his list were more pencils and a lot more notebooks.
Later that evening, long after the watercress sandwiches had been eaten, the duck maid had finished scooping, and the nocturnal mountain beaver and flying squirrel had gone out for night patrol, Prince Dobalob retired to his boudoir. He grabbed his blanket and his laptop and arranged himself upon an extra-large red velvet pillow with gold braid. Tappitty tap went his big paws on the keyboard as he sighed and mumbled to himself. “Zeppelin, blimp, what’s the difference, anyway? Wiki doesn’t know everything. There aren’t any on Greg’s list, let’s see– hmmmm. How about OhBoy? Okay, now we’re talking!” And a few minutes later “Thank you, OhBoy for Buy It Now, I don’t like waiting for auctions. I am a prince! I guess I might as well order the deluxe version, extra sturdy fabric, hmmmm. Basket. I eat baskets. Oh well. Expedited shipping, duh. Tax, hahahaha, all for me!” He grinned happily as he searched again and ordered an aviator’s helmet and silk scarf. Too excited to sleep, he did a little doofus dance around the boudoir and headed out toward the nightly patrol route taken by the butler and IT manager. The duck maid waited for REDTASQ to confirm and then signaled to a crew of naked mole rats. They set about righting the boudoir furniture displaced by the dancing, folded and stacked the pile of blankets, plugged the laptop into its charger, scooped a bit of this and that, and burned some sage for good measure.
Early the following morning, The usual suspects gathered for breakfast. Prince Dobalob sat at the big round table with both his butler and valet, his IT manager, the millwright, the three hens, and a plethora of staff at and under the table. They devoured platters of potato pancakes, seed topped doughnuts, berries and melons. Bond the budgie chose that moment to fly through the open window and perch atop the last few doughnuts. He looked around the table at the cheerful group and made an executive decision: he would report nothing about his reconnaissance run until the meal was finished. When in doubt, never spoil a good breakfast. The Prince, especially, when confronted with unpleasant news, was inclined to start suddenly, which invariably resulted in an overturned table. It was awfully early to start up that business. Still, the news was important and breakfast eventually came to an end.
The little budgie slowly made his way over to the big mountain beaver and hopped up his sloped shoulder to whisper in his ear. “Ahem, sir. I bring news from the parental palace. I would classify it as extremely unpleasant.”
“I thought as much. Are you comfortable with the pronouncement, then? I will, of course, deal with the aftershocks.”
The little budgie flew to the top of the teapot where he turned, chirped, and bowed all directions until he had everyone’s attention. “Queen Bonnie has announced the location of her birthday party!” The reaction to this declaration was stunning in its divisiveness. The new and the very young staff immediately started chittering, popcorning, and generally looked very excited about the prospects of the royal birthday party. The more experienced staff became so suddenly silent it was as though all sound had been sucked out of the room by a giant vacuum cleaner. One by one, the younger staff became aware of the vacuum cleaner, until all sound had been sucked from the palace breakfast room.
All eyes on the Prince, he attempted to ask the obvious question. His voice cracking, he simply stated “Location?” The location of the Queen’s birthday party had never been a variable. It was always at the Queen’s palace. She was simply too bossy and too particular to allow anyone to interfere with her events. Either Queen Bonnie was deathly ill or she was up to something. She was simply too ornery to be deathly ill. No puny microbe was capable of taking her down. What was she up to then?
The messenger took a deep breath and turned to glance at Kipling for encouragement. Scanning the premises for perches well beyond the probable trajectory of the contents of the breakfast table, he settled upon the chandelier before stating the location of the party. “The Queen’s birthday party will take place at Schist Palace this year. At the special request of the Princesses of Schist, I might add. It all seems to have been planned quite some time ago, because The Queen was already addressing invitations last night. The invitations were clearly issued by the Palace of Schist: the spelling was atrocious. I’m surprised Queen Bonnie consented to use them, though I did notice she had corrected the spelling by hand on each invitation.”
The giant vacuum continued to suck the sound out of the kingdom, until no birds sang, no leaves rustled, ice cubes migrated to the center of drinking glasses, serving utensils hovered over platters, knuckles did not pop, door hinges did not squeak. Thinking caps appeared over heads and the gears and sprockets that inhabited Prince Dobalob’s mighty skull started to screech and gnash. Slowly the sound returned and the staff began to clear the great table. Breakfast was over.
One by one the diners tip-toed from the dining room, dispersing themselves as discreetly as possible. The great capybara Prince seemed to have withdrawn into himself, quiet and brooding. He loved his mother dearly, but each of her birthday parties had become more unpleasant. until this moment he had not fully realized her true potential for treachery. Clearly, she was an overachiever in this respect.
Queen Bonnie’s birthday parties had been subtle and conventional affairs when the Prince was young. All of her birthday entertaining energy was spent upon the parties for young Prince Dobby. He recalled with fondness the hot air balloon rides, the little trains, the pony carts, and the huge Galapagos Tortoises. He thought back to the circus tents, the little reed rafts loaded with watermelons, and the mischief he and his friend Gari would plan for the big day. Then he thought of the three extremely unpleasant princesses his mother pointedly invited to his party. They were subjected to the bulk of the mischief, of course, but not because he and Gari liked them. Everyone consoled the princesses with this cheery thought (“It means they like you!”) after their gowns were torn and stained, their shoes drenched and muddied, and their tiaras lost. The truth was that young Prince Dobby and his chum Gari were so disgusted by the horrific spelling that they had never been able to take the princesses seriously. In their minds, misspelling princesses were merely lesser rodents, and not at all suitable playmates. Now that they were all grown, the mischief had given way to avoidance, and Prince Dobalob simply refused suspicious invitations. He could not, however, turn down an invitation to his own Mother’s birthday party, whomever the host. He knew that she knew this.
Shall we mosey along to Part Four?
The indispensable Cast of Characters: