Getting it done!

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues from yesterday:

In an effort to reproduce the events of the dream as faithfully as possible, the princess had notice of a public meeting announced as soon as she got home.  Then, as in the dream, she asked the people what she could do for them.  When they asked for cheaper food and cotton she wrote it all down in her blue book and told them she would do her best.  She then returned to the castle and summoned the duke.

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However, unlike the dream, when the Duke of Aequitas arrived he brought with him a basket of fruit.

“Your Majesty,” he said, bowing, “please accept this gift from the people of Calidum Terram, with their compliments and best wishes for your twelve month reign.”

The princess smiled and indicated that should place the basket on the table.

“Thank you,” she smiled, “let’s talk trade.”

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The princess argued with the duke, just as she’d dreamt, and Aequitas impressively stood his ground.  He showed her the king’s decree and she dismissed him.  Lady Beatrice, meanwhile, having resumed her miniature stature, was observing to ensure everything went to plan.  The wizard could be anywhere, watching, waiting for an opportunity.  He wasn’t stupid.  He was not stupid.

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Suddenly the old fairy was struck by that frightening realisation – “He is not stupid.  He’ll know that that fruit is not natural – it doesn’t smell!  He’s not going to fall for it!”

By now the princess was slumped over the table complaining about her inability to give the people what they want.  And Venustus was climbing in through the window.

Lady Beatrice had to do something!

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There was only one thing she could do.  She closed her eyes and spoke so quietly that even the mouse couldn’t hear:

“Power of the elements, I call on thee,

From air, earth and water, come forth, help me.

On fruits in the basket, I beg you bestow,

The scents they would have when in nature they grow.”

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At the same time the princess was listening to Venustus’s claim that he could get her a better deal.

“I don’t know,” she said, reaching for an apple, “my people are used to top quality produce.  I want it cheaper but not if it’s substandard.”  She took a bite and smiled at him.  “Seriously,” she added, “your stuff can’t be as good as this.  Go ahead – try some, then you’ll know what I mean.”

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Venustus returned her smile and, with the sweet, mouthwatering smell of fresh fruit in his nostrils, carelessly took a cherry.  As soon as it touched his tongue the princess spat out her apple and spoke swiftly:

“sutsunev sutsunev sutsunev”

The wizard’s eyes widened; his sharp intake of breath made him start choking on the cherry; then came a crash of thunder; and he was gone.

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“We did it!”  The princess was jubilant.

“You were brilliant,” Lady Beatrice told her as the duke returned to the room, “but remember, no one else can know about this.  As far as the rest of the world knows – Venustus was never here.  There’ll be no public recognition.”

“That’s ok,” the princess smiled, “it’s enough just to know we set things right.  Thank you, both of you.”

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The following morning, Princess Primrose told her people that she wouldn’t be able to get them cheaper food and fabrics after all.

“I have discovered,” she explained, “that we are already paying a fair price for those goods.  The only way for us to get them cheaper would be to cheat the growers out of their hard-earned money; to reduce their quality of life in order to improve ours.  And that’s just not right.”

There were some nods of agreement and some grumbles of discontent.

“I thought you would put your own people first,” someone shouted.

“As one young lady said yesterday, my people already have everything they need.  They work hard for it, and they don’t have much left over, but they are not short of any essential.  Do not the people who grow your food deserve this much?  Fair is only fair if it’s fair for everyone.”

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The crowd began to disperse and the princess smiled as she noticed Grandfather, still alive, talking cheerfully to one of his neighbours.  There were a few disgruntled faces but the princess, understanding her father’s advice now, was not disheartened.  As she walked away she overheard a snippet of conversation:

“What is she wearing?!  I don’t like her hair.”

“That’s okay,” she said to herself, “I like it.”

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And they all lived happily ever after.  For the most part 🙂

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Have a great weekend! 😀

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The fairy’s plan

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues:

“But the owl didn’t know his name.  Or how to find him.  I searched for many years without luck and eventually settled here.  And if your mother hadn’t asked me to protect you from yourself; if I hadn’t psychically perused this kingdom’s archives; I may never have discovered his name.  Now we not only know that, we also know where he’ll be if you re-enact the beginning of the dream.”

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The princess was excited at the prospect of defeating the wizard.  “But how will we get him to eat his magic potion?” she asked.

Lady B was excited too.  “We know that Venustus takes advantage of the naïve and vulnerable.  Now, two months ago King Arnot died, leaving his unworldly son, Albro, in charge.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that kingdom is already in receipt of potion-doused produce.”

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There was no time to lose.  The princess was well known so she dressed in disguise.  Then, while she rode to young King Albro’s territory, Lady Beatrice informed the duke of their plan – he would need to be in on it.

Once over the border, Princess Primrose searched for the market place.  She needed to make sure that they were indeed selling ‘magic’ produce.

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Before long she found the market.  Some stalls were piled high with colourful, irregular-shaped, delicious-smelling produce.  Others displayed equally enticing goods but they were all uniform in shape, colour and size.  And the smell … there was no smell.  The unnatural food was cheap and selling fast.

Princess Primrose smiled at the stall holder.  “This is just what I need,” she said.

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Ooh, will Lady Beatrice’s plan work?  Will they be able to defeat the wizard?

Find out on tomorrow 😀

Unless you don’t want to wait, in which case you can read it now 😀

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A bad dream?

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues:

At that moment Princess Primrose sat up in bed.  Lady Beatrice was sitting close by, smiling.

“Did you have a bad dream my dear?” she asked.

The princess was dazed.  “A dream?  It was just a dream?  I imagined it all?” she reached for her blue book.

“Well,” said the old lady, “yes, and no.”

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“It’s hard to take in, I know, but as you can see from your book, this is your first morning in charge of the kingdom.  None of what you dreamt about has happened yet.”

The princess was bewildered.  She looked at her last blue book entry and realised that her mother’s friend’s explanation was the only one possible.  Relief began to wash over her.  Then she tensed.

“Yet?”  she asked nervously.

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Lady Beatrice explained.  “The queen was very concerned about leaving you in charge, given your inexperience and eagerness to please.  So I simulated, in your dream, what would happen if you proceeded as she expected.  But the monks’ memory rhyme, the fire-damaged arrest record, and Gertrude’s book, all really do exist in the archives.  Venustus is horribly real.  He just hasn’t come here yet.”

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The princess was confused.  “But how did you simulate my dream?  How did you know what would happen?”

Lady Beatrice hesitated before answering.  “Your mother is the only other person who knows this.  I hope I can trust your discretion.”  The princess nodded and she went on, “I am a fairy, the last of my kind here because the others were long ago poisoned by an evil wizard.”

“Fairies can take any size.  When I was a young girl, one thousand years ago, I was as small as a dragonfly.  We helped with pollination and feasted on flowers and fruit.  It was a beautiful, enchanting, wild life.  Then I fell in love with a sailor, assumed human size and travelled the world with him.  Being human, he aged much faster than I, and when he passed away I returned home.”

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“My exquisite ancestral home had become a contaminated wasteland.  Hardly anyone was living there any more so it was difficult to find out what had happened but eventually an old owl, who had been watching me for some time, took pity on me.  He described a situation very similar to that depicted in Gertrude’s book, which led to the death of all the pollinating insects and fairies, and the exodus of many other species.”

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“Possessed of the knowledge of all of his ancestors, the owl was able to give me some hope.  He said that when such a wizard was vanquished, all their evil was undone.  But, he said, there was only one way to do it: the wizard must be tricked into tasting his own potion and, while he is doing so, his name must be repeated to him, three times, backwards.  Then the world would be as if he had never been born.”

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Story continues tomorrow, but if you don’t want to wait you can read it here now 😀

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My goodness girl!

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues from last week:

They pleaded with Venustus to let them have the potion on credit, promising to pay him out of the profits from the sale of their produce.  Then he tells them that he will sell their produce – as they agreed in the contract they signed – and take his cut before passing to them whatever’s left!

What contract? they said, and he shows them the paper with their signatures on it – the contract had been added above their names.

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My goodness girl, there were many there at that moment who could have throttled him but, as the first man lunged, Venustus smiled and said, “Perhaps we can make a deal.”

He ummed and ahhed for a few moments before adding, “Give me your children in return for as much potion as you need,” and while they still reeled from shock he said, “If you starve, they starve.  With me they’ll live.”

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I swear on my life Gertrude, that’s what he said!  Well, according to Elsie, there was no holding people back after that.  Many of them flew at the wizard in their desperation at the thought of losing their children, and their anger at having been so cruelly tricked.  But Venustus didn’t flinch.  He smiled smugly as a glow of light surrounded his body and every strike just bounced off it.  He was untouchable.

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What could they do?  It was too late in the season to sow the seeds from last year which, by next year, would be too old.  They had to do as the wizard told them.  All children over ten years old were taken to a cocoa farm where they worked from sun up to sun down; slept in windowless sheds; and ate a very poor diet.  They were beaten if they didn’t work fast enough.

And Venustus just got richer.

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And as if that wasn’t enough for these poor people to cope with, they started to get sick.  After eating produce grown from the magic seeds, fed with the magic potions, this normally healthy community began to develop illnesses they’d never seen before.  Contamination by magic potions killed the fish in the rivers and the insects of the air and soil.  Birds and animals died or moved away.  Everything stank.

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“Oh stop!  Stop!”  The princess snatched the book from the duke’s hand and slammed it down.  “I can’t listen to any more!  It’s horrible!  This is the price of our cheap food!  This is why my people are sick!”  She dropped to the floor, full of remorse, and just sobbed.

“It’s all my fault.  I wish I’d listened to you.  I wish I’d listened to my father.”

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The story continues tomorrow.

Or you can read it here now 🙂

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Elsie’s story

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues from yesterday:

The fruit and vegetable growers were having troubles.  They had had some bad weather which led to their harvest being poor, and some of them were worried that they wouldn’t have enough food to get them through the winter.

Luckily they have a good community and they had a meeting and realised that if they shared what they had, evenly between them, they would each have enough to scrape by.

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They also agreed to distribute equally what seeds they had between them for the following year.  They wouldn’t be able to sow as much as usual but, again, they knew it would be enough.  They would manage.

Satisfied and relieved, they were about to return home when a kindly stranger called their attention back to the meeting.  He said he thought he could help.

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Oh my word!  It would have been better for them if they had pretended not to hear him and walked away!  But they didn’t.

He said his name was Venustus and he could provide them with plenty of seed for next year, so that they wouldn’t have to scrape by.  He said he had more than he could use in a huge barn on his property, and they could have it for nothing to prevent it going to waste.

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Well, he looked so kind, and had such a warm smile, Elsie said, that they couldn’t help but trust him.  He asked everyone who wanted his seeds to sign their names on a sheet of paper so that he would know how much to ship to them.

The following spring, as promised, the seeds arrived and everyone was thrilled.  They sowed so many seeds that they looked forward to a bountiful harvest.

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So, green shoots began to grow and everyone was hopeful until, after a few weeks, they started to wilt.  They couldn’t understand why because the weather had been perfect – sunshine and showers and just the right amount of each.  So they contacted Venustus to ask his advice.  Well!  That’s when he tells them he’s a wizard!  He made them seeds special so they grow much bigger and faster but …

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…. only if they’re fed with his magic potion!  Without it they would not survive at all.  Of course the people asked if they could have some of his potion and he says: ‘course you can – it’s 20 pieces of silver per vat!

Oh my goodness!  You can imagine how the people felt.  They had no money.  They couldn’t pay for the potion.  And they would have no harvest at all without it.

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😮

Story continues on Monday (unless you don’t want to wait)

Have a great weekend 😀

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The Duke continued …

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues from yesterday:

When he finished, Aequitas paused and looked at the princess.  He hesitated to continue burdening her when she looked so defeated, but there was more, and he had to go on.

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Aequitas went on to explain that he had found a record of Venustus among the surviving documents of the Procul County Gaol fire, one hundred and forty seven years previous.  It was slightly fire-damaged but the charges made against him were still clearly legible.

“It is uncertain how the fire started but Venustus was the only prisoner not accounted for after it was put out,” the duke added.

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“But by far the most useful information I have found is contained in this book,” he said as he placed a small, tattered volume on the table.  “It belongs to the estate of an elderly lady who recently passed, named Gertrude.  She was deaf her whole life and when she was a little girl her mother would write down every piece of news and gossip for her to enjoy in this book.  There is here a detailed account of Venustus.”

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Aequitas leafed through the book to find the story of Venustus, as told by Gertrude’s mother, while Princess Primrose looked upon the list of Venustus’s crimes with horror.  She nodded sadly at him, and he began to read:

Elsie from across the sea says they’ve had troubles over there.  She told a sailor, who told his uncle, who told his wife, and she told me.

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Oooh.  Find out what troubles Elsie and friends have suffered, tomorrow.

Or read it now 😀

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More bad news

The Princess Who Liked To Be Popular continues from yesterday:

The Duke of Aequitas stood before the princess for the first time in many months.  After an embarrassed pause she forced herself to ask: “Worse?”

“When I heard you were dealing with Venustus I tried to find out more about him.  He is very hard to track down and I could find only three references to him in our archives, one of which dates back four hundred years.”

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“Four hundred years?  That must have been a different Venustus.”

“No.  There are no others.  He’s a wizard Your Highness, he changes his appearance to appeal to whomever he’s attempting to fool.  But, apparently, he is unable to change his name, it’s the only thing he’s truthful about.”

The princess was exasperated.  “That’s absurd,” she said, “How do you know this?”

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The duke continued, “The four hundred year old reference to Venustus was written by the monks of the ancient Lunam Monastery.  It is in the form of a rhyme so that everyone would recite it and remember it.  When I read it I became very concerned indeed.  The monks only created memory rhymes for things they considered extremely dangerous.  It was vital to them that this be remembered generation after generation.”

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The princess listened apprehensively as the duke read aloud.

“Venustus he was,

Venustus he is,

Venustus he’ll always be.

He’ll lie about everything else in the world,

But truthful ’bout that he’ll be.”

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“Venustus is wicked

Venustus is false

Venustus will use and abuse.

Remember his name, remember his name,

Keep thyself safe from his ruse.”

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Gasp! 😮

Learn more about the evil Venustus tomorrow.

Or read it here now 😀

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