From the author: Despotic rulers rarely get what's coming to them, but this bunch will-in an entirely unexpected way.
THE PRINCESS MURDER CASE 8,745 words
By David Perlmutter
Princess Heloise, one-sixth ruler of the Allied Federation Of Intergalactic Medieval Kingdoms, rose, as was her custom, at approximately 9:30 AM on the fifteenth day of October, A.D . 4500. As was also customary, at the precise moment she threw the covers of her bed off her face, she was instantly enveloped in a stunning patch of bright yellow light, like the surprisingly affluent heroine of a Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie circa 1934, with a heavenly choir providing vocal accompaniment suitable for the occasion. Snapping her fingers, for she and her fellow rulers were all gifted with the powers of witches, which they could use suddenly and shockingly at a moment’s notice- she caused the light and the choir to stop at the precise moment she desired. At this moment, she shucked off her ermine nightshirt in one fell swoop, and her naked, blue eyed, brown haired, diminutive body was conveyed through a conveyor belt towards her private bathroom. At the exact moment that she entered the shower stall, the water jetted out from the low flow shower head that the energy conscious Princess had insisted become the standard in her realm. At least, in the part of the AFIMK that was directly under her rule and not that of one of her five cousins, with whom she was forced to share power. Unless the coup that she was even now planning succeeded.
As the water struck the Princess, she uttered her first words of the day- a series of vicious curses and oaths one would not expect a stereotypical “Princess” to know or use. But she, as we will see, was not a stereotypical “Princess” in any sense except the formal one, and neither were her cousins- the very reason that they were in power in the first place.
The curses were their most violent at first, when the water was cold, and then again when it became, abruptly, red hot instead. But as the water shifted to tepid, Heloise was able to let her guard down, wash herself, and recommit herself to the busy day that lay ahead of her.
When she snapped her fingers again, the shower ended, and, as she exited, an attendant was there to wrap a downy towel around her body and head, making sure that he did not look directly at either- on pain of death. Being now burdened with garments, the Princess remounted the conveyor belt and returned to the comfort of her room. There, she selected one each of the kind of raiment she felt best suited her: a cherry red body stocking, along with comfortable brown moccasins for her feet. Then, having brushed her hair into its standard girlish, page boy bob, and strapping her large, monogrammed steel dagger to her waist- as protection against anyone who might want to murder her- she opened the doors of her bed chamber, and strode downstairs to begin her day as 1/6th ruler of her domain.
The AFIMK was ruled as one part family compact, one part loose political alliance, and, most significantly, as one group of competing kingdoms within a realm. The six cousins fought, literally and metaphorically, with each other for what was, by this time, an increasingly thinning amount of natural resources. When it had been first assembled by the six Princesses’ royal ancestors (all men) many years earlier, the intent had been to create a political and economic co-operative from which all- not simply the ruling factions- would benefit. But centuries of royal decay was now apparent in the current generation now sitting on the six separate thrones of the realm.
Indeed, this female sextet were, individually and collectively, the worst tyrants the galaxy had ever seen, then or now. Each of them had been ruling since they were but five years old, having early on, in an unexpected but calculated way, viciously murdered the regents “caring” for them, who foolishly assumed they had nothing to fear from the royal children and could rule the realm as they pleased until the Princesses became “mature” enough for their birthrights. Likely, the regents might not have been as tyrannical as the current regime, but, as they lasted only a short period in office, this will be an eternal subject of speculation.
In any event, Heloise and her five cousins now ruled the AFIMK with iron fists, and had nothing to fear in terms of the threat of being deposed from the outside.
Inside was a different matter. Each of the Princesses was, secretly, insanely jealous of the others- and it didn’t help that they were all somewhat insane, period, to begin with. Each intensely guarded the security of her own planetary realm with the same intense devotion a lioness shows her cubs- which was hurting the union, socially and politically. The people in their realms, in fact, were foaming at the mouth at the fact that they were essentially treated as extensions of the Princesses’ palace staff, for they had none of the reserve- or weak backbones- the palace staff had. Yet the Princesses knew very little of this, owing to the fact that their palaces were surrounded by domes that prevented any proletariats from entering their vaunted domain unless allowed to.
Furthermore, the palace staff, all of whom had served the Royal House for generations, knew exactly what to do when the lives of their sovereigns were even remotely threatened, and, made sure that, at all times, their Royal Personages were safe, secure and remote from any possible outside threats. But, as noted earlier, none of those things prevented them from each others’ hatred. Nor did they provide any counterbalance against each of them undertaking Machiavellian manipulations to gain full control of the realm- not just a piddling 1/6th!
This must be understood in order to fully understand the actions and motivations of Princess Heloise, a girl of twelve who projected a vicious, tyrannical authority well beyond her years, and was fully prepared to make all of the AFIMK her own domain.
When Princess Heloise entered her throne room, she was immediately besieged verbally by a variety of aides, dependents and fawning vassals, all of whom wanted a piece of her. She waited until she had ascended to her throne- a lush, ornamental seat carved from the wood of a dozen lemon, orange and cherry trees, and upholstered in the finest Chinese silk, with luxurious goose down feathers for the cushions- and sat down on it, to respond. This took the form of two words:
...at which point everyone became silent, and kneeled down to await further instruction from her.
“You people make me sick!” the Princess spat. “All the time me, me ,me! What the hell about me and my needs, huh? Why should I bother to do anything for you if you haven’t done anything for me lately?”
This was not exactly the truth. Around the palace, only the Princess gave orders and commands that had to be answered immediately, and none of the people in the room would actually have dared to speak to her in the familiar mode of speech she was now accusing them of using with her. But nobody was going to contradict anything the Princess did or said- for fear of being executed on the spot, as was her wont with “troublemakers.” Even if the words she spoke were patently untrue and served to confirm only her own fear of being persecuted and attacked by her cousins, as these words surely did.
“Now,” the Princess continued. “I got up on the wrong side of the bed today, so I’m not going to be holding court as long as I usually do. That’s also on account of the fact that my cuzzes are jetting in today so we can set our budget for the upcoming fiscal year- and other “family” stuff! So you people on the house staff better get this goddamn pig sty ready to receive them in the fashion which they- and I- have become accustomed to- or else SOME HEADS ARE GONNA ROLL! Come on- BEAT IT! The rest of you- get up off your knees, get a goddamn number, and LINE UP!”
The order was swiftly acted upon, and the receiving line was formed, based entirely upon rank and social standing. The Princess would never stand for some half-stepping commoner elbowing his way to the front, so those people got the least amount of attention in her lineup, if they got in at all. The majority of those in the lineup, as a result, were officials of the government or palace who were wanting her input on some issue or other. What to do about the impending peasant rebellion? (Yawn.) Should we increase the size of the taxes this year, or keep them as they are? (Double yawn.) Was the Princess planning to continue having poinsettias in her garden, or she was going to switch to chrysanthemums as she threatened to earlier this year? (Triple yawn.) Was she planning to use cotton to seal the emerging leak in the roof, or maybe muslin? (Quadruple yawn.)
The only source of amusement for her in the whole dry process of holding court was when a particularly smart assed one of her peers- or an even younger kid- would try to get in good with “Princey” (as her name and title inevitably- and irreverently- got shortened to). The supplicant would usually suggest that they be “pals”, although this was usually accompanied by a request for a loan- i.e. some bit of chump change from the Princess’ huge stash of wampum. She would typically respond with a bemused laugh, and the latchkey kid then might think that they were going to get lucky. For a moment. Until the Princess’ elite corps of guards gunned them down just afterwards at a snap from the Princess’ fingers.
There were three of these cases that day, so the room was soon filled with blood, guts and rotting bodies, but, if the Princess’ mood had improved any through the act of killing, she wasn’t showing it.
After enduring a while of this, Heloise was relieved when her Prime Minister, Lord James of Dos Passos- a tall, blond drink of water she was heavily attracted to- arrived to inform her that her cousins had arrived.
“That’s fine with me!” said the Princess, getting up from her throne. “So long, suckers!”
She exited the room in the company of Lord James, leaving everyone who hadn’t spoken to her yet out of luck.
The six official royal saucers, each containing one Princess and the members of their retinue they had selected to accompany them on their journey (as Heloise would if she were visiting one of their planets), were, at that moment, hovering over Heloise’s planet, waiting for her and Lord James to emerge from the palace. This was the officially designated signal, or “all clear”. They had agreed, many moons ago, that they would not enter each other’s domains without officially recognized permission, for fear that the others might enter secretly to steal natural resources or physical talent. Once Heloise emerged and gave the designated “sign” of a raised middle finger- and the others caught it on the viewing screens of their saucers- it was down and onward. Or downward, given the typical quality of their face to face meetings.
The saucers landed, and, in order of physical conception- the only fair way they had of determining patterns for everything, they descended. In order, the group consisted of:
-Princess Mabel, whose long flowing brown tresses were the envy of her cousin Heloise, for the simple reason that, because of genetic abnormalities, the latter could never get her own brown hair to grow to the length and fullness of her cousins’. But Mabel’s hair was about the only thing about her that was relatively stable and sane. Not for nothing was she known as “The Mad Maid”, a name always uttered with a strong element of contemptuous disrespect, in her own realm and those of her cousins. As she exited her saucer, she was dressed in an outfit made entirely of mink fur and jewelry made entirely of strands of potato, corn and tortilla chips, with jelly beans and jujubes occupying places usually reserved for precious gems in her cousins’ retinues. She was accompanied by her pet pig, Mr. Wiggles, whom she had designated as her “prime minister”, and with her half-brother, Lord Dipper, who actually executed the PM duties- along with some of Mabel’s when she ended up being “incapacitated” in some way due to her temperament. Mabel set the pattern for the others to follow by rushing up the stairs of the palace, embracing Heloise, and then heading off with her retinue.
-Princess Portia, blonde haired, gap toothed, and rarely out of the white sweater and very short blue skirt that made up her principal wardrobe, even for events of “importance” such as this. Of the six, she was unquestionably the biggest slut, having, already at her young age, not only lost her virginity, but become one of the most prolific and notorious sexual practitioners of her realm- or her slightly more chaste cousins’, for that matter. As expected, she was distrustful of men except for their requirement for her immediate gratification, and made sure they were far away from her when she didn’t need them. Thus, the only member of a regular retinue she possessed was her yellow skinned Prime Minister, Wang Long Dong, a member of a mysterious alien race from the far eastern corner of the universe, who was as vicious, resourceful and lethal as Portia herself. Which was why Wang stayed around when so much of the rest of Portia’s realm was in chaos.
-Princess Lorimar (“Lor” for short), known as the “Sporty Princess”, in her own realm and beyond, for her beloved devotion to her favorite sports, as well as her readiness, willingness and ability to settle any and all disputes in her realm and beyond with her fists and legs, rather than with even any pretense of diplomacy in approaching issues. This was easily made apparent by the fact that she always appeared in public for formal occasions in an immaculately oiled and up-kept suit of armor, minus the helmet that could have protected her short red hair and flaming blue eyes, as well as the fact that she openly disdained wearing “feminine” clothes and the feigning of the same sort of “pretentious feminine airs” her cousins seemed to like. At all times, she was accompanied by Lord Tino, her short, blond haired cousin, who functioned only as her private secretary, since Lor’s royal government was absolute and capricious at that. Just as Princess Lor herself was.
-Princess Petratishkovna (“Tish” for short), who was known for the power and vastness of her intellect in the same way the other members of her family were known for their pursuits. Her immense intelligence allowed her to perform duties in her realm that her cousins typically delegated to (trusted) subordinates under their control. Tish was her own Prime Minister, was the commanding officer of all of her armed forces, was President of her realm’s national bank, was Commissioner of all of the sports leagues, and was the principal- and sole- patron of the arts in her realm. In most of these capacities, she met- and clashed- with her cousins more often than the others collectively saw each other during the calendar year. Most recently, she and Princess Lor had fought a bitter civil war over Lor’s refusal to even don a dress Tish had given her for Christmas. (Lor was adamant in the fact that she did not wear “any goddamn girl’s clothes”, and took anyone- even family- just giving her such things as an extreme personal insult.) This war lasted for three months, until both participating armies were decimated by a united show of force from the other four Princesses, who had had just about enough of the whole thing. In any event, Tish was obliged to attend this event, and she did. Like her cousin/enemy, she came to the table with only one member of her staff- Carver The Moor, her dark skinned bodyguard.
-Princess Riley, the most artistically ambitious and economically reckless of the group. Her nickname in her realm and outside of it- “The Girl Nero”- said it all about her character. She was, in fact, a talented musician, a skilled bowler and badminton player (much to the horror of her cousin Lor, whom she always beat handily at both), as well as a visionary media director, directing and producing film, television and Internet productions that had already earned her several Oscars, Emmys and Webbys from a suitably impressed Earth (though some cynical Terran entertainment reporters suspected that this was done only to appease the Princess’ monstrous ego.) Because of her lavish spending on her media projects, Riley, of the six princesses, was the one least able to keep her finances under control, and herself under emotional control as well. Consequently, her attractive, red haired, freckle faced body was frequently in a state of rage, even when her orders actually were carried out the way she wanted them to be. Certainly, the crews of this Princess’ films had found that out the hard way. Likewise, her cousins were aware of her prolific spending- the primary cause of their collective debt- but they usually tried to play it safe with her to keep a sense of harmony intact- although the Lor/Tish war seemed to make this impossible to attain. Riley, as with most of the others, was accompanied by her principal assistant- her twin brother, Prince Todd. They had originally been set to be co-rulers under the system the regents had devised for the collective realm, but, after Riley seized power alone with the help of her cousins, and defeated Todd in battle when he attempted to lead a revolt against her, he had been reduced to a fate worse than death working as her principal, overworked PA- although he was allowed to keep his now powerless title as a “gift.” And so, he was the one holding up the back of the train of her luxurious blue satin dress, encased with precious jewelry so illuminating it should have been billed-highly- by any sane hydroelectric concern. And, on those occasions, when Riley found a deep puddle in the path of her route to her cousin’s palace, Todd had to step into it up to his waist, and provide a means for Riley to walk across it without getting dirty. As he always did.
When the six Princesses had gathered in the main hallway of Heloise’s palace, and the “servants” had been dismissed, they were photographed together as if they were any other group of girls related to each other (as they insisted) in a series of clearly and directly posed shots taken by a photographer from each realm selected by auditions consisting of a close analysis of presented photographs (at Riley’s insistence.) Afterwards, when the photographers had received a similarly blunt dismissal, the six girls, speaking the only kind of small talk they could manage with each other, headed upstairs to Heloise’s rec room- for they always met and negotiated while playing viciously combative games of poker.
However, when they arrived, they found their PMs/aides/servants were gathered around the card table, having taken food and drink from the private buffet laid out for the Princesses, and were generally acting as if they belonged there.
Which they did not.
If anger could be expressed through fireworks, the effect of this unexpected act of effrontery (as the Princesses saw it) would have been expressed through the simultaneous explosion of six Roman candles. At least, that was what the victims of the physical and verbal explosions that followed would come to feel they had witnessed and endured.
“What the hell....?” Heloise snapped when she opened the door, having just previously promised her cousins that they would most assuredly be “alone” during the negotiations. “What is THIS?”
“SHIT!” Lord James of Dos Passos said as he saw the face and heard the voice of his patron, stopping only to quaff a shot of whiskey he had poured for himself. “They CAUGHT us!”
The unfortunate PM of Heloise’s realm escaped from the fate awaiting him by jumping out of the (closed) window at the far end of the room. The others were not so lucky.
“You pretentious SHITHEADS!” screamed Princess Lorimar, managing to move very quickly in spite of her armored body, and kicking the card table over, spilling everything on it at the time. “How DARE YOU!”
“But...you told us to leave you alone!” said Lord Tino, nervously. “We did that. Didn’t we?”
“We didn’t say “Come up to the rec room and hang out with us”, you tiny BASTARD!” Lor countered. Without another word, she took off one of her gauntlets, pulled out a needle and thread she kept in there for emergencies, and sewed his lips shut. After she knocked him out with the same gauntlet, Lor picked his unconscious body up and threw him down the nearby stairway.
“We should be here!” Wang Long Dong said to Princess Portia, while that was going on. “We handle the money for this outfit, not to mention most of the diplomatic stuff around here! You guys know shit about that, you know? We...”
“AT EASE!” Princess Portia thundered, effectively meaning “shut up!”, as she pointed to the door. Wang Long Dong, as a veteran soldier, got the message and left without another word.
“She’s right, “ Lord Dipper interjected. “We do a lot of the stuff that you...”
Princess Lor glowered and ran towards him, screaming, and it was only through a quick non- verbal signal from his half-sister- the kindest of the six by far in spite of her madness- that Lord Dipper was able to escape from the room.
Princess Tish needed only to look at Carver The Moor to make him meet her demands. The dark skinned boy got up from his seat, threw up his hands, angrily exclaimed, “Damn it, woman!”, and left.
Prince Todd was the holdout, oblivious to the events, as he was blissfully stuffing himself with the food and drink, as they were in much greater quality and quantity than his own meagre rations. Princess Riley signalled to her cousins that she would “take care” of him, and they allowed her to. She promptly bellowed his name long, loudly and clearly, with the force, speed and bearing of a Japanese bullet train. He looked up, startled, and promptly spilled both his food and his drink on his wretched, patched raiment.
“Damn it, Riley!” he said indignantly, totally ignorant of her anger. “You went and made me dirty myself again!”
“You keep a civil tongue in your head when you address me, buddy!” said Princess Riley in response. “You’re only here because of that certain FAVOR I did for you when you tried to bump me off! REMEMBER THAT- if you CAN!”
“Under the terms of the original regency,” Prince Todd reminded her, “I should be here! I should also be entitled to anything that’s yours! Especially your food, your drink, and your swag!”
“YOU’LL TAKE NOTHING- AND LIKE IT!”
In spite of the fact that she was wearing fragile glass shoes- her favorite formal ornamentation- Princess Riley pulled her wayward brother out of his chair, guided him to the door of the room by his ear, and kicked him repeatedly in his ass down the stairway, cursing him violently as she did. By the time she was finished, her shoes were merely a mottled collection of shards, some embedded in her feet, which made her curse even more as she walked back upstairs.
The intruders done away with, the Princess cousins were now free to begin their poker game-cum-conference, which they did with gusto once Heloise had shut- and locked- the door to the rec room.
A few hours passed.
The Princesses had exhausted their supply of food, but, thanks to Heloise’s generosity, they were all fully drunk, although their physical and mental capacities were hardly reduced due to their strong royal constitutions. They had played a few hands of poker, for their usual, minor, penny a hand stakes, but these were still fought with the typical fury common to their collective competitive gatherings. After Heloise (the best player of the group), managed to win her third hand in a row, much to the indignant anger of the others, the other Princesses collectively ordered that the game playing stop and the formal negotiations begin. Which they now did in earnest.
As Heloise was the hostess, she was also, by default, the chair, so she called the meeting to order, and she and the other Princesses put on their game faces.
“I’ll be frank, girls,” Heloise said. “We might seem to be doing okay, each on her own, but, collectively, we’re living in the red! This has got to STOP!” She smashed her fist on the table to make sure they got the message. “Effective immediately, we have to put our fiscal house in order, or else the AFIMK is dead!”
“Oh, please!” Portia said, sarcastically. “Quit it with the doom and gloom forecast! We all have our own personal stash, and our investments on Earth are going okay, so why should...”
“SHOVE IT, PORTIA!” Heloise snapped at her cousin. “I don’t mean our personal finances! I mean our countries’ treasuries!”
There was a murmur of understanding. Heloise continued.
“Since our kingdoms are united chiefly through a common currency, and nothing else, we need to keep our eyes on our GDPs if we want to stay in office. If we keep living as high on the hog as we have been, there’ll be nothing left for our kids- if we even have any! Therefore, I am proposing we initiate austerity measures.”
The other Princesses responded with rage (except Mabel, who had slipped into one of her regular bouts of insanity), but Heloise used her position as chair to order them back into silence.
“I’m not punishing you for my own gain here,” she said. “I’m putting cuffs on myself, too. Cutting my staff and cutting back on the orgies and everything. Believe me. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“It’s easy for you to say you’re cutting back on “expenses”, you bitch!” Lor remarked. “Your overhead is, like, half of what mine is!”
Enraged, Heloise rushed towards Lor, but Tish blocked her path.
“Now, now!” Tish said to Heloise. “You said yourself that you wanted to keep us united!”
“Economically and politically, four eyes!” Heloise returned, referring to Tish’s ever prominent glasses.
“I can take these off and clock you, you know, shorty!” Tish answered, referring to Heloise’s lack of height.
“You’re out of order!” Heloise called on the protection of the chair’s authority over the meeting. “Sit down!”
“You...!” sputtered Tish, who returned to her seat.
“Why don’t we just go off the Fezziwig and go our own ways, money wise? That way, we can still get together without this feuding poppycock.”
This was Princess Mabel’s first major contribution to the post-poker discussion, and she was suggesting, very casually, that they take the AFIMK off the common currency system that had existed for millennia, and try to have each kingdom exist on its own financial terms. Her cousins reacted in the manner most accustomed to them all- anger.
“Are you INSANE?” Portia snapped. Then, remembering, Mabel’s reputation, she added, caustically: “Oh, right. You ARE!”
“I’m serious!” Mable insisted.
“Well, what would we do to replace it?” snarled Heloise. “Join the Terran Union? They got their own damn money problems. We don’t need ‘em!”
“No,” said Mabel. “We just need to set up an alternate system for our common currency.”
“And what did you have in mind?” asked Tish.
“Junk food!” responded Mabel, as if this was the logical solution to their problem. “I already have tons of it, and you girls have plenty, too, so we’ll all still be...”
“SHUT UP!” shouted Lor, grabbing the nearest empty beer bottle, walking over to Mabel, and knocking her unconscious by breaking the bottle over her head. “I can’t believe I’m actually related to you ASSHOLES!”
“Oh! Like you’re a goddamn ANGEL!” snapped Riley to Lor. “I wouldn’t cast you as an extra in one of my pictures!”
“And there,” said Heloise, pointing a finger at Riley, “is Exhibit A for why we’re all in debt!”
“Exactly what point are you making, Hell On Wheels?” countered Riley, using a (hated) nickname to refer to her cousin.
“I’m saying, Ms. Cecil B. DeMille, that your expensive celluloid tributes to yourself are about to make us nose dive off a fiscal cliff!” retorted Heloise. “You spend more on that crap than the rest of us do on everything put together!”
“You little goddamned efficiency expert!” volleyed Riley. “Do you not care for art? Because that’s exactly what my films are! And they make money, besides! The last picture I made grossed $800 million in the United States alone!”
“Which,” interjected Tish, “accounting for conversion of currency, transportation and distribution costs, and the overall lack of strength in our collective economy, amounts to approximately FIFTY Fezziwigs!”
“So what?” said Riley. “That’s a profit, isn’t it?”
“‘So what?’” uttered Lor. “’So what?’ You spent MORE Fezziwigs making your MOVIES last year than I did keeping up my military, that’s what! And it costs a shitload of money to do that, even when we aren’t at war!”
“Look,” Riley said, exasperated and hurt. “I can’t help it if I go over budget, all right? I focus on making good pictures, not on making money! It’s you bunch who make things bad by doing nothing while I work my ass off ...”
“Just can it, you red haired SNOT!” said Heloise. “You’re going along with this, and that’s that! All of you are! Understand?”
“Heloise,” said Portia, “you are a stupid, delusional SHIT! There’s nothing wrong with our economies as they are!”
“And if any of you try to confiscate my equipment or kill my crew,” Riley said, “I will declare war on you in a heartbeat!”
“I will on you if you try to do your damn second unit stuff on my planet without asking again!” Lor warned Riley.
This sort of back and forth continued, overlapping, for a few minutes, until Heloise got up from her chair, walked towards the door of the rec room, unlocked them, threw them open, and wished her cousins a good night by saying to them:
“GET OUT OF MY PALACE!”
Once she had gotten their attention, she continued.
“You can expect copies of my economic plans in the mail, and people under my employ, not yours, to come and help you implement it properly afterwards. NOW GET OUT!!!”
The other Princesses were un-offended by this seeming rudeness, as this was the usual way they normally parted company. They embraced each other , arranged to meet in a year’s time on Portia’s planet (it was her turn), and took their leave of each other.
As she was suffering from a massive hangover the following morning (as, no doubt, her cousins, back on their planets or ships, were also), Heloise skipped her morning shower and stayed in bed most of the following day. Normally, she wasn’t a drinker. She only did it when in company with one or all of her cousins, who could all throw down the bubbly like nobody’s business when they wanted to. She was feeling the effects of it today, like she normally did on the day after a joint meeting. Consequently, she stayed in bed in her nightshirt for most of the time, except for the odd time when she had to run down the conveyor belt to the bathroom to puke in the toilet.
“Damn that bunch of LUSHES!” she said as she returned to her bed following the last one of these incidents. “I’m gonna get ‘em all for this! All of ‘em!”
The following day, however, she was feeling fit as a fiddle again, and her normal pattern of existence resumed, including the post-dinner coquetries in which she often proved to personal favorites (such as Lord James, who she simply believed had been “misled” by the other “servants” in the rec room incident) that she was, indeed, as skilled- if more selective- a lover as Portia or any of her other cousins.
Several days passed...
It was on a non-court day, which meant it was one of the six days in the week when Heloise did not hold court (which she hated but tolerated as a necessity for securing her authority over the people). She was sitting on her throne, dealing with various forms of royal decrees and other kinds of paperwork, when Lord James arrived and knelt in front of her. She made him rise- the better for her to leer at his fine blond frame.
“I got bad news,” he said.
“What?” she asked. “You didn’t get defeated in the House on a bill, did you?”
“Not exactly,” he replied. “We’re a one party state, so I don’t know how...”
“Just foolin’ with ya, Jimbo!” she said, teasingly. “I know we got a one party state. Prevents the peasants from getting uppity and all that. If you’ve got bad news, it’s got to do with the AFIMK, right?”
“Well- what is it? Riley needs dough for one of her flicks? Lor needs some for one of her wars? Tish wants to give me her hand me down books? Portia wants to give me one of her ex-lovers? Mabel wants me to invest in her candy corn stock exchange? Well, the answer to any and all of those inquiries is NO! Especially since I imposed those austerity measures on them.”
“That’s just it,” said Lord James. “The austerity measures haven’t been imposed anywhere but here!”
“WHAT?” bellowed Heloise. “You’re bullshitting me.”
“I wish I was!”
“I sent them all a copy of the austerity plan after they left here!”
“They all burned their copies.”
“And what about those envoys I sent to make sure they followed those plans?”
“The ones sent to Portia and Tish were shot down before they landed. Mabel accidentally locked the one sent to her in her pantry freezer. Riley shot hers and fed him to her extras. Lor flayed hers alive when he got off the saucer.”
“Well! So those bitches wanna play hardball, huh? James, call your cabinet together, and then get the Chiefs of Staff over here, too. We gotta talk!”
They both left the throne room as soon as they could manage it.
Princess Mabel had dressed up in her finest Easter dress for this occasion. Dutifully, Lord Dipper followed behind her as she came on to the balcony of her palace to address the crowd, along with Mr. Wiggles, whom he led alongside him on a leash, to his discomfort. At Mabel’s appearance, the crowd, knowing all about her whims and fancies, collectively displayed apathy. Until the palace guard glared at them, at which point they put on the grand appearance of exalting her to the heavens without restraint.
When they finally calmed down enough for her to speak, she began- in her usual, blissful, semi-insane voice.
“Subjects!” she said. “Today, I speak to you on a topic of momentous importance. Having met with your co-rulers over the hills and far away, I have come to the conclusion that it is no longer a good idea for us to be continuing to associate together, as they are, in fact, five dragons, and myself a butterfly. Therefore, I have sent word to our financial officers to remove us from the Fezziwig standard and take as our new standard- JUNK FOOD!”
The people groaned in horror. They had very few Fezziwigs- Mabel’s family had most of them in their private bank- but there was even less of a chance that they had any junk food to use for currency, since it was a luxury item open only to the rich. One man, openly disgusted by the idea, shouted out: “Oh, come on!” The palace guards promptly beat him to death.
“Yes!” Mabel uttered triumphantly, ignoring the bewilderment and/or anger of the people below. “We will at last be our own people, not one of a loose alliance of six. And it will now be our fondest and dearest possessions- our junk food- that will serve as the mighty emblem of our new....”
At this point, gunshot fire began to obscure her speech, but most of the bullets simply bounced harmlessly off the electronic grid surrounding the palace. Two, however, did not. One hit Mabel in her brain, the other in her chest. Her damaged body, trailing blood, fell off the balcony and tumbled to Earth. Lord Dipper backed up from the scene for a second in horror. Then, he literally pointed the finger at the head of palace security.
“Don’t just stand there!” he said, angry and anguished. “She’s dead! Find out who killed her! It was probably one of those jerks in the crowd!”
His orders were carried out, and he retreated into the palace.
Wang Long Dong frantically knocked on the door of the bed chamber of Princess Portia. Eventually, the occupant- dressed in her royal bathrobe and slippers, with her blonde hair hanging over her head, uncombed- answered.
“Yeah?” she drawled. “What?”
“You have to see this thing on the lawn,” said Wang.
“I haven’t even eaten yet,” responded the Princess. “What the hell is so important that I can’t...”
“It is that important!” responded Wang Long Dong, in her all business voice. “Come out and see it!”
“All right,” Portia shrugged. “But if it ain’t that good, I’m gonna start kicking your ass!”
Wang Long Dong nodded. She knew her mistress too well- and, specifically, that Portia could not do a thing running her world without Wang Long Dong’s assistance. So Wang Long Dong simply smiled enigmatically, as was her wont, and walked respectfully behind Portia as she walked to the lawn.
When Portia saw the item on the lawn, she expressed herself in properly regal terms:
It was an enormous idol, made entirely of 14 karat gold, not unlike the Golden Calf of Biblical fame, but much larger. The subject was Princess Portia herself, blown up to more than thirty times her physical size, dressed in her normal Princess raiment, stretching forward to catch an invisible insect, it seemed, and, in the process, spreading her legs far apart to allow all in viewing range the chance to look up her skirt. The idol was restrained only by a few loosely moored ropes, but Portia didn’t care. She walked, recklessly, right up to the monstrously blasphemous statue’s base.
“This thing is amazing!” Portia exclaimed. “But I sure didn’t commission it, Wang! Did you do this...?”
“No artistry in my blood,” responded the servant. “This thing just got left on our doorstep last night. No name or note or anything. Probably one of those bootlickers in the capital who are always trying to make you.....GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
Wang Long Dong raced away before she could explain what she meant. But Portia had a clear sense why.
The idol was idle no more.
The frayed strands of rope finally parted, and the monstrous statue rumbled down towards the exact being it depicted. Paralyzed by fear, Portia let out an air raid siren scream as she posed with her arms in front of her body, like a female victim in a 1950s monster movie. It did her no good. Within seconds, the idol had crushed her to death.
For Princess Lorimar, death came on the place everyone assumed it would come to her naturally- on the battlefield. But it was not in a manner that anyone near to her would have expected her to go.
Lor, in the midst of a campaign, had decamped for the evening, removing her armor in the process- an ultimately fatal mistake. She and Lord Tino spent the evening plotting out the course of the army’s march, in the process becoming drunk and lively with each other- as they often did when they were alone. Eventually, Lor, requiring a “piss”, exited the tent, and entered a nearby glade. Suddenly, a mysterious stranger took advantage of the Princess’ exposure of herself to vulnerability. A knife flashed, the blade buried itself in her back and twisted around inside of it, and the corpse of Princess Lor fell into a pond with a loud splash.
Princess Tish was alone in her library, perusing one of the ancient tomes from the 20th century (or was it before that) that comprised the majority of her massive collection of books. This was the position she was in when Carver The Moor entered, saluted her, and explained that the latest shipment of books she had ordered from amazongoogleyoutubetwitterfacebookgrouponflicker had arrived.
“Excellent!” she pronounced. “Bring them in and I’ll look them over. But, if they are not the first editions I specifically requested...”
“Doubt that!” said Carver. “They smelled old enough!”
Tish growled at him, a signal for him to shut it. Then he left, obediently.
Nevertheless, after he had gone, she still felt an ominous presence in the room. She was her own librarian, after all, and she had a very limited staff in comparison to her cousins, most of whom did not have nearly as much access to her as Carver did. So this sudden presence, even if it was in the shadows, disturbed her. She walked over towards the shadow of the figure she presumed was in the foreground in front of her.
“Hey!” she said, suspiciously. “What are you...?”
Before she could speak any further, the figure, who was masked, walked brazenly up to the Princess, took off her glasses, and broke them. As she was blind as a bat without them, and she only had the one pair on her at the moment, she was now helpless. That made it even easier for the figure to stab her right above her face with a small knife and push her backwards into an unsteady, tome filled bookshelf, which proceeded to fall down and squash her.
Wearing her usual working outfit of ankle length riding boots, jodhpurs, flowing silk scarf and beret, Princess Riley was raising hell as only she could on the set of her latest multi-million Fezziwig production, an adaptation of a novel by a writer from Heloise’s realm whose work she liked, though no one outside of his homeland seemed to have heard of him. She had been forced to pay Heloise two million Fezziwigs for the adaptation rights- one million which her cousin had given to the author himself, the other she pocketed as her “agent’s” commission. Riley, as a result, had seen her budget for the film go into the hole before a single frame of film was shot, and filming the novel- an expansive, multigenerational family saga- with the care and accuracy she demanded had been bringing the costs up even higher. As a result, she was hardly in a playful mood, but, then again, she rarely was.
Enduring yet another blown take from the cast of actors Heloise had sent her (a condition of the deal, to provide Riley’s much needed “accuracy”), Riley called out “Cut!”- along with a few other things- through her PA-system equipped megaphone, and addressed- or, more accurately, reamed out- her cast and crew.
“What the hell is the matter with you people?” she screamed. “Do you not realize how many, much more talented people than yourselves I could be working with? Haven’t you seen the expansive lineup of clods and morons outside of my palace, all of them begging and pleading for just a small bit part in a Princess Riley picture? You incompetent snuff brains are the first and only reason why this piece of SHIT is going to be the most expensive film I ever make! I swear to God- if we can’t get one decent shot today, I am going to start firing people! Not the actors- we can’t recast anybody this late into the production- but you technical people can all be easily replaced! Even you, Santat! (Her cinematographer.) Now, let’s get everything set up and try this goddamn thing again! And where the hell is my PA?”
This, of course, was Prince Todd, who startled her- but only briefly- by tapping her on the shoulder from behind.
“Did you call Hollywood like I told you?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, ruefully.
“Well?” she prompted.
“Did anyone want to distribute the picture on Earth?”
“Sony is interested,” said Todd, “provided MGM gets to be a co-pro. Warner says that they don’t think they can sell a story like that- too many aliens. Disney thinks you need to cut the dirty language and sex scenes. Paramount, Dreamworks, Universal and Fox all say you can kiss their asses- but, given our past relations with them, it’s understandable.”
“Tell Sony I’ll call ‘em once I get through shooting for the day,” Riley said. And she pointed at him, in effect ordering him to leave the set. Which he did.
Riley resumed her directing duties, which included the painstaking drilling of her two lead actors’ lines into their limited brains, working with the cinematographer to get the proper angle of light they needed for the scene, consulting with the heads of her unit’s individual departments, and, finally, making sure that the Walloon- a elephant like, 1000 pound being found only on Heloise’s planet, and imported at much expense specifically for this one pivotal scene- was prepared to act again, and, most important, that it knew what to do, for they were fairly slow beasts.
“Okay,” Riley said, when she and everyone else was fully prepared to resume shooting. “Let’s try to get something in the can this time, okay? Action!”
The shot, as it had been scripted by Riley herself (of course), was simple. The leads were to engage in some simple, combative dialogue with each other- at which point the Walloon was to bear down threateningly on them, endangering their lives until they managed to escape just in time.
That was not what happened.
Unbeknownst to Riley, she had become drenched in sweat from working in the hot sun all day, and, to all male Walloons, sweat was a sexual turn on. And so, at the time she called “cut” to “print” the scene, the beast did not stop when she directly ordered him to. Instead, it knocked her to the ground, and, in a gesture that represented foreplay in its species, promptly stepped on her face and then her chest with its 1000 pound feet, killing Riley to the (feigned) horror of the cast and crew.
Princess Heloise awoke one morning, only a short period after the tragic collective deaths of her cousins, to discover that she was now alone in the world in more than one sense of the term.
There was no choir and golden beam of light awaiting her when she arose that morning. The conveyor belt was not in operation, so she actually had to walk across it to get to the bathroom- for once. And then, the shower wouldn’t turn on automatically when she entered it. She personally had to fiddle with the knobs, not knowing how, to turn it on- and was promptly scalded by a jet of the hottest water available to her. Worst of all, there was no attendant to wrap the traditional towels around her head and body, and, in her anger, she simply walked back across the conveyor belt-naked- to dress herself.
“Heads are gonna roll today,” she vowed. “I’ll fire the whole damn lot of them if I have to!”
But, when she arrived in her throne room and sat down, she found that the entire court had, seemingly, deserted her.
“Joke around with me, will ya?” the Princess snapped. “Get out of here, all of you, and take your medicine!”
“All” of them did. But it wasn’t who she expected.
Lord Dipper, Wang Long Dong, Lord Tino, Carver The Moor and Prince Todd sprang forward, like ninjas in an Asian martial arts movie, and outfitted like same, in masks partially obscuring their faces, tightly belted gis, and headbands, and armed with a variety of swords and other weapons. Heloise was both angered and bemused by their effrontery.
“So the servants want to be masters, huh?” she declared. “I suppose you’re going to tell me you’re the ones who killed my cousins?”
“Damn right we did,” said Wang Long Dong. “You didn’t take us seriously. We were just jokes to you. Well, now you’re gonna have to take us seriously!”
“I don’t have to take anything from you,” said Heloise. “In fact, I’m thanking you for making me the complete and utter ruler of the AFIMK! And I’m sure that, once my lazy staff get on the job again, they’ll thank you, too!”
“No fear of that,” said Carver. “We killed all of ‘em!”
“I can...always...import...another...group...of...” said Heloise, suddenly aware of how irrevocably vulnerable she now was.
“You can’t import this, though,” said Prince Todd.
He tossed a bowling ball bag to Heloise, which she opened. Inside was the severed head of Lord James of Dos Passos. Heloise screamed in fury and anguish when she saw the head of her PM/lover.
“Why?” she demanded. “Why did you do this?”
“He wouldn’t go along with the plan,” Lord Tino explained. “We were each going to kill the Princess we served, so we could finally get rid of you over-fattened excuses for monarchs and get the democratic government the people have been crying out for years for in here!”
“I shot Mabel when nobody was looking with my flintlock,” Lord Dipper continued. “Wang had the Golden Portia made way far off her planet and paid for it herself so it wouldn’t appear in the official royal expense books. Then she made sure it was fastened as loosely as possible when Portia arrived to see it. Tino convinced Lor to get drunk and out of her armor and then he knifed her when she wasn’t looking. Carver was the guy who snuck into Tish’s library and broke her glasses ‘cause he was the only one with access to it other than her. And Todd greased himself up with sweat and taunted the Walloon before Riley called “Action” on her shot, and made sure to stand right behind her to goad it. Then he ducked out of the way before it came close to her without warning her.”
“But what about James?” demanded Heloise.
“Fool was supposed to kill you last night,” explained Carver, “by drugging your late night eggnog, but he wimped out. Said he was in “love” with you and wouldn’t do it.” He snorted contemptuously. “So we had to ice him.”
“The bottom line here, Heloise,” Lord Dipper snapped, “is you’re not in charge anymore. We are. Just until such time as we can set up democratic legislatures and governments and so on in the six planets. Basically, you can stay on as “ruler” if you want to, but you’d just be a figurehead with no real power! Or, we can kill you, and have done with all this AFIMK shit at last!”
Heloise, deeply offended by these non-negotiable terms, resisted them by drawing her large dagger from its scabbard on her hip.
“I am not a figurehead!” she snarled. “And I’ll be damned if you set up a fucking democracy in my realm! I’ll fight to the death before that happens!”
“Then so be it,” said Wang Long Dong.
Heloise snarled and screamed and ran furiously towards her opponents, who brandished their own weapons and rushed towards her with equal speed.
The following day, the severed heads of the six Princesses were displayed, with triumphant fanfare, in the public square of Heloise’s former capital by the realm’s new regents, who promised the speedy dissolution of the AFIMK and the forthcoming establishment of democratic governments in its six former components.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Well, maybe not....
This story originally appeared in Cosmic Vegetable (2013).