Once upon a time, hidden deep in a forest, was a land called Eulalia. For many years, more years than most people could remember, Eulalia had been ruled by a wise king named Bernardino. Under Bernardino’s rule Eulalia was a peaceful and a happy land. The people had plenty of time to fish which was something everyone loved to do.
But the years had passed, as years often will. King Bernardino’s hair had turned white. His body was stiff and more often than not aches and pains kept him from sleeping at night. The arm that once whistled a sword through the air now trembled. Bernardino had grown old and Eulalia’s future was uncertain.
King Bernardino had three children. The eldest, Prince William, was a strong and brave youth. From an early age he was taught four skills: to shoot the bow, to wield the sword, to ride the horse, and to speak the truth. He was great at the first three and pretty good at the fourth. As the eldest son, the kingdom of Eulalia was to be his to rule. But there was a problem with that: Prince William was not very smart. So he wouldn’t be a good king, really.
William’s younger brother was named Robin. Prince Robin loved to sing and was an accomplished lutenist. He played adagios with deep feeling and in a presto section his fingers flew like ferrets. Robin could also juggle and do tricks with cards. He loved to bake and wrote witty poems under the pseudonym Pindarino. Women loved Prince Robin and men liked him, too. Not many people could pull that off. But there was a problem with Robin. He was not reliable. He was not steady. In truth: he was flighty. And (like William) he had a bit of a temper. So Robin wouldn’t make a good king either.
King Bernardino also had a daughter. Her name was Star. Princess Star. Her mother, Queen Esmeralda, had died when she was born. Everyone told Star her mother had been as beautiful as the night, so as she got older Star grew to love the night. She loved to watch the stars from the castle’s battlements, or sneak out to the forest when everyone was asleep.
Star was a girl of many talents. Sometimes she donned padding and sparred with William; other times she would pick up an F-alto recorder and play madrigals with Robin. She could also weave. One of her tapestries showed a goose biting a tiger’s tail in front of a big, round, green tree. Observing from the tree was a cockatiel, two squirrels, a robin, a chipmunk and a monkey. The cockatiel looked quizzical, the squirrels cheerful, the robin puzzled and the chipmunk looked upset about something. The monkey looked foreign and mysterious. And Star had done it all with wool. Wool! Princess Star was also smart like William wasn’t, and steady like Robin wasn’t. And she didn’t have a temper. But there was a problem there, too. Princess Star was a girl. And a girl could not be king.
The capital of Eulalia was called Delia, a city renowned for its artisanal shops and spacious tree-lined boulevards. Delia was home to prosperous merchants, cheerful tradesman, and laborers who had enough work to do and enough time to relax and fish. There were plenty of playgrounds for the children and enough parks for the adults. And even though they were used by everyone, these parks were big enough that a couple in love could always find a secluded spot for canoodling. If the birth rate proved anything, it proved Eulalians loved their canoodling.
A river wound through Delia, the Rab. Within city limits, the Rab had been tamed, flowing through disciplined banks, making precise curves under graceful bridges. The river was lined with benches where people could sit and rest or watch other people fish. Overhead, King Bernardino had built a system of arcing walkways. There, people rode bicycles or strolled, watching the busy city below or the blue sky above.
Delia was the manufacturing center of Eulalia. Small brick-paved streets led to one-and-two person leather goods shops; to silversmiths where delicate filigreed window shades were wrought (a Delian specialty); to iron-mongers, cabinet-makers and sword-smiths; to wineries and granaries, bakers and baxters; to luteries and fluteries and a shop selling cat doors that sprang open at the touch of a whisker. (They were on back order with a two-year wait.)
In addition to manufacturing, Delia was also known as the Ascension Capital of the Western Lands. “Ascension” in this case meant balloons—big colorful balloons made out of silk. One very famous balloon was shaped like an enormous pair of pants and could carry twenty people at one time. Another was in the shape of a giant dachshund. It was decorated with yellow stars, green stripes, pink zigzags, and pictures of the owners’ children. In Delia there were always a few balloons in the sky, even in winter. People had to wear earmuffs, scarves and gloves but they still went aloft.
The soil of Eulalia was rich and fertile. The branches of the fruit trees bent almost to the ground, heavy with apples, pears, peaches, plums and cherries. Fields of strawberries waited to be picked. The sunlit forests were filled with blueberries. People went hiking and filled buckets for pancakes and jams. And the vegetables! In Eulalia they grew as if wild. Red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, orange peppers. Big red tomatoes and sweet red potatoes. Pole beans, bush beans, blue beans and yellow beans. Zucchini and squash and snow peas as sweet as honey. These vegetables were usually served sautéed or steamed, occasionally canned, and sometimes flash frozen to seal in freshness. Vegetables were also made into a special relish called piccalilli. Eulalia exported tons of piccalilli every year. There was also plenty of hay and corn and oats for the animals. In Eulalia, every creature had enough to eat. It was a blessed land.
(to be continued…)