In the very center of Delia, in a temple, was a sacred spring. This spring was watched over by priests who guarded and protected the holy waters. All of these priests were woman. They were chosen in special elections and were big women; to run for this office they had to be over six feet tall. It didn’t hurt to be fat either because it made them float better.
Once day a month when the moon was full, the priests would roll back a large, round stone. At that time the people of Eulalia were allowed to come and drink from the spring’s healing waters. People with bad knees came from miles around, drank deeply, and hobbled back to their hotel rooms. Had anything happened? Had they been cured at all? It was easy to believe nothing had happened because they felt the same! But in the morning, after a deep and restful sleep, they could do fifty deep knee bends without a twinge! They had been cured!
The water also improved people’s posture and lifted the hearts of those afflicted with dark thoughts. People with skin problems carried gallon jugs home with instructions to rinse, morning and night, for thirty days. At the end of this period their skin was invariably clear and unmarked.
The sacred springs of Delia were probably most famous for healing broken hearts. Whether due to a troubled romance or the pain of loss; in fact, any event that caused people to wander in dark places, the waters from this spring would ease their pain.
This holy water was free but there were restrictions on its use. A person could only have one gallon a month to drink, to bathe in, or to carry home. One time a rich man paid people to secretly bring their portion to his mansion. Soon he had a pool filled with sacred water. He began to bathe in this pool, morning and night, believing it would make him immortal. Instead, he drowned. He was found floating in the pool face down. His heirs returned all the water to the sacred springs and no one ever tried that again.
Although the ordinary people of Eulalia were allowed in the pool one day a month, the royal family was permitted to come whenever they wanted. Following tradition, they came on Tuesdays. There was a special pool with a private entrance reserved for them because they weren’t supposed to mingle with commoners. King Bernardino felt this would lead to a dilution of the royal presence, which, in turn, would lead to anarchy. Prince William agreed with his father. Prince Robin and Princess Star thought he was crazy but they didn’t want to make waves so they always used the private entrance and the special royal pool.
One Tuesday the three young royals paid a visit to the Sacred Spring. They arrived in a pretty nice coach drawn by four horses who had seen better days but could still get from the palace to the spring and back. The royals were all in perfect health, with great complexions and no emotional problems. So they mostly went to swim laps. Plus, it always felt wonderful just to be in those waters.
With a cheerful clatter of hooves, the royal coach pulled in under the marble portico. Rodney, the coachman, reigned in the team and sang out, “Okay, folks. Last stop!”
“Wait for us here, Rodney,” said Prince William sharply. William was often dismayed by the coachman’s casual manner.
“Okey-dokey, William!” said Rodney who had changed the eldest prince’s diapers (once) and considered the heir to the throne no more than a larger version of the same squalling infant.
Prince William threw open the gilded coach door and said, “Let’s go!” rather brusquely. Prince Robin and Princess Star hid their smiles.
The portico sheltered a pair of very large doors, inlaid with gold. William and Robin each took a door and pulled. It was hard work to get these doors open, and even harder to close them. To make matters worse, the hinges needed oiling and squeaked.
“Stupid doors,” said William, who hated gold and ostentatious display. The golden doors opened on to a long hallway where more than a hundred busts of the great kings of Eulalia were displayed. The busts were carved from wood and painted with such detail it was as if each king had just removed his head and placed it on a marble plinth for safekeeping. As she passed, Star gazed intently into each face, as if expecting, or daring, them to speak. Robin, on the other hand, quickened his step. To Robin, most of the busts looked angry (not with him, he realized) but they bothered him just the same. To William, they just looked like old heads.
At the end of the hall were the changing rooms where the three royals split up. “See you in the pool,” said Star, as she slipped through a red velvet curtain. “Last one in is a rotten egg.”
“You’re on!” said William, already loosening his singlet. William would even fudge a little in order to secure a victory. And he could get cranky if he lost.
“Tootles,” said Robin with a wave. He would let his siblings rush into their suits. His entrance would be slow and stately in a sleek new suit of his own design and after a few puffs of a substance he often took after lunch to relax.
“See you…there…” Robin called out. But Star and William had already run ahead.