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Caitlin and the Secret of Shmirmingard

by on June 18, 2011

Princess Caitlin was bored. Profoundly, completely, totally bored. So bored that she had counted all of the stones in the wall surrounding her castle. Twice. There were a lot. And still, it didn’t really help.

A psychologist probably would’ve said that she was suffering from post-story-arc-finale depression, which was true. After saving all fictional reality from being destroyed, the daily routine of living seemed a bit anticlimactic now. Worse yet, she felt like she had no purpose now. She’d spent the better part of her life training to defeat Vladimir the Marauder and avenge her mother, but she’d beaten Vladimir (and his boss, the Mistress of all Character Hell, no less), and her mother was not only avenged but resurrected. What was she supposed to do now? Caitlin couldn’t even talk this over with her aforesaid resurrected mumsy, or her faithful bodyguard Colin the Mime-Assassin, as her mother had gone off with her father for a second honeymoon in a romantic chalet deep in the Scrumdiddly Mountains, and Colin…well, actually she didn’t know where Colin was. Possibly fighting off clown ninjas or something. Point was, he wasn’t here, and so, she remained bored.So bored that she was almost tempted to gather her castle staff and teach them the lyrics to “Friday”.

Then, one bright sunshiny morning as Caitlin wandered listlessly about the courtyard, she happened upon a collection of castle knights, who were returning from a late night of carousing in the surrounding city. One of the knights struck up an off-key version of the castle’s anthem, and soon they’d all joined in. Caitlin, desperate to relieve her boredom, stopped to listen, even though she knew the whole thing by heart.

Though the storm blow hard,

‘Round our beloved Shmirmingard,

We’ll never go far,

From Shmirmingard, our Shmirmingard,

There’s not much that rhymes,

With our beloved Shmirmingard,

So here’s the second-to-last line,

Of Shmirmingard, our Shmirmingard!

“Huh,” Caitlin thought. “I wonder.” And then she promptly went off to the castle library and banged hard on the door. Percy the Librarian poked his head out into the hall. “Alright, alright, let’s don’t shout,” he mumbled, wiping his glasses. “Corks. I was just reorganizing the dictionaries, hard work that, and I very nearly-”

“Right, yeah, sorry, look, can you tell me why this place is called Shmirmingard?” Caitlin blurted out.

Percy blinked owlishly. “Princess? You’re actually interested in history? Dear heaven. I believe that’s one of the signs of the apocalypse.”

“Har-dee-har. I’m terribly bored, okay, so just tell me? I’ve heard other castle names, like Riverguard or Moonarrow or what have you, and they all mean something. But what does Shmirmingard mean? Was there a Lord Shmirmin way back who built it to protect something or other?”

The librarian sighed and beckoned Caitlin to join him inside the library. “Nothing so easy as that, I’m afraid. Ah, well, I suppose you’ll have to hear the story sooner or later. Here, sit down.” She complied, plopping down on a faded orange armchair, as Percy fetched her a cup of tea. Caitlin would have preferred  one of those “caffeinated drinks” Colin had told her about, when he’d briefly visited New York City, but there wasn’t much chance of getting Mountain Dew in her medieval time period. So, she sipped her tea and listened as Percy began the story with the traditional opening words….


Once upon a time, in a far away land, Prince Roderick was riding in the woods of his kingdom, trying to recover from the mama of all hangovers. (It actually was; Roderick would go down in history as the inventor of the hangover). He glanced towards the sun, then winced as his head throbbed unmercifully. “Ow,” he complained to his horse Millward, “It’s not blasted fair.”

Roderick’s sour mood came from more than the hangover. He was supposed to be married later that day, to Princess Ermingard from the next kingdom over, which occasion had led to a riotous medieval bachelor party in the local tavern with his buddies, which had of course led to his painful condition today. One might have thought his impending wedding would be a happy occasion (he’d certainly been happy about it last night), but Roderick’s enjoyment had been stifled by a meeting he’d had that morning with his father, King Humphrey.

The king had apologetically dropped three metaphorical bombshells on him. 1) Ermingard didn’t know she was marrying him yet; she’d been living her whole life in a mine being raised by a tribe of paranoid dwarves in the southern mountains. She didn’t even know she was a princess, much less that Roderick was her betrothed. 2) The reason why she didn’t know was that, upon her birth, a malevolent enchantress had gotten ticked at Humphrey for some reason no one could remember (Humphrey thought it involved a ferret, but he couldn’t be sure), and so she had laid a terrible curse upon baby Ermingard. Upon her seventeenth birthday, the princess would have an unfortunate encounter with a chamber pot, and promptly fall into an enchanted sleep. She would never wake until, as was customary, true love’s first kiss. 3) That was where Roderick came in.

“It’s not fair!” he exclaimed again to no one in particular. “I didn’t ask to be the back-up plan just in case what’s her name uses the wrong blasted chamber pot! And she doesn’t even know she’s getting married today? Honestly, we’re going to need marital counseling inside a week! Paranoid dwarves, really, of all the blasted=”

Then, at that propitious moment, Roderick heard someone singing. He leaped off the horse and ran in the song’s direction, and sure enough, it was coming from a beautiful young lady. Roderick knew the proper etiquette in these situations, of course. He would join in the song (it was something brimming with purply romantic prose of the usual sort, he knew a dozen like it) on the third verse. Joining in on the second verse would indicate that he was hasty and impulsive, the fourth that he was indecisive (the fifth verse was right out). So, he waited until the third verse, or as near as he could guess it, and plunged right it. The woman was startled at first, but then she looked in his eyes and he looked in hers and a nearby group of smiling forest animals broke into a rousing cheer. After a few choruses of the song, and a dance ’round the clearing, she and Roderick sat down on a conveniently placed log. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Veronica.”

“Roderick. You’re cute.”

“You too.”

“Let’s get married!”

“Oh, do lets!”

“But wait!” Roderick said, glancing down at her arm. “Are those…bite marks?” He’d read stories about meeting strange yet beautiful women in the woods, who turned out to be evil sorcerers or horrid beasties in disguise, and he wanted to be sure.

“Oh,” Veronica said, blushing demurely, “that’s my pet hedgehog, Maribelle. She’s a trifle frisky. Awfully cute, though. So, why don’t we go back to your castle and get married?”

Roderick rejoiced in spirit. Then an unpleasant thought occurred to him. He couldn’t take Veronica back to his castle no matter how much he wanted to, because when he got back he was supposed to marry Ermingard. Then Roderick made a fateful decision. “Ermingard shmirmingard!” he shouted.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh,” Roderick said, having temporarily forgotten about his newly intended, “I was just thinking, why don’t we go off and start our own kingdom? Build our own castle? We could call it Shmirmingard!”

“I love it, Roderick, dearest.”

“Do you, really, Veronica-poo?”

“Oh, yes, Roddy-sweetie-weetie.”

Then, just before the audience got sick of all the overly mushy dialogue, Roderick and Veronica rode merrily off into the forest, leaving Princess Ermingard to her fate, which she met only a few hours later. The tribe of dwarves who’d raised her were so dismayed when Roderick failed to appear and deliver Love’s First Kiss that they enacted a magical spell that plunged Ermingard and her castle beneath the ground, hiding them forever from the world of men….


“And to this day,” Percy concluded, “No one living has  seen or heard tell of Princess Ermingard or her enchanted underground castle.”

Caitlin closed her eyes. It was a lot to take in. “So…Roderick was…”

“Your great-grandfather, yes.”

“I don’t suppose Veronica actually was Ermingard unawares?”

“Oh, no, not a bit. And she wasn’t a horrid beastie or enchantress either; those bite marks really were from her pet hedgehog Maribelle. We actually have Maribelle’s great-grand-hedgehog-daughter in our menagerie. Wouldn’t pet it, though. Just like her great-grandmother, Maribelle the Fourth is.”

“I see.”  Caitlin mulled over the story. Then, suddenly, her eyes flew open and she leaped to her feet, spilling her tea on the carpet. “YES! Percy, are you pondering what I’m pondering?”

“I think so, Caitlin, but we’re not really two genetically laboratory mice trying to take over the world, are we? And wouldn’t we get sued for copyright infringement if we were?”

“No, Percy, no. We’re not laboratory mice, our genes have not been spliced, and I’ve no intention of proving my mousy worth. Since I’m not a mouse. What I was pondering was, I’m going to find Princess Ermingard! I’m going to figure out a way to wake her up without my great-grandfather’s smooching! I’m going to redeem the honor of my family, and my castle, my beloved Shmirmingard!” She was so excited by the new vistas of story-arc fun spreading out before her that she leaped up on her chair and drew her lightsaber, which she’d kept as a souvenir from the last story arc. “Woohoo! And the adventure continues!”

“Ah!” Percy squeaked. “Magic sword! Magic glow-y sword! What devilry is this?”

“Oh, Percy, I find your lack of faith…oddly comforting, actually. How about I put the magic glow-y sword away and we all join in a stirring reprise?”

“Very well.



This story was written for Prompt Number Twenty-Four in the Chrysalis Experiment. For more in the Caitlin Chronicles, go here. Be sure to tune in next time, as our plucky heroine sets off on her new adventure! 😛

  1. FINALLY read this!! and oooh I want to meet Ermingard! 😀

    • Oh, trust me, Ermingard will definitely be making an appearance. That is, if Caitlin survives the pack of wild female weasels she’s just run into.

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