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The Tale of Ermingard

by on September 24, 2011

Princesses in stories have issues. Lots of them. Either they’ve lost their mother, or they’ve lost their father, or they’ve lost their father and their mother, or they pretty much lose their entire extended family right down to their second cousin twice removed on their mother’s side whom they normally only see around Thanksgiving. Then there’s the inevitable kidnappings, the arranged marriages, the evil stepmothers, the enchanted poisonous fruit, and sometimes one wonders why anyone would want to be a princess. (In fairness, being a prince isn’t always that ducky either; to paraphrase Terry Prachett, princes are supposed to venture out to slay monsters and rescue damsels in distress; no one ever asks the prince if he wants to.)

Princess Ermingard was no exception. True, she had the happy fortune of possessing a complete nuclear family: her mother and father were very much alive as was her younger-by-two-seconds-and-so-technically-not-twin sister Roberta. Little Ermie, however, had grown up with a pessimism verging on the Marshwigglian, which was perfectly understandable for two reasons. One: her kingdom’s motto was the very uninspirational “Splat is coming.” No one knew what “Splat” was, why it was coming, or what it would do once it got there, but everyone agreed that it wasn’t the greatest success as a motto.

Even worse than that, though, was that Ermingard had been cursed at birth. Her father, King Phil, had invited the kingdom’s resident local malevolent enchantress to Ermingard’s first birthday celebration not wishing to repeat the ill-mannered mistake of whatshisface in Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, the enchantress brought her pet ferret along to the party, and Ermingard’s mother was deathly allergic to ferrets. One thing led to another, words were exchanged, harsh insults flew, parentage was remarked on and suggestions were made about the best places to stick uncomfortable objects, and the passive voice was beaten nearly to a frazzle, and next thing you know Ermingard had been horribly cursed. Upon her seventeenth birthday, she was doomed to have an unfortunate encounter with a chamber pot and fall into an enchanted sleep, from which she could only be awakened by the traditional Love’s First Kiss.

King Phil, being a savvy monarch, made two plans almost at once. First, he sent a message to the next kingdom over asking if they had a kid they could volunteer to be Love’s First Kisser when the time was right. They sent a reply message that yes, they did, and they were quite happy to betroth him to little Ermingard, and so the king checked that off the list. Second, he ordered every chamber pot in the kingdom to be smashed. But when King Phil’s advisers informed him that the peasants would almost certainly revolt over the order, King Phil reconsidered. He didn’t want to be responsible for igniting the Chamber Pot Revolution. So he decided that he didn’t really need to smash all the chamber pots; after all, they wouldn’t have any effect on his daughter anyway until her seventeenth birthday. It was a loophole no one had considered before, and there was much rejoicing.

So Ermingard grew up happily using chamber pots like everyone else, until her seventeenth birthday drew nigh. On that long-awaited morning, her father called her into the throne room. “My dear Ermie,” he began portentously, “Upon this, the ten and seventh occasion of your joyous birth lo these many years ago….” (here was where Ermie tuned him out and composed a mental poem on the bleakness of a steady rain; she was quite a good poet actually and oh look he was coming to the point again)…”and so, dating all the way back to 793 in the time of… ” (oh no he wasn’t, of course, he never would stop talking once he got going, her being there was pointless really, of course the whole thing was pointless and going back to the rain, and…oh he’s finally getting somewhere)…”as all should know by the true principles of economics. But we have no wish to digress into other subjects, intriguing as they may be. On this memorable occasion, we have but one piece of great wisdom we wish to impart to you, our daughter. Truly, as the sages have said…”never let undomesticated equines prevent you from staying anywhere.”

“What?”

“Er, my apologies. Wrong sages. What I meant to say was: don’t use your chamber pot today. You might make use of the bushes outside, just not the rose garden, your mother’s very proud of that. And also you’re getting married.”

Other princesses might have burst into tears, or screamed, or slammed doors, or possibly ran away on a quest for self-fulfillment with cute talking woodland animals and a catchy song or two. Ermingard only stared bleakly. “Sure. Whatever,” she said, then went back to her room and wrote a sad haiku. Then she wrote another, and another, which turned into a long ballad about a weeping dolphin, and she became so absorbed in it that she forgot everything else. On line 338 she suddenly realized that she needed to use the facilities. So, without thinking, she did.

There was a blinding green flash and a horrid smell. Ermingard choked. “Oh…” she gasped, realizing what had happened with her last conscious thought, “Joy.”

*thud*

….

*kzzzzzht*

“and that is why 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything!”

“Your learning amazes me, Princess Catrina! Explain again how strawberry tarts may be deployed to prevent waterspouts!”

Catrina sighed. “Perry, I told you that five minutes ago. Right after I explained how to resolve the immemorial communication differences between men and women.”

“Well, yes, but I don’t think the readers caught any of that.”

“Well, of course they did, they’ve been reading this whole time, haven’t they?”

Perry suddenly wished he hadn’t said anything. “Are you familiar with the term flashback?”

“….what.”

“Yeah. On the bright side, we know a bit more about Princess Ermingard.”

“A flashback. I had the greatest philosophical breakthrough the world has ever seen, and I got pre-empted by a flashback. Wonderful. Do we at least know how to wake her up?”

“No. Didn’t say.”

“Terrific. Well…” Catrina had a feeling she shouldn’t say what she was about to say next, but then again, so much had already happened that really, it was true…”at least things can’t get w-”

*smash*

“I KNEW IT.”

They ran outside, past the Long Beard of History, up the very long tunnels, through the church of St. Bob’s, and into the open air. The sky above Kumquat City was full of attack helicopters, blades knifing the air and guns chattering like really angry militant squirrels. Through the windows of the helicopters she could see their terrifying pilots. “Holy Hannah in a hailstorm,” Catrina gasped. “It’s Velociraptors in Apaches!”

“Actually,” Perry interjected importantly, “that’s not entirely accurate. Real Velociraptors were about turkey-sized and covered in feathers. Those appeared to be examples of the Deinonychus genus, so that would make them…Deinonychuses? Deinonychi? What’s the plural on that?”

“Perry. We don’t need to know the plural, or the proper name right now. I think we have a little more serious problem. Like the dino-whatever in a helicopter that’s about to blow us up with heat-seeking missiles.”

“Oh. Right. Good point. So, princess, what do you suggest we do?”

“Hm….” Catrina considered this for several critical seconds. “Well, we could open a dialogue with them and try to achieve peace and mutual understanding. Or, failing that…”

She slashed out her lightsaber.  Somewhere in the distance, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries began playing. Catrina smiled, a slight half-smile, before hurling herself bodily at the approaching helicopter, loudly screaming her newly improvised theme song to the Wagnerian tune. “I’m Catrina, I’m a princess, I don’t kill wabbits, that’s not what I doooo! I’m Catrina, this is my theme song, I don’t like Susan, neither should youuuuu!”

to be continued.

This story was written based on Prompt Thirty-Seven of the Chrysalis Experiment. Also, the random occurrence of “Ride of the Valkyries” when I was listening to the radio recently. For previous episodes in the Catrina Chronicles, go here.

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4 Comments
  1. All princesses have issues!
    Great work!

  2. The life and times of a much-harried princess!

    Love this: “Well, we could open a dialogue with them and try to achieve peace and mutual understanding. Or, failing that…” hahahaha

    • Harried: another fun word!
      Yeah, Catrina’s not really about the dialoging for peace and mutual understanding. Like Qui-Gon Jinn in the Phantom Menace, her negotiations are short. 😛

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