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Ermingard and the Quest for the Golden Spleen

by on January 19, 2012

Note: ordinarily, this story would start off with something like “Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, our insert-adjective heroine, Princess Catrina, was doing a Heroic Thing, but suddenly she was facing a Crisis!” and then the story would commence. However, I am currently editing Catrina’s latest adventure, my Nano-11 novel “Catrina IN SPACE”, and once one starts editing all sorts of wild things can happen. She might end up a blond instead of a brunette. She might have a prehensile tail. There might be a meteor! And so on. During the holiday season I worked her into a few Very Special stories around Christmas and New Year’s, but the holiday season is pretty much over now. She might turn up again for ValDay, but until then, I thought you might enjoy a side-quest of sorts. And so, without further adieu, the Catrina Chronicles proudly presents the further adventures of Princess Ermingard.

Ermingard had issues. You would, too, if you had been cursed right after you were born by a malevolent enchantress who decreed that on your seventeenth birthday you would be doomed to have an unfortunate encounter with a magical chamber pot and fall into an enchanted sleep, and if your only hope was a True Love’s Kiss from a bona fide prince, and if the True Love’s Kisser had run off and got married to someone else before he kissed you, and as a result you missed out on a fair few hundred years before you got woken up by some other princess kissing her True Love. It was, to use the modern phrase, a total bummer.

She had gone back to her own kingdom, a bit south of Catrina’s but of course she didn’t know anyone. All her friends had long since passed on, and their kids had passed on, and their grandkids were getting up there. Worst of all, Ermingard hadn’t been an only child. Her two-seconds-younger-than-herself-and-so-not-quite-twin-sister Roberta hadn’t got cursed by the malevolent enchantress (Ermie had never much liked Roberta), and so Roberta had inherited the crown when Ermie’s father had passed on. Now the kingdom was being ruled by Roberta’s great-grandson Rupert who had just turned twenty-three. Ermingard had no idea how the kid would react when his seventeen-year-old great-great aunt showed up at his door. She pondered this, and then decided not to bother. Instead, she decided to work out her issues by turning to Art. So she found a small shack by the sea, settled herself in a corner with a paintbrush and a box of paints, and tried to express herself.

She painted a blur of grey. And then she saw that it looked very much like a sad manatee. Ermingard was in a sad-manatee sort of mood, but still, she figured she should try and paint something else, so she tried. A few hours later, she’d made the manatee into a rock. A big rock. Ermingard stared at that painting of a rock for full on thirty minutes, and wondered what it said about herself. She’d always heard that art was supposed to be an expression of one’s soul.  ….but what did painting a sad manatee and a rock say about her soul?

“Well,” Ermingard said flatly, “This is pointless.”

Whereupon she tossed her paintbrush aside, went to the door of her little shack, and stared out at the sea. A brisk, salt-tinged breeze blew sharply in her face, ruffling her hair about. The sun was setting behind her, and her shadow stretched out long and sharp against the golden sand. Seabirds cried wild and lonely in the distance.

Now, if this were a Disney film, Ermingard would choose that moment to run out across the sand and break into song about how she wanted much more than this provincial life, or maybe how she wanted to be part of someone else’s world, or maybe that she wanted to be free and fly on her father’s wings. But this was not a Disney film. Ermingard didn’t want to be part of that world. What she wanted was to be back in her own world, with people who relatively understood her. Instead, here she was, four generations removed, without a friend in the world. She’d even lost her kingdom. She had once been a princess in line for her own castle, but then she’d taken a metaphorical arrow in the knee, and the worst of it was that she hadn’t even had a chance to make that reference before it had gotten overused.

It was at that moment that Ermingard felt a ticklish sensation on her leg. Looking down, she saw that a worm had squiggled onto her knee (the real one, not the arrow-stricken metaphorical one).  Ermingard had no way of knowing this, but this was the very same indefatigable worm that had explored Catrina’s ear way back in Episode 17. The poor little guy had been squiggling around in that cave Catrina had left him in for months and months, but now, finally, he’d made his way out into the open. Ermingard contemplated the worm, wondering if she should write a ballad about his sad fate, and then wondering what rhymed with wormy. As she was puzzling over this, an apple hit her in the head.

Ermingard barely had time to register this unexpected apple impact when there was a flash and a bang, and a woman exploded out of the ocean in front of her. The woman was clothed in shiny armor, and she had almost equally shiny grey eyes, and she had an owl fluttering dizzily about her head. Ermingard hadn’t studied her mythology in school, however (though she had done much better in languages, which Catrina hadn’t, so there), and so she didn’t recognize the new arrival. She wasn’t entirely impressed. So someone popped out of the sea with an owl. Big deal. If it had been a pleisiosaur on her shoulder, then maybe…

“I am Pallas Athena!” the woman cried in a voice that rang around the beach like a demented telephone.

“Bully for you,” Ermingard said, and started to go back inside to work on her painting of the rock.

“I understand your strange speech not, puny mortal,” Athena said, and her owl gave a hoot of disapproval. “I have come down from the heavens because I have seen the plight of the fair warrior-maiden Catrina, and I-”

“Oh, sure, it’s always about Catrina,” Ermingard broke in. “Catrina this and Catrina that, and Catrina saved the world again, and Catrina gets her own novel. What do I get? A flashback and a nap. Whee.”

“How dare you speak so disrepectfully?” Athena thundered. “I am Pallas Athena, goddess of, but not limited to, the following: wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, just warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill!”

“So you can do math and hit people. This is impressive?”

“You….you….” Athena spluttered, rapidly flying into a towering rage. “You mythological illiterate human!”

“Go play with your owl,” Ermingard said. Then she really decided that she was going to go back inside and finish her painting of the rock. Or maybe she would try again for a manatee.

Athena snarled something in classic Greek. Ermingard looked back. “Athena say what?”

“I said,” restated the thoroughly vexed goddess, “that for your insolence, I am sending you on a quest. Catrina is in peril because she has lost her spleen, which means she may soon be vexed by an overwhelming post-splenectomy infection. It is your task to save her by finding the Golden Spleen. If you do, I will reward you with your own kingdom back again, and you shall live happily ever after. If you fail, then you shall be condemned to the lowest depths of Character Hell.”

“Some choice,” Ermingard remarked caustically. “Gee. I can find the Golden Spleen and save Catrina, or I can go to Character Hell. Hm. I think I’ll find the Golden Spleen.”

Athena smiled. “You will try, puny manatee-painting mortal. You will try.”  With that, she vanished in a spray of light. The owl, however, remained. It hooted something querulously at Ermingard.

“You’ll want to come with, I expect,” Ermingard said with a sigh. “Though I don’t know how useful an owl’s going to be on a spleen-quest. Oh well. C’est la vie. ”

And so the great quest of Ermingard and her Erminauts to find the Golden Spleen began….

To be continued.




  1. I haven’t read this, of course (I’m reading your stuff in order), but I just have to say I love the title 🙂 particularly the SPLEEN part!

  2. Great work!

  3. Bah ha! Loved it. Nice little spin-off from Catrina. I feel like I should probably reread (also in order), in case I’m missing important loopholes or references, before I get too far in this one.

    Are you going to publish Catrina in Space in any way so we can catch up on all the fight-to-the-death-and-whatnot that we’ve missed???

    • Oh, I was hoping you’d comment; I’ve actually been having some trouble leaving comments on your site, which is most distressing, since I’d wanted to mention that I read that Hero with a Thousand Faces book last year and quite enjoyed it. I got the one through today, but then I tried another and it wouldn’t go….c’est tragique.
      Good news: yes, I am going to publish Catrina in Space. unfortunately, I haven’t quite finished editing yet. My trouble is that it’s hard to work out exactly how to edit it in the first place; how does one bring order to random chaos? Is a puzzlement. 🙂 but, I do hope to have it out soon. …

  4. Uh oh!–I’ll look and see if I accidentally mucked up the comment filter or something…? Thanks for the heads up! Yeah, Conrad is always an interesting read; I went through a lot of his stuff in college and hadn’t picked up anything since.

    Hooray! Editing shmediting. Just kidding (I think my heart just spasmed at that sentence, lol). Looking forward to whenever you get it ready, at any rate.

  5. YAY, read it at last!! I love that the lil worm made a reappearance again 🙂 Maybe he should have his own spin-off series sometime? haha

    • Yes! He could team up with the eel in the hovercraft and the Panda of Unusual Size. I might just look into this.

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