Drawful Part V: The Kingdom of Anathema

Drawful the Awful is the ongoing series/novel in progress following the pursuits of the dragon, Drawful, who is awful at being a dragon, and his “kidnapee” the Princess Brooke. The full series can be found here.

The Kingdom of Anathema is located a mere two days’ easy riding for a dedicated and single rider with capable horse and stamina, three to four depending on the caravan and the noble or royal’s own hardiness for enduring long stretches on the open road with naught for scenery but rolling green hills, the occasional farm and well shaded wood.

The most interesting part of the journey from one Kingdom to the other is surely the gradual change in scenery one might notice. Outside the Alabaster Kingdom over which the good King Nick rules, the fields are verdant, sun drenched and vibrant.

Crops seem to always be in full, bountiful yield, the farmers contented and joyful in their work with the land, and their work and tilling of the earth bearing abundant fruit. Where there aren’t bountiful crops, there are pastoral scenes of fields with flowers blooming and rolling hills into the horizon begging you to turn your steed from the beaten path and see what they might hold.

Along the way, though, you might seem to notice that though the sky might still be clear of clouds, the sun seems somehow less enthused about the materials it has to work with. As if the light were only doing its bare minimum duty to display rather than to vividly illuminate. You may think, erroneously, that it is somehow later in the day as you’ve made the journey closer to the Kingdom of Anathema.

However, more than just the sun’s own diminished vibrancy, you notice the fields seem to have a more obligatory feeling to them. The crops are there because they have to be. They are yielding a harvest because they have to, and the farmers and field hands are out there doing only what they have to just because they have to.

It’s a generally miserable kingdom filled with miserable people. Anathema and its people, though, are miserable in that way that isn’t overtly sad. The whole kingdom has an aura of being unable to find joy in anything, but being all too comfortable with dwelling on the onus of anything and everything.

There has never been an announcement of a pregnancy in the Kingdom of Anathema by a wife to her husband where the husband’s response, whether out loud or internally, didn’t entail: “another mouth to feed.”

Despite all this, the divorce rate in the Kingdom of Anathema is astonishingly low. Many anthropologists surmise that because of the culture of the kingdom, people in unhappy marriages are unable to find the joy in their union but are just as incapable of finding it in any hypothetical alternate scenario, Therefore, they resign themselves to trudging alone indefinitely in their unhappy unions.

Thus, it should be noted that when the good King Nick called King Lando of Anathema a bore, he was not breaching decorum so much as being incredibly kind. This is also why we shall spare you any lingering time with such onerous people to keep company with and try to limit our exposure to King Lando to the essentials.

King Lando was sitting on his palace terrace smoking a pipe when the news of his son, Prince Chauncey’s encounter with Drawful had been related to him by his right hand man, a Duke in the duchy just outside the Kingdom named Plebo Parris. The king referred to the Duke as “Peas” regardless of the setting or circumstance.

The King mused at his son’s fire to go out on a quest for a legendary blade. It seemed the kind of thing he’d always wanted in his son the Prince, but Anathema just seemed to douse such passions and goals in young folks especially. Lando was sitting already in his nightshirt before the sun had even properly set. It had only the top button latched so that his round hairy belly could cool in the night air and support his large pipe he had packed for an evening smoke.

Lando took a deep pull of the pipe and scratched at his beard, certain he could feel crumbs in it from the oven pastry pockets he’d asked the chef to make him for dinner. At his searching, a waft of the flakes did liberate themselves from his chin, but only found their way to nestle amidst his curling, exposed chest hairs.

“I must have been right about the Alabaster Kingdom,” Lando mused aloud. He looked over his shoulder at the tower of his castle behind him. It was a large castle, but not much else could be said for it. Like the Kingdom it presided over, it was largely unremarkable, and served as a contrasting point by which the castles of other kingdoms distinguished themselves. The King considered silently his corresponding theory about his own Kingdom and that there must be some curse on it that made the people as unmotivated as they were.

“One visit to the Alabaster Kingdom, and suddenly the boy has a fire lit under him!” Lando slapped his knee exuberantly, then couldn’t think of anything else to do, so he took another long drag of his pipe.

Plebo was reclining beside the King, well dressed in his court finery, but dozing off in one of the two divans he and the King had pulled out onto the terrace earlier that evening. Without opening his eyes, Plebo hummed in agreement and murmured sleepily. “Seems like your theory may actually hold water.”

“May?” Lando checked, speaking through a puff of smoke. “I think that’s definitive proof. He got out of whatever cloud some enchantress minx put over us and now he’s a regular ranger. Peas, tomorrow I want some of the men sent abroad for word on what trollop put a hex on us. We’re going to get to the bottom of it and break the spell.”

“Who says it was a woman?”

Lando was trying to relight his pipe which had lost its ember and rolled his eyes while puffing at it to try to catch the fire. “Sorceress, wizard, warlock, witch, poltergeist, whatever you nitpick nancy.”

“Poltergeists don’t place curses or hexes.” Peas stretched his arms up and sighed in relaxation before he curled up into a more relaxed ball on the divan. “They just haunt,” he added before smacking his lips and nestling into sleep.

“Thank you Peas,” Lando muttered half heartedly after blowing a billowing cloud of tobacco ghost into the twilight air. “The other thing, Peas,” the King added, jabbing the bowl of the pipe in Plebo’s direction to punctuate his command: “Send our two best men of sword, and bow to join my son on his quest.”

“Two each?” Plebo checked.

“Two,” the King confirmed, unsure of what Plebo was asking.

Plebo turned over and was suddenly awake, looking with wide eyes at the purpling sky above. “You said our two best men of sword and bow. Do you mean the two best swordsmen and two best archers for a total of four?

“What if one of the two best swordsmen is also one of the best two archers? Should I send three, or do I count them as just one of the two and then go to the third best of the other so there are still four total?”

“No, one of each, two total,” the king interrupted.

Plebo nodded and turned back onto his side to resume his nap. “Seems more manageable. It’d be a mess of names for people to follow in the story if we added four all at once.”

The King hummed in concordance while pulling at his pipe again. From his lungful of the smoke he stated: “you mean in the stories of Prince Chauncey’s legend?”

“Yes, that.”

The King nodded confidently and looked over the horizon with the pipe in the corner of his mouth. “Peas, if Chauncey’s really getting down to the business of being a King of legend, then I’ll see that he’s helped.” Especially if it means us getting our feet in the door with the Kingdom of Alabaster, Lando thought.

The King had tried years ago to establish a rapport with the good King Nick. He had been thoroughly impressed with King Nick and the Princess Brooke at Chauncey’s bar mitzvah- especially compared to all the other royals invited- and their Kingdom’s growth and wealth was something to marvel at, even in a world as marvelous as this one.

The good King Nick lived up to his reputation. For years, King Lando had offered to visit the Alabaster Kingdom, but the good King, ever courteous of his friend’s comfort bade Lando not to endure the hard journey to the Alabaster Kingdom, and that King Nicholas should be the one to do the honor of visiting again and endure the hard miles between them. Lando appreciated it because riding was something he could tolerate for at most an hour at a stretch, whether by horseback or in a carriage.

It never occurred to Lando that anytime since the bar mitzvah he had invited Nick, the fellow royal’s response always involved an explanation that the difficult road had kept him from receiving the invitation in proper time to make preparations for a visit, and wouldn’t it be great if ravens, couriers, or smoke signals were somehow faster and more reliable means of communication, but alas.

“Next time,” King Nick had always promised, and Lando had made note to always try a different means of delivering the invitation, with continued lack of efficacy he blamed on the technology rather than on the good King Nick.

After a time, Plebo finally asked from his prone position: “Will you be aiding the Prince by visiting the barracks to review the candidates?”

The King considered it. The barracks were an hour’s ride from the castle gates, and it was already getting late. “I’ll trust your review, Peas.”

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