Chapter 24: I Love a Parade!

Not the final version. Book version may vary.


A robed scalago stood at the edge of a cliff, beholding a vast rainbow forest below. The trees covered the land between the mountain and the glistening bay like a blanket. At the forest’s center a river flowed into the ocean. The scalago nodded to the one at his side, both tall, trim, smooth, fit from traveling over the rugged mountains. This was it. They’d found their destination.

Nestor pulled his robes together and turned to the caravans on the rocky plateau, thousands of scalagos leaving the old country.

“My fellow wanderers! Long have we traveled since being pushed out of our homes. Across freezing deserts, blistering sands, through hard winds over unforgiving mountains and a barren plateau.”

“You don’t have to recap the whole thing, we were there,” someone shouted from in the crowd.

Nestor cleared his throat. “Sorry. But all of that is over, for we have finally found a new home.” He gestured behind him for everyone to look at the forest. Scalagos, rough and hardened if thinned from the long journey, clambered up to see over the ledge. “Here we shall have our own land, be in control of our own destinies.”

“Praise be to Derantu,” said Nestor’s queen, Issa, looking down and holding her hands together in honor of their old god. “She has led us to our new home.”

The scalagos trekked down the rocky plains into the forest. They cleared the trees around the river and built a new city, a city that would be the center of a new kingdom for the next seven thousand years.

At least that’s how Alden imagined it from the way Evelyn told it.

* * *

A parade marched through Salenthia playing the Salenth Kingdom’s anthem, the flags of the kingdom flapping in the breeze. Floats celebrated its history from technological advancements to victories in war and peace as throngs of scalagos cheered.

Alden sat on a towel in a park watching the parade next to his brother Xavier. Ropak lay on the grass as Top ran about, Orville in a lawn chair. Thad and Evelyn sat in chairs nearby, as did Steven, covered in a hoodie that looked entirely out of place in the summer heat. He assured them his mechanical half kept him cool, but Alden wondered what kept his mechanical half from overheating. Even after one of Derantu’s long months Alden roasted from the heat despite his loose shirt. He removed his shoes to run his feet through the moist grass, thicker than any on Zhop.

The park was packed—Alden would have to tiptoe through the crowd of sitting, standing, playing, cheering scalagos, though many nearby quieted down to hear Evelyn’s history lesson.

“In the 500s D.A.—the Derantu Age, some thousand years before the current calendar,” the kanhase said, “—the democratic monarchy was formed while King Martin 3 reigned, shortly after the Derantu World War ended. Set up to extend power to the people, it’s led to some twenty-five hundred years of peaceful rule. The knowledge that they could be ousted by the people together with a progressive education allowed for stability and harmony, at least within the kingdom.”

 

Duth_Olec

The free mayonnaise for everyone helped, too.

Wally_Plotch

I wouldn’t say no to that.

 

“Speaking of at least within the kingdom, the current rulers, King Vito 18 and Queen Iris 2, went on a goodwill tour throughout the planet about a month ago. Their daughter, Princess Serani 6, remained behind.”

Ropak sat up and removed the sunglasses stretched over his head. “Wait, why did they leave their daughter behind while they went on vacation?”

Evelyn rubbed her chin. She shrugged.

“Wow, I’m totally confident in these rulers now.” The wrallot lay back down.

Anyway,” said Evelyn, “today is, according to tradition, the date on which the Salenth Kingdom was founded. Thus, there is a parade.”

Top stopped running. “I didn’t pay attention to a word of that.”

Evelyn crossed her arms. “I wasn’t talking to you, anyway.”

“Wow, seven thousand years,” said Alden. “Zhop is so fragmented in its history that I don’t think anything has lasted that long.”

They watched the parade march by. A scalago marching band arrived and Top jumped forward.

“Hooray! It’s music time.” The ball ran onto the street and pulled an accordion out from their mouth. Alden called for Top to come back, but the ball seemed intent. “Oh, we live here now in the Kingdom of Salenth, it’s really a quite swell place to be–”

A member of the marching band walked into Top, kicking them into the one next to them. Alden winced as the marching band kicked Top down the line, each stumbling until one punted the ball onto a xylophone. The player rolled their mallets across and pushed Top off the instrument. They flew over the marching band and snatched a feathered hat from a member, placing it on their head.

“I got me a new hat.” They landed in a tuba. Alden facepalmed but watched through his fingers. The musician shook the tuba and gave it a forceful blow, shooting Top out and blowing their new hat away. The ball bounced off a bass drum and landed on a snare drum, battered by the sticks before falling onto another. They rolled off the last drum only to be squashed between a pair of cymbals.

“We should probably get Top out of there,” Xavier said.

Alden looked at the laughing crowd. “It looks like everyone thinks they’re just part of the parade.”

“They’d probably better stop anyway,” said Evelyn. “The most important float is coming up, the one with Princess Serani.”

“A serious and significant float, is it?” Ropak asked.

“If anyone messed up her float,” Evelyn said, “they would be in deep trouble.”

“Hey, Top,” Alden called out. “Come back. We have food.”

Top ran back to them screaming, “Fooooooooooooooooood!”

 

Wally_Plotch

I think I overdid it with the o’s.

Duth_Olec

I think you underdid it. Cook it a little longer.

Wally_Plotch

What?

 

A glittering float arrived with two layers like a cake, guards standing to attention on the lower layer. This layer was red with an emerald pattern around it, while the upper layer was green with a ruby pattern. White railings surrounded each like a cake frosting with bouquets of white and pink flowers.

On the upper layer stood a scalago in elbow-length gloves and a flowing emerald dress that made Alden’s green look sickly—a scalago whom Alden could not take his eyes off. Her smooth skin was a deep ruby, while her blue eyes glistened like the open sea. Her shining hair flowed behind her in a hime cut halfway down her back and drifting like a waterfall as she sprinted about the float waving to her cheering people, her bright and animated smiles sending the crowd into further cheers.

“Evelyn,” Alden said, staring at the princess lest she disappear like the illusion she seemed to be, “that’s Princess Serani, right?”

“That’s her,” Evelyn said. “Princess Serani 6. Not a bad lineage for that name, although information is scarce on the first Serani and surrounded by myths of magic and such.”

“Magic!” said Top.

“How old is she?” Alden asked.

“Gourd, she’d have to be like, four thousand at least—”

“The current one!”

“Oh, right. She’s twenty-one,” Evelyn said. Alden’s eyes widened—Serani was the same age as him. “She’s still got quite a road ahead of her. Some predict she won’t ascend for another thirty years.”

“Sheesh, she’ll be super old by then,” Ropak said.

“And experienced and prepared, is the idea,” said Evelyn.

“And super old,” said Ropak.

“Clearly the young and hip should lead.” Top grinned. “Technicalamity: I’m one year old! I should be in charge!”

“I’m all for letting those of us with new ideas and a future to build lead,” said Thad, “but that might be too young, and you might be too crazy.”

 

Duth_Olec

They were all wrong! The oldest should lead, and I’m like three million years old, so I should rule everybody!

Wally_Plotch

Wait, you’re how old!?

Duth_Olec

I’m just spitballin’. After the first few thousand years you kinda forget, especially cooped up in this Cloud all the time. Not following normal space-time rules doesn’t help. Also, I didn’t specify the years of what planet. But The Cloud is so old and faulty it’s gotta be in the tens of thousands at least.

Wally_Plotch

Okay, right. It just sounded big. I guess I don’t have much of a frame of reference for years anyway.

 

“Evelyn, what’s Serani like?” Alden asked.

“Oh, she’s pretty headstrong,” Evelyn said. “They say she took wildly to her studies, making plans for how she would lead and create an ideal, educated kingdom. There’s those new ideas to build a future, Thad, and I doubt her parents will turn a blind ear—deaf ear to her ideas. She also apparently doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”

“Hear that, Top?” Ropak said. “I wouldn’t go near her.”

“It takes one to know one,” Top said.

Ropak opened his mouth and pointed at Top. He turned and muttered, “Shut up.”

“Wow,” Alden said, still watching Serani. “She sounds . . .” He couldn’t find the proper words. He wasn’t sure there were words to describe her.

Ropak perked up. “Wait a minute.” He grabbed Alden and tore his gaze from the princess. He stared at Alden’s eyes, rubbed the scalago’s face, then grinned and turned him back to Serani. “I know what’s going on here. You’ve fallen in love with the princess!”

Alden shook his head. “What? No, that’s not- no!” The very idea was ridiculous.

Ropak stood up. “Hey, everyone! My friend here totally–!”

Alden pulled Ropak to the ground. “Shut up.” He didn’t want everyone thinking he had some childish ideas of marrying royalty or something.

“Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,” said Thad. “Don’t even think about it. Put it out of your head if it was ever in there.”

“It’s not—” Alden said, but Xavier put an arm around him.

“Aw, my little brother is good enough for a princess!” Alden blushed a grayish-purple.

“Now, flibbertigibberty.” Orville smiled. “I would question if a princess is good enough for my nephew.”

Evelyn covered her mouth and snorted. “Are you completely—” She shuddered and groaned. “Look, no offense, but Alden’s from Zhop. The chances of the princess choosing you . . . I mean, you’re a nice guy, but it just won’t happen.”

“I wasn’t thinking anything of the sort,” Alden said, pulling away from Xavier.

Xavier drooped. “I’m sorry, Alden. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“I did,” Ropak said with a goofy grin.

“Look, she’s a princess,” Alden said. “I mean, I lived near a small town for most of my life, for Gourd’s sake. It wouldn’t happen.” He looked back at Serani. “It’s not . . . I’m not in love with her. That’s just silly.”

“Good,” said Evelyn. “There’s signs that Serani isn’t even interested in finding someone right now. Besides, historically the prince or princess marries a noble, celebrity, or someone important who would actually get a chance to even meet royalty. Anyone else would probably get in a lot of trouble even trying to pursue a romance with her.”

“Yeah.” Alden watched Serani wave to the people, hair flowing, eyes sparkling . . . so graceful and eager, dedicated, a studious learner . . .

No, Ropak’s ridiculous ideas are just rubbing off on me. I can’t let it—I won’t—It certainly couldn’t—

He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Oh Gourd, he couldn’t deny it. He felt like slapping himself. He was in love with her.

* * *

Queen Nyla 2 sat on the jewel-encrusted royal throne, surrounded by her robed advisors. At least in how Alden imagined it.

For over one hundred years the kingdom had prospered, a city had been built, a castle rose over the forest, and now it had been shaken to its core. The new queen barely filled the big throne, scarcely an adult, but she’d been trained for this moment and had to show her strength. She had to take down her brother or the kingdom would be ruined.

“What is the status on that traitor?” Queen Nyla asked, spitting the word, refusing to speak his name.

“We have tracked your brother to the forest east, my queen,” an advisor said. “At the edge of the barren lands near the mountains.”

Queen Nyla grimaced. “In the land where my great-great-grandparents first set camp after seeing their new home. How many have gone with him?”

“At least a quarter of the citizens. They say he promised them glory, said he was wrongfully denied and thrown from power.”

“A liar, as always,” Queen Nyla said. “No doubt he is planning a counterattack, but he may still be wounded. We can attack that snake and stop him from doing any more damage. We must not have a kingdom of scoundrels to our east, wedging us between the ocean. The Salenth Kingdom must remain whole.” She stood up, her robes waving. “Everyone, to arms! For my parents the lost queen and king, whom I know you loved, and my fallen brother, the true heir to the throne!” A cry rang out among the advisors, royalty, and officers to stop the traitor.

So went the story told by Evelyn and the parade floats, the story of the Salenth Kingdom’s first war—a war against their former comrades and the soon-to-form Thraundlus Kingdom.

 

Duth_Olec

The actual event had way less flowery language and a lot more shouting.


Chapter 25: Top Chef | Table of Contents

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