X: The Princess Bride
Y: The Matrix
It’s all about Destiny, of course.
Not the overbearing sense of a future already mapped, signed, sealed and delivered – no, that’s small-d Destiny. This is big-D Destiny, the Princess of this backwater kingdom, and if you thought dirty things when I said “big-D,” well, you’re not wrong.
She’s the one that, if they had music videos in this land, would be starring in all of them. Soft-focus, slow-motion, short-shorts, crotch-bumping hard-rock music videos. Maybe with an oversized cheeseburger in one hand, just to push it over the top.
Naturally, she’s extremely popular. She has tons of friends, and quite a lot of them seem to be boys who are quite keen to come visit her and show her their massive treasure chests. But she isn’t interested in any of them, not even Lord Emarae from the kingdom next door.
Especially not Lord Emarae from the kingdom next door. Ick. The one time they met at a ball, he spent the entire evening talking about himself and she was so bored she actually started hoping there’d be a pirate attack just to give her an excuse to end the night early.
Ah, the pirates. I suppose it’s time I got to those.
Every kingdom’s got something. A fly in the ointment, a serpent in the souffle, et cetera. Around here, it’s pirates.
The markets are full of vendors selling Pirate Repellent and Anti-Piracy alarms. Politicians debate in the town square at length about the best methods for dealing with them. Everyone has their routines and traditions, codes and camouflage. Every generation learns from the previous one about how to deal with their society’s burgeoning buccaneering burden.
My kingdom, Destiny thinks proudly, pulling the handles to close the patented Pirate-Proof Shutters(just 15 doubloons at Sassy Jack’s Retail Smorgasbord!)
Suddenly there’s a flutter and thump as a messenger bird squeezes itself through the nearly-closed shutters. For a moment Destiny holds her breath, but then the bird stirs and shakes out its grey-blue feathers. Not a parrot, thank goodness. None of the merchants have successfully created a product that gets those pee stains out.
The bluejay skritches its ear vent with a foot as Destiny crosses the room to check her treasure chest.
She stares at the bird, puzzled.
The bluejay puffs out, an angry little ball on sticks. “RESOURCE_NOT_FOUND,” it squawks.
What the heck? That wasn’t supposed to happen. Every day, bird showed up, and so did treasure. Sometimes the birds were blue, sometimes red, and once in a while they were huge and brown with white heads. Those birds were really good because everyone got treasure and trinkets.
“Oi,” she says, poking the bird. “Try again.”
The bird tilts its head back and sings, “NETWORK_ERROR.”
Destiny stands up, crosses to the window, and shouts, “BRING ME THE SEER RIGHT NOW!”
Captain Westcott Langley unties the last rope holding the ship to the dock, and the little ship Barnable is on her way. It’s not the name he would have chosen, but when he arrived that first day at the pier, he asked for a ship and this was what he got. After a few missions, they’d told him, he could trade her in for something a bit nicer.
He settles back into his seat in the crow’s nest (there’s only room for one seat, and stupidly, it’s up there) and waits.
The seconds tick down on his timepiece. An oriole alights on the tip of the mast. “Need help speeding things along?” it asks.
“Shut up,” Langley says, and pokes the bird in the eye. It flies away, but it will be back. It always comes back.
The Barnable is moving at a pretty good clip, especially considering there is no wind to speak of. The water’s barely rippled, yet the pace is as regular as that of a woman in a yogurt commercial. There are no such things as “commercials” here, of course – there’s no television – but he lets this slide. He needs the reminders, they keep him from acclimating too much to this foreign world.
The bird reappears. This time, it’s a fat yellow canary. “Hey!” it chirps. “It looks like you’re in a hurry! Need some help?”
“I’m sorry, you need to wait 5 more seconds to decline this offer.”
“I’m sorry, you need to wait 3 more seconds to decline this offer.”
Langley rolls his eyes, counts to three, and punts the canary into the water.
He closes his eyes and leans against the mast for a quick snooze.
Seconds later, the timepiece is chiming softly, and the Barnable is bumping gently against a dock.
He ties off, climbs down off the awkward seat, and makes for town.
The Seer is exactly what you’d expect a Seer to be in a situation like this. Ratty hair, grimy burlap robes of indeterminate color, rotted teeth, warty nose, the whole crone-tastic shebang.
She takes Destiny’s empty treasure chest and shakes it, hard. “Sometimes you just gotta try it a couple times before the treasure comes out,” she rasps.
“You think I didn’t already try that?” Destiny says. “And what’s up with the birds?”
The Seer grabs one of the birds and swings it over her head in a circle. She lets go suddenly, and the bird sails into the laundry hamper with a muffled thump and a *pop.*
She looks into the hamper and shakes her head. “Anyone else getting empties, or just you?”
Destiny shrugs. “This just started happening. I don’t know.”
“I’ll look into it. Give me your keys.”
“All you got. This could take a few tries.”
Destiny opens a different chest and retrieves a bag of brightly-colored keys. “Is this enough?”
“Eh, it’ll do.” The Seer takes the bag and hobbles out.
Destiny sits down and sighs. Nothing to do now but wait-
The Seer hobbles back in. “Got it,” she says.
“WAKE UP, JENNY!” the Seer booms, before exploding in a burst of pixellated light.
“NO_CARRIER,” the bluejay chirps.
“Aaaaugh!” Destiny cries, throwing herself into the bed. Before she knows it, she’s asleep.
And awake again, and the bird has landed on the windowsill and said, “AN ERROR HAS OCCURRED WHILE DISPLAYING THE PREVIOUS ERROR” before exploding into a cloud of feathers.
She opens the windows, closes them again, paces the room. Somehow the bird is back. It opens its mouth and vomits yellow stars all over the floor.
Destiny covers her ears and screams.
There’s a knock at the door. “Go away!” she cries.
“Your Highness? Is everything all right?” Oh no, not you…
Lord Emarae knocks on the door, harder this time. “Let me in, milady!” he shouts, throwing his shoulder into the door. It’s stupidly sturdy. He might break his shoulder getting through, and then how would he carry his lady to safety from the horrors beseiging her? No, this calls for cleverness.
By the time he gets back with the bolt cutter that he’d bought from the groundskeeper for a ridiculous number of coins, the pandemonium is over. Fear seizes him. It’s too quiet. He hurriedly breaks the lock and opens the door to find it…
Destiny scrambles down the back stairwell that the Seer had told her about once, a long time ago. For good measure she’s thrown the shutters open so maybe they’ll think she flew out the window. Or fell. Or got sucked up by a passing tornado with exceptional manners. Whatever. Exploding birds are one thing, but exploding birds and Lord Emarae clinging to her like a week-old poultice is surely divine punishment for some crime she’s yet to commit.
She hits the dirt running, heading for the one place she’s managed to keep to herself in all this royal madness. The Shed.
She’s half-way there when a brown blur comes at her from the left and knocks her, breathless, into the mud.
Big blue eyes look down at her. No way…
And then the eyes are gone as the brown blur leaves again, but there’s something in her palm now. A piece of paper with a message on it.
“None of this is real.”
Destiny stuffs the paper into her skirt pocket and gets to her feet. The mud is ground into her leggings and skirt, and if it’s not real, then someone has a pretty damn disgusting imagination…
(Note: I’m not sure where this is going, so I’m going to take a break from it for a while. I’ll post what I have but this may end up being continued later.)