From The Cordelian Chronicles:

“This is a tale of the first canonically sound Cordelian Chronicle, as best I remember it. Mahdeva was a young woman, a girl even, almost three thousand years ago in the ebullus of Mumbarum, living in a small kingdom in the verdant foothills of the northern mountains. She was poor, so poor that the princes, merchants, traders, and dung sweepers would not regard her. But this did not impede her free spirit and she worked joyously at all she did. Her actual job…, well, I forget what it was at the moment, but I’m sure it will come to me. The important thing is that one day she was walking near her home along the gentle creek of Sruti Petala. She stopped and picked up flowers from a mayurpankh plant blooming on the side of the hill. She cast these selfsame petals into the still waters and smiled at the designs they made, as slowly they drifted.

“Suddenly, she froze. There in the water, Mahdeva saw the images of people. In the center stood the aged king, whom she recognized because she had once seen him parade by, carried in a splendid palanquin, and he had smiled at her. In the water, he was arguing with three of his grown sons. One son drew out a dagger, the other two quickly followed suit, and within a few moments, the king lay dead at their feet. The pool reverted to normal and Madheva realized she must warn the king of his impending doom.

“The king was residing at his summer palace, up the river. So, she ran to the stables and mounted her elephant.”

“I thought you said she was poor,” interrupted Darl.

“What?” asked an annoyed Menlo.

“You said she was poor. So how does she have an elephant?”

“I was getting to that…Give me a moment. Yes, yes. She was an initiate of the local temple…and she worked in the stables. That’s it.”

Menlo waved Darl quiet and took another sip of beer.

“So, she got the elephant. There was some amount of sneakery or subterfuge involved in the attainment of the pachyderm, but I can’t recall what it was at the present time and I am too honest a storyteller to fabricate a tale. Hmmph. So, she went riding off on her elephant. She was passing by the royal rice paddies, and could see the palace on a hill in the distance, when her elephant threw a shoe and she was forced to stop.”

“Elephants don’t have shoes,” Kelly said. “They’re not like horses.”

“Yes, well, I use the term, ‘elephant,’ for your benefit, Kelly, as you are unfamiliar with the fauna of other ebulli. It was really a gomfo. Looks a lot like an elephant, but with an extra set of tusks.”

Both girls looked at Darl for a rebuttal.

“No, no, he’s right about the gomfos,” Darl said. “Although I can’t say whether you put shoes on them.”

“Well, you do,” stated Menlo. “Now, if I may get on with the story…?”

“Only if you can speed it up some.”

“Hmmm. Well, she dismounted her gomfo. Nearby, on a causeway sat a boy, of about her own age, fishing. Seeing her distress, he put aside his rod and came to her. Mahdeva told him of the urgent message she must take to the king. The boy said his name was Chandrasivkhar (which meant nothing to her) and that he would take her to the palace on the back of his mule. As they trotted along the road, Chandrasivkhar nodded to the fieldworkers, who rose from their toils as he passed. Approaching the palace gate, guards leapt from their posts to swing it open for them. A servant came running up to grab the mule’s reins from him and Chandrasivkhar slid off his steed. He then took Mahdeva by the hand to assist her to the ground.

“‘Who are you?’ asked Mahdeva, a little nervous.

“‘I am Chandrasivkhar, the fourth and final prince,’ he said, as another servant brought him a jacket, embroidered in the royal colors. ‘Now, let us go assure the continuity of the kingship.’

“He sent messengers flying to fetch various noblemen and ministers of state. He and Mahdeva strode through the resplendent double doors, and into the entrance hall. They waited there for a few moments, while being served chilled juices and melons, much to Mahdeva’s amazement, who had never been waited on. Presently a small crowd had gathered, with the captain of the guard and several high-ranking lords of the king’s inner councils.

“‘My lords,’ Chandrasivkhar smiled at Mahdeva as he spoke, ‘this young woman brings news of treachery to the heart of our kingdom. She had a vision of assailants attacking my beloved father. We must sally forth to the royal chambers to protect our king or to avenge his death, if we are too late. Come! Captain, call your guards!’

“The throng then charged up the marble staircase, Mahdeva bringing up the rear, and galloped down the corridor. Halting at its end, they pressed their ears against the door and heard a struggle within. The guards kicked down the door and the entire party rushed in. Just as in Mahdeva’s poolside vision, the three elder princes stood over the dead king, daggers drawn. The guards charged forward and in the melee that followed, all three princes were slain.

“And so Chandrasivkhar became king,” concluded Menlo. “He invited Mahdeva to move into the palace and eventually they married and, together, conquered all the neighboring kingdoms.”

“What kind of story is that?” yelled Joni. “Where’s the moral?”

“What do you mean?” asked Menlo.

“I mean, where’s the moral? She’s supposed to stop this killing, but the prince delays so long, his father dies, and then he becomes king and she gets to be queen. What’s the lesson behind it?”

“It’s history,” said Menlo. “There doesn’t need to be a moral.”

“Maybe the moral is that they established an empire that lasted a thousand years,” Darl added. “Most of it peaceful.”

“I’m not sure that makes it a moral,” said Joni.

“Well, I’m not even sure it’s history, the way Menlo tells it,” said Darl.

“I wasn’t trying to teach anyone a moral,” shouted Menlo. “I merely wanted to tell Joni and Kelly the first of the Cordelian Chronicles. I’m sorry there’s no lion with a thorn in its paw.”

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