Chapter 1 – Manners and mermen
"Remember, always tip the bowl away from you!"
Princess Evelynn scowled at her soup spoon. The spoon kept her from scowling at her mother, Queen Marisue and flinging it at her etiquette tutor, the evil Lady Nerilee. She tried to lift it delicately and put it into the soup bowl, when the trumpets blared at full force and echoed around the banquet hall. Evelynn squealed and jumped, dropping her soup bowl. Too late did she realise that it had splattered all over Lady Nerilee's pristine white dress. Lady Nerilee let out a scream that turned blood to ice (rather like a banshee Evelynn noticed) while her mother buried her face in one hand.
"Sorry yer 'ighnesses," The trumpet player apologised. "We were just testin' 'em for the Princess' presentation an'"
"My dress is ruined!" interrupted a hysterical Lady Nerilee. "Ruined! I refuse to tutor her again! M'lady, I just cannot work with such a… a… an urchin!"
"Lady Nerilee," Queen Marisue began wearily. "You are my lady-in-waiting and at my bidding and I bid you to tutor my daughter. The trumpets just startled her."
"A lady," Lady Nerilee sneered, having a rest from her hysterics fit to glare at Evelynn. "is never startled. Being startled is simply an act of clumsiness."
"Please, Nerilee," Marisue begged. "I shall replace your gown at my expense if the stains cannot be washed out."
"Oh I suppose," Lady Nerilee conceded, on the verge of starting her hysterics again. "But I need to finish for today. I need to go to my room and calm my nerves." She pushed herself back from the table and stormed out of the room. Evelynn rolled her eyes at her mother and began to giggle while Queen Marisue glared.
"Now, Evie, you must be more careful!" She admonished.
"Mother!" Evelynn protested. "Those trumpeters could startle a unicorn into head-butting a centaur. Why are they practicing here anyway? They have practice rooms in the west wing where no one can hear them."
"But you did not have to drop the bowl over Lady Nerilee," Marisue reminded her.
Evelynn grinned. "Oh that. Well, disastrous. But it was hilarious."
Her mother looked shocked. "Evelynn!"
"What?" Evelynn asked, feigning innocence.
Marisue eyed her. "Something has to be done about you,"
"What mother?" Evelynn demanded. "Another dress fitting? Another manners lesson with Lady Nerilee? You do know I can take it."
"No, I think we shall find you a husband," Marisue replied, her eyes gleaming.
Evelynn choked in a rather unladylike way. "What?!"
"A husband," Marisue said, pausing for effect. "Or the pursuit of one shall help you to be a lady. It is settled. We shall have a tournament to find you the most eligible young man."
"Oh no," Evelynn exclaimed. "No you don't. Mother! There's LAWS against this!"
"Yes, I am aware of that Evelynn," Her mother replied. "But I am above the law."
"No, this just shouldn't happen!" Evelynn protested. "Do I have a price on my head or something? Am I just to be sold off to the richest merchant?"
"Darling calm down," Marisue soothed. "And we wouldn't bid you off to a merchant, just the lovely handsome prince of your dreams."
"So you ARE giving me to the highest bidder!" Evelynn
Her mother threw her hands up in despair. "Did I say that sweetheart? We just want to assure your happiness,"
"No you don't!" Evelynn protested, far from being rational. "You want to get me married off!"
"Well, it's something you'll have to go through someday," Marisue reasoned.
"Of my own accord!" Evelynn shot back.
"I'm sorry but this is non – negotiable Evelynn Lucia Allenda Tellina Equavorial Delator. There's no ifs or buts," Marisue said firmly. "You will find a suitor in this tournament and you will be more of a lady at the end of it."
"No buts," Marisue repeated. "I will arrange for you to have your picture painted tomorrow. See you at noon!" Evelynn watched the retreating back of her mother and couldn't help but glare.
Evelynn sat in the empty banquet hall for a full ten minutes after her mother left before she thought of appealing to her father, King Yeatin. She could always wrap her father around her little finger, no matter what the situation. If there was anyone she was going to convince to drum reason into her mother about her ridiculous plans, it was him. So Evelynn pushed back her chair and strode out of the doors and down the hall to her father's private sitting room and rapped lightly on the door.
"Come in," He barked from the other side of the door. Evelynn quietly opened it, trying her best to pull off a pious and innocent façade.
"Daddy?" Evelynn simpered sweetly, shaking her burgundy ringlets and blinking her long reddy-brown lashes which framed blue eyes.
"What is it, my dear?" King Yeatin said tenderly.
"Have you talked to mother?" Evelynn asked.
"Yes I have," Yeatin told her. "She told me about her proposition."
"About that," Evelynn began. "I don't feel as if I'm ready to be courted Daddy." She tried to make her blue eyes fill with tears. "I don't want a husband just yet."
Her father moved over to hug her. "It's ok, Evelynn."
"It is?" Evelynn asked.
"Yes, my dear, absolutely," Her father reassured her.
"Really?" Evelynn murmured into his shoulder.
"Of course," He told her. "That is why we think it is best that you court as soon as possible."
"What?" Evelynn demanded, darkly.
"Because you're scared, your mother and I agreed that you should get used to courting as soon as possible," Her father repeated. Evelynn moved away from him.
"But… but…" Evelynn spluttered.
"I'm sorry sweet pea, there's nothing much I can do," Her father replied, sitting back down with his book.
"Dad!" Evelynn whined.
Her father put up a hand. "Ah ah, unwise of you to contradict your father."
"But why?" Evelynn said, sitting down in the chair opposite.
"Evelynn, you are a pretty young lady and your mother and I are only thinking of your happiness," Yeatin replied.
"No, Dad, you're not," Evelynn replied.
Needless to say, a very cross Evelynn stormed out of the palace.
"They're all mad," She muttered to herself. "Mad, mad, mad."
She stormed down the little hill to the water's edge and sat on a rock that would probably be covered at high tide. There was neither sand nor shore beneath the rock. That was further round. It was just sea. The waves lapped at her toes as she sighed.
"They're mad," She muttered.
"Who's mad?" A voice asked. Evelynn jumped.
"Who said that?" She squeaked.
"I did," The same voice replied. She looked down, and there was a boy in the water.
"Who – who are you?" Evelynn stammered.
"The question is miss, who are you?" The boy demanded.
Evelynn narrowed her eyes. "Why do you ask?"
"Because you're trespassing on my land," The boy told her, looking her straight in the eye.
"Your land?" Evelynn echoed.
"Yes," The boy affirmed. "My land."
"There must be some mistake," Evelynn said warily. "This is my land. Or will be."
"But it's not yours yet so it's mine," The boy argued.
Evelynn threw up her hands. "That's the worst excuse I've ever heard!"
"So they didn't let me debate where I'm from," He retorted. "So sue me."
"I don't think you'd like it, the lawyers I know are pretty intense," Evelynn shot back. She paused mid-movement as she saw a green tail flick out
of the water.
The boy waved a hand in front of her face. "Miss?"
Evelynn snapped back to reality. "I'm sorry but what?"
"I said what are we going to do about you trespassing?" He repeated lazily, leaning on a rock.
"Whatever you like," Evelynn replied, contemplating what she had just seen.
"Are you all right?" The boy asked.
"Yes, I am," Evelynn told him. "Just my imagination playing tricks on me."
"Yes tends to do that," the boy said slowly, as if she were very, very dense. Evelynn saw another flash of green and jumped.
"Did you just see that?" Evelynn exclaimed.
The boy gave her a confused look. "See what?"
"The tail!" Evelynn said urgently.
"Oh you mean this," The boy replied, flicking a tail up in the water.
"That's just not possible," Evelynn murmured.
He shrugged. "Course it is."
"But that would mean you're a… a…"
"Mermaid?" The boy suggested. "Not quite. Merman actually. Merman prince, to be exact. Prince Mervin of the Azurie, at your service Miss,"
He extended a hand. Evelynn felt a wave of dizziness.
"I'm sorry, please excuse me," She muttered and wandered off. She walked to the glade and fell to the ground, glad to feel terra firma. She stood up slowly, trying to find her feet before her knees gave way and she knew nothing more…
flames? Yes, it's clichéd,
but I engineered it that way. Ta ta for now!