One of the things that Queen Udi liked about
Of course, she was in love with the Vrikshaya Column too, since it was her head that topped the nine-headed marble totem pole that we had put up almost at the very center of the expanded, two-square-mile tract now occupied by
She had been treated with especial honor by the Institutes of Lacemaking and Haute Couture, and so became their patroness, bestowing grants and receiving delegations in her office. Since she was now Queen Consort rather than Queen Regnant, her office had taken on the character of a salon of culture rather than that of a place of business. Still, her silken purse held gold doubloons she could disburse for any cause she deemed worthwhile. That is not to say that representatives from the institutes flocked about her to seek largesse. They understood that the directresses of
Queen Udi had seen all the other points of interest in
And now, hearing about the new Queen Udi's Pavilion that we planned to build on the grounds of Eldor Palace, to be connected to the future Palace of Beauty in Gvagma Village by means of a festal Beauty Train, she decided on the spur of the moment to have Gvagma Village declared a Royal Landmark. All that was needed was Ajinblambia's fiat. Running her fingers through Ajinblambia's hair and kissing her on the cheek, she elicited the desired fiat, and the village became a landmark.
A few days later, writers and photographers appeared at
"Won't we disturb you, if we pile in and start milling around?" asked Sahitya.
"Well, it will be a departure from our usual activities, but anything I can do to help I'll be glad to do. I can assign you an office for the nonce, and please feel free to call on me as many times in a day as you wish. If I am not here, either Zevanardia or Rubia can help. Jina too is knowledgeable about most things. So don't be shy."
The camera girls were Chitra and Taswir, who would wander around and take pictures of absolutely everything they saw. Only the best pictures, 5% of the total perhaps, would be saved and used.
At the next meeting of the Royal Council of Ung, Ajinblambia announced that
A little later, Barti, the Prime Ministress of Ung, proposed that I be elevated to complete equality within the council. Until this time, the five other ministresses had been known as the 'big Geese' and I as the 'little Goose'. I had been regarded as a mere puppet or gewgaw. Now Barti was instructing everyone present that, thenceforth, all were to accord me the same respect that they accorded each other.
I understood, of course, that my role was still secondary. Certainly, a cultural center like
Nonetheless, I received gratefully my promotion and the new title that was given me. I would no longer be known as Ministress of Arts, I would be Ministress of Culture instead. This was a real feather in my hat.
I moved that the Eldor Geese draft younger girls to play volleyball for the palace, and that Barti, Usha, Dhabbi, Mlechi, Vinja and I retire. After all, we had been playing together for 14 years, not counting the games that we played in Qazudistan as the Kshaddi Geese before we reorganized as the Eldor Geese in year '390. All the girls were well over 30, not that being over 30 means what it might mean on planet Earth, for we live twice as long here on Nya. Still, we all had too many other things to do to justify our continued presence on the court. This motion was approved by a voice vote among the councilloresses, and in the days to come, new girls were selected.
The new girls who'd go by the name of the Eldor Geese, representing Eldor Palace in the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita, were Nitambi, Vivania, Ecpi, Tuluna, Deinav and Varhinda. They were all very shapely, very beautiful girls around 20 who had earned the honor of playing for the team in a series of hard-won competitions. So we could expect that the Eldor Geese would now ascend like a comet into the volleyball firmanent. This was good, but I blushed anticipating how greatly I would be upstaged by Nitambi, who occupied my place on the team.
As I mentioned before, when I was in Ujjama in the '380's, I met the Kshaddi Geese on the street as I strolled about one evening. Their teammate, Meruert, had missed the train from Kshaddi, and the Geese would forfeit their match with the Ujjama Cranes that evening unless they found someone to substitute. When I had already promised to play, I learned that the Ujjama Cranes were all girls also. I was photographed on the court with the 11 girls, wearing a red miniskirt and a red leotard. The picture reached Queen Udi, thousands of miles away in Mecnita. Udi was furious. She banished me to Qazudistan and enrolled me on the Kshaddi Geese permanently as a punishment. Later she rescinded the order, however. So I returned to Mecnita, reinstated as prime minister.
Then, shod in stilted boots laced all the way up, and so unable to jump down, I had to keep walking around till the girls got tired of their merry little game. After that I had to wrestle each of the five girls. Do I have to confess that I did not win a single match? I was too scared, tired and confused.
Finally, hearing that the train had been repaired and was ready to roll, they carried me back to the station.
News of the incident with the Maypole and the stilts never reached Queen Udi, thank goodness! I would have been banished a year earlier, without hope of a rescindment. It was for me a sweet memory, if an embarrassing one. Had I only known that the whole thing had been staged by the Vrikshayas as a first step in the direction of Eldor Palace, I might have changed the course of history, preventing their rise to power on the false assumption that their governance would be detrimental to Ung.
Of course, the episodes that took place in Kshaddi antedated Ajinblambia's arrival in Mecnita. Anyone who has read this chronicle attentively realizes that in a period of very few months in year '390, Ajinblambia came to Mecnita, wooed Queen Udi, married her after divorcing her from me and took the title of King of Ung, abolishing my prime ministry, changing my sex, assigning me to play girls' volleyball and having horns implanted in my forehead. It took some time for me to accept the new state of affairs, but whenever I complained to Ajinblambia, she'd just say, in a playful, melodious tone of voice, "Shut up, Sissy."
Sometimes, she'd put her hands in my underarms and lift me off the floor, tossing her head back and laughing merrily. "Now what are you going to do, Sissy? Start weeping and bawling as usual?" This was reassuring, as it enabled me to understand that she was just having a little fun at my expense. It would have been utterly terrifying if she had been really angry.
The lightning speed with which Ajinblambia had won the heart and hand of Queen Udi and made herself the ruler of our planet was a miracle I will never tire of contemplating.
King Ajinblambia Day, day 400, was observed everywhere in Ung, especially in Mecnita. Eldor Palace was the scene of great pomp and circumstance, opulent and brilliant.
The Pennant Games continued on day 401, after a one-day adjournment, and by the end of the year, the Ramdonia Roses once again had clinched the title.
On the last day of the year, Nunu turned five. She was still composing music for the harpsichord, so I arranged with Spranceld Music Company to let me rent a harpsichord for Bo House, with an option of applying cumulative rent payments to the purchase price, if I should elect at some future time to go ahead and buy it outright. Bo House had a sizable basement, and we found a room that would be perfect for Nunu's practice. I had to have lady masons, with their ultramodern earthmoving and materials-handling equipment, including a wheel tractor-scraper and a forklift, both of special design, create a driveway and an entrance to the basement, in order to bring in the harpsichord. They installed a hidden rolling door that would enable us to remove the harpsichord later, if that decision should be taken one day.
When the structural revisions were complete, all that was needed was some cheerful decoration. We wallpapered the room, and mounted a fine mirror, so the prodigy could see herself playing. We also provided a roost for Suzi, my cockatoo, who I knew would probably like to perch and listen to the fugues and sonatas that would echo through the room.
By year-end, RUS Gvagma III was sailing in the waters around Kramantang, one of the larger islands in Ungonesia. Kramantang had several cities along its southern shores and there were numerous isles that might be strung together to form an itinerary for our seagoing lingerie argosy. One Militani, of Vavamoa, a city on Kramantang, had been chosen by Queen Kolomena, the directress of our Ungonesian sales district. Militani would be the captainess of RUS Gvagma III and manageress of the intimates boutique in its superstructure. Kolomena had not known Militani before that time, but she had done her detective work and credit research, concluding that the new lady would be dependable. Kolomena e-mailed her reports to Zevanardia, who went over them carefully, despite her earlier idea just to rubber-stamp them. This was because Militani was an unknown quantity. I urged Zevanardia to authorize that Kolomena proceed as she had been planning, and the maiden voyage of the new yacht took place in the single-digit dates of year '405.
We took advantage of the commencement of the new circuit to introduce an Ungonesian peignoir, in a colorful floral pattern somewhat reminiscent of a muu-muu, but front-opening, with a self-sash, and a deep, concealed pocket on either side closing with a dainty but well-made brass zipper. We called this beautiful peignoir, which could be worn indoors or out, our pelagica. Militani took several dozen pelagicas with her on her first sail, which Kolomena herself monitored as an auditress-passenger. They sold out quickly and eventually they would come into vogue throughout the archipelago.
With this promising start, Zevanardia was already planning for RUS Gvagma IV, but that would come later in the year.
Day 15 was the 15th anniversary of Queen Udi's coronation as Queen of Nyatic Ung, the worldwide kingdom that had come into being with the annexation of Ub in year '390. Before that time, Udi had been queen of a much smaller kingdom bequeathed her by her mother, Queen Yuni. Queen Yuni and her husband, Vramdashc, had died of a mysterious disease when Udi was a child, so she ascended the throne of the original Ung in '371, at the age of 10. Vramdashc was not entitled King, nor would he have been eligible for such a title. Ung's last king was King Zhwem, who had passed away 150 years earlier. King Zhwem was succeeded by Queen Inci, Inci being pronounced Inki. Queen Inci ruled that, thenceforth, only women would sit upon the throne of Ung, and so it had been. This new rule was not meant as a disparagement or criticism of King Zhwem, who founded the titanic wheat-growing conglomerate known as Psebol Field. Quite the contrary, Queen Inci, like every other Ungian, held King Zhwem in the highest esteem. Nonetheless, Inci felt that the time for a new order had come.
Anyone who knows the history of Ung can attest that post-Zhwemic Ung has been Ung's age of gold. Now the marriage of Vtikshaya and Ung promised even more grandeur.
To mark the occasion, another pageant was held, at the palace, on the avenue and in the village. The flying ladies of Vingolilo and their flocks of white doves flew the skies above, as Udi arrived at
In the late afternoon, Zevanardia and I were strolling about in the village, Queen Udi still present, as festivities began to wind down ever so slightly. She saw us and motioned us to the place where she was standing, surrounded by some of her worshipful subjects. Excusing herself from her audience, she guided Zevanardia and me onto one of the walks that lead to Southeast Gvagma Village. There she said she had heard about Nunu's proficiency on the harpsichord and reproached us for not having informed her of it, since we both knew quite well how great a harpsichord enthusiast she was. I have mentioned that she had her own harpsichord in her library, or study, as she sometimes called it, and played it almost daily, haven't I?
I apologized, and the queen said that we could make amends by bringing Nunu to her library the very next day to play for her on her own harpsichord. Queen Udi's library was the most beautiful room on the Nyatic planet. There, in addition to her harpsichord and her harp, she had whole bookcases of fine bindings, with collections of jewels, shells, stamps, medallions and embroidery. There were paintings on the wall and statues on pedestals. The room was all brocade and gold, with windows with red lacquered mullions and muntins. Thick, dark carpets covered the floors, and there were jambs, sashes, wainscots and moldings in dark wood, beautifully carved, and varnished to perfection. Not only was the room kept at a very agreeable temperature, but there was a suggestion of henna or musk that seemed to drug the air. She played regularly, as I've said, but she also had hidden sound equipment that would play any piece she might order, merely reciting its name anywhere in the room.
I asked about the intensified security procedures that had been followed sporadically since '390.
"I'll have Ajinblambia waive all that," said Udi.
"May we bring Ezmeraudia, Nunu's nanny, too?"
"Of course, of course," said Udi with a broad smile, "We all love Ezmeraudia too."
Around 8 Ungi, Zevanardia and I returned to Bo House with news of the invitation. All four of us were thrilled. We were in raptures. I had never seen Nunu so excited.
The next morning, noting Nunu's height, I measured her and found she stood 45 inches tall, which is 5 inches taller than I had been at her age. I wondered what caused this, but it occurred to me immediately that Zevanardia's contribution to Nunu's genome, which had been accomplished by geneticists' intervention, was the explanation.
Anyway, we dressed Nunu in a pretty white organza dress, with a knee-length skirt that ended in a flounce. The dress had loose elbow-length sleeves that permitted all the freedom of movement Nunu would need to play her best. She also wore white tights and little black patent leather shoes with narrow straps across the insteps, fastened by tiny brass buckles. Ezmeraudia combed Nunu very beautifully, tying her hair in pink ribbons that would prevent wisps and locks from falling before her eyes as she played.
Queen Udi sent Zhmucnarc, one of the new chauffeurs, in a four-seat canary-yellow sports car so sleek it looked as if it could fly. Ezmeraudia would have to hold Nunu in her lap, in front, next to Zhmucnarc, while Zevanardia and I sat in the back. Zhmucnarc dropped us at the bank of stainless-steel elevators in the basement of the northern oval of Eldor Palace, and we went right up, using the pin number the queen had given us for the occasion. I had called Queen Udi on my finger phone telling her of our arrival, so she was standing in her doorway awaiting us as we walked down the regal corridor.
We entered. Zevanardia, Ezmeraudia and Nunu were stricken dumb with the magnificence of the Queen's library. She bade us all seat ourselves around a table, summoning Stlembi and Pixidixia to serve us any refreshments or food we might like. The two maids and I exchanged winks in merry mutual recognition.
In a few minutes, the queen took Nunu by the hand and seated her at her harpsichord, saying, "Now, don't be bashful or frightened, Nunu. Just do your best, and if you make a mistake, we will forgive you, because you are so young and pretty."
"Oh, I'm not scared, Your Majesty..."
"Just call me Queen Udi."
"I'm not scared, Queen Udi, and I don't think I'll make any mistakes, but I suppose that's always a possibility."
Queen Udi came back to the table and directed us to couches and divans so disposed as to form a wee theater, you might say, around the harpsichord.
Then, the prodigy began to play. We four grown women were rapt, enchanted, bewitched. The most heavenly music imaginable began to tinkle and jingle, ringing and singing rhapsodically. Nunu played fugue after fugue for the better part of an earth-hour, and if she made any mistakes, no one there knew it all were so enthralled and captivated. Finally, her music drew to a close, and we all gave her several heartfelt rounds of applause.
"I'll have Ajinblambia stage a recital in her private music chamber. I think the Royal Council of Ung and other important personages should hear Nunu. This is a marvel! Completely unprecedented in Mecnita, I would say."
In the northern oval of Eldor Palace, next to Ajinblambia's office suite, which at one time had been my personal quarters, there was a small recital hall ensconced among the throng of rooms clustered around. This was where Ajinblambia and some of her special guests repaired to listen to chamber music. Our ladies share a predilection for chamber music--brass ensembles, string quartettes, and the like--as well as individual performances on the harpsichord, the piano and the harp. The auditorium of the recital hall, seating around 50, was hung in wine-colored velvet drapes with gold stripes near the floor, and the lighting was very dim. But the stage was hung with ivory or pale beige linen drapes with very bright illumination, so that the audience's attention was automatically focused on the performance. The recital hall had always been there, but it was Ajinblambia who saw to the present decor. I would have been intimidated if anyone had asked me to perform there, but I was soon to learn that Nunu and I were very different in this regard.
Ajinblambia invited Udi, Barti, Usha, Vinja, Mlechi and Dhabbi to attend, and, of course, Zevanardia, Ezmeraudia and I would be there. In addition, there were some grandees from Ajinblambia's court and also Vronecca, the ranking lady of her harem, excused for the day from enclosure in the harem's apartments. A few important chancelloresses were invited too. And I had managed to get an invitation for Lilinaki.
When everyone had gotten comfortable, Grishcanca led Nunu to the harpsichord, which had been wheeled in from the closet where it was otherwise kept, and the little prodigy began to play. The recital hall provided even better acoustics than Udi's library, and the delicate complexities of the rococo strains that Nunu made the strings express reverberated delightfully through the hall, so that I saw even Vronecca put her hand to her heart and I heard her sigh.
Nunu was wearing a dress of celeste chiffon with a sash of shiny royal blue satin. On her legs, she had thigh-length stockings that matched her dress perfectly. In her hair were blue satin ribbons. I had had Lilinaki, our excellent designer at Cissi's Vintage Intimates, create Nunu's dress so as to recall a bygone day. This, of course, was Lilinaki's specialty, and she really outdid herself when she heard about the occasion for the new dress. She asked to attend. How could I refuse?
The performance was really a success and all the ladies were astonished that the daughter of a mere adoptive Vrikshaya should shine so brilliantly among the stars of that constellation.
Zevanardia composed an article about Nunu's recital for publication in Cissi's Newsletter. Several stunning photographs that Zevanardia herself had taken accompanied the article. Grishcanca and Isfaranza, another of Ajinblambia's service, had made a digital audio-video film of the recital and this was transmitted electronically to Queen Shandra at Candle Tower, in Vavlu, Ufzu, on Mli. So, within very few days, Nunu's fame had spread far and wide, reaching even the moon.
What was not mentioned was the special attentions and neurological treatment that Nunu had been receiving at the University of Mecnita. Nunu was not a contestant in any kind of competition. It was not as if she had been using hormones or other performance-enhancing agents denied other young girls and, so, providing her with an unfair advantage. Quite the contrary, the experiments with the new neurotransmitters--glycoserotonin and glycoserotonin-beta--made Nunu's case a pilot in wider research that would benefit millions if it should ultimately be shown to produce the desired results, with no negative side effects.
Nonetheless, this was a subject that we did not care to blaze about, lest we lure ladies and girls into private experiments that could conceivably be harmful. Mecnita controlled a number of substances, and there had been very, very few instances of violations of the pertinent statutes. Later, if all worked out according to plan, we would make neurological treatment widely available.
The fact of the matter was that even Ajinblambia was scarcely aware of what we had been doing at the university. This was a good time to give her a detailed accounting. So Zevanrdia, Ezmeraudia, and I requested an audience with Ajinblambia, saying that we intended to bring Oaslamd, Ecoflasc, Dizzelmornit and Carcsi too, to help us explain everything.
Neurosciences constituted one of the last strongholds of the vanishing male sex, and this included Oaslamd, Ecoflasc and Dizzelmornit, the doctors who had helped develop the new neurotransmitter and its precursor, hypoglycoserotonin, or HGS, for short. It was very unusual to see men in the vicinity of Ajinblambia's office, but Ung is full of surprises, and, lo, there they were! In former times, males had had a penchant for attempting to exaggerate their virility, strutting, swaggering, puffing their chests and speaking in loud, deep voices. In the last century or so, with the rise of gynecocracy, that tendency had been replaced by its opposite, with men now trying to be soft and mild so as not to offend the sensibilities of the new ruling class.
Carcsi, of course, was a lady, with beautiful countenance, hair and figure. The four universitarians, regardless of sex, commanded the respect of Ajinblambia, who herself had earned, along with her ten other degrees, a degree in medicine and a degree in education. That was back in Vavlu, during her younger days.
Zevanardia, Ezmeraudia and I remained in attendance, not because we had any expert knowledge, but because we had a wealth of anecdotal knowledge about Nunu that might be useful in the discussions. Anyway, Nunu was our girl and we wanted to know what was going on.
The conference went on for one full day. The Vrikshaya fathomed all the depths and gave her wholehearted approval to the entire program. She said she would find the best tutoresses in Ung to attend to Nunu's education, and she promised to have Nunu undergo procedures that would modify her genome after the fashion of the Vrikshayas, rendering her a true Vrikshaya more than an adoptive one. I wondered about this, thinking that it might create a chasm between my daughter and myself, but my implicit trust in Ajinblambia's good faith towards me swept away my doubts.
Nunu's new tutoresses were Chlembia, Formola and Odgi, who would instruct her in grammar, mathematics and music. Ajinblambia felt it would be much better to have Nunu come to Eldor Palace each day than to have the tutoresses come to Bo House. After all, Eldor Palace contained all the necessary educational resources, with musical instruments and computers galore, and a vast library that would put the whole galaxy at the prodigy's fingertips. She would be taught from 4 till 7 Ungi, for the time being. In due time, if it should seem justifiable, she would be taught till 7.5 or 8.
It was an easy ride on the Oyvdreli-Trentshna Line from 7 Ramdonia Circle to Eldor I, so we decided to have Ezmeraudia accompany Nunu to 'school' for a few days. Once the little prodigy had seen how to do it, we would just send her alone on the metro. She was a big girl now, and practical experience in everyday life would be useful. We equipped her with a small electronic device that could be used to repel anyone who advanced upon her aggressively. There was only the remotest possibility of such a thing in Mecnita, however. We could have arranged to have her chauffeured of course, but felt that it was better to do as we had done. Later we could do any rethinking that lent itself to the situation.
It was a wonderfully happy day when we sent Nunu off by herself in the morning and greeted her safe and sound on her return in the late afternoon.
Around this time, the New Chiliad was in mid-season and the Old Chiliad was just beginning its season. I went to Inni Villa to watch Nitambi in her Eldor Goose uniform of red leotard and skirt. What a fine-looking girl she was, springing up like a jacqueline-in-the-box to pound the ball over the net like a white cannonball fired from a red cannon! She was titillating. charming, sirenic. I felt estrogen flowing within me. How I would have loved to hug her and kiss her, with the palms of my hands underneath her breasts like pads of a push-up brassiere!
But it was embarrassing too. Ladies would say, "Look at the new Sissy! She's so much better than the old Sissy!" The Eldor Geese were enjoying an unprecedented winning streak. What can I say?