The day after the meeting in Ajinblambia's office in which she had conducted the proceedings between Lady Impacta, Ivandra and the Eldor Geese, including myself, Ajinblambia instructed Ivandra, my babysitter, to saddle me in my horsehide drum with my head secured in her brassiere, and ride with me down Shnuvi Woods Bridle Path to Shnuvi Tower in the Shnuvi District of Mecnita. I was to dress presentably in my Eldor Geese volleyball uniform--red leotard and cheerleader's skirt with self panties, and white knee socks and sneakers--because Ivandra would help me dismount there in order for me to keep my appointment with Lady Impacta. Ordinarily, since I spent the whole day enclosed in the drumlike security saddle that Ajinblambia had designed for me, what I wore was immaterial. I could even sit in just my briefs and bra.
I was very apprehensive. After all, only a few days earlier, Lady Impacta had struck me in the mouth so forcefully that she broke all my teeth, necessitating their extraction, as I have mentioned. Nonetheless, I knew I would have to go through with the interview; there was no way to evade or postpone it.
When Ivandra and I had reached Shnuvi Tower, she undid the straps that held my head, opened the cylinder and, unpacking the panty fillings and unfastening my ankles and wrists, she lifted me out and stood me on the ground, directly before the entrance to the awesome stainless-steel and black-glass skyscraper known as Shnuvi Tower. Helping me straighten my clothes, comb my hair, touch up my lipstick and dab a drop of perfume on my wrists, she bade me walk into the lobby and tell a receptionist that I had an appointment with Lady Impacta.
The receptionist pointed to a door right on the main floor. "That's her office. She owns and manages
I was overcome with awe when I saw the marble walls of the lobby, the excellent chryselephantine statues that stood there on pedestals of malachite, the expensive furnishings of brocade and tapestry, and the coffered ceilings high above.
I walked into Lady Impacta's office. I supposed that what she wanted to do was examine my oral cavity minutely, and perhaps lecture me some more on my impudence. So I was ready for an "ordeal".
"Is that what you look like when you are not in your babysitter's bosom and your horsehide drum? What a charming little costume! What is that all about?"
Slipping the panty roll from my mouth, I said, "This is the uniform I wear as a member of the Eldor Geese."
"The Eldor Geese?"
"Yes, that's an acronym for the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita. This is a league of about 1000 teams scattered throughout the metropolis."
"I'd like to examine your oral cavity, if I may. And what was that little thing that you took out of your mouth?"
I let Lady Impacta inspect my mouth thoroughly, and I explained that I was using a panty roll as a gingival shim in order to maintain the shape of my face.
"Aren't you going to see about dentures or implants?"
"Ruiza, my dentist at Eldor Palace, tells me that it will be impossible for dentures to be made for me, because of the anatomical and physiological particulars of my oral cavity, and that I will suffer chronic adontia. So I have been using these little panty rolls as a makeshift."
"Hmmm. Now I feel a little guilty about bringing this upon you. Do you mind if I talk to Ruiza to learn more?"
"No, of course not."
"Jobanda, get Ruiza on the phone," I heard Lady Impacta tell her secretary. To me, she said, "Will you excuse me for a few minutes, so that Ruiza and I may converse confidentially? Just step into the lobby again, and I'll page you momentarily."
I returned to the lobby.
Fifteen minutes later, Jobanda came to the door of Lady Impacta's office, stuck out her gorgeous head, and beckoned me with her forefinger.
"I just talked to Ruiza. She said that only this morning she discovered that she had made a serious mistake in the dental prognosis that she made for you. It appears, after all, that she will be able to make either dentures or implants for you, as you prefer."
"Oh, that's wonderful news!" I thought of Zevanardia's tongue, deciding that I would prefer removable dentures for the time being. Perhaps later, I could opt for implants.
Soon, I had a brand new set of teeth, indistinguishable from the ones Lady Impacta had knocked out. It was a fair day in Mecnita!
A few weeks later, Masrahiyya, a distinguished Ungian playwright and directress of
Lady Impacta wanted the name of the play to be changed to Lady Impacta and the Pantywaist. She felt that Impacta and Sissy, analogously with, say, Hester and Emily, in English, would suggest a duel between equals, whereas Lady Impacta and the Pantywaist, like Lady Hester and the Hoyden, in English, would correctly suggest a superior's justifiable reproof of an inferior. Masrahiyya agreed to rename the play and I merely shrugged my shoulders in resignation.
It was also decided to change the venue, performing the play on the very section of Shnuvi Woods Bridle Path where the original encounter had occurred. An ad hoc knockdown theater in the round would enclose a few meters of the path, and theatergoers would repair there instead.
At this juncture, Ajinblambia convoked the Eldor Geese, saying that she had decided that the six of us would also constitute her royal council, the Royal Council of the Kingdom of Ung, which informally she would call the Eldor Geese, just like the volleyball team. She wanted to reiterate the appointments she had already made and announce her new appointments.
"As for my earlier appointments, they will remain in force. Usha will govern the Ministry of Finance, which includes the directorate of the Bank of Ung. She will also be chairlady of the board of the Mecnita Stock Exchange. Vinja will head the Ministry of Land, with oversight of drainage, reclamation, desalination, irrigation and agriculture. She will also direct construction of highways and railroads as well as petroleum extraction and related efforts. Mlechi will direct the Ministry of Welfare, being responsible for schools, universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, social security, pension funds and the like. Dhabbi will be Ministress of Trade, promoting the development of industrial and commercial establishments, including companies specializing in telecommunications and information technology, as well as old-economy companies like steel, cement, power and automotive plants. She will also attend to diplomatic relations between political entities such as provinces, states, republics, cantons, counties and so forth. Barti will be Prime Ministress as well as Ministress of Aerospace, regulating production of ocean-going ships, aircraft and spaceships, and supervising navigation of the Dyotic solar system, with emphasis on uranium exploration on uranium-rich Dlivandor." Dyo is our Sun. Dlivandor, or just Dli, is another planet in the Dyotic solar system. Dyo is pronounced like the capitalized letters in the sequence reD YOke. But Dyotic rhymes with biotic. Ajinblambia concluded her remarks, saying, "Sissy will be Ministress of Panties."
The announcement that I would be Ministress of Panties brought peals of merry laughter from the other Geese. "Do we really need a Ministress of Panties?" squealed Dhabbi in spasms of hilarity.
"Ajinblambia, this isn't fair," I whimpered.
"Well, Sissy, what do you know about aerospace, telecommunications, land reclamation, petroleum-exploration, electrical power systems or anything of the kind? I can't have you assuming responsibility for enterprises in which you haven't the faintest understanding. That's why I am giving you the most junior ministry. Perhaps some day in the future, we can see about promoting you. Till then, my decision is final: You are the Ministress of Panties."
Ajinblambia clarified that she was using the word panties as a generic word to stand for a whole array of intimates, and Vinja whooped, "Oh, she's going to be in charge of bras too! What about garters?" The five young ladies from Gangawar continued in ecstasies of mirth for half an hour, but eventually calm was restored.
Ajinblambia had a luncheon of filets mignons and broiled lobster with melted sweet butter served. I was so pleased that now I could partake! My confrontation with Lady Impacta had been a great misfortune, but I was finding a way to overcome it, thanks to Ruiza's dental handiwork.
In that same time frame, I paid another visit to Usha, to discuss the possibility of my mortgaging Glasterhadd to the Bank of Ung to get another loan. As it turned out, Glasterhadd was appraised at exactly the same figure at which Shayvurddhi had been appraised, which was 2 talents, that is, about 2 million dollars. I got another 900-drachma line of credit, and, immediately, I engaged an interior decorator by the name of Iligancia to attend to the modernization and beautification of what would become Cissi's Vintage Intimates, in Glasterhadd, at
When one thinks of vintage apparel, she usually has in mind gowns, bustles, petticoats and camisoles that were worn by real women 50 or 100 years before. These are considered collectibles by a certain element of the population. But it was not my intention merely to go rummaging through old trunks, yanking out antiques and hanging them in a clothes morgue. I did have people searching trunks and combing attics, to fetch the best specimens that bygone generations had bequeathed. But I had draftswomen creating accurate dress patterns from the originals.
Then I sent buyers out to get bolts of cloth and other sewing goods in Tbitro and Oyvdreli, two districts of Mecnita, about 40 miles south of Eldor, where such merchandise was available in profusion. I bought new sewing machines and put maid-sempstresses to work turning out ruffled leggings, flounces, furbelows, corsets and whatnot, fancy stuff from the past, along with more sedate morning gowns, negligees, nightgowns and pajamas of yesteryear. Our first offerings turned out better than expected, and it looked as if a going concern were in the making.
Let me pause from my narrative for just a second to list in an orderly way the denominations of currency in use in Ung, along with their equivalents in Earth dollars:
One croesus = about $1,000,000,000,000
One talent = about $1,000,000
One drachma = about $1,000
One florin = about $100
One dirham = about $1
The banknotes consist of a Nyatic plastic much like polyvinyl chloride acetate, flexible and durable. The size is 20 x 8 centimeters, with 5 mil thickness. Prices displayed on merchandise being sold anywhere in Ung always include any applicable sales taxes and are usually made to come out in round figures. Thus, whereas on Earth, an item might be advertised at a price of $21.95 and actually sold at $23.05 after the addition of, say, 5% sales tax, in Ung, it would be sold for a straight 23 dirhams, tax included.
Ajinblambia asked me if I still wanted to compete in the Great-Great-Grandmothers' Games she had said that she would organize in Pantoflambo Field. They were coming up in a couple of months, and she wondered whether my confrontation with Lady Impacta hadn't been enough to make me understand that I had underestimated 100-year-old women. If I wanted to beg off gracefully, she would understand.
"Oh, no, I'd still like to play. But let's not include any violent games like boxing or wrestling. I wouldn't mind trying arm wrestling, ping pong, tennis and lawn bowling for example. If I do well, perhaps we will be able to sharpen the competition a little. I do have my doubts though."
"Very soon, you will also be required to compete in the Epgarcs."
"The Epgarcs? What are the Epgarcs?"
"Epgarcs is short for
"What are they all about?"
"Well, there are ratings from 5 years to 25 years. A 15-year girl is considered the athletic equal of the average girl of 15, but her chronological age may be different. A precocious 12-year-old girl might be rated 15 years. Conversely, a backward girl of 18 might have only a 15-year rating. If a girl has been overrated or underrated, an automatic correction usually takes place. If she defeats someone at her own level, she moves up a year. If she loses, she moves down a year. When she reaches a level where no further changes can be made within a prescribed number of tries, she is rated accordingly for a period of one year, till the next Epgarcs."
"You said they are mandatory? How does one begin?"
"Yes," said Ajinblambia, "they are mandatory. If a girl has never been rated, a panel of judges reviews her record and attempts to estimate her level. It's not terribly important that their tentative rating be 100% accurate, because the girl will automatically correct to her own level in a day or two, by winning or losing contests with opponents."
"So what does the contest involve?"
"It's a modified kind of sumo wrestling. Each girl dresses in leotard and tights, with a chain about her waist. The object is for a girl to seat her opponent--knock her on her butt--within one minute, and hold her--keep her on her butt--for nine minutes. That constitutes a victory. If the opponent does it instead, the opponent scores a victory. If neither girl can seat the other within a minute, or if a seated girl manages to get back up before the end of a contest, it's a draw. A winner moves up a year, a loser moves down a year, while girls who draw remain at the same level. Once a girl draws at a certain level, she is given two opportunities to attempt to rise again. If they fail, she is rated accordingly till the next Epgarcs. She must wear a medallion indicating her level, that is, a medallion with an engraved 15, for example, so that everybody can see exactly where she is."
"You said I will be involved this year?"
"Have the judges given me a tentative rating?" I asked. I was supposing I'd have a 15-year or 18-year rating, in spite of my true age of 30-plus, which no one knew about except Ajinblambia, Udi and the other Geese.
"Yes, they have given you a 10-year rating."
"Ten-year rating!" I exclaimed, "That's outrageous, preposterous, absurd! That's very annoying!"
"Relax! You'll be able to fix things in two or three days. If they have underrated you, you will automatically correct to your true level in no time,"
"Oh, very well," I said, "When do I start?"
"You are slated to wrestle Rumarsha tomorrow. She's rated at 10 years, which is also her chronological age."
The following evening, I went to Eldor Gymnasium and entered one of the rings set aside for the Epgarcs. Above the ring, on an electronic digital display, I read the following legend:
Sissy, height 70, weight 150, vs. Rumarsha, height 54, weight 75.
My displayed height did not include my horns, with which I would have measured 88 inches tall.
At the sound of the bell, I rushed out to make fast work of Rumarsha, but she got her hand around my chain and tossed me on my buttocks in about 5 seconds. "That was pure luck! That was a fluke! That was just an accident!" I said to myself. However, despite all my efforts to rise again, Rumarsha kept me down the full 10 minutes, pushing, pulling, holding and grabbing.
Rumarsha was declared victress and got her 11-year rating. I moved down to the 9-year level. What a pain! What a blow!
The next evening, the electronic digital display above my ring read:
Sissy, height 70, weight 150, vs. Vinona, height 54, weight 70
This was the same thing all over. So Vinona weighed 5 pounds less. So what? I could see it coming, and come it did. Now Vinona was rated 10 years and Sissy was rated 8 years. What a nightmare!
Ojildi seated me the next night, and I had a 7-year rating!
Finally, at the 7-year level, I scored a draw, but could not score a win in the statutory two tries. So I'd have a 7-year rating till the next Epgarcs. I received a medallion engraved with a large, obvious, embarrassing 7. I was the laughingstock of
Originally, when Ajinblambia had designed my security saddle and chosen Ivandra to ride with me, protecting me as if I had been an infant, I was afraid that Ivandra would grow to hold me in contempt, performing her equestrian duties only reluctantly. However, if she felt that way about me, it didn't show. Quite the contrary, she seemed to develop a maternal, affectionate attitude towards me, and I certainly did not object to that.
Moreover, because of the outlandish novelty of the courier duet we formed and our eminent visibility on the bridle paths of Mecnita, we got a good deal of notice. There were televised reports and interviews, newspaper articles, public appearances at games and pageants, and special parades in various districts of the great city. Ivandra reveled in all the sudden publicity she was receiving. Sundari, the directress of the Courier Service of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita, was especially enamored of Ivandra, not only because of the "epic, mythic, iconic, folkloric" figure that she cut as she delivered me from place to place, but also because of the magnificent proportions of her splendid body and the incomparable beauty of her face and hair. Ivandra, for her part, was very positively disposed to the obvious attentions of the ballerina, and felt grateful to me for having been the one that brought them together. "Will Ivandra and Sundari become dearest friends?" I wondered.
It was in these very favorable circumstances that Sundari decided to publish a brochure about Ivandra and myself as couriers for Gvagma. She discussed the projected publication with Tarjima, an officer of Rupsnoir Press, and she too was enthusiastic, so they went ahead.
The handsome brochure, beautifully illustrated, appeared some weeks later in Mecnita. Copies were distributed to all 6000 players in the association as well as many important people in government, education, business and the arts. It was also put on sale at news kiosks and in bookstores. Everybody knew about it! It was embarrassing, but I was pleased. Sundari was gratified at the success of her effort and Ivandra was delighted.
So I was enjoying a lot of fame or notoriety. I was teased and mocked relentlessly, but it was all good natured, as is usually the case among girls.
At that time, Mina, the commissioner of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita, resigned, for personal reasons, and it was necessary to elect a new commissioner. Sundari nominated me, and I was elected by a landslide. Ajinblambia convoked the Geese and an informal party was held in the white and azure room where the Geese had been meeting since Ajinblambia empaneled her Royal Council. She said I might eat anything I preferred, so I had a huge raspberry soda with two scoops of ice cream and a fat sausage sandwich with grilled onions. The other Geese giggled patronizingly as they ate their pheasant and grouse, and drank their champagne. Ajinblambia merely smiled. She was happy I was making my mark.
"Did you hear? Did you hear? Sissy has been elected commissioner of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita. Sissy! She's the one that rides around in a horsehide drum with her babysitter, Ivandra. Now she's commissioner of Gvagma. What an amazing development! But she is a Vrikshaya after all." This was the kind of remark I was hearing all over town as I went about my duties. I was so happy! What a joy!
Though I was spending most of my time with Ivandra, I managed to look in on my two apparel factories and showrooms, Cissi's Intimates on Shayvurddhi Circle in the Frifna District, and Cissi's Vintage Intimates on Haniyazi Street in the Anavana District, every day. Zevanardia, my alter ego, was running Shayvurddhi, and Venedora of the Anavana Fuchsias was in charge of Haniyazi, formerly known as Glasterhadd. Production levels were high, and sales were way beyond what I had foreseen. Furthermore, I had a location in Piljandar, in the Swannery, which was the clubhouse of the Piljandar Swans, thanks to the good offices of Ellennamandia, the captainess of the team and my representative in the vicinity. Naturally, I began to fancy that I was something of an oracle on intimate apparel. Who in Mecnita had not heard of Cissi's Intimates?
By now, Sundari and I had become good friends, but she was only remotely aware of my lingerie business, so I invited her, along with Ivandra, since they liked each other so much, to visit my two locations. Sundari was really impressed, saying that she had had no idea that I was masterminding such an operation while also serving her Courier Service. I confessed I had an ulterior motive in having her tour my "panty works", as I sometimes jocularly called my factories. I explained that her brochure was an inspiration to me, and that I would like to publish a newsletter of like quality on intimate apparel. I wondered if she would introduce me to Tarjima of Rupsnoir Press so that I could discuss the matter with her. I wanted Sundari to sit in on the meeting too. I thought her presence would help things along. Sundari was flattered that I was turning to her for this, and assented amiably, as I had known she would.
At the meeting at Rupsnoir Press's Mecnita office, it was finally decided to call my monthly publication Cissi's Newsletter. A subtitle, The World of Intimates, would be added. The magazine would feature photographs and drawings of styles in intimate apparel, and not just advertisements of my own products, though, of course, these would be there too. There would be articles on fibers, spinning, weaving, knitting and sewing. The history of fashion from the the earliest centuries of the kingdom would be the subject of articles from time to time. I was seeking to make a contribution to culture and fashion in Mecnita. Tarjima and Sundari liked my idea, and Sundari was delighted when I asked her to monitor the preparation of the first edition.
Cissi's Newsletter was an immediate success and brought a good number of customers to each of my showrooms. Successive editions were larger and finer, and the magazine was soon available in many locations about town. Libraries and reading rooms began to carry it, and I received raves from all of my friends and acquaintances. Obscont, Ung's most illustrious newspaper, carried laudatory reviews of the new periodical, giving it a five-star rating almost at once. The Periodical Publishers' Guild of Mecnita presented me with the Golden Owl award. The Golden Owl was awarded annually in recognition of excellence in the design and content of new magazines that were published in the capital. The award was indeed the similitude of an owl, a golden medallion on a ribbon of mulberry silk grosgrain that I could mount in a case on my wall or wear pinned upon my bosom. There was also a nominal cash award of several drachmas, which, of course, I turned to retiring the debt on Shayvurddhi and Glasterhadd.
In all the weeks and months that my factories had been in operation, while Ivandra and I did courier service for Gvagma, and the aforesaid publications were coming into being, I still spent 3 hours in Ajinblambia's dressing room each morning, helping her bathe and dress, setting her hair, doing her makeup and her nails, serving her breakfast and tidying the place up. As I performed these little labors of love, Ajinblambia narrated the events of her childhood and later life, answering all my questions painstakingly, so that I could commit the information to notes that I would incorporate in the biography of her that she had me composing. After about two hours of seeing to her cosmetic needs, I would be done. So we had another hour in which I could just sit at her side and take dictation, as it were. At first, I would draw up a boudoir chair of crushed geranium-colored velvet on legs of carven ivory, sitting in her shadow, as she reigned in state in her massive leather wing chair. At times, I'd crane my neck to hear more clearly a syllable she'd whispered, and, often, seeing me do so, she'd put her hands in my underarms and lift me onto her lap, where I'd lay my head upon her bosom and listen to the chimes and viols of her voice. Eventually, we just dispensed with the boudoir chair altogether, and, as if automatically, I'd snuggle in her embrace. This was not an erotic thing; this was just a deep, deep friendship we were developing.
My earlier biographical notes on the life of Ajinblambia, which were included in my book of remembrances on Ub, were erroneous in many ways. The whole picture was necessarily sketchy, as I had met her only few times. I suppose also that the work had a certain perfunctory quality, as I had a tendency just to collect the facts and figures, creating a mere chronology, without insights and analysis of the lady behind the dates. Naturally, in that circumstance, though Ajinblambia was expecting marked improvement in my work now that we could relate as we had been doing, she had no idea of the zeal that I would apply to my effort.
Her tales of her girlhood were so colorful, breathtaking and exciting, that I could picture to myself almost as vividly as if I had been at a cinema the wondrous pageantry of those Mlian days, before she had come to Ub. She went over the most poignant episodes time and time again, till I knew them almost by heart.
So I wrote many chapters of the first volume of the trilogy we were planning, with tremendous clarity and attention to detail. Ajinblambia was really delighted with the style and diction. She said she hadn't expected such a masterpiece.
Until this time, Ajinblambia had awarded no special commission or title to me. There had been no exceptional recognition or recompense. I was merely composing her biography, according to her instructions. She would judge, and approve or disapprove later. This was just an informal assignment.
But when she read the first few chapters that I had penned, she decided to name me her Royal Biographer. This would be a special post, with a nominal income, along with a title that I could append to my name. This warrant did not supersede the warrant of Lady in Waiting to the King that she had given me earlier, but seemed to carry more weight. At any rate, I felt deeply honored.
Among the dignities I now enjoyed were the following:
1.) I was foundress and directress of Cissi's Intimates and Cissi's Vintage Intimates.
2.) I was editress of Cissi's Newsletter.
3.) I was a recipient of the Golden Owl award of the Periodical Publishers' Guild of Mecnita.
4.) I was commissioner of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita.
5.) I was Lady in Waiting and Royal Biographer to King Ajinblambia.
"Sissy has requested that I convoke the Royal Council to address a request that she wishes to make," said Ajinblambia in the white and azure chamber where the Geese always met, "She is our most junior ministress, of course, but still enjoys the right to request a convocation of this kind. If her request proves frivolous or deceitful, she will be censured, as would any of the ministresses. Sissy, you have the floor."
My exordium was in this wise: "You will all recall that recently when King Ajinblambia empaneled the Royal Council of the
1.) I am the foundress and directress of Cissi's Intimates and Cissi's Vintage Intimates.
2.) I am the editress of Cissi's Newsletter.
3.) I am a recipient of the Golden Owl award of the Periodical Publishers' Guild of Mecnita.
4.) I am the commissioner of the Girls' Volleyball Association of Greater Mecnita.
5.) I am Lady in Waiting and Royal Biographer to King Ajinblambia.
In view of these achievements, I feel that I deserve to be promoted, that I should no longer be just the Ministress of Panties."
Barti, Vinja, Mlechi, Dhabbi and Usha again burst into peals of merry laughter. "Oh, she holds the Golden Owl award for her magazine on panties!" sang Barti. "Oh, she runs girls' volleyball in the capital," echoed Vinja.
I had tears in my eyes. However, the Geese were just playing. They agreed that a new Ministry should be created in recognition of the things I'd done.
"Let's talk it over," said the Vrikshaya, "But first let's get another raspberry soda with two scoops of ice cream and another fat sausage sandwich with grilled onions for our dear, dear Sissy."