A Tale of Ung
Swans at Piljandar Square
I took my drawings and my documents to Barti’s office, when she had granted me an interview. She met me at the door, erect and stately in a black silk shirtdress quite complementary to her mahogany complexion. Her long black tresses were a sable cataract cut level on the bottom just an inch or two above her riff, allowing me to see her slender waist, snugged neatly by the self-belt of her dress, full below, its hemline at her knees. Bangs hung nearly to her eyebrows. Her full, round, smooth, adorable brown face looked out below in girlish innocence. Her pouting lips concealed a ready smile. In high heels, she outtopped me by a head. Long since, I’d given up the notion we were peers and comrades. I stood in wonder of her beauty, her intelligence, her majesty. Barti was a queen and I a pawn. But if I was a pawn, let me be Barti’s pawn.
She held before her her right hand, palm cupped and thumb extended, as she took my documents and drawings in her left. I placed my wrists in Barti’s palm so she could wed them in her fist and tug me to a chair of coffee corduroy. She sat opposite, reposing documents and drawings on her desk.
"I know you want to talk about your farm, but before we talk about that topic, I want to have a word with you about some other things. So please relax a while."
She started speaking in a mellower and softer voice, a whisper, and seemed to be just rambling on about mysterious places and occurrences. I was somewhat alarmed. She grasped my wrists so tight my hands both went to sleep. Then my shoulders and my arms began to tingle and grow numb. My feet were bolted to the floor. My eyelids were like lead. Vaguely I became aware that Barti was enchanting me. She was hypnotizing me, entrancing me. Not only could I not resist, but I surrendered with enthusiasm. Headlong I tumbled down into the chasm of her soul. She held me spellbound and enraptured. Until this day, I do not know if what transpired that day was magic or a vain hallucination.
She bade me rise. I rose. Jerking sharply her right arm, she tossed me three feet in the air as easily as if she had been cracking a smart whip or shaking out a little rug. As I sailed upward, she unhanded my two wrists, and I attained the apex of my brief trajectory in hundredths of a second, just as if I’d sprung upon a diving board or trampoline. The difference was I didn’t come back down. Rather, I remained suspended in midair, as though invisible gigantic hands were holding me aloft. My head was nine feet off the floor. I was walking on the winds.
Then Barti said in mock annoyance, "This will never do," and she began to grow till she was ten feet tall. "Now we can see each other eye to eye," she said, "You didn’t know that I’m a sorceress, dear Vocno, did you? Now I hope you’ll understand the Vrikshayas a little better. If you’re to be a Vrikshaya yourself, you’ll have to undergo a number of initiation rites and transformations. Within the hoary House of Vrikshaya, your role will not be minister of state, viceroy, courtier or ambassador. No, this is not for you. You’ll not be a member of our government. You’ll earn distinction in matters spiritual, as a religious figure."
"Religious figure? But I’m an atheist, a realist, a pragmatist. I’m not at all religious," I exclaimed, quite as shocked by her pronouncements as by the fact she’d levitated me or magnified herself before me.
"Nonetheless, celestials speak and it shall come to pass."
Then I sank slowly to the floor as Barti dwindled by degrees to her familiar size. Again she took my wrists in her right hand, like rushes in a leather thong, and seated me once more upon the chair of coffee corduroy upholstery. Everything was hazy, dizzying, vertiginous. Then suddenly the room was clear again, as if I’d just woke up. Had this been a fantasy or dream? A trance, a spell, a swoon, a vision? It was all so very real. Who was this beautiful enchantress? Perhaps I’ll never know I thought. And what was this religious destiny she’d augured? Vocno Ganven a religious figure? Highly suspect and uncanny, very odd and very eery.
"Now let’s talk about your farm," said Barti, as if nothing extraordinary had happened, but I was mentally a million miles away. Barti, seeing my abstraction, said, "Or better yet, let me review your drawings and your documents and meet you here again in several days."
I returned to my apartment stunned. My recollection of the trance wouldn’t leave my consciousness a second. How could Barti possibly imagine that I’d end up as a religious figure? Yet how could I be skeptical about her powers, when she had levitated me and magnified her stature doubly over? I didn’t want to share my doubts and my anxieties even with Queen Udi, although I’d always looked to her for guidance and advice on everything. Should I return to Ulunono and consult the lovely psychic, Tufiatani, once again? I paced around my study in a quandary. A frantic feeling, a nebulous hysteria engulfed me, took possession of my inner being.
I caught a night flight with Fulumoan Airlines to Badako, on the western shores of Fulumoa, Ungonesia’s largest island. Inquiring at the seaside, I found the hut of a catamaran man and paid him handsomely to raft me over across the Straits of Temekuku to the isle of Ulunono, famous for its seers and divines. Immediately as we beached the boat, we hurried to Kuneo, a little village near the shore, where we were able to find out the whereabouts of Tufiatani’s cottage with its walls of stone and roof of thatch. Waking Tufiatani, lovely even with her tresses tousled, I asked without ado that she foretell my destiny and the course of my career, if she could see them in the cards.
"Thou shalt be a servitor of Heaven. Thou shalt renounce the world’s ways and walk a solitary path, a stony lane. Uptake the pious burden of the ages. Hearken to the call."
What? Tufiatani was seconding the prophecy of Barti? No, no, no, this couldn’t be! What bizarre, satanic forces were at work? I had every confidence in the dark divine of Ulunono. She would not beguile me or deceive me. Therefore, what, pray, was the nature of this weird phenomenon? What was going on?
Presently she quit her mantic diction and assumed her affable, congenial manner. "What brings you to Kuneo at this hour? It’s nearly midnight. You look as if you’ve seen a ghost. What is the matter? Are you well? Don’t be distressed, for, ultimately, though you’ll undergo some drastic changes, you’ll find bliss and glory in your destiny. Have faith and courage."
She’d put her arm around me to console and comfort me. We talked till almost daybreak. At last, the man with the catamaran and I embarked and sailed towards the rising sun. I caught an early flight on a Fulumoan Airlines minijet, arriving in Mecnita in midday. Perplexed, I thought of flying back to Mli to query Hennamarn, but I could not erase my negative opinion of her however ill-conceived I now considered it in view of this new oracle I’d heard, foretelling other unforeseeable fortuities of like uncanny nature. So I abandoned the idea altogether.
Queen Shandra came to Ung a few days later with several of her courtiers and attendants. Queen Udi welcomed and received the delegation with all due circumstance and pomp. Ajinblambia returned from Dorgdid to take part in the reception in the great hall of Eldor Palace, the hall that ringed the hemisphere that housed the throne. It was a gala party, with 10 of the 11 Vrikshayas attending, myself and Udi and our daughter Oji now included, and there were noblemen and noblewomen, socialites and magnates, scientists and scholars, and a whole pantheon of other luminaries and dignitaries. There was a banquet with a ball. There were troupes of singers, dancers, actors. There were games and prizes. Queen Shandra was delighted, flattered, overawed. She’d no conception of the grandeur and the glory that were Ung.
It was decided she’d vacation just around the palace a few days to start with. Thereafter, I’d escort her for a few more days as she visited Mecnita’s celebrated landmarks. This would be a most agreeable assignment. I was thrilled that Shandra had selected me when asked to choose from all the people in the palace the lucky one who’d squire her about.
In the meantime, though, I seized upon the opportunity, with Ajinblambia in town, inviting her to go with me to the University of Mecnita, to the Neurosciences Department in the black-and-green resplendent highrise building on the campus in the Plembrust District. I wanted Cocothrasp to photograph the lady’s nervous system, including all the organs of sensation and the brain and spinal cord, anatomizing it minutely and offering his insights. Of course, what motivated me was the idea Ajinblambia’s indubitably demonstrated genius would be reflected in the size and structure of her brain, or maybe the amount or strength of the activity along her nerves, or even by the presence of some superhuman features, more ganglia or sulci, more complicated axons, synapses and dendrites, more innervations and the like.
I explained to Ajinblambia, as we descended in Udi’s private elevator in the palace, that in order not to bias Cocothrasp, who doubtlessly had read of all her exploits, I’d told him that her name was Ucrazvandia, a name I had invented out of air, as do most Ungians when they name their baby girls. I requested that she comb her hair into a chignon and maintain a quiet, shy demeanor at the university.
I’d got the queen’s approval in advance. I had in hand a royal edict that instructed Cocothrasp to undertake the most exhaustive and meticulous examination, as I’ve outlined. The reason I gave Ajinblambia and Udi was that I wanted to append a medical report to my biography of the vice queen.
When we arrived at the Neurosciences Department, Cocothrasp, who came out to meet and greet us, was plainly captivated almost instantly with the lady’s charms, though she was taller by six inches than was he, but he didn’t seem to realize that this was the illustrious Ajinblambia he’d read about in Obscont. He began discussing rather frankly the gamut of examinations they’d conduct, but I explained to him his candor was embarrassing to Ucrazvandia, whom I led aside for just a moment. He paged one Iffardelli, a ladylike neurologist, by autobeeper—you just speak the name aloud and the callee’s wristband beeps—and Iffardelli came and led Ucrazvandia away. Cocothrasp told me I might return around 8 Ungi (7:12 P.M.) to fetch the lady. I presented him with Udi’s edict—a formality—and he shook my hand as I departed.
I spent the day at Eldor Palace, returning to the Neurosciences Department at the appointed hour, for Ajinblambia. Cocothrasp informed me that they’d taken scores and scores of tomograms, many in their actual color, others colored artificially for clarity. He said he’d like to spend a lot of time in the analysis and the interpretation of the tomograms. It seemed the subject was a highly extraordinary individual. Indeed, the entire staff of the Neurosciences Department was keenly interested in involvement in the study. If I could wait till early in ’394, they could do more justice to the findings. I was dumbfounded by this new development, but I agreed to wait 150 or 200 days, as Cocothrasp was estimating. Without communicating Cocothrasp’s requests and comments, I led Ajinblambia to the subway station in the basement of the building, and minutes later we were back at Eldor Palace, ascending in the selfsame elevator wherein earlier we had descended.
Ajinblambia let down her hair, displaying a degree of loveliness a chignon never could display. She went to her apartment and I to Udi’s study, where I reported the anatomy would take some time, without explaining why.
Queen Udi had a volume bound in deep wine leather, full of olden Ungi lovesongs. Selecting many of the more delightful melodies she’d noticed in the songbook, she’d blended them into a folksong suite for harp. As I relaxed into an upright wing chair, she began to play the suite, so suggestive I could nearly see young lovers in secluded sylvan places, in green meadows, on the banks of babbling brooks, under spreading oaks. I could see old waterwheels and windmills, oxen drawing carts on lazy summer days, puffy little clouds luxuriating in the sun, flights of ibises and egrets. I could see the throngs of reeds and rushes around miniscule lagoons. I could feel the breeze that brought the smell of sprinkling rain. I could hear the bleats of distant sheep. Udi’d caught it all as if by magic in her harmonies and melodies. "When had she had the time?" I wondered. Ruefully, I wished I’d taken up an instrument and could make such noble music, but I’m afraid, except for half a dozen ditties of my native land, Motinia, I barely knew a note of music. Later she and I retired to her platinum and sapphire bed. But I was worried. The prophecies were on my mind.
Two or three days afterwards, Queen Shandra stood upon the threshold of the door to my apartment in the palace. "Well, Vocno dear, are you or are you not the man to show me all around Mecnita?" The queen was cheerful as a warbler. She was wearing a short-sleeved, short-skirted beige knit dress with a deep V-neck from which a tiny bit of cleavage peeped. The dress had elasticity enough to follow faithfully her graceful lineaments and curves while maintaining a few supple folds. On her feet, she wore a pair of thick-soled espadrilles of lightest beige, offwhite and white. She had a handbag of a pretty white crochet. What a raving beauty was the queen!
"Well, have you been to Old Mecnita, lovely lady?"
"Old Mecnita? What is Old Mecnita?"
"That’s the most ancient part of town, now in the Piljandar District, some forty miles from here."
"Forty miles! However will we get there?"
"We’ll be there in just minutes. Our subway trains—we call them ‘golden comets’—do 200 miles an hour or more."
"We went down in Udi’s private elevator. The subway stop was on the level next below the palace parking level, and you could see the selfsame colonnades of 20-foot-round columns whereon the northern oval rested, crisscrossing to form bays recessed with roadbeds for the railroad, but on this level, the columns were adorned with tiles of mosaic, majolica, faience, in shades of lilac, lavender, plum, purple, mulberry and mauve, rich and glossy, worked in ingenious geometric patterns. The platforms in between the roadbeds were nonskid concrete in those very shades of purple. Instantly, a train appeared, dazzling, glorious, resplendent, an unhooked necklace made of golden bars some great goddess had taken from her neck and hurled along the tracks, uncoiled, at semi-sonic speed. The noiseless doors slid open, we got on, the noiseless doors slid closed and we departed. Just minutes afterwards, a voice announced ‘Piljandar Square’, and we got off. An escalator in a stainless steel tube 500 feet in length rose 100 feet, delivering Queen Shandra and myself to a pavilion in a park chockfull of pink carnations and azaleas.
Across the way, we found a row of shops that sold collectibles, antiques and souvenirs. Here were stamps and coins, trinkets and medallions, costumes of a bygone day, old portraits, miniatures and statues. In Mecnita’s thousand centuries, a myriad of stamps and a treasury of coins had issued, and legions of philatelists, numismatists and antiquarians had gathered to collect them. You could see a score of shops that catered to such people in Piljandar Square. These were not the ratty little alcoves you might suppose such secondary businesses supported, but rather they were jewel boxes, clad in wainscots, ceilings, moldings, floors, pilasters and parquets of oak, black walnut, ebony, pecan. On the walls were valuable pier glasses, oil paintings, tapestries and timepieces. Soft illumination from hidden luminaires commingled with light music little chamber groups played live. Many shops contiguous within a single block-sized building communicated with each other by means of little halls—with showcases, settees and chairs—that interlocked to form a maze, where you could lose yourself for hours looking at the curios and objets d’art displayed. The Mlian queen and I did spend a goodly while there. Just recently, Ung’s Postal Service had designed and issued a series of 5318 postage stamps in honor of Ung’s kings and queens, with portraits all the way from Ung-la-Pog, the founder of the dynasty, right up to our Queen Udi. Queen Shandra loved the stamps, I saw at once, so I made her a gift of a bound volume with the whole set mounted faultlessly. I charged this purchase to the account of Eldor Palace. All I had to do was touch the inside of my wrist computer-phone to the sensitized magnetic figure on the paper, and an authorizing number was printed thereupon, input into computer memory and displayed upon a screen. Of course, for minor purchases like this—$2000 in earthly money—I didn’t need the approval of the vice queen. I could proceed at my discretion. Queen Shandra was a little hungry, so she and I paused at a snack bar in one of the labyrinthine corridors, for cups of cinnamon espresso and bowls of fudge-and-wafer ice cream. We took our trays up to a nearby cane settee, where we could hear a brass ensemble sounding sonorous bright music as if for us alone.
Another building at Piljandar Square was similar in layout but devoted, not to stamps and coins, but rather to divines and readers. Years previously, during the season of my skepticism, I had been there snickering at the spectacle as an absolute charade. I had not returned, however, since Tufiatani’s accurate predictions had mellowed my brash scoffing and bluff sneering. The existence of the Mall of Oracles, as the place was called, had merely slipped my mind entirely. Now that my philosophy had changed, I wasn’t sure that I could still dismiss the Mall of Oracles as just a parliament of charlatans or a charterhouse of cranks. Hither and thither in the mall I tagged along behind Queen Shandra, who seemed highly curious, inquisitive indeed, like a child at a fair. Everywhere, we saw small chambers filled with ancient volumes, armillary spheres and astrolabes, talismans and amulets, crystal balls and ouija boards, all beautifully crafted in costliest materials.
One shop that styled itself a ‘temple’ offered to foretell your trade or your profession in the future, the place for you that destiny ordained. This they did or claimed to do so by reading specially adapted playing cards. A deck consisting of 200 cards, each bearing an ably executed picture, such as a picture of a mariner, physician, dancer, chef or secretary, and along with it, the title of the occupation, was presented to the subject. According to the rules, the subject was supposed to shuffle and to cut the deck, turning up the bottom card of the upper portion of the deck, where he or she could see the future that the stars had prearranged.
Queen Shandra said she’d like to try. She shuffled thoroughly and cut the deck, turning up the lowest card of the upper half, as she was supposed to do. A picture of a gorgeous lady with a crown upon her head appeared and underneath in uncials the Ungi word ‘manona’, which means ‘queen’. She and I were both impressed with the perfect accuracy of this mini-oracle, assuming naturally Queen Shandra would be queen perennially in Ufzu. The queen pressed me to try. I eagerly agreed. I shuffled the thick deck and cut, turned up the mantic card, and saw a picture of a nun, and with it, ‘zhnana’, the Ungi word for ‘nun’, in our Nyatic uncials.
"See, Vocno," Shandra smiled, "you’re going to acquire a new habit."
"Well," I answered, "that was just a fluke. If I had cut the cards a different way, I’d have been an emperor, a conqueror, a pirate or an admiral. It was only chance I got the card I got."
"But Vocno, you didn’t draw an emperor, a conqueror, a pirate or an admiral. You don’t have the personality or character. You’re too timid, docile, coy and modest. That’s why you drew a nun. Don’t you understand? That’s the nature of the forecast." Queen Shandra acted as if she’d been talking to an uncomprehending and confused young child.
"No, no, no!" I answered, "that was mere coincidence, only a stochastic freak. If I drew again, I’d get a wholly different card."
"Perhaps you’re right. Why don’t you try again? Let’s see."
I shuffled once again and cut, turning up the nun again. I was miffed. I tried again. The nun appeared again. Twelve times I tried in all. I got a dozen nuns. The chances of a twelvefold run of nuns were one in 4 octillion, according to my figures. This wasn’t probability at work; some unseen power was monitoring the game. I was annoyed. I was disturbed. I tried to hide it all from Shandra though.
"The House of Vrikshaya requires religionaries. What’s the difficulty here?" asked Shandra, who seemed totally oblivious of the barricade of sex that blocked the path the cards had pointed out for me. I recalled the prophecies of Barti and of Tufiatani. The irony was like a horseshoe in my mouth. But Shandra said, "Apparently, the barrier will be removed somehow. I see it as a trifle."
We strolled around Piljandar Square, where in afternoon we saw the lovely swans that visit Swusha Park, tame and friendly. Offering them some crumbs of bread with poppyseeds, the queen and I continued to the Mall of Costume. Here, on realistic mannequins, the fashions of the ages were displayed. Gowns and cloaks, capes and caftans, smocks and trousers, blouses, skirts and aprons in a million styles and colors were visible all over. We walked around an hour and saw a hundred wee boutiques.
"Why don’t you get yourself some clothes?" Queen Shandra asked.
"Oh, I don’t know," I hesitated.
"Come on, Vocno, please. We’ll choose some very elegant, becoming outfits."
"I suppose, if that is what you’d like."
"Really? Will you do it then?"
"Sure, why not? At the very next boutique we see."
"Shandra, what’s the difference?"
"Do you promise, yes or no?"
"Very well, I promise, if it’s that important to you."
So you can well imagine my discomfiture, when as we turned a corner in the corridor, the first shop we laid eyes upon specialized in nuns’ apparel. Shandra held me to my promise, so I ordered half a dozen habits to be sent to my apartment in the palace. I wasn’t sure I like the current trend of my affairs.
Later, as we returned in the direction of the station, we passed before a tiny convent hidden in the shadows of an olive grove. I’d never noticed it before. The front door of the convent opened suddenly. A company of nuns issued in a graceful glide, cooing softly, smiling charmingly. Their habits were pitch-black and lily-white, with graceful folds around their faces and their figures. The lavish drapery of their mantles, sleeves and skirts flapped gently in the breeze of approaching evening.
"They’re coming out to get you, Vocno." Was Queen Shandra teasing?
A minute later they had come so close I smelled the violets and roses of their aura, a resistless fragrance that engulfed me and drew me unto them. As if expecting me, they circled me and led me back inside the convent. I conceived of this as the most perfect tribute and the highest honor. I met them all: Sister Vintamagnia, Sister Quequemenia, Sister Hestermonia, Sister Panniponnia, Sister Dalabertia, Sister Lumidelfia. Girls’ names tend to be long in Ung; it’s all the rage.
A fascinating conversation ensued. I’d had no idea nuns were such interesting interlocutors. Their blithe diction was most sweet and placid, comforting and cheerful. Many Ungians, men especially, consider nuns inane and squeamish, frivolous and helpless. I had shared these notions too, to a degree at least, but now I was rethinking my philosophy. Suddenly I found myself admiring them, agreeing with their sentiments and sharing their opinions. Of course, many people thought of me as helpless and inane myself. Maybe that explains the solidarity I felt with them. At any rate, I was enjoying this immensely.
I knew, however, Shandra was outside awaiting me, so soon I took my leave, inviting my new friends to visit me at Eldor Palace anytime they liked. I joined the queen of Ufzu outside before the convent, and we returned by golden comet to the palace. I asked Shandra to go with me the next day to famous Jilmzbra Bakery, which makes bread for metropolitan Mecnita, and she agreed. Giving me a queenly hug and kiss, she returned to the apartment Udi had made permanently hers, her home away from home.
I hadn’t told Queen Shandra about the persecution by Plubac of Udi and myself, when she and I had fled Mecnita impersonating nuns and I’d been cloistered in Defdefa Convent by mistake. I’d worn the barbe and wimple of a novice and observed the silence novices must keep, save to repeat my vows of life-devotion every day. It was an accident of our predicament and struggle for survival that we’d done on those nunnish habits. The menace of imprisonment for sacrilege necessitated my continuation of this masquerade till I escaped at last. I hadn’t vowed my vows in earnest; they were but a farce. So I thought nothing of repudiating them. In fact, I didn’t actually repudiate them even, I forgot them altogether. It was an article of the credo of Defdefa Convent that willy-nilly nuns must needs fulfill their vows. Evasion is impossible, because of heavenly surveillance, according to the credo. But I dismissed the credo as a stratagem to discourage would-be apostates. The cards had been the first blast of the trumpet portending the enactment of the credo. But I wasn’t keen on being teased by Shandra, so I kept the story to myself. I was a little apprehensive though.
Jilmzbra Bakery, in the Ulmla District of Mecnita, on the Umzid River, receives some 37 of 263 long trains of wheat dispatched each day by Psebol Wheat on the automated railroads that serve it. Of course, when I say ‘automated’, I don’t mean Psebol Wheat has absolutely no employees working on its railroads. To be sure, there are a number of computer specialists, security officials and inspectors present at all times. But it’s been estimated Psebol Wheat’s manpower requirements are just one-tenth of 1% of those of corresponding companies on other planets in our galaxy and other galaxies both near and far. If one three-billion-ton-a-year conglomerate producing wheat and baking bread, or a like-sized aggregate of independent companies, upon another planet, has 5,000,000 workers, Psebol Wheat has just 5000. The economists of Ung eschew all labor-intensive enterprises.
At intervals of less than half a minute, morning, noon and night, day in, day out, year after year, a regulation Ungi coverable highside railroad gondola, 12 x 12 x 90, spills 250 tons of wheat in one of countless hoppers feeding the machines that grind, all told, some 7 tons of flour every second, 25 hours a day, 418 days a year. The chaff and bran discarded—2.4 tons every second—become a by-product transshipped to other places to be ground to semolina to make noodles, as well as mash for livestock. Every 40 seconds, 290 tons of pure white flour are ejected by the giant mills into one of 25 titanic pots with a 50-foot diameter, arranged in a rectangular array, that is, in ranks and files, within the kneading bay. Oil, salt, eggs, honey, yeast and milk, mixed in a batter in specified amounts, are added. The dough resulting undergoes a thorough kneading for over 16 minutes by oars as big as lampposts turned by hefty rotors in the pots. Every 40 seconds one on the jumbo pots, activated electronically, like a piston in a cylinder, everts its kingsize mass of dough onto a giant tray, 250 x 250 feet. Enormous rollers flatten it into a massive slab. Great blades come down and slice the dough into 290,000 bricks, which separate when mobile grippers grasp the sides of the expansile tray, enlarging it to 400 x 400, with gaps between the bricks. A second tray extends above the first and then a third and so forth, till a stack of 9 is ready. The dough is raised, and all the trays are slammed together to punch flat the dough, then drawn apart, in an accordion-like operation. Then the dough is raised again. A car of trays emerges from the raising room, where 20 of the barge-sized cars are held, one each 6 seconds of the day, advancing into a colossal oven, 405 x 405 x 10, to be baked for 30 minutes at 500 kelvins more or less. So the oven room, accommodating 5 of these tremendous ovens, bakes some 26,000,000 loaves of bread an hour, 650,000,000 loaves a day. The fresh-baked loaves are wrapped by huge machines in virgin paper under the benignant gaze of lasers and electronic eyes, and enter on conveyors the maze of tunnels that network every district of the city, stocking outlets everywhere.
I took Queen Shandra on a tour of Jilmzbra Bakery the day that we’d agreed. She was astonished at the magnitude and high technology of this facility, as is everyone, but what she really loved the most was Jilmzbra’s bread.
If you haven’t eaten Jilmzbra’s bread, you haven’t eaten bread. The splendid sun that kisses with its golden lips the tawny wheat of Psebol Field has been sealed in the buds, the tiny aromatic buds that liberate their excellent rich flavor mouthful after mouthful. But, oh, the bread’s thick crust, with its delicate bouquet of olive oil and honey—chewy, crunchy, nutty-tasting, golden brown! Oh, the kernel of the bread, pure white, and redolent of wheat and flour and dough! Get it hot from Jilmzbra’s outlets or heat it up yourself above the flame of hickory chips, browning it and capturing the aroma of the smoke. Then bathe it in fresh, warm, soft, sweet, pure butter. Or pour unthickened gravy from roast pork upon it, saturating its white flesh with the crackling-hot brown juice. Or fry a chunky sausage till the casing breaks and all the bits of meat are dancing in the skillet. Then stuff it in a hunk of good hot bread. Chase it with an ice-cold glass of milk or apple cider or papaya juice. Try another hunk of bread, you’ll love it!
Swans at Piljandar Square:
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