A Tale of Ung
A splendid dragon of a train bore Sister Olezconia and me 6000 miles from Fwascren to Mecnita in a day. We were a figure and a figurine, a statue and a statuette, the two of us in our black weeds. She led, I followed, she bade and I obeyed. My introjection of her will was so complete that if she wanted me to come or go, I’d come or go reflexively, without a word or gesture on her part. She had two bodies with a single mind, four eyes, four hands, four feet.
We were amazed when we found Ajinblambia seated at the royal desk in Udi’s former office. Of course, we knew she now was king, but seeing it so vividly impressed us deeply. Queen Udi too was present, sitting on her boudoir chair, a veil of white tulle on her face.
King Ajinblambia began the discourse, "This afternoon, Sister Rogizlenia is to annul the marriage of Queen Udi unto Vocno Ganven. This marriage was illegal in that one of the contracting parties was bound by prior vows to the Defdefan Order. A seeming paradox inheres in the requirement that no one but a nun annul the marriage and the prohibition from the nunhood of anyone still married. However, if the final vows of nunhood and the order of annulment are simultaneous, it would be mere sophistry to argue the two acts are contradictory. So we will do it now."
Olezconia was silent for a moment, pondering canonical considerations, but finally agreed that this was proper. Her thoughts were also running through my mind, so I agreed as well.
A double edict had been carefully prepared by the philologists and lawyers of the realm, with words of double meanings, one set of meanings signifying final vows, the other the annulment of a marriage. Witnesses were then produced. I officiated at the ceremony. Queen Udi was a single woman, I a nun.
Afterwards, the four of us relaxed into a more informal little get-together. King Ajinblambia then told us of some projects she was undertaking. Mount Vlacva, in the Spranceld District, at 20,000 feet is the highest mountain in Mecnita. King Ajinblambia told us she would have a statue 2000 feet in height erected on the very summit of Mount Vlacva. The statue of white marble would depict Ajinblambia and Udi nude, embracing one another fondly. She produced a model on a wheeled platform from a closet in the office. It was truly beautiful. She said that on a cloudless day, you’d be able to descry the statue anywhere within 200 miles of Eldor Palace. Construction was just getting under way and would be done in seven years. Mount Vlacva would be called Mount Ajinblambia-and-Udi.
Olezconia and I were both delighted and impressed. She exclaimed her admiration, and so did I as if by echo.
Then Ajinblambia described her plans to turn the eastern oval of the palace into a royal harem. She said that she adored good-looking girls and planned to take some 20,000 wives, over whom Queen Udi would preside. Of course, she’d keep them under lock and key, and she alone would be admitted from outside. As if excusing her polygyny, she noted she was claiming only 3 of every million women on the planet for herself. She might easily have chosen 50 or 100 without disturbing population trends, she said.
Now finally, uranium was being mined successfully upon Dlivandor and many spaceflights had been made to other planets too, so Ajinblambia had proclaimed herself king of the entire Dyotic solar system. People had begun to say that she was God, the ruler of the galaxy and author of creation. She dismissed these rumors as exaggerations, protesting she was happy with the local planets in her jurisdiction and Udi at her side.
Ajinblambia and Udi were amused when Olezconia, describing my novitiate and my relation with the other nuns, related all my nicknames in the convent. From that day on they’d call me ‘bee’ or ‘bug’ or ‘kitten’ too, or improvise yet further affectionate diminutives.
As for the yam plantations I’d been hoping to develop, Ajinblambia had taken charge of the whole project, which was doing very well, she said. Apologetically, she mentioned several revisions and improvements she had made to the design of my equipment and the siting of my farms. A statue of myself, attired in my habit, had been erected at the driveway of the largest of the farms, as a memorial. If I liked, we could drive out there or have Trezeldna, one of the current chauffeurs, take the wheel; it was an hour out of Eldor.
Queen Udi said she’d abdicate as regnant queen for just a day or so. I was shocked at this, recalling how her abdication had been ruled out entirely in the negotiations of the year before. She sensed my puzzlement and said I’d understand her action in due time. Of course, Olezconia hadn’t been a party to those first negotiations, but she could read my thoughts better than I myself could do, and thus was able to deduce the cause of my surprise.
Eventually, we all retired to our rooms. Olezconia and I were back in guest room 3115, where we sat together holding hands and drinking tea till it was time to go to bed.
Next day, at a quiet little ceremony in a palace chapel, I presided Udi’s abdication from the regnant queenship. She did off her platinum and sapphire crown and set down her scepter and her mond. I read in medieval Ungi the text of the decree that she and her attorneys had composed. Later she put on a toque, and I began to glimpse the future with more certitude.
For about one day, the realm had just an interim or acting sovereign. Then, in Eldor Palace, when some 100,000 dignitaries, nobles and officials had filled the central hall and all eight naves extending to the smaller ovals, I crowned Ajinblambia the King of Ung in perpetuity. During the coronation, she stood upon a dais while I stood in a depression in the floor, emphasizing the great height and majesty of our new king.
Ajinblambia elected to dispense with the procession down the Avenue of Ung that many had supposed would introduce the coronation. She felt that this would merely echo or reflect Queen Udi’s coronation and its anniversaries, and she sought novelty.
So after this first coronation in the palace, King Ajinblambia invited all the citizens of Ung who could attend to celebrate with her at Pantoflambo Field, a beautiful vast campus in the Spranceld District, dotted here and there with stands of weeping willow and crisscrossed a dozen times with endless rows of royal palms. Crystal brooks with little bridges babbled over beds of smoothened pebbles and miniature lagoons spread out behind wee dams, some built of stone, others piled up by beavers. Ten million had forgathered among the bowers or in broad clearings, relaxing or regaling one another. Musicians strolled about in droves, playing flutes and oboes, violins and horns, and everyone would sing and dance responsively, so rapturous and rhythmic and rhapsodic were their strains. Naturally, meat and bread and fruit and wine, in nonpareil variety and heaping quantity, were there, along with gifts and favors, souvenirs and tokens and mementos. The place was decorated regally, with banners, streamers and pavilions, silky, gauzy, satiny, all fluttering and flapping in the breeze. It made a splendid spectacle! It was like unto a pageant or a tournament in heaven!
Suddenly Mount Vlacva, classified as an extinct volcano, inactive several thousand years, dominating the vicinity and beetling o’er the field, erupted furiously, wholly unexpectedly, throwing fiery billows skywards. It looked as if a terrible calamity was to befall the festal multitudes. Everyone recoiled in horror as the jets and globes of fire filled the welkin from horizon to horizon. Certainly we would be inundated under seas of molten lava, and destruction would betide us.
Then—miracle of miracles!—the disgorging flames took on the forms of a cornucopia of gorgeous flowers, great fiery festoons. There were lilies—orange pixie, fire king, enchantment; tulips—flaming parrot, orange bouquet and golden daylight; irises—canary bird, orange dawn and fleur-de-lis; cannas; orchids; birds-of-paradise. Dazzling tangerine-and-lemon-colored flowers overcanopied the firmament, both near and far, exploding in flamboyant bright corollas. Then slowly, slowly, they all shed their shapely petals and expired, only to be followed by another generation, budding first, then riotously blossoming in an outburst of new color—orange and yellow and vermilion in a million brilliant shades. Generation after generation bloomed and burgeoned, volley after volley erupted from Mount Vlacva. Finally the flowery flambeaus just flickered faintly, disappearing gently and the sky was blue again.
Not fifty feet from where I sat with Olezconia and Udi, the three of us all dazzled by this floral fantasy, I saw King Ajinblambia ascend a little dais of black onyx with a gold and white pavilion overhead. Nearby upon an onyx pedestal, her golden crown bejeweled with red rubies stood, and I could see a tiny stoop of six low steps behind her. The royal mistress was majestic and magnificent, in her magenta robes, as she stood erect and motionless at the center of the dais.
Sister Olezconia prodded me a little with her hand and whispered some instructions in my ear. Nervously and anxiously, I slowly rose, proceeding to the dais, approaching from behind. I mounted the six steps, picked up the crown, placing it in Ajinblambia’s waiting hands held high above her head. In a second, she reposed the crown upon her head, and I pronounced in the diction of medieval Ungi, "Tlascon evn! Tlascon evn!" ("Long live the King! Long live the King!") Then I stood erect on the stoop behind the king, my habit partly visible behind the new-crowned sovereign, doing exactly and precisely as I’d been bidden do.
I looked heavenward and I was overwhelmed. A similitude of Ajinblambia in her robes of deep magenta and her jeweled crown, inside the gold and white pavilion on the dais of black onyx, with myself behind her, barely visible, had been projected in the sky a million miles high, reaching from the level of the land to the very pinnacle of noon, the zenith of creation. Ten million people saw the image in the sky! Ten million saw King Ajinblambia in heaven!
When Ajinblambia stepped down, and the image disappeared, Mount Vlacva once again erupted, but this time all the flames were flawless white. They raged and roared for several minutes, an alabaster fire, and then began assuming forms of great and graceful birds—cranes and ibises and herons, geese and cockatoos and egrets, swans and pelicans and storks—that flew in swirling spirals and parabolas, loops and catenaries, like ballerinas gliding in the sky, or angels in a heavenly procession o’er the clouds, filling the empyrean. After many a minute of magnificent maneuvering, the high-flying flock began surrendering their feathers, which fell to earth like a rain of long white drops and vanished in the soil, and the sky was blue again, the peerless blue that always overdrapes Mecnita.
Of course, this was all a holographic spectacle, so realistic you’d have believed it if you’d been there! You could’ve touched the flaming flowers and felt the downy feathers of the birds, it was all so vivid, all so lifelike! Thus the city’s millions got to see a coronation too!
The flamboyance and the feasting and the fireworks went on for many days, Mecnita’s multitudes delighted with the celebration, but on the next day, Ajinblambia and Udi, in company of Olezconia and me, went to the chapel for the royal wedding. This little chapel in the northern oval was a solemn, stately little auditorium, all paneled in waxed and varnished oak, with hangings of dark velvet and rich tapestries, and lamps and knobs and rails of old gold. The king preferred a private little ceremony to a big, splendid ostentation in this case, and it was done according to her wishes, myself officiating, with the abbess as a witness. Udi assumed the title Queen Consort Udi, by which was given to be understood that she’d surrendered all her powers to the king and would become companion, mate and spouse. Ung and Udi both belonged to Ajinblambia, and Vocno was no more.
Of course, Shandra had flown in from Mli to take part in all the gaieties and galas, the glory and the glamour. Barti, Usha, Vinja, Dhabbi, Mlechi had all converged on Eldor Palace too. They now stood seven feet, just like King Ajinblambia herself, and the original eight Vrikshayas were as imposing and impressive as a pantheon of suns. Of course, the Ghasbi Project was completed and the Karamanta Desert had been greened with orchards and plantations, bosks and thickets. Cities too were coming into being and industry was taking shape. Mezquinc Aerospace Facility was very near completion and spaceships were coming off assembly lines. In western Ub, the Turfant-Tuva Project and the Oirad Project were progressing with unprecedented speed, but still were under way. Yet several million acres were already under cultivation.
I took advantage of an idle day to go to Holy Armalissa’s, where I saw Sister Quequemenia, Sister Lumidelfia, Sister Dalabertia, Sister Vintamagnia, Sister Panniponnia and Sister Hestermonia. They were all delighted that I’d assumed the wimple they said that I was born to. I was not explicit about what happened in Cnaizdadf, nor did they inquire, though I surmise they must have had an inkling. We all agreed my new vocation was correct, my old one, as prime minister, erroneous.
My trilogy on Ajinblambia, long since complete, had been published and distributed by Rupsnoir Press, and I was able to peruse a copy, bound in navy leather with gilding and a ribbon of blue grosgrain in each volume, in Udi’s study, to which I was given free access for the days that Sister Olezconia and I would be in town. In Udi’s study, I shed a tear or two, remembering our marriage and our tender love, but I accepted the new scheme of things resignedly. Resignation is a cloistral virtue just like modesty or chastity.
Hennamarn had prophesied correctly, had I but understood, but even if I’d understood I’d probably have been unable to avert the union of the House of Ung and the ancient House of Vrikshaya, written in the stars no doubt, if indeed there’d been a reason to avert it. So Ajinblambia would rule 100 years! And I’d be cloistered at Defdefa Convent all the while.
Barti, Mlechi, Usha, Vinja, Dhabbi, Shandra were named Queens Regnant in the days to come, so many people referred to Ajinblambia as the King with Seven Queens.
When all the ceremonies and festivities and rites had been completed duly, Sister Olezconia and I returned by train to Fwascren, and walked the 20 miles from Mubunur Station to Defdefa Convent, there to the austerities with which I’d learnt to feel comfortable—the long dark halls, the silent cells, the high gray walls outside. There I’d write my recollections and call my book A Tale of Ung.
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