Two New Year's Eves from now in a place you've never heard of...
“New Year's in the Lost Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon Saturday 31 December 2016 21:55 CET (GMT+1) Sommerhus, Eisbergen According to the media, much of the world was spending New Year’s Eve drinking - if sixteen-year-old Crown Princess Daniska Elsinor believed the media. That might be true. It might even be true for her Eisbergen. But not for all. Some people had to work, if not for a living, then for the good of a kingdom. In the barn’s dim light she scraped the shovel against the floor and deposited another load of cow dung in the wheelbarrow. The main door to the west barn screeched open and a rough voice called out in the old Ur-Danish, “Who’s there?” “Me,” Daniska replied. This was her kingdom. She really had no one to answer to except her father King Henrik VII and God - in some order she never felt she wanted to debate. She kept shoveling until the intruder came around the pens. “I saw lights on... What the hell are you doing shoveling the shit at this hour, princess?” Klaus Jønsson asked, irritated at her as usual. The middle-aged farmer used the word princess as if it was a taunt, not an honorific. “Could you shut the doors? You’re letting the heat out.” Klaus might not have liked the royalty of Eisbergen or how they ran things. But he did know and care about animals - and was famously frugal - this was a request he responded to, even if he acted grumpy as usual. “You haven’t answered my question, princess,” he said when he came back. He stood 6’5” and solidly sturdy - she straightened up to her slender 6’4” height so they stood eye-to-eye in the barn. “There wasn’t time to answer you - and I wasn’t going to shout after you like you were a servant or something.” Daniska didn’t know why she felt she had to needle him as well. “It’s New Year’s Eve. There is going to be a lot of drinking in Eisbergen. And the livestock needs to be attended to, no matter what day it is. Everyone is going to be moving slow in the morning. I’m just trying to lighten the load.” “You’re going to smell to high heaven if you keep up at this,” Klaus said, grabbing an old iron rake and starting to pull some of the sodden straw out of the stalls. One of the cows moved out of his way. “Too late,” Daniska said, pausing to wipe the sweat on her brow with the back of a glove. The jeans she had on were old, as was the tattered and faded University of Oslo sweatshirt. “Well, it’s good to see you working for a change,” he grudgingly acknowledged. “You have no idea what I do,” she replied calmly. “You’re too busy running your farm or trying to rile up the citizenry.” “Hmph. Well, you may be right about that. It certainly looks like you’ve shoveled shit before.” Her iPhone rang before she could come up with a rejoinder. “Yes?” she answered on speaker, after waving a hand over the camera. It was her sister. “Dani, where are you? It’s almost ten o’clock. You have to get ready.” “I’m almost done.” “Done what?” “Cleaning out the barn.” “You went out there two hours ago.” “You didn’t come to help.” “Not fair - I had baking to do.” “I’ll be there,” Daniska said, waving her hand again - the handsfree app she’d written disconnecting. “Still think that all royals are worthless leeches on the backs of the workers?” Klaus glared sourly. “You should go, princess. I can finish this. I don’t want Marcellus or one of his Romans to come and get me.” “They wouldn’t be after you,” she said, finally putting one last, large shovelful in the wheelbarrow. “They’d be after me.” Grabbing the old coat that lived in the mud room off the back of the kitchen at Royal House, Daniska bundled up and headed out. “Don’t you stay up so late here, either, Klaus. It’s New Year’s Eve.” “Ah-hhh, bah,” he waved a hand at her in annoyance. “And shut that damned door behind you. Don’t let all the heat out.” *** New Year’s Eve - twenty minutes to midnight - in the warmth and light of Royal House. “Anaulka - are you dressed yet?” Daniska called up the stairs. “I’m coming,” the girl responded. And indeed, within a minute she emerged from their bedroom and came clattering down the stairs. “Are those my shoes?” “Yes.” “They don’t quite fit you,” Daniska sighed. Anaulka wasn’t one to give up. “I heard you all the way down.” “Urrrrgh.” Anaulka kicked off the chunky white heels. “I can’t wear your really high heels anyway.” “Not yet.” “And I don’t have any women’s shoes. All I have are little girl’s shoes.” “We should correct that then.” “I’m thirteen,” Anaulka insisted. “There you are,” their mother Queen Joelle said, coming out of the kitchen in an elegant royal blue evening gown, her short dark hair contrasting with the girls’ long blond hair. She kissed the top of her younger daughter’s head, noting that without shoes, she was her height for once, almost 6’1”. “I was beginning to be think you’d never make it, Ani. Now, both of you - turn around.” Daniska was three inches taller than her sister anyway, but since Anaulka was barefoot, she towered over her. Both princesses wore loose, full-length white dresses with embroidered square necklines. Their waist long blond hair was free tonight, partly pulled back - Daniska’s by a 12th century silver Viking comb, Anaulka’s with a black velvet bow. The comb kept slipping against Daniska’s unruly wavy hair, threatening to fall out every ten or fifteen minutes. She’d rather braid it and forget about her hair. “You both look lovely. But no shoes, Ani?” Anaulka pointed at the shoes lying in a heap near the bottom of the stairs. “They didn’t fit.” “She can’t just wear my things,” Daniska told their mother. “Don’t let that tomboy attitude fool you - you’re growing another woman in this house. Another princess.” “Yeah,” Anaulka said. “You’re neglecting me, Mother.” “You’re not helping.” Anaulka stuck her tongue out at her sister. The queen sighed. The girls were right about one thing - she didn’t spend enough time with them. Both were growing into lovely young women. And from what she heard, the kingdom liked their princesses. The sad thing was she wasn’t likely to change - Dr. Joelle Lund liked her academic world south in Oslo far too much. The kingdom and her girls was just some place she visited. Infrequently. “Someone bring the herring and the champagne glasses.” “Herring!” Anaulka called and went to get the two platters of pickled herring, plain and with cream sauce. “Henrik - it’s time,” Joelle called to her husband. “Yes, yes,” he replied, emerging from his study. Amazingly he carried no papers - Daniska wasn’t even sure he had his iPhone. Indeed, the 6’7” king was, for once, elegant himself in full black tails and tie. His dark blond hair was cut short and curled in the old Roman way - his beard fierce and Viking. The king and queen looked every bit the royal couple they were. The elaborate grandfather’s clock in the parlor began to chime. “Four... three... two...” Anaulka counted out loud, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. “TWELVE! Midnight everyone - Happy New Year!” The two princesses kissed and hugged. “Happy New Year, my dear,” Henrik said to his wife and they embraced and kissed while the girls stood by smiling. Anaulka elbowed her sister. They heard a series of cracks outside. “Someone has firecrackers,” Anaulka observed. “Oh, and happy birthday, sister.” “Yes, my little Y2K bug - Happy Birthday,” Joelle came over and kissed Daniska. Then the princess was kissed by her father and her sister. Blushing, Daniska went back into the kitchen. New Year’s Day 2017 A.D. in Eisbergen. Seventeen years ago, 1 January 2000, at 2:32 in the morning, Daniska Elsinor Raphaella Rachel had presented herself to the world and the then Crown Prince Henrik. She didn’t remember it, of course, but the world had survived the calendar rolling over from 1999 to 2000 without catastrophic computer losses. Anaulka joked that it was the source of her sister’s superior computer coding abilities - an omen. Daniska came out carefully hanging two bottles of champagne in elegant black bottles by their necks in one hand and a tray with four tall champagne flutes in the other. “Two bottles of champagne, Father?” Anaulka asked. “You are about to sink one, are you?” Henrik frowned. “I’m not sure what you mean.” “She’s teasing you,” Daniska said, setting down the tray, then the bottles. “Sinking is ordering two bottles of champagne and pouring one down the sink to protest some silly Swedish law against spraying champagne in a public place.” “This is not Sweden, my dear, or have you forgotten?” Henrik said to Anaulka. “There is no law against spraying champagne in Eisbergen - only common sense enough to know not to waste any precious product.” “But it’s Swedish champagne. HATT et SÖNER Prestige 2005 Le Grand-Père,” Anaulka said, picking up one bottle and reading the label. “So I thought, when in Rome, do as the Swedes do?” “That one doesn’t even work,” Daniska said, shaking her head. “We are Rome,” Anaulka said helpfully, and as Eisbergen was founded in part by a Roman Senator as one of their three crowns in 460 A.D., it was true. “The company may be owned by Swedes, not Frenchmen,” the king explained, “it is still French champagne. Otherwise under all those arcane EU rules and regulations, they couldn’t call it...” “Henrik,” the queen said. “Quite so. The new year is precious seconds old - and we have not yet poured and toasted. And,” the king said, pausing to remove the wire cage from the first black bottle, “I am not averse to popping the cork on these festive occasions.” Bwoop! “Ah...” The ladies all applauded as the cork sailed up almost to the sixteen-foot ceiling of the great hall and bounced on the stairs. “There’s four of us - and two bottles,” Anaulka said, as Henrik began pouring into the tall thin glasses. “Is that half a bottle each?” “No,” Daniska said. “You have two bottles in case one is a dud.” “Or unexpected company arrives,” the king said. “It’s midnight in the most secretive country in the world,” Anaulka frowned. “Who could possibly come unannounced?” “You never know,” Henrik said. “Everyone has a glass? Yes? Then Happy New Year to all of us and our kingdom.” “To the New Year.” “God grace the king,” Daniska added. The others immediately replied and Henrik nodded. “And a very happy birthday to my Princess Daniska,” he answered, which began yet a third round of toasts. They had barely started on the black bread and the pickled herring when the front door chimed. The girls looked at their father, who had a mischievous smile. “Who could that possibly be at this late... er, early hour?” he asked. Taking his wife by the arm, they advanced to open first the inside double doors and then with a flourish, Henrik pulled both of the outer doors at once. “General Marcellus,” he greeted the Roman Centurion standing on the porch, the slowly falling snow glistening on the full ceremonial armor. Marcellus saluted, fist out. “Your Majesty, Your Grace - Happy New Year.” He held out a small stoneware crock, wrapped in a towel. “I bring fish soup to give you good luck throughout the year.” “Come in, come in, old friend.” The sixty-year-old Roman carefully stepped over the threshold, planted both feet and handed the king the crock. It occurred to Daniska that this was a ceremony of some sort. The first visitor of the new year? She would have to look it up. It seemed that her father was also not averse to reviving old customs. “Daniska - we shall need more glasses.” Behind Marcellus on the porch, were the part-time Steward of Royal House and his wife Greta, their part-time cook and housekeeper. “Now it’s a party,” Anaulka observed. “Happy birthday, Your Highness,” Marcellus said, removing his helmet with the red brush on top and presenting a small package wrapped in silvery paper to Daniska. Daniska set the additional glasses down and accepted the gift. “Thank you very much, Marcellus.” She kissed him on both cheeks. Then she held up a silver spoon. “I think we should pass your soup around and skip trying to dish it out.” “An excellent idea,” the Roman said, rubbing his hands. “It is damned cold out there. And we need some good luck in the new year.” “I don’t know about luck,” Daniska said, picking up the crock in one hand after wrapping it in a towel, “but we have champagne, herring, bread and fish soup. We are certainly trying to appease the gods as much as possible. Oh, this is good.” “Most of the meals that I cook myself are based on basic Roman camp food recipes. I’m afraid I’m stubborn that way. Be a Roman, be a Roman all the way. But this? This is my mother’s and she got it from her mother - generations back.” “Well, you can clearly cook, good sir.” The bell jangled at the door again - this time for the realm’s two fishermen and their wives. “It’s time to sing,” one of the fishermen shouted. “It’s New Year’s for God’s sake.” The suggestion was greeted with applause and everyone looked to the princesses. Anaulka and Daniska realized they would not get out of this. So the birthday girl sat at the piano in the parlor, and Anaulka stood nearby. Her singing voice was higher and sweeter than Daniska’s, but she could start strong and low enough to suit. “Skuld gammel venskab rejn forgo og stryges fræ wor mind? Skuld gammel venskab rejn forgo med dem daw så læng, læng sind? Di skjønne ungdomsdaw, å ja, de daw så svær å find! Vi'el løwt wor kop så glådle op for dem daw så læng, læng sind!” Daniska came in on the chorus and the duet soon became a trio as their Father’s baritone was added. Soon everyone joined in the choruses as Anaulka sang the next stanzas - the ones that most people didn’t know, Daniska smiled. “I think we did Robbie Burns proud,” Anaulka said to her sister, after they took their bow. “I think on New Year’s nobody cares - they just want it sung. But,” Daniska hastily added, “you did beautifully.” “Thank you,” Anaulka beamed. The champagne was long gone - there were eleven in Royal House now - and so the adults had switched to whisky and brandies. Daniska took a small glass of brandy. “We’re sharing,” she told her father as he frowned. Anaulka sat on the sofa, rubbing her bare feet. “Here, let me do that for you,” Daniska offered, and as she sat down, Anaulka propped her legs on her sister’s knees. “You’re cold.” “I have no shoes.” “You’re a very silly girl from time to time.” “Thank you, O worldly princess sister.” “You should have put on a pair of your own shoes.” “What would be the fun of that?” The bell jingled again and the princesses looked at each other. Daniska went to the front door and was surprised to see Klaus Jønsson and his two sons. “Klaus! Dean, Cyril - Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for coming. Come in out of the cold, please. All of you. You are always welcome.” The farmer harrumphed, and kicked his snowy boots on the side of the door frame before stepping inside. “Apologies for coming so late,” he said, taking off his hat. “Nonsense. It’s New Year’s - we’re going to be up all night.” “I wasn’t going to come,” he said gruffly. “But I was reminded - this is your seventeenth birthday, princess. By the Old Law, today is your age of ascension. You can become queen on your own without needing a regent. “So I suppose I should be nice to you, princess, as someday you’ll rule,” he finished his speech, handing her a package. “I brought smoked blood sausage.” “Thank you, good sir. And let us hope that I am not queen for a long time.” Anaulka had come to take their coats. The sons were both older than the girls. Dean was nineteen and disliked the royals as much as his father. But the older brother, Cyril, was quiet and shy - and if he hated anyone in the world, Daniska didn’t know who it was. “Cyril, I’m amazed you made in from the south farm in this weather.” As expected, he didn’t answer her. “I’m sorry, we had very little champagne at midnight. But there’s whisky and brandy. And still some herring and smoked fish, plus your wonderful sausage.” “Whisky sounds good,” Klaus said and headed over to get a stiff drink. “Behave yourselves,” he told his boys. Someone had found the master control panel for the Bang & Olufsen BeoSystem 5000 stereo, which had apparently fallen off a truck near Copenhagen back in 1985 and found its way into Royal House via their Royalists motorcycle club. Below were sliding wooden doors which revealed hundreds of old LP records. Soon the background was filled with Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte. It was during Harry Belafonte’s Calypso in Brass from 1966 and “Jump in the Line”, that Daniska was asked to dance by her father. When she glanced back, Anaulka had pulled her knees up to her chest, watching and grinning at everyone making minor fools of themselves. By two, Anaulka had been recruited to play the straight violin and soon raucous fiddling tunes spurred on the dancers - and those who weren’t dancing kept time clapping. Half an hour later, the younger princess declared she was in no shape to keep playing at this hour, and the party went back to the stereo. And Chubby Checkers. “It’s 3:13am,” Daniska told Anaulka, as her sister came back out to the great table with a small box. “And you’re eating chocolates?” “Nope,” Anaulka said, holding the box out. It was fondant stuffed sugared dates. “Have one.” “I’m already stuffed on herring and soup and bread.” “It’s not like you need to worry about getting fat.” “Alright. I’ll have one.” “Good!” *** In the morning it was of course still dark. But those who’d gathered at Royal House and had stayed up for all hours, bundled up against the cold and went to New Year’s Mass at eight. “What did Marcellus give you for your birthday?” Anaulka whispered as they took their seats and waited for the kingdom to arrive and stand for the service. “I never did see.” “It’s a Chinese black lacquered abacus - very small and very old. It’s quite lovely and it makes a nice clicking sound as you flick the beads back and forth. I have no idea where he got it.” “I don’t recall reading about any piracy against Chinese shipping in the Book of Days,” Anaulka said. “Maybe it was a personal possession on some ship we captured long ago?” Though much had been lost in 1944, they still had some stores of trophies collected from centuries of Viking and pirate raids in the name of the kingdom. “I don’t know. And Marcellus never tells where he gets things.” “He does it to annoy you,” Anaulka said. “He does it to challenge me, I think.” By noon the sun made its first appearance for 2017, staying only for a while. It was just eleven days after the winter solstice in the secret kingdom of Eisbergen just north of the Arctic Circle, hidden amongst the mountains and fjords of Norway. But not Norway. From Book One of the Lost Kingdom Chronicles ©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon -- All Rights Reserved
This is the second outing of my Lost Kingdom princesses story.
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And All The Best for 2015!