Two Christmases from now in a place you've never heard of...
“A Christmas in the Lost Kingdom” by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon Saturday 24 December 2016 13:42 CET (GMT+1) Sommerhus, Eisbergen The two princesses were tall and slender in the way of most Eisbergers and their Viking ancestors. For this Christmas Eve, they both would wear their waist long blond hair up and have matching long red and green plaid skirts with white silk blouses. But sixteen-year-old Crown Princess Daniska Elsinor was worried about many things. Dressing in candlelight had not been part of the plan -- and it would ruin her surprise to the children. The power had been out nearly an hour already, which was never a good sign in the tiny kingdom of Eisbergen. Ordinarily she might have been out helping troubleshoot the power failure, but the princess had obligations to the Crown. At least she’d already checked her iPhone several times and still had bars, so she wouldn’t have to restart the cell service. It was already on its backup power. And then there were her shoes. Actually there was nothing wrong with the shoes on her own feet. Elegant and extravagant looking -- but bought on sale in Copenhagen -- it was only a little outrageous for the 6’4” Daniska to wear five-inch heels. But as heir, it would bring her close to eye-to-eye with her father, King Henrik VII. She watched as her thirteen-year-old sister Princess Anaulka Katje tried to get into another pair of Daniska’s very high heels. After a struggle, she got them on and managed to stand, arms cautiously stretched out as she wavered. She straightened up to her full height of 6’¾”, plus the four-inch heels. Then beaming, Anaulka triumphantly took an awkward step... and promptly lost her balance and fell back against the bed. Daniska could only smile. Anaulka looked up, mortified. “Do. Not. Laugh. I’ll get this.” “Someday, I’m sure, Ani. But not today.” “It’s Christmas!” “Yes and you know very well that on Christmas we never get all that we want.” “That’s true enough.” Anaulka sighed and held her legs straight out off the bed. “They look good.” “They’re darling. Now take off my shoes before you ruin them and hurt yourself. You really don’t want to be hobbling around the rest of the holidays on crutches.” “You really do have an annoying habit of spoiling everything by pointing out the reality of the situation, dear sister. Not everything is equations and technical specifications.” “I love you, too.” Anaulka carelessly kicked off the shoes and headed back to the closet to find a pair of her own dress shoes. “Your nose is bleeding,” she said quietly as she walked past in her stockinged feet. “Oh, thanks,” Daniska said, grabbing a handkerchief -- it wasn’t that bad this time. Just a drop. But she hated this one reminder of her royal ancestry. At least her sister didn’t suffer from it as well. “I think I’ll wear the dark red sweater, though, and not the gold.” “Just in case?” “Just in case.” Anaulka came back with the red sweater and her own gold sweater. They wouldn’t be identical, but they would look good together. Daniska heard a rumble outside as someone had finally broken down and put on the generator for Royal House. It was the Christmas Eve party, after all, and if the village of Summer Home was coming to call, the royal family should really put on the lights for them. She took a deep breath and stood up. “It’s show time.” *** The Royal House smelled of evergreens, spices and all manner of baking and cooking. Small dishes of nuts and sweets were strategically scattered around the public areas -- Princess Anaulka had secreted one large bowl for their own room, as if no one would notice the young teenaged princess’s sweet tooth. There was no real daylight this time of year, but that didn’t stop Eisbergen from preparing for Christmas. And during the dark afternoon, families from Summer Home and Nunuuvit brought their children to the Royal House for games and stories and hot chocolate and many kinds of cookies and small spiced meat pies, while the adults feasted on pickled herring, salted cod, rye bread and lots of the local bitter thin beer. Large enough to entertain all forty residents of Summer Home and a good measure of the subjects who lived in Nunuuvit, Royal House stood two full stories tall, but the parlor and great hall in the front half had a vaulted ceiling with exposed timbers overhead. Sixteen feet high at the peak, the ceiling was ten foot high where the nine foot Christmas tree stood just past the piano in the front of the parlor. The tree glittered with hundreds of colored LED lights, glass ornaments, old toys, tinsel two generations old and topped with a glass gipfel spire which almost touched the ceiling. As far as the children of Eisbergen were concerned, their 9th century Saint Nicholi was the real Santa Claus -- no matter what the mass media from the world would try to convince them of -- and his arrival meant blessings for the celebrations and feasts surrounding Christ’s Mass. Besides, the world didn’t even know Saint Nicholi or even Eisbergen existed. But the little ones always wanted to hear stories of the great tree which was set up in the Citadel during Christmas back in the old days, from before their near destruction in World War II, when the Citadel, the island and Winter Home were sacked. No one alive in Royal House today had been there in those days, but Princess Daniska had picked up the habit of reading the Christmas preparation notes in the Book of Days from various years. This time she had selected 1911, having always held a fascination for the Edwardians. As the six-foot-four princess walked into the parlor, the kingdom’s eight smaller children were already dancing around her and clamoring for Her Highness to tell them a story. Smiling, Daniska sat on a delicate wooden chair with her iPad on her lap and had them sit on the polished wood floor around her. “During the fourth year of the reign of Alvin III,” she began, speaking in the old Ur-Danish tongue, “the annual call was sent out throughout our little kingdom to find the right tree for the great entrance hall in the Citadel, the castle-in-the-Rock where the Royal Family of Eisbergen once lived. While most homes had their own Christmas trees throughout Winter Home and Nunuuvit, the great tree was special, for it belonged to all of us. “Oh, the Old Man Pine next to the Allhall on the island still stood and was decorated every year, but the decorations were old and they’d not taken to even hanging electric lights on it. The great tree in the Citadel, though, had been lit by candles for generations. It wouldn’t be until 1914, three years later, that strings of electric lights would be used.” “Wasn’t it dangerous to use candles?” “Perhaps. But the people were used to working with candles. And over the years, they had gone from melting the candles directly to the branches, to small candle holders just like you use today when the power fails, and then to tiny metal lanterns and glass balls with the candles inside.” Daniska paused in her tale to pull up some sketches on her iPad. “See? These are the types of lights they used back in 1911.” She touched the screen with her finger and the background dimmed and the candles glowed in the animation she’d made. “Ooo-ooh,” the children sang and the princess smiled. Her sister Anaulka had come out of the kitchen and was leaning on the staircase railing to the upstairs watching the performance. Daniska saw her and gave a nod of the head. The younger princess carefully stepped around the children and, folding her skirts around, settled down on the floor next to the Crown Princess. “Master Tomas Blylevin was the Builder for the Crown in those days -- he was the greatfather of our own Builder -- and he constructed a special frame that sat within the lower boughs of the tree so that early clockwork Märklin toy trains could run around the tree.” “I wish we had a train running around our tree.” “It’s Christmas -- sometimes our wishes come true.” Daniska tapped on her iPad and dimmed the lights in the parlor. The Christmas tree behind the children glowed with the strings of little colored LED lights that crisscrossed over the branches. When she tapped again, a different short string of lights appeared deep inside the tree -- and moved. The children shrieked in delight, which caused the parents in the kitchen and those sitting at the great table drinking to see what was causing the commotion. But they relaxed when they saw they were jumping up and down in excitement and pointing at something the princess had shown them. Even her sister looked dumbfounded as if to say, How did you do this? The tiny train, with passenger cars just two inches long and rails only 3 mm apart, rose on its thin tracks around and around the tree at a fairly steep angle, then came around a platform circling near the top that no one had noticed before amidst the lights and tinsel, and spiraled back down to repeat the process. It took the train about a minute to make the full circuit. The older children, who’d been playing board games in the library and cracking nuts, came out to see what the fuss was -- and were amazed at Daniska’s latest technical wizardry. They stayed and watched the train go up and down and up the tree again and again with their little brothers and sisters and cousins. After all, they were all cousins by some degree to everyone else in the kingdom. Anaulka stared at her sister. “Where on Earth did you find this?” “eBay Japan,” Daniska said quietly. “T-scale is the smallest production model trains -- 1:450 ratio -- and they use magnets to keep a grip on the rails, so they’re perfect. Eishindo makes various Japanese trains -- their commuter trains look cute snaking up and down the tree, don’t you think?” “It’s adorable, no matter the ratio gibberish,” Anaulka admitted, then whispered, “But how did you find out about them?” “Wikipedia.” “That’s not true,” Anaulka insisted. “You can’t just open Wikipedia and it gives you answers -- you have to search for something.” “True. I knew about our 1911 tree trains and wanted to do something similar. Except I wanted something subtler. A surprise, hidden in the branches. Lionel and HO were far too big. But even N-scale seemed large.” “N-scale being...?” “A very small train size. But at a model shop in Copenhagen I’d seen some Märklin Z-scale -- even smaller. And when I looked that up in Google, I found about ZZ and then T-scale. It was the magnetic track that made up my mind.” “So... what did it cost?” Anaulka reluctantly asked. The kingdom was poor and everything, eventually, came down to a matter of money. “It should have cost a lot,” Daniska admitted. “But if you’re careful you can find eBay sellers who aren’t very clever -- they have the items listed wrong and they don’t set minimum prices. Sad to say this person lost a great deal of money, but that’s the rules. In the great Internet commerce world, it was all fair.” “So you’re saying you legally stole these.” “I suppose. It wouldn’t have done much good to send a raiding party to acquire them by our usual ultralegal means -- I doubt that very many people have ever seen these anywhere in Europe. There’s an online shop in the U.K., though.” “Yes, but you haven’t answered my question -- how cheap is cheap?” “35 000 yen, including shipping, which works out to about 1750 Danish kroner. That includes all the track, which wasn’t cheap. I worked up the digital controls myself.” “Three hundred American -- for all this?” Anaulka scrunched up her forehead in surprise. “Is that all? I take back all the mean things I said about equations and technical specifications.” “Like I said, buying them and shipping them to Copenhagen should have been much more dear. In which case I wouldn’t have bought them.” “You brought these with you from school?” “Of course. They hardly take up any space, after all.” “And you didn’t tell me?” Anaulka punched her sister in the arm. “It was worth every krone,” Daniska grinned, while she rubbed her sore arm. “Merry Christmas.” “Merry Christmas to you, too.” “Now, let’s see what Saint Nicholi has brought the children.” “I hope there’re Snickers bars.” “I said for the children.” “You forget -- I’m still just thirteen. I am still a child.” “Only when you want candy. The rest of the time you insist you’re an adult.” “You, my dear sister, are a wretch.” Daniska got up, setting her iPad down on the chair. But as she walked over to where there were wrapped presents and a small sack of candy from Saint Nicholi to give to the eager children, she reached into a pocket of her long skirt and palmed a Snickers bar into her sister’s hand -- her favorite. “Ooh, it’s the right size and color and everything!” Anaulka leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Merry Christmas, Dani,” she said, happily smelling the chocolate and the faint odor of peanuts through the wrapper. And then the generator stalled and the lights all went out. “Merry Christmas, Ani,” Daniska sighed and joined the teenagers in lighting the candles in the parlor, the library, the great room and the kitchen. The king added two new logs to the fireplace in the parlor and someone found a bag of chestnuts for the children to roast. When she could relax, Daniska sat down next to her sister and they gazed out the front windows, watching the new snow coming down and burying their little village. It was Christmas in Eisbergen... From Book One of the Lost Kingdom Chronicles ©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon -- All Rights Reserved
This is the first outing of my Lost Kingdom princesses story.
PLEASE send me feedback.
And Merry Christmas!