A Royal Birthday

Princess Queliendy was awake well before she should have been. This was no ordinary day, though, because this was for Queliendy the greatest of all days. It was her birthday. And every year Queliendy was given the greatest gift a little girl could ask for: an entire day spent with her grandmother Reichsha, the Queen of Slothjemia. All of the children in the royal family were given this treat on their birthdays, but for Queliendy it was an extra special time. She was already around her grandmother almost constantly and was the only granddaughter that the Queen had. This had created a special bond between the princess and her grandmother and there was no denying that the two of them had a terrific time during their annual outings.

Not that their outings were a grand time for everyone else. Queen Reichsha didn’t often venture from the capitol in Jordrakenschloss and when she did it was usually an elaborate and formal affair. Even a brief trip into the city of Slothenburg required an inordinate amount of preparation on the part of the Phantom Legion, Black Guards, local constabulary, and several dozen members of the Royal Court to orchestrate and carry to fruition. For Princess Queliendy’s birthday outings the Queen would always accompany her only granddaughter down the road from Jordrakenschloss to the sprawling city of Slothenburg. This however was not what one could define as an official visit, or even as a royal event. It was simply a woman and her grandchild having a day out. A delightful meal, a stroll down one or two streets doing a bit of window shopping, a stop at a bakery for the obligatory cake, and finally a visit to the Old Slothenburg Municipal Prison. Everything a little princess could possibly want.

It was the anticipation of this glorious day together that had awakened Princess Queliendy. Truth be told her grandmother had gotten up early too. Queen Reichsha had dressed and made her way through the royal residences portion of the castle and knocked on her granddaughter’s door. The little princess flung the door open and the two embraced as if they hadn’t seen each other for months. The Queen had coordinated with the princess and the two of them had on matching black dresses with silver buttons and ermine cuffs and collars.

“Happy Birthday, darling!” exclaimed the queen. “You are now seven years old! Are you ready for our day out?”

Queliendy hopped up and down and declared giddily “Oh yes! Let’s go do all of the things!”

Laughing together the two of them made their way down to the central courtyard where a small, elegant coach awaited. It was a glossy jet black with silver decorations and trim, and inside it was appointed with milky white leather sewn with strong black thread. The sun had just barely begun to make its way into the sky so the silver lanterns on the corners of the coach were lit. Two black horses and two white horses were hitched to the coach. In addition to the driver there were three footmen that would accompany the royal ladies on their coach ride. Ten members of the Phantom Legion would ride along on horseback, and before and after the coach would ride a total of twenty Black Guardsmen. There were to be no other passengers in the coach itself as this was meant to be a special time for just Reichsha and Queliendy. Should the ladies need anything while they were out and about it was up to one of the chamberlains to make it happen. For this purpose, there were two chamberlains that would ride on horseback as part of the escort, along with half a dozen servants of lesser rank to run errands or carry messages if need be. For a day out in Slothenburg it probably seemed like an excessive amount of activity and manpower. That is why Queen Reichsha, and indeed most heads of state, stay in one place most of the time. But granddaughters are meant to be pandered to because all of them are a princess to somebody.

The day went off without a hitch because that is what the royal servants are paid for. Constables from the city of Slothenburg made sure that the coach and the Queen’s entourage didn’t have any delays in their journey by briefly blocking streets to allow the royal procession to pass. Overhead soared dragonriders from the Black Guard who kept a wary eye on any potential threats to the safety of the Queen and the Princess. Interior Investigators mingled with the people on the street in great numbers to offset any possibility of a problem should somebody get a wild idea to do something idiotic. Whenever Princess Queliendy saw something that caught her attention she would make her delight known by shrieking, tugging on her grandmother’s sleeve, or by jumping from her seat to try and see better. The Queen would then tap on the roof of the carriage with her black silver-tipped cane and the driver would stop to allow the royal occupants a chance to exit the coach in order to fully sate Queliendy’s curiosity. Some of the stops involved allowing the young princess to see a bear performing with its trainer, watching a glassblower making a decanter, clapping for a group of street acrobats that included an ogre that was juggling pixies, and posing for a painter that had set up an easel and had been painting a busy scene along the street. This was one of the Queen’s favorite stops too, as it allowed her to watch her beloved granddaughter doing her best to be goofily elegant. After the painter had finished their work, the Queen paid handsomely for the finished canvas and had one of the servants take it back to the castle for framing.

The first meal that the Queen and the Princess enjoyed together was at the fabled First Decree tavern. Queliendy loved this place. There were always so many weird people here and the mood was positively raucous every time she had been brought here. One of the best games here wasn’t the darts or whatever dice were being thrown in the various booths. No, the best game was looking for her uncle Bortimer. There hadn’t been many occasions when Queliendy had been here that she hadn’t been able to find Bortimer because Bortimer seemed to live in this massive tavern. To make it fun her uncle had stationed lookouts at every entrance to alert him to who might be entering that he may need to know about, and his niece was on that list. As soon as she would get close to the tavern Bortimer would be alerted and he would do his level best to hide in such a way that she would find him. This is what great uncles do for their nieces and nephews. They hide themselves poorly in crowded taverns so that they can feign surprise and delight the children. On this particular occasion Queliendy found Bortimer behind one of the bars pretending to be a bartender. He even had on a funny hat that he had borrowed from some bystander. Queliendy screamed with delight and everyone nearby knew that this was her birthday outing. The Queen laughed and clapped along with everyone else, and soon the two royal ladies were enjoying a grand meal surrounded by admiring people that counted themselves lucky to be in the same tavern as the Queen of Slothjemia.

After their lovely meal the Queen and her granddaughter made their way on foot down the streets near to the First Decree to look in the shops and browse the vendors that sold their wares along the way. They looked at dresses, hats, gloves, jewelry, shoes, cloaks, and because this was Slothenburg they also looked at weapons and armor. Queliendy fell head over heels in love with a beautiful steel helmet that had red enameled swirls on it and a plume of yellow feathers on top. After the Queen purchased it, Queliendy wore it the rest of the day. The princess had no particular interest in jewelry, but she did get her grandmother to buy her a scarf made of thick blue and white yarn that wrapped around her neck several times and still trailed on the ground behind her. The Queen found her granddaughter’s utter lack of fashion sense to be charming beyond words. She reminded her not of Queliendy’s mother, Crown Princess Katherina, but of her aunt Lersha who was Reichsha’s youngest daughter. Queliendy also happened to be Lersha’s middle name and Reichsha had always suspected there was something inherent to that particular name that lent itself to strong-willed and supremely confident women.

The cake at Pollintina’s Bakery was as always exquisite beyond description. This was traditionally where the Queen would take those closest to her for a tasty treat if she happened to be in Slothenburg. There was and had been for years a nasty rivalry between the bakers of the royal household and the staff of Pollintina’s Bakery. There was naturally a reluctance among any in the service of the Queen to be upstaged by somebody that didn’t have their exclusive clientele. On this day though the royal bakers would have to swallow their pride and accept that Princess Queliendy and Queen Reichsha had themselves a terrific time absolutely destroying a lemon cheesecake. They both ate far more than they should have, but nobody was ever going to tell them that.

The last event of the day was arguably the best part of a day completely crammed with best parts. Returning once more to the coach the royal duo were taken to the heart of old Slothenburg where the original prison stood. It had been replaced by larger and more updated facilities elsewhere in the city, but it was here that the public executions were carried out. The prisoners kept here were doomed for death. There would be no forced labor details or simple time served behind bars. Those kept in the squalid cells of the Old Slothenburg Municipal Prison were just passing the time until their sentences were finally carried out. Queen Reichsha and Princess Queliendy were escorted into a small courtyard in the heart of the prison where a handful of prisoners were lined up as if awaiting inspection. Reichsha had a set on a chair that the warden provided for her and smiled sweetly at her granddaughter.

With an approving nod, Reichsha said “Go ahead, darling. Make your choice.”

The princess approached the prisoners and followed closely by the prison warden the little girl eyed each of the people in line. There were a mix of men and women and were represented by a variety of racial backgrounds. There were clearly a number of them of mixed heritage that would likely have resented being easily categorized. After reaching the end of the line the princess turned and walked back, asking the warden what offense had landed each prisoner in this predicament. The warden replied respectfully and without hesitation, sparing no detail.

“This man murdered his wife and crippled two of his own children in a drunken rage. This woman poisoned her father. This man butchered his neighbors in a dispute over a clothesline. This woman stabbed a number of men, all of which had mistaken her for a woman of ill repute.” And so, the list went on. Finally, Queliendy pointed to one of the men.

“He murdered a man and stole his goat? Is that what you said?” the little girl asked as she looked up at the warden.

The warden nodded and said, “That is correct, your majesty.”

Queliendy looked at her grandmother who smiled and nodded her approval. The little girl looked back at the warden and said, “Then he is the one.”

The guards came forward and ushered away the remaining prisoners, leaving the one chosen by the princess to stand alone. He was mostly human but had some sort of goblinoid background as well. He was unkempt despite the fact that the prison staff had taken some steps to clean him up and make him presentable for this occasion. Four large guards stood behind him, and it was evident that the prisoner realized the horrible fate he had been dealt for his dark deeds. The warden bellowed a command, and the prisoner was grabbed by his arms and legs by the guards who then carried him roughly out of the courtyard and out of the heavy gated exits to the plaza right in front of the prison. A crowd had gathered to see the spectacle, and the prisoner was bent over a large squarish block of wood that was covered in dried blood. The guards held him secure while Reichsha and Queliendy took their own places to best view what was going to happen.

A hooded executioner and three more guards came out of the prison. One of the guards carried a long pike that had a cross piece about three feet down from the tip. They stood at attention awaiting the command of the executioner. Looking to the warden, and then to the Queen, the executioner gave the command, and the three guards lowered the pike.

“I do so love our days out, grandmamma.” Said Queliendy.

Putting her arm around her granddaughter and hugging her tightly, Queen Reichsha whispered back “As do I, darling. As do I.”