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Roberta Olsen Major
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Every day is a dull day, now that King Ardour has everything in the kingdom under control--everything, that is, except for his children…
King Ardour may rule by the power of his sword, but it is his daughter, Wisteria, who safeguards the family—and the future—with a powerful weapon of her own.
My mother was dead.
I was six when her heart ceased beating; now I was sixteen. I’d lost her too many years ago for tears, though there were days, like this one, when I wished for the power to bring her back. At the very least, had she not died, I’d be without three troublesome half-brothers, with time on my hands to do whatever pleased me. Watching over the three troublesome half-brothers did not please me. I strongly suspected it never would.
It took two hours, but I finally cornered Vexto, the last of the three littles to be scrubbed from dusty head to grubby foot. “I am nine!” he shrieked. “I can wash myself, Wisteria!”
I tweaked his ear and vigorously applied the soaped cloth to the small onion field growing in the dirt behind it. “Can and will are two different stories, Vexto. You could, but didn’t, so now I must.”
I was still a few inches taller than Vexto, though all three littles were growing quickly. I didn’t doubt that they would one day reach King Ardour’s lofty heights. By that time, I hoped they would be in the habit of scrubbing themselves clean for the annual Festival of the Greening.
Vexto sank lower into the wooden tub, sulking. “I don’t see why we have to be clean for the festival. Lux will get a bloody nose and Gustus will just spill food all over himself, so it’s a waste of water.”
“You are a son of the King,” I reminded him. “You have to set a good example.”
He jerked away from my soaping cloth, splashing water all over the front of my robe. “At least you’re getting a bath at the same time,” he jeered.
I pushed his head down—to get his hair wet, or perhaps to drown him, something I had contemplated many times over the course of his nine-year life. He came up sputtering, so I applied soap, paying particular attention to his open mouth.
At last, the task was done for another year.
I jumped back as he surged from the tub, grabbed for a drying cloth and rained curses on my head. I sat back on my heels and watched him stomp away, his face red with temper and scrubbing. Then I rubbed my wet sleeve over my sweating face. The stone floor was awash in gritty water, the tub almost empty.
My own bathwater would be cold by now. But refreshing, I told myself grimly.
The festival would start just before midday, with the binding to begin as the sun reached its zenith.
A noon-high binding was supposed to symbolize bright days ahead, or some such silliness, but all the symbolism in the world hadn’t helped Ardour’s last two attempts to bind himself to a new bride. It was if his good fortune was all spent in pursuit of unifying the kingdom, with none left over to spill onto the heads of his subsequent brides and children.
His last two brides were young. Too young, I’d thought both times, scarcely older than his daughters. Though he chose them for their youth and bloom, each bride died of a mysterious taint just a few moonspans after the bindings. Each bride was with child at the Festival of the Greening, as was Ardour’s tradition, but neither infant survived.
It was selfish, but I couldn’t help but feel relief that there weren’t even more of the king’s spawn for me to tend. Vexto, Lux and Gustus were more than enough to keep my hands full.
After the death of the last bride, Ardour gave up on bindings. He was doomed, he said (with just the slightest hint of noble pathos), to stand alone. Note that he said this while surrounded by his seven children, and with Cleave, his First Sword and constant companion, at his side.
My older half-brother, Pax, shot me a look. Ardour would not see the irony, but more than half of his children were not so short-sighted.
Still, even without another bride of Ardour, there was to be a binding at this year’s Festival of the Greening. This time it was Pax who would face the Oldest Brother of the Spike, Pax who would be bound to a bride, and Pax who would follow that bride home for a season.
Roberta Olsen Major wore out two toy typewriters as a child before her parents decided it would be more frugal to provide her with the real thing. Throughout junior high and high school, she used two fingers to tap out lurid, angst-filled stories peopled with impossibly beautiful characters speaking highly improbable dialogue.
After earning a BA from Brigham Young University, she worked as a librarian in sensible shoes, before switching her Major to the care and feeding of a scientific husband and two charming children.
A published playwright and reviewer of children’s books, she now lives in Texas, where she collects dust, gets taken for daily walks by her faithful Schnauzers, and is, as always, working on her next book.
The Ice Cream Crone: “…a galloping romp of hilarity on a quest of pure enjoyment. Roberta Olsen Major delights her readers with wit, puns, and good old silliness… filled with the perfect combination of chivalry and joviality… Life, love and the pursuit of laughter reign…” --Joyce Handzo, In the Library Reviews, October 10, 2003
The Ice Cream Crone: “… takes ‘happily ever after’ a hop, skip and a jump farther, leading the child in us all on a merry romp through ‘what if’.” -- Pam Ripling, author of Locker Shock!
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 157