Once upon a time, in the land of Bunglistan, there was a king. He had two wives, who were the most beautiful women in the kingdom. These two queens were known to the people as the Red Queen and the Blue Queen, on account of the fact that one always dressed in red and the other in blue.
Everyone loved the two queens, but the people loved the Blue Queen far more than they did the other, for she was even more beautiful, kind, and talented than her counterpart, and far wiser, too. The king, too, had come to depend on her for advice over the years, until he scarcely took a step without her approval. This caused a lot of discontent among the ministers, but they could not do anything about it because the king would not hear a word against the queen. The Red Queen, too, hated her counterpart with a deadly hatred, but could not do anything but smile and bear it, in public at least. But in her heart she plotted revenge.
What nobody knew, though, was that the Blue Queen was not a human being. She was a demon out of the Demon Realm, who had, many years ago, seen the king and fallen in love with him. So intense was her love that she had forsaken the Demon Realm, taken human form, and won his heart and finally his hand in marriage. And in the course of time she had borne him a son, who was known as the Blue Prince.
Meanwhile, the Red Queen too had had a son, called the Red Prince. The king had decreed that the two princes were to be brought up jointly by the two queens as co-mothers, so that there should be no difference between them. However, the Red Queen, because of the bitter jealousy in her heart, kept her son to herself, and treated the Blue Prince with disdain.
The young man, who knew nothing of his demon heritage, was as good-natured as his mother, and as intelligent and generous of spirit. He was deeply disturbed by the Red Queen’s behaviour, but he always told himself that it was his fault for not being good enough for his co-mother, and he decided to keep striving to please her. But nothing he did ever seemed to be good enough, and she grew more bitter as the years passed by.
Meanwhile the Red Prince grew up vain and selfish, and filled at the same time with a desire to pry on everyone’s secrets. Each night, after everyone else was asleep, he would leave his room and prowl around the palace, peeping through keyholes and listening to what people mumbled in their sleep or were doing with each other when they should have been sleeping. It gave him a thrill to know that he had power over them owning to his knowledge of their secrets.
Now it so happened that the Blue Queen’s mother, who was still in the Demon Realm, had begun to miss her daughter, whom she had not seen for many long years. Finally, unable to bear the separation any longer, she sent her daughter a thought-message, asking her to come once and visit her, if only for a little while, so that the old demoness could see her face once more before she died.
The Blue Queen was deeply unhappy and disturbed by the message. On the one hand she, too, missed her mother, whom she had left so many years ago without even a proper farewell, and wanted to meet her. On the other hand, she well knew of the envy and hatred of the Red Queen on the one hand and of the courtiers and ministers on the other, and she was afraid that if she left for any length of time, they would do something to hurt her or her son. So, she tried to put off her mother, saying that she would come when she could, but it was not possible right away.
That was the summer when a great drought gripped Bunglistan, when the ponds ran dry and the rivers shrank to trickles, when the rice withered in the fields and famine stalked the land. At the Blue Queen’s advice, the king opened the granaries to the public, and dug wells and canals to try and mitigate the people’s suffering as much as possible. The ministers, who had advised the king to sell grain only to the highest bidders for the maximum profit, bitterly resented this, and were seething with fury; but, of course, they could not do anything. And the people, who knew that it was the Blue Queen’s doing, blessed her and loved her all the more.
But, in the meantime, the old demoness grew more importunate, beseeching the Blue Queen until the latter could not even sleep for worry. Finally, she gave in, and decided on a brief visit to her mother, leaving in the depth of the night and returning before dawn. She waited until she was sure everyone was sleeping, and then, rising from her place, she spoke the magic incantation which opened the portal to the Demon Realm. Even though she had not used it in so many years, the charm worked, and the portal opened in the wall, a doorway rimmed with flickering flames.
After that, she started the painful process of discarding her human form and turning back into a demon. It was not something she had done in a very long time, and she had no desire to do it, for she had grown accustomed to being a human woman. But her human form could not long survive in the Demon Realm, so she had to revert to one for the duration of her visit.
What she did not know was that there was someone watching. The Red Prince had lain awake that night, feeling unusually restless. The scraps of palace scandal he had picked up on his nightly expeditions no longer whetted his appetite; he was merely bored with discovering which maid was sleeping with which palace guard, or which minor chamberlain was fiddling the accounts. All of a sudden he had the idea of spying on his co-mother.
He had never thought of this before, but now a shiver of excitement went down his spine. He was well aware of how much his own mother hated the Blue Queen, and he thought that perhaps he might find some secret of hers which might provide the Red Queen ammunition to undermine her rival. So, creeping quietly to his co-mother’s apartment, he gently tried the door and, finding it unlocked, he entered.
He had thought the rooms would be dark, but there was a reddish glow coming from his co-mother’s bedroom, and, creeping to the door, he peeped round the edge and almost cried out with shock.
Most of the far wall of the room had vanished. Instead, there was a huge doorway, all around which swirled red and orange flame, and through which he could see a plain of grey rock, on which flames flickered too as far as the eye could see. And all over the plain, great palaces rose, grotesque and twisted towers reaching up to a starless sky. But that was not what made him gasp with fear.
Facing this doorway stood a creature so grotesque that he had trouble believing his eyes. It seemed to be covered with skin as hard and grey as the rock on the plain, and had spikes all over, at every joint – spikes so long and sharp that it looked as if to touch one would flay skin and flesh from bone. Its feet bore long claws, which clicked on the floor as it moved, and its head was crowned by horns as curved and ridged as a ram’s.
It was quite clearly a demon, and like all the rest of the Bunglee people, the Red Prince had heard all about these creatures as a child. He knew how evil and destructive they could be.
Without a backward glance over its shoulder, for which the Red Prince was profoundly grateful, this horrible monster stepped into the doorway, which rapidly closed around it and vanished. There was only a dark puddled mass on the floor where it had stood. Stepping forward cautiously, the Red Prince discovered it to be his co-mother’s unmistakable blue clothes.
His heart hammering and his mouth dry with excitement, the Red Prince hurried to wake his mother and tell her what he had seen.
The Red Queen was no fool. Without wasting a moment, she went to summon some of the palace guards, informed them that she had reason to fear for the safety of the Blue Queen, and led them in a rush to her co-wife’s room.
Meanwhile, in the Demon Realm, the demon who had been the Blue Queen paused. She had not yet reached her mother’s palace, but some sixth sense warned her that she should get back to her apartment as quickly as possible. It seemed to her that she might have heard a slight sound just before she entered the portal, and perhaps caught a hint of movement from the corner of her eye. If that was so, then she was in great danger.
Abandoning all thought of going to her mother, she rushed back to the border between the human world and the demon realm, opened the portal, stepped into her room and began turning herself back into human form.
The Red Queen rushed into the Blue Queen’s apartment at the head of the guards, in such excitement that she was too breathless to speak. This was as well, because when she found the Blue Queen in bed, and apparently just woken up, she could not blurt out anything until she’d gained a measure of control over herself.
“Are you all right, sister?” she asked finally. “I had a fear that some great harm was about to befall you, which is why I summoned these guards you see.”
“Quite all right, sister,” the Blue Queen assured her. “Thank you so much for your concern.”
The Red Queen reluctantly returned to her own quarters, seething at not having been able to catch the Blue Queen out. But her mind was already spinning with plans, for now that she knew her rival was a demon she had a great weapon against her. She only needed to find a way of using it.
As for the Blue Queen, she was still trembling inside at the nearness of her escape, and put away all thought of ever visiting her mother or even changing into her demon form again.
Meanwhile, the drought intensified, until the rivers were almost dry and the lakes and ponds mere expanses of cracked mud. The grass grew dry as straw and the trees drooped from the heat, their leaves caked with dust. The cows in the sheds grew scrawny, their skin like leather stretched over their ribs. Even the royal granaries began to empty. But still the drought would not end.
The kingdom had a royal magician, who was a dried-up old man, with an evil look stamped permanently on his face, and a walleye as well. Despite his age and ugliness, he had a great crush on the Red Queen – a crush of which she was well aware. He was also an intensely ambitious individual, who had long dreamt of supplanting the king and making himself ruler of the kingdom. And because the Blue Queen had the king’s ear, and distrusted the magician intensely, he hated her as much as he loved her red-clad rival.
One day, the magician had a secret visit from the Red Queen. She came to him in tears, crying that the kingdom was threatened by a wicked demon, who sat beside the king in the shape of his blue-clad queen. She urged the magician to use his knowledge and expertise to get rid of the Blue Queen, for then, she said, the demonic influence on the kingdom would be past.
And then she wiped away her tears and smiled tremulously. “Remember, magician,” she said, “that without the advice of this demonic Blue Queen, the king will be at a loss, and then, I can easily supplant her in the position of power. And when the time comes, you and I can easily overthrow this king and rule the kingdom together as the ruler and his queen. What do you say to this?”
The magician leered horribly with pleasure at the thought. “I have always loved you,” he said.
“I know,” the Red Queen said simply. “The sooner you do as I suggest, the faster you can be my lord and master.” And she smiled inwardly at the thought of how easily she would get rid of this magician once his usefulness was over.
So, after some more discussion, the magician picked a time when the king was sure to be alone, and then went to him. “Your Majesty,” he began, “the drought grows worse by the day, and soon the land will be baked to a cinder.”
“I have been thinking the same thing,” the king replied. “Do you have a solution?”
“I have been seeking one through my spells all night, sire,” the magician said, “and I have come to discover that there is a great dark influence on the kingdom, which is the source of our current misfortune. To put it more clearly, the kingdom is plagued with demons.”
“Demons?” the king asked, wrinkling his brow. “I don’t think...”
The Red Queen had been waiting outside the door, listening for her cue. She stepped in quickly. “Oh, yes,” she declared. “There are demons in this very palace. Our son saw one the other day, and I very nearly did too.”
“These demons are clever and malignant,” the magician said. “They take the form of mortal men and women, so much so that nobody would ever suspect them. Sometimes they take someone dear to us, and substitute one of themselves as a changeling.”
The king went pale. “What should we do?”
“We should immediately perform a ritual,” the magician replied with assurance. “This ritual will show us the demons, and where they are hiding. We can then get rid of them.”
“I’d better consult my other queen,” the king muttered. “She always gives good advice.”
“There’s no time for that, sire,” the magician put in hastily. “There’s only a very narrow tie aperture, when the planets Rahu and Ketu are in alignment, when the ritual is possible. It must be done right away or not at all.”
“You must do it,” the Red Queen urged, “or we’re all lost. The demons will consume us all. Besides, my dear sister the Blue Queen has always held the welfare of the kingdom in her heart, so she would obviously have agreed if she were here.”
“Very well,” the king sighed. “Get on with it, I suppose.”
“Yes, sire. I will have to make certain preparations.” While the magician took various powders and flasks from his bag and began setting them out in complicated patterns, the Red Queen quickly fetched several guards and some of the ministers, who she knew hated the Blue Queen as much as she did herself. She needed witnesses.
So the magician squatted among his potions and began to chant, while adding drops of various liquids to a small pile of powder before him.
“Jedmash kabare bon aila bondhoor kase,” he began, and green and purple smoke began to eddy from the powder.
“Tumar bondhoo baritey nai boideshete gese.” The smoke rose in a column, swirling higher and higher till it touched the ceiling.
“Kaila raichcha hosoinnar bap chindi loia aise,” he continued, and the smoke began to knot itself together, as though it was made of rope.
“Ainnajai boio re bon agoon pailar kase,” he chanted, and the smoke began to writhe and twist, as if something was forming in its depths.
“Chouk toley chungar moijje tikka thamu ase.” The magician put a single drop of a red liquid on the pile of powder, and instantly the column of smoke changed into a deep, familiar shade of blue.
“Ae bosoirar aam khadol boroi folia roise.” The blue smoke had begun to form the outlines of a face.
“Tumar bondhoo baritey nai shoboi poriya roise.” The face had grown more distinct now, and begun taking on recognisable features.
“Aatal bhora gorure bon, dudhe paila bhora.” Now there was no doubt whose face was showing in the column of smoke. The king watched, thunderstruck.
“Jaal diley khaito khoney barith nai hetara.” With a triumphant flourish the magician emptied a glass of water on the pile of powder. With a hiss, the column of smoke collapsed and dispersed.
“Well, then,” he said in his normal tones, looking at the king, “we know who the demon is.”
“My poor dear sister,” the Red Queen shrieked, pulling at her hair. “The demon has killed her and taken her place. You must exterminate the vile thing at once!”
“Yes, yes,” the magician said. “It must be destroyed.”
The ministers also raised their voice as one, adding to the clamour. “Kill it! Destroy it!”
The king looked hunted. “I can’t do such a thing on the basis of a mere ritual,” he began. “The Blue Queen is my consort and the mother of my son, and...”
“If you,” the Red Queen declared, “will not kill the demon which has taken the place of my poor dear sister the Blue Queen and is impersonating her, then I demand you kill me instead; for I have no desire to live in a world where her murder goes unrevenged. Also, I do not wish to see the vile demon suck the life from this kingdom, which is dearer to me than life itself.”
“Your Majesty,” one of the ministers said eagerly, “do I have your leave to go and fetch the Royal Executioner now?”
The king sighed sorrowfully. “I cannot bring myself to kill her,” he said, “but I accept that she needs to be placed in confinement, at least until her actual status can be established. But if she be truly a demon, what prison can hold her?”
“The old tower of the palace,” the magician said, “is strong and secure, and most importantly, it is lifted into the air, away from the realms of the demons. With a few simple spells, it can be sealed away from the possibility of demonic passage. The demon which has replaced the Blue Queen can be confined there, Your Majesty, without any possibility of escape.”
The king rubbed his eyes, thinking, and the magician took the opportunity to whisper in the Red Queen’s ear, “Don’t worry; we can always kill her when we have taken over the kingdom.”
“I see no alternative,” the king sighed at last. “Go, seize her, imprison her in the tower, and instruct her ladies to provide her with food and water there.”
Thus ordered, the guards, followed by the gleeful ministers, the magician, and the Red Queen, went to arrest the Blue Queen. They fully expected to take her completely by surprise. However, one of the King’s fan-bearers had long been an admirer of the Blue Queen; and, as soon as she had seen which way the wind was blowing, she quietly left the royal chamber and hastened to warn the demon-queen of her danger.
The Blue Queen was in her quarters, and realised immediately that she did not have the time to change into her demon form and escape into the Demon Realm. However, the warning left her with a precious few moments, and she at once ran to her son’s rooms.
The Blue Prince had been studying a treatise on metallurgy, and was surprised to see his mother rush in, panic on her face.
“Listen to me,” the Blue Queen said, and quickly told her son that she was a demon, and that he, too, was of demon blood. “And they have found out, and are coming to seize me. But for the moment they have forgotten about you. You must escape the palace before they remember.
“Leave the palace,” she commanded him, “and go and mingle among the people, for they are still on our side. Among them you will be safe. And then find out where old Auntie Mashima lives, and go to her. She is an ally of mine, and will help you reach the Demon Realms. Once there, you must find my mother, and ask her for help. You are her grandson, and she will not deny you.”
“Mother,” the Blue Prince began, “I can’t believe the king, my father, can be so cruel.”
“It’s not him,” the Blue Queen said hurriedly. “It’s that jealous little twit of a Red Queen, and the lemon-faced old magician, who are to blame. The ministers are also on their side, of course – they have long hated me.” She cocked her head, listening. “I can hear them coming,” she said. “They must not come looking for me here. Hide for now, and then change your blue clothes into something ordinary before fleeing the palace. Then you will not be noticeable. But beware of spies. Until you reach Auntie Mashima, tell nobody who you really are.” With a quick kiss by way of farewell, she went back to her quarters, to await her arrest.
So the Red Queen, the magician and the guards entered the Blue Queen’s rooms, seized her, and dragged her to the tower, where they locked her in a cell at the very top; and the magician set enchanted stones in a circle around the base of the tower, which would block any demonic passage so long as the circle remained intact.
Meanwhile the Blue Prince changed his royal robes for a commoner’s clothes, and after hiding till darkness had fallen, he sneaked out of the palace by a back door and came to the streets. There were many people gathered, talking animatedly, and he soon understood from overhearing their conversation that they were seething with anger at the treatment meted out to his mother. But he remembered her warning about spies, and did not make his identity known to them. Instead, asking here and there for Auntie Mashima, he at length arrived at a small house in the oldest part of town.
Auntie Mashima was a tiny woman with a wizened face and white hair, but she knew him for who he was before he had even opened his mouth. “Come in,” she said. “I’ve been expecting you from the moment I heard the news about your mother.” She led the Blue Prince into her house, gave him food and water, and a place to sleep.
“Your mother has told you about your demonic heritage,” she told him the next morning. “You must go to the Demon Realm and get help against the machinations of the Red Queen and the magician, for only in your mother’s world is there power enough to defeat the evil they have wrought.” Taking him by the hand, she led him into a small room at the back of the house. “I will teach you the charms which will open the way to that realm,” she said, “but I will also have to turn you into your inner, demonic form, for your human body cannot survive in those infernal conditions. The transition may be painful, though.”
“I am ready,” the Blue Prince said, as bravely as he could.
The old woman smiled humourlessly and began to utter complex phrases in an unknown tongue, bidding the Blue Prince to listen with attention and remember. As she spoke, the wall before them dissolved, and for the first time the Blue Prince saw the rock plains, flickering fire and twisted palaces of the Demon Realm.
“Now I will change you into your demon form,” Auntie Mashima said, and began to recite another set of spells. As she did, the Blue Prince felt his body stretching and twisting, his bones and sinew being forced into new shapes. Such intense pain seized him that he felt he would pass out.
When he recovered full control of his senses, he felt completely different. Looking down at himself, he found that his skin was like granite, and covered with spikes, and that his fingers ended in iron-tipped claws. Auntie Mashima was looking at him with something like awe.
“You know,” she said, “I’ve never actually seen a demon from so close before. The effect is slightly overwhelming. Well, the portal won’t stay open long, so you’d best be on your way.”
“I’m most grateful for your help,” the Blue Prince said.
Auntie Mashima waved away his thanks. “Go and get help,” she said. “Save us all from the magician and the Red Queen. No thanks are necessary.”
Taking a deep breath, the Blue Prince stepped through the flaming doorway, and it shut behind him. He was in the Demon Realm.
For a while he wandered, looking around in fascination at the things he had never even imagined before, the pits and columns of fire, the monstrous twisted palaces, and the hurrying shapes of other demons. Finally, remembering his purpose, he stopped a passing demon and asked him where the Blue Queen’s mother lived.
The demon peered at him. “From the other side, are you?” he asked. “The one you seek lives in that spire there. Are you related to her? You look a bit alike.”
“I’m her grandson,” the Blue Prince said, and passed on quickly before the other demon could ask anything more. Arriving at the spire, he made his way up a steep flight of stairs and finally met his grandmother.
The demoness Kadambini was so old that her spiky skin had taken on a sheen, as though it had been polished. She welcomed the Blue Prince with open arms, and listened to his story with great attention.
“And that’s why I am here,” the Blue Prince finished, and suddenly found his tears flowing. “We have to do something to save her. She’s never harmed anyone in her life, and they’ve locked her up and are probably only waiting for a chance to kill her.”
“Come, come,” Kadambini said, “this is no time for tears. We have to plan what we must do.”
“Could we take a demon army over and liberate her by force?”
“We could, of course, but there are better ways, which would not involve bloodshed, and are less crude. Besides, from what you tell me, the people of the kingdom are not to blame, and it would be cruel and unjust to bring war and devastation down on their heads.” The old demoness smiled. “Don’t look so tense,” she said. “Your mother will be free, and the magician’s and Red Queen’s plans wrecked, too.”
“Do you really think we can?”
“I just said so. “ Kadambini looked almost offended. “Are you deaf as well as half-human?” She sighed and rose from her stony seat. “And I thought I’d spend the rest of my existence in peace and quiet.”
“Are we going over?” The Blue Prince jumped up excitedly.
“We aren’t.” Kadambini regarded him with a jaundiced eye. “I am.”
Meanwhile, in Bunglistan, soon after confining the Blue Queen in her tower prison, the magician had sought out the Red Queen privately. “I have got rid of the Blue Queen, as you wanted,” he said. “Now do as you promised, and join forces with me, so that we can overthrow the king and rule instead.”
The Red Queen threw her head back with laughter. “You silly old man,” she crowed. “Do you really think I’d ever want to be yours? Now that I can be the power behind the throne, why should I waste a moment longer on you? If anyone rules in this kingdom, it will be me, and my son after me. Now, get out of my sight before I have my guards cut you to pieces, and never show your face in this palace again.”
Fuming with rage, and swearing vengeance, the old magician stomped off. Leaving the palace, he consulted some of his books of magic, and then he walked through the town until he came to some fields on the outskirts, which still had some straw left on them. Gathering the straw together in a pile, he began muttering spells over it and sprinkled it with dust and then water. The pile of straw shivered and trembled, and each blade of it began to grow and change. In moments, the straw had vanished, and an army stood in its place, each of whose soldiers was a giant with eyes of fire and limbs like pillars of stone.
Then the magician ordered his troops to take the kingdom of Bunglistan by storm, and sent them into battle against the king’s army. The latter fought valiantly, but the soldiers had been taken by surprise and were no match for the magician’s giants. Soon, except for the palace and a small portion of the city, the rest of the kingdom was in the magician’s hands.
Then the magician sent an ultimatum to the king, demanding surrender, with threats of the lingering death he promised to inflict on the Red Queen and her son. The terrified king hurriedly called a conference of his ministers and generals, and asked them what he should do.
“Our remaining forces,” the generals said, “are quite insufficient to resist the magician’s army. We have no military alternative but to surrender.”
“We must think of the kingdom, Your Majesty,” the ministers said. “The dynasty has to be sacrificed if necessary, for the kingdom’s welfare.”
The king sighed. “Since you all agree,” he said, “I have no alternative but to...”
“Not so fast,” someone snapped. There was a stirring at the back of the court, and the crowd parted to let an old woman through. “I have made my way with great difficulty through the enemy lines,” she announced, “to tell you that I can help you avoid defeat, and regain your kingdom.”
“Old mother,” the king said, “if you can do that, I will be eternally grateful.”
“It’s not gratitude I want,” the old woman said. “What I want is help.”
“You shall have all the help we can give,” the king assured her.
“You?” the old woman snorted contemptuously. “You can’t even help yourselves. No, there is only one in your kingdom who can help me in the way I need. Have the Blue Queen brought here at once.”
Some of the ministers began to protest, but the king cut them off. “Compared to the danger threatening us,” he said, “your fears about my consort are ridiculous, even if she is a demon.” And he sent guards to break the circle of stones around the tower, and to have the Blue Queen brought down from her cell.
The Blue Queen stepped into the courtroom, saw the old woman, and started. “Mother,” she whispered, “it’s you.”
“Let’s save the family reunion for later,” Kadambini grinned. “We have work to do.” She spoke some words, and in an instant both she and the Blue Queen had vanished and two fearsome demons stood in their place.
“Don’t worry,” the demon who was the Blue Queen said to the terrified court. “We shan’t harm you.”
“No, indeed,” the demoness Kadambini agreed. “Just leave us alone to do what we must.” The two demons embraced and began to mutter arcane words together and make signs in the air. A red glow appeared, and spread to encompass the centre of the court. A third demon stepped through, and stood looking around.
“This is our son,” the Blue Queen informed the king. “This is the Blue Prince, and he will lead your army against the enemy. Give him a sword, and put him at the head of your remaining troops.”
Stricken dumb with amazement, the king signalled for a sword to be brought, and handed it to his demon son. The Blue Prince then went out and mustered what was left of the king’s army. Compared to the giants gathered in serried ranks outside, they seemed a pitifully small and weak force, but the Blue Prince gathered them together and unhesitatingly ordered them into a frontal charge. And he was right in front, swinging the sword in his clawed, spiky demon’s hands.
As the king’s forces rushed out at them, the magician’s giants laughed and surged forward, meaning to crush the enemy once and for all. But at the touch of the Blue Prince’s sword, the giants wavered, fell back, and began to shrink and change; and an instant later all that was left of them were so many wisps of straw.
Then the king’s soldiers rushed forward, and captured the magician even as he was desperately trying to sneak away; and brought him in chains before the king. The latter thought for a little while what to do with him, and then ordered that he be confined in the same tower where the queen had been imprisoned, and the circle of enchanted stones set again to prevent him from ever doing anyone any harm.
And the Red Queen and the Red Prince, who had spent the previous days quaking in terror at the fate promised them by the magician, begged forgiveness from the Blue Queen and the Blue Prince; but the duo assured them that there was nothing to forgive, but only a fresh start to be made.
After forcing her daughter to agree to come and meet her at least once a month, Kadambini returned to the Demon Realm, and the Blue Queen and her son reverted to their human forms with a sigh of relief. The Blue Queen invited Auntie Mashima to come and stay at the royal palace, but the old woman refused, saying she was better off where she was and she could never abide palaces anyway.
Also, at long last, the rain clouds came, and the drought ended, very much in the natural order of things, and quite without intervention by the Blue Queen, for all that the people credited her for it.
And so, as they say, everyone lived happily ever after, with, that is, the exception of the wicked old magician in his tower. But who cares about him anyway?
Certainly not I.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2012