Saturday, March 2, 2013

Prompt: Castle on the Turtle’s Back

Polly swore under her breath when the table shook. She was kneading dough for the night’s bread, and it never rose when Old Turtle was moving. She shook her head, wondering why, just as she had since her mother first brought her into the castle kitchen when she was so young her head didn’t bump under the big tables. Polly was a fifth generation cook, one of the oldest family lines still living in the castle.

Dinner on the move wasn’t new, but it required some adjustments. On the move meant no visitors, so it would only be the Royal Family and the few dozen courtiers and servants living in the castle. Polly punched down the dough and rolled it out to cut into strips for bread sticks. Once they were lined up on the baking pans and warming in the hearth ovens, she picked up her wicker basket and headed out to the kitchen gardens.

From the gardens, Polly could see across Old Turtle’s sloping right flank, with its ridged terraces carrying runoff water from the castle to cool the shell with gently cascading waterfalls. She looked beyond the shell to the countryside. Open fields marked by lines of boundary trees spread to the horizon. At this time of year, they were approaching the coast, where Old Turtle came every spring, even though she no longer laid eggs.

Polly began harvesting for supper. The herbs grew well in the half-barrel planters her father had built for Mother. Carrots liked the raised beds, too. Peas and squash preferred the open garden to spread their vines. As Polly picked and clipped and trimmed, she heard children’s laughter and the clacking of wooden swords. That would be the prince and princess, inseparable twins. She smiled and tucked a few ripe cherry tomatoes into her apron pockets. Soon the tow-headed prince and the dark-haired princess raced around the corner, trading fierce blows with their swords. When they saw Polly, they shouted greetings and ran to hug her, one on each side. Polly laughed as they raided her apron pockets, which they had done since they were toddlers.

“Go on with ye,” she admonished them a mock glower and her hands on her hips. “Ye’ll have no appetite for supper, then. Hmm, I wonder if Old Turtle has a mind to walk on through the night, or if she’ll settle in a nest? I like the rocking to sleep myself, but it’s hard on my dishes, mind.”

Prince Bellyn looked at his sister, and Polly swore they spoke to each other without words, intent looks on both their faces. They grabbed each other’s hands and ran off. Princess Gallain shouted back to Polly, “We’ll go ask Old Turtle herself!”

Polly chuckled. That would keep them busy for the afternoon. And for all she knew, they really might be able to talk with Old Turtle. They certainly seemed to talk with each other.

As she headed back into the kitchens, Polly saw Queen Miriam walking with Sir Fortrain. She wrinkled her nose in distaste. That man was up to no good, she knew it in her bones. He had a narrow face that didn’t know how to smile, and cold, dark eyes like the eels that flushed out of Old Turtle’s terraces after heavy rains. Fortrain had come to the castle three years ago as a courier. Polly had given up hope that a vital message would carry him away again. The king and queen held him in highest esteem. Polly shook her head again, watching the queen nodding to everything Fortrain said as they strolled around the shell.

Time was, the queen would have come to work with Polly in the gardens, and she knew how to make pie crust almost as good as Mother’s. But since Fortrain cast his spell on them, the Royals did little else but listen to his whisperings. The Prince and Princess shared Polly’s distaste for the nasty man, and they avoided him whenever possible. Polly hoped they would never fall under his spell like their parents. She knew it would be bad for the castle and bad for Old Turtle if they did. Whatever Fortrain wanted, it was in none of their best interests; of that, Polly was quite sure.

I wish I could credit the original artist for this. 
Thanks to Shadows of the Dark for the great visual prompt!

Dogs in house:

Hans Zimmer, Selections from Pirates of the Carribbean

March word count:

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