PodCastle 89: The Queen’s Triplets


By Israel Zangwill.
Read by Steve Anderson.
Originally published in The King of Schnorrers : grotesques and fantasies.

On the last day of the year the King summoned the three Princes to the Presence Chamber. And they came, the Green Prince, and the Blue Prince, and the Black Prince, and made obeisance to the Monarch, who sat in moir antique robes, on the old gold throne, with his courtiers all around him. ” My sons,” he said, ” ye are aware that, according to the immemorial laws of the realm, one of you is to be my heir, only I know not which of you he is ; the difficulty is complicated by the fact that I have covenanted to espouse him to the Princess of Paphlagonia, of whose imminent arrival ye have heard. In this dilemma there are those who would set the sovereignty of the State upon the hazard of a die. But not by such undignified methods do I deem it prudent to extort the designs of the gods. There are ways alike more honourable to you and to me of ascertaining the intentions of the fates. And first, the wise men and the magicians recommend that ye be all three sent forth upon an arduous emprise. As all men know, somewhere in the great seas that engirdle our dominion, somewhere beyond the Ultimate Thule, there rangeth a vast monster, intolerable, not to be borne. Every ninth moon this creature approacheth our coasts, deluging the land with an inky vomit. This plaguy Serpent cannot be slain, for the soothsayers aver it beareth a charmed life, but it were a mighty achievement, if for only one year, the realm could be relieved of its oppression. Are ye willing to set forth separately upon this knightly quest ?”

Then the three Princes made enthusiastic answer, entreating to be sped on the journey forthwith, and a great gladness ran through the Presence Chamber, for all had suffered much from the annual incursions of the monster. And the King’s heart was fain of the gallant spirit of the Princes.

Rated G for the travails of princes who seek to be kings and much astonished reproofing.

Colloquially referred to as Ann Leckie month, February 2010 is the month in which all the story selections were made by our slush reader, Ann Leckie. Enjoy!