What do you know — it’s a serial you’ll actually get an ending for, since it’s several years old. (Judge not harshly.) This is a silly story about a character who first appeared in a sixth- or seventh-grade work and who continues to amuse me.
It had been three months, nine days, and somewhere around six hours since Eddie’s last epic adventure had come to an end, and, like many adolescents, she found that the summer stillness of late July required a certain degree of epicness to fill it with. She’d been pacing her chambers for quite some time now, restlessly trying to come up with an activity worthy of her time. Various discarded objects of pastime lay piled haphazardly on the floor around her; she picked her way between the stacks of books and toys with her impetuous mouth set in a grim line and her eyes squinting into the distance.
So distracted was she by her pacing that, as she turned at the end of her room to begin her progress in the opposite direction, she failed to see the box that protruded from a heap of things cascading from her second-largest cupboard. Eddie had previously passed this particular box with no difficulty, but her bare feet were tiring even if her rigorous boredom was not, and this time around she caught her left foot on the box and stumbled sharply into a face-plant on the plush carpet.
Eddie opened her mouth to swear in a manner quite unsuited to a young lady of noble birth, but, luckily, the obscenity was aborted when she found her tongue pressed into the fibers of the rug. She sat up, hacking and spitting, and turned her head to regard the offending box with great dislike. “Well, you’ve royally derailed my train of thought,” she informed it. Struck with curiosity, she grabbed the box and tugged off its lid, peering into its depths in hopes of finding something to relieve the summer doldrums.
She was not disappointed. With a sudden squeal of delight, Eddie upended the box so that its contents spilled into a shuffled stack on the carpet. The contents were, in fact, trading cards: Knights of the Dark Prune, all three series and most of — most of the fourth. Eddie fumbled through the cards, picking out the remembered favorites, murmuring the familiar names and studying the various statistics as displayed below the little portraits of the knights. “Sir Egladine the Implacable…Sir Mindershins, Wielder of the Sword of Light…”
In a few moments, she had reorganized her collection, laying them out into four piles. There were fifty cards in each series, and the first, second, and third series stacks stood tall and proud and complete. The fourth pile, however, was almost-imperceptibly shorter than its fellows…one card short, to be exact. Eddie sat bolt upright, glaring down at that fourth stack.
“I remember now,” she muttered darkly. “I remember. I was just about to set off to find the Last Card” — and she said it with capitals — “when that whole matter of the war with the Polar Bear Kingdom and the Scepter of Bug and King What’s-His-Face whose name I can never remember…well, when all of that came up. And I forgot all about you,” she said to the empty space on top of the fourth pile where the Last Card should have been.
Eddie gathered the cards and placed them carefully into their box, standing up and setting the box on her cluttered bed. She brushed off her knees and then, with a new fervency evident in her appearance, she left her chamber and proceeded down the great spiral staircase into the stateroom where Prime Minster Egleston was sorting methodically through a block of papers.
“Egghead,” said Eddie, sweeping grandly into the room despite the fact that she was wearing a paint-stained t-shirt and a pair of oversized jeans. (She was able to wear oversized jeans in July on account of the very moderate climate of their particular country.)
The Prime Minister, who was not bald and who had, in fact, come by his moniker from his unfortunate surname, looked up from the desk and blinked nearsightedly at Eddie. “Your Majesty,” he began in long-suffering tones, setting down his pen, “as you well know, I do not appreciate being called –”
“Egghead,” Eddie plowed onward, completely ignoring him, “I’ve just remembered that I’ve been meaning to go on a quest.”
His brow furrowed. “A quest for what?”
Eddie gripped the edges of the desk and leaned in close, her expression ardent, her capitals audible. “The Last Card.”
“Oh, Egghead, you know what I’m talking about,” Eddie continued brightly, leaning back again and waving her hand airily. “The Last Card — the ‘Sir Alphonse, Protector of the Alpine Aeries’ card — the one that they only made three of and of those three, one was eaten by King Myrd’s wolverines fifty years ago and the other was burned to ashes by the phoenix of the Duchess of Plarguard seventy-six years ago.”
Prime Minister Egleston looked unimpressed. “Ah, yes. That card.”
“Egghead, I’ve been collecting ‘Knights’ cards since I was seven! I’ve got every other card in every series except this one! Egghead – ” and she dropped her voice to a whisper – “I need this one.”
The elderly minister regarded her gingerly over the tops of his spectacles and said nothing for several moments. Then he sighed and shook his head. “Queens,” he remarked, with the air of repeating a well-used mantra, “do not go on quests.”
“I,” countered Eddie, “do.” She set her jaw and narrowed her eyes petulantly.
“You can’t just leave the kingdom to its own devices and run off to chase down a — a — trading card.”
“Gidget?” Egleston’s eyes bulged.
The warm, buttery voice came from the doorway, and both Eddie and Egleston looked around to find a tiger striding into the room. A very large tiger. A very large, grinning tiger, who switched his tufted tail behind him as he joined the two humans at the desk.
“Gidget!” repeated Eddie, grinning back at the tiger. “I hereby appoint you royal regent of the Kingdom of Promethia until such time as I return from my quest.”
“My pleasure,” purred the tiger. “I only wish I could go with you. You force me to miss out on a nice adventure.”
Eddie shrugged in a way which was not very apologetic at all. “Sorry, Gidge, but somebody’s gotta make sure Egghead doesn’t screw things up too royally.”
Egleston uttered a squawk of protest, and then clamped his mouth shut as Gidget’s large, yellow eyes turned on him.
“I’ll be happy to do that, Your Majesty.” The tiger sat himself down on the Persian rug and gave the Prime Minister something which was probably the equivalent of a smile, although involving a good number of pointy teeth.
“Good,” said Eddie, clapping her hands. “That’s settled then. I’ll just grab a few things and then be off, Egghead. Enjoy yourself while I’m gone.” She gave the minister and the tiger a wave and then whirled and headed for the door.
“Wait, Your Majesty.”
It was Egleston; Eddie looked back at him in surprise, to find that he had risen to his feet and was reaching up to the great portrait of the first king and queen of Promethia which hung behind the desk. Egleston felt around the bottom left corner of the thick frame until he seemed to come upon a hidden catch or switch, upon whose pulling a small compartment clicked open on the side of the frame.
Intrigued, Eddie returned to Gidget’s side, asking, “Egghead? What’s that?”
The Prime Minister retrieved something from the compartment and flipped it shut again. “It’s a key,” he replied, holding it out to her reluctantly. “Your parents, God rest their souls, entrusted it to me mere days before their deaths. It is –”
“What’s it open?” demanded Eddie, snatching the little bronze key and examining it intently.
Egleston gave her a stern glance, sounding more than slightly miffed as he went on, “It is the key to the legendary Chest of Tertia.”
“Aaaand…what’s the legendary Chest of Tertia?”
“According to most reliable sources,” the minister answered drily, “it is the receptacle in which was placed the last remaining copy of the Sir Alph–”
“THE LAST CARD?” Eddie tightened her grip on the key, her grin widening to Cheshire proportions.
“Yes,” grumbled Egleston, averting his gaze. “The ‘Last Card’.”
He found himself entangled for a moment in a tight hug; before he could quite gather himself to give her another scolding on proper protocol, the young queen was gone from the room, leaving Egleston and Gidget alone. Warily, Egleston glanced at the tiger.
The tiger blinked back at him, implacable. “She’ll be fine,” Gidget said. “She’s a big girl.”
“She’s big enough to know better,” retorted Egleston wearily, sinking down into his chair.
“Give her a little time. One last adventure before she mellows out.” It was clear from Gidget’s growing smile, however, that he did not for a second believe himself. Egleston groaned and buried his head in his hands.
[To be continued, obviously.]