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John_"Cougary"_Yates

THE LAST HAMLET or The Readiness Is All - 13 THE ROYAL TEA

THE ROYAL TEA

If you have attended a Royal Tea in recent times you will remember it, I am sure, as an occasion sufficiently pleasurable as to make further invitations an enticing prospect. You may recall the strength, freshness, and hotness of the tea, the deliciousness of the finger buffet, the relaxed atmosphere, the genuine sharing of other people's lives and experiences, and the ease with which their majesties make it all work.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All - 12 THE BOOK RAID

THE BOOK RAID

In the Temple of Draxy, on the fifth day of each week, between the hours of nine and eleven in the morning, successive archdraxites, accompanied by their Vestals and Protectors, had presided over the Rite of Culpability, rehearsing before the leaden Urn the past abuses of Draxy, declaiming upon the Sin of Hamlet the First, and renewing on behalf of all Steefax the Promises of the Pursuit of Virtue by the Pathways of Repentance. The Rite was sacred time, and it was not, on any account, to be interrupted.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All - 11. HAMLET THE LAST

HAMLET THE LAST

Hamlet the Nineteenth and Queen Lucia were quiet, dignified people who had a kind regard for those who served them, including, for a while, myself; for when neither of my parents could any more look after me, I became, due to my father having been a mole appointed palace servant, a royal page, and a resident at the most exclusive boarding school on Steefax.

THE LAST HAMLET:or The Readiness Is All - 10. PERFUNDUS

10. PERFUNDUS

Perfundus' life and career had beeen altogether unremarkable. At the age of twenty two he was still an administration orderly at the Royal Library, where he had worked since leaving school at the age of fourteen. Though clearly not suited to higher, or even further education, the youth had escaped the fields, the wood chopping, the making of candles, or any of those occupations generally associated with low achievers. This had come about through the good offices of his school librarian, who had become fond of this simple, amiable chap who had always had a passion for books, not as volumes to be read so much as objects to be handled, looked at, smelt, dusted and arranged.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All - 9. IN SEARCH OF A KING

9. IN SEARCH OF A KING

By all accounts, our first space hoppers were pretty surprised to find even one other planet with humanoids on it. In the end, though, six were discovered: Kryptos, Bog, Meldor, Ee-arth, Atalan and Lirium. Ee-arth, the most advanced in science and technology, was the only world to threaten violence; but when their tracking devices showed that the freighter Argon V possessed no offensive weapons, they withdrew their tracking missiles.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All - 8. NELL ACCLAIMED

NELL ACCLAIMED

By virtue of my father's mole, I was among the hundreds of people gathered together in the Temple of Draxy, on a spring day in 1174, for the Acclamation of Archdraxite Nell. Much had happened to the building since its days as a museum: for one thing, it was impossible to see into it from the surrounding streets, for Gertrude, the second incumbent of Draxy Palace, had had the great ground to ceiling windows bricked up.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness is All - 7. THE ORDEAL OF NELL

THE ORDEAL OF NELL

Within a fortnight of the onset of the weakening of one archdraxite, the procedure for selecting her successor was always well underway. Girls possessing the necessary mole between their shoulder blades, and who were in their sixteenth years by the time the weakening of the incumbent had been officially diagnosed by the Draxy Palace physician, were called to the Temple of Draxy for week of retreat and examination. Nell made the short list by just one day!

After written examinations to test soundness in repentance philosphy came the ordeal of stillness.*

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All. - 6. NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM.

6. NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

When I was small, the sun shone brightly all day long in summer; in autumn the leaves were ever golden, and shiny brown conquerors lay on the ground beneath every horse chestnut tree, just waiting to be collected, pierced, and strung ready for battle; the pure white snow glistened dazzlingly for ever on fields, hedges and rooftops in winter; there were rich carpets of cheese cups and maisies, and dozens of species of chirruping birds for my delight in springtime; and as I had to go to bed only once a day, there was little to mar the perfection of my life.

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All. - 5. LAST HOPE

5. LAST HOPE

If the Evening Gazette for the first day of 1066 ND* is anything to go by, the Coronation of the second of the Hamlets the First was a popular affair.

*This significant date is matched by one on Ee-arth, except that there the N stands not for 'New' but for 'Norman'. Norman was a mighty warrior who conquered Angloland at a time referred to by their historians as '1066 and all that.'

The Chief Reporter wrote:

THE LAST HAMLET: or The Readiness Is All. - 4. THE ARCHDRAXITY

4. THE ARCHDRAXITY

In 1064, a few days after the Accession of the infant Hamlet the First, a cleaner, tackling a long neglected broom cupboard in the Space Centre basement, came across a tin "which had no right to be there." In it was about enough Draxy for one there and back space hop. The discovery produced little public interest: "Bury it!" and "Throw it away!" were typical reactions. An Evening Gazette leader heaped withering scorn upon a suggestion that the Regents might make use of the stuff to prolong their own lives: