“You said it was only going take two weeks…”
“I’m sorry Sir – we really have been having trouble keeping this job staffed –“
“What job?! The job hasn’t even officially started yet – we’re still in the demolition phase. You’re just tearing down – what’s going to happen when you start the actual building? How long is that going to take?”
“Well, that’s the tricky part, sir – demolition – because you see, Sir –“
“Just stop right there – I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me how hard it is to keep the demo guys organized, keep them from not losing interest or wandering off or just getting into fights and pulverizing each other instead of the existing structure. I get it – I’ve employed a few trolls in my day, and I know how impulsive they can be.”
“They really are, Sir.”
“But Mr. Sisk, you have to realize that I’m under some pressure here to get this job done. My wife – the Princess – is only going to be away for two weeks – what they call a fortnight, around here – and I want to surprise her with new stables when she gets home. But in order for that to happen, I need the old stables torn down, and torn down soon, because the elves are scheduled to start construction first thing Tombsday morning.”
“I do realize, Sir – and I am on it, as they say in the movies. Your stables will be razed by dawn on Moresday, or I will refund your payment times 100.”
Prince Walt was on edge. Things hadn’t been going well between he and Princess Lillian for going on a year now and he was desperate to please her with a new home for her beloved Unicorns. He personally wasn’t a fan of the Corns, but this was just another point of contention between he and his Princess he wished to put to rest once and for all. Hence, the fancy new stable. If only he could get it built.
But, as promised, the trolls lumbered in just before midnight on Snoresday, and made quick work of the old structure. Prince Walt was pleased when he walked the site, the only bit remaining being the four cornerstone footings positioned deep into the earth. But as he glanced from one to the other, he noticed a discrepancy in width between one and the other three. The southernmost cornerstone footing was longer by several feet – which would have made sense if there was a slope to deal with – but that simply wasn’t the case.
Curious, he strode to take a closer look at the stones. They were of the same size and type as the others, but upon closer inspection, there appeared to be a slight bulge to the center of the stack. Furthermore, there seemed to be less compression to the stones there, as though they were resting on something not quite solid.
Could there be groundwater beneath this footing? Prince Walt was concerned, and considered sending a messenger for Mr. Sisk to investigate, but decided to dig into the footing himself and see if he could perceive the problem before spending any more royal monies on this project.
So he began to pull out the stones in the center, tossing them behind him, one at a time, until he was forced to uncover the entire top layer, and then the next, and then the one underneath that before discovering the key to the protuberance in the footing.
It was a clamshell. Not a regular clamshell, but one very large clamshell, perhaps the size of a small child, or a large dog, or a normal-sized sheep.
Prince Walt stood up and stepped back, a little afraid of what this might be. The largeness of it was off-putting, but the thing itself was quite beautiful. Despite being covering by stones which held up an entire wooden structure, the clamshell was unbroken, unscratched even, and gleamed with colors of pink and white with a hint of pale grey.
The Prince was a sensible man. He’d married the Princess out of duty, even though he didn’t love her, and liked her very little. He didn’t believe in silliness, but he knew all about predictions and prophesies, and he knew that is exactly what he had just stumbled across. The clamshell was a talisman; he was meant to discover it here, now. He just needed to summon the strength to open it and accept whatever it held for him.
But strength was not necessary, and all summoning was for naught, as the clamshell opened easily and without a hint of effort. And therein, the Prince found his fortune.
One word: Run.
So he did.
I was born in Oswego, NY,
"I had always wanted to be a writer, but was impeded by the belief that to be a writer one had to be extraordinary, and I knew I wasn't. By the time I was ready to give up my academic career I had realized that while books are extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else." The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield