What The Neighbors Do.
"In the small island country of Dargos, there was a...well, a fairly weird ruling family," the old man was telling his audience. Mostly they were his family's children but a few were just local children who were bored. "You might ask why they were weird, but no one knows exactly why. Some people say there's a curse. Some people say it's inbreeding. You know that's not good for people if it's not good for your farm's animals." A few of the older kids nodded. "Well, the family, they seem to be infected with unusual desires. If it's a curse it's probably to fixate on one item about a person. The one we're all presently cursed with is Prince Haram. Haram, well, it's said that he likes...shoes. For feet maybe. No one's really sure but he seems to be fixated on shoes. Pretty shoes usually, not practical in the least, but shoes." He frowned but let it clear up again. "Boy's really kinda strange. You hear tell of him shopping for new shoes with his assistant, who seems to like him wearing pretty shoes."
"Don't tell them about that toe loving weirdo," a mother yelled from off to the left, probably working on lunch in a kitchen with the way the courtyard was surrounded by houses.
The old man grimaced, shaking his head. "The young'uns gotta know," he called back. "He's next in line for the throne." He looked at the kids. "One of you should apprentice to a cobbler so you can tithe him shoes for taxes." The oldest two giggled at that. "Seriously, could save your family some stress later on." He took a sip of water and looked at the group again.
"Anyway, Prince Haram, he likes to be pretty a lot. He's manly and killed a few bears in his time but he likes to be pretty. Not shiny, because he made that mistake once and everyone laughed at him for it. So he never did that again. Or velvets. He did that as a young'un but his other scowled so hard he went to change and never did it again.
"His mother's a bit weird too. Married into the family but she was into bar girls to hear it told around the main city. At least until she had Haram. Then she didn't go to bar girls as far as anyone heard." He took another drink and put the empty mug down beside him. "His father was said to really like some healer's office. So apparently he really loves people who're ill." He grimaced.
"Sounds really bad but he didn't really do much wrong to the people so I guess we all ignored it. Prince Haram's shoe problems will probably be seen the same way as long as he's not a bad ruler." He shifted. "It's said that Prince Haram is real open about his assistant being even more pretty than he is and needing shoes too. They spend a good few hours every week shopping here and there.
"Never met many shopkeepers who didn't smile about him spending large too. They overcharge him and he just smiles and takes it. The only time anyone mentioned his shopping, he had made an advisor to his father mad by taking a war fund shopping to stop that war from starting. Instead he made friends with them and that's where his assistant came from. Some sort of magic bedeviled country over by that new Queen Harriet's people. Real strong up there in many ways. That queen has a fake arm."
"There's no way a princess would need one," an old woman complained as she came out.
"It's in the official news about her swearing in," he shot back, glaring at her. "Said she lost it defending herself from three assassins who were going after her drunken mother." The old woman shuddered. "She's got a baby sister who's a sorceress in training and Princess Destiny is her older sister." He smirked. "She's cute, but a bit airheaded when she wants to be. Her husband's cute though."
"Figures. Girls like that get boys who're not much but cute."
"She married Prince Bertie, the one the next princess tried to catch the eye of," he said smugly. "And lost her mind trying to get."
"Oh, *him*. Bit soft but nice enough I guess." She settled herself next to him. "Why're we talking about the shoe prince? He's weird."
"They gotta know who's doing what around 'em," he said. "They're going to have to deal with him for their whole lives probably. Best get used to him now. He'll be doing the ruling their whole lives."
"True," she agreed. Then sighed. "The boy's seriously in love with feet. Have no clue why. Clean, nice looking feet probably. But still feet. Not even a proper body part to like too much." She leaned on the old man's arm. "I guess it could be worse. He could be like his uncle who ran around naked. Hated to have people look at him or touch him but could not stand clothes. And his sister who we heard tried goats."
"I heard horses but I think that was all the people who wanted her to not be married to stop that spat with Dargos," the old man said, looking at her. "They all hated that prince they sent. Called him evil looking but the boy looked decent. Had no mind, hated animals, but looked like someone cleaned him up."
She spat and glared at him. "That boy tortured animals. They made him wash the blood off before he came to capture her. Pity one of the animals she trained around the palace ate him before he could torture it."
He smiled. "That was wicked of her." They looked at the kids. "There's many wacky people in that family. You just gotta mind staying away from 'em when you can. They've got good minds for ruling, even though they're weird up there too. Just...don't look at 'em when you have to be near 'em. That upsets 'em and then they get mean." The old woman nodded. "I nearly lost my foot in the rush to get their great uncle. Seems the people found he liked 'em a bit less than healthy."
"Like dead," the old woman agreed with a nod. "Huge riot to kill him off for his sickness. Took seven days to get him out of the palace. Took two years to rebuild the palace but it brougt in a lot of work." The old man grinned at her. "That's how I met this one and introduced him to my sister. Bless her soul since the lower realms took it's rightful due of her."
"She was mean," he agreed, nudging her with an elbow. "At least you introduced me to the nicer evil one."
"I did. The older two evil ones were already married off and poisoning their mates." She spat again, shaking her head. "Glad I'm not always like them." She stood up and walked off. "Let me go stare at the bread until it rises."
"Just think, most of you aren't related to that group of women," he said with a grin for the kids, who cheered at that.
"How do you take a war chest shoe shopping?" one of the older girls asked.
"That isn't a story for young'uns," he said firmly. "Not with what they get up." The younger kids fled to play, and annoy their parents like usual.
"Don't you dare tell any of those kids that story unless they're of age to be married," another mother yelled. "I don't want my daughter to be told that stuff. She might go that way too!"
"Well, the prince could use a pretty girlfriend," the old man yelled back. He looked at the kids, pointing at two to go play. They huffed but did that. "Back in my day, they tried those things out instead of hearing about 'em from the old ones." Those two blushed but ran off to go do more adult child things. He looked at the older kids. "Seems to have happened that we were going to go to war with Prinka. Prinka is an island over toward the second continent." He nodded his head in that direction.
"Is that by Prasada?" one of the girls asked.
"Same country. Prinka's what they were known as for years until someone decided to change the name to honor some war hero that saved 'em all from a dragon or some such." He rolled his eyes. "Silly people really." He shifted to cross his feet. "Prince Haram was about to be eighteen. He was pushing against the war. Most of the higher ups and priests were. Only the old King, Haram's grandfather, was for it with their military leaders over there.
"Some sort of weak insult and the old King got his nose outta joint. The old King wasn't that good at people things and got easily offended by people being normal folk." He got up with his mug, getting more water and coming back. "So they were at a war meeting. A sorta last talk before the war started for real. Both sides had to mediate, it's the rules Prinka live by, one last talking to make sure it has to be a war. The ambassador had a few assistants with him, that's where Haram found his.
"The old ones were arguing over stupid things at the war table, drunk off good wine and not enough real food. Tell you what, if they had eaten the turnips that were presented earlier in the week for the harvest of turnips festival they wouldn't have been that drunk and stupid. Anyway." He took a drink.
"Harem and a few of the other young ones come up with an idea to distract the ambassadors and somehow make 'em locked in a room. The priests offered room in some of the temples for 'em to be locked in. They may still be there actually. Not real sure." He took another drink and put it down. "Anyway, the plan to get them wasn't going well. Haram was too young to understand how to play those sort of games so he decided to show his butt. He blatantly robbed the ambassador while sitting in his lap cooing at him like a card girl in one of those illegal halls they have."
He grinned. "He strolled in looking nice and pretty, settled in his lap, and made him forget his own name so he could steal the ambassador's money bag. Then he went to the treasurer and demanded the war chest's contents. He tried to stop the prince but Haram's stubborn. Like many good princes, he knew how to get around problems like people being in his way.
"So he stole the whole war chest's contents, going to the village to shop it away. The ambassador's assistants came down to stop him. Only one stuck around and Haram rescued him from a guard killing him." He grinned. "Then he took him shoe shopping. That young assistant was kind of judgy about the people around him but he has good taste.
"Haram took him to his favorite shops, got them both outfitted prettily. Then they went to the shoe place at the end. Got some special court heels. Those ones that cover the toes, have heels, and the top part of the foot's exposed. All leather that matched the new clothes. The assistant apparently decided to kiss the shoes before putting them on Haram's foot, which is probably why he kept that one."
He sipped some more water then put the mug down. "The problem that showed up was that assistant guy, well he decided he wanted to do more to the shoes than kiss 'em. He was caught rubbing one leather court shoe against his groin and moaning. Thankfully he was caught by Haram, who bought that pair of shoes too and told the man he was his assistant now. That's how Haram figured out how to fix the war talk. He overpaid for everything and got them both pretty before strolling back up to the palace.
"Escorted by guards because his father had finally heard about him getting the treasurer out of his way. They walk into the throne room, bowed to the old King, and Haram just smiles at his grandfather. Said he, 'this is my new assistant, King Lort. He's my price to stop this foolish bit of war that will only make our city look disgusting'. The king laughed.
"Haram waved at hand at their outfits. 'Don't they look stunning for the price we paid for them?' His grandfather glared and started to shout. Haram just smiled and said that now they couldn't go to war. They didn't need to anyway. That minor insult was actually a compliment. They weren't like any other family. Just look at how he had solved a war by going shopping." He strolled off his new assistant, who was still moaning at the feeling of the shoes he was wearing.
"Now every year, Haram takes him to get a new pair of court shoes to have his pleasure with. And sometimes they get frisky in the shop too. His assistant likes to do all sorts of weird things to the shoes before Haram puts them on each day. If you ever wonder why the shoes look a bit odd, it's what he shines them with." He smirked at one young son, who shuddered.
"Near as we can figure, his assistant makes the shoes feel special with whatever he does to 'em. Then he helps Haram dress himself." He sipped more water, seeing who was blushing. "Heard tell that assistant of his stripped down in a special store for clothing so they could measure what he'd need to sit on the shoes. They made him something special for that. Haram just watched, looking very pleased. Thankfully his wife does her own dressing and doesn't need those two to help 'er. We'd hate to hear the scandal if she got knocked up by the shoes and the assistant."
The End of this one.
I'm not totally happy with this one and it wouldn't go on to a longer piece so I thought I'd put it out already. Not much proofreading done, sorry.