Sunday, January 12, 2014

11. troublemakers

by emily de villaincourt

illustrated by danny delacroix and konrad kraus

click here for previous chapter, here to begin at the beginning

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

the buildings in which the princesses were housed were on top of a hill six miles from the nearest village, known simply as "the village" to the girls and the staff.

a bus drove up twice a day from the village, bringing up and taking back the guards and cooks and other staff who chose to live off post and bringing up any mail. the guards who lived off post were assigned turns driving the bus and got a little extra pay for doing so.

no "outsiders" ever came up, though there was nothing to prevent them from coming up and gawking at the buildings if they had a mind to. none ever did.

miss prue could have gone down to the village, but she never did.

the buildings were set about a hundred yards back from the road. at first a guard had always been stationed outside the main building, but after a while miss prue and helga had decided it was a waste of time.

during the daylight hours there was almost always somebody outside anyway.

at night the front door was locked and there was always someone in the guards room just inside the door. the area around the buildings was always lit at night and the area between the buildings and the road was brightly lit.

nobody in the village seemed to be particularly interested or curious or to find the place mysterious. guards and staff members - some of whom had lived in the village all their lives - came and went every day, and told anybody who asked that nothing very exciting was going on.

there were not very many men in the village, and especially not very many young men.


the guards locker room and lounge area was just inside the front door.

helga had a desk in a little area partitioned off in a corner of the room. she was sitting at it one morning making out a duty roster when two of the guards - zelda and monika - came in. they walked over to the desk.

zelda spoke. "good morning, helga."

"good morning." helga looked up, mildly curious. the guards did not have to "report" to her, they just had to be where they were supposed to be at the right time.

zelda looked down at the paper helga was writing on. "any changes?"

"no. not really. why, did you want some change?"

"no. but i got a question."

monika sat down on the edge of the desk. "you don't mind if i park my fat ass here, do you?"

"be my guest. what is your question?" helga asked zelda.

"some of us were hanging out at terry's down in the village last night, and we got to talking - " zelda looked over at monika but monika was just staring at helga .

"and -?" helga prompted her.

"well, you know how some of us are helping the girls - our girls - with their books that they're writing -?"

"yes, i've heard that some of you are," helga answered.

"it's not against the rules, " said zelda.

"i know, it's says right in the rules that you can. and there's some stuff about the staff not having expertise or something. so?"

"how about you?" monika interrupted. "you helping your girl out?"

"no, she's pretty bright, she doesn't need any help from me."

"but you would if she asked you?"

helga shrugged. "maybe. she's not asking me."

"and besides," monika eyed helga. "you're pretty busy running the place and all."

helga stared back. "i don't run the place. i just help prue out a little."

"yeah, right."

"do you want to do what i do? just stay up here like i do, and never go down to the village. that's why prue gives me a little extra to do. that's all."

"how come you like it up here so much?" zelda asked.

"you know why. no men."

zelda and monika both laughed. "i'd think you'd want to see a guy once in a while," said zelda. "even if you don't want to fuck them or anything. just for a change of pace, to see someone a little different."

"that's not the way i see it. now, did you have anything else to ask me? or were those your questions?"

"no," zelda said. "like i said, we had a question about helping the girls."

"and that question is - "

"well, when we get together - at terry's or wherever - we know - most of us - how our girls are doing and we can exchange information, you know?"

"i wouldn't have thought you were all that interested," said helga. "but go on."

"what's to prevent us from passing the information on to the girls, so they know how the others are doing?"

helga thought a few seconds. "nothing, i suppose."

"so it's cool?"

"let me think." helga rubbed her eyes. "just - just use some common sense. don't talk about it in the lunch room or the library. don't flaunt it. wait until you are alone with your girls." she looked up. "does that answer your question?"

"maybe," zelda answered, with a glance at monika.

"there could be more to it," said monika.


"suppose they actually want to help each other? if one of the girls wanted to help another one, they could use us. we could pass information back and forth. would that be o k?"

helga stared at monika. "has this actually come up?"

"not yet," said monika. "but what if it did? it's kind of a hole in the whole system, if you think about it."

"why would they want to help each other?" asked helga. "they are competing against each other. one of them is going to get fed to the lions or whatever."

"why?" zelda asked. "the whole system is set up so they can't help each other. so they must think they will if they can. that's what half the rules are about. the ones that aren't about them escaping."

helga sighed, and slapped her pencil down on the desk. she looked around. the other guards on the morning shift had all gone to their posts. some of the guards and staff who had been relieved were outside on the bus. "what is this? do i need this? what are you, a couple of fucking troublemakers? who needs this shit?"

"hey, don't get pissy on us !" monika answered. "we thought we were doing the right thing coming to you."

helga frowned, then laughed. "yeah, you're right. i'm sorry. i shouldn't have snapped at you. it's just - none of this entered my mind before."

"maybe we should go to prue," zelda said.

"no, no, don't do that - yet. let me think about it. i'll ask her if i think i have to." helga looked down at the desk, then back up at zelda. "let me ask you - how much are any of you actually helping them?"

"me?" said zelda. "i'm practically writing it for her."


"yeah, really."

helga laughed."why?"

zelda shrugged. "it's fun. it's something to do. it beats just sitting up there staring at the wall. but i don't want to lose the job over it."

"or go to jail," monika added.

"nobody's said anything about jail," said helga. "the worst that could happen is you could lose the job."

"if you say so."

"how about you?" helga asked monika. "you helping your girl?"

"i don't have a regular girl. i do swings. you know that."

"yeah, that's right."

"but i'll tell you who is. olga - the bible lady. i talk to her some on the bus and she says she's helping her girl, practically doing it for her."

"huh." helga rubbed her forehead. "all right - just - for now i'm going to pretend we didn't have this conversation. just be cool and use your common sense, all right? and i'll think about talking to prue about it."

"we thought we were doing the right thing asking you," monika repeated.

"you were, you were. i shouldn't have got mad. i'm sorry. anything else?"

monika looked at zelda. "yeah. there's something else i'm curious about."


"the princess in the tower."

"you mean - "

"the one that's kept up in the top floor, past prue's apartment. that you need the key from prue to bring stuff to."

"and don't have a guard of her own," zelda added.

"i guess you could say prue is guarding her," helga said. "she keeps her locked up."

"any reason?" monika asked.

"why don't you ask prue?" said helga.

"she tell you the reason?"

"she might have."

"is it because she is crazy? or gets violent?"

"those are good guesses. like i say, you can ask prue yourself, if you are that interested. she is always available, to all staff."

"or maybe she's prue's sweetie pie. and she wants to keep her all to herself."

"that's another good guess. or she might be a werewolf, or a vampire, or the octopus queen from outer space. those are good guesses too."

"i get the impression miss prue doesn't care too much for menfolk."

helga laughed. "no, she doesn't. like me. anything else?"

"no," said monika. "that ought to do it. for now."

"then have a nice day. and thanks again for coming to me."

zelda and monika moved off.

a couple of guards who had been relieved came in and changed, then went out to the bus.

after a while the bus started down the hill. helga went to the window and watched it disappear.

laurene's tale

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