It’s a really hot summer’s day and Noir is busy getting ready for a trip. She’s taking her Arabian horse with her to the market. Noir’s got some grocery shopping in mind because they are all out of fresh vegetables.
Turmeric (pops his head into Noir’s room): Do you want to watch reality television with us?
Noir: Huh?…No thanks! I am going out to the market with my horse. Who else is watching with you?
Noir: Just me and Cow.
Fifteen minutes later…
Cow (taking a sip from his iced tea): So who do you think is going to win the music contest?
Turmeric (munching on dates): I think the crowd believes it’s going to be someone from India.
Cow: In an Asian music contest?
Turmeric: Yeah! But I don’t understand how. How? They have regional winners from all across, like Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia.
Two hours later…
Cow: Is Noir back already?
Turmeric: Yeah! I think she’s in her room reading a book. When I went to the kitchen to get a drink an hour ago, I heard her talking to Prince Eric about some book she’s reading.
Cow:…………………………..OH! The winner is from Singapore…………he’s my favourite!
Turmeric: Darn it! I thought the winner will be declared from Indonesia. I loved his cover of I Believe I Can Fly.
Cow: Yeah! But the winner’s cover of Beautiful Day was so much more amazing.
Turmeric: I wonder what made the crowd think the winner would be from India…
Cow: I think people felt bad for him seeing him out here all alone amongst so many Southeast Asians.
Turmeric: Yeah! He’s the only one out here from South Asia. So bad! Maybe next time!
Cow has been trying to get some sleep all night but he just keeps turning left and right on his bed, unable to fall into deep slumber. The thunderous rain outside his windows is further keeping him awake. He thinks about checking if Noir is asleep or awake just like him – since, he’s unable to get some sleep maybe a midnight chat will help keep things less boring. Lighting a small candle and pulling his nightcap over his head, Cow walks silently through the golden corridors of his palace.
(four knocks at the door)
Noir (in a muffled voice): Mmm…who is it?
Cow: It’s me!
Noir: Come in! I think I left the door unlocked.
Cow enters Noir’s bedchamber and notices that the goldfish in her room are busy swimming to and fro in the blue fishbowl they call home. He places the candle at the foot of Noir’s bed and plops down on his adviser’s bed, creating a bulge at the spot he’s sat on – Cow is a really round fellow.
Noir: I think I need to get a new mattress after the crater you are putting at the corner of mine tonight.
Cow (chuckles): Well, you know me. I am so round and big.
Noir: Why here in the middle of the night?
Cow: I’m unable to fall asleep and it’s making me very irritated.
Noir: Really? I felt that way a couple of minutes ago when it started pouring outside.
Cow: Why? The weather will be so much colder from now on. The heat preceding it was unbearably intense.
Noir: No, I know that! But why does it always rain in the night? I would have loved to take a look at it through the upstairs balcony but I can’t do that now because it is so late.
Cow (sigh): I know. It’s going to get better now that the annual rainfall has already started. You excited about that?
Noir: I am, yeah.
Cow: How’s work been?…Am I keeping you awake?
Noir: No. I’ve been unable to sleep much myself too. And…
Cow: Well, that’s just divine because we can chat then!
Noir: Yeah! Work’s been good. I have been working on a case – there’s a mysterious seller in town, who’s been selling people a potion that does funny things to people who drink them.
Cow: What kind of funny things happen to them?
Noir: It makes people see ghosts.
Cow (jumps off the bed): Gyahhhh! That’s a seriously scary story.
Noir: It’s not. Because the ghosts arent’ real. They are disguises put on by the seller’s entourage, to help him rob people of their possessions.
Cow (sits back down on the bed): Oh! So this seller’s a bandit?
Noir: He is. But nobody realizes that because they feel the ghost took away all their possessions.
Cow (jumps off the bed): Gyahhhh! Are you sure that’s not a ghost’s doing?
Noir: I’m sure. But the bandit is proving harder and harder to catch. I think his next robbing point will be a small village about 800 miles from here. The locality is filled with mostly poor people but a bandit will still rob at every opportunity.
Cow (stroking his big moustache): I feel proud. Only you can be on his tail, when ghosts are involved.
Noir: Mmm…our town’s replete of bandits. Did you ever notice?
Cow (sits back down on the bed): I did. I was robbed of all my possessions once on a camel journey to Morocco – bandits had left me only in my long white cotton robes, on my camel’s back because I was out without my sword. How foolish of me!
Cow (shudders): But at least I didn’t get robbed by any type of ghost.
Cow and Noir are both silent, on camel-back and in front of a fortress. The fortress looks built of mud and fronts pearly black gates. It’s enormous and in front are two guards dressed in plain-white robes, with gold trimmings. After inquiring why Cow and Noir are visiting the fortress, one of the guards proceed with taking them inside to meet the sick king. Inside the fortress, everything is rather quiet, except for ducks sitting near a fountain, or an odd breeze gently moving leaves of trees. The sick king is in his chamber room, and when Cow and Noir meet him, he is busy talking to one of his members of court. The chamber is decorated in plush red velvet, and the bed, even though built of cherry wood is rich in details. Cow greets the king and elaborates on his unexpected short visit – he mentions how he and his adviser rushed over here to meet the king and hope healing of his awful ailment is speeded up.
Abrahim Butros: Ah, Cow! How long has it been since I laid my eyes upon you?
Cow: Not that long! I would think somewhere around two or three years.
Abrahim Butros: That’s preposterous. It’s far too long. Had I not been caught up in my kingdom’s affairs I would have certainly visited. Cow, you don’t have any idea what’s been happening…is that your adviser there standing in the corner of the room?
Cow (turns around): Yes, that is my new adviser. Her name is Noir Chocolate. She is an excellent adviser. Noir, why don’t you come here and chat with the king? It would be very nice.
Abrahim Butros: That won’t be necessary. Why don’t you sit here at the foot of my bed?
Noir: Sure!…why are you dying?
Abrahim Butros: I am not dying! I am just…not healing. I expect to do better within the next few weeks.
Cow: Butros, be serious! You know you don’t have much time.
Abrahim Butros: I will not be dead when my kingdom is going to my rivals.
Cow: But what are you going to do? That is what your people want.
Abrahim Butros: What about what I want? What about my country?
Noir: Weren’t you like your people ten years ago and you had supported Queen Golden’s journey to the national throne?
Abrahim Butros: That’s besides the point!
Abrahim Butros: That Queen is nearly not as bad as this new Queen my people have in mind.
Cow: What? They are both horrible.
Abrahim Butros: Queen Golden wasn’t as bad. She was dumb and a puppet in her husband’s hands. Do you know what Queen Sophia is like? She was forbidden by her father, like all maidens in the country to join politics. But she got married and her husband let her be an equal to all men in the country. Not only is she going to tarnish our country’s image across the world if she replaces me to the throne but she will also go ahead and give the women in our country brand new ideas of what is must feel like to be a woman in a man’s shoe…Noir do you like sweets?
Noir: I like sweets, yes!
Abrahim Butros: Let’s go for a walk in my courtyard garden. And when we get tired, we can stop and have some sweets from our kitchen.
Cow, Noir and Abrahim Butros are walking in the courtyard garden. It is filled with trees of every shape and size, of flowering plants and smells pleasantly of Butros’ favourite flower too: blue water lily.
Noir: Blue water lily is your favourite flower…why?
Abrahim Butros: Mmm, oh I have been fond of it since I was a little boy. To me, it represents a far away world I have never been to but would have liked to.
Cow: What place is that?
Abrahim Butros and Noir (together): Ceylon.
Abrahim Butros: It’s Sri Lanka!
Cow: Oh! That place is Sri Lanka? Wow! I have never been there myself too.
Abrahim Butros: Yes, it is a nice place I have read.
Cow: It is. And so far away too.
Abrahim Butros (heartily slaps Noir on the back): Sweets. My favourite ones look like green and white striped duck eggs. I would love to know which you will like.
Unbeknownst to Abrahim Butros, Queen Sophia is losing her patience over having to wait for her throne and begins to hatch a plan to politically push it up faster – she gathers her supporters to see to it that a political idea spreads out amongst the local people that the transition to power for her happens before the king dies; it will ensure the local people have a say in how the country is run for a change and the expectation is they’ll get so excited by it, Butros will get dethroned in Queen Sophia’s favour immediately. Meanwhile, a kitchen boy serves Abrahim Butros and his two guests some sweets that look like duck eggs, in various colours, on a silver plate in the courtyard garden.
Cow: Oh! Look at all the delicious colours!
Noir: I think I like the orange and yellow one.
Abrahim Butros (gasp): You do? That tastes like red apples on the inside.
Noir: Great! I like apples. What does yours taste like?
Abrahim Butros: Melon. Why don’t you take some back to Egypt for your friends too? I feel they would love the crumbly sweets.
Cow:…mine tastes like fatty buttercream.
On a crystal clear blue sky, Cow and Noir are out for a camel ride. The whole atmosphere is hot and sandy. As camels plop their feet on the dunes and the two sweigh while riding their two friendly camels, Rajah and Ranee, a procession of people pass by. At first, Cow thinks it must be a mirage because he and Noir were completely alone in the big desert but soon it turns out that it is not so.
Cow: Young man! Why is there a procession happening?
Young man: It is for our great lord: Abrahim Butros. He is terribly ill and might not live long.
Noir (gasp): Why?
Young man: I think that it is because of his royal subjects plotting to overthrow him. They have taken a great liking collectively to a certain Queen Sophia and want to dethrone Abrahim and make the middle-aged princess their new ruler.
Cow: What an utterly barbaric story! Come on, Noir! Let’s get on with our camel ride in the desert.
Noir: Hang on! Young man, can you tell me more about the story? Where is this happening?
Cow: Over the borders of Egypt and close to Tripoli. Do you know our lord?
Noir: I might have heard of him. Is he still in Libya?
Young man: Yes, that is where he wishes to be buried.
Noir: Alright! Thank you!…Cow do you think we should pay a visit for diplomatic purposes?
Cow: What for?
Noir: For diplomatic purposes. We might know what is up in more detail. Aren’t you the slightest bit interested?
Cow: No, I am. If it’s happening to a border country, you know I am. Did you think I was an American ruler or something?
Noir: Then why did you say you weren’t interested previously?
Cow: I just didn’t think it was the most nicest of stories I ever heard. But maybe we should be going for a visit to the poor chap’s palace…I have made up my mind…let’s set off far and towards Tripoli.
Twelve hours later…
Cow: Whew! Noir…I am tired. Do you want to stop by a market and buy some tents for us to camp in the desert for the night?
Cow and Noir each buy two tents, some kebabs for dinner and set up camp near a pond shaded by palm trees. Their camels are resting too and drinking plenty of cold water from the pond, underneath the deepest and darkest of nights.
Cow: Noir I will tell you a little secret.
Noir: What is it?
Cow: Abrahim rules over savages. His own people find a Queen Sophia more interesting but she sounds a lot like Queen Golden – remember her? She was the ruler right before Abrahim. She knew nothing but regularly pretended otherwise and rumours have it that no one could remove her because of the youth of the country.
Noir: That makes no sense if Queen Golden knew nothing because she probably just ruled forcefully.
Cow: I know that. But I suspect that it was also the fault of the young kids in the country. Did you think they were you, Noir? Did you think that they will support Abrahim, or rulers like him, you know, like how you always support me?
Noir: No, I never thought anything like that.
Cow: Yes. They never cared for their country like how you care for Egypt. It is just too much to expect really from young people around the world like you.
Noir: But kids in Egypt aren’t like that.
Cow: Oh they are just good-for-nothings! They only want to play soccer, fly kites and eat food. They aren’t the slightest bit concerned about Egypt like you are but those kids in Tripoli, Noir…they are culturally different. They use to think just like you. Taking their Libya far was the only thing that mattered to them and look at them now – you are the only one in the region taking Egypt so far and protecting the country like a severe hawk.
Noir: Mmm…this kebab is good.
Cow: I know it is!!! I wonder what kind of kebabs we will be getting where we are going. I wouldn’t want to say goodbye to my lime and lemons.
It’s the eve before Thanksgiving. Cow isn’t familiar with the holiday but in his kingdom there is a lot of vigorous activity going on because Noir is preparing portions of the meal to be cooked tomorrow night for the special American holiday. Cow can smell too many delicious smells coming from the kitchen so he decides to chat with Noir over the stove-top.
Cow: I was wondering what kind of meals you are making – it all smells so good!
Noir: It’s a traditional Thanksgiving meal – roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. I was thinking of making some other sides but not too sure how that’s going to fit into the meal. There’s already too much to eat so maybe I should stick to the traditions and that will be it, for this year.
Cow: Yes, I think a traditional thanksgiving meal would be just lovely, my precious!
Noir: Yeah!…almost, coming right up!
Cow: My dear, aren’t you British?
Noir: Yeah! Why?
Cow: I was just curious as to why you are celebrating Thanksgiving because I never saw British people making a load of fuss about the holiday, in my life!
Noir: It’s really an American and Canadian holiday! But the British are colonial so we can celebrate it!
Cow (gaping): For both the two countries?
Noir: Yeah! What are the odds, huh? I have always loved both, from I think since I was a toddler!
Cow: That’s marvellous to hear!…do I have to invite my mother for Thanksgiving?
Cow: Oh! Better do that now then, it’s already evening! I am pretty sure she’ll be here before tomorrow noon and then we can all enjoy the meal and…
Just then Noir’s genie pops up in the kitchen…
Turmeric: I was just reading “The Daily Sand” and you will never believe who is getting married!
Turmeric: Your biggest rival’s daughter! Noir, do you remember him?
Cow: I do! How come? Wasn’t she supposed to be training to succeed him to his throne?
Turmeric: Yup, that’s why! She finds life unbearable without a man to hold her in his arms! She thought, “first marriage, then everything else in life”…
Noir: Really? Very strange woman!
Turmeric: Yeah! She’s very plump too, so I wonder what kind of husband she got in life…
Noir: An ugly one! A seriously ugly one!
Turmeric: Naturally….but what kind of seriously ugly?
The next day…
It’s Thanksgiving Day. Eric is setting the table with Juskpohn and Cow’s mother, Mama Violet, who is besotted with Noir. She has begun to think of Noir as her own granddaughter, something she has longed for for many years, and even bought two peach yarn balls to give to Noir’s two kittens to play with.
Mama Violet: You love to have many pets then?
Noir: Yes! I like to have as many as I can take care of!
Mama Violet: Cow I need more napkins for table settings!
Cow:…I only have handkerchiefs left now, with the amount you used!
Mama Violet: What will I do? You know, our table is enormously long!
Eric: I will get them!
Turmeric: You boy! Do you know magic that you think you can?
Eric: No! But I can get them from a shop nearby!
Turmeric: But everything is closed on Thanksgiving!
Eric: They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Egypt!
Turmeric: Ohhhhhhhhhh! How dare you ruin it? I was in character!
Eric:…sorry! Does it put you into a more Thanksgiving spirit that way?
Turmeric: I was already in a proper festive spirit! And you don’t have to show off that you know Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Egypt! Every idiot in town knows that!
Eric: Really? I would imagine…most…people…don’t!
Noir: The turkey is done! It’s time to dig in!
Cow: Really? I’ll pour us some iced tea…
Turmeric: Iced tea, see that boy! Bet you never had that before!…Eric…Eric?
Turmeric notices Eric helping Noir out in the kitchen because there are too many dishes to carry to the dining table.
Turmeric: Well, would you look at that! That boy is actually of some use in the kingdom!
Alexander, also known formally as “Alexander XIV The Mighty Lion”, is a friend of Cow. Cow and Alexander have a bittersweet friendship – the two rulers have fought many hard battles against each other over their respective regions and in many parts of the world, Alexander is considered to be a superior king than Cow, primarily because he has ruled so many Arab states, for decades, when Cow has only ruled the major one in Egypt. Alexander’s worst enemies, however, are no different than Cow’s; all of Alexander’s rivals are corrupted and like Cow (who only keeps losing money to his rivals) he keeps losing to his rivals. Alexander has come for a brief visit to Cow’s kingdom…
Cow: I am so happy to see you, Alexander. I haven’t heard from you for a very long time. Why is that?
Alexander (ignoring him): Cow!!! What is this I hear? You have a new adviser but you will not introduce the two of us to each other?
Cow: I shall do what I please in my kingdom!
Alexander: Is that any way to treat your friend?
Cow: I am treating you far better than how you treat your people!
Alexander: My…my people? My kingdom is built out of force, not on my people, or for my people…if I had any!
Cow: What? You invaded your town from the inside?
Alexander: No, you idiot!!! I rule because I am the mightiest! Now, where is this adviser of yours? Be quick!
Cow rushes to get Noir…
Cow introduces Noir and Alexander to each other, and Alexander takes an instant liking to Cow’s new adviser. Alexander has been one of those kings who has never been popular amongst his royal subjects because of a thorough deficiency in fine diplomatic skills; Noir, a polar opposite, despite being an adviser to the monarch, not the monarch, has always enjoyed widespread popularity in Cow’s kingdom. Alexander was only seventeen when he realised that he will be a ruler of mammoth proportions because of his hard work and his thunderous approach to eliminating all local rivals, by all means. Hated by local contemporaries he could never win over, foreign rulers (who desperately wish to be him but never admit it out loud) and his royal subjects, Alexander is still one of the greatest rulers in the Arab world.
Noir: I am pleased to know that your kingdom has been flourishing off-late.
Alexander: Yes, it has been! I think it was…all because the seasons have been kind to us, for a change! My royal subjects have already gathered all of the harvest and now it is busy hitting the farmer’s markets, in a more regular manner.
Noir: Is the local rivalry getting too much?
Alexander: It’s nothing I cannot handle! I have a lot of troubles there within my own kingdom, actually. Too many people want to have everything in a different way from me.
Noir: I have heard they care too much and forget they are rulers talking to their royal subjects! I would have never been able to tolerate such an attitude towards class divides, here in Egypt.
Alexander: That is nothing! Yesterday wearing ‘the emperor’s robes’, I was out for a visit to the countryside to see how my subjects are doing and when I was there I found all the villagers dressed in my spare robes, given to them by my kingdom’s adviser because he found it too difficult to take the villagers are poorer than him and me.
Cow is busy in his palace today. He has been thinking about how different his life has become, since he appointed Noir as an adviser to his enormous kingdom. Cow is a lot more calm, less stressed about local corruption ruining his long term chances of ruling, less worried everyday about losing money to rulers from nearby rival kingdoms, and more at peace with the thought that he might actually have done something right in life to have Noir, all for himself. Speaking to his royal court…
Cow: Noir is the child I have wished for, for a very long time. I know she loves fish too much and is English but I hope with all my heart that all of you will make her feel welcome here, and accept her as a young superior to most of you.
The Royal Court (all together): Yes, we very happily do!!!!!
Cow: You know, I recently wrote a letter to my friend Goat, who rules over desert dunes, quite far away from Egypt, actually, in response to the letter he sent me to keep in touch. You will not believe that I did not have one single good thing to say about any of the princesses in Goat’s Kingdom in Iraq!
The Royal Court: Oh my dear majesty!!! Why???
Cow: There are, I think, about 808 princesses in his kingdom. Every single one of them, young and old, got married to mine and his rivals. Some of them even used to be the hope of his kingdom but then in the end, they had to quit everything because they could no longer be the good princesses everyone wanted. They fell madly in love with the sons of my rivals, and so had to abandon their princess responsibilities to spend all their time with them!
The Royal Court: That is the scariest story I have ever heard!!!
Cow: It gets scarier…those princesses, in particular, who apparently are very eager to meet Noir, were only handed the responsibility to manage and maintain friendly relations with the rivals of Goat’s kingdom because that is the only way that Goat has always ruled…adjusting to rivals, that I could never do, in my whole life!
The Royal Court: What pathetic princesses! Can they not fawn less on those ugly men, in a sea of ugly men?
Cow: No! They cannot! Because then their husband will disappear, and they will end up heartbroken, in a world where the other princesses are still married to their husbands’ fathers.
The Royal Court (pause and all together, in fear): That exotic story sounds too ridiculous to be true, your majesty!!!
Cow: Who cares how it sounds? It is actually true! I told Goat…Noir might be the kid who can cook my troubles away sometimes, with a fried chicken or two (with English Dijon mustard, on the side) but she is a very capable and intelligent addition to Cow’s kingdom. Do you know how humiliating it was for Goat to call those princesses as his own? I told Goat…you just give Noir all of my rivals, like all of your pretty (and precious) princesses and within a day they will end up humiliated in front of my kingdom, and maybe even the whole of Egypt. Some mighty precious princesses indeed Goat has…
Meanwhile, another problem is bugging Juskpohn…
Cow and Juskpohn are busy talking about Noir’s room in Cow’s palace.
Juskpohn: I wanted to talk about Noir’s room and this rumour that has popped out of nowhere…
Cow: Ahhhhhhhhhh! Juskpohn! What rumour?
Juskpohn: I have been reading in “The Daily Sand” that people in our kingdom are worried about the feng shui in Noir’s room. I find that thought, frankly, very disturbing!
Cow: What is feng shui?
Noir: If the feng shui in my room is right, then as the resident of the room I apparently will have a lot of harmony in my life.
Basket: What a load of nonsense!
Juskpohn: I agree. But people in our kingdom sometimes follow ancient Chinese philosophies so they are complaining out loud a lot about the lack of feng shui in Noir’s room.
Cow:…I don’t want to change much!
Juskpohn: But your rivals have fed them a story that everything is going to go wrong if the feng shui in Noir’s room isn’t right!
Noir: Tell them all this is Egypt, not India!!! Those kind of sick superstitious attitudes only work in that country!
Cow and Chef are still at the market bickering over what greens to get Noir for the feast. At that precise moment, a young Prince on horseback arrives.
Prince: Good morning, my lord! Do you happen to know the way to an oasis? I needed to refill my water flask on my journey.
Cow: Who are you?
Prince: I’m Eric. I have travelled all the way from Morocco and it’s been hours, for me since I’ve had any water.
Chef: You came all the way from spice-town on horseback?
Eric: I’m a Prince! So, yes….(Eric falls off his horse because of exhaustion and dehydration and passes out)……
Cow: Oh no!!!!!!!!! Prince?
Chef: Prince, are you alright?……….Here, have water from my bottle!
The two feed Eric water, put him back on his horse and takes him back to the Kingdom; Eric is still passed out, until he reaches the golden gates of the palace – there he can somewhat makeout the hazy shape/outline of Noir rushing to the door.
Cow: Noir! This is…Eric. Can you take him to one of the palace rooms and look after him? He fainted from traveling a lot without water!……Oooooooh! Am I seeing a dog behind you?
Noir: Huh? Oh yeah! It’s my Dalmatian, Fang. It goes with me everywhere because they’re like my dogs, you know! How was the bazaar besides Eric?
Cow:…We aren’t done yet! We’ll just head back now and come back in time for supper!
Noir: Alright! (pats the horse) What’s your name, boy?….Do you have a name?…Come I’ll feed you water!
Noir takes the horse, deep inside the Kingdom to a water barrel filled with floating strawberries and edges the horse to drink it. For Eric, Noir goes to the wine cellar next to the barrel and gets a wine flute filled with water and a handful of freshly plucked, clean strawberries.
Noir: Eric! (nudges him with her finger) Here, have some water!
Eric: (groans) Thank you! (He finishes drinking the water in a gulp!) Can I have some more?
Noir: Sure! Would you like strawberries? They’ll make you feel better fast for the nutrients!
Eric: Yeah!..What’s your name, fair maiden?
Noir: Fair maiden? Do you always talk like that in medieval tongues? I’m Noir! Would you like to stay with us for a few days? My Cow…my King….uh, the King…………has asked me to look after you!
Eric: Yes, I would love that!
The two are eating strawberries and drinking water, when Cow comes running back to the Kingdom.
Cow: I just ran into Stefan at the market because he went to get more olive oil for tonight’s feast. (panting) Can I please have my samosa vegetarian? The Chef would love it!!!!!!