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.
When the first drops of rain falls in winter, the feeling you get from it is hard to pin down. Ink , sitting on her very broad (and brown) window pane discovers she has always enjoyed the rain. It’s one of her favourite things in Sheffield, besides of course stories of ‘The Great War’. In the Williams household, war stories are huge. It’s almost as if everyday there is a new story to tell of a war, which feels so long ago to her. Smiling at the thought, Ink notices that a bright ray of sunshine has suddenly taken over the skies following the rain. It’s one of those aftereffects of a weather downpour she absolutely detests but sunshine is often rare in winter, and it reminds her if she can ask her mother to go to the grocery store now, instead of in the evening when she really wants to reserve some time for learning.
At the kitchen…
Mother Williams: I am certain you can. What do you want to get for yourself?
Ink: Apples and chicken.
Mother Williams: We need a loaf of bread, bell peppers and some sugar. But that seems like a lot to carry. Why don’t you ask the butler to accompany you?
Ink: Sure! Anything else?
Mother Williams: No, I think that’s it.
Trodding on muddy ground littered with snow speckles, Sebastian (the middle-aged butler in the Williams household) and Ink Williams are trying to get to the grocery store.
Sebastian: Master, how can you even walk today? Even wearing the right shoes won’t help. It’s muddy every few feet for the roads, and…
Ink: Icy sheets on the pavements everywhere.
Sebastian: Yes, that’s why we should go back.
Ink: But I really need chicken for tonight. I have got absolutely nothing in the fridge apart from cheese and leftover toasties. Try to keep up!
When Ink and her butler reach the grocery store, it’s packed.
Sebastian (glancing at the crowd): Well, this is just ridiculous!
Ink: I know. Why does everyone have to be out today? It’s not even the weekend.
Sebastian: Maybe they got fresh produce?
Ink: I hope. Although, I am not really buying much.
Sebastian: Maybe you should.
Ink:…I could use some bell peppers of my own.
Sebastian: Alright, Ink, let’s walk to buy apples. Lord save the Queen!
Two hours and two pairs of muddy trousers later…
Sebastian: Master, do you have everything you need?
Ink: Yes, I do!
Sebastian: Well, then let’s head right back home. Our trousers are muddy as it is.
Ink: I think I overheard some neighbourhood gossip while shopping.
Sebastian: What did you hear?
Ink: A young maiden has eloped and her family is in deep shame (and a lot of tears) for it because he is a good-for-nothing.
Sebastian: Am I hearing this right? You actually heard of a story like that?
Ink: Yes. Why?
Sebastian: Well, people ought to know better than to air their shameless dirty laundry in the air like that, when children are about at the grocer’s too, don’t you think?
Ink: So what if I heard it? Don’t you think it makes me wiser?
Sebastian: Tales like that?
Ink: Sure. I now know there are kinds of women who elope with idiots.
Sebastian: Wow! You do?…and what family is this?
Ink: The Rogers. They live close to where Dimitri does. Oh! Maybe he knows about it too. I can’t wait to ask him if actually saw anything up close.
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.
Mama Violet, Genie Turmeric and Noir Chocolate are watching a film on the night before Christmas Eve.
Turmeric: I have always enjoyed Titanic. It’s one of my favourite romance movies ever!
Noir: Really? Why do you like it so much?
Turmeric: I like Jack! I think he is a very handsome young man and what happens to him is so tragic! It’s hard to not feel emotionally connected to him when he dies in the ocean to save his beloved…
Mama Violet: Yeah…Jack dies for Rose in the end and I don’t like Rose.
Noir: Neither do I! She is too fat but doesn’t get it and I think Jack fell for Rose in Titanic because she feels so like real to him!
Turmeric: Oh! I hate Rose…she is so big she ended up resting on an entire doorway all by herself when the ship…sank!
Noir: I know! Jack should have let Rose float instead in the ocean and put himself on the door! With how huge Rose is, she would have easily been her very own round life raft in the icy waters to float around!
Mama Violet: Yeah…what about Rose’s mother? What do you think of her, Noir?
Turmeric: I think she is a hag!
Noir: I think she is a shame to the high class or aristocratic class or whatever it is you want to call it. I mean, she couldn’t look after Rose because she was in debt because of her husband and then didn’t even get a job to get out of it. Instead, Rose’s mother actually contemplated working as a mere seamstress, which isn’t really some kind of job for an aristocratic lady to talk about in a dignified manner, and it was all to properly look after herself and her seventeen-year-old daughter but she also approached that with a lot of dread and then in the end all that happened was that she coerced Rose to marry a young man with a fortune so that Rose and her mother can comfortably continue to live their aristocratic life for like forever! How disgraceful!
Mama Violet: I know! Your from a high class yourself…what does your mother do?
Noir: Oh! She works in fashion! She’s a fashion designer in Paris! She has her own fashion label which has been showcasing collections in Paris Fashion Week ever since the nineties! It’s a relatively new label she founded herself when I was a kid but it’s rather well-known and everything and she regularly designs all of the clothes the label manufactures!
Turmeric faints hearing the story…
Noir: Turmeric…are you alright?
Eric pops into the living room then with some nachos.
Eric: Noir, do you want some nachos with your movie?
Turmeric then wakes up hearing Eric’s voice…
Turmeric: I am alright, Noir! You boy…come here and feed me nachos, pretty please!
Eric: What? No!…Noir, do you?……..do you want some nachos?
Noir: I think I want nachos, yeah!
Turmeric: Hmph! (mutters under his breath) I cannot believe Jack ends up with Rose in Titanic and these two are still only sharing nachos. I think it’s time I take this matter of love I would love to see inbetween Prince Eric and Noir into my own hands…mwahahahahahaha….oh! Sorry! I must do this in a hush-hush!
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!
It is a fine dewy morning in Sheffield. The town is completely covered with the aftereffects of heavy snowfall. As you tread on the soft snow, you can sight that the town is slowly waking up. Villagers are rummaging around shops, schools and parks, as the elders of the town, which mostly populate it are busy picking up their morning newspapers from their doorsteps.
Ever since “The Great War”, Sheffield has been somewhat of a quiet town, which is surprising because most major towns in England are the busiest in the country. One family, who lives in a thatched house close to the village markets and many farms, are the Williams. The Williams are a family of three – Grandfather Williams, Mother Williams and Ink Williams. The family also own a farm, where they regularly reap very good harvest, and have a hive of bees from which honey is produced – the honey and the farm harvest is both for the family, and the markets, to sell; Ink Williams has an Afghan Hound, a Rottweiler, and a Bernese Mountain Dog of her own as pets.
The Williams family has lived in Sheffield for generations, and their house is pretty popular in Sheffield because it is nestled between the many farms and village markets. It is the year 1800. Ink Williams spends most of her time in boarding school or getting privately tutored because unlike most young girls in England, Ink is from an aristocratic family. Aside from Ink, all girls her age in Sheffield spend all day either preparing to get married, working in the village markets, or helping out with farming instead. Like Ink, they do not learn and do not have to worry about getting educated, getting the top grades and excelling in school activities – Ink thinks her days spent getting schooled is very boring and exhausting. Still, she manages to convince herself that all this hard work is worth it…
Ink: So many French words! I am not even ever ending up in Paris!
Ink: Can I go home?
Tutor: No! Revise! On the other side of town, some hours later, Matthew, Ink, Dimitri and Andrew are at a cricket game thrown by their schools.
Matthew: I think the game is going to go great! You all think the same?
Dimitri: Ink, how are you going to get home! You don’t have your carriage with you?
Andrew: Why don’t you walk with her, you hippo?
Dimitri: I am not a hippo!!!!!!!!!!
Ink: Come to think of it…I might actually do that instead of joining the three of you later! How long is the game going to be?
Matthew: At least, two hours long…
Dimitri and Andrew have broken up from the conversation and are trying to clobber each other, with their shoes. Ink tries to break the fight up but it’s not until the whistle blows singalling the start of the match, when the two stop fighting.
Dimitri: Ink…are you alright?
Ink: I am fine! Why?
Dimitri: Do you think I have put on weight?
Ink: No! You still look slender to me!
Andrew: Cricket is so boring!
Matthew: Then why are you watching it?
Andrew: What is it with you? I can do what I want!
After the game, Dimitri and Ink walk back home together. Ink has known Dimitri since she was 11 years old. Dimitri lives with most other kids in a Sheffield neighbourhood that has a church of its own. It is about a half-hour walk away from Ink’s home; Ink’s family and Dimitri’s family, which consists of his mother and an uncle, from his mother’s side, are good friends.
Ink: The scarecrow in our farm can never manage to scare the crows away!
Dimitri: That useless thing! I think ours look like a clown!