Part One can be found here
Clearing up Fairytown was always going to be difficult but the initial targets dictated by Prince Pompous proved popular. There was one early set back – the Scandal of the Porridge Pilfering. One local family, The Lock’s of Beauty Glade had fallen on hard times and, under the Minister’s guidance been evicted. Longtime Petrified was small and wizened and utterly humourless, which appeared to make him perfect for the job of Minister.
The eviction left the Locks destitute. Their beautiful daughter, Goldie hated seeing her parents starve and decided to find food at any cost. Sadly the house she choose for her first venture in crime belonged to a decorated war hero and establishment bigwig, Major Ursine who had cast scrumping spells with the Old King when they had been to wizarding school together. Goldie took the Major and his wife’s oatmeal repast and fed it to her parents; she then returned for the Major’s son’s bowl and was caught, spoon raised, an hour later.
The Major wanted her dealt with severely, but the press sided with the glamorous victim. Scurrilous was becoming more and more vocal in pursuing the Ministry’s actions. The Times sought an explanation from the Minister who said he was enforcing the King’s Will. The press accused the Minister of being overbearing, to which the Minister countered that it was the Major who was the bear in this story so if anyone was overbearing it had to be he. The Major complained that to call him a bear was to fail to have due regard for the nobility of his ancestry or the luxuriousness of his pelt.
The headlines, as well as the usual intemperate mob, who filled Fairytown’s Main Square in the hope of a jolly day out and free sandwiches, screamed for the Old King to do something; the Major demanded a Royal Apology. By the evening the Old King had taken to his bed, putting a sign on his door that would everyone please note he had in fact abdicated and in future they should talk to his nephew, the new King, Pompous the Third.
The new King promised immediate action and threw one mother of a party to celebrate his coronation, with the Major as chief guest. The Locks received food parcels too. The mob were fed cake as well as sandwiches and everyone cheered and went home. Well, not the Locks, obviously. Even in Fairyland there are plot holes.
King Pompous the Third was shaken by the reaction. He met the Lord Chamberlain, convinced he needed to take back control and dismantle the Ministry. ‘It needs to be dismantled,’ he said.
Once again Eric the Frown shuffled his slippers of office, this time nervously. ‘If you do, Your Particularlysumptuousness and if you also want to take back control of Fairyland and clean it up, as you’ve so often said, then all the inevitable bad news will come back to you Your Shiningness. The press have scented blood, now and Scurrilous won’t be easily assuaged.’
‘We could turn them into toads.’
‘True but I doubt that would stop them. They are ninety percent reptile anyway.’
‘Keep the Ministry, tell the press you are going to introduce checks and balances, committees and supervising authorities, blah blah to ensure the sort of conflicts that did for the old King will not happen again. You’ll be the figurehead and when things go well you take the credit; when they go wrong, you sack someone.’
‘I’ll still be in control?’
The shuffling took on a more frantic quality. ‘Of course, ther…’
‘Good. I’m relying on you Eric. Shall we lunch?’
‘One more thing.’
‘You need to sack Longtime and replace him with someone untainted.’
‘Can you do that?’
‘And everything will be fine?’
‘Magical, Your Staggeringlydazzlingness.’
And it was. Mostly.
The new King launched a new campaign to clear up the worst excesses of selfish behaviour, clearing up the grubby edges of Fairyland. This was guaranteed to be popular. But that was before one little bit of overzealousness which, inexorably led to the eunuchification of Strombloid the Unsocked. Strombloid was promoted to Minister in the belief that, whilst he, too, was humourless, he could at least smile. But he lacked any subtleties and within a week of the new Edict he had mistakenly arranged for what he thought was a piece of egregious fly-tipping to be removed only to find the offending wardrobe was actually the Gateway for the White Queen to travel to Narnia for her winter shopping. She was furious that she missed the sales and the press made a huge thing about how cruel this was – The White Queen was the subject of a series of interviews that week, on subjects as various as how to Lion-tame and her five favourite beaver recipes. And when the Times revealed the self-same wardrobe had been bought by some non-magical human for his own use which led to all sorts of riff-raff appearing in Narnia, usually just before tea on Thursdays, there was an outcry.
Strombloid’s successor, Prebent Despairing was chosen for having something the last two lacked: a personality. He survived for three more weeks. He then sent a crack squad to evict the Ridinghoods from their squat in the Magical Forest. The eviction went ahead but, the next day, a story appeared in the Fairyland Times about how wolves had descended, unannounced, on Granny Ridinghood and eaten her. Prebent, encouraged by the Lord Chamberlain to engage with the press in the hope that his softer side would lead to better headlines, offered to be interviewed, confident he would win over Scurrilous. He explained to the reporter that, of course, the bailiffs had dressed as wolves, because it was unsafe to appear as bailiffs in that part of the Wood – it being notoriously dodgy; and naturally they had wrapped Granny up in one of their camouflage suits to stop her fighting like the magical banshee that she was.
‘How did it go,’ asked a nervy Lord Chamberlain, the slippers rubbing so fast they began to smoke.
‘Nailed it, Eric,’ replied a confident Minister, ignoring the wince at the use of his boss’ Christian name.
The next day, rather than the Despairing interview, the paper’s Leader quoted from a different meeting, this with the Matriarch of the Ridinghoods, Ruthless ‘Red’. It was a travesty and the accompanying photograph was deliberately misleading, but the damage had been done.
Once again the King had to be seen to act, to counter the impression of a campaign being waged against the serially roguish but otherwise much loved Ridinghoods. That Red was portrayed as an innocent girl when in fact she was a vicious spell-wielding gorgon just showed how the facts could be twisted. In the end Prebent was moved ‘upstairs’ becoming another star in the firmament which shone brightly on the new Dingly Dell retirement complex, specially commissioned for Old Ma Ridinghood to occupy and which included a three ringed cauldron and a life subscription to ‘Crone Today’.
It couldn’t continue like this, thought the Lord Chamberlain. But what was he to do?
To be continued