Are we sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin….
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (depending on where you live), there was a prince called Prince Sandbach of Chatter, although everyone called him Sandy. He was tall, dark and…. well, he was tall and dark, let’s leave it at that.
Sandy was married to a beautiful princess – the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk – and together they had two children, Princes Oliver and Isaac, who were always up to no good. They all lived in a barn with the unfittingly grandiose title of ‘Sandbach Towers’, deep within the Kingdom of Cheshiravia.
‘Sandbach Towers’ had once been a fine palace, fit for the prince and princess, but soon after they wed they took in a dog named Bexley, and then a few years later Oliver and Isaac had been born. As the family grew, the palace had slowly fallen into disrepair. Where once stood a proud castle, there was now a barn, with many hidden hazards and stains, and the odour of wet canine.
Shortly before the beautiful princess had delivered forth Prince Isaac to the family, they had saved what little gold they had, and had purchased a new steed called ‘Kuga’.
Kuga was a fine, noble steed, and the family were very fond of her. She would transport them around the country, even as far as the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, where Prince Sandy and his family would oft visit in the summer months and at Yuletide. Kuga was capable of carrying many bags, together with the family and Bexley the dog, and had never once complained of the burden, no matter how great.
Then, in the month of May, in the year of our Lord 2015, Kuga began to exhibit strange behavioural characteristics, which caused Prince Sandy some concern. For no reason, Kuga would make a deep grumbling noise, and then lurch forwards without Prince Sandy requesting this of her. Some of the village folk believed this to be the ancient ‘curse of the engine malfunction’, but Prince Sandy was fond of his steed and did not wish to take her to be examined, for fear she would be taken from him.
However, the problem worsened, and when the local blacksmith was unable to discover why Kuga would act in such a way, despite his supposedly clever equipment, Prince Sandy was given the news that he had dreaded: the only way to discover what was wrong with Kuga, was to take her to ‘King Ford. Prince Sandy had heard evil stories of ‘King Ford, and was wary of being robbed of what little gold he had, yet he loved Kuga dearly and she was part of the family, so he had no choice.
Verily it came to pass, that one day late in the month of June, Prince Sandy took Kuga to see ‘King Ford on his way to work. He was told that he would have to leave Kuga there for her to be thoroughly examined, but he explained that he needed transportation to complete his journey, as he was an advocate and there were many people in the district who had suffered minor ailments and who needed someone to shout at.
‘King Ford listened to Prince Sandy’s pleas, and eventually granted him the use of one of their lesser steeds, ‘Fiesta’. Fiesta was much smaller than Kuga, and nowhere near as powerful, but Prince Sandy was desperate and so he accepted their offer. He waved goodbye to Kuga, hoping he would see her again soon.
Whereas Kuga was a proud, black beast, Fiesta was in comparison small and white. Prince Sandy was not fond of white steeds, and indeed had recently written about his dislike for such transportation, so he questioned whether ‘King Ford had read his musings and provided him with Fiesta as a cruel joke. Nevertheless, he mounted Fiesta and set off to complete his journey to work.
It was immediately clear that Fiesta was not a fast steed. Whereas Kuga would set off from a starting position with some pace, Fiesta struggled to achieve any acceleration at all. Indeed, Fiesta was so slow, that Prince Sandy doubted she had ever recorded a 0-60 time in any jousting competition, and even if she had, he feared it would have exceeded two hours. He mused to himself that Baroness Susan of Boyle would surely out-pace Fiesta in a straight sprint.
Eventually, however, Fiesta delivered Prince Sandy to his place of work.
Later that morning, Prince Sandy received word from a messenger that ‘King Ford could not locate the reason for Kuga’s behaviour, as she was not displaying any unusual characteristics at the time, so he should collect her that evening and return to ‘King Ford if the behaviour occurred again.
Despite not being able to locate the source of the problem, ‘King Ford still levied a fee of 78 gold coins on Prince Sandy, and advised that there were other issues with Kuga which required prompt attention. Prince Sandy was not impressed, and told ‘King Ford he would address any such issues at a later time. He prayed that, since ‘King Ford had not located any real defect with Kuga, perhaps the behaviour would now stop.
His prayers were not answered.
The very next morning, having delivered Prince Oliver to his House of Education, Prince Sandy mounted Kuga, only for the behaviour to commence once more. As he had been instructed by ‘King Ford, Prince Sandy at once communicated to them (via the ‘Tooth of Blue’, should any Sheriffs be reading this), and gave advance warning that he would bring the ailing steed straight to them.
He arrived within one half of an hour, to discover that Squire Dominic (who had tended to his needs the day before) was away on an errand, and so poor Prince Sandy had to explain the situation to Squiress Dee instead. Squiress Dee was a pleasant wench, but bereft of any technical knowledge. Worse, whilst Fiesta had been a poor replacement for Kuga the day before, even Fiesta was away on other business, and so Prince Sandy had to call his Mother, Lady Jill of Poyntonia, to collect him. Lady Jill was a reliable mother, and arrived shortly afterwards to deliver Prince Sandy to his place of work, (in another breed of Fiesta, as it happens).
Prince Sandy received word later that day that the problem with Kuga was still undetermined; however Ian, the Dark Baron of Engineerdom, believed a change to the filter of fuel stood a good chance of rectifying the issue. Reluctantly, Prince Sandy agreed to part with further gold coins to carry out this work, and decided for the sake of his family to also replace Kuga’s front two hooves, (which had apparently worn thin with years of heavy labour) together with both front coils. Whatever the frig they are.
The total cost was to be 650 gold coins, but the prince consoled himself in the knowledge that at least his beloved Kuga would then be restored to her former glory, ready to commence battle and conquer the terrains of Goostrey, The Edge of Alderley and the Holmes of Chapel once more.
In light of the restorative work that would be required, Kuga was to remain with ‘King Ford for another day, and so again Prince Sandy complained that he required transportation. As ‘luck’ would have it, Fiesta was again available, and so it was agreed that Prince Sandy would collect her later that evening.
Having struggled to coerce Fiesta the full distance to Sandbach Towers, which at one point involved passing around another traveller – a manoeuvre which Fiesta made an unnecessary meal out of (due to apparently suffering with chronic asthma) even though it was only a slow-moving tractor, Prince Sandy arrived safely and collected Prince Oliver to take him home.
Bizarrely, Prince Oliver fell in love with Fiesta, and decided that he in fact preferred her to Kuga, news that upset Prince Sandy greatly. He indicated to Prince Oliver that Fiesta was much smaller than Kuga, and could not carry as heavy a burden, making a trip to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk a nigh impossibility, but Prince Oliver was not swayed. Even indicating that Fiesta had a small storage compartment, meaning that Bexley the family dog would need to leave the kingdom, did not deter the young prince, who promptly announced that he would happily cast poor Bexley out, were it to mean the family could keep Fiesta as their steed.
Nevertheless, retaining Fiesta was not an option, and the following day it sluggishly transported Prince Sandy to his place of work for the final time, to be returned to ‘King Ford before sunset.
However, when Prince Sandy returned Fiesta to ‘King Ford that evening, Kuga was not present, as Ian the Dark Baron was still testing her around the Dean of Handforth.
Having waited for many an hour, Ian eventually returned and presented devastating news – Kuga was still unwell, despite the expensive alterations which had been carried out. Prince Sandy was upset, but was assured by the Dark Baron that the ailment may be minor and, indeed, may not occur again. He was keen for Prince Sandy to retain Fiesta over the weekend and leave Kuga there, but Prince Sandy was at his tether’s end, and just wanted Kuga returned to his family. It was agreed that Prince Sandy would take Kuga home, under the hope that she would display no more unusual behaviour in the future.
Despite having to part with 650 gold coins, Prince Sandy was happy to be reunited with his steed again. She seemed renewed, even mightier than before, but no sooner had Prince Sandy set her on the road home, she announced that she required refreshments. It appeared that ‘King Ford had depleted her fuel supplies to such an extent in testing her, she was in urgent need of nourishment. Prince Sandy was again distraught, but had no choice other than to part with further gold coins in order to refill Kuga’s belly at the market place of Shell.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the trauma of that week, Kuga returned home triumphant. She sat resplendent outside Sandbach Towers, having been cleaned thoroughly by ‘King Ford (which was the least the robbing highwaymen could offer in the circumstances) and the following day Prince Sandy took great delight in riding her on a number of errands around the township.
And the family Sandy lived happily ever after….
… for one day.
On the last Sunday of that month of June, Prince Sandy and the young Prince Oliver mounted Kuga early in the morning to travel to the local water baths, only for Kuga to fail to move at all. She would come to life, briefly, but would then immediately collapse with a wheeze. This angered Prince Sandy, as he had paid ‘King Ford over 700 gold coins, and now Kuga was worse than she had been before. At least prior to visiting ‘King Ford she had been willing to run, albeit unusually, whereas now she would not leave the stable at all.
Eventually, having feasted on a luncheon of meat and eggs, Prince Sandy was able to coax Kuga into moving, and she managed to transport the family to the People’s Republic of Crewe, but this still left Prince Sandy with a battle on his hands.
A number of messages were sent to ‘King Ford, outlining Prince Sandy’s displeasure at the treatment Kuga had received at great personal expense, however no messages were returned. ‘King Ford remain silent to this day.
Prince Sandy was so angered by the turn of events, he set forth penning the whole episode onto parchment, in order to share his woe with the masses, and warn them against visiting ‘King Ford with their own steed-related issues. He commenced writing the tale on that Sunday eve, having consumed almost a full flagon of mead, which might explain the unusual style he adopted. Either that, or the distressing situation had caused him to suffer some form of ailment to the head.
Over the following days, having sobered and reflected on the events, Prince Sandy was unsure whether the tale would gain favour with those reading it, and he worried that the masses might find the style (and consequently him), rather strange.
However, it dawned on Prince Sandy that, in his drunken, angered, state, he had penned close to 2,000 words on that Sunday eve, and he was fuck’d if he was starting again and writing anything else.