Story for the Day: The Marridon Grains Company Pt 1
Twisk was doing groceries when she discovered a breakfast cereal with a very familiar face on the box. She sent me a picture of it and I could not believe it: it looked as though Unghaahi's likeness was being used to sell a sugary children's cereal. I thought this deserved a story:
Marridon, forever known for its tooth-decaying confections, saw an increase in health consciousness over the long winter. Many were afraid that the inactivity which the snow had incited would mean the letting out of their dresses and the loosening of their taut bodices. Cakes and biscuits were banned from dinners, vegetables and fruits reigned, and upon the whole Marridon in the long winter became a healthier kingdom than it ever had been before. To accommodate, however, for the sugar beet crop's being leftover and unused, the Marridon Grains Company thought it advisable to purchase the sugar beets and try by way of doing something to make use of them, for they were after all a vegetable and could not be so very bad for one's health that even in moderation the sugar beet must be considered somewhat wholesome. And so, together with their magsmen and advertising agents, they contrived a product that would be at once palatable and nutritious.
The product was made, was packaged and shipped, and before the end of a week was out, the Grains Company's novel cereal was eaten, was enjoyed, was gone from every shelf of every shoppe. The scheme had promised well and had answered thoroughly, and before long Marridon's Sugar Beet Wheats had traveled to Frewyn, to be traded in Farriage and sold on the markets, to be enjoyed by farmers and children alike, to be deliciated and marveled at, to be finished and ordered again, but Frewyn had its garland of grains and groats, had oatmeal and wheatmeal, scones and crumpets, muffins and pies and could not be desirous of anything that professed to be more wholesome than that which they knew was wholesome already. Porridge with honey did more for the Frewyn farmer than any cereal professing to promote health could do, and therefore the boxes of Sugar Beet Wheat sat at the port, untraded and uneaten, to be sent back to Marridon the following week, to be wondered at and fussed over by a company determined to make its way in the Frewyn market, but how to do so with a kingdom that had never shown any interest in Marridon's contrivances and inventions was something of a puzzle to them. Some suggested that sugar beet, a rarity in Frewyn, was the cause of the confusion, but this was batted down by a committee of those who had been in Frewyn themselves, had seen Frewyns absolutely devour sugar of any distinction, and were certain of its being a matter of poor marketing which had done the mischief. Something must be done by way of familiarizing their product with Frewyn sensibility. Might not they use the image of Diras to ornament the box? Perhaps a likeness of King Alasdair approving the cereal might improve sales. No, not the king, but one who was known for being the picture of perfect health. The depiction of was drawn up, was approved, was signed and sealed, and was placed on every box of cereal that venture to Frewyn the following week. The new scheme answered well: the picture of Frewyn's mascot endorsing the product with all the pride that could be requisite, and it sold and was eaten and was reordered just as the commitee had predicted.
Sirse was to see Sheamas that day, to take away all the salted pork loins and trade them in Farriage. He came to his brother's shoppe with his arms well laden: a few boxes of Marridon's latest invention for him to try and to take to the keep. He laughed and said Marridon would endeavour to make even the most simplest of things seem complicated and newfangled, but the moment that Sheamas noted the depiction on the box, he said in a dreadful whisper, "....Can't be," and hasted to the keep to show everyone there what Sirse had brought.
He came to the kitchen to find his two sisters sitting at the table, Martje mantling over coddled eggs and crumpets, and Boudicca slicing the resin away from honeycomb just come in from Beryn's hives. They were eating together, as Bilar had recommended, and each was doing tolerably well as to diet and loss of weight, Martje lamenting all the things she was in desperate want of, and the commander listening in smirking commiseration, when Sheamas' burst through their conversation with, "Sorry to interrupt and all, but did you see this?" He held the box out to them, Martje perusing it with wary circumspection, and Boudicca remarking it with smiling interested.
"May I ask where you found this, Sheamas?" the commander asked, taking the box from him and turning it about as she inspected it.
"Sirse came with it from Farriage. Gave it to me and said it's all the rage in the markets now."
"Sugar beet wheats," the commander read. "Contains recommended daily fibre, vitamins, minerals, promotes health, increases vitality-- I daresay it should promise to have your children if it did not promise to erode teeth. Did you see that sugar content? I should rather eat a lemon cream pie than concede to eat that much sugar in one sitting. And what is the serving size? A whole cup? By the Gods," she exclaimed, returning the box to Sheamas, "If I eat one serving of that bilge, there is my entire daily bread content gone. That cannot be wholesome, regardless of what that box professes."
"That's what I thought too. Rather eat a whole loaf of bread for breakfast than a bowl of this."
"Did you try it?"
"Aye. Had one or two on my way here." He shrugged and looked disappointed. "Isn't even that appetizin'. It's just wheat fibre sprinkled with sugar beet powder. Better to have some porridge with honey. It's more fillin' and it'll taste better that this." He gave the box over to Martje to assess, and with an eager look, he said, "Did you see who's on it?"
"I did," said the commander rather incredulously, "and I assure you that he would never endorse something so dulcified. They cannot have obtained his permission to use his likeness for that. Once he finds out, which I'm certain he will do presently, the Marridon conglomerate responsible for this will find him and my mate at their headquarters with Hophsaastas and sword in hand."
Just then, as Martje was about to sample the cereal, Kai Linaa entered from the far field were Rautu and Unghaahi were currently training. She skipped into the larder in quest of the leftover cheese biscuits and yeast paste, and went to the table to see whether anyone should like to share in her afternoon delights, whereupon she marked the box in Martje's hands, and never had she so much difficulty in keeping her countenance.
"What is that?" she cried, aghast, stabbing a finger at the box.
"Nonsense from Marridon," the commander laughed.
Kai Linaa took the box very charily, and much to her horror, it was as she had first conceived: Unghaahi's likeness was on the box, smiling and giving his hearty approbation for a product she knew he was certain to dislike. "Did Alasdair approve this?"
"I should say not. As a standing example of Frewyn excellence, he should never allow his model to pose for such disingenuosness."
"Then, who--?" but she was silenced by Unghaahi's entrance. Her features paled, her lips parted, her hands trembled, and she knew not what to say to introduce what promised to be the most atrocious slight to his character.
Unghaahi was more concerned with his mate's expression than he was with the box in her hand, and instantly did he hasten to her and entreat her to tell her what was wrong.
"Look," was all she could say. She motioned to the image on the box and waited for the wave of confusion and indignation which she knew must come.
He did look, and was most disagreeably surprised. "You did not draw this, Ghaala,"
"No..." said Kai Linaa, in a mortified voice.
Again he inspected the box: his likeness was holding one of the sugar beet wheats, was smiling, was even telling others how much he adored them. "I did not sanction this," said he, his tone rife with the fremescence of the anger to come. "What are these?"
"A concoction from Marridon," said Boudicca, taking one of the wheats from the box. "Since you give them your approval, perhaps you should like to try one?"
And try one, he did. He took the wheat from the commander's hand, he scrutinized he studied, he assessed it, and with much reservation, he placed it on his tongue. The room was oppressed by the silence of fretful expectation, everyone watching and waiting, but the contracted brow, the wince, the wretch, the expectoration was done in so subdued a style that they were even more afraid of the retaliation ensuing.