Once upon a time, there was a prince. He was the heir of his kingdom, a small one in the icy wastelands of the frozen North, in the ancient realm of England, beloved by his people and well learned in many aspects. Indeed he was a good prince, although it was to his mother’s great displeasure that he had not as yet encountered a lady he wished to marry, or even kiss under the roses on a moonlit evening. She was not overly concerned if they were a princess, a duchess, countess, or merely a lady, but she was anxious for him, as all good mothers are. Indeed, she was anxious that perhaps he liked the other sort of youth, for he spent many days with the stable lads, but that may have been simply to care for his beloved steeds, the camels.
One day she asked of him to journey further south in the realm, to procure her some supplies from the wool-bearing regions. It was on this long journey on foot that he encountered a handsome young man upon the road, who sat upon a bench looking at him most intently. Instantly he was captivated by his pale eyes, red-golden hair, and easy grace, but was astounded when this lord (he must have been a lord, with that aristocratic bearing) spoke
“Sir, that armour was made by Sirs Moran & Moriarty."
He was flabbergasted and knew not what to say, for he was absolutely correct! It had been made when he was last in the South, and was slightly rusty and dilapidated, but fit him comfortably. His astonishment must have shown on his face as the lord laughed heartily and asked to accompany him to the local tavern. Apparently it was famed for its loveliness and good cheer, tonight a lion and unicorn were playing a ferocious game of backgammon and he wished to see it.
Prince Greg was extremely happy to oblige and sat down with a tall drink of ginger ale betwixt them, fishing a foolhardy crab (here had been a plague of them recently) out of the tankard before offering it to him as befits a gentleman and nobleman. Unfortunately gallantness stalled in his mouth and his gentlemanly intentions were ruined by the knowing look in this mysterious lord's eyes and the beckoning curve of his upper lip. He could not help but lean in and place a gentle kiss on the stranger's mouth, fully intending to break away immediately and beg forgiveness (as clearly he was a gentleman and would be horrified at such impudence). However the enigma smiled through half open eyes and returned the kiss passionately. The prince felt those feelings the bards had been describing, captivation, a warm glow and the reluctance to ever leave the embrace. What was this? It was so strange, and new, and unlike kissing any maiden.
Eventually the stranger broke away and murmured against his lips
"You're the Prince from the North"
“Why yes, how did you know?” Muffled slightly by the warm press of his tender lips and the pleasant fuzz that had been introduced to his brain. Could this be love? Indeed, it must be!
“Simple, who else could be so charming and handsome, so delicate and passionate but a prince? And your boots are clearly made for the winter, a strange choice in these climes.”
He pulled away.
“Also, you have your crown sticking out of your pack, which is emblazoned with a very discrete, but still noticeable, stag rampant on an azure field.”
The stranger kissed the tip of his nose gently, deep regret in his voice.
“Unfortunately you must know I cannot be seen with a prince. I can never fulfill the duties of a prince in the realm of England, notwithstanding my gender.”
He was stroking the prince’s face with long delicate fingers and the prince was so lost in bliss that his words did not register for a few seconds.
“But why, sir?”
He laughed again, and a warm shiver travelled all the way down to the prince’s boots.
“My higher calling restricts me, your Highness. I may not give it up to become a prince, as attractive as the prospect looks now."
“But I cannot see why such a calling should come between something that feels as right as this," cried the prince, anguished, "I shall slay whatever beast or defeat whatever foe forms part of this most important calling! And demand your name, my lord." he announced drunk on lust and love, tailing off into devoted at the end.
The tall and willowy man smiled and turned to leave, tailored robes blowing in the breeze, then turned to whisper but a word into Prince Greg's shell-like ear.
"Chocolate,” before sweeping out of the tavern, his long black umbrella tapping down the road, and parting words drifting back across to the prince,
“I am no lord, for they call me Saint Mycroft.”
The prince clenched his fist, immediately vowing to learn everything he could about chocolate and become worthy to aid this delectable morsel in his mission. Thus he would become his champion and companion in the arduous course, and perhaps have more of those wonderful kisses.
So he journeyed to the far off lands where chocolate originates and apprenticed himself to the venerable and ancient masters of chocolate, meeting and befriending the sloth peoples in those steamy forests. Throughout his studies he eventually succumbed to the terrible chocolate jitters which they nursed him through, and hence gained their friendship. When he left after a year of long study they ventured with him (their homes becoming increasingly less pleasant due to tourists snapping photos and going "Awww", which was ruining their fearsome reputation) back to his homeland where he was greeted with fanfares and a great deal of surprise, his mother and father exclaiming
"Prince Greg, we believed you dead due to your long absence! We have named your younger brother Crown Prince, but wish for you to reclaim your position, as you are indeed the better loved in our cold and inhospitable country."
But he did not know what his army of sloth people would make of this new world, or if they would take to drink due to the poor quality of English chocolate. He had to admit a grudging respect for the Belgian patissiers and chocolatiers, who were after all, the best in the world. At that moment, a bolt of lightning struck! (To be entirely accurate it was merely inspiration, but shocking nonetheless!)
"Saint Mycroft! That must be where he is residing!"
He vowed to set out as soon as possible, taking a vanguard of sloths to scout out the land and decide its suitability for their people but his wise father halted him,
"Son, you cannot travel to Belgia, we are currently experiencing a particularly bloody and gruesome war with them.
It started a mere month ago and already the casualties are immense.”
The prince's heart leapt to his mouth
"What is the cause of this war? Could genteel diplomacy aid the matter? I would be willing to start a peace mission."
The King shook his head sadly
"Not a chance son, it is between the chocolatiers of our lands. Particularly bloodthirsty and single-minded are they, willing to martyr themselves for a raspberry truffle or even a single macaron!"
"Indeed" the King said, "rivers of chocolate, grenades of nougat, soldiers fattened on pralines and lying in the streets unable to move!"
The prince had become even more distraught throughout this exchange
"But I must venture forth! The sweet Saint Mycroft will be there, in the thick of the battle. The sanctity of chocolate is his mission in life! He will be standing for the Belgians, I cannot live if he is to be harmed!"
His family looked puzzled
“Who is this Mycroft? Is he a lord? A prince? A duke?"
“No!” He cried
“He is no great holder of land, but a holder of something greater! Knowledge! Chocolate! And my heart!”
He yelled the last to the heavens. The family looked on expectantly but puzzled.
“Well that is all well and good,” said his father, “but until this dispute is reconciled it would be suicidal to venture deep into Belgian territory.”
But the prince would heed none of it. He asked for leave to take a ship, a small sloop he renamed “The Flying Slothman” and called for his sloth army, who looked mightily displeased about venturing aboard a ship, indeed outright refused. So he bid them take his caravanserai of camels down the realm to the coast, and wait for him at the cliffs of Dover, where the prince allowed them to board with water wings and scimitars.
And so it was that Prince Greg’s armada of camels, sloths and ships set out on their voyage to rescue the beloved St Mycroft from the clutches of the enemy and aid him in his fight of the chocolatiers. Upon entering Belgia, they discovered that the accounts of the war had not been exaggerated and the carnage was worse than they feared. The sloths paled and squeaked in dismay to see chocolate so wilfully spoilt, running in the streets (they were reassured when the prince showed them it was mostly English chocolate, he knew from his studies of its inferior nature).There was fighting in the next town they encountered, the English battering the Belgians with giant slabs of Dairy Milk and the Belgians appearing to be driven back behind the town square, their weaker praline just too light to hold up against the onslaught. The prince noted that they lacked the hard steadfast of their heavy nougat divisions to hold out. But as the English passed the small church they were suddenly bombarded with chips of Callebaut dark chocolate, fiercely bitter and dense, concussing the soldiers left and right. They'd been encouraged into an ambush! Such was the confusion that many soldiers wasted no time in depositing a Curly Wurly in their trousers.
The prince heard the commanding officer, a dispossessingly posh man with a ridiculous name shout out over the din "Fall back lads, we've been betrayed! Ye gods, are those sloths?!"
Indeed Colonel Ponsenby Smythe was an abject coward, but in this case, not entirely unaccurate. The Prince could see with his keen military eye and vast expertise that this sortie had been carefully planned and was a surprise attack, at dawn nonetheless, so there had to have been an information leak beforehand for the Belgians to mount their ambush. Could the Colonel have sold out his battalion for a finger of fudge? As the sloth division surveyed the retreating colonel with mistrust and disapproval, the head sloth squeaked at Prince Greg, reminding him of his wish to find his lovely man, and so he steeled his nerves and refocused on the mission at hand.
St Mycroft would of course be in the Belgian encampment, despite him hailing from England, his patriotism would not stand in the way of a higher calling, he would be with the better chocolatiers. The prince had a strong suspicion of Belgian head chocolatiers, anyone who could do those things to chocolate and still managed to mispronounce nougat was clearly up to something in his mind. And after all, he had only met the enticing man briefly, and they’d been parted a year, what if he'd fallen prey to a charming chocolatier who spoke French? And whipped him up pain au chocolat for petit-déjeuner? The thought didn't sit well in his mind and he spurred his humpy stead into a run and set off for the main encampment.
“I'll break her damn whisk and shove the broken bits where the sun shineth not” he muttered under his breath (an awful long way to go to ruin a good whisk).
But as he neared the Belgian camp his party made a startling entrance and was quickly surrounded with the lowly pastry sous-chefs, brandishing palette knifes menacingly and demanding....something...in French. Unfortunately, despite the Prince's stellar education in many areas, he had neglected to learn French. Luckily the head sloth interceded on his behalf, and they were greeted with hugs and cheek kisses.
"You know French??? And you never told me?" the prince whispered to the beaming sloth, who squeaked in response (it was ironic that the prince could ascertain one sloth squeak from another but could not comprehend a word of French).
It seemed that the Belgians knew of the sloths' reputation, and were pleased and honoured to greet fellow chocolatophiles, and the prince inquired as to the whereabouts of his paramour.
“Eeek” questioned the head sloth, “squeak a eek squeak?
The Belgian pointed to a most flamboyant tent in the centre of the camp, inside which they found a beautiful but steely faced sous chef who angrily asked the prince the meaning of this intrusion. Upon hearing from the head sloth the reason for the impromptu visit, it came to light that she was part of the secret service headed by the lovely Saint, the Midnight Truffles, from his base of operations so named the Honeycomb Centre. The sous chef demanded the Prince's intentions with the Saint, as he was currently in the field doing very dangerous work and she was his right-hand woman, whereupon the Prince cried,
"He is my true love, I must find him!"
The sous chef flicked back her dark hair under her chef’s hat and became more serious, if that was at all possible. It appeared that the Saint was in the midst of the English camp, posing as an English chocolatier but passing on their strategy through carrier pigeon, strategically fed just enough chocolate that they would collapse from indigestion just over the Belgian camp. Tonight he was engaged in an even more dangerous act, depleting the English ammunition supplies.
“How is he achieving that?” the Prince asked anxiously.
“He ees eateeng all of the Eengleesh chocolah” was the response, which sent the Prince into shudders of horror. Consuming all of that fatty substandard milk rot? Mycroft was truly a Saint, saving the Belgians from the worst of the onslaught, and saving the English too, from their crimes against the cocoa bean.
The prince was unwilling to abandon him to this fate, and decided impulsively to go to him tonight, despite the risk of being discovered, and help him destroy the supplies. He instructed his sloths to take their fill of chocolate and return to the port to ready their ship, this brutal war was no place for several hundred adorable sloths. He mounted his camel and returned to the English encampment, proving his identity to the sentry with the correct way to make the best cup of tea, as only a true Englishman would know how (“How me mum makes it”). As he entered the stockade he was struck by a cacophony of noise and inquired the nearest soldier as to what was the cause.
“We discovered a traitor, your Royal ‘ighness, sir. Spying, 'e was.”
The prince raced around to the source of the noise, heart in his mouth, and discovered his ginger love tied with rope and being sentenced. He paused, heart still racing, to hear the Captain’s doom-laden words
“For treason, and exorbitant chocolate consumption, I sentence you to death, by incorrect spelling and grammar!”
Oh cruel and unusual punishment! He knew that despite his inner fortitude, this would break his spirit easily, and the look of terror on his face merely confirmed it. Yet the soldiers continued to bay out in their bloodthirsty way, and an even more terrifying fate seemed to be in store for St Mycroft when the earth pounded out and two giant 20ft tall otters appeared (“Behold, the ferocious Incorrectspelling and Grammar!”) They sniffed the air and advanced upon him, and the prince was struck by an odd thought,
“They must be attracted to the chocolate he has eaten, no it cannot be...”
But his suspicions were promptly confirmed by the enthusiastic licks the otters gave the saint’s face as they bounded around him. He struggled against the bonds but could not escape, and the prince leapt valiantly towards him, brandishing his sword at the whiskery beasts. They seemed too large to fight swiftly by himself, before the other soldiers could stop him, so he would have to defeat them with cunning. This worried the prince as he was not known for his great cunning, unlike the saint, but he had the benefit of many years of study, both into blackguards and small mammals.
“See you two, otters!” He shouted at them, and they turned inquisitive heads towards him, “that rash across your paws is a bit worrying” they examined their front paws anxiously “have you been experiencing any headaches, dizziness, fatigue?” They both nodded at him, looking more worried by the second, “oh dear oh dear, it appears you two have distemper, it must be treated as soon as possible, now quick, off you pop, off to the hospital, off you go!”
The two scurried off hastily and the prince turned to his gentleman-love, forgoing a welcoming kiss (otter slobber, mmm haddocky) to slice delicately through his bonds and massage blood back into his wrists.
“You’d be surprised how hypochondriac some otters are,” he remarked to his paramour’s questioning look, “it is indeed fortuitous they do not know only cats and dogs can acquire distemper.”
And with that he took hold of that pale freckly hand and they ran like the blazes to his camel, the prince lifting him up first and then scrambling behind as they set off towards the port. The saint threw small Freddos, which he had apparently secreted in the pockets of his breeches, at the soldiers chasing on their horses and clung tightly to Prince Greg’s waist.
Once safely aboard and set sail for his kingdom they strove to become reacquainted with many passionate kisses, and the lovely Saint began to ask him questions of their time apart, but quickly became faint and feverish. The prince realised the exposure to the otters must have made him very unwell, presumably a form of the same magic that had made them grow to such a monstrous size. He instructed the sloths to set a course for the magical city K'En Tesh Tawn in his kingdom, where they presumably would know how to treat such a magical otter affliction.
The wisest man in the city immediately divined what had happened and instructed the prince to nurse the Saint with liberal cups of the magical healing brew, a Cu' Patee (and perhaps put the saint on a diet, the English chocolate was not helping matters). St Mycroft slowly began to recuperate, with the aid of many baby sloths as handmaidens. Unfortunately the peace was destroyed with the invasion of the otters, embarrassed by their fleeing earlier, and promptly raided the hospital with many a slap of a wet haddock baton on a baby sloth, accompanied by a sad wet squeak as the sloths became unpleasantly slimy and fishy.
Luckily the sloths were saved by the timely intervention of the charmingly (and ferociously) blonde warrior maiden, who defeated the otters and shampooed all the sloths. Whereupon she berated them on their poor hair regime and prescribed a deep conditioner with green tea extract for all of them, and chivvied them into the baths and then the hairdryer. Incorrectspelling and Grammar tried to return to their nests sharpish but they couldn't escape the combined forces of the warrior maiden and St Mycroft, who spoke to them very sharply
"Just what do you think you've been doing, you naughty otters?? Now apologise for making the sloths slimy and trying to eat people, and scoffing lots of chocolate! It's not good for otters, you know."
The otters were very shamefaced at this and muttered abashedly
"Sorry, Miss and Sir, sorry, baby sloths"
"That's better, now go wash your faces, you're very grubby, and go home to your mothers!"
And they traipsed home to their mothers, wet tails slapping the ground. Unfortunately for the warrior maiden, St Mycroft and Prince Greg, the war was still continuing and the saint was still being pursued hotly by both sides. Luckily for him, the valiant K'En Tesh Tawn rallied around, refusing to give him up, and being a sensible sort of saint, he readily agreed to go out to the two leaders of the opposing forces and attempt to explain himself. Unfortunately the English still considered him a traitor and were unwilling to enter a peace brokered by such a person (their disgruntlement certainly wasn't aided by St Mycroft's utter disapproval and condemnation of the quality of their chocolate, despite his opinion’s veracity). They promptly exiled him from the land, causing him and Prince Greg great distress as they would have to be parted, since the prince would have to remain to continue his duties and take over the icy wastelands of the frozen North. They parted with great sorrow, St Mycroft taking the white camel that had saved him in the English camp and riding off into the distance.
No sooner had he disappeared over the horizon than Prince Greg realised that St Mycroft had completely ruined him, England did not have the same quality of chocolate supplies, or a similar man, and he found himself in a lonely world of otters and sycophants.
He promptly abdicated and took 100 of his closest household guard (50 baby sloth spearmen, 30 sloth expeditionaries and 20 sloth scouts) and travelled far and wide to search for the saint's trail. This suited the sloths down to the ground, they had honestly become slightly bored after the excitement of the chocolate war, and the damp of England was making their fur frizz. After a long hard slog and following the trail of very satisfied chocolate eaters they tracked him down to a small Greek town, where he'd set up a small chocolate shop (where the warrior maiden returned sporadically, inbetween her travels). Overjoyed, Prince Greg lifted St Mycroft to the position of Emperor of Greece and became his champion.
Or at least tried to, until he was slapped roundly on the shoulder with a bain-marie.
"You muppet" he said affectionately "I've no need of an empire, where would I find the time to bake for you, you silly sod? I'm perfectly happy with my chocolate shop."
"And close the door, you're making it too warm in here and melting the chocolate."
The 99th sloth soldier sheepishly closed the door behind himself.
Whereupon Prince Greg shrugged (quite happily, if it was to be admitted, no need to conquer the whole of Greece, or indeed the world, which would have reduced his free time with his luscious love) and decided to simply rule the small and sleepy kingdom St Mycroft was in. This worked out rather well for the King of the kingdom, who was getting old and doddery and wished to simply enjoy his twilight years in comfort with his Queen and an occasional game of croquet.
So Prince Greg ruled wisely and well over the small kingdom of Slothonia, setting up a surprisingly prolific tea plantation as well as bountiful vineyards, and treating the sloths and otters when required.
Him and St Mycroft left the King and Queen to their grand palace and lived in a white-washed house on the cliffs overlooking a beach, surrounded by their sloth guards and a rampaging pack of small children and smaller sloths. The warrior maiden eventually settled next door to them, when defeating the other warriors became tiresomely easy, married the Head Chocolatier and began her life's work of translating the dolphin language, and teaching sloths to swim (more or less successfully).
And they all lived happily ever after. The End.