I waited for my grandchildren to settle at my feet. There was, of course, the usual amount of pushing, shoving and arguing before all was quiet.
“This is a story about the end of all,” I said in a deep, serious tone.
“Wait,” protested little Billy. “How can it be the end of all? You’re here to tell a story and we’re here to listen.”
Billy is a bright lad. He may go far, if he doesn’t annoy anyone too much. “True, Billy” I answered my young critic. “But it was the end of the city of Gilgam.”
“Where’s Gilgam? I never heard of it.”
“The city vanished long ago,” I told Adam, the middle child. “Gilgam was a grand city in the midst of the Irinmo empire. The ruler of the city was Prince Adham, a proud and wise man.” I held up a hand to stop any questions. “This was a long time ago and cities were ruled by princes or kings. All right?”
Billy, Adam and Trish all nodded. They had heard enough of my tales to know that things were different, once upon a time.
“Prince Adham had a lovely wife, Princess Leia and three beautiful daughters. But they had no sons to rule the city when Prince Adham was gone.”
“Wait, the princesses couldn’t rule the city? That’s not fair,” declared Trish.
I nodded to my granddaughter. “True, it wasn’t fair but that is how it was. It was a sad thought for the Prince and Princess, they had no sons.”
“When Prince Adham thought about it, he decided that his daughters must marry. The one who married best would rule the city when he was gone. The other two would travel to their husband’s cities to live there.”
“So the Prince declared a contest. Princes and kings from far and wide would come to seek the hand of a princess in marriage. There would be games and contests so the princes could show their courage and abilities. The main prizes were the three princesses.” Little Trish snorted in disgust and made a face at me. “The princesses each had a dowry so that even if the prince who won their hand would not rule the city, it would be worthwhile for the contestants.”
“The princesses were not actually happy with their father’s decision. They did not want to compete with each other for a husband. The youngest wasn’t even sure that she wanted a husband. But they were good girls who wouldn’t go against their father’s wishes. So they consulted with their mother about what to wear and how to act when the princes arrived.”
“Soon, the princes began arriving in droves. Before the city was actually ready, there were 100 princes, far more than anyone thought would come. Prince Adham had only prepared rooms for ten princes in his palace, the rest all demanded the best rooms, and the best of everything else the city had to offer.”
“The princes ignored the princesses for the most part. Each came to the castle, talked briefly to Prince Adham and then was introduced to each princess. But the princes were having such a great time in the city that they cared not if they ever married a princess. It was enough to enjoy the fine wines, the good food and sleeping in beds with pretty girls that they liked.”
“Prince Adham didn’t know what to do. He had expected that at least some of the princes would woo his daughters. But not one came back to the palace, even the ones that had a room there. The games and competitions failed because not one prince attended.”
Eventually, the princes bankrupted the city. They were fantastic at eating and drinking. They knew exactly how to order the best goods. They were not at all good at paying for the things that they used, not even their rooms.
“‘Please, Prince Rakmid,’ a merchant would beg of a prince. ‘You have taken 20 of our best wines. You must pay before I can let you have any more.’”
“The prince would wave his hand in dismissal. ‘You will be paid for your goods in due course. If I do not wed one of the princesses, my father will pay. Bring me more wine.’”
“The merchant would leave, terrified of offending the prince but unable to send a bill to the prince’s father since the cost of sending a courier would be more than he could afford. Many princes had drunk his wine and left him broke in the process.”
“This was true all over Gilgam. The previously wealthy merchants no longer had goods to sell, because the princes had requested them. But the merchants had no money to buy more goods for the princes all refused to pay for anything that they had taken. So the merchants shut their shops and left the city.”
“As the wealthy merchants fled, those who depended on them also left and so forth. Even the beggars abandoned the city because there was no one left with coins to give them. Soon, all that remained in the city was the royal family. The royal family themselves packed up some of the most valuable items in the palace, paid off their servants and moved to a new city. They were no longer royal and the princesses had to become apprentices.”
“Wait, what of the princes?” Billy asked me.
“Well, the princes left soon after the merchants. They had been invited to another city, to woo the daughters of another prince. But by the time they left, Gilgam was dying.”
“Did the princes do that again?” Adam asked, his voice sharp with the need to know.
“My dear boy, when was the last time you heard of the Irinmo Empire?”
He glared at me accusingly, “Grandfather, how do you know all this?”
I smiled. They all know my answer since it’s always the same. “I was there. I am very old after all.”