Royal trumpets blared as the royal Empress made her entrance in a sedan chair borne aloft by royal brown noses. "Announcing," cried a royal broadcaster, "the Queen of the Hermit Kingdom, First of Her Name, Protector of the Realm, Mother of Neve, Clarke's Missus, Minister of Secrets, Widely Rumoured but Unconfirmed Special Envoy of the Illuminati!"
There followed half an hour of mucking about with screwdrivers and hammers and what-not as royal carpenters, labourers and various assorted fix-it men struggled to open the door of the sedan chair. The wood had warped. The hinges had rusted. The carpenters sent for spirit levels. The labourers rolled up their sleeves, then rolled them down again. The fix-it men stopped for morning tea.
"Try the handle," suggested the Queen.
That worked. "Crisis averted," she said, and the royal brown noses erupted into wild applause.
They sat down to conduct the great affairs of state. The Royal Physician, Ashley of House Bloomfield, said the vaccine was all good. The Maester of the Coin, Grant of House Robertson, said the finances were all good. The Maester of the Spin, Andrew of House Campbell, said the people loved her with their dying breath, not that anyone was unwell, or broke, or stressed to the max, or anything like that. "All," he added hastily, "good."
"Good," said the Queen. And then she lifted her hands, and adjusted that luminous miracle, that shining proof of the Queen's divinity – her Halo.
She asked, "How's it looking?"
"Beautiful, Your Grace."
"Awesome, Your Grace."
"All good, Your Grace."
The Queen studied her reflection in the mirror, adjusting the Halo this way and that, when word reached her that a terrible rabble had stormed the gates of the Hermit Palace and were chanting angry slogans, throwing angry tennis balls, and demanding that the heads of the Queen, her Maesters and especially the royal broadcasters should be lopped off and put on pikes, angrily.
"But," she said, "the rabble are not representative."
Word reached her that another angry protest had formed many leagues south, in the Shire of Invercargill, where 300 people chanted much the same kind of angry slogans.
"Well," she said, "the South Island is hardly representative."
She was taken by royal carriage half-way up the length of the Kingdom to make a brief visit to the Shire of Auckland.
"Just make sure," she said, "that we only go to those places we deem to be representative."
Two new polls showed the Queen and her Kingdom had lost significant support among the people.
"Polls are not," she said, trying on dazzling smiles in the mirror to match the luminescence of her Halo, "representative."
The Maesters met in a dark corner of an ale house.
"Your shout," they said to the Maester of Coin.
When Grant of House Robertson returned with tankards of foaming chardonnay, they discussed the polls, the protests, and the cricket.
Someone mentioned Judith of House Collins, and they laughed a great deal at that. Other drinkers laughed too, and soon the entire ale house was laughing at the doomed and hopeless antics of Judith of House Collins.
"Yes," whispered Grant of House Robertson, when the mirth had quietened down, "but who among us is going to tell the Empress that she has no Halo?"