Bartlia VI


King Hutarfe, the energetic ruler of the Planet of Warbut, died on September 19, 2242 from a massive heart attack. His widow, the intellectual Mastila, was quickly appointed as regentess and continued with Hutarfe’s ambitious building plans that populated unused islands on Warbut’s northern hemisphere with taxpaying natives from less congenial planets.

Prime Minister Aputt became chairman of the committee to handle the accession of the new monarch. Any Warbut native could apply for the monarch’s job, and nine did, including Hutarfe’s two children. After months of interviews and evaluations, Hutarfe’s daughter, Bartlia, was selected as the monarch, based on her good grades at Cambridge University on Earth and her smart clothes.

On Warbut the monarch needs a consort. Prime Minister Aputt worked with census files and other data to round up twenty intelligent young Warbut men for Bartlia to look over. Among them was the beggar Cophet, a brilliant and gorgeous man who strutted his luscious body every day on a busy corner of the capital city. After Bartlia saw Cophet, she would consider no other man.

Nobody comes alone. In spite of Cophet’s considerable attributes, his mother was a harpy.

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“Honey, Prime Minister Aputt would like to stage the coronation in March of next year,” Mastila told Bartlia. “That year is the one the Earthlings call 2244.”

“What do I need to do?” Bartlia naturally wanted to know.

“We need to take several weeks to go to the capital to walk through the ceremonies. We ought to be there in January so the dressmakers can alter the clothes,” Mastila said. “We also need to look over Aputt’s plans for a consort introductory seminar.”

“Consort introductory? You mean Aputt is going to have various entities tell me what to look for?” Bartlia asked.

“Not exactly,” Mastila said carefully. “Aputt has run your genetic information through some kind of a personality predictor, and he has lined up about twenty candidates for you to look over.”

“What! I have to select a consort before the coronation?” Bartlia shouted.

“Just somebody to contribute the other half of the materials for offspring,” Mastila insisted. “You wouldn’t need to actually live with this person, but we would need to support any man who is successful in siring your children.”

“You mean I have to have some stranger put his willy into my body?”

“No, no, honey!” Mastila protested. “All that business is done in a laboratory, and we will hire women who will bear the children. You won’t have to take more than a couple of days from your work, just long enough for the doctors to harvest a few eggs.”

“Is this how I was created?” Bartlia asked.

“Of course not, honey. Your father and I had a very close relationship, and we conceived our children in the old way. It was fun!” Mastila told her daughter.

“Fun? It sounds like a terribly messy business,” Bartlia concluded.


In late December of 2243 a liveried messenger delivered a thick envelope to Cophet’s home while that tall, dark, and handsome Warbutian was at work on the main street of the planet’s capital.

“I can’t imagine what it is,” Cophet’s mother, wringing her hands, insisted after her son had returned home. “Are we behind with our utility bills? Our income taxes?”

“We don’t pay income taxes, Mother,” Cophet replied. “Only the immigrants pay income taxes.”

“Well, your father and I paid income taxes,” she said huffily.

“That was before King Hutarfe revitalized our economy,” Cophet told her. “The royal family and the Parliament are now supported entirely by the entities from other planets who live on the islands. Our utility bills include charges for the maintenance of the wiring and the other parts of the infrastructure, and the prices for vehicle fuel include fees for the repair of streets and roads. That’s all we pay.”

“We don’t have a vehicle,” she reminded her son.

“We can still walk the pavements,” he said. “Those were installed long ago, probably paid for by your income taxes when you were young.”

“So what can be in this official-looking parcel?” she asked. “The fellow who came to the door was ever so fancy, spoke in such a refined way.”

Cophet opened the large envelope and spread the dozen papers over the kitchen table.

“I’ve been invited to a reception to meet the new monarch,” he said after he had read the first few lines of the letter of introduction.

“Can you take me?” Cophet’s mother asked. “The new queen is very friendly, they say, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind an extra at the party.”

“This is not that kind of a party,” Cophet said after reading further. “Queen Bartlia VI is looking for a consort, and this invitation is for young men who meet certain criteria.”

“What kind of criteria?”

“First, the entity has to be between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five,” Cophet read. “Then, he has to have a high degree of natural intelligence. He has to be single, and he has to be a full-blooded Warbutian.”

“I hate to have you mixed up with that family!” Cophet’s mother exclaimed. “Your father and I were very worried when we found out how smart you were, and this goes to prove we were right to worry.”

“High intelligence is always a great gift,” Cophet insisted. “You have to remember that when others shun you and you can’t fit into any profession.”

“But this job of consort? What would that entail? Could you stand the work, day after day?”

“I would need to be fully dressed day after day, that’s what it would entail,” Cophet said. “Sometimes the consort is asked to run the country, in the same way Queen Mastila took over after King Hutarfe died. Except for that kind of duty, the rest sounds very dull.”

“Is there a salary? Would you need to give up your modeling?”

“I certainly would need to give up my modeling, Mother. The queen won’t want her husband to strip down to the G-string for others to gawk at his anus and testicles,” Cophet guessed.

“Husband? You would have to marry the queen?” she asked.

“It says here the Earthlings, those who are more or less supporting the crown and the Parliament, are very particular about wedlock, although the custom is certainly not widely practiced on this planet. According to one of these papers, about half of our monarchs in the last five hundred years have been married. These include mostly the women who held the throne, but some men also married. From what I have read, the incidence of adultery among those male monarchs was about the same as for the unmarried ones. We Warbutians are not monogamous, Mother,” Cophet lectured.

“Your father and I were faithful, Cophet,” she told him.

“You never had enough money to be able to support a lover. Not while my father was alive, anyway. You could take a lover now, Mother, with our current standard of living,” he answered.

“Don’t talk nonsense,” she snapped. “Are you going to attend this reception? That girl Bartlia looks friendly enough, but I cannot allow you to marry her!”

“I have no choice but to attend, according to these papers. I can go willingly or the crown’s clerk can send a detail to pick me up,” Cophet said. “If I go over to the Parliament building a couple of hours ahead of time, a tailor will be there to outfit me in some borrowed clothes. I wish Queen Bartlia were a great beauty, though. She’s really quite plain.”

“How about wearing that grey suit you bought last year?”

“Yes, that will be all right, but I will go early to see if the tailor can find appropriate accessories to match the grey,” Cophet decided. “I’m sorry you are not in favor of my marrying the queen. This might be a good option for me now, before my looks fade and my income on the street starts to decline.”

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