Eloise Harvey was a troubled young woman . From a young age she had always been a problem child . She found it difficult to obey authority and always did exactly what she was told not to do . It seemed as if every display of authority was a challenge to her restless spirit and over-active imagination . From the third grade onwards , she had been the instigator of a number of pranks , including the disturbing incident , in which the gory remains of a bird mysteriously found its way into the second right-hand drawer of the principal’s desk . And there was the time in fifth grade when the physical education teacher , a temporary stand-in for their beloved Mr. Jenkins who had been laid off on sick-leave for a fortnight , was found tied and gagged at the back of the school gym – he had been stuck there for four hours ! And he couldn’t explain how it had occurred . But of course , when names of culprits were passed around , Eloise’s name was top of the list . She was an above-average student with great potential . Her teachers always complained that if she channelled a fraction of that same mischievous energy , into her school work , then the sky was the limit .
Her love of mischief was equalled only by her love for puzzles . She collected puzzles and games in different sizes , shapes and forms and could spend hours alone , trying to solve one riddle or the other . She had an amazing collection of jigsaw puzzles from all corners of the globe . When her father was home from his monthly trips abroad , he always returned with a game or puzzle from a far-off land . These puzzles captured her imagination and she would spend hours on end , content and comfortable , immersed in a world of her own , a world which excluded everybody else around her .
On this particular day , she was in one of her bad moods . After her father scolded her , she stormed off into the library . A string of unintelligible mutterings followed , as she barged into the spacious room and slammed the door .She continued her tirade of complaints , to an empty room . Or so she thought …
“Excuse me ! Excuse me ! I require your attention !” The voice was soft but authoritative , tinged with annoyance .
She looked around .
“Over here , on the table …” The volume had risen a notch .“If you could stop complaining for a minute and listen to what I have to say …”
“I would really appreciate it if you could speak in gentle tones ,” the female voice piped in .
The strange voices seemed to come from the end of the long room .
Eloise clicked her tongue . She was still furious and didn’t appreciate the intrusion .
“Oh dear me ,” the female voice was appalled ,”not only does the young lady lack social manners , she is also lacking in style and grace .”
“Calm yourself , my queen , this young lady hails from a world that you and I will never understand .”
“Accurate observation your majesty and the young knight is also correct . It is not the young lady’s fault . She is merely a product of her generation , trapped in a strange and modernized culture .”
Eloise’s eyes darted around the room . She gazed from one object to the next . Finally , she spotted an antique oval-shaped table in one corner . On it stood a unique one-of-a-kind chess set . The themed set was hand crafted from red oak and depicted an English battle complete with superb , high quality detail .
“And which one of you characters said that ?” A mischievous smile creased her face , the sour mood more-or-less forgotten . This was more like it . She welcomed the mystery that accompanied this latest development .
“Not ‘which one ‘ of you characters …” the rook responded ,” please refrain from using that form of the English language , especially in front of Her Majesty ! It is utterly despicable … an outrage !”
She smothered a giggle . This was getting better and better .
“Please accept my humble apology ,” she bowed before the pieces . “How did you get here ? Where are you from ?”
The white king stepped forward . He inspected the young lady .
“We could certainly tell you that , young lady , and a whole lot more . But first , your name young lady .”
“Of course , your highness , how rude of me . I am Eloise Maysie Harvey .”
“Harvey ? That is not a name I know . Mmmm ….” he pondered a minute ,”… it is of no matter anyway , Mistress Harvey . We belonged , oh , a very long time ago , to Master James Stuart , Head of Fotheringhay Castle .”
“We have travelled far and wide , visited many corners of the globe from as far afield as India , and from the Arctic to the Antarctic . We have provided endless hours of pleasure for many different people over the decades ,” the black king stepped in , determined to be part of the new adventure .
“We have also had the pleasure of being in the company of rulers , presidents , celebrities – and nobility , real kings and queens !” A pawn near the front piped in.
“We hope this is the end of our travels ,” squealed another pawn .
“There are many exciting stories to tell of our adventures – stories of warfare , corruption and greed , curses and spells , a foiled royal assassination attempt and the usurping of a throne !" The first pawn edged closer .
“Be quiet , you underlings ! How dare you speak out of turn ! You impertinent minions !” The pawns slipped back into their unobtrusive positions . The knight glared at them .
“Ah yes ,” the black king continued ,” Master Stuart , a distinguished and great man , extremely skilled in the art of warfare . He was our master . Before him , we belonged to Master Hang Li from the Songshan Qing Dynasty , he stole us , mind you , from a great and powerful ruler who happened to be the 5th Earl of Bothwell , and before that … I am uncertain … Your father purchased us in Dubai , just before his return , and here we are !”
“But sit young mistress ,”coaxed the black king . “ Sit , play. The white side will play itself . We will be your army .”
“Let the games begin !” The white king announced .
A germ of an idea planted itself in Eloise’s fertile imagination .
She had discovered her new favourite puzzle . It was only the beginning …