The Story of Burt Cottage, Part 5 -- Mrs. Li's Sceptre

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It is said that, years ago--perhaps centuries--Mrs. Li's ancestors reigned an empire that took in a large part of China, most of Formosa, the northern tip of Japan and a good portion of the land we now call Idaho. They ruled with an iron hand, a set of laws as tough as steel and a memory like a sieve.

The source of their power, it was said, came from a sceptre with mythical powers. Given to the first member of the Li family (Bill) by a mysterious stranger (Ed) who rode a fiery -tempered horse and smelled of apple butter (the legends are oddly clear on this), the sceptre was said to have once been the ruling sceptre of a lost world. A world which had cracked and poured out its substance on the cosmos. As a result, property values had gone down like a shot.

After the stranger had handed Bill the First the sceptre, he had ridden off into the west, to never be seen again. Unless you count the fact that he seems to show up at this one bar in Montana every so often. He doesn't talk about the sceptre anymore, but he does still smell of apple butter and, believe you me, they know their apple butter in Montana.

Anyway . . .

The Li family ruled their kingdom for, some say, more than a thousand years. But then Bill the 52nd, who wasn't the brightest Roman candle in the box if you know what I mean, lost the sceptre one day at the beach.

Shortly thereafter, things started to go downhill in the Kingdom of Li. The first sign that things were not as they had been was that the local lacrosse team started losing. Then it was the soccer team. Then, before anyone fully realized the implications, the Chinese had overtaken the country and renamed all the towns in honor of the emporer's favorite gerbils.

The Li family was run out of the country, shamed and humiliated as they were all notoriously slow. Bill the 89th (known to some as Bill the Whocareswhatnumberwe'reatnowdropitwillya) led an expedition to the beach that legend had it was the one where his ancestor had lost the sceptre. With half their force holding swords to defend against attack and the other half holding shovels and metal detectors, they set to work and were quickly overrun by an army that had guns.

While in prison, 89 heard rumors about his family's sceptre. As rumor had it, a man had found the sceptre two hundred years before. But when he had touched it, he and the sceptre had disappeared, leaving in their place a device treated with such reverence in local lore that the teller of the tale would not even describe it. He would only say that it was hidden away in a place of great honor for it was said that, one day, it would be used for great purposes.

When 89 was released from prison the next year, he passed the word on to his children, who passed it on to their children, who . . . you get the picture, until the word came to a young woman of the family who had married a rich man. She didn't believe in the legend of the man who disappeared, but she did believe that the sceptre still existed and so used all of her late husband's fortune to find it.

She should have listened to the legend.