The Sneezing Opossum
The Prologue of the novel introduces the Lake, an ancient 49,3000-square-mile body of water, ice, stone, and magic, shielding the Twin Ports from a Northland wilderness full of tourists.
The Game of Duluth tells the story of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, struggling to control the Zenith City of the North and the Taconite Throne.
House Ness is the principal house of the Iron Range. Its seat is at Duluth, one of the oldest castles in the Seven Kingdoms. Its coat of arms displays a great loon running on a field of ice and the words “Winter is Never Leaving.”
House Ness ruled as Kings of the North until House Carlson conquered the Iron Range. The Nesses chose to submit to their authority and were made major lords. Prizing honor and devotion to duty, House Ness is the closest of the noble houses to the archetypical “heroic” clan.
House Fond-du-Luth had been the ruling house of the Seven Kingdoms for all of history. Its seat is in Casino Landing and it is the principal house in the Northlands. Its coat of arms shows a red slot machine on a black field and the words, “Have a great time out at Fond-du-Luth!”
House Pawlenty is the principal house of the Greater Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. Its seat is at St. Paulie’s Rock and its coat of arms displays a golden elephant on a crimson field and its words are “The Rule of Law.” More famous is their unofficial motto: “Money, money, money.” They are the richest family in the Seven Kingdoms because of the lobbyists located on their lands.
House Franken is the youngest of the Great Houses and the principal house in the Deadlock. The formidable castle at Capitol Dome has never fallen to siege or storm. It is also a place where absolutely nothing ever gets accomplished by anybody. The house motto is “Gosh darn it, people like me,” and the coat of arms consists of a yellow field and a black mask that looks like the mask of comedy or the mask of drama, depending on one’s perspective.
The Last House on Earth is the only one of the Great Houses to actually be a building. The alchemists in the Last House produce a narcotic that turns it users into wights, living zombies with a craving for lutefisk. Although this is a bad thing, people line up to use the stuff.
In Book I, A Song of Ice and Frozen Water, Donallard Ness, the Lord of Duluth, condemns and executes an alchemist from the Last House on Earth. On the return journey to Duluth, Donallard’s children discover six timberwolf pups, thereupon entrusted to them.
Donallard is named “Pinky of the Prince” by King Jim Oberstar of House Oberstar and eventually moves on up to “Index Finger of the Queen,” “Opposable Thumb,” and, finally, “Ring Finger of the King.”
House Pawlenty is able to unseat King Oberstar, by redrawing the boundaries of the kingdom. King Cravaack then takes the throne, but his reign is characterized by confusion over the significance of his given name being “Chip,” and he is replaced in turn by King Nolan.
Queen Diver of House Fond-du-Luth refuses to pay royalties to House Ness for Fond-du-Luth’s great gambling house. She argues that the Great Contract signed between Fond-du-Luth and Duluth no longer applies because it appears that while nobody was looking somebody actually did something in Deadlock.
Donallard petitions the king, who refers the matter to the Great Magistrates, who rule against House Ness, who again petitions the king, who asks the Great Magistrates to reconsider, but they take a couple years to come up with a ruling that cannot possibly be understood by anyone.
However, Donallard becomes disenchanted with the political machinations of the times and longs to play with his children while they are still young. Donallard tells his wife, Lady Laura, that if you do the same job for too long there is a danger of losing your head and, all things considered, he would prefer not to do that. When word gets out that Donallard might not be seeking a third term as “Ring Finger of the King,” a civil war erupts.
Meanwhile, in the Free City of Fleet Farm, Stewart Mills gives his sister in marriage to Walker, “the Mad Governor,” a warlord of the Tea Party, in exchange for use of Walker’s army to reclaim the Taconite Throne.
The wealthy merchant Herb of Kohl gives the bride a wedding gift of three petrified golf balls with instructions never to expose them to bright light, never get them wet, and, most important, never, ever feed them after midnight.
Of course, she violates all three rules, at which point three loon chicks emerge from the petrified golf balls and haul her through the sands of Park Point while emitting what sounds like cries of “Ma.” This becomes known far and wide as the “Draggin’ of Mother.”
To be continued in Book 2: A Clash of Parties