Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Prince Taréz looked out his bedroom window on a landscape that had barely changed in his thirty-odd years of life.
“Your Highness, your horse is ready for you.”
Taréz turned to the chamberlain, a light Vle. “Thank you,” he replied. “Will you be joining us today?”
“No, Sire,” replied Yis Thour. “The building of the South Hall commences today, and I do not wish to leave the men to it themselves.”
“Probably wise. We’ll miss you, Yis.”
The chamberlain smiled. “Good luck on your hunt, Sire.”
“Thank you.” As the Chamberlain dashed off to the South Hall, the Prince walked patiently to the stables where his horse waited. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when he arrived, and everyone there assembled bowed into the long shadows of the castle buildings.
King Lajot arrived a few moments later, and stepped onto his platform to swing himself up into the saddle. “It promises to be a good day! Let us ride.” Everyone mounted, the hounds were loosed, and the hunt began.

It wasn’t long into the hunt before the Chief came alongside. “Was that wise, Sire, to leave your chamberlain behind?” he asked the King. Taréz resigned himself to listen to another small bicker over the dark-light issue. He would have liked to move off and just let the two at it, but he’d have to bicker the same way someday. Know thine enemy.
“The man has other duties, Gardric. I hardly need a man of the Court to conduct ceremonies here.”
“That is not what I meant. You have left a high-ranking light Vle in the castle. Should our neighbors ever desire their lands back—”
“Gardric, we are on a hunt. This is recreation, and I wish to recreate, not suffer another half-baked conspiracy theory of yours.”
“This is the only time I feel it safe to warn you of the danger. It is more than merely one Vle among us.”
“Indeed?” the king asked skeptically.
“Yes. Our scouts have noted unusual troop movements near our southern border.”
“They have a new commander. It is likely he does things differently, and I’m certain he does not like the presence of our scouts inside their border. Do you realize he alludes his knowledge of them at every function? I have no choice but to obfuscate just to cover our backs.”
“He is bluffing. There is no way he can know of our scouts’ forays. He has merely confirmed his suspicions by hearing your... artful dodges. But we are getting off the subject. Sire, there is also a security concern in our own land! Some of the light elves in the south, those who mine and maintain roads, have begun to demand better wages.”
“The dark farmers around here did that last century! Was that a security concern? Not in the least. We can deal with this problem in the very same way.”
“By placating them? Meeting their demands?”
“If you’ll remember, Gardric, a mutually acceptable compromise was reached. And now that land produces more food than ever before. Is there anything else?”
“Yes. Do you realize that light elves now make up more than 50% of all merchants? They’re taking over even in our northern cities.”
Lajot sighed. “What is it you want me to do, Chief? Evict every last light Vle from the land they were born on, and send them over the mountains?”
“My Lord, you are the most brilliant man I know. I’m sure that plan would solve our problem easily!” Gardric beamed...
Taréz wondered just how sincere that appreciation was.
“Chief! You know as well as I do our nation is stronger than our neighbor’s. It would be the ruin of us both to send them over those mountains! Leave me now and let us not talk of this again until the morrow. I mean to enjoy this hunt.”
Taréz caught a sour expression on the Chief's face before he bowed low enough to hide it “As you wish, my Lord.” With that, he dropped back to ride with the King’s Guard.
The position was refilled by the foxmaster . “Sire! Your forest is rich today.”
“Indeed? Has an elk been killed?”
“Yes, Sire, a mature one. It is undoubtedly the one that has eluded us every year this decade.”
“Ah. He is old, then... slowing down. I am almost sorry he is dead.” The King nodded in dismissal, and the foxmaster moved away to set the foxes on a new scent.
“It hardly seems fair that we won due to longevity,” said Taréz. He paused. “Do you ever think that perhaps we’re not really elves anymore, living as we do in stone, rather than the trees like our subjects?”
“Well, it’s necessary, for defense—”
“I know that, but it’s not likely that an enemy will ever come right to our door. Perhaps in the past, but now? I wonder what it would be like to live in the trees.”
“The trees are for peasants, Son.”
“And some nobles.”
“True.” The King paused, then changed the subject. “Our Chief of the Army seems rather hot under the collar today.”
“Yes, Father. I have heard that his daughter married a light Vle.”
“Ha! Now I understand his ill-humor. It’s a wonder he hasn’t asked me to annul it.”
“I believe he is too ashamed to let you know the marriage has taken place. In any case, he probably knows you won’t do any such thing.”
“Would you?”
“Well.... I guess I wouldn’t. It is a father’s prerogative to have a hand in any marriage decision for his daughter. But since she eloped, she denied her father that prerogative. Once denied, gone forever.”
“Hm. Good reasoning.”
Prince Taréz then changed the subject. “Have you made sure Yis invited plenty of eligible women?”
“Personally, no, but I am confident in Yis’ ability to choose guests wisely. It’s part of a chamberlain’s training. Besides, the selection won’t be significantly different from last year.”
“I know, I know. I just really would rather not have to marry Tincome.”
“I’m sure the feeling is mutual. You’re lucky, you know— my great-grandfather would have betrothed you two at birth if he were in my position. It would be a great alliance.”
“Yes, Father, so you’ve said.”
“Sometimes I think Gardric would rather we control the entire eastern part of the world than the southern foothills region.”
“Of course— more land, more resources.”
“And more security worries, and more bureaucratic problems... there is such thing as a country that’s too big for its own good. That’s the Chief’s point.”
“Hmph! Two races in a nation presents its own problem.”
“And it’s one we’ve dealt with in various ways for many years, and we’ll deal with it for many years to come.”
The horns sounded in the distance, and the two royal men heeled their horses to a gallop to see what might be the quarry this time.