Letter 7 - Kei to Gin
I am bone weary, having just returned from my first formal audience with
the Prince. That it was also our first meeting only heightened the
tension I felt. (Yes, even I, your unflappable Uncle Kei, was nervous
before the Prince.) That it ended as it did will more than adequately
explain my exhaustion.
The Dowager Princess was there, too, of course, but left with a group
after the banquet, leaving a smaller portion of the court to enjoy (and I
flatter myself to think they did enjoy) the patchwork collection of small
cantrips I displayed for them. I was a bit sorry not to get the chance to
show off in front of the Princess, but I trust I shall get another chance.
I would like to show her _Wind Sweeps the Leaning Trees In Autumn_ because
it reminds me of her dedication to her "puttering grounds."
Yes, I waved. Nothing came of it, but a wave in return. Three days I
waved. Then I did not see her until my audience with the Prince. She
was, most likely, busy with preparations for the return of His Highness.
We knew he was coming several days ago. A small advance party rode into
the palace to warn us in time to prepare all sorts of excesses that are,
it seems, vital to the honor of a prince. Who am I to complain? It left
me free to polish the order of my cantrips, and develop a meta-pattern in
which to display them.
When I performed for the Prince I began with the essentials, a tale of the
world beginning: ice and fire blending, mist becomes form, shapes become
things: a tree, a goblin, a far off star. The Prince applauded politely.
I sang the spell of gasses, liquids and solids, weaving fire and ice
again, but this time the molecules sang in harmony, and the vision was
more simple and more perfect. Again, the polite applause. Afraid of
being too predictable, I nevertheless displayed the platonic solids, and
set them chiming the music of the spheres. Three points of my argument
were displayed and applauded lightly. For dessert I had thought to offer
something showy and dramatic, not really scientific at all, but a sweet
reward for those who enjoy romantic swash. I almost quailed at that
point, and cut my program short, but figured if nothing else, I could
amuse those who had no interest in science at all. It was a brief
elucidation of the beautiful Terra, and her battle with the Ice Wolf of
Niffleim. Pure showy drivel, all style, but a lot of fun.
"One world ends; another begins," I intoned into the silence of the
end, fearing the worst.
The applause was thunderous. The Prince led cheering, and asked to see me
less formally. I did not know what to think. I am not stupid, and more
than just Gavin had warned me of the Prince's pretensions to pure science.
And yet, he seemed most impressed by the least skillful of my
Two elder pages led me to the dais, and I was offered a cushion at the
Prince's left knee, a great honor for one unrelated. As I knelt upon the
cushion, two things struck me. One, the prince's customary chair was
quite threadbare, and mended many times (one doesn't see that from twenty
feet away.) Secondarily, I was astonished by how astoundingly beautiful
the Prince is. His hair is dark, and when he gets older the grey will
twinkle like stars in the firmament. His skin is the color of dark herbal
brews lightened with milk and stirred well. His features are regular,
pleasant, and behind his eyes shines a light of humor that included me in
on the joke. I just was not sure what the joke was about.
"Magus, you speak well. You have proven your proficiency, now you may
stop trying to impress me with games and cantrips. I need your service
most desperately, and if you cannot help me, I am not sure what I will
do." His face creased in a gentle frown, and I had to remind myself that
one does not touch princes, even to express sympathy.
"What would you ask of me, Your Highness?"
His eyes shone green and copper under thick black lashes. "I want you to
build me a boat!"
"A boat, your Highness?" You know that I am not a boatwright, though I
can navigate one if given a clear wind. I confess I was a bit confused.
Why would he want me, of all people, to learn a new trade well enough to
practice it for a Prince?
The prince enthused about destiny and fortune, of worlds ending and
beginning anew, and insisted I had read his mind in my preparation of the
tale of Terra and the Ice Wolf. "I want a boat like Terra had, with ice
in front and flame behind. I wish a boat to sail to the stars!"
He was as earnest as I have ever seen another. How do you explain to a
Prince about allegory, and gestalt mysticism? There have never been
physical boats that could sail through the firmament. Scholars agree that
Founding Myths are symbolic interpretations of our human desire to
establish ourselves in this world, on an individual and cultural basis,
that each man and woman enacts Founding Myths to find their proper niche
in the world. But the Prince was convinced of the literal truth of
Terra's Boat. He has "offered" to give me a tour of his library (read:
demanded my presence at an ungodly early hour tomorrow) where he will show
me the inspirations for this venture of his.
I must hear him out. If I leave I will have to give some plausible
sounding reason for my withdrawal from his grand plan. You will not catch
me calling a Prince dirty names, especially one so reknown and universally
loved as Prince Auron, but I am calling myself several uncharitable words
for accepting this lucrative and extremely flattering offer of
Cosmic Justice has indeed taken a hand tonight. Laugh well, darkling Gin,
and enjoy the peace of home and family.
I shall forebear addressing your postscripts in kind, for I fear if we do
not break this cycle we shall form the habit of signing our letters before
writing them. Let me briefly admonish you once more against the bargemen
(at least not without proper escort), and let me summon a smirk for you
assessment of Omin. I am not saying you are wrong, merely... amusing.
And, finally, you are right. The passages are all apocryphia that is
being reexamined in the new light of learning sponsored in no small part
by your master. If it interests you, I advise you ask pointed questions
of the Archprelate on the subject. If he is sufficiently intrigued by
your scholarship, he may rescind your banishment. That they are all in
the two forms mentioned is not a large surprise, as both forms of speech
capture were widely employed by the Senga-men, who lived primarily in the
low steppe areas near this Palace, and comprised the largest part of the
resistance to Scientific Orthodoxy of the time.
No presents this time. I shall wait to see if I am summarily dismissed
tomorrow for failing to restrain myself when the urge to cry "idiot!"
overwhelms me. One can carry more than one can send.
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