Ventus – Day 77 of 135


Lavin opened Galas’ book once again, unable to resist but reluctant. By lamplight, he read.

Here is a dilemma. We doubt anyone else in history has faced such a dilemma as this. For when One sits at the window to watch the people go about their business, One sees such contentment and joy in simple things, expressed in the routines of the market and the street. And indeed, most people find ways to be happy, most of the time.

But We see also the town square with its gallows, and know that only the healthy walk these streets because only they are still alive. We know that only the strong-minded walk smiling in these streets because only they have won the freedom to do so. We do not see the isolated, failed or victimized people huddling in the back rooms of shops, chained in bedrooms or scattered like dust across the far fields.

If We propose to create something better, then We propose to end this world. That is how it will seem to these happy people, at least. For it may be necessary to make of the rich paupers, and make of the poor princes. In two generations, or ten, all will be well. For now, though, misery! And more and more. Would it not be better to leave well enough alone? If We stay the course, we shall see those smiling faces, bustling streets until Our dying day.

We are certain no one has ever faced such a dilemma. So We are inconsolable.

This is truth, though, that Our fury rises like an ocean storm at the thought that even one poor soul toils in misery out of sight, while these happy folk go about their business. True, it is not their responsibility, and no one should begrudge them what little happiness they can find. It is Our responsibility, however. They may never understand our motives, or see the full scope of the grand plan to be unfolded. We can only hope that their children grow up to be happy, and free, whether they revile our name or not.

He could almost hear her voice saying these words. They were so like her, when in the blush of youth she had fairly burst with idealistic passion. At the time, Lavin had barely understood what she was saying, beyond feeling a certain unease at her strange heresies. She was more intelligent than he, they both knew that, and he had always felt that they both accepted that he did not understand her.

In these diaries, though, he was finding so much loneliness that at times the words brought him near tears. He regretted now not striving to understand her better when he’d had the chance–perhaps he could have changed the course of her plans, and had she not been so lonely, perhaps she would not have chosen fanaticism. He suspected she had ultimately lived up to her reputation of madness because it was the only role left to her in her isolation.

They had met the second time at the military academy. It was some six months after the ball where he had received her approving glance. There were some young girls in regular attendance at academy balls, but Lavin rarely attended; being the faithful son of a rather dour provincial baron, he distrusted such affairs. Consequently he had lived on memories of that one moment of recognition by her. When he heard on the parade ground that the mad princess had been spotted riding through town in man’s attire, his heart began to pound and he missed his cue in the horse maneuver he was practising. At mess that day he had discreetly asked after the source of the rumor. It was true, it seemed: Galas was here, staying in an inn not a kilometer from the academy.

Two of the lads began to joke that the princess was here looking for a wife, or at least a concubine. Her mannish ways were a popular scandal, after all. Lavin threw down his cutlery and challenged them both to duels on the spot.

This altercation might have ended in tragedy had not the quartermaster intervened. He was a huge man who imposed his authority by purely physical means. After warning all three of them that any duellists stood to be thrown out of the academy, he beat them all black and blue. Lavin was not greatly upset by this–at least the disrespectful had been punished as well.

The quartermaster was perhaps a bit too thorough in his lesson, because Lavin spent the next two days vomiting and staggering due to some injury to his inner ear. It would come back to haunt him at critical moments for the rest of his life. This time, it kept him in bed until he restlessly demanded a leave of absence. He was given a week.

Looking back, he supposed he would never have worked up the courage to visit Galas’ inn had he not been dizzy and bruised–already beaten, both literally and figuratively. His mood was fey and unconcerned as he entered the inn, and inquired as to the whereabouts of the princess.

The barkeep smirked at him–Lavin had a black eye, a cauliflower ear and walked with a distinct stagger–and pointed behind him. He turned to find those same dark eyes of memory gazing at his.

She sat in the company of six of the king’s guards. This was her regular bodyguard, men she was comfortable with; just now they were trying to drink one another under the table. She was losing.

Lavin planted himself in their midst and introduced himself. They had met oh so briefly at a ball, he said. Surely she did not remember him.

Oh, but she did.

His bruises impressed the bodyguards. She told Lavin later that otherwise they would have pitched him out the door, as they did with the merchants and effete local noble’s sons who came to pay homage. Lavin was no courtier; he wanted no political favours. So they let him stay–but only if he drank to match them.

Never before or since in his life had Lavin been so sick. His only consolation was a dim memory of the princess crouched beside him also throwing up the indeterminate remains of today’s–or perhaps several day’s–lunch.

Deep and lasting bonds are forged in such moments.

It seemed that by achieving the worst nausea possible, he had found a standard by which to measure his injury. Over the next two days he made a remarkable recovery, primarily by discovering in her company sufficient motivation to overcome his dizziness.

Lately, reading the secret diary, he had recovered the memory of her voice. He remembered now how they had debated politics in those first days. She was passionate and angry, and he was willing to indulge her for he was learning she was not the insane creature of reputation, but a young lady cursed with an intelligence that had no outlet within the life prescribed for her. Lavin understood ambition. He wanted to lead armies, be a great general like the heroes whose faces were carved in the keystones of the academy. So he and she became soulmates, even though he censored from his own awareness half of what she said to him.

He had not been fair, he saw in retrospect. That was why, when disaster struck in the form of her coronation, he had not been invited to her side. She knew that though he understood her heart, he could never agree with her mind, and that as her consort he would have been miserable.

Ah! He could tell himself this, it sounded so objective and neatly encapsulating; the pain was still there. He had not gone to the throne with her.

The miraculous did happen, though. He was the first, and as far as he knew the only man she ever invited into her bed. The first time was at the end of that week’s leave. He had won over her bodyguards by dint of being disarmingly frank about his affection for her. They did not interfere when on that last evening she threw him a significant look and retired early, and he quickly made an excuse and followed.

The affair endured two years. They strove for utmost discretion, so meetings were rare and hurried. For all that, or maybe because of it, their passion was almost unendurably intense. Then, she conceived of the sea expedition that was to separate them for the next eighteen years. He learned of it in a letter she sent the day before her departure. The next news he had was of her triumphant entry into the capital bearing the seal of the Winds, there to unseat her father the king. Then nothing, except a single scribbled note received six months later telling him Court was dangerous, that she would meet him as soon as she could escape its entanglements.

They did meet again–once or twice a year at formal courtly functions, and three times she had allowed him to visit her privately, to walk in her gardens and halls alone with her for an hour or two. They never shared a bed again.

Now he rose and went to the flap of his tent. The summer palace lay in darkness, surrounded by an ocean of campfires.

Tomorrow, he would meet her again. The letters of parlay lay on his table now, next to her diaries. She wanted to talk.

He wanted to talk.

Lavin shuddered, and closed the flap of the tent against the chill. He wished he could sleep, but it was impossible. He wished… he wished he could run.

Take her, and run.

He moved to the map table, where the sappers’ charts lay, and drew his newly-ringed finger along a line that crossed the palace wall. He had rewarded the thief Enneas with his life for allowing this line to be drawn. If all worked according to plan, he would shower the old grave robber with jewels.

Take her and run.

Maybe he would.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)