Tuesday, July 16, 2013

fictbego7 The Crow and the Weeping Man

The Crow and the Weeping Man

by Walter Bego

I was sent by the Emperor to investigate. The two kingdoms involved were provincial, remote from the grand capital. Though some would think the lands too insignificant to trouble him, the Emperor is uncommonly fond of fish.

The Piscane River and the bay it formed at the seashore separated the two kingdoms. It would be a mistake to say they shared the river and bay.

Bountiful was a broad kingdom of many farms. The land was flat and rich. The people prospered in trade of grain, sheep, and cattle.

Plenty was a narrow land, and hilly. There were a few farms on the plain, but Plenty prospered from orchards, clever tradespersons, and fishing in Piscane bay.

The fish of Piscane bay were prized throughout the Empire of the Hundred Kings for their exquisite taste.

The kings of Bountiful felt the fish should be theirs. The kings of Plenty built better and faster ships and kept the fleets of Bountiful from the fishing grounds. The kings of Bountiful raised armies to seize the shipyards of Plenty. The kings of Plenty trained skilled warriors to defend the shipyards. The kings of Bountiful bred large and healthy horses to mount cavalry and join the fight. The kings of Plenty put warriors on small swift hill ponies to rout the cavalry of Bountiful.

Plenty was too small a kingdom to conquer Bountiful. The warriors of Bountiful lacked the skill to conquer the kingdom of Plenty. So it went as it ever had. Neither land ever knew hunger, nor had either known peace.

Keerogan, king of Plenty, had three children. Keener, master of the army, lived in the plain. Kanu, master of the cavalry, lived in the hills. Kinah, mistress of ships, lived on the shore. Each was greatly skilled in their aspect of war. It was the tradition of all the princes and princesses of Plenty before them.

Dorgan, king of Bountiful, had two children. Flanai was mistress of animal farming. She knew all about breeding fat and healthy sheep and cattle. Florgon was master of grain. Florgon knew how to bring the most grain possible from each hide of land.

Though Flanai and Florgon tried to lead the armies of Bountiful, they lacked imagination and daring in battle. There had never been a prince or princess of Bountiful skilled in war.

King Dorgan, as his fathers had done before him, hired mercenaries to defeat Keener, Kanu, and Kinah. They struck at shipyard, plain, and hills, hoping to isolate and defeat one of Keerogan’s heirs. Whether they struck at Keener, Kanu, or Kinah, the other two would bring relief in time. No matter how well-laid the plan or strong the army, the royal leaders of Plenty were equal to it.

"If only I had such sons and daughters," King Dorgan lamented, "I would have my just victory."

No one remembers the Crow arriving at Plenty. He might have been there for some time. The Crow is good at avoiding notice. Always dressed in gray, the Crow keeps his face covered when in public. Many claim to have seen the Crow’s face. Unfortunately the descriptions differ. Most agree that the Crow is short to medium height and slight of build. Some say the Crow is an albino with blood-red eyes. Some say that he is Ethiopian and dark as onyx. I’ve also heard that he’s the most ordinary of men, unremarkable in every way. One report says the Crow is actually a beautiful woman with auburn hair and green eyes. If that’s the case, her beauty must have faded long since. The Crow has walked the earth for many years.

Soon after the Crow’s arrival, the war changed. Keener, Kanu, and Kinah now attacked Bountiful instead of waiting to be attacked. They did not attack the armies of Bountiful. Instead they attacked a single farm. They scattered the peasants and loaded grain and beasts into Kinah’s ships. Then they burned the buildings and fields.

There was still great wealth in Bountiful, but as the attacks continued, there was also something new, people who were poor and hungry.

Dorgan sent his armies to stop the raids, but Kinah’s ships were faster, and the armies of Bountiful arrived to find stunned peasants and scorched farms.

"Why do you attack our farms?"

"For generations, you have attacked our lands. We are only doing the same."

"But we have always attacked your soldiers and sailors, not your peasants."

"Our soldiers and sailors make us strong. Your farmers make you strong."

"But you take our food. Our people are hungry."

"Give them food from the markets. You have more than enough."

One morning as the watch opened the gates of Plenty, one among the crowd did not enter the city. He sat outside the gates in the dust and wept.

"Why are you weeping?"

"I mourn Keerogan, the king."

"But the king is alive and well."

The weeping man would not respond, but sat all day in the sun weeping. He did not stop when the gates closed at sundown. He could be heard throughout the city.

Keerogan arose the next morning short of sleep and patience. He called for his son, Keener, leader of his infantry.

"This weeping man," said the King "must be silenced. Go outside the gates and tell him to stop."

"If he refuses, should I arrest him?"

"What, and bring his noise inside the gate? No, you have a sword. If he won’t be silent, make him silent."

As Keener left the throne room, the Crow appeared. "Keener will not stop him."

"Why is that?"

"The weeping man weeps for you. After he has wept for four days, you will die."

"I will die?"

"As a judgement for the evil you have done to the peasants of Bountiful."

"But you advised me to burn the farms in Bountiful. You should be the one to die"

"Perhaps, but you are the king. The deed is yours."

When Keener returned to the throne room, he laid his sword before his father the king.

"Why is it I still hear weeping? Did you not tell him to stop?"

"I told him, Father, but he kept weeping."

"Why didn’t you stop him with your sword?"

"I tried, Father. Each time I brought my sword down, he wasn’t there. Never before have I missed my mark in battle. He didn’t move, but my sword did not go where I directed it. I do not know why."

"Then he will learn the consequences of this weeping. Today you and Kanu and Kinah will burn not one farm, but two."

"But Father, we cannot load the grain and beasts of two farms on the ships. If we return for the extra, the army of Bountiful will be waiting for us."

"Then burn what you cannot carry."

So that day the children of Keerogan burned two farms. They slew half the beasts and burned them along with half the grain. Two more families joined the poor and hungry in Bountiful.

The weeping man continued to weep. He wept all day long and through the night. His voice could be heard throughout the city of Plenty.

The king arose the next morning with as little sleep as the night before. He called for his son Kanu, the commander of his cavalry.

"This weeping man," said the King, "must cease his noisemaking. Go outside the gates and make him stop."

"My brother Keener says a sword will not kill him."

"You have your lance. Make him silent."

As Kanu left the throne room, the Crow appeared. "Kanu will not silence the weeping man."

"And how will the weeping man be silenced."

"When you die."

"Perhaps he would be silent if I killed you."

"That would silence me, but not the weeping man."

When Kanu returned to the throne room, he laid his lance before his father the king.

"Why is it I still hear weeping? Why didn’t you stop him with your lance?"

"I tried, Father. Each time I charged him, he wasn’t there. Never have I missed the mark in battle. He didn’t move, but my lance did not go where I directed it, nor did my horse strike him. I don’t know why.

"Today," said the king, "you, Keener, and Kinah will burn three farms instead of one, and all you cannot load in Kinah’s ships you will slaughter and burn.

So that day the children of Keerogan burned three farms. They slew two thirds of the beasts and burned them with two thirds of the grain. Three more families joined the poor and hungry in Bountiful.

The weeping man continued to weep. He wept all day long and through the night. His voice could be heard throughout the city of Plenty.

King Keerogan did not sleep that night. In the morning he called for his daughter, Kinah, mistress of ships.

"This weeping man steals my sleep and my peace. Go out and make him stop."

"My brothers tell me that neither sword nor lance will kill him."

"You have your arrows. Go and make him silent."

After Kinah left the throne room, Keerogan looked for the Crow. He was not to be found.

"Perhaps he has fled. He brought this upon me. It is well that he is gone."

Dorgan, king of Bountiful, sat at dinner. Four more farms were ruined that day. Too many of his people sat at his gate begging. His son Florgon said the land would recover next spring. His daughter Flanai thought the herds could rebuild in a year or two.

These efforts would be useless unless he could find a way to stop the raids.

"Do not fear, King Dorgan"

"Who are you?"

"Some call me the Crow."

"They say you are responsible for these attacks."

"But I am here to help you now. King Keerogan will be dead in the morning."

"Even if what you say is true, a prince or a princess will rule in his place. What is there to stop them from continuing the destruction of my kingdom? We won’t last through the winter."

"You will if you do as I say."

The moment King Keerogan died, the weeping man went silent. He stood and walked away from Plenty. Though the people mourned their king, many were grateful to see the weeping man leave.

Keener, Kanu, and Kinah met with the elders and agreed they would choose a new king or queen three days after the burial feast.

The day before the feast, Bountiful attacked the land of Plenty. Ships attacked Kinah’s fleet as they traveled down the Piscane River. Though she sent for aid from her brothers, relief never came. The attack was not strong, and she was able to drive away the enemy without their help.

She returned to find her shipyards burned and many of her workers slaughtered.

"The ships attacked here?"

"Not ships, Princess, but horsemen."

"Why didn’t my brothers come to your aid?"

"The horsemen carried Kanu’s standard."

Keener, Kanu, and Kinah honored their father at the burial feast. Kinah did not return Kanu’s greeting. Kanu did not greet Keener, and Keener did not greet Kinah. Shortly after the ceremony, the accusations began. Nobles, merchants, and craftspeople trembled as the three left the hall to return to ruined homes. There was no king or queen of Plenty. Each child of Keerogan raised forces instead of voices to make the claim.

There was war in Plenty from mid-Summer till harvest. Not soldier nor sailor nor horseman could prevail. When the skilled fighters were dead, Keener, Kanu, and Kinah coerced the peasants to take up arms and continue the fight. There were few able-bodied peasants left when the forces of Bountiful came across the bay killing those who resisted. The princes and princess united at the end against a common foe. It was too late; they died together.

King Dorgan took the riches of Plenty. He took the ships of war and commerce. He took the fruit from the orchards and grain from the fields. He took the beasts from the pens and the mountain ponies. He made slaves of the few craftspeople that remained. The old, the very young, and the crippled he left with nothing.

"We need food, mighty King."

"Your people took our food, now we take yours."

"How will we live, mighty King?"

"That is not my concern."

I arrived when King Dorgan returned to Bountiful. There was no sign of the Crow. Someday I will capture him, and he will answer for his crimes.

There was nothing I could do for the survivors of Plenty without King Dorgan’s cooperation. The king would not be moved.

The fleets of Bountiful were already fishing the Bay of Piscane. There will be fish on the Emperor’s table. He had no reason to be concerned.

As soon as I knew the facts, I left Bountiful to make my report. The Emperor is not known for his patience.

And I did not wish to hear the weeping man again.

No comments:

Post a Comment