David Madore's WebLog: Gratuitous Literary Fragment #93 (the Emperor and the General)

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(Saturday)

Gratuitous Literary Fragment #93 (the Emperor and the General)

—General Nai, you were described to me as my one loyal officer. I distrust my advisors, but I have learned to recognize their lies, and the hatred in their voice when they spoke of you as such marked their words as true. So I have had the phenomenon brought before my eyes to see: my one loyal officer. You may rise, General.

—At your orders, Sire.

—You see, General Nai, I would like to understand your motivations. Perhaps there is something in it for me to learn. What drives a woman like you?

—Some people call it courage, Sire; others call it honor. I think I prefer the word wont. It has been said, by wiser men than I, that fear and wont are the two forces that hold your empire together.

—Are you aware, woman, that I could have you executed on the spot for your insolence? It has been done before, to greater men than you.

—I would rather be executed for my insolence, Sire, than for my lies as your advisors should be, whom you mentioned earlier. But you asked me a question and I gave you an answer. Fear is not what drives me: fear is what keeps me alive on the battlefield, I do not require it before my sovereign. It matters little to me whether I am slain tomorrow while defending your crown or today because of your whim: but I believe an intelligent man like you will not suffer his one loyal officer to be executed because he found her to be insolent.

—Well spoken. But I still do not believe you. Nobody would risk her life out of the simple habit of doing so. Wont does not make men loyal: nor does it foster courage.

—Does it not, Sire? Tell me, are you not seated on a very throne of custom and tradition?

—Enough of this. Rather tell me this: if it is not fear or honor that keep you loyal to me, why did you not seize my crown when you had a chance?

—Who says I yearn for it? In my profession, Sire, friends are on one side of the field and foes are on the other: I would not have it otherwise. All my lieutenants are loyal, not one, and I would not treat my loyal lieutenant, were there but one, as an enemy; nor need I fear my advisors' lies. I do not envy your Majesty.

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