Letter 7 - Kei to Gin

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Dear 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 
presentations.     

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 
ambassadorship.  

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.

Ruefully,
Your Kei
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