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By R. Albert Marsh
A long time ago, in a land a far distance from where you are now, in a time long forgotten, lived a servant by the name of Kisu. Kisu was the servant of the Lord High Chamberlain, and had been so since birth. Growing up in the Emerald City, Kisu came in contact with a wide variety of people, Lords, Ladies, Courtiers, commoners, trades-people, and fellow servants. But what set Kisu aside from the many was a dream. Kisu had carried in his heart a dream from early childhood, and because of the accident of his birth, it would remain only that, a dream. For as everyone knew, a servant could not be a warrior, just as a donkey could not be a horse. It was simply impossible. Tradition stated that you shall rise above your station, and tradition could not be broken. You are what you are. If you were born into a lowly station, you died there. A warrior’s weapons were a sacred trust. They were his stock in trade, and woe unto the person who picked up a weapon without permission of its owner. For centuries past, if a servant so much as touched a warrior’s weapon, he or she was instantly killed, and the weapon broken. For dishonor it was for a weapon to be touched by someone so lowly and small. Kisu’s work was varied about the stronghold, as it was menial. Born into servitude, he knew no other life. It seemed that his days were full, from the time he was awake two hours before dawn, summer and winter, to the time he went wearily to his bed, sometimes in the early hours of the morning, day in, day out, no time off except for the whims of the High Born above him. Although his body breathed and worked, his mind and soul soared out into the vast realms of his imagination. He saw himself a hero, lauded for his prowess, sailing the vast uncharted expanses of the bottomless deep, and paying court to fair maidens who’d swoon at his merest passing.
Oh, yes, Kisu dreamed of freedom, a freedom that lay out of reach, so far away, that he knew only madness or death could make it his. But most of all, Kisu dreamed of being a soldier. When his duties permitted it, he would take a roundabout route, just so he could walk as slowly as he dared past the barracks, where the guards and officers spent their time. He would surreptitiously watch the men of war as they trained, the swords that would flash in their hands, the bows that would twang and thump, the deadly dance of the swords and spears. As Kisu watched them out of the corner of his eye, in his mind he was training right beside them, trading lunge for lunge, parry for parry, block for block. At night, in his innermost private musings, Kisu would lie on his bed, under his blankets, and practice what he had seen that day on the training ground in his imagination. He would grin to himself, as he replayed conversations he’d heard, with himself speaking the words, and not the soldiers. And yet, every night Kisu would practice the forbidden arts of war, doing the stretches to limber up, practicing the punches, kicks, and unarmed drill that he could see as clearly as if he was on the drill quad. A length of stick as long as his arm would become his sword, a shorter one measuring from elbow to fingertip, a shorts-word dagger. Night after night he would practice, yet he never seemed to flag in his duties. For, he reasoned, a soldier would never tire or fail in his duties to his Lord or Lady, so neither would he. The only times Kisu could not practice was when a visiting Personage would arrive in the Emerald city, and sleeping space was at a premium among the serving class. Then he would have to share his living quarters, sometimes even kicked out and made to sleep in the hallway because some pompous ass needed his ‘privacy’. Soldiers are intelligent men, for if they were not, then they were not soldiers, and they would be dead. Kisu knew this, and he accepted it stoically. He knew some of the guards might guess of the reasons why he tried his best to spend so much time around the fighting men, and would have been mortified should they bring it out into the open.
Sometimes, the guards would stop Kisu if he were walking too slowly, lost in the rapture of hearing swords beating out a tattoo of musical sound. Sometimes one would say, gruffly, “Move on there, no dawdling!” or another would call out in banter, “Watch out Sergeant, anther poor recruit to kill!” and laughter would float in the air. Even through the pain of knowing his lowly station, Kisu would fill to the brim with happiness as he felt accepted and connected to these rugged men.” Merciful Heaven”, he would pray, “may my next life be as one of these men. May Happiness come soon!” It is a well known fact, that you should always be careful of what you ask of the Gods, because one day they might just hear you, and fulfill your wish. So Kisu found out, much to his chagrin. **************** On a crisp spring morning, as Kisu was on his way back from delivering a package to the High Commanders’ office, on his way out of the building, he was accosted by a young officer. “You there!” the officer called. “Come here at once, and be quick about it!” Kisu looked around, found himself singled out, the other servants heads were down, and had put speed into their walk. Kisu trotted over, and bowing quickly and courteously, waited for his young masters’ bidding. The young man puffed out his chest, (a little too self importantly, one might add, but Kisu kept his face in check), and imperiously swept his arm toward the Stronghold, and said, “Her Imperial Highness wishes to travel to her Summer Palace, and she needs some strong backs to pack her train. Go quickly, man, and lend a hand”. Kisu, bowed, and as respectfully as possible asked, “Will you speak for me, kind Lord, and let my master, the Chamberlain, know that your Lordship has given me orders? For he is angry whenever his servants go forth without his knowledge upon the duties of another?” The young man paused a moment, and then said kindly, “This I may do, for I must speak with this worthy personage shortly. I will commend you to him,
for I find you uncommonly respectful and courteous, for a servant. Go now, and do not dally!” Kisu bobbed his head, and trotted as fast as his feet would take him toward the August Presence. When he arrived, the palace teemed with people of all stations. The Princess had awoken in an irritable mood, and commands were issued and then countermanded, sending tempers flaring and blood pressures to rising. The princess seemingly could not decide which gowns to take, which ones to wear upon the journey, and who was to be picked to go with her. So, of course the Ladies-in-waiting conspired against each other, the servants plotted and schemed, the courtiers almost came to feuding, and the guards faded into the walls and pretended they were indeed just a part of the scenery. Making his way along the royal apartments, Kisu side-stepped and danced his way around a veritable whirlwind of humanity, rushing this way and that, every face set and betraying the stress of the moment. Then a screech rent the air.” My baby! My baby! Where is my darling Pookie? He’s lost! Oh, quick find him somebody, he’s so terribly lonesome! Help mefind him, help!” Wondering who or what a ‘Pookie’ was, Kisu heard a snuffling at his ankles, and looking down, saw a small bundle of brown fluff that seemed inordinately attracted to his sandals. “Probably the horse dung”, he thought. Realising immediately that ‘Pookie’ was the Princesses’ dog, Kisu picked it up and placed it inside his jacket, and, feeling warm and safe, the small dog promptly settled down and went to sleep. As he got closer to the apartment down a very long hallway, the screeches got louder. Now there was a tinge of panic as well, and striding through the doorway, Kisu beheld the sight of the royal rump of the Princess sticking up into the air, her head and shoulders stuck under a bed that could sleep ten people, easily.
The more the princess panicked, the more her ladies and courtiers increased their screaming at each other and wrung their hands continued and weeping copious amounts of crocodile tears. With the pandemonium giving him a headache, Kisu, for once in his life, briefly forgot his station, and in a loud commanding tone, yelled “I have found Pookie!” Silence was instantaneous. The princess, who was fourteen, but looked much younger, scooted out from under the bed and still on her knees, said, “You have my Pookie? May I have him, please?” She looked a mess, her face puffy and tear-streaked, her clothes a dusty, rumpled mess. A self-important courtier, no doubt thinking to ingratiate himself with the distraught girl, stuck out his hand, and in a sneering tone, demanded that Kisu hand over the pup. Feeling devilish, Kisu pretended not to hear him, instead keeping his eyes upon the sadly hopeful, pathetic face of the weeping heir to the throne. The arrogant ass, feeling slighted, drew his sword and threatened to kill Kisu on the spot if he did not hand over the wayward pooch immediately. The princess, now aware of this little drama, stormed to her feet, her little fists held rigidly at her sides, advanced upon the bully. Setting her face into what she called her ‘war face’, (which she had practiced in secret), she stormed across the room and placed herself in front of the rooster. He hastily pulled back his sword, otherwise the girl would have been spitted on it, he was further forced to back up as the five foot bundle of feminine fury advanced relentlessly down on him. Through gritted teeth, the young girl snarled, “Leave him alone, Trang-Su! While I was dying with worry about my beloved Pookie, where were you, hmmm? I saw you! Leaning against the wall, with that infuriating sneer on your face, looking down on me all the time! Well, I think a time for change has come upon us. Pack your things! Go home to that miserable little backwater you call a home! You are no longer welcome here in the Emerald Palace, or even in the Emerald City itself! You are banished! Banished, banished, BANISHED, DO YOU HEAR ME?
Her voice had risen to a roar that seemed out of place from one so tiny. The one known as Trang-Su dropped his sword in horror, which clattered loudly to the floor in the deathly quiet room, and sank to his knees. He blubbered and wept, wringing his hands and pleading for forgiveness. But the girl had no pity. She folded her arms over her small breasts, and tapped her foot rapidly. “Well? Are you still here? Guards!” she barked, “drag this offal out of my sight. If you ever see him again, kill him! Practice your archery on him or something!” The palace guards leapt to obey, and as he was dragged weeping and screaming from the room, they could hear muffled thumps as the soldiers vented years of hatred and anger for his kind out on him. The young girl, now in control of herself, looked up into Kisu’s eyes, said in a normal tone of voice, “Everybody get out.” The room emptied in a matter of moments. Kisu reached into his jacket and extracted the sleeping bundle, and with a bow presented it to the princess. The girl cooed and rubbed her face in the now waking puppy, and a smile lit up her elfin face. “She’s so much prettier when she smiles” he thought, then remembering himself, took a step back and sank to his knees and bowed low. “Oh, do get up” the princess snapped, “for how can I properly thank the one who restored my beloved pet to me? Speak, ask what you will, and it is yours, even your freedom, should you wish it”. Kisu was dumbfounded. All his life he had secretly played such a scene in his mind, and now, here it was within his grasp, and his tongue froze in his head. He found his head nodding, and he was out of breath. The princess, seemingly to know his heart, nodded as well, and making up her mind, said to him, “So be it. You are henceforth a free man, and in gratitude for your service to me this day, you are hereby named my Companion and Advisor”. She cocked her head to one side, and in a small voice enquired, “Um, what is your name, by the way, seeing as how we’ve only just met?” “Kisu, your Highness”, he gushed, “and thank you! A thousand times, thank you!”
“Well, Kisu, I have to get packed for my trip, and none of these pretty peacocks seems to be able to help, so let’s get cracking, shall we?”
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