SF Snippet #4: Victory! Only, Not

Our War of Words continues! Who will have the victory?

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.


The spring convention came again. This time, neither poet could wander freely, alone or with a few close companions. A retinue followed each, waiting for the next salvo. Word (and words) had spread to other nations. Something had begun, no one was quite sure what, or what it might mean, or when it would continue, or how it would end. All wanted to be there to witness whatever it would be. Anticipation was fueled by a rumor that Disahnahle had crafted the perfect retort, in three phrases. If this were true, it would end speculation and prove him supreme. The Plains Cousins’ prestige would suffer a severe blow. Unless, of course, Nahkorah could rally.

Neither of them showed the strain of it. They seemed unconcerned. They wandered about with their followers, carefully avoiding each other, and took interest in the political and trade details of the convention. Nahkorah arranged for some winterberries to be delivered to her at regular intervals throughout their growing season and expressed her opinion regarding solutions to a poorly shielded part of the world. Disahnahle bargained for a few flat sheets of rare mudstone and lent his weight to an argument for aid to a beleaguered but unreliable ally a few solar systems away. There were other wars being fought, beside their own. They both seemed to care more for them.

The days of the convention rolled on toward their close. Disahnahle’s entourage began to feel discouraged, Nahkorah’s smug. Significant fractions of each felt that this waiting was simply a buildup toward something earth-shattering, and depending on whose side they took, either went about with prancing step or quivering nerves.

No one’s nerves were quivering more than Nahkorah’s. She hid them, but after two weeks of such pretense, close to coming unstrung, she plunged into a race. It was that, or fracture like those frost-torn cliffs that had almost killed her the year before. She went to the running ground where the plains swept into the foothills and let her stately stride uncoil into enormous bursts of speed along a serpentine track. She normally finished around the middle in these contests, but nervous energy trumped native skill this time and she streaked past the last turn with the rest of the field tasting her heels. They were certainly close enough to.

She pulled up, blown, lathered and exhausted, and saw Disahnahle perched on the last low hill. He looked like one of his tors.

If she could have gotten enough breath, she would have screamed at him. Of course he would deliver his precious three lines when she was too spent to stammer so much as a couplet. He deserved her horn through his neck. Only she would have to climb the hill for that, so it would have to wait.

He stared down at her as Plains and Mountain Cousins alike began clustering, silent, when they should have been cheering her victory. He could have at least allowed her that much before showing up like this, she thought.

When silence had rippled through them like wind through summer grass, he spoke:

Wistful I gaze

On your fleet eternity

Your shadows come only at night

It was the sweetest victory tribute she had ever heard. She had been wrong, at least about this Mountain Cousin. His single verse proved that he had the gift of extemporization, and that simplicity in its way could be just as lovely as eloquence. She thought it was quite gracious of him to forego his planned retort in favor of this. It just went to prove: poets may compete, but they cared about each other despite all that.

And so she was quite shocked later when she found out that no one else saw it quite that way.


Image is a sketch of a running unicorn.
Running unicorn. Image credit Bettina Rateitzak (CC BY 3.0)


Copyright 2016 by Dana Hunter. All rights reserved.

SF Snippet #4: Victory! Only, Not

One thought on “SF Snippet #4: Victory! Only, Not

  1. rq

    Yes, that seemed a far too easy ending to so much tension. ;)
    I suppose the next installment will have a lot about nuance and interpretation and perspective. And context. ;)

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