October 22, 2018


The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides


People who benefit from natural disasters are should be turned into toads and fed to snakes.

I had some errands to run out on the eastern road, and I wanted to conclude them as quickly as I could. Alternating an easy run with a brisk walk, I knew I would make good time and get back to my house by noon. With no distractions, and the birds calling from the forest verges, I felt in fine form.

Until this burgher-type I was about to pass hailed me during one of my walking stints. "Hey, Shaman, what do you think about the war?"

I slowed my walk and the burgher joined me. "What war?" I asked him.

"Lord Ramhammer and Lord Stonewall are ready to fight for the boundaries of their lands. After the floods we had, the creek that divides their desmesnes changed course, and now some of the villages that were on Ramhammer's side are now on Stonewall's lands, if you go by the creek."

"I'm on the side that says there must be a way to solve this without a war," I told him.

"They do say that it will come to swords," said the burgher, rubbing his hands together to warm them, and eagerly anticipating the rise in prices that comes with wartimes.

"Then why don't you go to the creek and see that it doesn't," I rumbled at him, pointing my staff towards his face. "Organize the people of the villages and send the creek back to its original bed. It'd be hard work, but better than killing people over the direction of a water course."

"Some say that the villagers don't want to go back to owing fealty to Ramhammer because he takes more than his fair share of their goods. They'd likely stop anybody from turning the creek back," he pouted.

I stopped and looked at him. "Your words are telling me something," I said. "Words like 'they say' and 'they'd likely' and 'some say' -- sounds to me like you're stirring things up before anything hostile has happened."

The burgher puffed up like a poked toad. "Are you calling me a liar?"

"No, you toad, I'm calling you a troublemaker and a bloodsucker. Now leave me alone before I crack you on the head to bring you wisdom."

"You'd better choose sides, Shaman, or sides will be chosen for you!" shouted the burgher as I trotted on.

A war, over a couple paltry villages whose yearly industry might produce 20 sheepskins and a couple dozen bushels of corn? Stonewall didn't need any more income than he had, and Ramhammer could have listed his crofters by name instead of by creekside. How stupid a war like that would be. And sadly, just stupid enough to come about.

Profiteers are glad to incite people to choose conflict rather than compromise. They'll pick a point of disagreement and blow it all out of proportion, like this creek thing. They'll tell Ramhammer's people how much they'll save for themselves if they don't have to pay Ramhammer's higher taxes (and they aren't that much higher), but fail to mention what it's going to cost them if Stonewall's army need provisions -- the villages would be lucky to get paid for their stores at all. And if the dispute becomes a battle, where do they think it's going to occur? At the soccer field outside the castle wall? Didn't anyone mention to them that the rumble will be right through their gardens and roofs?

And stupider still to encourage the populace to choose up sides. They ought to be allowed to be neighbors first and subjects later. Why should people separated by something as witless as a streambed of rocks be encouraged to call each other "enemy"?

Besides all that, how senselessly stupid do you have to be to squabble over flooded land, whose inhabitants have probably not yet begun to replace their seed corn and losses in stock animals? If they can't accept the prior affiliation of the croftholders after the floodwaters receded, then maybe Stonewall and Ramhammer need to get their high-and-mighty asses together at a table in the middle of a neutral field and talk it out.

What if they were tied together by ropes on wrists and were not to be let loose until they figured out a solution that required no bloodshed? After three days, after ten, after sixty, after dining together, and sleeping together, and bathing together, and peeing together -- don't you think they'd get a clue that people are people, and mostly what people want to do is have a good meal in the afternoon and be able to sit out on their porches and bullshit in the waning light of day? While we're at it, let's try to ensure that they understand how life really is, and give them no more in sustenance and amenities than the least of their respective subjects. They could use a refresher course in perspective anyway.

I'm not taking sides. That's not my job. I'm a shaman, and my job, if either Stonewall or Ramhammer were to ask me, would be to tell how things are with the invisible world. And how is that, you may ask? Why, just this: if either of them, whatever their excuse, takes away human life just because a rain-swollen creek changed its course... those invisibles will certainly take it out of their hides, sooner or later.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-12-03

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In the same series:

The Accursed
The Aser Stories: Sidelong
The Aser Stories 80: Cabin Fever
The Aser Stories 79: Just Don't Say It Before Spring
The Aser Stories 78: Judgment Call
The Aser Stories 77: "Are We There Yet?"
The Aser Stories 76: A Bone to Pick
The Aser Stories 75: Coalition Forces
The Aser Stories 74: Flying Monkeys
The Aser Stories 73: Elspeth, Ad Nauseam
The Aser Stories 072: Starve a Cold
The Aser Stories 071: House Call
The Aser Stories 70: Dinner Dates
The Aser Stories 69: Fire in the Hole
The Aser Stories 68: The Silk Fable
The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life
The Aser Stories 66: For What You're Worth
The Aser Stories 65: Taking a Shot
The Aser Stories 64: Second Chances
The Aser Stories 63: The Second Step
The Aser Stories 63: Second Thoughts
The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story
The Aser Stories 59: Ace in the Hole
The Aser Stories 58: Knowledge is Power
The Aser Stories 57: Animal Tracks
The Aser Stories 56: Oz Can Keep Them All
The Aser Stories 55: Small Comfort
The Aser Stories 54: Letting Go
The Aser Stories 53: In a Spirit of Healing
The Aser Stories 52: Stinkin' Kids
The Aser Stories 51: No Words For It
The Aser Stories 50: The Friend in Need
The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover
The Aser Stories 48: On the Fly
The Aser Stories 47: Just Thievery
The Aser Stories 46: Take My Shaman ... Please
The Aser Stories 45: Hot Stuff
The Aser Stories 44: Courtesy Call
The Aser Stories 43: Adding Insult to Injury
The Aser Stories 42: Natural Selection
The Aser Stories 41: Funny Business
The Aser Stories 40: Happy Endings
The Aser Stories 39: Working Dogs
The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides
The Aser Stories 37: Dumb Animals
The Aser Stories 36: Harsh Words
The Aser Stories 35: Endangered Species
The Aser Stories 34: Common Language
The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture
The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?
The Aser Stories 31: Money Talks
The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy
The Aser Stories 29: Raccoons
The Aser Stories 28: The Ghost of Garfer Miller
The Aser Stories 27: Dynamite
The Aser Stories 26: Junk Mail
The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages
The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment
The Aser Stories 23: Image Is Everything
The Aser Stories 22: Is As Does
The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining
The Aser Stories 20: Families and How They Are
The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women
The Aser Stories 18: On a Silver Platter
The Aser Stories 17: Point of View
The Aser Stories 16: Easy Street
The Aser Stories 15: Moguls
The Aser Stories 14: A Mile Toward Change
The Aser Stories 13: The Price of Freedom
The Aser Stories 12: A Question of Nudity
The Aser Stories 11: Rabbit From a Hat
The Aser Stories 10: Awards
The Aser Stories 09: On A Roll
The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children
The Aser Stories 07: Crosspasses Market
The Aser Stories 06: Judge, Jury, Shaman
The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness
The Aser Stories 04: The Wrong Question
The Aser Stories 03: The Labor of Love
The Aser Stories 02: Soup du Jour
The Aser Stories 01: Popping the Big Question
The Aser Stories 40a: Customary Behavior
The Aser Stories 36a: Madly In Love
The Aser Stories 03a: Descent to the Underworld

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