Karina Book Lesson 10: The Dangers of Binaries

book, novel, novels, teresita blanco -

Karina Book Lesson 10: The Dangers of Binaries

It was the night before the last day of class. Karina’s husband had finally arrived, and they were playing with their cute little baby. It was the standard games adults have with wee kids. The kid would wake up for a half hour, and look about bored. On the meantime, the parents would speak gibberish, and make funny faces till the kid smile or laughed. In this respect, Karina and Letholdus were one and the same. While petting the little kid’s forehead with her pinky, Karina said, “I don’t know what to do with the final lesson.”

“You could talk about those higher beings, mom was arguing about when I got home,” suggested Letholdus.

“Hehe! She surprises me, I knew she could sense more than she let on,” said Karina smiling.

“Mother has always been that type of person, never showing you all the cards, she has on her hands, or even the fact that she has an ace in the hole,” explained Letholdus. He added, “So, why not higher beings?”

“With the current climate of today, as with many other things, it boils down to so what. Most of the information I have in my little head serves no purpose. It is useless, refrigerated knowledge,” said Karina.

“Well, most knowledge is useless, till it becomes useful. You never know,” said Letholdus, “And besides, why must knowledge be useful for anything. If it provides some fruit for thought, or even an inspiration for a type of dream, or plan, then it served its purpose.”

“I am going to try my two ideas for my final lecture. I will have something sublime, and something practical,” said Karina.

“Can you give me a little hint as to what you are planning to do?” asked Letholdus.

“I could give you a hint, or you can show up to class like a good little student,” said Karina.

“But, Janus is going to be there,” said Letholdus.

“Its fine. The damage is done. You seeing each other, is not going to make things any worse for poor old Flamen. Instead of scheming, he should have been doing something useful with his life, like learning how to bake a pie,” said Karina.

“It is just as father says, people never change,” said Letholdus.

“You changed,” said Karina.

“It was the power of love that changed me,” said Letholdus.

In response, to that corny line Kanon started making chocking noises, and pointing to his tongue that was sticking out. His jeer was met with a vase to the face thrown by Karina. Kanon started laughing as blood flowed from his forehead in imitation of Ahi. Karina too joined in the mirth, and the baby Hidalgo smiled too. The only person not in on the joke was Letholdus.

With this incident concluded Karina started making her way to class. Hidalgo was still too small to be let out of the house. It was tradition in those days not to take newborns out into the city, till they hit the two months mark. Under Marduke’s orders, the babies still had to get a bit of sunlight for 5 minutes, every two hours, at the bare minimum. Still, parents had to be careful not to overexpose their kids to the sun to avoid farmer’s tan or even worse sunburns. While Karina and Letholdus went to school, Amrita was keeping an eye on the kid. She was still a bit uncertain about Hidalgo.

She was looking for sighs of abnormality. Inana was by now ambulatory. The little vixen was always running about the house, causing a ruckus. As a result, Vaikus was no longer roaming Marduke’s residency. The poor creature was looking for a less noisy spot to hang out. He eventually found it inside a garden gnome house. With the greenery projects in Veragerung, the city had become pleasant enough for gnomes to move inside. For now, they populated the public parks, and the gardens of the homes of lonely old ladies. The gnomes were quasi-divine beings, descendants of Priapus and a bored Grey alien. They were conceived through technological means. This is at least what those little aliens claim. Since the gnomes now live in Saturnastra, their divine powers were quite diluted. Their powers only appeared in the form of a green thumb. Wherever they live, the plants seem to grow better. The little guys also spoke the language of plants. If humans pay attention, they will be able to tell of the moods of the gnomes based on the scent they emanate. They can also talk English.

As soon as Karina arrived in school, there was a gathering of little gnomes. They appeared with their silly red hats, and beards, and cute little outfits. They did not normally dress like that, when walking among humans. Still, the clothing was a gift of Nalini, and so they wore the classical, Earthling gnome attire to see her smile.

The garden in the school seemed disturbed. The slab that sealed the entrance to the Sleeper catacombs was cracked, and there were skulls about, as if something had gotten out. Frowning, Karina said, “What a bother.”

“Sorry for the mess,” said a stranger.

Karina looked at the fellow with a perplexed look. The gnomes also started staring at the creature that was manifesting in the form of a man. The thing was indeed, a 4D creature. Using its hands, it was casting a 3D shadow of a person. After thinking a little, the light of understanding came upon her.

“Oh! You finally woke up Casimir,” said Karina smiling.

“Yes, with Abandons returning to normal. There was no need to keep sleeping,” said Casimir.

“Returning to normal?” asked Karina quite perplexed.

“Yes, do not worry your little 3D head about it. By and by, I heard from your father that the Summoning Ritual for the Palace of Creation was concluded. Those who wished to live within it, stayed, while the rest returned home,” said Casimir.

“Returned to normal,” repeated Karina, “Why does that not inspire me much confidence.”

“Don’t worry about it. A lot of folks are going to be seeing their people, or should I say, most folks are not going to notice much of a difference, with the Time dimension correcting itself,” said Casimir.

“What a bother,” said Karina sighing.

“I ask for your forgiveness,” said Casimir bowing.

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s just focus on living in the now, and forgetting about Abandons, and all that nonsense that never occurred in the first place,” said Karina.

“Yes,” said Casimir sighing.

“You are going to fix up our roof are you not?” asked one of the gnome fellows.

“Sorry, I will get on it right away, as soon as class ends,” said Casimir.

Casimir walked a little way with Karina. Before entering the classroom, she said, “Here is a picture of Casimir. Try changing the shadow a bit, to get it right.”

“Will do,” said Casimir.

For those that are not familiar with dimensions, they would imagine that they function like parallel universes. People tend to get both things confused. Dimensions are just what the name states. They are length, width, height. Once you get to the fourth dimension, you start perceiving time. You see all the possibilities of the past and present branching out. This is how the Future Sight of Proteus, and of his children works. One of his eyes can see the Fourth Dimension, which is time.

As of Casimir, he was a dormant 4D being who awoke. His powers were keeping the abandons in their monster form. They were transformed as so, in order to weaken them. In their monster forms, they were not a threat to higher beings, because their Time was compressed to 0. Still, they were strong enough to bother the lower 3D creatures. When the abandon transformation was sealed away, the former abandons returned to normal, or they suffered a natural death, so they can come back as ghosts or they can reincarnate. Since there was no need to dream anymore, Casimir awoke. Like most higher being Sleepers, his dreams could affect the 3D dimension. Think of it as solid dreams. Now that he was awake, he decided to do in the real world, what he was often dreaming about, which was to bond with tiny ants by using his shadow. Just as 3D humans cast a 2D shadow, 4D creatures can cast a 3D shadow. With that explanation out of the way, the story may continue.  

Casimir after some trial and error, obtained his dreamlike form. This was not a form he was used to casting. When his 4D hands got a bit tired, his shape warped, and he became a squid monster, with a swollen body and wings. At another time, this would have surprised the students, but they thought it was Vindkald being a bit of heel in the last day of class.

The table was set up real nice like, and there was tea and cakes. Casimir sat at the table, and he took an empty cup of tea, and he pretended to sip from it, and he took a piece of an imaginary cake. He always did so, even before waking up. The students though he was just being a cheap bastard, or a weirdo. The luncheon was spent rather pleasantly, even with Janus assembled there, with Letholdus.

Eventually, Regin asked, “Janus why did you attack Letholdus?”

“Because I wanted to achieve world peace,” said Janus.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” whined Regin.

“If you read a bit of the news, then you would understand,” remarked Carmenta.

“Mmm,” said Regin, “Aren’t all those papers liars.”

“More or less, but they all have a general theme. So, if you read between the lines, then you will understand,” said Carmenta.

“I guess,” said Regin not too convinced. Changing the topic, Regin said, “So, that is going to be our final lesson.”

“The final lesson? Well. I had a number of ideas. I am going to start with the first of them. Did you know that beneath our feet used to sleep a weird creature called a Sleeper. Well, he just work up, and it was Casimir,” said Karina pointing at him.

“Tell us something we don’t already know,” said Lucian to sound cool. Ever since he started in the magic school, he had gotten into the habit of pretending to known more than he let on. It was the only way to deal with the other self-absorbed students.

Karina thought a moment, and then said, “Did you know that just as we case 2D shadows, there are also creatures that cast 3D shadows.”

“Yep, we talk of them in class, as proposed summons. They are nothing special, and I think you should stick to what you know. You were never that good of a math teacher,” complained Lucian.

“You are in a mood today,” remarked Janus.

“It is because of the diet,” explained Suntaria, “For a while, Lucian did the Vegan nonsense, but as soon as he joined the magic school, the principal put an end to his picky eating habits. Since his body now belongs to the State, it must be honed like a sword. He will eat whatever they put in front of him, blah, blah, blah.”  

“How is the kid, by the way?” asked Casimir.

“Everything is pretty normal, which is a bit boring,” answered Karina with disappointment.

“Well, it is a newborn, what were you hoping for? For the brat to come out speaking and doing cartwheels?” asked Babysel.

“It matters not. As for the final lesson. I think this next idea will be a proper fit. This maybe obvious to some, but not everything in the world is black and white,” said Karina.

“Here we go, and there is neutral as well,” added Lucian.

“Well, my people do not believe in neutrality. We see it as nonacting or taking a vantage point where you don’t care who wins and losses, as long as it does not affect you in the least,” said Karina.

“That’s a fun way to live, for some people. And then, there are the other types of douches who see you dropping dead, and they just pass by, pretending they saw nothing,” said Karina, “Still, this last lesson is not about moralities and whatnot. It is a warning to be wary of dualities.”

“Like, don’t be too good, and have a little bit of evil?” asked Babysel.

“No! You dingus. What I mean is? Let’s say for example, there once was a douche whose wife cheated on him. Ever since then, he thinks all women are evil. That’s the dualities I am talking about. People tend to generalize one thing, and another. That is just a shortcut designed for you not to think. Truth of the matter is that you have to take each creature on a case, by case basis. And first and foremost, avoid the word all, as much as possible,” said Karina.

“Oh, you mean, how the modality of yonder times, was to say that all elves were evil, and one had to wary of them,” suggested Carmenta.

“Oh! And how, up until recently, magic users were all considered to be evil, something like that?” asked Lucian.

“Now, you are getting it a bit. And even more recently. Janus’s actions for example. It has got a lot of people thinking that the followers of his cult are troublemakers. It is the fallacy of logic, that one bad apple spoils the bunch. Taken to the most extreme case, we would have scenarios were if one guard does a bad thing, then we people would be demanding to remove all the guards,” explained Karina.

“Yes, a lot of people, want easy, quick answers to complicated problems,” said Babysel.

“Yes. More or less. I am not talking about letting your guard down, and being friends with bandits. If you are not strong, then you should never hang out with a fellow that has the power to kill you,” explained Karina, “At least in a safe, social situations, do make the effort to give a person a chance. Once you get to know the real them, then you are free to hate them, and for good reasons too.”

“Is there a silly story that goes along with this lesson?” asked Letholdus.

“I am going to have to think about it a little. Give me a minute,” said Karina thinking, “Aha! Here is a story. There once was a fellow named Casius, he was both strong, and honest. He was always trying to help out people cause he had a superhero complex. Anyhow, one day during a battle against the bandits, his people left him there to croak. After barely escaping with his hide, he was offered shelter by person he had just met. That person had developed an attraction for Casius, and so he decided to offer the fellow a hand. The moral of the story is timeless. Just because you help out people, doesn’t mean that your aid will ever be reciprocated. And sometimes, strangers treat you better than people you have known your entire life.”

“Tell me about it,” said Babysel, “Just the other day, I needed to fetch some milk. I asked a hag to keep an eye on Periwinkle, and you know what that thankless bitch said to me. She said, she wasn’t no babysitter. And to think of all the times I got her groceries, and opened the door for her, and fixed her leaking roof. Some people just expect to get things from others, without offering anything in return.”

“In her defense, everyone’s born like that, but eventually life finds a way to show you the truth, or you die before learning your lesson,” said Karina.

“Well, she died for certain, cause the last time I said I was going to fix the roof I did go fix it, but I did a half-baked job of it. By nighttime, it was leaking again, and so it happens that she goes to the loo, she trips on a puddle, and that was the end of that story,” said Babysel.

“You don’t feel guilty about causing her death?” asked Janus.

“I did not cause it, she did. You burn enough friends, and then when life throws you a curveball, and then finally, you get your just reward,” said Babysel sternly.

When the lecture was concluded. Karina said, “It is going to be a bit, before you see me again in Veragerung. My dear Letholdus has a business venture in Unheil. Since he is going to be staying put there, I thought I would take the baby as well, and we can playhouse. I will still receive your letters however, if it will please you.”

“What else is left to say except safe travels,” said Mico.

Lesson 11: Epilogue

Karina and her husband Letholdus did not depart to Unheil right away. As with most moves it took half a year. Part of the delay was due to sudden price hikes in the property. Unheil was by now an independent Principality, no longer in control of Veragerung. With independence came shiftiness. The local merchants of Unheil did not felt like they had to follow the old rules of commerce. If they saw an opportunity, they were going to take it to squeeze whatever life juices they could from their client. A couple of years of this change of pace was enough to create poverty. The new Duke of Unheil apparently was unaware of this and did not care. He had a little pheasant rebellion at the tip of his nose. The current Duke was called Reggie. He was a nephew of the original Duke. He had recently succeeded his father, who had died under strange circumstances.

Reggie may have been the face of the crown of Unheil, but his mother held the scepter. Like an obedient little boy, the 47-year-old man did as his mother always suggested. Assassinations were nothing new in the court of Unheil. Aside from his mother, Reggie had the wife, four daughters, and three sons. Two were boorish drunkards who liked to play knight. The other was a toddler, and the youngest. He was always running about the castle, with four ladies in waiting behind him ready to kiss his booboos. The toddler was the bane of Reggie’s wife, Farina. She hated him because he had been born to another woman, a gypsy girl who had one day turned up at the castle with the farcical tale that the kid was an Unheil. If it wasn’t for the fact that the kid was identical to Reggie as a brat, nobody would have believed the gypsy girl. But, the kid was an Unheil, and the gypsy had no intention of caring for the kid.

It was to this court that Karina was going to eventually enter.

On the meantime, she was busying herself with the new baby Hidalgo. Hidalgo was a strapping little cutie, with small knuckles, and a perpetual frown on his face.  When people spoke to the kid, he would sigh from time to time, as if summoning all the patience he could muster. Whenever his patience ran out, he would start crying. This naturally got the folks around him to stop talking to him, and to look for the mother Karina. Then, there were others that set him off right away. Such people included his father, which made Karina a little bit sad. Hidalgo would only hold back in his mother’s presence. Still, whenever he was alone with his father he would cry.

This distressed Letholdus without measure, but as his mother Amrita explained, little boys are usually closer to their mother. It also made sense that the child would not get along with his father, seeing as though he spent so little time with the kid. This is at least what Letholdus though, as he hoped for things to get better with time.

The day eventually came for Karina to travel to Unheil. Aside from the main dukedom, there were other principalities under the control of the Unheil family. Between the main city, the surrounding hamlets, a mining town, and three rural villages, Unheil was at least big enough to consider itself a big important country. Unheil had a defined border, in the form of way points, or detached towers in the roads leading to Unheil. Aside from those towers, there were five-star shaped bastions in each corner of the territory. There were also six toll castles, near the rivers. Like the name states, they handle tolls, and other monetary concerns. The army of the Unheils was mainly equestrian. Since Unheil had never been allowed ownership of a dragon, there was usually a lot of debate as to how to handle such a large mobile force. After much brainstorming, equestrian heavy lancers and archers became the answers to tackle the dragon force. Though they never used for their intended purpose, the highly mobile army was useful in clearing out all the bandits. Every day, there were usually squads of knights roaming the roads, and the butches looking for any unsavory character.

Outside of Unheil, it was a different matter. Marduke had only bothered to secure the routes to his main trading partners. Since his relationship with the Unheils was lukewarm, at best, he had not bothered to secure a road leading to that place. Karina knew this, but was not too worried about nonsense. Like her brother, she had a wait and see what happens attitude. She had told her husband that she was taking a large escort, but she really did not. She could have teleported there too, but she wanted to enjoy the journey there with her little baby. Vindkald was going with her as well. He was in the shape of a wagon wheel. Round, and round he went. The driver was a graduate from the magic, army school. He was a self-proclaimed apostle of Karina, who went by the name of Alfie. His true name was Alfarinadonna, or Alfarina Donna. He was not a true elf, as his name would suggest. Rather, he was the adopted brat of a rich, elven couple who lived in the city. Since they could not have their own kids, and not from lack of trying, they had adopted the nameless orphan. Due to their longevity, the Alfie’s parents had already cycled through seven different children. They usually only raised one at a time. Once the kid could fend for itself in the world, then they got another, bless their souls. Alfie’s parents were called Yanili and Elidonna. Since it was common for the man to give his last name to his child in Veragerung, the parents followed in suit. The pair gave the last name Donna to their kid, even though the lighter, more powerful elven family was the one who usually had the dominant last name.

Anyhow, there was Karina, with her driver Alfie, who had just left the nest for the first time. Alfie always introduced himself in this fashion, “You may call me Alfie.”

When he introduced himself that way to Karina, she laughed at him, and then she said, “Whatever you like, my dear Alfarinadonna. Or as you prefer, Alfie.”

The whole nickname thing was a new modality circulating in the magic school of the army. The mages though they would be less susceptible to curses and the like, if they kept their true name hidden from one another. Nobody knows who started the trend. Though some blamed the school librarian, who kept adding forbidden books from other worlds. Whenever one was discovered, Marduke always made a big fuss about it, but lately he just did not care anymore.

Alfie’s official tittle in school was the horse wizard. He earned the title because for some reason, regardless of the element he used, all his spells ended up looking like horses. He also had an affinity with the creatures. His like of horses was part of the reason he had decided to take on the trip. He had heard that Unheil had the best steeds in the land, and this was indeed the truth. Through selective breeding, the Unheils had developed quite the handsome, strong, and powerful horses.

Alfie also had a lot of horse like characteristics as well. His face was long, with small, blue expressive eyes, and a small thin mouth as well. His nose was long, with wide nostrils as well. The horse like look was completed by his straight ginger hair, with a Saint Algue, type of short haircut, that threw a bang of hair to the side of his face. This bang of hair alone was enough to complete the horse book, but the cherry on top of that ensemble only appeared when he laughed. In that moment, his crooked open bite teeth appeared in their full splendor. It was not so much the state of the teeth, which were white, and pristine. Rather, he had too much gum, and very small teeth. As far as the rest of him was concerned, he was quite buff, which made it hard for outsiders to believe he was a magic user. He was always doing pushups, while looking at his spell book, which was encoded. If an outsider were to look at the book, they would have read a bunch of interesting observations about bees. He had many interests; is the overall point I am trying to make.

Anyhow, Alfie was driving the cart, while Karina was asleep, while her baby Hidalgo was awake mussing.  Hidalgo was often fond of quiet time, and the rocking of the carriage was quite pleasant indeed. The carriage took a sudden stop, with the horses whining. The door was thrown open, and some men with masks shook Karina, yelling, “Your money or your life!”

Karina yawning, said, “What’s all the fuzz, just look around, and take what your like. Just, let me sleep for five more minutes.”

She then proceeded to make herself comfortable again. For this insolence, the douche punched her in the face. This made Hidalgo laugh. Taking the baby basket, the bandit said, “Now that I have your attention bitch, where is the money! I am not playing with you!”

With a fake distressed voice, Karina begged, “Oh! Please mister. I am ever so much sorry. Take the carriage, and the horses, but, please don’t hurt my baby!”

The bandit and his mates laughed, and to look more sinister, the man held a knife close to Hidalgo’s face. He was going to continue with his evil guy routine, but his head exploded, and so did the heads of all his other mates. Vindkald said frowning, “Sheesh Karina! You did not have to explode their heads. Ew… some of their brain parts fell on my head. I don’t mind the dirt, but the organs! Yukky, Yuk!”

“I wasn’t the one who done them in,” said Karina.

She then came to see Alfie who was pretending to be unconscious. She gave him a kick in the rear, and she said, “Get up!”

“Is it over?” asked Alfie.

“No thanks to you. You could have done some fire magic, anything, and now look at the poor fools. Nothing left but bodies, without heads,” said Karina shaking her head sadly.

“I was going to, but the surprise made me lose my concentration,” said Alfie making excuses, “I was going to help, but only when I came up with something or other.”

“Oh! Alfie, great in practice, but useless out in the field,” remarked Karina. She added sighing,” Well! There are some things that cannot be helped. Let’s clean Vindkald, and the carriage up a bit, and let us continue on our way.”   

“We could put the headless corpses on…” started saying Alfie. He stopped when he saw Karina glaring at him.

While he cleaned the horses, and then the carriage, Karina summoned a Harpy to clean up the bones. They were quite vulturine in their eating habits. When the bones were picked clean, Karina opened a small hole and buried what was left of them. She kept their swords as souvenirs, leaving only one made of bronze as a marker.

On the sword she wrote, here lie the graves of four bandit brothers. They died as they lived, brainless.

During these proceedings, Hidalgo was quite pouty. The group traveled in silence. Alfie was no longer talking with Vindkald, while Karina was keeping her thoughts to herself. Hidalgo did not find this amusing. Nor could he understand what was the matter with his mother. Karina eventually said to Alfie, “Stop the cart! I need to drop something off for a second.”

“Sure,” said Alfie not bothering to look back.

Karina wrote a quick note, and she placed it inside Alfie’s basket. She then gingerly placed the basket, with Hidalgo, outside the cart. This action went unnoticed by Vindkald who was thinking about churros, and Alfie was looking at a little bird. Karina then said, “Let’s go.”

The carriage continued without Hidalgo. Night fell, and then it started to rain a little. Alfie made a tent for the horses to keep then dry, while Vindkald went to hide under the carriage. When Alfie came inside the tent he asked, “Where is the brat?”

“The brat,” said Karina, “Well, he has been exiled.”

“Exiled?” said Alfie shocked, “You can’t exile a little baby. Are you nuts!?”

“Yes, but I did what had to be done. You saw that happened to those poor brutes,” said Karina.

“They had knives,” remarked Alfie starting to understand.

“A pooh! You act like you have never been stabbed in the kidney before,” said Karina laughing.

Vindkald who wad eavesdropping commented, “Well, it is a quick way to die.”

The conversation was interrupted by the sound of splashing and wailing. The door to the carriage was opened by a weirdo, wearing a baby bonnet. He said, “How can you abandon me mother?”

“You know what you did,” said Karina.

“I acted on instinct mah. He punched you in the face, and he held a knife to my face,” whined Hidalgo. He added, “I did what you wanted mah! You should be proud of me, not angry.”

“Oh, Hidalgo, I will forgive you just this once, but know that you are on probation from now on,” said Karina.

With this conversation concluded, Hidalgo shrunk back to a wee little baby. Karina produced a new basket, and clothing for the little brat. After drying him a little, and putting on new diapers, Hidalgo was as content as any infant could be.

Karina sighing said to her child, “Look Hidalgo, in this world you are going to run into a lot of idiots. Just as you can’t get angry by cats who bite you, it is foolish to make a big deal about stupid people, doing foolish things.”  

“Yep, they did not seem all that bright to me,” said Alfie.

“If they were smart, they would have taken the cart, and sold the horses,” said Vindkald.

“Clearly, they were noobs at robbery, because they did not have contacts. Heck, even the wood of the cart itself is worth something,” explained Karina.

“But they held a knife at a baby, and they punched a woman in the face,” insisted Hidalgo.

“Look, if you focus too much on the action, and don’t see the big picture, you will spend the rest of your life killing people who don’t truly deserve it,” said Karina.

“MM. If you ask me, the why doesn’t matter too much, so much as what you are doing,” insisted Hidalgo. He added, “I don’t feel guilty about what I did, and I will stand by my decision, even if I must garden for an eternity, like my aunty Nalini.”

“Oh, Hidalgo. You open your mouth to speak for the first time, and you are nothing but bitter poison, but it is my fault after all. I inherited my mother’s malice. She thought many things, but did very little. One must always bear proper contemplation, and you must realize the difference between stopping evil, and killing for killing’s sake,” said Karina.

“Does this lecture come with its own silly story?” inquired Alfie.

“More or less. Anyhow, a long time ago, there was a douche who liked to help others. Whenever he saw bandit or something attacking a person, he went right up and killed the fellow. Overtime, he started adding different types of people to the mix. Sometimes he would go to bars just to provoke people into fighting him, so he could kill the person out of self-defense,” explained Karina.

“So, how was he stopped?” asked Alfie.

“He wasn’t. He found out he was evil when he went to hell, and once you go to hell, there is no more reincarnation,” said Karina ominously.

Hidalgo said, “Mmm..”

“So, when is it proper to kill?” asked Alfie.

“When you are not able to subdue your opponent. It takes a lot more strength, and wit to put down a person without hurting them, than it is to just pop a fellow with a crossbow. Indeed, it will always be like super, super easy to solve all problems by just killing a fellow, and indeed, that was the go-to answer for my ancestors, but we are tired. So, tired of killing, and of fighting, we might get back on it again, but not for another 1000 years,” said Karina.

“When you said all problems, did you really mean, all, all problems. How is that practical, in a logical sense?” asked Alfie.

“Well, take for example this problem. There are too many mouths to feed, so kill a few, and feed the many. Have a problem with your spouse, kill her, and marry another person, cause divorces are expensive. You child is coming at an inconvenient time, kill him and try again later. See? Killing is the quickest solution to all of life’s little inconveniences. We must be better than this? Don’t you think? My dear Alfie,” said Karina.

“Yes, master Karina,” said Alfie looking sternly at his master.

Karina reclined against the red cushion seat a little, and then she said with a smile on her face, “On the other hand, I am not asking you boys to be saints. You are allowed to be petty from time to time. Just the other day, I got a teacher I found annoying fired. He was using his position of power to bully the students, and by bully I mean put up with his nonsense. You can’t help a fellow out with one hand, and then mistreat that person with the other. It is why this saying has been passed down for generations: It is better to not help, than to be an annoying little helper. If you can’t help but be annoying all the time, just stay away from others. Trust me, you will generate more positive karma with your nonaction, than with your actions.”

“Now, I understand what I did wrong mother, and you dumping me there was not about the bandits, wasn’t it?” said Hidalgo.

Karina said nothing, only she smiled benevolently. Alfie was confused, but he did not ask any questions, rather he pretended to understand as he often did. Whenever he asked for clarification, people were always mean to him about it, as if there was something wrong with him for not understanding.

After the bandit incident, Karina got to Unheil without any issues. While entering the castle, a peasant fell face down on the dirt before Karina’s cart. They would have trampled the fellow, but Vindkald reached with a tentacle and he moved the dude away. Other peasants watching the scene worried a little, but they relax when Alfie said, “People. Don’t worry, it’s a magical cart! I am a witch, and I enchanted the cart to do that, cause I don’t like running over people.”

The horses came to a halt, when they felt that Karina was reaching for the door handle. Horses are very perceptive about the lightest touch, and change in baggage. Karina came to the peasant, and she examined the fellow over the top. The biggest problem of the man was the liver failure. His skin was yellow, and his eyes were white. Karina touched the fellow, and she removed this first problem. There was a strange substance, circulating through his system, and it wasn’t alcohol. The enzymes had already turned the substance into other compounds. Though, the processing of it was the reason the fellow had suffered the liver failure. Karina sent over the data to the Observers to see if other people had that same problem. Once the man had a healthier glow, he got up shivering, and walked off to a dark alley.

Alfie frowning said, “Isn’t that something?”

“Some people are naturally thankless bastards, but what can you do. You do good for your own amusement, to have the moral high ground or whatever, at least for your own happiness, not for the wellbeing of your fellow man,” said Karina.

“That may be very well for you, but I don’t want to go to hell,” said Hidalgo.

All throughout the trip, Hidalgo had been seeing the stories told by the demons, of hell and back again. It did not inspire him much confidence.  

 Karina entered the castle of Unheil, and she was greeted with the usual pomp of their kind. The place had not changed much, in spite of the fire. In the grand hall, she saw Reggie sitting in a wooden chair. He was not a thriftly type of Duke, thought with his region’s independence he was now technically a King. He had wealth, but he did not want to appear like he was loaded. Only select few were allowed into his family living quarters. When they headed into town, they were only a small step above the nobles. Reggie had started as a poor illegitimate child. Through a process of elimination, he had ended up being the heir of the Unheil fortune. As the sole survivor of the bloodline of the Duke, he had a lot of pressure from the knights to increase the bloodline’s numbers, and maintain the purity of it or whatever. By and by, Reggie ended up marrying his half cousin.

This was fine by him. During his time of poverty, he had always wanted to be rich, and for things to come at him like really easily. The day that his big break occurred, his stressful life began.

When he saw Karina, Reggie was stressing out about the sick man incident. He said to Karina, “Forgive me, Princess. You must think me a poor sport, for having a sick fellow roaming the streets. It is easy to imagine, that I am as mean spirited as my father, but that could not be further from the truth.”

“You try too hard, Reggie,” said Karina smiling. She added, “As for the fellow… I think you have a drug problem.”

“Yes, I know. I take chamomilla every night to fall asleep. Sometimes, I even add mint to it,” said Reggie yawning, “But what is a fellow to do.”

His mother entered the court, and said, “My dear Reggie. She was not talking about you. Silly, boy. She meant that there is a drug dealer.”

“Yes,” said Reggie, “But what is a man to do. I have healers, but what is the point of them, if the citizens mess themselves up again? And the poverty keeps increasing, and it doesn’t matter how many stimulus packages I send, when the money gets used up as soon as it arrives.”

“Ah! Yes, that old chestnut. In my home, we had a similar problem like that,” said Karina, “I will tell you of it later, once I unpack.”

The hours rolled by, and Karina saw Letholdus too. After seeing the fellow, the pair went to the court for dinner with the Reggie, and his family. The knights sat on the table too. Reggie was really popular among the knights, because he always prioritized the needs of the army first, before bothering about anything else.

While chatting of other nonsense, Reggie opened up the topic once again. Reggie asked, “So, when you said, your home, you were not referring to Veragerung.”

“Is it that obvious?” asked Karina.

“The people there have a certain accent to their speaking pattern, like Letholdus. Your voice is more silky,” said Reggie.

“Stop flirting with the guest, when the husband is like right there,” complained Reggie’s wife Filipa candidly.

“I am not flirting. I am just commenting on her over emphasis of the sss, sound,” said Reggie.

“Ah, so when you said silky, you meant snake like,” said Letholdus flatly.  

“Well, ahem. I meant nothing by it,” said Reggie feeling rather foolish.

Karina then said changing the subject, “So, yes, when I speak of my home, I meant where I was born. My brother and I are not native to the Continent of Veragerung.”

“Did you speak a different language?” asked Filipa.

“No, we spoke the same language. Only that we call it English, instead of Proper,” said Karina. She added, “In fact, the world English relates to the city of England, and its people.”

“Do they were the same clothing as us?” asked Filipa.

“They did at one time, but now, nothing is left of England, and of its people. Nothing is left of anything, anymore. There isn’t even dust from the place to step on,” said Karina with a faint smile on her face.

A silence fell over the table. It was only interrupted by the sounds of the younger children eating at the table. They were oblivious to the entire tirade.  Reggie then said, “Well, the past is the past, there is no point in giving so much attention to a place that no longer exists. Now, as for the drug epidemic, how did your people handle it in the past?”

“Oh! Reggie, you said you would not discuss that during dinner,” rebuked Filipa.

“Oh, yes, that nonsense. Don’t worry about it. It is fine. Most of the time, the drug problem was handled the way you are trying to, by arresting sellers, tracking down crops, and tending to the victims. Others tried to create safe zones, were not a single contraband item could enter a city, without it being inspected. In the most extreme of cases, there even bounties on the heads of known crooks. They even tried educating the children about it. Do you know what worked in the end?” asked Karina.

“If I had to guess, I would say the bounty hunter nonsense,” said Alfie who was only half playing attention to the conversation.

“I think education is the answer,” said Filipa.

“I think we are doing just fine, we just need to hang more dealers,” said Reggie.

“Well, our ancestors dealt with the problem…by, let’s say, how do I explain it in a way that you will understand,” started saying Karina, “This is what they did, when everything else failed. They added a curse on the known clients. The curse made it so that anything that was harmful to the body, did not produce a feeling of euphoria. As a consequence, the users stopped buying the drugs, but they never got over their addiction. In time, this curse was added upon everyone, and on every newborn as well. This way, the entire population was incapable of finding any thrill on drugs of any kind. That is how my ancestors dealt with the problem, they took control over people’s ability to ruin themselves. In time, other negative behaviors were added to the curse. The people became controlled, but not happy in the least, for the most part. The average joe enjoyed the predictable nature of their exitance, and there is a freedom in it, even if you are wearing chains.”

“And how does your brother handle our little problem?” asked Reggie.

“Through surveillance, closed borders and education. Any problematic element is made to push daisies, and if they push their luck real bad, they get exiled to Aragon. If they do not mend their ways, they get exiled out of the Continent, like the Alfasir elves,” explained Karina.   

“I have given it a lot of thought,” said Reggie, “I think till the last crops are found, we should try the curse thing, at least it will ameliorate the poverty problem.

“I don’t know,” said Karina, “People with vices will always find something new to ruin themselves with. All in all, those who tend to fall just lack a good hobby. A good hobby is usually all one a person needs to make life tolerable.”

“Good idea, we should do an art center, like in Sassari. Let’s teach music to everyone, and then even if they lose their money on their vices, they will have a means of earning it back, like the gypsies,” said Filipa.

“You just want to open a music school,” said Reggie, “Like I said before, we don’t have the money for it.”

“But you know who does have all your money?” asked Karina.

“Who?” asked Reggie.

“Your little dealers,” said Karina. She gestured to Vindkald who was in the form of a dog. He changed shape to that of a wagon wheel and he rolled away. When he came back, he was in the form of a fox wearing a kimono.

When he came back, Vindkald was carrying a little box, with a tiny dragon inside. The dragon was not a baby in the least. The dragon had two large antennas on his head. From the black body, there came three pairs of skinny legs. The eyes were all of one color, and they resembled black opals. The wings were a soft clear, milky white.

Karina said, “This fellow is called Prrrinnckles.”

Prickles, then said, “Hi.”

“Anyhow. I had the drug looked into, and it is a type of dragon grass, taken from one of the forests patrolled by these little cuties. For these dragons, the grasses are used to change their wings to the color blue. Fairy Lady dragons like the color blue. Anyhow, this one’s nose can find all the crops, since he is used to smelling for it. For humans, however, when dragon grass enters the body, it has the unwanted side effect. The overall point of the story is that one should not eat dragon food,” said Karina.

Reggie extended his hands and made for the tiny box to be placed before him. He said somewhat paranoid, “So, what do have to do, in order to have this dragon?”

“Nothing. It just won’t do for our neighbors to have drug problems. In time, it might even spill to our own borders. If you have a nice, and stable interiors, then we can engage in jolly commerce in peace. That is all we want of you,” said Karina.

“Thank you, Princess Karina,” said Reggie.  

With the dinner party concluded, Karina returned to her home. It was on the second floor of the store. When night fell, there was a riot, and some tried to enter the store. Hidalgo was about to do his signature move again, but he was not able to. The bracelet his mother had given him after dinner had sealed his offensive capabilities.

While putting him to bed, Karina said, “Well, my son. It is time for me to give your first lesson.”

Hidalgo pouted and had a dull expression on his face. Karina raised her shirt, and she pointed to her belly button. Smiling she said, “See. I was not born inside a test tube. Even though that is the popular idea of these days, for kids. We all want to feel special, superior even, but that is a dangerous thought, my little Hidalgo. In the old days, this idea taken to the most extreme made it easy for people to kill and hate one another. Just look at what happened to Nalini’s elves, who refused to change, and to understand. When you see yourself, apart, and better, it becomes easy for you do harm onto others. I want you to remember this Hidalgo. Despite popular belief, we are 100 percent human, though with technology we have been able to add our numbers to all the stars. How were we able to do that? It is simple, if you remove all the hate, then you can use your energy in a more constructive fashion. I am not asking you to be a saint, my dear Hidalgo. I am just asking you to try to empathize, just a little. It is through the power of empathy that we are great mind readers. The stronger your empathy, the better you will understand why people do what they do. Don’t get me wrong, there are toxic people who deserve an ax to the head, but even they are manageable, my son. Please my son, promise me that you will be good.”

“I will mommy,” said Hidalgo.  


Artsy's Choice