Court is not a place for the thin-skinned. While the insults and slights are less likely to be stated bluntly, loud, and clear, they are there beneath the surface as every courtier jockeys for position and favor. To an outsider, this makes court seem like a pointless waste of time and resources. To an insider it is their lifeblood.
He was atypical for a courtier. Whip-thin, tall, and nimble. They called him Stick, but not usually to his face. He was sharp in more ways than one, and was more willing than most to follow up on threats with a visit to a back alley.
Today, Stick was holding court of his own, facing down the leading lawyer over a few beers. Their respective circles of sycophants were keeping the combatants well supplied while the debate ranged freely.
Stick was adamant that free will was behind everything that could be seen happening. Even things that would normally be ascribed to fate. His sparring partner was far more receptive to a fatalistic view. He held that free will was merely an illusion used by men to assuage their egos when choices went badly. That the criminals that made his living for him were fated to break laws, and what little free will they possessed was only good for choosing which laws they would break.
The discussion lasted until closing, and then spilled over into the streets.
And call it fate. Call it free will. Or call it narrative necessity as you will. But Stick had had enough of the snide remarks by this point, and he and his retinue neatly cut the lawyer free of the crowd and herded him into the alley. Where they thrashed him to within an inch of his life.
That road was only the first of many, but I had to begin somewhere. It wasn’t even that much of a road, more like a less muddy path in the bleak landscape that was my birthplace.
But it was a start.
I was clumsy at first, of course. After a time, it got easier to walk up to the edge, and imagine that I had the strength of will to step across. Fortunately, imagination was not something I lacked. Rather the opposite, I suppose.
So I embraced my fate and became a road-crosser. A wanderer. And in time, I even began to follow the roads.
Today, I accept my role in this life.
I had a vision of the world changing, and it pushed me onto this quest.
I no longer need the vision to push me on my way. My own curiosity is more than enough to do that.
I see now that my vision of a falling sky was really a metaphor. The actual sky was never falling. But my belief in its limits was already shaky, and the vision gave me the strength to act. I am stronger for that.
The sky fell.
I crossed the road.
I am called to my quest and have answered my call.
I am no longer Little the coward.
I am the Long Road, Wanderer, Inquisitor, and Fowl most Curious.