by Roger B. White, Jr., copyright 2010
Once the Kalzov Valley was saved from the Turks and Kalnichovs and the healing had begun, I could venture forth again and learn more about the world around me.
I had gone west to Italy. Next it was time to see the mysteries of the Orient. As you will learn, I met a Genie there—or as he called himself, a Djinni, one of the Djinn.
The winter after the Kalnichovs and Turks were driven from my homeland, my people and I were hot for revenge. Our lands, our families, and the fairy people had all been harmed and insulted by the occupiers. That crisis and my rescue had organized us. Now it was time to take action!
So I argued. But my father, who had seen and learned much in his time as ruler, had different thoughts.
“You are organized,” he said to me, “but so are the Kalnichovs. And they are afraid that you will do just what you are talking about now. Old and young, conservative and progressive, men and women, the Kalnichovs are preparing to defend against a Rostov invasion next summer. The more ambitious are already planning a counter-offensive for once our forces are defeated. If we vengefully meet their expectations, the likely result is a bloody stalemate with deadly fighting for years after, making our recent victory a hollow one.”
“So … we should do nothing?”
“Not nothing. Revenge is a dish best served cold … and with some maggots in the steak.
“We have much to do in order to finish healing the wounds our lands have suffered. While our lands heal and our people get stronger, their hotheads will become as scared as our hotheads are now vengeful. I estimate that if two summers from now we still have not attacked, they will decide to attack us first. But they won’t have the support of the family old ones”—I knew he meant the Vampires—“or any Turkish mercenaries, either. We can win, and win solidly, against unsupported hotheads.
“That will be the revenge we serve to them, and that kind of a fight will give us a lasting peace. Those who lead the failed attack will be discredited within their family, and the old ones will continue to guard their dark secrets.”
“So we should heal and prepare for an attack,” I said, “while we convince our hotheads that waiting is the best path to victory. Well, so far you’ve succeeded in convincing your hotheaded son! I suppose I need to raise a few soldiers from among our herdsmen, huntsmen, and villagers.”
I did as I had said. But first I journeyed to Zagreb to find a captain to train and lead them.
As always, my father’s wisdom was impressive. Two summers later, the Kalnichovs’ attack was at first fearsome. They chose to use dark magic as their primary weapon, creating waves of fear and helplessness along with illusions of charnel monsters advancing among their actual troops. The soldiers guarding our northern border were dismayed but not surprised. They retreated south in good order, as my standing orders required them to do, supported by many of the local men and sending the others ahead with the women and children.
As they fought their rear-guard actions against the advancing Kalnichov army, its dark magic seemed to weaken, so that those who were brave and true could stand up longer to the castings by the Kalnichov mages. In fact, unknown to our soldiers the fairy forest people were shielding them against the Kalnichov spells, and also doing mischief to the advancing army. It is unusual for them to get involved in human affairs, so this was testimony to how badly the Kalnichovs and Turks had raped the forests they lived in during the previous invasion and occupation.
Finally our army’s captain determined that it could turn and give battle at Beech Springs, fifteen kilometers north of Falcon’s Aerie. He sent word, and my father and I joined our fighters there. Well equipped, well led, and vengeance-powered, our soldiers encircled and routed the Kalnichov forces, killing a few leaders and capturing more. I am happy to say that Josif, Grigor, Niko, and Todor all fought bravely and well. The Rostov army then arrayed itself at the river dividing Rostov and Kalnichov holdings, and waited.
Within a week, the Kalnichov elders sued for peace. Among our terms were that they explicitly recognized the border between the realms set at the time of the Pope’s Blessing and that they returned all the loot taken two years earlier—all in all, a very moderate settlement. Many in our court, along with plenty of tavern pontificators, said it was too moderate.
But my father declared, “The Kalnichovs should not be the center of our thinking. There are many other things of more importance happening in the world and it is time for us to move on.”
His wisdom prevailed.
After the settlement, I found that I myself wanted to move on by seeing more of the world. I left my father in charge of the Kalzov Valley and headed east.