he can’t be beat unless you don’t watch what you’re doing and make
a dumb move.”
What piece is more valuable than the wolf?”
the palace, but it can't move. It
can only capture a piece right in front of it.”
your palace where it belongs and place your wolf right here.”
Endvar placed the red wolf diagonally in front of the red palace.
I take my ambassador...”
don’t like those, Papa.”
not?” He sounded slightly
can’t do much with them. I
mean they can only make that funny move.”
frowned. “Well, it all
depends on how you use it. Watch.”
He took the ambassador -- an image of a skinny bald man dressed
in a dignitary’s robe -- and placed to the right of Talon’s palace
first Talon didn’t understand the importance of this.
Then he saw it in a flash. “Oh,”
he said almost laughing himself off his seat.
“The ambassador can get both the wolf and the palace.
OK, OK, I have to save my palace or loose the game, right?
So I have to sacrifice my wolf?”
smiled, which was a rare sight for him since he was beginning to loose
his teeth and felt ashamed. “You
learn quickly, young Talon, maybe you’ll be a ambassador like me
... yeah. Sorry, Papa.
I think you’re great and all, but I don’t really like
ambassadors.” He looked
up at the kind old man before him and corrected himself, “... eh ...
ambassadors other than you, I mean.”
we ambassadors might teach you something yet, young man. That move I just showed you is called the Shú-mún move, named
after a famous ambassador that became king by using a move like this in
real life. I knew Shú-mún,
huh.” Talon busied
himself with setting up the pieces for a game.
He wanted to see if he could get his papa in a Shú-mún.
came from the Huanan Kingdom and...”
huh.” Endvar looked up
and saw that Talon, who had already set up the pieces for a new game,
was more interested in playing the game than learning the history of
ambassadors, however much it interested the old man.
the game began. Endvar played
easy at first allowing the novice to get the upper hand, but had to
quickly reverse his tactics because, although Talon still tended to think
one move ahead, he was fairly good. In
the end Talon won with only a couple of pieces left.
Gathering up the pieces, Talon asked, “Papa, how did you and
old man stopped collecting pieces and looked blankly towards Berea.
He said nothing for a long time but just watched the last rays
slide behind the mountains. Talon began wondering if his papa was getting too old and
with a voice that made him sound very far away, the old man replied,
“Well,” and then said nothing for a very long time again.
Talon looked down at the pieces left on the board.
No, he still wasn’t able to make the Shú-mún move in this game,
maybe the next.
the old man spoke. “It was
here in Selma. I was settling
a dispute with the desert people...” turning to his grandson to make
sure he understood the geography, “the plains on the southern border of
the Andril Region...”
nodded. “Papa, everybody
knows about the desert.” Then
with eyebrows knitted and in the best grown-up voice he could muster he
continued, “That’s where the Salmonil live, the horse people.”
He wanted to show his grandpa he knew a lot about the Salmonil.
In fact, he knew very little.
nodded and continued his narrative. “Over
the last twenty generations or so, they’ve developed a reputation as
ruthless hunters and marksmen archers.
In the old days, they were content to live lives as herders. Their lives centered around the hay-hochi.
But when I was a young man, they started raiding the border and
slaughtered whole villages.”
looked very hard at him. “Do
you know why,” he asked.
they’re just ... just born that way.
They’re evil. They
burn their faces with hot coals, and eat their prisoners.”