horse of power

fic sketch: day at the races [project of doom]

Sketch of a story that's hopefully actually written by the time this posts itself; more of the novel aftermath, but I like this one a lot. Probably because it didn't go sideways on me, though the actual long-format version I'm working on might yet; we'll see.

*

Out of the blue, Aramahin proposes a day of races; Iranan thinks this is a bad idea or should at least wait until they've finished restoring the royal city. But everyone else thinks this is a great idea, and should also include archery, spear-throwing, load-pulling, etc. Oh, and why not throw in a market to go along with it?

See, this is why Iranan thought it was a bad idea. But everyone keeps telling him this is a good way to get to know the people he's supposedly ruling, build relationships with the remaining local lords, get to understand the culture, and show what a nice guy he is. Iranan wants to know who's paying for all this, as the royal purse has been practically empty for at least two generations.

Nobody! Everybody! Aramahin becomes quite expansive about this. Iranan wants to know if it's been done before; Aramahin makes noises that don't actually mean 'yes'.

En, when Iranan brings his concerns to her, tells him he's probably right and it almost certainly is a terrible idea, but it's a terrible idea without the likelihood of death or true disaster, and perhaps that's really what matters. Iranan doesn't quite believe her, but it's enough that when he finally agrees to the proposal, he doesn't feel like he's being forced into it. Entirely.

And then he puts Aramahin in charge and refuses to allow Aramahin to pass the task off to someone else. If he is king, he is king, and he says that since it's Aramahin's idea, it's Aramahin's to implement. If Aramahin asks him to meet with someone to discuss some aspect of it, he will do so. He will attend, and put himself on display, and play king in whatever way Aramahin thinks best, but he is not planning it, not running it, and certainly not cleaning up after.

Aramahin starts to protest, but then looks at Iranan, carefully, as no one has since he was named king (except perhaps En, but she knows as well as he does that there's nothing to be done but go on), and agrees. And Iranan is very, very, grateful, for he is trying to rebuild a scattered and long traumatized nation, and is very, very tired.

So Aramahin comes out of his 'retirement' and organizes what's to be a full fortnight of games and plays and amusements, to mark the first anniversary of Iranan's crowning and the end of the long terror: wrestling and footraces and horse races and minstrels and jugglers and food in great abundance. Iranan wanders through it all with En on his arm, dressed as the commoner he still feels he is, with Aramahin's youngest (and her cousins) on loan.

It is loud and crowded and all of the competitions go on for too long; Iranan gets a headache and En winds up with blisters on her feet and the contingent of children eat too much and make themselves sick by running around without drinking enough water, but no one is frightened or worried by anything except the possibility of supplies running out and things having to end early, and everyone who meets Iranan falls a little in love with him (for his mother taught him Charm) and more than a little with En, and when it's all over and Aramahin says they should do it again next year, Iranan says only that it might be a bit much annually, but perhaps spaced out a little more....

And next time, he says, feeling young for the first time in decades, he will enter the horse races and win them all.