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There was a knock at the door of the office of Sir Sigmund Liggant, the First Council to the Crown of Rill. Sigmund put down his quill with no small amount of irritation. When would these interruptions cease? How would he ever get this Grand Council of Kingdoms together in time if people were forever hounding him? Sir Heeg, the regent who held power while Queen Gurundun lay ill, was practically useless. He knew virtually nothing about the day to day running of the kingdom, even when he was parceling out the duties right and left that he himself should have been able to see to.

Sigmund thought of the Queen. A true ruler indeed, that kept a firm but just hand to the wheel of the daily life of Rill with little thought to her own well-being. Why she had practically had to be tied to her sick bed to stop her and if her condition hadn’t been so dire, she would probably be up and about already. So between that and Sir Heeg’s incompetence, it really was too much!

“What now?’ he bellowed at the door.

“Letters, your eminence. I believe them to be answers to your missives to the other kingdoms,’ came a timid reply.

“Well then, bring them in! Bring them in! Don’t stand out there like a dullard,’ Sigmund cried out.

The door opened admitting, Rebulus, the court officer and equally inept son of Sir Heeg. Just an errand boy really, but a noble nonetheless and he had to be treated with some respect. But not much.

“When did they arrive?’ said Sigmund, “I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to respond at all. That perhaps all the messengers had been killed or fallen off a cliff or something.”

“Well, actually, sir the letter from Delstatis just arrived by carrier hawk this morning, but the rest had already arrived a few days ago,’ said Rebulus, fearful of what was going to come next.

“A few days ago!!,’ roared the First Council. “A few days ago? What is the meaning of this Rebulus?”

"They were left on the desk of the Second Sergeant of the guard for some reason, instead of being delivered directly to me and hence to you.”

“Did it not occur to the Second Sergeant that perhaps this influx of important sealed letter from the four kingdoms, was something that should be dealt with right away?” Sigmund fumed. “I mean for the sake of the gods, am I the only one with half a brain around here?”

“Oh no sir, there are many with half a brain,’ replied Rebulus before he realized what it was he was saying.

“Put the letters on the desk,’ Sigmund said slowly. ’And then get out and go back to whatever it is you do most of the day.”

“I mostly wait for instructions, sir,’ said Rebulus and ducked just in time to avoid the mug that was heaved at his head as he scurried out.

Sigmund took up the pile of letters and turned them over in his hand. Yes, they were official correspondence all right. Each sealed with the easily recognizable wax impressions of the great houses. He took out his knife and neatly sliced open the first of the letters. It read…

“Dearest Sigmund,

How pleased we are that you have instituted this plan! We of Slewrock are completely in agreement with your estimation of the current situation in which we find ourselves.

Please pass along out best wishes to Her Majesty and our sincere hope that she is back on her feet at the earliest possible moment. As you know, we of Slewrock pride ourselves on our medical practitioners so if there is anything we can do in this regard, let us know immediately and we will send some our best doctors to your aid.

Now, as to the terms you laid out for our participation in the The Grand Council of kingdoms at Lake Belvue, we would be most happy to send to you a delegation made up of our finest and keenest advisors. As you so reasonably pointed out, this is a matter of great urgency, so our delegation will start out in five days and should arrive in Rill by the end of the month.

Your list of the tragedies unfolding around us all read like a daily diary of events right here in Slewrock. Why just last week, at the opening of the newly built and incredibly expensive weather predicting station on Kidmas Peak, the entire inauguration party was killed by a lightning strike. It was a disaster of the utmost consequence because had the weather station already been opened as it had meant to be some weeks earlier, we could have predicted the lightning strike that left so many families bereft of their fathers and mothers.

Indeed, we of Slewrock have been seeking our own explanations and cures for these dreadful occurrences and we will bring a complete record of the work to date along with the delegation when they depart.

So, we look forward with great anticipation to a wonderful retreat and of course to the answers and plans to follow.

With utmost regard,

His Right Honourable Julius Maxim,

Lord High Regent, Kingdom of Slewrock

PS We will send the ten thousand gold pieces after the delegation and after your art pieces worth five thousand, arrive here in Slewrock.”

Well, good then, thought Sigmund, this is good. Slewrock was on board and they had some of the greatest scientific minds in the world. And they were willing to send the money, so good. He would soon have to start selecting the art works for transportation. He would include of course, his own wife’s painted depiction of a deer that he particularly liked. She wasn’t the greatest of painters in the land, but it would certainly make her happy. He opened the next letter…

“Lord High retainer, Sigmund Liggat,

Greetings from Delstatis. Delegation on its way. Money on its way. Send art as soon as possible. Good luck.

Duke Delmand, for their majesties, the king and queen of Delstatis.”

Ah, thought Sigmund, the famous and renowned brevity of the Delstatisions. In most cases he would have found such a curt letter to be insulting as it did away with all the niceties and, in fact, any creative input at all. But at this moment and given the positive nature of the reply, Sigmund was content. Besides, Sigmund had read the reports out of Delstatis that revealed that the country to their south was possibly the hardest hit by the blight. Things were so bad there that a lot of people refused to go outdoors at all, preferring instead to wait out their inevitable misfortunes in the comfort of their own homes. It had taken a royal decree and soldiers in the street, to return the citizenry back to gainful employment. The country’s economy had almost collapsed. So three countries were all ready to come along. It was starting to look as if the great movement was going to come to fruition. With luck they could begin the conference next month. On to the next letter…

“Sir Sigmund Liggat,

It is with profound regret…”

Sigmund stopped reading for a moment and glanced out the window. Oh no, he thought, the first rejection. He read on…

“It is with profound regret that we must reject your offer of art as surety for our requested ten thousand pieces of gold. Although we are in agreement with the stated goals of the Council in general, we have a duty to respond to the demands of the citizens of Tamora.

As you probably know, Tamorans have long held an abject dislike and complete disdain for that which other countries call ‘art’. It has long been our belief that the work of painters, poets, musicians and others can scarcely be called work at all. Ploughing a field is work. Building a wall is work. Ruling an unhappy country is work. Splashing a bunch of paint around on a board, or strumming some ungodly sounds out of a cheap lute, can hardly qualify as meaningful employment for any self-respecting individual. So, no, we cannot accept that as surety.

But we are open to suggestions. Perhaps you could send a hundred trained carpenters to finish the work on the Hall of Happiness that we are building. Despite the fact that opinions about our citizens characterizing them as being the unhappiest in the world are completely overblown, we of the ruling classes have attempted to build a monument to the ‘spirit of Delstatis’. A building in which the citizens can congregate and get some sense of enjoyment between working hours. The enjoyment of looking at exhibitions of their fellow countrymen working hard at their jobs, for instance. Of contributing to the greater good without the so-called incentives of more frivolous rewards such as an evening of music at a tavern. (Taverns as you know, have been banned as they contribute to the suppression of work ethic. The progress on the building is behind however owing to the sluggish efforts of our own workers. So perhaps if you could help with the installation, we could send the delegation and the gold.

If this solution suits you, please return a letter within five business days.

Dorrbat Dingly,

Head Clerk, Royal Work Bureau, Delstatis.”

Gods, thought Sigmund, what a hell of a place to live that must be. Its surprising they haven’t banned sex because it might tire out their workers prematurely. Probably they allow it just because they need to keep a line of new workers coming along and not interrupting the work flow. But, if that’s what their demand was going to be, so be it. Rill could spare the carpenters, but gods help them for the duration of their stay in that gloomy place. One more letter…

“From the delank of the Vicky-Regally Unner-Sec to the Promos of Rundergrip.

Sir Sigmundus,

What a lot of old codswallop ye prith on our derny brabbats. Dost thou keep the mindy pace thet we be stuffin gowzers to the man ere in Rundergrip? Because I would telly well youse that we canna dip for a moggum.

Dere is it the same for the entirety. Bring us back to the gab of ages if that be prith upon us. Then we’d forma culprice of bedknee for ye. Ture unna bedknee fer the like of youse.

But dems for sure is the righto plunking of the underwhorls. Ken ye?

So, for all dat the keep is sometimes in between brathers, then so we allspeak.

For the time being, prolly uppers.

Depricatur Fortesque,

Vicky-Regally Unner-sec.”

Sir Sigmund was getting a head ache. It had been so long since he had seen let alone read and tried to understand the bizarre written word of the folk of Rundergrip, that this True-Speak, as they called it, made his head spin. He took the letter and walked down the hall to the office of the Keeper of Records and rang the bell of the master there. In a moment he was joined at a desk by the Junior Master, Wellney.

“How can I help you, my Lord?’ asked the Junior Master.

“Take this letter from Rundergrip and have it translated, will you? And quickly?’ said Sigmund.

“Well, it might take a little while,’ said Wellney, ’We only have the one master specializing in formal Rundergrippan and he only comes in once a month. He lives near Wellsgrip.”

“Well send this letter by special courier and have it back on my desk by the day after tomorrow. It is dreadfully necessary.”

“Of course, sir. Right away.”

Sigmund turned and walked away as Wellney stood looking down at the letter and shaking his head. Apparently, from the tone of the note, there was a problem with the Rundergrip response. He hoped it wouldn’t be too difficult to counter. It would be so much better if the world was united on this plan even if the one hold-out was the country that was home to the strangest folk on the planet.

Sigmund went back to his planning.

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