Web Exclusives‎ > ‎

Mary Soon Lee - Tutor

posted Apr 24, 2014, 12:54 PM by ais13@rmu.edu   [ updated Apr 24, 2014, 12:54 PM ]


"That turned out rather well,"


said King Xau, triumphant,

happy as I'd ever seen him.


The other counselors

studied the patterned rug

on the floor of his tent.

Even Artoch, who had shouted

at the King two days ago,

had nothing left to say since

the King's rashness had led,

most regrettably,

to success.


"Good outcomes are not proof

of good decisions," I said.


"So you think our decision was poor?


"Very."


"What should we have done then?"


King Xau directed the full beaming force

of his pleasure upon me --

the lowest of his counselors,

there only as a courtesy

for having drummed

the barest hint of algebra

into his royal head

when he was the least and youngest

of four princes.

"Should we have killed him as Artoch wished?


"Yes," I said. "Or ridiculed him --

cut off his braid, or spanked his bottom,

or merely laughed at him."

"So we could make an enemy rather than a friend?"


He looked decidedly less pleased.

"So we could take his horses by force,

rather than having them come to us?"

"So you could live."


All trace of pleasure left him.

I imagined what he would have said

had the two of us been alone --

that it wasn't a life he wanted,

neither prudence nor diplomacy nor war.

He wore power well, but he wasn't one

who craved it, not like his eldest brother.

In another world, he might have been

a farrier or a groom.

In this world, he stalked out of the tent.


"That turned out rather poorly," I offered.



"Perhaps," said Artoch. "But what you said

needed to be said."


"Perhaps," I said. "But he's unlikely

to thank me for it."


"Where do you think he went?" said Artoch.


"To his horses."


When the King returned, a long while later,

I saw by the quietness in his face

that I had guessed correctly.


"There are lessons we do not like to learn."

He nodded first to me, then to Artoch.

"We will ... strive to be more cautious,

but we will not hide.


We will not watch from the hilltop


while our soldiers fight our battles below us."

He sat down cross-legged on the rug.

"Sit with us. Eat with us. But no more advice.

Not tonight."


It is hard not to admire him,

but I do my best not to show it.