Story for the Day: Balletrim
Balletrim (Ba-lay-trim) is the northernmost country in the Triumvirate, situated directly below the Sahadin desert, seperating it from Lucentia. Although the land shares its government with Marridon and Sesterna, it shares none of its neighbors' consequence. Balletrim has been a meager fiefdom for hundreds of years, and while Marridon and Sesterna have accomplished much, Balletrim has done very little. When Alasdair is invited to visit the fiefdom on business, he is quite shocked at what he sees:
The party were quickly approaching the Balletrim capital: they had little idea of being half so near their destination, for there had been no residences, no farms nor verdant downs, no branching roads nor slender passes to mark a distant municipality or any nearby village. Where Frewyn had plains of rippling wheat bowing and fawning under the power of the mountain gales, there was only desolace here: brown swards dotted with pale patches of dried grass, a thick grey mist billowing up from the arid ground and pouring over the countryside- or what must be a countryside- and a shrill howl skirting the warm gusts, whipping past the nothingness that made the lands of Balletrim wholly unprepossessing.
“This cannot be it,” was Alasdair’s wishful declaration, his expression bemused and his mind unbelieving.
“I daresay it is,” said the commander, with half a smile and pointing toward a castle just now peering over the desolate horizon.
Alasdair remained silent, whether from incredulity at the astonishing lack of beauty and brilliancy, or even at the sad want of spirits in the place, he would not distinguish. It seemed all misery to him: devoid of homes, of life, of the gaieties that only a vibrant and well-looking land could promise; it was a barren waste forever in every direction. It was warmer here than in Frewyn, and this Alasdair must praise, but that the land should be so insipid and barren was a growing concern. Balletrim must be under a difficult time indeed to permit itself such desertedness- he checked himself. It was indecorous to assume that every country on the Two Continents suffered from some happiness or wealth, and though Frewyn and Gallei held themselves in a modest quarter in comparison to Livanon, Marridon, Lucentia, Thellis, and Sesterna, he must not suppose that Balletrim, with all its promises of excellent character and agreeable nature, must follow its neighbors.
As they drew closer, Alasdair was given a broader view of the castle grounds. Here was not the prospect of wealth and consequence of Marridon, nor was it the brash overextension of Sesterna, but a small castle, its grey stone stained from want of care, its large bricks cracked under the strain of the dry climate without and dampness within, the surrounding dusts whipping and rising around the building granting an air of desertion to the heinous place. Alasdair had thought that Balletrim’s capital should be a grander prospect with all the amazement of first sight to occasion due wonderment, but upon coming to the gate and perceiving the extent of the keep’s dearth, Alasdair must exclaim his disapprobation for the derelict state in which the surmised capital was kept.
It’s a castle, was Alasdair’s astonished cogitation, the whole of the capital is a mere castle, and this was repeated several times over before it could be believed. There was the surrounding fief and its subsequent downs to furnish the grounds well enough, but this could hardly be called a nation’s capital. He saw now that what he had read of Balletrim was true: disputes over land and its various wars with Sesterna had plunged Balletrim into a strange digression, giving the few victorious Lords reign over the whole of the country, granting the masters of the keeps the title of Lord, all those living as nobles on the fiefdom the distinction of vassal, those labouring on the land the title of villien, those protecting the Lord and officiating in his name the honour of being a knight, and the one Lord of lords, presumably the one with the most consequence and understanding, the Lordship of the realm. How sad a place to be forever confined to so neglectful a state, with feudal rights all dependent upon the temper and manner of one person. He could not deny that Frewyn and Gallei did each of them have their belaboured beginnings, as did many nations of the continents. The Northern Continent was usually subject to disputes concerning internal matters rather than the clan wars and border disagreements of the south, but where Frewyn and Gallei had triumphed from loss, had rebuilt their cities, had grown as a people, and had reclaimed much of their affluence lost, Balletrim seemed to sink under the years of destruction and wretchedness that altercations can produce. Here was a land so desolate as even Alasdair had not fathomed possible. He wished now that he had not brought the chaise, for though it was a modest conveyance, it may be perceived as an extravagance in a land where there seemed a want of prosperity as well as cheer. He wondered at Lord Makmarn’s invitation: the castle was devoid of accoutrements and ornaments to mark the arrival of so esteemed and expected a guest; there were no banners waving from the battlements, no knights or retainers standing at the front gate. There was only a footman at the entrance, who upon seeing the chaise, scurried along the front path toward the castle doors and vanished without giving the party hints as to whether he had left to announce the king’s arrival or to hide from the smirking warrior woman, the well-dressed and therefore intimidating nobleman, and the petrifying giant who was horridly displeased with having to ride in a carriage for the better part of a day when his legs could very well have conveyed him hither. Rautu humphed and flouted at the footman’s disappearance, leaving Alasdair to consider why Lord Makmarn had made an invitation at the first if his fiefdom was in such disrepair. The summons therefore must be regarded as a desperate call for assistance, made to encroach upon Frewyn’s kindness as a last attempt to salvage its financial prowess if there were any integrity to be saved. He pined for some time, owning himself fortunate that his kingdom though ravaged by invasion had never succumb to such dishevelment, but all his agitations soon ceased whereupon leaving the chaise in hopes of being received with due civility he observed the footman bursting forth from within the castle with Lord Makmarn walking behind him, coming in all his state with a train of vassals and their villeins to greet the King of Frewyn.