Today's Story by Shehnaz Khan

I once loved the fortresses, the power and the sway.


I envy you your leisure, my friend! I wish I could indulge with you in watching hawks circle at midday or the trees dance in the breeze, but even a moment’s sway seems too dangerous to contemplate – if we are to ride this beast of city-state. Surrounded by dukes and princes who strive to have us submit and call them lord. Oh, they may send gifts and offers of friendship, but to trust their words and marvel at their trinkets would only cause us harm.

The army must be closely watched. We must always be at the ready to defend or to attack. I can never completely trust the soldiers – they possess no deeper loyalty than the attachments they form with gold coins. The merchants need appeasing on a daily basis it seems – but their gold and silver coins supply us with so much, expanding our reach beyond our cozy borders, it needs be that we supply them our attention whatever the cause or complaint.

There are always waves of need, the next one formed and ready to break before the previous one has been completely spent.

Did you receive the paintings I sent? And the books and the spices? I wonder if you liked them. I took care of the packaging myself. Who could know how many hands and countries these things traveled to get to us – it seemed to me the objects had collected the dust and sights and smells of the long route here.

How I wish to have you beside me at all times, to look up and see your beautiful form – then it would not matter how many tedious hours were spent in the mindless chatter of courtiers or the snake-tongues of emissaries.

I once loved the fortresses, the power and the sway – but no longer, since these now only conspire to keep me away from you.


Shehnaz Kahn lives in California and writes things that persistently buzz around her head. She loves magical realism.

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