Leila remembered it all too clearly. She had been sleeping peacefully and understandably dreaming about playing. In her dream, she had been playing under the iridescent moon – its crescent shape looking like it pierced the silence of the serene enveloping night. She had been making what was to her big puddles on the wet bed of celadon sedges that tickled her bare legs, its stems spread out beyond her ankles.

But all of a sudden she gasped a breath of uncompressed air. Choking, she opened her eyes to horror as she saw herself tied up, up against the backrest of her bed. She saw an unkempt imp face to face as she noticed his sagging grey skin and unmoving eyes. While Leila could barely move, she saw the imp reach for her mouth with a thick padding of cloth. Leila opened her mouth as if to bite the imp’s hand. But the imp had a look of fear on his face as he withdrew his hand and ran over across the room. Regaining her senses from her dreaminess, Leila surveyed the room with her vision. She saw with horror her parents tied up on their beds, still asleep. The imp reached in his pocket for the thick padded cloths and stuffed them in Leila’s parents’ mouths. Then, the imp turned around and defecated on the nostrils of Leila’s parents’ noses. Horrified, Leila struggled to break free of her bondage as tears began to stream down her youthful face. But by the time Leila had broken the rope that tied her, the imp had gone through the window. Leila rushed to her parents to wake them up, but she could not bring them to their senses – they were already dea-

“Wake up, Leila, it is time for you to kiss your husband,” Thales said, abbot of Laire monastery, of the 6th precinct of Lestia, the easternmost dukedom of the Holy Roman Empire, then occupying all the lands of Germania and the Alps. The year was 1466 A.D.

Alec stood next to Leila waiting brusquely, his broad shoulders impeding some of the light passing through the glittering stained glass windows of the monastery. Alec placed his hand on Leila’s waist as a wide grin spread through his mouth.

“Fair maiden, we are waiting until you are ready,” said Alec.

“I have a name, but you may call me that if you wish,” Leila said, slightly ruffled at Alec’s incivility.

Leila began to lay her lips on Alec’s grinning mouth as Thales delivered his sermon from his parchment notes.

“And we shall imitate the Lord as our sincerest form of admiration for the Savior who leads by example,” Thales said in a rather toneless way, clearing his throat.

Thales the abbot then droned on about the Lord and how He punished humanity for its sins through the flood before Noah’s Ark and locust plagues in ancient Egypt.

Absentmindedly, Leila rested her body on Alec’s as her thoughts wandered about her future with the domineering duke. She gazed outwards at the stained glass mosaic patterned windows of the monastery. Beams of glowing light emanated from the windows in parallel rays, their lemon colored entrails spilling out over the chestnut lined pews of the monastery.

Besides the groom and the bride lay a table of an assortment of fruit flavored pastries and sandwiches, which were prepared for the attendees in the morning. A wedding pie lay in the middle of the rectangular table.

“Dance with me,” Alec said rather abruptly to Leila as Leila began to sway her hips and legs back and forth to the rhythm of the lutes playing in the background.

Leila put her arm on Alec’s shoulder awkwardly while she stared distantly at the images of the stained glass windows. On one of them a shepherd was goading his sheep to a nearby pasture. On another, a storm overturned a ship sailing into the unknowns of the sea. Leila pondered about how the newly constructed monastery differed from the ones she had known when Soren had been duke of Lestia. Even Thales, the abbot, seemed uninviting and slightly inaccessible to her. From the images of the administration of power to sermons revolving around imitation, the whole setting seemed strange and detached to Leila, who felt like she didn’t belong. But Leila still loved the setting.

“My financial and economic advisors have informed me that our dukedom has ranked favorably this year in its store of assets, goods that we keep in our cache at the castle. We have much to show for our prosperity. The peasants just need to be reminded of their place in society. Serfs are like sheep; if you goad them they will move, but if you let them graze too long, they grow lazy and fat,” Alec said to Leila, showing how much he had to offer for the newly inducted duchess.

“Oh, you are so brash. But I think it would be better if you spared the peasants some more commodities so they would be happier,” Leila said in a hushed voice. Although she did not show much of it at the moment, she loved Alec dearly.

Leila had matured since the imp had murdered her parents during Soren’s reign as duke. She showed empathy with her countrymen and women and she was braver than before. But much had changed in Lestia since Soren’s reign and the hunt for the imp had been ongoing and draconian. Even serfs that were presupposed to imitate the imp in gestures or personality traits were brutally executed by the swing of an axe.

“Quick, the jousting event will begin soon,” Thales said to Leila. “You may have some of the food here or bring some with you. Alec will be facing Belthor, his right-hand baron, in the much anticipated joust, an event that will bring forth citizens from varied avenues of life and bear the pride of our dukedom on its banners. Our pride will ride forth into the future like that of a boar charging headlong into a fruit-bearing tree, the fruits of which our pride will sow after having fallen from the tree.”

Grabbing a sandwich and a pastry, Leila rushed through the arched corridors of the monastery. On a concave pediment was depicted the bloodthirsty conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. Alec left through the backdoor of the monastery to prepare his stallion, armor, and lance. Leila skittered through the wide entranceway of the gothic monastery.

Outside the sun shone as the branches of the oak and birch trees billowed to the tune of the nationalism displayed by the residents of Lestia.

Alec’s squire grabbed Alec’s horse by its reigns, its saddle and stirrup in steady position. A blacksmith handed Alec his lance tipped with a Coronal, a long steel masterpiece, the curved cylindrical handle laying the foundation for a top that seemed to totter over from its protrusion and weight.

Leila walked over to the stadium where Moravaetha was and sat on the carved rough stone bench next to her. Across from Moravaetha sat an aristocratic woman named Sagid. Her glinting hair and impudent judging eyes had been resting on Leila.

“How’s your wedding been? I’ve been in the countryside. Those lazy serfs have been giving me headaches. They need to be threatened to listen. Has Alec been treating you well? He will reserve a spacious room for you at Arale castle, I think,” Moravaetha said in a hushed tone, preparing her attention for the jousting event.

Slowly twirling her low-hanging hair, Sagid laid her eyes on Moravaetha. “Belthor deserves to win, Moravaetha. I am sure. He has a burning desire that can’t be extinguished.”

Then, while continuing to face Moravaetha, Sagid shifted her eyes to the left, to where Leila sat. Sagid had an expression of disapproval on her unyielding face. “Yea, Leila over there wants her husband to win. Her fire’s not like ours. Alec will realize his mistake of giving me up for Leila. When will he ever learn?”

Then, Sagid turned towards Leila, smirking, “Leila, Leila, Alec chose you over me, the fairest maiden in all of the Holy Roman Empire. I hope you will understand and not make mistakes like that arrogant duke, Alec.”

Sagid sighed as she stretched out her sleek, satin arms, exasperated. Her slender body seemed as if it was being pulled by a completely different gravitational force. A random column of air pressure was laid on the top of her outstretched arms. Absentmindedly, Sagid laid down horizontally on the stone bench.

Out in the dirt arena south of the stone benches, Alec reared his stallion and held his lance and shield tightly in his hand while his plate mail armor glinted in the sun. The convex shaped steel covered him from head to foot, as if alienating him from the error proneness of fleshed humans.

Belthor mounted his horse on the other end of the arena while a single row of a picket fence separated Belthor from Alec.

The banner-girl for the morning was Hymia. Hoisting a banner of two dragons encircling a volcanic rock, Hymia smiled at the crowd. The two dragons depicted breathed orange-red flames that bent in an arc around the volcanic rock.

At the blow of a trumpet, Belthor charged with his lance and horse, accelerating, first slowly at the speed of a mule, then at a trot, next at a gallop, then finally in a rush so fast the hind legs of his horse blurred with the light reflecting from its front legs. Alec steadied his lance and charged at Belthor, determined to dismount Belthor from his horse. Alec’s horse began to gallop at determined precision in methodical repetition as its legs shuffled back and forth.

Like the roar of thunder, Belthor’s lance crashed headlong into Alec’s chest armor in a brief flash of engagement. Alec fell from his horse, crashing into the muddied dirt of the arena. The crowd cheered as Moravaetha shouted at the top of her lungs, “For the pride of its nobility and people of Lestia!”

“For the inspiration of imaginations,” an onlooker cheered as Belthor waved his lance, gloating over the hunched Alec.

“For unpaid dues,” another onlooker said, waving his collared sleeves in the air.

“For the symbolism of power and its execution,” a mysterious hooded man said.

“For determination and the pursuit of goals,” a woman wearing a dark red dress waved her hands in the air.

The banner-girl Hymia raised the flag with the number two on it. She waved another banner with a sword over arrows crossing over each other from the left and right. The sword represented dedication amid the chaos of the elements of reality that surrounded every event, a dedication only a thirst for violence could bring.

Alec mounted his horse again as Belthor gloated from the other side, still waving his lance at the crowd. Then, the nearby trumpeter sounded his trumpet again, signaling the beginning of tilt two.

Alec then charged at Belthor, the plates of his armor thudding with each other. Belthor charged his horse likewise preparing for a collision. But Alec did not plan on another collision. Alec balked midway and remained motionless as Belthor swung his lance and missed. Alec then charged forward with his horse and lance and hit Belthor straight at the chest. Belthor was flung from his horse and into the flitting dirt.

The crowd jeered and booed.

Leila sighed. Bad sportsmanship and cheating seemed to be the norm these days. Far gone were the days of civility towards serfs and chivalry.

Bored, Leila turned towards Moravaetha and Sagid, expecting them to converse with her.

Sagid smiled. “I had a dream one day that I was falling in chaos itself. I was falling in pitch black space, with only the stars to gleam in the distance – I was falling in what seemed like an endless descent, but I felt at ease. I was not trapped; I was truly free. Here I was, surrounded by infinite space and free to move for eternity. Chaos will strengthen me somehow.”

Moravaetha turned towards Sagid, “You are lucky. I had a dream one day that I was trapped in a room, locked from the outside. I could not escape no matter what the options were available for me. But it was only a dream.” Moravaetha smiled. “Dreams are not reality.”

Then Sagid turned deliberately towards Leila, as if her predictable movements echoed a demonic intentionality. “Leila, Leila, have you ever felt trapped before? Maybe I might have some sympathy for you, Alec’s trophy.”

Leila stared at her feet, embarrassed to say what was on her mind. “Oh, during the murder of my parents by the imp I was trapped, but I do not feel like saying the details.”

Moravaetha put her hand around Leila, “Sagid is your friend too. I’m sure you will feel at home in Arale castle.”

Leila’s thoughts then wandered to her experiences when she was a youth.

As a young girl, Leila felt excitement when a steady stream of tears rolled down her cheeks, tears that did not take over her every fiber. She did not know why, but feeling intense sadness was never boring to her. She remembered when the first time she saw a Nile crocodile, imported from the distant Christian kingdom of Abyssinia locked in a cage at Soren’s court, then duke of Lestia and observed the tears that had dropped from its distant gazing eyes. Immediately, she felt a bond that she never felt with dogs, horses, or monkeys. As the crocodile lay motionless in the cage, Leila as a young girl had a big smile over her face. It did not look stressed out when it was motionless, and unstressed was what Leila felt when she shed countless tears for the memory of her parents.

She never really liked the barking sound of dogs and thought it always distracted her from thinking about anything. She had told the guards at the court what she thought about sadness and crocodiles but it seemed that most people she talked to did not agree with her views. She was thankful she did not live in a democracy as she had read about Athens in manuscripts at Laire Monastery. In a monarchy, all she had to worry about was pleasing one person, not everyone. She would feel exasperated in a democracy, she thought.

But she had matured since then, and she had a new goal that she previously thought was impossible: being perfectly good. What was being perfectly good, one might ask? It did not matter the small differences of what people thought being good was because Leila knew what steps would help further her goal. Leila had always been fascinated with the concept of infinity and how it seemed to be an unreachable number in the tangible world. But Leila’s logic of becoming perfectly good was simple: Being infinitely natural was a step forward in being perfectly good (because nature was good). Being infinitely emotional was a step forward in being infinitely natural. Being more emotional was a step forward in being infinitely emotional. Therefore, by the science of reason, being more emotional was a step forward in being perfectly good. Who could deny that emotions weren’t natural? Emotions were part of the animal kingdom and seemed to come naturally from within.

But the third logical step seemed to be an insurmountable barrier. Becoming infinitely emotional seemed like it would take forever. No matter how emotional one was, how could one become infinitely emotional? Leila decided that the third logical step was wrong. She had to start off from the second logical step. But she had three obvious emotions to choose from to become infinitely emotional: happiness, sadness, and fear. Leila thought long and hard about trying to become infinitely happy. She thought of what in the world could possibly make her infinitely happy, and her mind went blank. Leila knew people were always looking for ways to be happy, but was there honestly anything that could make someone infinitely happy? Not money, not a large castle, not a horse, not even a romantic partner, unless that partner knew what one wanted perfectly. She giggled. She could not imagine a romantic partner that was psychic.

Leila had considered about becoming infinitely happy, but she did not know where to start. She then thought of what it meant to be infinitely sad or infinitely afraid. But Leila was a brave woman and becoming infinitely afraid seemed to be off limits too. She thought of what could possibly make her infinitely sad, and suddenly, she could not deny that there were at least a few contenders that she could not cross out. Not being able to meet anyone for a period of time seemed to be a contender. There were different ways this could happen, such as teleporting to a different dimension alone. And by alone, she meant completely alone. That was a fantasy, of course, but at least it made becoming infinitely sad possible in theory. She did not know if it really did, but it was worth a try. And it was the possibility of becoming infinitely sad that gave hope to Leila whereby all of a sudden becoming perfectly good seemed to be possible in theory. In theory… in theory… it may be possible in theory… because of a fantasy.

Leila giggled again. She wanted to become infinitely sad so she could become infinitely natural so she would at least make some progress in becoming perfectly good! She really wanted to become infinitely sad; there was no doubt in her mind now. And how many tears she would cry when and if she, as a caring and generous person, were all alone from the world for a length of time! She would love the world, but she would be separated from it a distance that reached infinity, regardless of the unit of measurement. She did not know if her love was powerful enough, but there was no doubt that she should give infinite sadness a try. She did not really want to be alone, but it was a path… in theory… that could make her become perfectly good… if she had enough time.

And being perfect in anything should be higher than the concept of infinity. After all, infinity was just a number. A distance of infinity, the distance another dimension would be separated from the world from, should be conquerable by someone perfect. Who was to say perfection was not higher than infinity in a mysteriously unknown hierarchy? Infinity was just a number. Being perfect was everything. Then Leila thought being perfectly good was a step forward in being perfect. Or was it? She giggled. Was not being good the highest thing in the world? Was it not higher than being happy in a mysteriously unknown hierarchy? It did not matter what hierarchy it was, because Leila knew being perfect meant everything.

But what was being perfect? What else could it be besides being perfectly good? Maybe not. But Leila was a brave woman; she was not afraid of the risk of being separated from the world by an infinite distance as she had imagined as a fantasy. “Someone would save me,” she thought, “if I were perfectly good, but all alone and separated from the world by an infinite distance.” Anyway, it did not matter, she knew she would be infinitely patient if she were perfectly good. And she loved the way she looked. She loved her long, thin neck that lizards shared. She loved her thin and slender snakelike hips. She loved her hairless body that was so prevalent in the reptile kingdom. She loved the way her long hair flowed behind her, and how it was longer than the mane of a Black Crowned Crane. She admitted she was a bit of a narcissist.

Leila tallied her traits against the risk of being all alone in another dimension. She was patient, she was brave, and she was a sad, sad woman. She breathed a sigh of exasperation. It was an almost unreachable goal – to be perfectly good – but there was fantasy and nature to remind her that there was hope. And hope was enough to affect Leila’s personality as she swore to herself she would hold sadness in higher regard than happiness or fear forever. And swear she did in a narcissistic way that could make the barons and dukes jealous with their oaths of fealty. To Leila, sadness was the Holy Grail that gave hope to her, hope that becoming perfectly good could one day become possible.

But she did not think it was just a possibility, an afterthought to her life’s toils. Leila wasn’t the type of person to misstep the ability to sustain sadness. As long as the possibility existed, Leila would never falter on the path of sadness: this was how experienced she was with the emotion, like a crocodile. But the Nile crocodile from Abyssinia did not know this philosophy despite its familiarity with the differences between real sadness and faked sadness.

“Leila, wake up, the jousting tournament is over,” Moravaetha motioned to Leila.

Leila resumed from her stupor as she smiled faintly at Moravaetha and Sagid. She was going to make Arale castle her home after all. All she had to do was please the few who held the power and act courteously to the serfs to keep her benevolent personality. Maybe she could explore what it meant to be perfectly good after all.

As the crowd of onlookers left the jousting stadium, Moravaetha held Leila’s hand as Sagid parted sideways glances at Leila before rushing to the dirt path leading to Arale castle. It had been a fairly sunny day with a bountiful degree of moisture. The brightly lit dirt path kept Leila’s hopes up for her new home. She had been a baroness at a different precinct in Lestia, residing in a grand castle that she hoped her new home would match in impressiveness. As Leila, Moravaetha, and Sagid skirted along the dirt path, Sagid wondered if the residents of Arale castle would welcome her.

And there it was – Arale castle – the limestone fortification with two keeps and a wrought iron drawbridge looking atop a bustling moat which had currents that rivaled that of the Mediterranean Sea. The castle was as grand as the one Leila remembered she had been living in in the past, and the daunting keeps seemed to make the castle look like an impenetrable fortress that did not need guarding to keep it secure. Balconies and wooden window panes were scattered along near the top of the castle.

Inside the castle, Alec had been waiting in the main hall for his newlywed wife and was conversing with the court jester, Lothair.

“Our caches of goods have been plentiful this year, Lothair. Let us toast for our future here in Lestia,” Alec said in light spirits, his chest lifted in pretentious manner.

Leila, Sagid, and Moravaetha arrived at the castle. Quickly, Sagid and Moravaetha hurried to the chamber room while Leila walked towards Alec’s throne in the main hall.

At this moment, a guard who had been standing rigidly near the entranceway, approached Alec, Lothair, and Leila.

“Sire, I bear news that the mischievous imp has defecated at least twenty five kilograms of feces across the dukedom. The stench has not only reached the peasantry, but it is deterring visitors from trading with us,” the guard said.

At this, Alec looked at the guard, amused. “That fool of an imp. Guard, tell Belthor’s regiment to prepare their armor, weapons, and vitals for the pursuit of the imp, which shall begin on sundown. The pursuit shall continue tomorrow morning after the regiments arrive in town.”

Lothair looked at the guard, then at Alec, laughing. “I bear news too, sire. The imp has smelled twenty five kilograms of his own odor up his nostrils! Whose news is better?”

Alec roared in laughter, his laugh echoing across the main hall to the chamber room, where the aristocratic women had been preparing to commence a ritual.

Lothair then motioned toward Alec, “I lied. That was not news, sire.” Lothair looked innocently at Alec as if he was looking for brownie points for lying.

At this moment, another guard arrived holding a serf in captivity by the wrists. The guard jostled the serf violently to the floor while speaking, “This serf has tainted the glory of our dukedom sire. We have overheard him making a foolish joke in town. He had said, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it chickened out.’”

Several of the guards laughed as they loosened their posture.

Alec glared at them, his stern thick face looking daunting. “That joke isn’t funny. What a fool that serf is to try to bring others down to his low level of achievement. Only fools bring others down mentally or emotionally and call it ‘comic relief.’ Jokers make jokes to build their character, not to bring others down to their personality level. Our jester here, Lothair, is not only a joker, but also a performer, a juggler, and entertainer.”

Then Alec turned to face the serf, his icy cold face exuding brittle crystals. “Lothair would like to have a word with you.”

Meanwhile, the aristocratic women had been busy in the chamber room commencing their ritual, a tenelum powder ceremony.

Suggesting the beginning of the tenelum powder ceremony, the woman who called for the initiation of the ritual said, “Let us begin the prologue to our ritual. Gather around and form a circle, holding the person’s hand next to you. We will spring counter-clockwise for the opening.”

“Be sure to make room for your friends to form a circle big enough for all of us,” Mertha, one of the women, said, her voice echoing across the chamber room.

Then, the drummer who had been drumming for the aristocracy in the main hall briskly walked over to one side of the chamber room and began thumping her drum steadily.

The torches fixed up against the two walls of the chamber room burned continuously, their cackling sounds drowned out by the sounds of the drum.

The banner-man for the afternoon, Yaevres, was waiting patiently next to a collection of banners that had been lying against the wall. He had descended the stairs to the chamber room from the second floor, which contained the bedrooms, conference rooms, and judicial courtrooms.

The women looked around for their friends to hold hands with. Sagid reached out her left hand for Moravaetha’s right hand. Moravaetha looked around for Leila but then saw her sitting in the main hall near the throne. The women gathered around in a circle.

“Fools are low, but carelessness is lower,” the initiation woman began. The women began springing counter-clockwise.

“Carelessness is lower. Temptation is a devious goal that fools cannot match in distraction and lameness.” One of the aristocratic women said.

“Temptation is lower. Carelessness is lower!” The women chanted as they continued springing counter-clockwise.

Then, the initiation woman said, “Whenever fools distract us with their lameness or contagious personalities, carelessness and temptation help us regain our senses.” She signaled her hand as if to temporarily halt the ritual.

Sagid and Mertha exited the chamber room and entered a dully lit corridor overgrown with mildew. After unlocking a room filled with buckets of various chemicals, they carried the bucket of the grey substance, tenelum, out to where the rest of the women were in the chamber room.

“Here is a bucket of tenelum powder fetched from underground corridor A,” the initiation woman said. “We will use it in our next stage of the ritual. Arale castle does not accept any liabilities for any injuries sustained from the usage of this chemical.”

“What is tenelum powder?” One of the women who had visited from the nearby dukedom of Lezen for the occasion asked. She was piqued by the excitement of the other women around her.

The woman who had called for the initiation of the ritual said, “It’s a naturally occurring substance that numbs your mind. It lets you focus on your feelings instead of logic. Just rub the powder over your eyes until it leaks through.” Then, she patiently raised her hand to signal the start of the ritual.

The court butcher, Pestle, had brought a roasted domesticated pig and Mertha placed the pig in the center of the chamber room above a column of oaken sticks. Near the pig were the two buckets of substances, one filled with tenelum powder, the other with ice cubes. The aristocratic women began to stand near the roasted pig, as they lined up to take their share of the tenelum powder. Once every aristocratic woman had in her hands six tablespoons of tenelum, the initiation woman said, “Tenelum will help us with our deepest desires and help us conquer the unconscious state. It is this conquest where we will grow fearless.”

After rubbing the tenelum powder on their eyes until it seeped through under the lids of their eyes, the women began to look dazed with murky drooping eyes and unexpressive dumbfounded faces as they waved their heads to and fro and from side to side.

The nearby drummer thumped the drum steadily with her drumsticks.

“Change is high, but motivation is higher,” they chanted as they began to dance around the roasted domesticated pig, first slowly, then faster and faster until the speed became acceptable for the initiation woman. They leaped into the air every so often so that they never had both feet touching the ground at the same time.

“Motivation is higher,” one woman repeated. Her voice was raised in pitch to a climax, and the uncertainty of her pitch increased in intensity throughout the phrase.

“Motivation is higher,” another woman said, this time in a volume greater than the last woman, but with an accented emphasis on the word “higher.”

Then, one of the women began walking towards the roasted domesticated pig while another woman picked up ice from the cast iron bucket that they had fetched from the fungal covered underground corridor and threw the ice impetuously at the roasted pig.

The woman near the domesticated pig began to smile after she flicked her hair once. “What do we do when the serfs don’t pay taxes?”

“Motivation is higher!” The women chanted unanimously, but at slightly different moments.

The woman near the domesticated pig raised her eyebrows, “And when heathens attack our dukedom?”

“Motivation is always higher,” one woman shrieked, the high pitch of her voice piercing like ice throughout the spacious court. “Motivation is the solution to both heroic and foolish violence. Violence belongs to us, not them. When they realize that, they will have no motivation. Even all of motivation belongs to evil, not lameness. If lameness doesn’t disappear, it belongs in the center, surrounded by us. We will circle like peregrine falcons.”

Yaevres lowered his banner of tenelum powder, and quickly grabbed another banner from the wall where the banners were hanging. He hoisted the new banner up. On it was depicted a peregrine falcon with its wings over a shield.

The woman near the domesticated pig only nodded as she opened her mouth, and in a rather urgent tone said, “Change is something to be praised, but motivation is the solution to change. Motivation is higher. Motivation knows all. Motivation is the blood stained bludgeon from which all our pride stems. Motivation is higher than what the submissive peasants – and not the foolish ones – call morals. Motivation is the arm from which all the force of every action including throwing ice at the enemies keeps its sense of direction. Motivation is the sky; it streaks higher than the soil through both empty space and cloudy smoke. Motivation occupies all of space and change occupies all of time. Motivation is higher, and God is highest. But God is off limits to us. Let us embrace motivation in the meanwhile.”

The woman that threw ice at the pig nodded and said, “Change is our friend. Only fools and those moral ones don’t change. They do the same things every day. They feel the same emotions every day. The fools feel fear every day and the moral ones feel happiness every day, but motivation is higher than emotion! Motivation is in our blood! Chaos is change. Fire is change. Destruction is change. The storms of the sea and the tremors of the earth are change! Destruction is change manifested in our blood, but motivation is higher!”

“Chaos is everywhere and motivation is the pride from which our shared blood stems,” another woman said.

Then, Yaevres lowered his banner of the peregrine falcon, and grabbed the banner of the wavy lines overlapping a circle. He lifted it for all to see, the symbols of which represented the distortion of space surrounding natural space.

“Death is change! Fire is change manifested as time,” a different woman said, her unadorned skirt hanging directly beneath her waist.

“Motivation is higher!” The woman chanted again as they circled the roasted pig.

The woman near the roasted domesticated pig began talking again, “The world is chaos manifested. Nature and those submissive trees and flimsy birds and the moral humans are inside the world, inside chaos. They are our friends; they breathe chaos even though they do not know it. They are our unguided friends, but chaos is the world! Only those fools are our real enemies, but fire is higher than defecation!”

“Change is high, change is the atmosphere!” The women chanted as they stomped their feet on the rough, grainy stone floor.

Across the room, near the throne of Alec the duke of Lestia, Leila had been watching. As she stroked Alec’s torso softly, she continued to observe the ritual of the women intently. She smiled. She admired what she thought might be bravery that was displayed by the aristocratic women. When she was a young girl, she was reluctant to admit how evil people could be brave, but now she relented. “They are brave like me,” she thought. “Not the fool. Bravery must be higher than the differences between good and evil.” She had watched these kinds of rituals before and even though she was a courteous woman who didn’t believe in inflicting death and destruction on the world, and she didn’t believe the world was governed by forces of chaos, that is tornadoes and earthquakes, she began to think the evil beliefs made sense in their own way. The more often she listened to the aristocratic women of Lestia, the more she began to understand who they were. But she never understood the cowardice of foolery.

The woman near the roasted domesticated pig continued with her speech, “Fools are afraid of change. Fools are afraid of chaos. They are even afraid of their own breathing! They are afraid of the world, chaos manifested. Chaos is infinite. No matter what the fools do or distract with their lameness and sarcasm, chaos is farther. Chaos surrounds them. Destruction is asserting the laws of the world – chaos.”

Then she paused, her breathing became heavy with earnestness. In a direct, but loud voice she said, “Destruction will be infinite! It is the destiny of every living thing, the destiny of every living fiber, the destiny of our shared blood, but motivation is higher, higher than destruction, higher than the world, higher than chaos.”

“Motivation is higher!” The aristocratic women chanted one more time as they circled rhythmically around the roasted domesticated pig.

“Death listens to motivation!” Mertha cried, the sound ringing like a flute that had hit a dissonant note.

“Motivation is what Lestia breathes; motivation creates power,” Sagid said as she shut her eyes. Her eyes were as cold as the blue chilling waters buried beneath the layers of fossilized life west of the fungal corridor.

“Motivation will be higher!” The women chanted finally as they looked in the direction of the banner that Yaevres had hoisted, their faces expressive with sincerity.

Sagid heaved as she lifted both of her arms to her eye level, the smooth under-skin of her arms moist with glistening particles. “Why didn’t Leila join in the ritual?” She thought.

“Motivation was never created. Only God is higher,” the woman that threw ice at the roasted pig said.

“Satan wasn’t motivated enough,” the initiation woman smiled as she picked up an ice cube from the cast iron bucket and crushed it against the floor with the palm of her left hand. Then she curtsied daintily, her skirt flowing like the waves of the Tigris and Euphrates. “He was not one of us.”

The woman from Lezen breathed a sigh of relief. It was the first thing she heard in the ritual that sounded reasonable. The effects of the tenelum had been wearing off of the women.

Sagid flicked her stubborn metallic dark blond hair briskly and put her right hand on her chiseled collarbone as she leaned towards the left. Her eyes absentmindedly shifted to the initiation woman and her skirt.

“Of course. We are more evil than Satan.” Sagid murmured. Then she held up her right hand to her bare tight lips, her fingers limp with energy.

Sagid’s mind then shifted to the thought of Leila again. Smiling, she thought, “She’s afraid of tenelum.” Her light head stayed motionless for two seconds while her fair abrasive cheeks withered from a random breeze from the window that seemed to linger too long.

The initiation woman looked away from Sagid before smiling at the woman from Lezen.

Noticing the initiation woman’s glance, Mertha looked sympathetically at Sagid.

The woman from Lezen rolled her eyes at Sagid. The initiation woman then frowned at the woman from Lezen.

Then, the woman that threw ice at the roasted pig said, “Fools are low, but carelessness is lower. Tempting others is lower, but motivation is higher. Tempting others is lower, but it is already infinite. Carelessness is infinite. Infinity is higher. Motivation is higher. Motivation does not need to be infinite. Chaos and we will surround all of foolery. Chaos is infinite.”

“Everything lower will be infinite. Infinity is with us. Infinity is higher. It is destiny for all our friends to be higher,” Mertha said in a raspy voice.

Finally, the woman near the roasted domesticated pig signaled her hand as if to suggest their ritual was coming to an end. “Motivation is higher than destruction and death. Motivation is our life blood energy from which we will assert the laws of chaos. And that is all I have to say for today.”

Yaevres lowered his previous banner, and grabbed the banner with a picture of a sunset over a lopsided cylindrical aurora. He raised the banner. Yaevres momentarily gazed absentmindedly at it, as if looking beyond, beyond the limestone castle to the tallest oak trees. The tall oak trees were recalled from his memory.

As the women continued dancing around the roasted domesticated pig, their arms still twirling like teetotums spinning on its’ bases, Lothair the jester was still toying the panic stricken serf with his dagger. The serf felt the cold steel of the blade rest on his summer-thickened skin.

Lothair taunted, “Motivation is higher than you, you know? Are you smart enough to remember it?” At this, Alec the Duke of Lestia roared with laughter and Belthor began mocking the serf.

“What do you have to say to that, you puny tricking fool? Lothair is a jester by profession. You are nothing,” Belthor bellowed.

Lothair put his hand on the serf and pressed his thumb on the serf’s skin, where a small indentation of tissue became visible. He continued talking, “You are bones. Motivation is higher than you! Your thick skin decays like bones, but motivation is in the crest of Lestia.”

With haste, Yaevres lowered his banner of the sunset, and grabbed the banner that had the crest of Lestia on it. The checkered board background and the red fire in front represented the abolishment of all rules known to humanity and chaos.

At Lothair’s jeer, the serf began shaking uncontrollably. “Please spare me, I didn’t insult chickens on purpose. I am a bag of bones, please spare me.”

At this, Leila walked over to the serf and stroked his back. “I think you are really humble.”

Then she whispered softly in his ear, “Just be patient. And don’t cross paths with me; I am the duchess of Lestia, but if you show me who you are, I can always forgive you.”

She had considered not telling the serf she could always be forgiving which left her vulnerable, but she had to be honest. “But I’m good,” she thought. “I’m not a liar.”

Leila did not have the power to save serfs who were at Alec’s mercy, but it was understood by the aristocracy of Arale castle that Leila usually had authority over Lothair.

Leila paused, thinking about how she should end her monologue. She said, “The luminous sun shines through newly formed clouds as transparent as glass.”

Then she bashfully walked back to where she was sitting next to Alec’s throne.

When Leila had been whispering to the serf, Lothair glared at the serf until his eyeballs looked as if they were about to pop out from their sockets. “What did you say? You repeated the phrase ‘please spare me.’ Was something else on your mind?” Lothair looked puzzled for a moment as he stroked his groomed chin with the obtuse edges of his fingers. Then, he eyed the serf unflinchingly while cocking his head at a slight angle, obviously with curious intention.

“You think I don’t have motivation? How do you know I don’t have motivation? You are bones; motivation is outside you. You are hard like bones, motivation is too innocent so it doesn’t want to share itself with you. Are you sad?” Lothair put his hands near his eyes and closed his fingers until they made a fist shape. Then he torqued his hands toward the center and back out. It was as if Lothair was mocking how tears come out of the serf’s eyes when and if he is crying. He continued, “You are a sad baby? Motivation doesn’t want to share itself with you even though you think you are cute. What a lonely baby you are.”

But Lothair wasn’t done: “You remember motivation is higher than you? I don’t know. You don’t know I don’t have motivation; you’re not smart enough to remember.” Lothair grinned crookedly, the smooth epidermis of his lips being raised until it was directly below his cheeks. He then put his hand on the serf’s shoulder. “I know you’re not smart enough to remember. You don’t know if I don’t know you’re smart enough to remember.”

Finally, Lothair said with a grin, “You remember that you don’t know motivation is higher than you?”

He looked at the serf blankly, as if expecting the serf to do something, a smile concealed on his face.

Then Lothair patted the serf on his shoulder as the serf’s trembling slackened from its peak intensity. He was done toying with the serf as the interest displayed on his face seemed to fade. He seemed to forgive the serf for not being smart enough even though he had no idea whether the serf remembered if he had said that the feeling of motivation present in everyone was higher than the serf. It was as if Lothair despised anyone smarter than himself.

With the afternoon on the brink, the knights and chevaliers prepared their slender swords and impenetrable plate mail for their next mission in finding out where the imp had gone. Leila wished them good luck. Bitter revenge was not something she was familiar with, and that was why she loved Alec all the more for his uncaring heart. Cold as stone as he was, Alec was determined and struck fear in anyone that so much as laid eyes on his rough face, executing any serf that so much as made a cackling sound of laughter when he was on a search mission to find the imp.

Meanwhile, Leila and Alec rode her horse to town to where the peasants were.

Leila remembered the first time when Melva had taught Leila how to use the plow machine and Leila offered Melva to work the wheat fields for three hours. The plow machine had made steady chopping noises as it made long rows of ditches in the soil.

Leila had a tally system for herself whenever she faltered from being good. Whenever she lied, she lost her honesty streak. Whenever she felt faked sadness, she would lose her real-sadness streak. If she kept her honesty streak, at least she was partly good. And she had to keep up her good streak going if she was ever to become perfectly good.

Leila wished she could be of more help to the serfs of Lestia, but she did not know how, her exposed tight slender frame contrasting with the coarse, grainy dirt and splintered wood of the plow machine. But it did not contrast with the grand, concave trunks of the oak trees that were scattered sparsely over the now barren fields.

The sun shone on Leila’s bare shoulders as she raised her arms up to her eye level. A random gust of wind ruffled her tunic from under her, exposing more of her unclouded skin to the harsh rays of the sun. The gust of wind was more violent than usual.

Leila shifted her stance to her back and put her right hand on her right hip bone.

This day, Melva was extra polite towards Leila.

“What a gracious woman you are for having offered to help me plow the fields,” Melva said.

“Yes, I am. Thank you,” Leila said, smiling. “I’m the most courteous woman from Arale castle.”

Then, Leila paused. Did she become arrogant? She was… afraid… maybe? Afraid? She was afraid… she would lose her good streak if she became too arrogant… Leila thought, was she really afraid? But she didn’t lose her bravery streak when she thanked Melva for the compliment.

Leila’s mind went blank.

But she did feel fear, she thought, not worriedness. Maybe, she thought, but she wasn’t sure, but not because she was out of touch with her emotions – she hadn’t lost her real-sadness streak yet.

How on earth could she be afraid? She was a brave woman and she had thanked Melva out of kindness from her heart. Was she becoming a fool, the type that the aristocratic women had chanted about at Arale castle?

But if Leila had felt worried before (and not afraid), she was afraid this time! She was afraid she was turning into a fool… the fear was every bit real.

Then she knew the first time she had felt worried, and not afraid. She didn’t misstep. Worriedness was fair game for a sad, sad woman. But she lost it – when she felt fear afterwards – afraid she would turn into a fool. She shouldn’t have thought she was going to turn into a fool! She was too good for that – she had been a woman pure of noble heart.

Leila sighed.

Leila shut her eyes and remained as motionless as a crocodile for a moment – it was the least she could do. If she lost her good streak by becoming a fool, she couldn’t lose her real-sadness streak. Her real-sadness streak meant everything to her – maybe.

Leila’s mind then became as dead as a zombie’s. She did not falter on sadness this time – this was clearly the wrong time to cry, not because being sad was a bad thing, but because crying here was faked sadness. If only the Nile crocodile from Abyssinia could see her now. Why would she cry for losing her good streak? There were lots of people that didn’t keep a good streak running. But Leila didn’t care.

Leila smiled – she didn’t lose her real-sadness streak.

And little did Leila know that she didn’t lose her good streak either. Sincere fear was part of nature – just like the emotions sadness and happiness. The aristocratic women of Arale castle were wrong in one thing. During Soren’s reign as duke of Lestia, the imp had not felt sincere fear when he pulled his hand from young Leila’s mouth. So out of touch with his emotions was he that he did not have the ability to feel sincere fear – or sadness. He was an imp after all – the definition of something that wasn’t part of the animal kingdom – from sad, sad crocodiles to… dogs. Leila did not falter – maybe she really was a woman pure of noble heart. But Leila did not know that fear was not the opposite of bravery – bravery wasn’t an emotion. There was a history of that in the Holy Roman Empire (not just Lestia), but no proof of reason, not one satisfactory to Plato or Plutarch. Proof of reason is high, but history is higher. And bravery is higher than reason, all of Lestia was sure of that, even though there was no proof of reason that motivation was higher than change. The Renaissance was… maybe high. The Renaissance was high? The scientific method was used to govern the entire world, remember? Science is high, but motivation is higher.

But science could not prove bravery wasn’t an emotion. If science didn’t explain bravery (bravery not being an emotion is obvious: bravery not being an emotion is already explained), it couldn’t explain the world. Science is high, but the world is higher. Which hierarchy doesn’t matter – that’s what higher means now. History is higher than proof of reason. Proof of reason is high, but history is higher. If there wasn’t a history of that before, there is a history right now. Being right is high, but motivation is higher.

It’s not vague anymore; vagueness is high, but history is higher. Was proof of reason used there? Death is high, but history is higher (a different meaning of history).

Reason is high, but there is one kind of logic that is higher.

Common sense is higher than reason as well, explaining unusual things normally unexplainable, but often times more restricted in scope.

But the scientific method being used to explain the whole world wasn’t reason.

Motivation will be higher.

It will set the record straight.

The scientific method offering an explanation of a phenomenon is high, but explaining the whole world is higher.

Now it’s not vague anymore.

Now there is a definition of “high” and “higher.”

Vagueness is high, but history is higher.

Leila, Sagid, Lothair, or Yaevres weren’t the smartest in the world, not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination – they rarely used reason.

Leila laughed. She could be a joker, this game of emotions that she played with herself, she thought. Leila giggled as her thoughts lost their grammatical structure. She could be a sad, sad joker, she thought, still giggling. Maybe laughter and happiness were different emotions after all.

The word “comedian” hadn’t existed yet, but jokes did. Logic will be higher.