Sariel nodded, with the same unrelenting smile. “It is a boy,” she said matter-of-factly.
“But…” Chess took her hands, his heart pounding. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“His name will be Jal,” she said, looking past him into the distance. “This means ‘water.’”
Chess regarded her for a long moment. He was shocked, of course, and worried for her. “Water…” he repeated thoughtfully. But he knew that Marcello had been awfully important to her. And it seemed just like Sariel to decide that it was good to carry on Marcello’s genes, hopefully preserving his wisdom and caring -- most likely, without ever having mentioned her decision to Marcello.
And, he reasoned, if anyone was capable of taking care of a child out here, it was probably Sariel. Despite his instinctive reaction of dismay, he tried to be happy for her.
“Named after his father, the water wizard, I guess?” Chess smiled.
Sariel shook her head and gazed at him through lowered eyelids. “Named after his father,” she corrected, “whose essence is like water… who will find the way to his goal anyway he can: flowing like the unstoppable course of water, under, around or through.”
Chess recognized Sariel’s description from another recent story, which had been told about him, and he felt suddenly cold. “No,” he protested, instantly panicked. “No, this can’t be.”
Sariel blinked at him, and her smile wavered.
He stared at her in growing horror, his breath quickening. “No, you can’t do this!” he cried. He jumped to his feet. “We can’t do this -- I can’t…” He gave a wordless cry of frustration, and began to pace in front of her. Then he dropped to his knees again and grabbed her hands. “You can stop this,” he said rapidly, desperately. “You can do that. I know you can!”
Sariel’s smile changed to a look of confusion, but she said nothing. And, in that moment, he was certain that there was no hope of changing her course of action. He felt overwhelmed and powerless.
“Why?” he begged helplessly. “You would give this world another way to hurt me, through my family.” He bent toward her, resting his forehead on her hands, and tried to calm his breathing. “Sar,” he groaned, “you torture me.”
After a minute or two, he rose and paced again. “I have to stay, then,” he said finally. “How can you tell me to go? You need me here.”
Sariel’s expression changed to her usual detached frown. “I do not need you for this,” she told him, waving her hand. “Go. You have done your part. And I have Lilly.”
He had to smile at that, despite all of his terror. “Okay,” he laughed shakily. “Okay, then. What can I say to that? Ileana already knows, then? You two…” He knelt down in front of her again. “Sar, you are just the most… enigmatic…” He sighed. “You’ve already decided. What can I do, then?”
He sat beside her again. He did his best to calm his fears, and the protesting of his brain. He sent a quick, wordless plea to the goddess. And he tried to ignore the echoes of malicious laughter, a foreboding of the future, emanating from somewhere far down in his dark unconscious.
They sat together for a while, until the sun began to set. He put his hand on her belly, and held her close. She seemed so fragile in his arms, now, although he had never thought so before.
Finally, Sariel shifted away from him. “And now…,” she said, tilting her head thoughtfully, “you must break the news to Ileana, of your plans to go.”
Slowly, he got to his feet, still holding her fingers entwined in his. Suddenly, he felt so reluctant to leave her, if only for a little while. Soon he would be leaving them all, and going… where? Did he really want to do this? “Okay,” he breathed, half to himself. “At least, I think I need to try.”
“And when you are out on your wanderings,” Sariel told him, letting her hand drop away from his, “and you think of Lilly…” She grinned up at him. “You can think of her lying next to me.”
“It’s not like that. And I’ll be thinking of you,” Chess whispered, shaking his head. “So, ‘Jal,’ huh?” he murmured. He looked down at her, with her dark hair hanging down in waves, and the last light of the sun glowing on her face. “I love you, too, Sar.” Then he turned and went to find Ileana.
Continued next page...
A great banquet was held, and in the places of honor, beside the two kings and the princess, sat Zar's six companions, now made lords of the land.
“There's just one thing about the whole story which I don't understand,” said the King's steward, who was sitting at the table next to Agus. “Each of you six had something he could do best. It seems to me that it was you who passed the tests, not Zar. What did he do?”
Agus smiled an elephant smile, his small eyes twinkling.
“He did what only a good king can do,” he replied. “He led us.”
- The King with Six Friends by Jay Williams
It is very easy to say that one should question everything, and believe nothing in its entirety. Most of us have the luxury of doing that most of the time. But sometimes, obviously, decisions need to be made, and they can only be made based on the facts at hand. Most often, the responsibility for making big decisions that affect many will fall onto the shoulders of some kind of leader. This is why I have great admiration for people who prove themselves good and thoughtful leaders. We are all free to argue the opposing viewpoints of our technical specialties, but if anything in the world is to get done, at some point, someone must stand up and say this is what we will do.
A leader is the one type of person who can rarely afford the luxury of saying “I don’t know” -- at least not always, although they should definitely be open to differing ideas. Certainly a great leader has to take all the opposing view points and make a definitive decision, and that cannot be easy. In Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how the Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency was made up of political adversaries who held opposing opinions. A situation like this would be difficult to manage and has great potential for failure. But it also had great potential for success because, as the author suggests, it helped the president to make better-informed, and well thought-out decisions. In this case, the “questioning of everything” was built into the system, and the defense of a plan of action had to happen before it was implemented.
Leadership will also be a prized commodity in the future. In part, leadership consists of sizing up all the available information, viewpoints, and options and then choosing the most appropriate one, consistent with certain goals. Leadership becomes especially complicated because it deals with inspiring and providing guidance to human workers, who have their own personal strengths and weaknesses. All these factors require a sophisticated understanding of human nature, market forces, etc., that is beyond the ability of any computer.
- Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku
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