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A Colony in the Hollow Hills

Dreamed 1997/8/14 by Chris Wayan

A small British colony on the edge of a vast, insular, little-known country: Faerie. Despite a fair amount of trade, the colony's still sleepy and rural. It never grew like Hong Kong. A succession of fairly reasonable governors managed to keep peace with the Other Realm, which lies just under the surface of mortal life: trapdoors lie under every stone, to hollow hills with skies of their own.

But Elfland's never quite accepted the colony; over generations, they try spells to influence and erode, bringing the colonials to the brink of war over and over, making peace if offered some modest concession, then waiting for that to become the status quo... then pushing again. Elf-lords don't plan on human time. By now the two economies are interdependent--not inherently a problem. But the British governors have grown resigned to substantial Elvish interference in the borderlands. Not quite annexation, but close. At dusk, a silhouetted horseman enters a glowing cave below a ring of standing stones.

So the colony's de facto border has shrunk, and what's left is terribly vulnerable. Like a fly on an elephant!

And yet... in all these years, the governors never allowed the average resident much more freedom than the Elf-lords might. It seems shameful to me, and shockingly stupid. To deny folk magic, and then not even compensate them with democracy... why should these farmers care for rulers who give them nothing?

I've just been appointed the new governor.

The Elves' long-range plans look painfully obvious to me--I have a more elvish viewpoint, I guess, than the last few bureaucrats. To set things right here, I must first weaken Faerie's threat. So I set out to put the boundary back where it belongs--by a treaty the lords of Faerie are magically bound to. If it's enforced.

I counter-invade! No governor in centuries has dared even to enter the other world, though their folk slip freely into ours, when the whim takes them.

With a few aides, I ride my horse down the path into the twilit borderlands. I tell the human farmers I meet "I'm sent to right things. I should have been here months ago, years earlier, I know--but I'm here now." I ask them for directions to the green hill where it will be decided, the hub of the campaign against humans. They're so used to de facto elvish rule that despite their humanity they hesitate to tell me; they don't trust I can change matters. But at last one decides to take a chance on me; he guides me on down toward the hill.

I intend to do right by these people; previous governors have acted in the interests of the Empire, the ruling class; and the Elves have their concerns. But I have a moral responsibility to free the people who live on the land. I believe I'll prevail because of that.

And that isn't pig-headedness but a conscious choice--for down here, on the borders of Elfland, physics is weak; belief is the root of reality.

And so, sneaky bastard that I am, I believe in justice.

NOTES NEXT MORNING

The dream confirms I should side with the farmers who've suffered most (my body and feelings), NOT with the Empire (force yourself to be productive), NOR with Faerie (withdrawing into art, dreams, and charming others).

And more important still--this isn't about being KINDER to my body. It's about JUSTICE--for a part of me cheated and slowly strangled for years.



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