Thu, 31 Mar 2011

A tale of Tristània and its Quadrennial Royal Ball

In one of the corners of what is now know as Europa, there was a rich, prosperous and beautiful kingdom known as Tristània. In the past, not that long ago, it had been a number of smaller kingdoms and caliphates, all with their own cultures, religions and ways of life. Wars, and series of marriages of convenience eventually configured what ended up being the united kingdom of Tristània. Throughout the years, some of the unified cultures grew and flourished, while others struggled to survive in their ever-shrinking areas of influence.

A required introduction

Sometimes, the minor cultures would suffer due to oppression coming from the delegates of the King, who would ban any expression of these cultures, as they were seen as a potential threat to the kingdom's stability and unity. For example, just a few decades before the main subject of this tale, the predecessor of the incumbent King took power by force, after crushing everyone who opposed his uprise during a bloody and hard civil war. His reign was ruthless and he imposed draconian laws uppon his people: usage and teaching of the minor languages was banned, and everyone was forced to use the language of the Centràlia region, in public or private.

After four decades, the majority of the Tristanian people were sick enough of the situation to consider standing against their fear of the regime and demand freedom, but repression prevailed until the old general died. His place was taken by the King's grandson even if the people had expressed, just before the Great War, that they had had enough kings and demanded a ruler they could choose directly. Of course, the new King seemed a lot nicer than who they had been suffering for ages, so when asked if they accepted the new situation, an overwhelming majority said “yes”.

However, there was a region, Verdàlia, where the majority said “no”. Things were actually more complicated. Verdalians formed a traditional, proud society, and while the years of oppression had undoubtedly weakened it, they had managed to preserve their very unique culture, language and traditions healthy. The Verdal language was really weird to the ears of Centràlians and even other minor cultures of the Kingdom, and erudites struggled to find its real origins, not being able to reach plausible conclusions.

Verdanians, as we already know, were a traditional society, living in a land of deep and poorly connected valleys. Little they knew or cared about the complicated matters of Centràlia and other regions. What made them happy was to take care their sheep and cows, keep a good fire in their living room and, every now and then, enjoy one of their log cutting contests. The impositions of the former dictator were too much for them, and some of them started sabotaging, assaulting and killing some of the dictator's soldiers, agents and officers. This was a huge risk at the time; getting caught meant death penalty for sure, and at first, even people from other regions were in favour of these actions. However, this popular support greatly diminished when the new King took the throne, as these minority continued with the killings, while most of the people saw it was no longer justified.

The Royal Ball

One of the very first measures the young King introduced was to organise the “Royal Ball of Tristània”, a major event through which the people of the different regions would be able to elect their delegates to the Crown. Every four years, a Great Ball contest would happen in Centràlia, and the winners would be able to decide by their own on some of the matters that affected their region. Verdanians would send a few teams of dancers, each of which came from different towns or areas. Some Verdanian teams were happy about the King and the new political situation, but other teams weren't so much. And some others, while being simple non-violent dancers, were known to be supporters of the violent minority who kept on harassing, assaulting and even killing in their struggle for “freedom of Verdània”.

The Verdanian groups aligned with the “different” culture of Verdània (including those who were said to support the violent) tended to get a lot more points in the dancing contest, and a majority of the elected delegates were appointed by them, making it easier to pass laws and edicts that favoured protection of their ways, traditions and language.

No matter how hard they tried, the dancing groups closer to Centràlia kept losing to the majority. After many years of dance contests, these groups used their closeness to the King's court to pass the Ball Law of Tristanian, that would ban any dancing group which didn't condemn the assaults and killings that kept happening in Verdània. The unsurprising result was that, with less dancing groups participating in the following Royal Ball, the Verdanian majority was broken and new delegates, friendly of the Centralian officers, were elected.

Many people who had been in favour of assaults and killings began to question this strategy, and this political movement's unity started to break. In the end, the dancers decided to part ways with the violent; they wanted to dance in the next ball, and to do so, they wrote a letter to the King, in which they explicitly expressed their rejection of violent ways, and their embracing of dancing as the only means to drive their political agenda. An objective reading of the new Ball Law clearly showed that this was enough: the text only said the requisite for a dancing group was to disavow all kinds of violence.

This wasn't really expected in Centràlia, so they started to add new requirements in an attempt to keep this group from the contest: their decisive majority in Verdània was at stake.

The Royal Ball was nearing and registrations for the contest would soon close. The Centralian government first argued that the dancing group should reject the violence coming from the Verdanian extremists in particular. The dancers did it. Then they argued that the dancers were the same people who had been supporting violence in Verdània for years, and “obviously” their violence rejection statement was a lie. The dancers struggled to find new dancers who had not been involved in past dances. But it was not enough. They then claimed that this dance group should be quarantined for four years, until they could prove they really were serious about their new non-violent ideas.

The dance group made a plea to the Tristànian Supreme Counsel, a group of sixteen experts in law of the Kingdom, and argued that all of these draconian requirements were not part of the law that was being enforced by the King. Their appeal to the elder counselors was in vain, though. They ruled this dancing group was as criminal as the violent minority they had once supported, and should by no means take part in the Royal Ball.

As a last, desperate measure, the dancing group reached an agreement with other Verdanian dancers to join forces. They would adopt a new name and new dancing costume colours. Many feared this would only end up in the ban of the other dancing group.

Unfortunately, the end of this story has not been written yet, but it will be completed very soon. Only time will tell if things continue being very sad and unfair in Tristània, or if the dance contest will once again be impartial, with legitimate results.