Whoever wants, meet me on the Temple stair at dawn. The rest of you, go and build this city again. That is needed. I just can’t help you. But whatever you do, the time of being broken is over. It’s time for our occupation to begin.”
There. I’d met them with the best steel I had. Then I slipped inside my tent and silently wept. I was the hope the universe had handed them. Thank the gods, you mostly do it with your tone.
The next morning, I stepped outside. A few hundred sat on the Temple stairs. Everyone else had gone. Of who had stayed, it was mostly who you’d expect: a majority of young men, (including the very first I’d met), some fiery women, a surprising number of pubescent youths I’d have to find good use for.
My morning speech to them was shorter. “Let’s begin,” I said.
I concentrated on names.
We built boats. We could have scavenged the Temple to do so, of course. Buildings like that never fully burn. But I had said that the time of living off the dead was over. So we climbed down from Ariel and went out into the hinterlands to cut trees. The whole valley was a patchwork of farms, all with easy access to the river or a major road. Each was separated by a woodlot or a fencerow. It was very picturesque. You got the feeling that someone had planned all this from his vantage atop the plateau. I had the men cut selectively.
They acted funny about constructing the frames. When I suggested shallow rather than deep draft, they grew momentarily hesitant. When it became clear we were building for far more than our few hundred, they looked deeply puzzled. Then, of course, they simply continued work. They were young. They were feeling their power come back to them. They had a cause worth working for. And I encouraged no dissent. We worked from earliest dawn till the last of the sun faded from the sky. And we did so gladly.
I will never understand the phenomenon of leadership. People do things for no other reason than I tell them to. Yet nothing marks me as distinct. My physical presence does not overwhelm. I am no beauty, and my genius has never staggered anyone. My rhetorical skills pale in comparison to the best of the Academy. And my field experience is brief and erratic in the extreme – I am no old and seasoned hand. Anyone, most likely, could have my ideas and speak my concerns. But I’m the one who says them. I’m the one who decides to go. Others follow. So I try to be reasonable, if not brilliant. I try to be fair, if not spectacularly insightful. I do not seek command, but I love it when all the work is humming.
Just because I don’t understand my power, Elmy, doesn’t mean I won’t try to take advantage.