“We hold that the individual must always be more important than the institution.”
Iancu didn’t so much explain his position as he declaimed it, his long, elegant fingers twirling outward in a poetic swirl. Below the dais, Irene rolled her eyes.
“Surely you must have some form of government, some form of rules. Infrastructure? Education? Legislation?”
“There is no law, no teaching, no road that can bind the individual to the institution.” This time, Iancu pointed at the road-sign-like icon they had nailed to a tree: a single figure, standing in a green field. It looked to Irene like a prewar sign for the men’s room. “From this we take our stand.”
“But you have a stand. As a group. Someone must speak for you, for there to be a stand.”
“There is the individual, speaking for the individual. No-one may speak for another.”
“Then how do you get anything done?”
“Well, the individual does it. Sometimes many individuals do something while working near each other. That is how we built the road.” Iancu gestured to the lane in question.
Irene looked around the elven settlement. Houses were built in a myriad array of styles, but all were tucked away, barely visible from this central clearing. The clearing had any number of the independent “elves,” a subspecies of fae that she had not previously encountered (and hoped to never encounter again). Relics and icons of the world long gone hung in the clearing – not just the single “Individual” sign, but many others. One looked to her agéd eye to be a “school crossing” sign; under it, three elves were debating. Perhaps whether this suggested travelling in groups of one adult with a number of children. The lane, at least, looked well-built – if you allowed that it was seven lanes running next to each other. Irene pitied the wagon that tried to drive down that road.
“So there is no-one with whom the nation of Arista can negotiate?”
“No-one,” Iancu agreed. “Or all of us, one individual at a time. Such is the way of my people.”
“Then on who would we declare war?”
The gaggles of elves across the center clearing silenced. “War?” She thought Iancu’s voice might squeak.
“If we can not negotiate, we will go to war. Such is the way of my people.”
She watched Iancu’s Adam’s apple bob up and down. “I suppose you would go to war with each of us individually.” He coughed, and looked around the clearing. “Perhaps, as a convocation of individuals, we can appoint a speaker to negotiate with the Arista.”
“Wonderful.” Irene smiled. If they negotiated like they built roads, her people were going to get everything they wanted.
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