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DOCTOR WHO





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'Ooh. I like a good story.' The Doctor sat back down on the pallet and crossed his legs. 'Go on, then.'

The Teller gave him an anxious look. 'Are you sure you want to hear?'

The Doctor gestured around the room. 'Captive audience.'

A Much More Likely Story

'I put it to you,' said the Teller, sitting down on the floor in front of them, 'that city-state republicanism is a fine and admirable thing — provided you have the good fortune to be born in one of the cities.

However,' he held up a finger, 'should you have the bad luck to be born out in the country, life is not nearly so good. That's where Beol and I come from — up the river, the far end of the Vale of Evesh. Nice country. Excellent fishing. Very fertile all round, in fact. That's important. Because the problem with these great cities,' the Teller wagged his finger for emphasis, 'is that while they're very busy doing politics and making art, they're not producing much in the way of food. Difficult to grow crops in the middle of all this stone. But, given that their citizens get as hungry as anyone else, the cities need to own big pieces of land, and they need to have people working hard on that land while they're off busy—' He pointed towards 162

 

THE KING’S DRAGON

his audience. 'What are they busy doing?'

'Doing politics and making art!' his audience chorused back at him.

'Well done! Quite. So most of their politics is concerned with these big pieces of land. And most of what goes on between the cities is passing the bits of land around. Like a big game. Only it's not as much fun for the people who are living on that land.

They find themselves passed back and forth in treaties like so much loose change. Now, this is precisely what happened in our part of the vale a few years ago. The city of Sheal, our previous owners, blew the latest round of trade negotiations with the city of Geath, and as a result they ended up having to sell off part of their holdings along the Evesh to them at a vastly reduced price. When the land gets sold, the people get sold along with it.' He gave a wry smile. 'It doesn't make much difference most of the time, not really, because on the whole you only ever see city folk when they're there to hand over the deeds to the new owners, and the rest of the time you're still farming the land in exactly the same way... Only this time, it didn't work out that way. This time, the borders changed, and our farm got split down the middle.

Well, we weren't too pleased about that, for various reasons to do with tedious technicalities like no longer being able to use the services of the 163

 

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