WIND IN THEGREAT WESTERN DESERTEven the endless desert wind seemed to pause and the rustling fronds of the great palms fell silent as the young clansman led the horse into the grand outer courtyard. Many secretly admired his brave bid for the hand in marriage of the First Lord's favorite daughter. Others saw only a common upstart from a poor clan soon to get his comeuppance."My Lord, allow me to make you this most unworthy gift," he said, all the while struggling to remember the carefully rehearsed requirements of court etiquette. Quiet laughter ran through the ranks of the assembled courtiers when the young lad bowed more often than he should.This was a fine animal, more than the boy's family could easily afford. It drew admiring looks from those who understood horses and a modest smile from the favorite daughter of the First Lord of the Great Western Desert. This was the match she hoped for, but in those far off days it was for her father to make such decisions.The First Lord had risen to prominence as a leader of men who spent their lives in the saddle. He knew horses well and his inspection was careful. All the court listened in silence. He paused behind the beast gauging the strength of its hindquarters for carrying a man in full armor. It was then that the horse, itself perhaps as nervous as the young clansman, chose to pass wind loudly and very obviously in the direction of the First Lord.Still watching in silence, the courtiers, some with hands straying towards ever-ready sword hilts, looked towards their lord. Was this an affront that could be ignored? Surely the horse or the young clansman or both should be punished on the spot.The First Lord looked steadily into the eyes of the now pale clansman to see what there was to read there. To his credit, the young lad kept his composure. He turned to his daughter and those who were close enough saw a depth of meaning in the glances they exchanged and the unspoken plea in her eyes. Finally he turned to the horse and slapping it on the rear said in a voice loud enough for all to hear, "Well, it wasn't me this time."And so the silence was well broken as all the court dissolved in laughter for this was the humor of the warrior. The older and wiser heads who understood such things, noted with appreciation that their Lord had once again succeeded in balancing the needs of state with those of family. This was something they respected in a society where family ties and bonds of kinship mattered a great deal. Then of course there would be a wedding feast to look forward to.Later when the court was dismissed, the Old Chancellor approached and said quietly, "A kind and wise decision, My Lord. Your daughter seems so happy.""Yes old friend," the First Lord replied, "and the boy's clan may be small and poor but it is so very well placed to control the mountain passes to the north."endWind in the Great Western Desert was First Place in the Adult Creative Writing Club, Competition No. 71, 2007 as Balancing Act.