EVERYONE WANTS TO BE THE Mayor of Ixtachet, at least until they become so — this Prosatio Silban discovered on a chance visit to the edge of the Azure Void which forms the southwest border of the Uulian Commonwell.
Ixtachet was one of the few villages in the Commonwell not blessed with verdant pasturage and running streams. Instead, its inhabitants lived in a series of cliffside huts, each with a breathtaking view of the Void’s eternal twilight, and a small terraced landhold containing a handful of roosts for the prolific and precarious-clinging snoat whose large, richly flavored eggs were the economic foundation of Ixtachet’s existence. The village consisted solely of the cliffside huts, one public well, and a great warehouse called the Mayor’s House. It was largely unvisited save by those lost or seeking snoat eggs.
As a mercenary cook, Prosatio Silban was both — rather, he had been lost until he realized (as one long-schooled in Uulian delicacies) where he was, and once the prosperous figure before him had introduced himself as the Mayor of Ixtachet. He certainly looked the part, in well-made red and yellow silk robes set with small gems, and well-fed mouth set in a disapproving frown.
“Unless you are licensed by the Victualer’s Guild, I can sell you no snoat eggs,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet in exasperated tones. “They have each one of them been marked or spoken for.”
Prosatio Silban displayed a confidant’s smile. “Surely you could spare a single egg – say, sufficient for a dozen custards to adorn the table of a discerning Heir Second, as a complement to clinking crystal and after-dinner laughter?”
“Alas, no,” replied the Mayor. “I could no more spare an egg than I could spare an Ixtachetian.”
“Why so?” Prosatio Silban asked.
The Mayor of Ixtachet then related his situational particulars: that his village was the only spot along the Void’s rim where the tentative snoats would roost, and then only under such conditions as could be guaranteed through constant supervision by the entire village. The eggs brought almost incalculable wealth, but so busy were the Ixtachetians with snoat maintenance that they could spare only one day a year to enjoy it: the day they buried the old Mayor of Ixtachet and elected the new. Everyone wanted to be Mayor of Ixtachet — among other things, it meant respite from the ceaseless toil of snoat-watching — and the election generally picked that year’s most charismatic and beloved person. It was considered an act of both mercy and trust.
But the Mayor’s task it was to guard the village’s health as well as its wealth: the vast treasure would also have been his pleasure were not his the hands which helped as needed, the tongue which dealt with (licensed) traders, the eye which oversaw everything, and the shoulders which carried it all, day by long day.
This lesson was only learned on the first day, and confirmed by slow experience, because those who learned it were too enfeebled by their service to effectively warn their successors on Election Day.
“All they see — all I saw — is the robes and the authority,” said the Mayor of Ixtachet. “Not the responsibility.”
As Prosatio Silban bade the village and its robed guardian an eggless farewell, he reflected: Everyone wants to be the Mayor of Ixtachet – and, probably, always will.