Black and White
Once upon a time, in a small village near the coast of Korontin, there lived a little girl whose father had taught her how to play chess. There were in fact many such little girls all over the country, for chess is a much beloved game in Korontin, but few of them had such a love for the game as Daphne had. When the hard work of the day was done, the child and her father could always be found hunched over the chess board, each absorbed in working out which moves they should make to defeat the other, while the child’s mother brought them food and drink at intervals. At first only the other villagers came over to their house to watch their chess games every evening, then, as Daphne grew better at the game and their fame spread, people from other villages started coming as well.
Time passed, and Daphne grew into a young woman while her father withered away. Soon after he died, Korontin was invaded by a wicked king. Because this king had a reputation for mercilessly slaying his enemies and spreading terror in all the lands he conquered, the people called him the Black King.
One day, the Black King thought that as he was getting on in years, it might be a good idea for him to find a wife. Throughout all the lands he had conquered, he sent out messengers who promised the people a rich reward for any news of a maiden who was as brilliant as she was beautiful. Now the people had lost much during the war, and were eager to find a way to recover what they had lost. Besides, everyone knew Daphne, who could beat anyone in her village at chess any time she pleased.
So it was not surprising that news of Daphne soon reached the Black King, nor that he invited her to his quarters for a game of chess to see for himself if all the stories he’d heard about her were true. The Black King was a fair chess player himself, but no match for Daphne, who beat him in every one of the three games they played. Because he admired her intellect, her beauty, and her courage - for few would have dared to beat the Black King at anything, even if they knew they could have - the Black King decided not to force her into marriage, but to let her choose her future.
“Daphne,” he asked after she had won the third game, “tell me, would you rather be a black queen or a white pawn?”
Now Daphne was no fool, and she knew exactly what the Black King was asking of her. She thought of the fear in the villagers’ eyes as he rode through her village destroying everything in his path, and she knew what answer she was going to give. But how to give such an answer without offending him? She looked down at the chessboard, and suddenly the solution came to her.
“My king,” she said respectfully, “I’d rather be a white pawn. For if a white pawn manages to cross the chessboard, it can choose between becoming a queen, a knight, a rook, or a bishop. The black queen has no such choice.”
The Black King laughed at her wise answer, and rewarded her handsomely for it. And so it was that despite the war, Daphne and her mother never wanted for food again.
Poetry poetry poetry! This is where submissions get a bit more creative than most, and it's a wonder how many HOLers (particularly the eagles) are filled with fabulous artsyness.