Early Short Stories
The chatter of private conversation ceased when the bailiff rose, his voice a sonorous blanket on the room:
As the crowd rose, the Arbiter entered, nodded solemnly to the assembly, then sat. The crowd followed suit. “Okay, folks, we all know why we’re here. Unless Fain can justify his actions, he is liable to action. After all, if we allow folk to take, willy-nilly, other folk’s Point, pretty soon we’re gonna be a Pointless people." Satisfied with his opening, the Arbiter called the complainant. “Okay, Clive, tell your tale.”
A slender young man mounted the dais, nervous, shy, prompting an observer to remark: “see what happens when you’ve lost your Point.”
“My people,” Clive said, “this is the year of my Rite, my time to pass to adulthood. I needed to make my first Point. This did not happen. As I tried, Fain,” he pointed to the named man, “took my Point from me.
“Fain was my instructor, flying with me on my broom. We led the pack, the night perfect, dark and cold. We swooped, climbed, dove, climbed again. You all know that feeling.
“I spied my target, an old human, creeping down a country lane. I thought to come in from behind, low, fast. I’d make my Point before she knew what hit her, raising me to manhood in one fell swoop. I drew my Point, held it steady before me, focused my attention.
“I began my run. I cannot begin to describe the feeling…but, suddenly, I felt Pointless. Just like that. No explanation, no debate. I had a Point to make it; Fain did not allow it.”
Emotion burst in the young man, his voice cracking, tears welling. “This is not fair! It is not just;…”
The Arbiter cut him off. “Enough, Clive. You’ve stated your case; let’s hear Fain.”
Clive returned to his seat sustained by sympathetic faces here and there in the crowd. Fain rose. Slender, very like Clive save that Fain was not young, had not been young for many Falls. He stood poised, assured,, but, then, Fain had a Point to make.
“Fain,” the Arbiter said, “this is serious. There are too few of us. If we do not allow our youth to make their Points to pass into adulthood, we are surely doomed.”
“I know the grim statistics,” Fain said to both the Arbiter and the assembly. “And yet, I know equally well that our existence depends utterly on the belief of our prey. Should they cease to believe, we cease to exist.
“Each year at harvest, we Fall across the skies armed with the Points we wish to make, pressing those Points against our chosen prey. The humans fear our Fall.
“We exist because they fear, because they teach their children to fear. Now, times change. Many begin to understand we exist because they allow it. More crucial than denying Points to our youth, destroy the faith of those who makes us possible, we will have no youth, no Clives striving to make their first Point. Dwindling numbers will be no issue compared to no numbers at all."
The assembly grew hushed save the Arbiter who interrupted: “Yes, yes, Fain, so you’ve said before and will doubtless say again. But, what of Clive? Let’s get back to the point here.”
“The point here is precisely Clive’s Point. The target he chose does not believe. Old, wise, well known, a spinner of tales, a conscience, a source of doubt. Living alone, she constitutes proof to all that even on a Fall night, humans need not fear, that our best Points are meaningless when humans refuse to believe. Clive selected potentially the most influential woman in the valley for his target.
“Think of the consequences. Against this woman who does not believe, he could not make his Point. When the rest of the Valley learned we could not score a Point against one lone crone, what then?
“In his eagerness to make his Point, Clive ignored his responsibility. Unaware, uncaring for the consequences of his action, he endangered us all. So, yes, I rendered him Pointless.”
The assembly buzzed with comment and counter. At last, the Arbiter rose, effectively silencing the assembly as neighbor poked neighbor until all realized the Arbiter waited that silence.
“Are there questions?” the Arbiter asked. A resounding silence answered.
“There being no questions,” the Arbiter’s eyes sought out Clive as he spoke, “then, I conclude that it was a Point well taken.”