The Fertile Lands
In the Emperor's Homeland
Schwyz, the Emperor’s Homeland
I remember when Schwyz was vibrant and beautiful. Every month, we gathered together on the lake to celebrate our city and share with everyone. Artisans hung their most vibrant clothes and tapestries over the stark, alabaster buildings bringing them to life; traveling bards danced and juggled to a harmonious cacophony of sounds echoing against the walls and out across the water; and, my favorite of all, were the cooks who competed to create the most delicious meat pies and sweet breads filling the breeze with the most wonderful scents imaginable. Everyone from the richest lord-of-the-lake to the poorest grain farmer on the outskirts of the city joined together in merriment.
I was fifteen when the emperor was crowned at the Falcon’s Perch. In Schwyz, we celebrated with the greatest festival I had ever experienced. There were so many people in the city that I could barely walk down the streets. After I got my usual fist of sweet bread, I retreated to my father’s rowboat on the Long Dock and paddled just south of the great Pavilion to enjoy the show alone and without being trampled. As the light faded over the city, I saw great blue and green and red sparks in the sky launched by sorcerers on the lakeside. I have never seen such a wondrous gathering or tasted anything so sweet again.
Since that immense party quieted, the Gold Gate has never been reopened; the buildings remain dreary-white; the bards no longer visit; the bakers make only hard loaves.
Sometimes change is slow to assert itself, like the winter coming after the fall: first the weaker shore-tree leaves yield to the hearty needles of the pines, then flowers surrender to the frost and later snows, finally the water stills under the sheen of thin ice. The transformation lasts for months, so each day the difference is barely noticeable. But there are winters whose coming is abrupt and harsh: Last winter the cold winds blew down off Lindenspitze, violently hurling snow and ice before we thought to prepare; on the first night of the sudden-winter, two score died outside working their farms, attempting to save what livestock and crops they could. Over the following months, half the farms lost their entire herds and seventy more people died outside the Gold Gate.
Like the sudden-winter was the abrupt change when Maximilian seized his empire fifteen years ago.
Part II here: In the Emperor’s Homeland – Part 2