If you were to go to Lunthea Maly, you would find a magnificent palace. And if you went past the magnificent palace and past the fine gardens, you would find a peacock. The personal peacock of Emperor Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan.
The great and mighty emperor was a nine-year-old boy whose father had just died.
This meant nothing, of course, to the peacock. He was an emperor himself. He ruled over the entire barn.
None of the other animals dared stay in his way, or he would flare his enormous tail and hiss at them. Or, worse, he would start screaming for the guards.
This peacock gave himself a name, which he imagined official: Klianhaet-Kaejin, which meant “Imperial Master of All.”
The other animals in the barn preferred to call him “Baedhin”, which mean ‘Conceited One‘. But they told him it mean ‘Imperial Glory’, which was a word they had heard the stable boys use.
On this particular night, Baedhin sat by the barn window, away from the tainting night air, and admired the night. The stars were quite magical, so close Baedhin imagined he could touch them. What would it be like if--
“Iubdan’s beard!” Baedhin let out an enormous squawk as someone grabbed him.
“Shush, you stupid peacock!”
A stable boy dragged the flailing, screeching peacock outside.
“Here. Glad to be rid of ‘im,” the boy said. He held out Baedhin and another set of hands picked the bird up.
A finely dressed man stuffed Baedhin under his arm and marched away from the barn. Baedhin calmed down somewhat, his curiosity overcoming his outrage at these humans who dared to touch him.
The man walked to the palace gate and sharply called out to the shadows, saying, “The Imperial Glory Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan thanks you for your fine performance and wishes--”
A figure stepped from the shadows up to the gate. “Sorry…I don’t really know what you’re saying. Do you mind speaking a little more slowly?”
“For you,” the man said, drawing out his words as if he were speaking to a fool. “From the Imperial Glory, Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan. For your performance.”
He opened the gate and plopped Baedhin into the figure’s arms, which turned out to be another man. He was dressed in the most ridiculous clothes Baedhin had ever seen.
“I say!” cried out the ridiculous man. Baedhin hissed at him for good measure. “I really don’t want this!”
“Your humble gratitude will be conveyed to the Imperial Glory.”
“But…but what am I supposed to do with a dragon-eaten peacock?”
“And your wishes for his prosperous and eternal reign. Good night!”
The gate slammed shut.
The ridiculous man looked at Baedhin. Baedhin looked at the ridiculous man.
“If you’re not stew by the end of the week, it won’t be my fault,” the man said. He rolled his eyes heavenward. “Why me?”
The man walked down to the streets of Lunthea Maly, Baedhin tucked under his arm.
Baedhin started struggling wildly. The man lost his hold and Baedhin darted away, screaming with all his might, “HELP! HEEEEELP! HEEEEELP!”
The man finally caught Baedhin and dragged him to the end of an alley, where he rented a room. Baedhin promptly took the bed.
Serves him right. Stew indeed.
To his satisfaction, the peacock spent the entire night in the bed, while the man spent the night on the floor. When Baedhin’s companion woke up, he found Baedhin staring at him.
“Help,” Baedhin said, hoping to remind his companion of last night’s chase. But how could he forget?
“I wonder how much your feathers are worth?” the man growled. He sat up. “I could sell them after I pluck you for stew."
Baedhin hissed at him.
Someone knocked at the door. Baedhin hoped that it was someone to rescue him from this strange man. The man opened the door to a gorgeously clad visitor. He tugged at his shirt and asked in halting Noorhitamin, “Can I help you?”
“Leonard of the Tongue of Lightning?”
Tongue of lightning indeed. His Noorhitamin is awful, Baedhin thought.
“Yesterday evening at the great coronation of the century, the Imperial Glory, Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan, bestowed his favor upon you in the form of a rare and reverence bird like unto the incarnate image of the Mother as a Firebird, beautiful in plumage, graceful in deportment.”
“Help!” Baedhin said proudly, drawing the man’s attention. He hopped down from the bed and strutted over to stand next to Leonard.
The visitor looked down at the peacock and bowed gravely. Baedhin hissed at him too.
He is beneath me.
The gentleman turned back to Leonard. “The gift of the reverenced bird was offered in a symbolic nature.”
Leonard looked at the gentleman. “Huh?”
“You were not supposed to accept the bird.”
Leonard flung his hands up and vehemently spat a few foreign words. “Fine! Take the bird too! Do I look like I mind?”
“Your veneration and devotion will be conveyed to the Imperial Glory…”
Baedhin quickly tired of this talk. “HELP! HELP!”
Pay attention to me, peasants.
“And your prayers for his eternal and prosperous reign…”
Then Leonard picked up Baedhin, who promptly pecked him, and shoved the bird into the gentleman’s arms. He slammed the door before Baedhin could register what exactly just happened.
How dare he! I’m a peacock! Royal bird of Emperor Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan! I don‘t deserve to be treated like this!
The gentleman clamped a hand firmly over Baedhin’s beak and started walking.
How dare he!
But he did dare. And there was nothing the royal bird of Emperor Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan could do about this humiliating experience.
When Baedhin was finally set down in front of the barn, he spread out his feathers and strutted into the barn.
I am forever imperial. At least here I get the respect I deserve.
The horse snorted. “Look who’s back!”
The chickens started laughing. “The Conceited One!”
“What is the meaning of this?” Baedhin demanded. “Conceited one? The stable boys will hear of this.”
The horse snorted again. “You are so vain! And stupid. You never once thought about the meaning of your name! You thought we were honoring you when you first walked in this barn!”
“Nonsense. Everyone honors me,” Baedhin folded his feathers slowly. “Well, everyoneshould. Of course you called me Imperial Glory, that’s what I am.”
“Which is why you got thrown around like a sack of oats!” the horse whinnied.
"What--I don’t…How did you hear…?”
“Stable boys gossip, you know,” the chickens said. “We heard all about it!”
“We named you rightly. ‘Baedhin’ means ‘Conceited One’; that’s exactly what you are.”
“Look at you, thinking you’re all that.”
“The emperor only uses you, you’re not his personal pet!”
“Some Imperial Glory you are.”
“Handed off and thrown back into the barn like a bunch of potatoes!”
“Stuck up, peacock.”
Don’t listen to this, Baedhin. Defend your heritage!
But it was all so true. But the words chased him as he walked away from the laughing horse and obnoxious chickens.
I’m not proud!
But memories flooded into his mind, one in particular. It was when he was the new animal, and he had climbed onto a bale of hay, announcing, “I am the emperor’s personal peacock. I have come to bring joy to all. I am imperial!”
“May we give you a name?” the horse had said.
“Only if I like it,” Baedhin had replied with a sniff.
“'Baedhin’. It suits you fine.”
"What is the meaning of it?”
“Imperial Glory, you should know."
“Of course I know it. I had just forgotten, is all.”
Baedhin realized now, that the horse had meant it as an “You are an imperial glory, so you should know.” He knew that Baedhin would take it as, “It means ‘Imperial Glory’. You should know.”
How dim-witted peacocks could be!
Baedhin returned to the barn with a sagging head.
“Come back already, Conceited One?”
The bird looked up and found the horse sneering down at him. “Yes,” he said. He would have to tell them what he had learned. “I am a changed peacock.” He lifted his head and declaimed, “I understand that I am a proud, sniveling, conceited peacock.” He stared around for their reactions.
The horse stared at him. “Um…”
“Do I have your consent to stay in the barn tonight?”
“I guess…” the horse answered, blinking. “But you have to change the way you talk.”
“Don’t talk like you’re still imperial. It’s annoying.”
“Nonsense! I must retain some form of civility!”
“It’s still annoying.”
“I know now I am not imperial. I have learned that I was wrong. I will forever respect all the animals in this barn, and not be so conceited. But I shall not relinquish my accustomed manners! I refuse to turn completely into a barn animal!”
“I try to act dignified, at least.”
“Uh-huh. Which is exactly why you went around town yelling ‘HEEEEEEELP!’”
The other animals burst out into laughter. Baedhin glowered.
Stupid stable boys.