Atamar's Scarf Race

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          It was a beautiful clear day, with only a few small puffy clouds and an occasional cool breeze, terrific weather for a party and a race. 

But as Atamar sat in the hot sun and watched the scarf race begin, she had hard work to keep a smile on her face.  She longed to be with the others competing for first place, but she had learned by hard experience that it wouldn't work. 

She felt sad and lonely sitting there watching her friends having a great time showing off their prowess on their mounts.  While they had fun showing off, she had to sit still in an uncomfortable dress watching them and being watched herself. 

She didn't like feeling like she was on display as a useless doll.  She wanted to prove her skills as a rider.  When she was little she too had competed in the scarf race. 

Of course, back then, it had not been a mounted race.  The scarf race was not the same each year but had changed to reflect the growing abilities of Atamar and the young people around her. 

There had always been contests for different age groups, but the Scarf race was for people Princess Atamar's age. 

The annual race had started when she was three years old.  At that time, it had been a race to pick up the three scarves and place them in a certain order. 

She didn't really remember much about that race.  She was pretty sure what she did "remember" was actually just picturing the stories people told. 

However, she vividly remembered her last scarf race which happened when she was 7 years old.  That year, it was a maze, and the different scarves were hidden in various places inside the maze. 

You not only had to find 3 different colored scarves, but you had to be the first one to find your way out of the maze with them.

She was having a great time running through the maze laughing and bumping into people. It was easy to find the scarves as she ran through the maze. 

However, what wasn't easy was finding her way out of the maze.  When she finally did, she had come in second place.  Thifa, one of the daughters of the head of the palace guard had beaten her. 

Princess Atamar was actually surprised that she had only come in second.  She had thought she would be one of the last people out. 

She was also surprised at how quickly most people seemed to finish the race after that.  However, the next day, the truth had come out when she found Thifa crying. 

Atamar had been playing on the palace fields near the maze with the other children during a break from lessons.  She had challenged Noj Vidad to a race to the maze entrance. 

She won as usual, but when she got to the maze she heard someone crying inside and went in and found Thifa sitting with her back to one of the hedge walls, her head on her knees weeping. 

Somehow Atamar had known by the sound that Thifa wasn't hurt, but what could be the matter?  Concerned for her friend, Princess Atamar asked what was wrong, but Thifa wouldn't tell her why she was crying. 

Noj Vidad had arrived at the maze entrance, but when he saw his sister crying, he stopped short.  Atamar looked up at him and asked if he knew what was wrong.  He had nodded glumly. 

"Well, what is it?" Atamar had asked impatiently.  Noj Vidad had looked at the ground, at his sister, and then looking at Atamar he had said all in a rush, "It's because she beat you." 

"Beat me?!"  Atamar looked at Noj Vidad in puzzled astonishment for a minute before saying, "What do you mean?  Why should that make her cry?  She won!  She even beat the bigger boys.  I would think she would be happy." 

Thifa looked up then and said with a sniff, "You don't understand.  We're not allowed to win.  Our parents told us that we must always let you win the scarf race. 

I knew that, but I hadn't seen you in the maze for a while and figured you had made it out and I wanted to beat Yasec.  But I was wrong, you were still in there. 

My parents were very angry, and I got in big trouble with them."  Atamar had listened to the explanation in mute astonishment.  Suddenly, many things began to make sense...

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