756 - It’s the mix that does it
You know, in Arko, bureaucrats have a reputation for being stupid and thoughtless. And I saw it, though my omores would never let me complain about them long, saying they work hard and have a lot on their minds. Of course he works—worked—with them all the time and they are his friends. And he has that part of his own mind, that objects to a bad wording or a lapse in protocol the same way we aNiah would never allow a crack in a spar or a mis-tightening of the wires on a wing. Because he’s plying his trade. (Fahk… was plying his trade.) When I see Yeoli paper-pushers bumbling, I never say anything about it to him.
But, Ama Kalandris, have they fikked the bitch, as Arkans say, here with us. Aba Tyriah, calm my heart so that my hands strangle no one.
The Yeoli ambassador knows we’re here. And not through her spies, no. She knows because the morons in the administrative offices of University Hospital sent her a bill for Chevenga’s healing. Bureaucrats also have a way of saying “That’s what we’ve always done,” don’t they? And just doing it again the same way without a thought entering their heads, like flesh-and-bone machines kept in motion by cups of kaf alone.
You think that’s bad, Merao. Wait! It gets worse!
The bureaucrats in the Yeoli embassy sent the bill back. The letter with it said: “If the Chevenga Aicheresa to whom your invoice, dated and numbered blah-blah, refers is our former semanakraseye, who then went by the name Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e”—so at least the Haian paper-pushers are finally getting his new name right, I’ll give them that—“I am compelled to inform you that he is now a private citizen of Yeola-e and we are not authorized to pay expenses he incurs, of any nature. An exception could be made through approval of the Assembly of Yeola-e, but no application for such approval has been made, that we know of, and approval is not certain and would take time in any case.”
So the Haian bureaucrats brought the bill and this letter to us.
Merao, you should have seen Skorsas, when he read it. (We’re taking shifts with Chevenga now, one of us always with him and Karani there as well, much of the time, and it was my shift when the bureaucrat showed up so I got handed this kakr in the form of papers.) Skorsas seems so slight and effeminate, but his eyes can spit fire when he’s mad.
“What!” he said, when I read them to him. “What the kaina marugh miniren FIK is wrong with these people, have they no panache!? After everything, have they no decency!? I am going there and I am going to ram this up their asses!” And he started furiously throwing on an impress-and-intimidate outfit. I didn’t even know he had one, let alone brought it to Haiu Menshir.
“We can afford it, can’t we?” I said, hoping he wouldn’t turn on me for making even a slight suggestion that we couldn’t. We’ve been here a month and it’s a pretty hefty bill.
“Of course we can afford it!” he snapped back. “That’s! Not! The! Point!” Girded in his satin, gold and not-a-hair-out-of-place fashion armour, he set off at a fast-march toward the embassy. Kall and I decided we’d better go with him, to prevent further violence on Haiu Menshir if nothing else.
It’s amazing what force of conviction can do. He marched right through the guards at the main door of the embassy (not that they’re very tight on Haiu Menshir) and then right into Denaina’s office. “What in the name of the Ten Gods and your own All-Spirit are you doing, ‘he is now a private citizen so we are not authorized to pay expenses he incurs of any nature,’ he saved your curly-haired asses, every single one of you, you’d all be slaves of Arko now if it weren’t for him, and this is how you thank him!?”
As I was opening my mouth to say the same kind of thing, Kall stepped forward in that king-like way of his. “Sera Ambassador, his name is Skorsas Trinisas Aitzas, this is Niku nar sept Taekun and I am Kallijas Itrean Aitzas,” he said impeccably. “We speak on behalf of our husband and supofras Fourth… I mean, Shefenkas Aijeresa. How do you do?”
The ambassador looked from Skorsas to Kallijas, back to Skorsas, to me, then back to Kallijas. “Very well, gentlesibs, thank you, I hope you are all well too, and I especially ask you to pass my good wishes on to Chevenga,” she said. Absolutely smoothly. I think Yeola-e must have a school for diplomats, too. “Ser Trinisas, you refer to our letter in response to the University Hospital’s invoice for—”
“Yes that’s exactly what I refer to.” He dropped his voice, but didn’t let the words get any less knife-edged. “Sera Ambassador, do the people of Yeola-e have not a shred of gratitude in their souls for what he did for them?”
“Of course they do, I assure you our response had nothing to do with that; it’s a matter of Yeoli legal procedure. It’s as we wrote, it would require Assembly approval, and—”
“Well, get Assembly approval, then!” Skorsas snapped. “Why didn’t you do that, instead of sending us this pissant letter?”
The ambassador took a deep breath. There was a long pause. I heard a fly buzz, and shell-chimes ringing outside somewhere, and someone laughing Yeoli-style. “Ser Trinisas,” she finally said, “you’re absolutely right. I will do that, right away.”
Once we were out the door, I thought we’d smile and laugh and clasp hands in triumph. But no... Skorsas sprang into fast-march again, still with fire in his eyes, towards Elder Hall, the government building in the middle of the city. (By the way, you’ve never been here—a big city in Haiu Menshir smells good, is cleaner than you’d ever imagine a city could be, and has shell-chimes everywhere. You’re always hearing them.)
“What are you doing now?” I said.
“We’re going to go speak to the Speaking Elder, too,” Skorsas barked. “Chevenga saved and freed this country no less than his own!”
“But... we just solved it! There’s no way the Yeoli Assembly will say no. Imagine if people in Yeola-e caught wind.”
“I don’t care,” he spat. “We’re going anyway, because Haiu Menshir should be healing him for free. It’s the principle! Let them split the difference.”
“I think you should perhaps be a bit more polite,” said Kall, whose long legs make fast-march easy for him.
“No, I shouldn’t. We should do it exactly the same way—I go in utterly blunt, you step in all noble and civil, and Niku—that glare was fabulous. It’s the mix that does it. I don’t think the elders will necessarily see sense so fast though, so we’re probably going to have to try harder.”
“Why, when Chevenga saved and freed this country no less than his own, like you said?” I said.
“The deputy is more assiduous, remember? That ambassador has to answer to Assembly… well, haha, his sister, too, so she’s got to worry about what she and they will think. The Haian elders are at the top, so can decide for themselves, which makes them tougher.” How did this minnow of a boy learn so much about politics when his position was merely Chamberlain?
It turns out that Speaking Elder Mitaer, as his welcomist told us evenly, has an audience list, though nothing like an Imperator’s. That didn’t stop Skorsas for an eye-blink. “We’re here speaking for Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e,” he said, leaning over her desk. No new name; most Haians know him by his real one. “You’ve heard of him, perhaps? It’s urgent. Oh, and by your confidentiality oath, he’s not on this island.”
“I’ll speak to the Speaking Elder when he’s done with his current meeting, and see if I can slip you in.” She could—I heard her say “Chivinga” as she spoke to him—and we did exactly the same thing, pretty much, except without any mention of curly-haired asses. Also, it’s really hard to glare at a Haian who looks ninety years older than the Earthsphere, so I’m sure it wasn’t as fabulous.
Mitaer sat still with his hands folded, as if he was meditating, for a bit. It made the whole room go still… made me know there’s a storm inside me raging all the time now, that I’ve made myself not notice. When is my omores going to turn back into himself again? Merao, I just want peace.
“Your point is well-taken,” the Speaking Elder finally said. “We did give him a gift in gratitude, but it was a small thing. We will not begrudge him this. Consider the invoice cancelled, and be assured you will receive no further ones.”
“Thank you,” said Skorsas, all of a sudden no less impeccably polished than Kall. “Honourable Speaking Elder, if I may be so impertinent, I suggest speaking with the Yeoli ambassador, as we just requested the same of her, and she assented. Possibly Haiu Menshir and Yeola-e could divide the expense evenly.”
“I will speak to her, thank you,” he said. Skorsas pulled the most graceful and elegant half-prostration I have ever seen, Kallijas did the same in his more martial way of moving, and I did a bow as best I can. We made sure we didn’t chuckle victoriously until we were on the street.
“He’s going to laugh about this when we tell him, some day,” Kall said.
“He’s never going to hear about this in his life,” Skorsas snapped.
I know I’ve said he’s a little shit before, because sometimes he is, Merao. You know what I mean. But right now I love the little shit as I never have before.