778 - Her course should be just as clear
From: Haiksilias Lizan fessas
To: Shefenkas Aijeresas
Ser Aijeresas, You Who Formerly Graced the Crystal Throne:
This lowly one writes you with his head bowed in contrition. As is well-known by the work of this very one’s brush, this one believed the very worst of your illustrious self. As such, it was beyond this humble one’s conception that such a thing as your magnificent self acceding to losing power by the fodaisin of the Arkan people could possibly happen. When it did, when your all-giving self gave up everything to give Arkans such power, this modest one was flung into the deepest confusion, and spent much time in the most fervent contemplation.
This ashamed one’s earnest conclusion was that this one in his blind anger did your illustrious self a grave injustice in the commission of the painting of the Sack, both in the falsehoods so depicted, and the intention. This erring one’s intention was to spark an uprising, or at least unrest, against your magnificent self’s Imperatorship and foment an overthrow. It is this one’s regretful understanding now that this would have been a grave wrong not only to your admirable self but to Arko itself, and this one is haunted by the bitterest shame.
So this remorseful one contemplated further, on how he might make it up to your excellent self, in apology and a bid for forgiveness. This humble one’s great gift and skill, of course, is art, and it is by art that he is most powerful. This lowly one therefore makes the bold and impudent offer, that your illustrious self may deign to accept or not as he please, of a painting, to be rendered of any subject and in any style your deserving self decrees.
More this lowly one cannot express this way as words are not his gift, and he begs forgiveness for these clumsy ones.
With humble and regretful contrition,
Haiksilias Lizan fessas
Risae the 23rd, 53rd-to-last Y.P.A.
To: Haiksilias Lizan fessas
From: Shefenka Aijeresa
Imbas 26, 53rd-to-last Y.P.A.
First, I apologize for the long delay in replying to your letter of Risae 23, caused by me and my mail being in two different places for an extended time.
Second… I am moved almost to tears by the change of heart you have had, and the kindness and empathy you show me, who arguably does not deserve such from any resident of the City of Arko. It takes courage, when ashamed of an act, to so bare one’s heart to the one who suffered by it, and I commend you for that. I hope you know, but in case you don’t: I never resented your, or anyone else’s, depiction of the Sack in and of itself; my only objection was to the falsehoods so depicted, as you wrote. Accurate illustrations are only justice.
I will accept your offer of an artwork with whole-hearted joy, as anyone would be a fool who passed up an opportunity to acquire for free an original Lizan. I will be in Arko on business in two or three moons, so I suggest we meet. I wouldn’t in a thousand years presume to advise you on style, but for subject, I have some thoughts.
Thank you for blessing me with such consideration.
As the end of the half-year came close, I began writing the federation letters, slipping them between pages of the book manuscript so my loves and my older children, who were almost Mahid in sticklerness for me following the rules, wouldn’t catch me. I began planning how I’d make the trips, as you can only remind someone of the idea in writing; to convince them you must be face to face. The first person I should approach was obvious: Artira. It would have great credence with both the greatest empire and the nation that had conquered it as members; it would have none without.
I hurried to finish the other task I had set myself; answering every letter from someone who’d given me money, even if it had been anonymous and I had to address the reply “To the person in Eseral who sent me twenty-five silver ankaryel.” It was onerous, but it gave me a good excuse to read them all, of which I knew Perahin would approve.
They’d built an office for me in the Hearthstone Independent, incidentally, with an oaken desk blessedly absent of gold and big bookcases with glass doors so the books didn’t get dusty but you could see the titles. I found out soon one thing I’d spend what was left of the money that had been sent to me on: books, especially about strategy and tactics. I needed many to quote from while writing My Part in the Arkan War, and it was less trouble just to buy the ones I used the most than keep borrowing them from the Terera University library.
Then the half-year turned and Kaninjer cleared me for politics. The first thing I did was start on a half-year-high stack of Pages, to get a feel of how things had gone.
In Yeola-e, it was pretty much same as always; as Kaninjer had said, Yeola-e was steady. I was surprised to see Sharaina Anina had been impeached by her constituents in Aratai—for extremism, they were saying. She’d been far too celebratory over my impeachment for their taste, and then gone after Artira, saying the whole Shae-Arano-e line was corrupt; she’d barely said a word to that effect when she’d been expelled from Yeola’s Children, who are as extreme as you’d ever get in Yeola-e, for extremism. The Yeoli hawks could reach that far, given sufficient weakness as an opportunity. No one was hearing much of her, now. I would not miss her effect on my life.
With Arko, the first thing I looked for was in Pages from about about sixty days after Artira had taken over, to read about how the Five Tens had gone from points of view other than hers. It had been wrong for me not to be there, for which I’d already apologized to her in a letter. She’d pulled it off well enough, telling me only that it was “difficult.” The editorials said she’d obviously had priestly help, and that if I hadn’t started training my firstborn in the Ten Tens, I had better. Of course I wanted a good Arkan Imperator elected and us out of Arko long before Tawaen’s majority, though I now had no power to work for that.
The gist of Arko’s course was that Artira had slowed things down, those opposing any change had found their voice, and the debate had grown more harsh.
Shortly after I’d left, a delegation of the most prominent conservatives of Arko, including several families of the Fortunate Fifty, the most old-school of the priesthood and a number of governors and mayors, had begged audience with her to entreat her to delay every reform still on the schedule so as to further study and discuss it, saying that the shock of change was fomenting chaos in Arkan society, rending it from within, tearing husbands from wives and parents from children, and so forth. The hawks were already in that camp, of course—yet another case of very strange bedfellows. She’d told the conservatives that she would listen, which followed, as she was already listening to the hawks.
Of course that had raised a storm of protest from those favouring change: the Voters Feminine, the freed slaves, the pro-vote movement, the Enlightened Followers (who also had started calling for my return to the Imperatorship pretty much the moment I’d left it) and a strengthening tide of youth, among whom the Dyers were the most vocal. Their delegation had marched into Artira’s office also, and she’d said she’d listen to them as well. With the conquest mandate obliging her as much as it had me, how could she not?
Thus, the argument became more bitter than it ever had when I’d been there, as is always the danger when someone with great power wavers rather than forges a course clear and strong enough that no one doubts what is to come. And yet her course should be just as clear to her as it was to me, I thought. It was given us in a few words by the people of Yeola-e.
It’s all in the interpretation, you might say.
I gleaned the Yeoli news for Assembly’s thoughts; I couldn’t imagine them approving of delays. But they were quite tolerant. Of course, I thought. Everything they do takes forever; they’re probably relieved to see it happening at a pace more like their own. There were comments about how I’d burned too hard and so flamed out, and she should not repeat that. It made me want to rip out my hair.
But that was how it was and it was in her hands, not mine; I turned my mind to the dream I now had time to let seize me.