798 - Finally, I found peace


No surprise to me, Vriah happened to wander in about then. Between the two of them, they asked me all the crucial questions with precocious sense. How sure was I, could I prevent it, who else knew, why had I kept it secret, how did I feel about it and so forth. I made very sure they knew they could speak to Grandma Karani, Niku or Kallijas about it.

Vriah spoke her heart in her water-drop-clear way: “I’ll miss you, Aba.” But there was no devastation in it, as if the spiritual view was second nature to her. Lakans and senaheral alike will tell you that children, having only recently arrived from the Eternal Return, still remember it well.

They went through the phases like anyone else; sometimes there were tears and tantrums, even as they faithfully kept it secret. But children are resilient like rubber, soon accepting all that comes as threads in the cloth of life. Perhaps we pretend to ourselves that our children do not know death or bereavement, but of course they do, especially in Yeola-e after the Arkan War.

I would die, it was meant to be, and so they came asking more questions, as they did about every other circumstance of life. “You’re not sick, Daddy, and it’s peacetime… you think it’s going to be a moyawa accident? Or someone ’sassinating you?” “If you’re a ghost, can you come back and haunt us?” “Who are you going to leave everything to?” “When are we going to tell Kila and Kima?” “Are you scared? We can hold you.”

It was pain and balm both at once to my soul. No adult would ever speak of such things with me so forthrightly. It banished the shadows of secrecy, and let me be accepted in my entirety for once in my life, while they were with me. Beyond that, we all got on with the business of life, enjoying each other’s company while we had it. Tawaen and Vriah even urged the other kids, without saying why, to be with me. They will be thanked for that.

To: Chevenga Aicheresa
Hearthstone Independent
Vae Arahi

From: Inatalla Shae-Krisa
Marble Palace, Arko

Dear Chevenga:

I write to inform you of plans for a most impressive project in the City of Arko that is being undertaken in your honour. The loyal Yeoli residents of Arko, among whom I am pre-eminent, have inspired your sister the Imperator to raise a mighty image of you, so that the native citizenry of the City Itself may never forget Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e and all he stood for. It will stand at the head of the Avenue of Statuary, ten man-lengths high and built of solid bronze, with not a seam showing as we will hire Zak metallurgists, and plentiful gold.

For your pleasure, I have enclosed the plan rendered by the sculptor, the peerless Tujiras Oren. I anticipate with delight the feeling that must swell in your heart as you read this.

Sincere best wishes,
Inatalla

I opened the other paper, and felt a shock of weakness in my core that spread out into prickles all down my limbs, then sweat breaking out on my skin, all over. It was the statue I’d seen in the nightmare, towering over fat and over-jewelled Yeolis being carried around in chairs, the night I’d received the papers on the resolution to invade Arko. The pose with Chirel upraised, the expression, the massive plinth, the gold on wristlets, belt, sword-grip, it was all precisely the same. The nightmare was not fear, as I told myself back then, I thought. It was foreknowledge.

There were numbers, too; he was telling me how much it would cost. For an amount that could feed the poor quarter for a year, they would make me loom menacingly over the city, reminding the people forever of the Sack. I could just see Inatalla laughing, “Chevenga will help us oppress Arko whether he wants to or not.” Where were they going to get this money—divert it from the schools, the sewers, the orphanages? Or wring more out of Arkans in taxes?

Of course he anticipated with delight the feeling that would swell in my heart; he knew kyashin well what it was. He’d come to me with several ideas of this kind while I’d been Imperator, all of which I’d said no to, telling him not to be ridiculous. Inatalla, you pig-worm, I thought, you think I’m not going to write to Artira and stop this? But he had to expect that, I realized. Such confidence that she wouldn’t listen to me… was it because he was right? Another wave of sweat broke out as I thought, She didn’t ask me... why didn’t she ask me?

I considered travelling to Arko, but a letter would get there faster, since by this time the A-niah were relaying mail. The cursed thing could be announced publicly any day, and then it would be a hundred times harder for her to cancel it. I tore a fresh sheet out of the paper-packet, grabbed up my pen and whipped it out right then. I spared no strength of wording; the gist of it was, “My sister, if you love me, you’ll nix this.” Yes, it was using a personal bond for political influence; but one’s likeness is a personal thing, too. I thought of sending a copy to the Pages as well, but decided against. If it were public, she’d be more likely to dig in her heels, and could make more convincingly the argument that a chiranyerai was interfering.

I asked her to answer preliminarily by pigeon. An eight-day passed with no answer. She’s angry at me, I thought. I sent a pigeon, asking if she’d received the letter. Another eight-day passed, so I sent another pigeon, and started making up my mind to go. A day later, Esora-e, who’d come up to the Independent for dinner, came stamping with grey eyes sparking into the clock-room, where Kallijas and I were. (By then the word had gone around that I collected time-pieces, a rumour that made itself true when people began giving them to me.) “Fourth Chevenga Shae-Ar—Chevenga Aicheresa! You preening little gamecock with a thousand thousand toady flatterers, how in sheep-brains did you talk Artira into this?” He smacked the latest Enchian Pages down on the table.

Kall said something to Esora-e with a voice of ice, Esora-e answered back with fire, and their yammering faded into the distance while I read. Artira had announced the statue. Inatalla had not even written that they’d tear down two University buildings to make the space; of course, at the head of the Avenue of Statuary, they’d have to. There was no mention of protest; was it too early? No man-on-the-street, either. Deep voices rose; I looked up and saw my alesinas and my shadow-father glaring at each other as if they were a bare moment away from blows.

“Shadow-father, the hawks conceived this, not me,” I said. “I can show you Inatalla’s letter to me telling me, and a copy of the letter I sent to Artira with my very strong charcoal. I told no one because I was hoping to head it off. You owe me, and Kall, an apology.” He gave it through teeth grit as hard as if he had lockjaw.

It was a sickly quiet dinner, except for the tantrum Rojhai threw, possibly in the hope of distracting us all. My own food went down cold as day-old offal.

“It’s not as if we can’t make a fuss,” Skorsas said cheerily, despite his and Kall’s confusion as to why the statue bothered me. “We’ve got money; we’ve even got a spawn-press. If you come out against it publicly, how can they go through with it?” He, Kall and Niku made plans, to write letters, to print tracts, to make speeches. I only half-heard; I was reading my Arkan copy of the Pages, and a streak of cold was creeping slowly up through my heart. The Pages opinion on the statue, favouring it, had been written by no writer; only bureaucrats have such a dead style. But it was signed Nil Kinnian.

When we were done eating and cleaning up, I told them all I was going out onto the mountain, for peace of mind, and I’d be a while. I put on the hooded robe, and went down to Terera, to look first in the Terera Pages office and second in Rirara’s. Shemeya was in the tavern, at a table with four or five others, singing raucously along with the bard who was on that night. I beckoned him, and, knowing my build, I guess, he got up fast and came over. He was staggering drunk.

Kaf was becoming as cherished a vice in Yeola-e as in Arko these days, but it could be a blessing. I bought a cupful of it and begged a cupful of cold water, had him down the kaf and splashed the water in his face. “I need you at least a little more sober,” I said. “Remember when I would not let you tell me something you were worried about in Arko, after I’d given you quotes for the federation story?”

“Yesh,” he said. “Try someone in Assembly, you shhaid. Assh if.”

“I’ve changed my mind. Tell me.”

“Oh?” He looked at me blinking and wavering, curse you, my ex-semanakraseye, come into focus. “But ssshhe doeshn’t lisshen to you. So you can do nothing. Shhevenga Off-The-Record Aissshhheressha.”

I reached down to grab up a double-handful of gutter-water, and slung it in his face. “I changed my mind about that, too. Tell me! What the fik happened?”

He ham-handedly wiped gutter-water, which of course is not all water, out of his eyes. “You really want to know?” I started to bend down again and he said, “Fine, fine! Fffik you. I got a note with no name. ‘Assh was done to him will be done to you, if you do the shhame again.’ I was thinking, what the fik? when Foranassh didn’t come in, and the kid Intharassh sent to find him came back white and shaking. You know how the sshhtory about his death shaid it was an accident? Sh’not true. He was murdered.”

My heart turned to ice, making all the rest of my body do the same. It was all I could do to form words. I remembered the story they’d done together about what Inatalla had said to me after I’d executed Kamina. I remembered the vindication I’d felt.

“In what language,” I made myself rasp, “was the note?”

“Sshhevenga…” He looked into my eyes, and I saw his brows peak with concern, albeit drunken. He put his hands on my shoulders. “Come back to Rirara’ssshh with me. Do the sshame as I’m doing, drink it all away.”

I grabbed his shoulders, shook him hard. “What language?” He let his head drop forward, his eyes leaving mine, his hands going lax on my shoulders.

“Yeoli,” he whispered.

The emotion that was seizing me, shredding and freezing my body at once from the inside, I realized was grief. On Haiu Menshir, finally, I found peace, I thought. With the help of so much love from my people, to build that beautiful place for me, I brought it back here. I have thrived on it, and watched my family thrive on it, too.

It was so good.

Pages story on the statue in full in Eclipse Court: here.





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Comments

Two questions . . .

. . . that just occurred to me:

1. Honestly, why would Artira even go along with this idea of the statue? Does she really think Chevenga would be pleased by it? I get the impression this kind of thing is not very Yeoli-like, so it occurs to me to wonder why she'd even go along with it without asking Chevenga if he wants it. This isn't meant as criticism, by the way - it really did just occur to me to wonder what Artira thinks about the whole thing.

2. What place, exactly, does Chirel hold, that Chevenga still has possession of it? I was under the impression that it was the sword of the semanakraseye, or at least chakrachaseye - is it more a family heirloom that goes to him as the eldest son/eldest warrior in his generation, rather than a national treasure?

Only one answer (for now)

1.

Spoiler: Highlight to view

Artira and Chevenga are going to have a conversation in which he asks her precisely the same question. And that's all I'm going to say, even in a spoiler box.

2. A good question and one in which I found, on thinking about it, that I did the right thing intuitively without fully working out the details. Ninja edit done.

Chirel is indeed a family heirloom, and possession of it follows the line of succession of the semanakraseyesin at least to those people in the line who have their wristlets. When the second-eldest is regenting for the eldest's eldest child, he or she, or in the case of the regent not being war-trained, the next brother or sister down who is, will carry the sword until said child gets his/her wristlets, or the next in that generation does. (Should I do a flow-chart?) Thus after Tennunga's death, Tyeraha had it until Chevenga was awarded his wristlets and it was then passed to him.

Historically, in some cases, the rightful bearer of Chirel has instead given it to a younger sibling who was much more capable as a warrior, especially if appointing him/her chakrachaseye.

Thus Chevenga, having been impeached, technically should not have it. By tradition, it belongs to his younger sister and former squire Sishana, since neither Artira or Handaotha, who are older than Sish, are fully war-trained.

And herein is exposed the anomaly of Chevenga's impeachment. Because the vote went more than 80% charcoal in Yeola-e, most Yeolis don't consider him truly impeached. Thus they are willing to look the other way with certain things. Notice, for instance, that despite his depressed avowal on Haiu Menshir that as chiranyerai he should have no hand in the education of his children, he's having more hand in it than he did before; also, he's informally representing Yeola-e in federation negotiations and no one is vociferously objecting. This is because those who would object know they'd get out-opinioned by the vast majority who don't. As far as Chirel goes, if you took a poll, probably 99% of Yeolis would say Chevenga should be the one carrying it, even if they voted to impeach him.

Technically, as soon as the result of the vote was revealed, Chevenga should have passed Chirel to Sishana, who was in Arko at the time. It was the last thing on his mind, however--and perhaps he had some subconscious resistance to letting it go--and it didn't even occur to Skorsas, the chief manager of Chevenga's earthly possessions, that the sword could possibly belong to anyone else. Sishana herself didn't feel it was right to take it from Chevenga either; the tradition of the sibling who is the more capable warrior came into play here, as did the generally-held assumption that if Arko and/or Yeola-e are threatened with war, he'll be appointed chakrachaseye.

Thus, unbeknownst to him since he was in la-la land at the time, they shipped the sword to Vae Arahi with all the rest of the family's stuff at the same time they took him to Haiu Menshir. On Kallijas's request for a security contingent, one of the Yeolis went back to Yeola-e to get it, remembering how therapeutic having it was for him the first time he was on Haiu Menshir. No one has said anything about him carrying and training with it since.

As far as Chirel goes, if you

As far as Chirel goes, if you took a poll, probably 99% of Yeolis would say Chevenga should be the one carrying it, even if they voted to impeach him.
--------------
I'm going to join the 1%, seeing as how he is currently threatening me with it. -SK

Once *again*, political position

...is determined by naked and unrepentant self-interest.

<sishana>Cheng! You can't go menacing readers! GIVE ME THAT! [wrestle wrestle]</sishana>

((Jumps and looks around

((Jumps and looks around guiltily))

How'd you know I'm naked? Shocked

<chevenga> [lascivious smile]

All that baring of your soul you do.

Ahhh, don't look at me like

Ahhh, don't look at me like that- you need to save your energy for the five oiled-bodied elite who are getting ready to jump your bones.

<chevenga>What??</chevenga>

SHHHH! We haven't told him about that!

1. Honestly, why would Artira

1. Honestly, why would Artira even go along with this idea of the statue? Does she really think Chevenga would be pleased by it?
-------------
At their last meeting, she accused him of wanting to be king of the earthsphere, remember?

I think that on some deeper level, she knows he would be horrified/mortified by it- which is why on a more petty resentful level, she would be tickled pink by the notion.

Also (while freaking out about trying to fill his enormous shoes), she might be thinking that this would be a lovely way to turn more public opinion against him (and thus make those people more positively inclined towards her).

I dunno. I would certainly be interested in eavesdropping upon the two of them having a conversation on the topic.

Giving nothing away,

>She might be thinking that this would be a lovely way to turn more public opinion against him (and thus make those people more positively inclined towards her).

Ehh, I don't know about that last bit. They'd all know which Imperial butt was on the Crystal Throne when it went up, and also, she's his sister. This could even backfire on her, if people felt she built it in an effort to borrow his glory. (And that would be like torture for her.)

I anticipate with delight the

I anticipate with delight the feeling that must swell in your heart as you read this.
----------------------

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!! (Sorry Cheng)

<chevenga> [charming smile] Oh, SK,

...that's quite all right! [quietly unclips Chirel...]</chevenga>

Okay, now I feel bad. The

Okay, now I feel bad. The first thing I thought was how terribly embarrassed/mortified he would be. I wouldn't have laughed if I'd realized the statue was part of the foreknowledge. Not quite so funny any more. -SK

Oh, he was terribly embarrassed/mortified

...too.

I am going to let you in on the origin of the giant bronze statue idea, because you actually caught the spirit in which it was conceived.

It was a quip on the part of Steve (S.M.) Stirling who, when we were hanging out and sometimes collaborating, had a kind of love-hate relationship with Chevenga. Steve was always very appreciative of my writing, but Chevenga's unwavering goodness consistently irked him. So at one point, when I happened to be in the early stages of plotting Lion's Soul, he found it amusing to imagine how Chevenga would feel if he had a dream featuring "fat, lazy Yeolis being carried around in chairs under a giant bronze statue of him," and teasingly shared this with me. (He was with Skorsas and Kallijas in not knowing why the gleaming colossus would bother Chevenga, but he understood well why the decadent Yeolis would.)

Ever happy to find new ways to torture my character, I decided to use it in the book, and indeed jack it up by making it foreknowledge on poor Chevenga's part. But that meant working out the reverse-engineering ramifications: what would have to happen for that scenario to become reality? It could be a natural consequence of conquest (which was why Steve came up with it) unless specific measures were taken to avoid it; so what were the determining specifics both chalk and charcoal? I thought that all out, and voila. The only difference in the weblit version is that I've thrown a journalistic murder into the mix.

(I probably don't need to tell you that the Enlightened Followers are 150% behind this initiative, and indeed collecting tithes to help fund it.)

So don't feel too too bad, SK. Even to me, the humorous aspect of the notion is still there.

((hides behind giant bronze

((hides behind giant bronze statue))

<chevenga>WHAT giant bronze statue?

It hasn't been built yet! [Spots you] </chevenga>

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