189 - I am willing now to be the sword it lays down
Chevenga’s beyond-the-sword address
Transcribed by Lurai Athal
Terera Pages, atakina 71, 1556
My people who I love:
I come to you as I am about to go beyond the sword; the venue is prepared, the people are in place, and I’m geared up as is traditional to start the ceremony because I will go up to the School of the Sword to undergo it the moment I am finished speaking to you.
I know it dismays many people. I’ve had numerous friends, both dear and more distant, mostly in the military, try to dissuade me. I know there are many who feel I am betraying Yeola-e, that I am abandoning my post, that I am leaving us open to enemies. I know that because of how the Arkan war went there is genuine and heartfelt fear that my laying down the sword will significantly weaken us, and I acknowledge that this fear is understandable.
My answer to it is this:
Every Yeoli knows all too well what Kurkas and Arko did to us in the war against us. We know how many died, we know how many were tortured or maimed, and how severely; we know how many were kidnapped, we know how much property was stolen. We know the breadth and the depth of our grief and our pain, and how it has changed us.
What we are less aware of is how our fear, our anger and our fighting against Arko has changed us. To be fearful and enraged was natural, and fighting was necessary, but we undertook it at a price—that we would accustom ourselves more towards the ways of war, and away from the ways of peace.
The clearest sign of that change we showed the way we often do, by a vote, which history will always know. We made ourselves into what we had never been before—conquerors.
Now before anyone calls me down for hypocrisy because I was in favour of it, two points:
First: I am not denying or lessening my own part in our decision to conquer, though I maintain still, and will to my dying breath, that it was improper for me to have been asked. Nonetheless I was, and I chalked it because chalk was my preference, and I don’t pretend it wasn’t.
Second, I am not saying even that it was a wrong choice. There are many reasons that can be reasonably argued, that ultimately this way was best not only for Yeola-e but for the world and even for Arko itself, chief of which are the removal of Kurkas Aan from the Crystal Throne and the transformation of Arko into a nation ruled by its people through the vote.
But nonetheless the invasion was most certainly the mark of a change in us, brought about by anger and fear from the pain we suffered. I do not, I cannot, castigate any Yeoli for that, because it was natural and human, and I think that most peoples in the world in the same position as us would have done the same as we did, if they could.
Nonetheless, as we know in our hearts: where anger and fear rule, love and peace are driven out. I cite a poem by Sinaera Shae-Leyere, whose words have burned themselves into my mind:
“I love you but I do not know it; my heart is armoured too thick around.
I touch my hand to yours, but the callus on my palm is too thick to feel your warmth through it.
My soul is so girded with scars that nothing touches me, and I am so tough that your tenderness is agony to me.”
There is a demarch who went beyond the sword some eight centuries ago, in a time in which Yeola-e had been beset with war for as long as she had lived, and more—Second Kilalere Nekahara. I quote her:
“We have come to live and breathe war, to raise our children to it, to take the sword deep into our soul. But what serves us well in war will make us forget who we are, a people who love peace. The sword has sunk too deep into us; though we are plainly coming into a time when there will be little danger of war, fear and anger linger, people feel bound to it, so that they cannot loosen their grasp.”
Her most important point, to my mind:
“Saint Mother wished us to have the choice, not only the choice of circumstance, but the more important choice, the choice of the soul, to take up or lay down the sword as we choose.”
Second Kilalere knew what we still know, that in fear we feel helpless and so forget that we choose everything, and so we lose our ability to choose, which is by far the worst of any loss of freedom.
Now it is the same for us, after the Arkan occupation and after the Arkan war, as it was in her time; and yet we went even beyond that, in becoming the aggressors for the first time in our history.
When I look back, again, I see it most clearly in myself. I do not regret invading, but I will always regret, with the most bitter remorse, that I allowed the sack of Arko, that I gave free reign to Yeolis to kill and rape and torture Arkans. And I know that error came out of my own pain, out of the change that Arko had wrought in me personally.
But one person cannot sack a city, and many pairs of Yeoli hands were red; nor can one person seize up as much Arkan property as was seized by those called in Arko the Yeoli hawks. The change wrought by war was much more severe in some of us—such as myself, and them—than in others; but in truth, as we are one people, it is in all of us.
In that sense, all Yeola-e needs to go beyond the sword.
Now I ask that my words not be misinterpreted. I’m not saying all Yeolis should lay down their swords. We would be fools to leave ourselves defenseless, as would any nation. If we were to melt down all our blades and demolish all our walls, we would soon lose our freedom.
My own heart moved me to go beyond the sword. Those whose hearts don’t similarly move them should by no means do likewise, or feel urged to. I would never try to persuade anyone not inclined. Yeola-e needs warriors, and plenty of them. I am not ashamed of having been one, and never will be, even though I am about to cease.
What I mean is that it is our collective spirit as a people, human and therefore subject to failings, which we must look at and assess—just as my healer, who sees auras, looked at my spirit and told me what I needed to know. What we cannot deny is that the Arkan nightmare we lived as a people left our spirit in need of healing. The wounds still ache, the hatreds linger, the hardness of our callus and the armour thick around our hearts is still numbing us to love. When we ask ourselves, ‘Are we in accord with All-Spirit?’ we must, if we are honest, answer that while we were sacking and plundering Arko, while we were wading in Arkan blood, we were not, and perhaps we have not fully returned.
So no, we should not all lay down our swords, but as a people we need to turn our minds to the ethic of beyond-the-sword. We need to correct our course not with an extreme turn, but with a moderate one. We need to remind ourselves that we are a people who love peace over war, and that our true strength—-to return to that matter of our strength—lies not in the way of fear and anger but in the way of peace—of peace within, which is love, and which is All-Spirit.
For that, I go beyond the sword. As I was willing then to be the sword in Yeola-e’s hand that enabled conquest, I am willing now to be the sword it lays down. As Yeola-e needs reminding, I am willing to serve as the reminder. Whether you see it as having been required of me, or arising out of my own initiative, it is I who took the extreme course and so I should likewise make the extreme correction.
In the greater context of Yeoli culture, and of our history as a people which began a millennium and a half ago, I think I am doing what is right and what is best, and I think when history looks back on our time, it will agree.
So to all my warrior friends, who are friends like no others as anyone who has been on a battlefield knows, I wish you the most heartfelt farewell, at least to that aspect of our lives. I am not deceiving myself that I won’t miss those life-and-death bonds, and even war itself.
To all who have commanded me, I thank you for the wisdom of your commands that enabled victory and for the teaching beyond measure you gave me.
To all who were my teachers, particularly Azaila Shae-Chila, who will also conduct my beyond-the-sword ceremony, you gave me everything I know as a warrior and made me the warrior I am, and I thank you.
To all who fought under my command—and of course this extends beyond our borders to all those of other peoples who fought with us against Arko—I thank you for granting me the ultimate honour of the relinquishment of your will and the entrusting of me with your lives, and for the unfailing heart and spirit that you put into your fighting. It is you in truth who made my name.
I thank even all the enemies I have fought against, for being honourable enemies when you were—and when you weren’t, I thank you nonetheless for providing grist for learning by being a sorry example.
I don’t deceive myself that I won’t miss all of it.
My people who I love, I go now to the next stage of my life, whatever it will be—I cannot know, especially when much depends on your vote—but I do know that when you see me next I will be beyond the sword, ex-warrior. I am eager—perhaps more than for anything else in my life. I am nervous—no, that’s not a strong enough word to be true. I am scared shitless. But I go forward anyway because I know I am doing right both for myself and for you my people.
I return to All-Spirit this way.
Go with All-Spirit yourselves, and know always that whatever name I bear and whatever I am doing, you have my love and my wish for your happiness, as I have dedicated my life to, always.