002 - These cursedly-interesting times
Another letter to Piatsri I can’t send.
Last night, we had to pick Chevenga up off his desk again, past midnight. I wanted him badly, I still do, and now I have to wait another day.
I hate this. I knew it would be this way the moment he talked about going back to Arko about that fahkad statue. Why do you think I broke that shkavi sideboard when he came back ah-kah from the Bring Back Chevenga people boozing him up to get him to sign?
My children, his children, had a father. They fikken don’t, any more. Again.
And I don’t have a husband. I have lost him again to his people, not even his real people but the people who forced themselves on him, Arko. They tortured him and his whole nation and what did he answer with? Love, kindness, mercy, understanding. And most of his time.
I was stupid to marry him, after I knew in the Mezem that I would always be second in his heart. I’ve always been fahkad second, to everything and everyone else. His people, Kallijas because of the duel, Vaneesh because Roskat had to have an heir, the war, being Imperator. I am second to Arko to him, after what they did!
I want him more now. My body burns for him because it knows how much worse the burning will be after. He takes himself away from me, from all of us, when he’s about to be taken away from us forever. Fahkad shkavi tears again, I hate this. Sometimes I hate him. I know it’s the black eel talking so I’m letting its tail make black trailings on this paper, that you’ll never see so you can’t yell at me for it, and I’ll get the black out of me. So I can be loving towards him when he most needs it even though he won’t do the same for me.
I think my body wants him more also it wants the one thing he can give that will last beyond his death. I want another child by him. With him gone I won’t have to put that baby in the stream.
Excerpt from the personal journal of Intharas Terren, High Editor of the Pages of Arko, for the eight-day following Mella 16, 51st-to-last Y.P.A.
’Twas a typical hound-dogging day at Arko’s Hallowed Halls of Truth and Corrected Typos when… ehh, that makes it sound as if something interesting is about to happen in my epistle, doesn’t it? Well, aside from the general under-layer of interesting that pervades these cursedly-interesting times since, oh, about the time one Sixteenth Kurkas Aan Imperator undertook the annexation of a certain nation to the east, nothing interesting is about to happen. It’s the same old same old: not free, free, not free again, free again, and we at the Pages have tried our best to accustom ourselves to the ups and downs like fishermen in a leaky skiff riding the waves.
Of course we cannot help but cast the far-lookers ahead to see what sort of a wave may lift us Selestialis-ward—or plunge us the other way—next. The next one crashes on Anae 36, when Arko will choose by fodaisin an Imperator about which one thing will be certain: he will be Arkan.
The candidates… well, let’s start with Mil Torii Itzan. Current patriarch of a Fortunate Fifty house whose patriarchs have not worked a day in their lives for at least eleven generations, as they simply hire managers to administer their vast holdings, Ser Itzan is famed for but one thing: throwing lavish parties. We only ever mention his name on the social page or in the Serpent’s Tale. How well this will go over with the citizens of Arko as they consider their fodai chips, I am not sure, since the vast majority of them, we estimate at least 999 in a thousand, have never sipped gold-fleck-laced drinks, had oysters passed mouth-to-mouth to them by the most-carefully-selected of the elite of pleasure-boys, frolicked naked in showers of rose petals, or tasted the other joys of attending a Mil Torii Itzan party.
Adamas Kallen is of the same family as the general who so distinguished himself in the Yeoli War that after capturing him in one battle, Shefenkas made sure to release him without ransom just in time for him to take command of the next, overriding the vastly-more-capable Perisalas Kem, and thus ensure that it too would be an Arkan defeat. I have it on good, though alas not reportable, authority that Adamas, who seems to have somewhat more escaped the effects of the family inbreeding than his illustrious cousin—somewhat—is appealing to Abatzas specifically not to publicly endorse him. My feeling is that he will listen to this about as much as he listened to scout reports of Lakan troops joining Shefenkas’s army. The family trait that Adamas certainly does have is a certain venality of mind, particularly towards people who oppose his wishes in any way. As that would include his fellow candidates for Imperator, we expect more than our share of derogatory quotes.
Kin Immen Kazien is probably the least known of the candidates, as more of the Kaziens reside in Marsae and other western locales, though he does have a City residence. Another idle Fortunate Fifty scion, Ser Kazien at one time somewhat distinguished himself in war, though not nearly as much as his uncle Malaradas in his years of mental acuity. There are whispers—again unreportable except in scurrilous sections of my august publication such as the Serpent’s Tale—that he has a perverse sexual predilection of some sort. In this spawn-Press-plagued City, the prurient race is on to be the first news-sheet to find out and reveal exactly what it is. Such degraded journalism—I deplore it! Still, needs must when Hayel drives, so I’m expending a fair amount of money to make sure it is the Pages.
Finally we have Kallijas Itrean: peerless champion, defeated duelist, incorruptible paladin at least until he became the alesinas of the Yeoli Imperator. Certainly he has a solid grasp of this radical concept of ‘work,’ a true understanding of war and an upright and honest nature. He would serve as a fine example for Arkan lads to emulate. He would doubtless follow in Shefenkas’s footsteps when it comes to policies—not that an Imperator’s stance will matter so much any more—and could in fact serve secretly as a puppet king, despite all Shefenkas’s avowals... possibly without even knowing it himself. As the least of four evils, the Pages will endorse him. I just wish he were more… quotable. And devious; an Imperator should not be without that. And confident. It is no secret that Ser Itrean finds politics complicated and difficult, and doesn’t at heart feel himself suited (unlike the other three, who all feel themselves much more suited than they actually are). In a politician, both are weakness.
So how free will we be? By which I mean both the denizens of the Press, and the denizens of the Empire?
I think Ser Itzan would not care, leaving it all to Assembly as a mere second manager of his holdings. Ser Itrean might care, but would still leave it, feeling the Servants are more savvy than he. Under either of them, our fate will depend on the tide of opinion in Assembly, which is impossible to predict.
I think that Ser Kallen or Kazien would return Arko to the old ways of absolute Imperatorship the moment he could. That makes me fear civil war, or Shefenkas returning at the head of an army again, or both. Making things much too interesting, even for an ink-stained vulture such as myself.
20 Merjin 4980 | City of Arko
Spirit of life help me! Mamin, help me—I don’t know what to do!
Kilalulana and I were out this evening (I can’t sleep until I write you) and I noticed she was not herself. She seemed… delicate. I know that is the strangest thing to say about her—and the would-be pickpocket she chased down the street and almost beheaded wouldn’t call her delicate, exactly… most Haians would record it as “irritability.” But to me who knows her so well… it’s a kind of brittleness. She is usually so easy-going… usually she’ll just smack a pickpocket’s hand with the flat of her blade and say “Next time it comes off; tell all your friends.” With a smile. This one would have been shredded if he hadn’t been wearing faib-skates.
I felt as if I were bothering her by being Haian, as I used to fear, then stopped fearing because she was always so accepting. When I asked her if she was feeling all right, she almost hissed at me, “Yes, I feel fine. It’s things you’re saying, Kaneeja.” But I’m sure I’m not acting any differently… when do I ever act differently?
Well, I am her healer, of course, so she doesn’t have to pay someone else, so before we kissed goodnight I checked her as always. Usually she likes it; she’s always said it makes her feel cared for, or loved in a way that is so powerful. This time, she gave me her wrist grudgingly.
Mamin… I did what I was trained to do, what Haians always do: set my face not to show anything when I felt her wrist-pulses. Even if what you feel makes your heart want to shred itself with anguish or burst through the top of your head with joy, either way, right? So I didn’t show anything. And I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t know what to say, didn’t know where to start, thought ‘I’ve got to figure out what to say before I open my mouth’ and so just kissed her again and said goodbye and scurried off back to the Imperial section. Thus I know what she doesn’t, yet, or else I’m sure she’d have told me.
Mamin, she’s pregnant!