Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Reading Is An Act of Rebellion

Reading Is An Act of Rebellion

by Minis Aan

At first I did not consider reading to be anything but tedious lessons, though my first tutor and nurse both read to me, extensively. I learned to read to be able to 'do it myself', at a young age. Perhaps, even then, I realized that it was dangerous for them to be so close to me, since my nurse always read to me with me on her lap, and my tutor would put his arm around me when we were reading difficult passages.

My late father, Sixteenth Kurkas, was always leery of anyone touching me, as he was leery of anyone touching him. He could touch, grab, pinch... but no one dared touch him without express command. So, in my early life, reading was associated with touch and connection, however illicit.

And it was the year I turned seven, during Jitzmitthra, that I took the notion to see what the Portals of Propriety were hiding from me.

If the readers of this piece are not Arkan, let me explain. First of all, though we have the technology to print hundreds and thousands of books, the information in them used to be very carefully controlled. The Pages had an Office of the Censor, though it was not always filled or, as in the time of my father was a perquisite for one of my father's friends who would most often sleep and let the Pages Editor carefully decide what was safe to print. There was also an Office of the Censor in the Marble Palace that vetted every printed thing that came into the City and sent it to its place in the libraries.

General consumption was everything that anyone could read, could they even read in the first place. Then there came the Portals of Propriety. The first Portal was the barrier to any male under age seven. (Females were not allowed to read, on pain of flogging, though many men taught their wives and daughters in secret. Or the girls learned by themselves sitting in on their brother's lessons, often while doing womanly things like embroidery.)

After that was the Second Portal, barred to boys under the second Threshold, or age fourteen. Third Portal is for grown men older than twenty-one. There are seven other Portals, depending on Status and Political clearance not available to the Public, for a total of ten. The last Portal, or Tenth, were Decrees of Imperium, or the Declarations of the Imperator.

When I was seven, as I said, on impulse, decided to flout all custom and good comportment and see what was behind the Portals forbidden me.

Even on Jitzmitthra there was a guard, but not the regular librarian who sat at the desk. He, of course, had the holiday and his job was given over to one of the Marble Palace guard, who included it in their regular patrols. All I had to do is hide behind one of the statues nearby, Ninian the Feckless Mounting to the Heights, as I recall, because his horse's tail provided the perfect cover for me, and there wait till the guard had passed by.

I admit to a certain amount of breathless fear entering because what marvels would I find, tiptoeing in. And was disappointed! This? A book of fairy tales that showed an uncovered house donkey on the cover? Really?

It wasn't until I got to the adult sections that I found what I thought was 'the good stuff'. Haian medical books that showed everything, male and female. Gasp. Yeoli language books with naked hands waving. Tor Enchian horse breeding books. It was the explicit pictures that had hidden them here behind the locked gates. Oh, yes, I had to steal the keys from the Head Librarian's desk to get in.

Then there were the political texts that were subversive. Some written by Imperators before my father whose ideas had fallen out of fashion as they had less power than my father did. He saw them as weak and had all their ideals locked away out of public view.

They were all lumped together in a bin actually, at the back of the political section, with foreign policy texts and a dozen copies of the Fingers of God by the Naked Prophet.

I believe this is where I began to understand that my father controlled books and despised reading and learning in general, because some of the political texts actually supported his position, but they were chucked together with the radical texts because he obviously didn't know or care. If he didn't, then his librarians didn't bother with them. As long as they were locked away they didn't have to think about the dangerous ideas contained inside their covers.

I chose a stack of books... actually more than I could carry, but put them all on a trolly to wheel down to the Silver Stacks which was my personal library. I instructed a servant to have another book shelf set up, with doors that I had the key to so they could not be seen. I had to protect myself and had someone reported me to my father that I was reading out of age and above my security clearance – because there were things there that even I was not supposed to see or know – he would probably have made me burn the lot of them.

I commanded my nurse to not touch my reading materials and then began maintaining a stack of books on the headboard of the bed... shoved in apparently haphazardly so most of the spines or titles did not show, with several knuckle suckers visible, some of my assigned texts, and my personal Holy Book of the Ten, the one bound in silver, prominently on top. It was a heavy book and my father was unlikely to touch or move it on his visits into my rooms.

First of all my father wasn't interested in books at all. Secondly, none of my companions would touch them. They had their own and we had our Dekinas instructor for Holy teachings who had his own copy of the Book. It was as safe as I could make them.

I also had several hiding places that only I knew where they were. That was where I kept the Haian medical texts, the most subversive of the political books (that were well written and my favourites).

Around that stack I had several innocuous copies of the Pages that would be regularly cleaned away by the staff, so everyone got used to my always having a stack of books to hand and very few people thought anything of it.

I kept the Warmaster's books in the locked cabinet, and the Great General's Series. One of my teachers in General craft gave me guidance as to what books were worthwhile to keep and re-read.

That bookcase was my horde of ideas, as I called them. They glistened in my mind sometimes, like gemstones, and it became a yearly trek, a yearly book-hunt to add to my philosophies. One of the things that hurt me most during the years of my exile, was the lack of anything to read but what was approved my 2nd Amitzas |Mahid, which was the Holy Book and the texts that Ailadas, my tutor, could carry.

During that time, one of the Mahid was sent to buy books to continue my Imperial Education and it was as though they'd given me a birthday gift, solstice gift and name-day gift all at once. He had brought candles to read by and books that I had not yet read.

You see, ideas take root in your mind if they are good ideas, and they develop what some Haians call 'book-hunger' since it is a kind of addiction. It is an addiction to freedom and free thinking.

Censors are there to try and kill this expansive way of thinking and feeling. They are there to make ideas dull and small and boring. If they can bore you, they can make you blind to beautiful thoughts.

Tyrants, Slavemasters, Owners of all kinds do not want their chattel to read. If people want to read, if they want to write, they become what all kinds of Despots fear and hate. They think, so they become 'unruly' and ask questions.

Dyers, as an Arkan subculture, are the embodiment of free thinking, poetry, and rebellion. They first read and then they began declaiming what they read at the tops of their lungs.

Those who would own people, first try to own their minds and their thoughts. If they can stop them reading, they will get a mob that can be swayed by rhetoric and spoon-fed lies.  Readers vote and vote well.

Read. And be prepared to speak if necessary, because rebellion is necessary when tyranny raises its ugly head.

Better to have people who read and think who ask questions than dull, mindless people who accept shen as their proper food.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Blood Marble Has Been Sold!!

I am pleased to announce that Blood Marble (Book One) has been sold to Henchmen Press in Boston!

This means that I shall be taking all those posts down, I'm afraid.  I will keep everyone posted as to when and where the book will be available!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Epilogue Three



Epilogue III

Alfalaria sat in the shade of the wicker tower, the shade sail billowing above.  On the tower side of her sat a dozen giant pots holding palm trees that swayed and clacked far above adding more shade to the cool breeze off the sea.  The deck under her moved slightly, gently rising and falling as if the hospital itself were breathing.

The Hound was berthed on the other side of the island, where the water was deeper, even though she drew amazingly little for her size.  “Missy?”

Kaylebuh stood off to one side, holding a rolled up Pages in his hands, twisting it back and forth, leaving a powdering of grey/black ink against his brown hands.

“Yes, Kaylebuh?” She turned and patted the deck next to her, to invite him to sit.  He still had the servile mannerisms of a slave, but then he’d only been free, precisely, for a few weeks. He settled down gracefully.

“I kin read the headline, Missy but would y’all be so kind as to read this tah me?” He proffered the Pages.  She took it and looked at the headline as it unrolled.  “Not ‘Alesinae’s Baby Named?”She turned it over.  “Ah.  Fehinnan Ambassador Arrested.”

“Hmm… Date… Byline… I don’t know that reporter… it’s a girl though.  “The Marble Palace Announced that the Fehinnan Ambassador, Reynawed Pearse Beyauregar Aeesleen… I think that’s how it’s pronounced…” She looked up to his nod.

“A little fast on t’ vowels, Missy but good ‘nough.”

“… on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to enslave INAssembly members, conspiracy to destabilize the Empire of Arko and thirty-six other charges brought before the High Court and Assembly.  The Ambassador and the entire Fehinnan staff of his official office have been truth drugged and all those involved with the charges have been detained.” Kaylebuh pursed his mouth in a silent whistle but didn’t interrupt.

“Speaking for the Empire, concerning the charges of murder and conspiracy to murder Arkan citizens, He Who’s Ear is Held By Assembly deferred to the Assembly in their deliberations and they voted, by a margin of eighteen votes, to deny the High Court’s recommendation of hanging, but to send all self-condemned people back to their God King in chains and a request that that country deal with their own.”

“Blest Rik,” Kaylebuh breathed.  “It don’ matter who’s in power.  They dead, dead, dead.”

“Really?” Alfalaria shrugged.  “I’m glad.  It was their plans that killed my parents.” She continued.

“The Fehinnan Embassy remains open, run by the innocent in that company, though the position of Ambassador will necessarily await the God-King’s pleasure to announce.  All citizens of the God King being held for transportation across the sea to their own country remain in close custody in the Embassy building.”

The drum sounded distantly, and the cheering.  Alfalaria and Kaylebuh shaded their eyes against the burning sparkle of sun on sea and watched the enormous tri-hulled ship, the second of her kind, surge up onto her sea-legs and fly in one of her testing runs. “The story doesn’t say but I bet they send the lot of them on the Golden Eagle.”

“She beautiful.”

“Kaylebuh, we’ll be needed on the Hound… she’s escorting.  I’m going to translate.”

The small brown man patted at a pouch he wore around his neck.  “Name's Kayleb not Kaylebuh... no more diminutives fer me. I’m comin’ Missy.  Y’all pay me enough t’ buy m’ wife and even kiddies free.”

Alfalaria nodded.  “I’ll help you negotiate, if you like.  Knock ‘em down a peg.”

“It’ll be dangerous.”

“We’re going with two flying boats and a ten of quinqueremes.  For a ‘peaceful visit’.  I don’t think Fehinna wants to really start something official.”

“Nah, they best on land, Miz Alfalaria.  W’ field guns n’ balloons.  Y’all's wings’ll cut em up right fierce ifn they’all try sumpin’.  They make war like rats eaten the rotten bottom out.  Not real keen on stand up fight.”

“They, Kayleb?  Aren’t you fiercely Fehinnan?” She raised an eyebrow at him.

He grimaced as though biting through a sheet of lead, lips peeling back from his teeth.  “Nah more… Miz Alfalaria. Y’all set me right.  Set me loose.  Lessee what I kin do, as a freeman.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Epilogue Two




Dear Reknarja,

Please enclosed find a packet of seeds that have the cure for this ‘childless illness’.  The Haians tell me that since we can restore fertility in people it might be an idea to let it spread, considering the ‘limiting population’ clause in the Assembly of Nations agreement.  I will be sending a letter to Chevenga with this proposal in this same packet.

I am sending these arkanherb seeds out to all members of the Assembly and Haiu Menshir is already creating remedies from the mature trees which are currently being tended in the Temple so that people who do not like the effects of arkanherb needn’t get high to get cured.

Of course I am sending an official letter to your father the King so he can lift his quarantines.  Not to pry, but how is his health? I hope he continues robust and with all his faculties.

I was happy to hear that Jak and Peyyapallo have reconciled again.  Are they living in his palace in Tor Ench, or hers in Hyrene?

We would like to invite you and your wife to come visit for a time, now that Ky and Fara are safely delivered and it would be good to see the children playing together, though I’m certain that your princess will be quite bored with our little blobs that don’t do much yet. We’ll restrain Ili and Boras and Tesha, who is becoming quite the scrape-grace.

Ili is chafing at the long time it is taking for his domoctopus’s eggs to hatch, and he is teaching a new friend (from Berit in Haiu Menshir) to ride our Mahid blacks.  Next fall there will be a lovely crop of foals from the herd, according to the stable master and they are already picking names.  The Haian girl… Tirchaer… is allowing ‘Indomitable’ for her favourite mare’s foal because ‘Innie’ for short is a pretty name, she thinks.

In any case I will see you at the next meeting of Nations at the Tor.  We have to come up with some central meeting place rather than having everyone traipse around to the various capitols.  My Assembly is already fretting about how expensive the trip is going to be and I can’t imagine they will appreciate the incredible distance up to F’talezon, even by wing, which is one reason that everyone is voting for closer meeting places.

I’ll let you in on a few things, mostly because they will be announced in the Pages shortly.  The NA forces that set out to get rid of the Fehinnan slave chancres on the Dust Coast went extremely well and my fessas designers are talking to the Haians about making the built island hospital more permanent. I’ll have to tell you about how General Pasen survived the assassin’s attack right at the end of the whole engagement and he says he will retire again.

Among the slaves we freed, some thousands were Enchian and you will probably find them making their way home again soon.  The Srians – being the ones directing the operation – will no doubt have the full report to let everyone know…

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Epilogue One




Minis sat down on the edge of Muunas’s palm as the crowded Temple began emptying out to go dry themselves off, as if the rain festival were still running. Doof flapped over to land on his arm, then slide down to his lap, tangling in his wet hair, looking bedraggled as though she were just hatched.  The mysterious second parrot, a red and grey, put his scarlet crest up and tried to preen Doof’s feathers without getting any closer to Minis.  He laughed and scratched Doof before setting her next to her suitor. “Good luck,” he said to the grey, winking at him.

Then he slid down Muunas’s lap to his feet, to find both Radas and Narilla waiting for him, each with a cup in their hands. “You need sustenance,” Radas said and they watched him quaff the drinks that only the Temple could make, made of light and energy and air. His lips tingled and his tongue and gums and throat as Gan flung his arm over his shoulders.

“You’ll be easy to beat, sparring, brother mine!” He crowed as Antras politely cleared his throat to announce that the Marble Palace staff were there at their Imperator’s disposal.

“You and whose Mahid?” Minis whispered as Ky came down, one of the only people not soaking wet except for the very hem of her dress.

Farasha straightened and let out her breath, Narilla turned to her.  “Timing,” she said.  “I think I am in labour…”

Gan and Minis whooped and Ky laughed so hard she cried as the priestesses swooped on Farasha and carried her and Gan off to the Temple birthing pool.

**

Shkai’ra leaned over to whisper in Megan’s ear.  “Pretty impressive spook pushing.”

The Zak smiled as Ili and his Haian friend mounted the horses and led the whole herd carefully out of the Temple. “It was astonishing on every level.  Lixand –“

“—Mata I think I want to stay in Arko for a while,” he broke in.  “I don’t think Ardas will want to come back here…”

“He can decide, just as you can.  I was thinking that I’d stay a while myself, open an office for the company here.”

Shkai’ra laughed.  “You like big cities, love.”

Megan looked down at her hands.  “I think I’ll learn how to fly… and we can go home to Brahvniki every moon.”

Thursday, August 13, 2015

182 - End of Ordeal



Matthas and Ilesias ran up the steps into the Temple and found  that Oas, Anae, Imbas and Mella already had some people standing as avatars of God.  The stone-workers that Matthas had worked with, building the new part of the Temple, the Imperial family’s households, led by the Marble Palace chamberlain.  Professors and students from the University. The Marble Palace stable master and Tanifas.

The Mahid team… all of the women took up station with Inensa or before Mella and one… Melforasha, before Anae.

Boras and Tesha Riala Mahid tumbled off the dog, who slid between two horses and lay down practically in Ili’s lap.   

“We’re HERE!” Tesha shouted, dancing in place, clinging to the dog’s ears to get her balance.

“Fix it, GODS!  FIX IT, OH TEN!” Boras shouted, raising his tiny arms.

Ili stood up, carefully so as not to hurt the dog or the children.  The choir fell silent.  The crowd filling the Temple, old and new, held their breath. Even the animals were silent.

Then a single note from the glass harmonium slid down into hearing. Down, down, like a grace note falling from Selestialis till it rumbled and thundered.  All over the Temple, driven by a united impulse, people pulled off their gloves and held up their naked hands to the sky.  Some held black handkerchiefs. One, lone gold glittered in Ilian Kallen’s hand, until he looked all around and shame-faced and angry tucked it away.  All other fingers reached up, somehow outlined in silver.

Ky’s hands were full, she held both babies on her lap and instead of raising her hands she raised her voice, singing a rising harmonic to the Temple’s tone.  Ili’s treble joined her.  Then the women. The men’s basses and baritones sang with the Temple. Voiced, wordless… Then the women’s notes began falling and the men’s began rising till, at the moment of noon, when the sun blazed down on Minis in his coat of fur on Muunas’s hand, met and the mighty, united voice of all Arko shook the city, and the crater and the lake.

At the bottom of the lake, the roots of the Temple, the core of Argos, responded. *Emergency protocols engaged direction Ark Co.*

Thunder rumbled through the Temple and lightning struck out of a clear sky, undiverted by the shattered ruins of the Lightning tower it touched the highest spire of the Temple.

Water flowed up through new channels that had been cracked before, to flow into the wrong part of the Temple, now directed correctly.  From Mella’s outstretched hands fountains burst out that every God and Goddess statue echoed.  Water flowed as Divine tears, out of beneficent hands. Minis stood up in Muunas’s palm as the animals, soaking wet, climbed or flew away to let him rise. The water poured down on the Arkanherb trees that Inensa had had brought, ran through the leaves and flowers of the poison garden.

The water, infused, poured around Anae’s feet and from her upraised hand showered down again into Risae’s hands. *Buselasas pro takulshu toff deenay mod eefika shun replik ashun kannibas ind ika sub speesees Imperial Gold* The Temple’s words were barely audible as the crowd held the note.

Minis, soaking wet, thin, barely able to stand, held up the seals.  The rain in the Temple stopped and the water retreated to the pool at Anae’s feet and the fountain flowing quietly, calmly, from Mella’s hands. Thunder rumbled again and the single note song of Arko stopped. 

“The answer to our problem of bearing,” Minis said, his voice rolling out.  “Has been solved.” He held out his hands, and pointed.  “These arkanherb trees are now the medicine to cure this illness.  Anae cleansed, Mella provided, Risae created. Blessed be the Ten.”

“Blessed be the Ten,” came the response.  Then Bella and the other dogs stood up and shook themselves wildly, re-soaking the crowd who exclaimed, laughed, began cheering, waving the black handkerchiefs that called for the end of Ordeal, hastily re-doning their gloves, embarrassed.

Everything in the Temple was wet. The mice around his feet, sat, bedraggled, beginning to wash, the eagles shook their feathers and the parrots. Even the owls were wet, sitting in Selinae’s hair, wings held out, dripping.

“Thank you, Arko,” Minis said looking out over the congregation who had saved him, saved themselves, wiping his face dry.  “Our Ordeal is over.”

- fin -