Saturday, August 1, 2009

87 - Confessed to the Flames

The Arkan Need for Atonement

The correct term is actually not “Atonement”. It is a misnomer to say that pain atones for pain. All it means is that more people are hurting rather than one feeling better and the other feeling worse. However, in Arko we are taught otherwise, as if we could somehow take on pain, sin and guilt and disperse it through their own bodies.

Punishment is a more appropriate term for what we practise. We cloak it in sacred and religious terms but we punish ourselves, trying to fix the evil that we do. At least people of conscience have the strong urge to try and take on the sins of those who have true responsibility.

In Muunas’s Book there are a number of passages (1) that are most often taught concerning individual responsibility for the actions of the state. In Aras’s Book there are far more (2). In Mikas’s Book there are more than double that. (3) The two lowest Gods have no written texts except for the priests and dekinas to preach from but they are almost all to do with submission to the authority of all castes above them and the Imperator and then the Gods above. We are taught to be miserable supplicants to the Gods rather than children of the Gods.

As an aside, we treat children, invalids and the infirm as miserable supplicants as well, as an extension of this idea, as if the poorest and meanest and lowest of the low somehow deserved everything received, whatever someone of higher caste chose to inflict on them.

Centuries ago, those in the higher castes were taught a reciprocity that no longer exists.(4) recognition that submission of responsibility does not merely go one way. The Aitzas were named with the term meaning ‘noble’ in all senses of the word. They are no longer taught what the name of the caste means.

Thus we struggle harder and harder to demand submission from lower castes, make them carry the weight of every decision, preach and teach that they deserve it, no matter what their will or actions are. This teaching becomes pervasive and omnipresent and makes human pain chains for sin, as if an Aitzas decision could be paid for with the right amount of lower-caste pain. It becomes so pervasive that we begin to crave pain in the hopes of making right what we see around us. (5) The Mahid use this craving, this need of children to make the world right, to train themselves and in their techniques of torture.

It appears that Arkans in particular are susceptible to this kind of manipulation because we are taught – by our society – that we deserve it.(6) We maintain our grip on the world with pain. Over and over and over. Our pain becomes payment for our actions, but the Gods are not shop keepers, hording our agony like chains.(7) The Gods are more like parents who cherish their children, but in this current age these teachings are very seldom preached.

We crave agony, trying to do the right thing. We hope to buy mercy with it. We hope desperately to escape agony in this life with lesser pain, since the pain of the body is less than the pain of being helpless. And the threat of eternal agony makes us hope that short term pain in this life will save us in the next.

1) Muunas’s Book, Chapter 14, Verses 8-32; Chapter 20, Verses 1-2; Chapter 103, Verse Nine; Chapter 200, Verses 45- 52

2) Aras’s Book, Chapter One, Verses 1-37; Chapter Five, Verses 22- 24; Chapter Nine, Verses 18 – 56; Chapter 22; Chapter 26; Chapter 84; Chapter 85, Verses 9-15; Chapter 90, Verses 10-60; Chapter 98, Verses 1-20; Chapter 110, Chapter 115, Chapter 119, Verses 16- 23; Chapter 121, Verse 7; Chapter 130; Chapter 132, Verses 25-39, Chapter 140; Chapter 150

3) Mikas’s Book, Chapters 50 to 100 with minor digressions

4) Ilesias’s the Great; Maxims to His Son

5) Mahid Book of Pain

6) Menasas’ Argument (banned year 452 Past Age)

7) Selinae’s Passages 43 and 72


I used my listening post in the ceiling more, to try and find out where Shefenkas was, but for the longest time he just vanished. I was sure he wasn’t dead but no one who cared to report to Father seemed able to find out.

Of course, given the way he treated those who dared tell him the truth, I wasn’t surprised. I even started to wonder if Meras was holding back, to save more of his family, then dismissed the idea. He was the perfect Mahid and if he’d found anything he would have reported it, no matter the cost.

I was glad Father didn’t immediately think to send people to Haiu Menshir. That was the most likely place in the world Shefenkas would be. After all, he had to get rid of the germ of the head he’d been given. If what I’d been told was true then it would kill him, if he didn’t. I looked it up in Amitzas’s books and even the smallest dose had a limited survival rate. Shefenkas would have to have it fixed inside the next few months, or die of it.

And Father was not happy with Haians right now, since he could not force Misahis to do what he wanted, nor would give him up to go home freely to the Island.

I’d seen Father just refusing to open missives from the Haian Speaking Elder before. He’d see it on his desk and just throw the poppy-sealed packet into the brazier in the office kept for burning unwanted or secret papers.

This time, He threw the missive at the brazier, missed and had it smack onto the marble with a scattering of other papers, and left it to the servants to pick up and burn, but I noticed it as he called me over to teach me a bit more about the Imperial Book.

The Imperial Book, in its solid gold covers with the Aan Sunburst, was something that Father showed me only very rarely. It was a treasure from when we were a people who lived in the sky and was as uncanny as any of the Marble Palace ghosts.

It had a place in the Imperator’s Kiniras Office, a drawer whose secret catch I was never able to figure out as a child. The drawer was as odd as the book with an interior like warm, matte silver.

The book itself had, at one time, been only the first twelve pages but subsequent Imperators had added gold ones or printed ones or later still, hand-written ones and it had been re-bound in gold in the early part of the Present Age. The first twelve pages had not been sewn and bound into the rest of the manuscript, but were a piece themselves with a spine all their own.

That book was uncanny, a mark of the God’s favour, a sign that Arko still had its connection through the Imperator. It was a sacred symbol no mortal could duplicate.

“Look here, my splinter,” He said to me. I stepped around the papers fallen on the floor and looked down at the book. It was open to last of the twelve and the first of the golden pages and there was a portrait of Father on it.

It was unreal, as if a God had painted it. I could tell it was His Ascension day for He was much younger and wore the Imperial Robe, in the Temple, and there was Imperator’s glass in His hair, which would only happen during the Ten Ten’s. “It is appropriate that you see this, before you reach your second threshold my scion. You are showing enough maturity that you may look on it.”

He smiled at me and held the book out. As I took it in my hands and it left his, the portrait vanished and the page was merely grey. I grabbed hard onto it, as if it had slipped and cried, “Did I break it? Oh –“

He laughed and took it back, pulling it out of my paralyzed hands. “No, my miniscule.” As he touched it, it came to life again. “It only answers to the true Imperator.” He shut it, wrapped it in its silver bag that folded over and over itself before setting it on its desk.

“One day, when that is legitimately yours, it will answer to you. In anyone else’s hands, any lesser hands than mine, it will not give up its secrets. You will have the care of it.” His fingers caressed what looked like a solid silver package now. “This cover is proof against fire and water, as is the special drawer in my office. One day I will show you how to open it.”

“Of course, Father.” He left the parcel of book on his desk and swept out, calling me to attend him.

“We have to receive the delegation from Anglia.” Now that the most distant of our Rejins had reached the north coast and that country held border on both sides of a strait of sea, they were sending delegations to begin treaties and negotiations with Father. Since they were uncanny archers, completely different than Srians, but terrifyingly accurate, with arrow-heads that could punch through Arkan quality metal armour, Father was pleased to meet with them and accept their presents and tributes, at least until he had enough strength to conquer them.

As he turned his back I scooped up the discarded Haian packet, tucking it into my waist-band as I straightened. The security watchers behind the wall-mirror would not say anything to Father. I let my eye rove across the mirror as if I could see them. The watchers were regular guard and sat behind such mirrors in almost all of Father’s working offices where he received audiences, their fingers upon the switches that controlled spring-darts in the walls and furniture, all aimed at the room, save for the Imperial chair itself.

Father could raise a finger and have someone knocked out or killed with the right sign, by signalling to them. They probably rose the moment Father made to leave. “Coming, son?” He called over his shoulder at the door.

“Directly, Father. My apologies for being so slow.”


Dinerer, Speaking Elder of Haiu Menshir (Date)

Imperator Sixteenth Kurkas Joras Amitzas Boras Aan, (my eye skipped over the block of courtesy titles and dropped to the text.)

I am writing on behalf of Narinchaer of Berit. Your personal physician, Misahis, of Berit, has been incommunicado for some time now. She appealed to me personally to ask You if You had any kind of information for his increasingly worried family.

We respectfully request that You respond to us, since You are the contract holder for one of our people, and thus must have some information as to our citizen’s whereabouts and well being.

With our continued regard for Your Good Health,


I wrote a letter to Inthilin: Dear Inthilin, Please pass on the sealed packet to Haiu Menshir.

Dear Dinerer,

I’m writing to you entirely on my own recognizance and my Divine Father has no idea I am doing this. I request that you not mention this to my Father. He would be annoyed with me for doing this and His annoyance is intended to be painful.

Misahis would not do something Father wished and was vanished into the Marble Palace. I know that the Imperial Pharmacist has him in a dark cell. I do not know if anything else is being done to him... I have not been able to contrive a way to see him without letting my Father know.

He might consider this letter treasonous, but Misahis was good to me and does not deserve this, or anything Father does. If I can figure out how to help him I will.

Please send any necessary correspondence to Inthilin Amras in the occupied Yeoli territory of Minisania. Otherwise, it would not be wise to contact me directly.

Minis Aan

I stared down at it and realized it was too dangerous to send. If I could send something anonymously I would. But anything under my name they might just shrug and send straight back to Father. He might not see it since He was throwing their letters to be burned, but I couldn’t risk it.

I picked up the Haian letter, the Inthilin letter and my own and ‘confessed them to the flames’ the term the office of Irefas had for information too dangerous to report to the Imperator. I thrust the idea of the Joras Mahid’s bloody, slack face out of my mind and watched the paper curl into black twists and white ashes in the brazier.


  1. Ah, poor boy. Check out a book on covert communication while you have the chance!

  2. Ah yes... but you do usually need to have the agreement of the other party to open communications? I wouldn't risk it if I were him.