(Chevenga's speech in its entirety is written by Karen Wehrstein, my thanks for being allowed to quote it.)
There was a lot of confusion but it was distant, someone screaming about poison, someone else bellowing for the Haian. All of it was distant and covered in fuzzy gray fog. Haian? There were no Haians in Arko, except for those in chains. I could feel my eyes open, but could only see gray. I blinked my eyes clear and looked up into a Haian face. “Misahis?” I tried to say but couldn’t get any words out. “I’m sorry.”
no... Misahis is in the black corridor behind the white corridor. A Haian? No it’s Father’s face over me... or was it a guard? I couldn’t see, couldn’t tell. I was on Ilesias’s swing or was I on the outermost wingtip of the eagle tower? I couldn’t move to moon Meras again, though I wanted to.
I was floating for a while... was I swimming? Oh. Perhaps I was in the cascade. It felt like I was on the warmed stone... oh. No. I was in bed, silly me. I wish my throat didn’t hurt so much. words burned in my throat before they could get out to the cool air. I had to vomit and I felt I was up on my side. It hurt so badly that the gray went black for a while.
Next time I was aware I was in my bed with Binshala sitting next to me, on a raised chair actually clipped to the side of my bed. I had never been sick enough to have that set up that I could remember. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray. The exalted one is awake?” From the light I hadn’t been out of my head long.
My throat still hurt. I nodded. “Spark, the Haian said that the exalted one was ill, not poisoned.” Oh good. I nodded. She offered me iced fruit, the grapes tiny solid, sweet spheres that soothed my mouth and swollen throat.
I was weak as a pup... there was a fluffy lying on my feet that I was sure I recognized but couldn’t think from where... gold bows in its ears. And my white cat. My cat... I supposed I should name him... soon... though it was more as though I was living in his territory of the Marble Palace... he was lying against my head, purring. I could raise my hand to pet the cat but it made me so tired.
“Spark,” Binshala continued, “The exalted one will be in bed for two eight-days perhaps and the Haian says the rash, the yellowed skin, the sore throat and the headache will all go away soon. Especially with the remedies he has told this one how and when to administer.”
I nodded again and closed my eyes, completely exhausted. I let my limbs sink into the bed and let the wonderful softness that I hadn’t appreciated for far too long enfold me. I didn’t have to stand up in my heavy ceremonial robes tomorrow to bestow another round of city awards on deserving fessas, or listen to Ailadas cough. I... couldn’t think straight I was so tired. But I had to think about... think about... I couldn’t remember what I had to worry about. The cat purring was so peaceful. I dozed, listening to Binshala hum to herself... was that...? No, I was too old for baby lullabies.
I was still in bed, thoroughly bored sixteen days later. Sil and Tom had snuck out and gathered up some more fluffies for me since the one I’d woken up with had gone back to someone else. The two boys sat with me in the bed now that I was propped up against my pillows, the dogs burrowing under my covers and chasing each other through the field of feather comforters. My companions had not been allowed in until now.
They were telling me that Tob and Ord were sick as well but were recovering as fast as I was.
“Fast? Sixteen days is fast?”
Sil looked at me solemnly. “Yes! This illness can make one weak for years, the Haian said.”
I stared at him, heart sinking. “You’re not telling me I’m going to be in bed for years, are you?”
Tom snorted... “No, the three ill ones are all recovering nicely. Though the Spark should remember that the exalted will be in bed for several more days.”
“Oh good. No one else came down with this?” Father, perhaps? If Father became ill, which of the grown up Aitzas would move to be my Regent? I didn’t like the idea of any of the Aitzas around Father being in charge of a bun-fight much less the whole Government.
“No, just Tob, Ord and the Spark and the Haian had all the rest of us taking remedies to prevent us getting it... starting with He Whose Whim is the Will of the World, of course.”
“And He isn’t showing signs of this... Gods hear me.”
“Nope. There was huge alarms after you fell down, you know that? He Whose Desire is the World’s was enraged, thinking someone had infected the Spark and the companions but the Mahid medic backed up the Haian saying that an illness could not easily be given to a target, like a poison. Then the Divine Sun... since he’d picked you up ---“ No one had told me this.
“Yeah, right out of these arms –“ Sil held up his arms illustratively as a market story-teller, his eyes twinkling, “These lowly ones caught the Spark when he passed out... the exalted owe these ones his good looks, for not allowing the Chip of the Effulgent Light’s nose to be broken against the marble floor.” I had to giggle at that, even while I was wondering, Father caught me up? Why? I don’t understand.
“—The Divine Sun spent the rest of the day being cleansed.”
“Hmm. It worked then, since Father is well.” My companions just shrugged.
“These ones thought the Spark would like to hear all the gossip since the exalted has been confined to his bed.” Sil also nodded significantly at me. “And this one would request an afternoon’s leave from attendance on the Spark in three days. One of this lowly one’s honoured uncles will be visiting.”
Dafidas? Of course. The companions rooms adjoined mine... and I was in bed in one of the most secure places in the Marble Palace. Only the servants would notice and I seemed to have more than my three gentlemen and Binshala on my side... I couldn’t say for sure but it felt like it would be safer than trying to hide my meetings in the Pasen Manor.
“Certainly, Silasas. You take care of your filial duties.”
“This one thanks the exalted.”
From Sinimas Menden, Disputed Territory
The Assemblage of Yeola-e at this point feels that the war has come to the point where they are debating what to do when they reach the border. The usual thing done when a nation attacks the Yeolis is that when they reach the former border with said country they seize a certain amount of land in compensation... In this case they are arguing that they need to change their compensation strategy since they know the Imperator will not cease attacking in part because of his enmity for their king, their so-called semanakraseye.
They feel they can take the war to us... and given the way this war has gone from three quarters conquered and four thousand surviving solas... and their king... To my patron I send, in complete, the question put to Shefen-kas and his answer.
To: Chevenga... the representative of the county of Porokarlinkas, name -- Kinjeraeas Shaelemanas
“My fellow Servants, what we're contemplating here is taking control of an entire nation, an entire society and culture. We have to look at it in that light: if we invade and conquer and succeed, what do we do with Arko as a culture? As a society? And we are all in the position of facing that decision, really, without knowing much of anything about that culture and that society, aside from what they showed us here, as occupiers, as conquerors: not their best side, I would think, chosen as what they thought suitable to show to a conquered people. None of us have studied them, none of us have had ties to them other than as occupied, none of us have lived among them or in Arko, none of us even speak more than rudimentary Arkan, with the exception of one.
I would like to make a request of the semanakrasaeas for information... how to contain this in one question? Perhaps this way: if we were the rulers of Arko, what would it be best that we do? What would best for us and best in general?”
(That is a very intelligent… and thus frightening question,) I thought, stopping to sip more water before taking up Sinimas's package again. (When does a potential conquerer even care?)
Shefenkas answered thus. [Sinimas wrote]
[In Arkan] “My professional God grant me wisdom, strength, courage and honesty, so that I will give to the world the actions and the words which will be the greatest aid towards bringing us all back to the stars.
(That’s the fessas form of the day-bracket prayer to start and end the day with.)
I'd stopped praying that when I swore to stop praying at all.
I'd stopped praying that when I swore to stop praying at all.
[in Yeoli] That is an Arkan prayer. It means, [and here he translated.] I said it as a fessas says it, but each caste has its version. In many families the children are taught to say it every morning and night. ‘Caste’ means one of the levels of people into which they divide everyone. (Of course he’d have to explain that to them.)
The day after my first fight, I was in my little room in the Mezem, with both a wounded leg and my heart hurting a great deal, when Skorsas Trinisas, the youth they assigned to be my body-servant, came in. He had his hair dyed brilliant purple, no gloves and a leopard-skin loincloth. Normally it’s only fighters who dress in that sort of thing, not the boys. So then Iskanzas Muras, who was the healer and administrator of the place, came in—dressed stunningly as a woman.
They explained to me that it was the first day of a festival named ‘Jitzmitthra,’ the days that are not real, the days that are not there, so that everything can be reversed, all rules can be broken, all limits can be thrown off.
Arko is the most restrictive, limiting society; the rules are so many and so pervasive and so oppressive, they weigh on everyone like invisible chains. But during five days of the year, or on a leap-year, six, they throw it all off entirely.
My point being that, were I the ruler of Arko, there are some things I would never want to change. (Of course not. Happy Jitzmitthra, Chevenga…)
What they showed us here in Yeola-e was, quite intentionally, the gauntleted fist of the oppressor. They wanted us to know them as nothing but that, as that would suit their purposes.
They wanted us to feel nothing towards them but fear. That was their plan, and insofar as we do feel nothing towards them but fear, or hate, which arises from fear, their plan is still succeeding even as we drive them out.
But the fact is, Arkans are human, no less than we are. Their ways are very different, but they are still human. If there was anything I learned while I was there, it was that.
You could say, and I hope I can say this smoothly, the oubliette, the knife-gag –
(I had to put the papers down then. He was in the White corridor… the oubliette… I had to breathe hard, thinking of how badly he’d been hurt there, on Father’s orders.)
…these things are Arko. But so is Jitzmitthra, and so were the arms around me and the hands on my brow, comforting me, when I lay recovering after being brought back to the Mezem from the Marble Palace.
Since I returned home, I carry Chirel only because of an Arkan who loved me enough to send it back because he knew that even if I were dead, it would be what I would have wanted. For every Arkan who tortured me, there was at least one who healed me. When I spoke my truth, as much as a slap across the face to all of them it was, there was one who was so willing to disseminate it that he wrote a book, which was published. (That would be Life is Everything.)
These are just human things. Love and hate: they are human things. Yeolis have love, Yeolis have hate; Arkans have love, Arkans have hate.
What I came to understand, when I was there, is that by the habits they have which lead them to cause pain to people outside Arko, they cause a great deal of pain to themselves also. I remember saying to one who was younger than me, ten years younger, -- (that’s me. He’s talking about me.)‘Slavery makes people less human—not just the slaves, but the owners, too.’ He was young enough that he saw the truth of this right away. (I remembered when he told me that, cuddling me as he did so because he saw I needed a hug and he could give me one, even though I was the ‘owner’ and he the ‘slave’.)
In forging chains for the rest of the world, they’ve forged the worst chains for themselves. (So that’s what I’ve been feeling so hard. You’re talking to me, too, Chevenga.) They’ve done it so long, they’ve forgotten what freedom is, which was why they were so hateful to us. We have not forgotten, and in their hearts they know it, and they hate us for having what they have lost. (We don’t hate you, Chevenga, just Father.)
When I had nothing to do because I was not training or fighting, I would think about these things. I studied their politics as best you can when it’s all so secret and hidden, and of course, over and over, I was thinking, ‘It would be so much better if they did this or if they did that.’ So I could stand here for the rest of the day and tell you in detail what I would change if the power were in my hands: what I’d abolish, what I’d repeal, what I’d institute.
But I realize it all comes down to this: I would set them free.
If we conquer them, that is what I think we should do.”
I laid the paper down and stared at the inside of my bed curtains, the cat purring next to my leg. The man I’d seen first on the floor of the testing hall looking at me completely fearlessly, who could come back from being my Father’s mindless slave to fighting off Arko’s Rejins, could conquer the Empire. I’d known then he was special, that he could change the world. Now… he was telling his whole people they could do it. And at the same time telling them we were not the monsters we’d presented ourselves as. He knew us.
I found water standing in my eyes though I didn’t let it fall down my face. I was too old to have a face like the waterfall and told myself it was weakness from my illness. I knew he could conquer. He would have convinced his people with that speech that not only COULD they do it… the world would be a better place if they DID do it.