I stood under one of the most appalling printed poster that I had ever seen. The lie that Chevenga had been standing on a mountain of Arkan corpses with a gutted baby in one hand during the sack. It was all in red ink and crudely copied from the Haiksilias picture, The Sack of Arko. 'CHEVENGA OUT!' it's block capitols screeched.
And Chevenga was just allowing this ugly, despicable thing and many others like it, to be spouted from every orator's step next to every horse trough and fountain in the city. The steps that had been originally put up to allow the public teaching of Temple gospel was now being used to spread lies about a man who had successfully done the Ten Tens. Didn't people remember that? How could they forget that?
But the Hawks... the Yeolis who looked to set themselves up as the new Aitzas, didn't see eye to eye with Chevenga's goals and wanted him out, even if they had to teach us how to vote to do it. I'd bet the stolen treasury that Chevenga was laughing into his pillow at night over that little irony.
The voting line up was all the way down the street and I brought my notebook to while away the time. The Pages printed my story and I had sent them ‘The Definition of Great’ re-written and a little piece on how the Guild of Hydro-Contrivers gained their prerogative of wearing fingerless gloves on public thoroughfares, from the Crystal Throne.
I was writing notes on a story about the ‘Wall of the Lost” in the Marble Palace, suggesting that someone search for the names of the Abandoned Imperials, buried nameless and try to find who they were and see them buried properly.
It was a full bead of waiting even though they had a rank of ten clerks with record books to make sure that only true citizens, of age, were allowed to vote.
The clerk looked carefully at my birth certificate, and the seals. “Just new made? You waited a while to have it replaced, citizen. And you look very young to be eighteen.”
“Life’s been hard since the Sack. Lost everythin’ and I’m eighteen, ser, fer certain sure.”
“Which way you gonna vote?” I was so angry I nearly broke a tooth keeping my mouth shut. I couldn’t make a scene.
I tried to put some honest confusion in my question. “I tell you my vote, ser? Is that how I do it?”
“Nah, but ye see, boy, I should know if I should let you in at all, to vote. Has to be the right way, you know.” Bastard son of a dog.
“Ser, the Wool-Knot on the Crystal Throne kilt me dad, destroyed our business, broke me mam and kilt her too. If I has my way, ser, I’d vote tah heave him offen the Rim!” Lying to the fat guy at least gave me the ability to lie with a straight face.
“Good lad. The way you vote is with the chunk of chalk marking the paper. A nice clear ‘X’ is impossible to contest. Nice to see young men gettin’ their papers in order.” He took down my name and my fictitious parents’ names in his book, ticked off my name and handed me an unfolded ballot and let me in.
The voting booths were completely private, a curtain across each one and a bowl of water to allow people to vote bare-handed and wash after so no one could see the colour of the dust on their gloves.
The question ‘Do you want Chevenga as Imperator?’ No is chalk. Yes is charcoal.’ was printed and pinned to the back of the booth with a illustrative ballot showing how to mark it most clearly. In pictures below it showed a circle with Chevenga’s face in it and a black check or x, the picture of Chevenga with the white check or x had an x over the face. Clear even if you couldn’t read.
‘When you have marked the ballot, fold it shut along the lines and place it in the locked box just outside the booth.”
I pulled off my gloves, picked up the charcoal and firmly marked it. Even if it meant nothing, that my vote would do nothing to stop him being impeached, it was important that I add my voice to the tally. The more people voted, the more people would know everyone’s true wishes.
You’re sacrificing yourself to teach us this in a way we will never forget. Selestialis how did we ever deserve a conqueror who cleansed the Empire and then willing taught us this?
I folded my ballot shut so no one could see, cleansed my one hand before pulling my glove back on. I opened the curtain. The clerk held out his hand to place it in the box for me, possibly to check and see if I’d voted as I said. I smiled at him and slid it into the slot of the box well out of his reach. “Thenk yeh, ser.” I said, smiling still in a way I hoped looked naïve. “Ye’ve done me heart good and ‘t Empire’ll get what we want.”
His frown was fleeting and he had a line up before his table. I exited, still smiling, but with a weight on my heart.
I headed home, knowing that Ailadas would be voting at the University, after he set his new office in order and Kaita was in the line-up somewhere. Gannara had charge of Ilesias and was probably explaining all this voting stuff to him better than I could.