Friday, December 31, 2010

408 - Why are You Campaigning for Imperatorship Now?

You really want me to open my mouth and shen father hatred out don’t you? Shut up, Roras, you’re tempting me too much.
“It seems to me, Serin Aan, you were in a good position to know him, to understand his motives, and thus to speculate intelligently, so I ask you to.”

How do I put this without whining or spewing? “My speculation is that my father, Rest he in Selestialis, believed he did not have to work that hard. That’s as close as I am going to get to ‘he was a crazy, stupid asshole who couldn’t see another person’s pain if it were shoved up his arse and greedy… did I say stupid?  And greedy.  A foreign policy based on someone else to devour and jam his dick into… and greedy.  “Any other things I might say would sound wrong in a son’s mouth and so I shall not say them.” However much I want to. “My sire’s record is writ upon the world and everyone saw the result of his policies.”

Lurai Athal of the Yeoli Workfast Disseminatory was next as I tried to slow my heart down again.  I was angry just thinking about my sire’s so called foreign policy.  “Question for Serin Aan.  Your political philosophy seems so… Yeoli.  Why?  Is that Chevenga’s influence?”

“I began learning about Yeola-e when I first knew Chevenga when I was eleven.  My reading then led to what scholarly texts I could find in the Marble Palace archive and I had Chevenga explaining things political to me in the Mezem quarters when I could visit.  The difference between what I was learning on my own and what I was being taught was contradictory.  The ideas that my friend was teaching me were in contrast to what I could see all around me.  It was obvious, stark and very intense.  I began comparing the two political systems very early on.”

“Arko and Yeola-e were, centuries ago, much closer with Imperators and semanakraseyel visiting one another and I contend they had an effect upon one another.  I have submitted a scholarly paper on that subject and there is a great deal of evidence that, historically, Arko was once a more democratic and open society.”

“I’d like to intercede at this point, and I’ll do so at some length.” Chevenga spoke up.  “Because this is a very important point in light of everything we’re doing here.

“I know the question wasn't addressed to me but I'd very much like to speak to this. The political traditions of Yeola-e are intended to embody and further an adherence to certain key principles: truth, choice, the fact that responsibility and power are one and the same, love, and harmony, by which I mean, the fact that people can accomplish much more working in concert with than against each other. With every refinement we make to our laws, we always have one or more of these principles in mind.” 
I sat back, at least mentally – when orating, don’t let them see you sweat, Spark – and let him explain.

“But these things aren't Yeoli things—we are hardly the only people who love, who are honest, who would like to choose for ourselves, who can act together. They are what we all are, at our best. Different nations have had different degrees of success sustaining them in the running of their affairs; it depends on how much they've allowed their laws to be corrupted by fear, anger, greed, self-aggrandizement and so forth. Yeola-e was lucky; we started out with the guidance of a very wise person, who set us on a good course. Arko, less so, for what reason I don't know enough Arkan history to understand.

“So it might seem that voting, for instance, is politics in the Yeoli style. But it isn't. Any nation can change its laws to enable all its citizens to vote, tomorrow, if it wants to. It might take getting used to, as it has here in Arko, but in time everyone does, because we all know at heart how to do it. It’s as I’ve always said, anyone who has an opinion can vote, and everyone has an opinion.

“But to explain that even more exactly, the vote is nothing more than the exercise of a principle inherent in human nature. If you watch any group of people who are few enough to speak together, and all free, they always want to make a decision the same way: by consensus. They’ll all talk, trying to come to a choice with which all agree, and they’ll yield and compromise on their own positions out of respect for each other’s.

“The vote is but an extension of that. It is a mode of choosing to which all agree out of respect for each other’s choice.

“If you doubt it’s more natural than any other form of governance, you need only look at the difference in security needed for Assembly Palace in Yeola-e and the palace of any king. Haians, philosophers and builders alike know, anything that goes against that which is natural poses more difficulty: to use the most common analogy, it’s natural for a rock to roll down a mountain, and therefore much easier to get one down the mountain than up.

“The difficulty and worry and expense a despot must endure to stay in power is great because he is not there by the consent of his people, and it’s natural for them to want him there by their consent. But Assembly Palace is there by the consent of the people of Yeola-e, and so—people who aren’t Yeoli often find this hard to believe, so I’ll swear to it, second Fire come—anyone can come in and watch Assembly do its work, whenever it’s seated, and say anything, so long as they don’t disrupt. The chamber in which Assembly sits doesn’t have a lock on the door; there is nothing to steal there that every Yeoli doesn’t already own. A semanakraseye can walk alone anywhere in Yeola-e without fear of assassination, unless by a foreigner; if Yeolis want to get rid of a bad one, there’s a method, with which Arkans are already familiar, of doing it peacefully, so no one need to resort to assassination, and no one does.

“It could be this way in any nation. I emphasize this point very strongly, because I am a Yeoli and so what I say could so easily be taken as self-serving. We Yeolis aren’t any more peaceful or just or gentle or wise or self-mastered than any other people. We have what we have because the way we have chosen to rule ourselves is more closely aligned with what is natural to all people.

“I say it again: it can be this way with any nation on the Earthsphere. I thank you for hearing me out on this.”

He’d risen to speak, now he sat down again.  I noticed him glancing at Intharas who was uncharacteristically quiet, letting his junior writers ask the questions.  The look on Terren’s face, however was a bit like he’d just raised the veil on his new bride and found a shen covered dog underneath.
Out of the sea of waving hands Chevenga called on Kafiris… then Norii Maziel.  “Kafiris, go ahead.”

“Serin Aan, the former Coronet Regal was sent out of the City with you prior to the Sack, correct?  Is he still alive, and if so, what would his fate be if you are elected Imperator with Ser Itrean as your Regent?” His fate, as if I’m going to off him like… well, like my father, who killed his brothers.

“My little brother is safe in my household.  I have recently rented a wing of the Liren Manor for my living space and he gets along well with the Master of the house, Nuninibas, who is somewhat younger than he.  He is in my charge to love and cherish and his ‘fate’, if I am elected, will be to have less of my time and attention, and to continue to study with his teachers and play with his friends.”
“If I may intercede,” Chevenga said.  “By the law as it is now in Arko, should Minis win the election, Ilesias is next in the line of succession, and will be so long as he is alive and Minis does not have a child.  When Minis does, that child becomes the heir for when he reaches third threshold, but should Minis die before then, Ilesias becomes regent for him, and the child becomes Imperator on third threshold.  Norii, go ahead.”

“This is a question for You Whose Decisions Are The World’s Fate,” he said.  “You have been a mentor, and even a father-in-spirit to the former Spark of the Sun’s Ray.  That would seem to lead naturally to his following your counsel extensively once he is on the Crystal Throne himself, should he be elected.  I wonder if this is your intention.  Or perhaps, to put it in a more neutral way, how greatly you intend to be involved in the ruling of Arko, in the future.”

Chevenga says, “A fair question, given the nature of my relationship with him when he was a child.  In answer to this, let me reiterate that once the severing of the two nations is complete, there will be no legal tie between them, nothing more than the typical diplomatic ties.  Neither Kallijas nor Minis will be in any way officially bound to listen to my counsel or be influenced by me in their decisions.

“I know, however, that people who are concerned about this have more informal ties in mind, ties of the heart, as it were, or bonds of admiration and awe.  Let me state the obvious: a child is a child until he grows up.  I expect to have no particular influence on Minis when he’s finished doing so, since he has proved very well, to my mind, that he is capable of keeping his own counsel and being his own man.  It is only possible for there to be a power behind the throne if the person on it is either dull or cowardly or both, and neither of these things are true of Minis, or of Kallijas for that matter. Does that answer your question sufficiently?”  Norii nodded formally.
My face felt like it was on fire and Kallijas quirked an eyebrow at me, a miniscule twitch of nod to let me know he agreed with what Chevenga had said. It was so good to have him at my back, to know he was going to be there.  I took another breath.  I was going to be taking him away from his love but this way was actually giving him an out to not be separated from his alesinas forever.  Not that self interest had much to do with Kallijas Itrean anyway.
“Sisaria, go ahead.”

“Yes, Thank You.” She swallowed and didn’t continue with an honourific of any kind.  “A question for Serin Aan - the abolition of slavery is the most wide-reaching piece of social legislation in the past millenia - do you plan to support this policy in your Imperial Rule, should you be elected?”
That one was easy.  “Ilesias the Great, in Idylls, wrote: “From the hands of our ancestors, Rest they in the Arms of the Gods, we are given our brothers to work for us.  We have inherited a legacy of whip and chain and our Empire is steeped in this lock-step mutual agony.”

“Fourth Chevenga took Arko through the economic throes of disambiguation.  I discovered… was taught about, by my father-in-spirit, the pain caused by the institution of slavery and struggled to ease that pain for him and myself, when my sire owned his body.” Let them remember I first met him as a slave.
“Furthermore, my own current heart’s brother was a slave and I have no intention of trying to clap chains upon his wrists ever again.”

Filias Metras of the Pages raised his hand and was recognized by Chevenga.

“Serin Aan,” he said, “the Imperator said that you could tell the story yourself, of what happened to you in the four years you were in hiding.  May I please ask you to do so?”

I told a bare fraction of this memoir and watched their faces as I did.  I had them at our escape, in the thunderstorm… they were surprised and shocked that we swam away from the Mahid.  And I had them again, I was sure, when we ended up on Haiu Menshir and home to Arko from there.  “... and at the last I witnessed Chevenga’s second Ten Tens and placed my name upon the audience list...”

“Kafiris, go ahead.”

“Serin Aan, is Serin Liren and his family aware of your plans for candidacy?  Does their rental to your household constitute an endorsement of your campaign?”

“Serin Liren was gracious enough to grant me living space in his family’s manor.  I did not mention my intention to run for the Imperatorship to either him, or his honoured mother, who graced our meeting, presiding over the kaf table as was entirely proper.  Serina Liren, through her gracious friends at the Marble Palace Conservancy, knew of my intent.  I assume that the future kaf salons at the Liren house will be entertaining.”

“Indeed, thank you, Serin.”
I had to smile at my next questioner.  Sinimas had survived being my informant during the war and seemed well, I was glad to see.  “Sinimas Meneken, the Pages,” he identified himself crisply and with no sign that he’d ever known me before. “My question is to Serin Aan.  I understand from your account that your father’s intention, in sending you to safety outside the city, was for you to undergo training and eventually raise an army, seize back the Crystal Throne and become rightful Imperator.  My question is, why did you spurn his will and abandon this plan, and instead give yourself into the hands of the one whom many have termed Arko’s worst-ever enemy?”

“It became clear to me that to pursue this course would cost Arko the lives of a generation or more in blood and death. Anyone who loves his Empire could not, in good conscience, pursue this course, particularly since the Ten had made it entirely clear with Chevenga’s first Ascension Ritual that They were content with him upon the Crystal Throne.  My father was mistaken, I think.  Now... If you had asked me what the most utterly unlikely result of that choice was—the most absurd, ridiculous, you’d-have-to-be-out-of-your-mind possibility—I would have answered, ‘That I might become Imperator.”  

It was my first attempt at any kind of humour and I’d hoped I’d get a smile or two at least, but no they all had to be so serious.  My heart sank a little at that but I shook it off.

“I believe you are new here, ser,” Chevenga said to the Zak fellow who stood to ask his questions.  “Would you care to introduce yourself, and say a little about your publication, if it is not one already well-known?”

“Certainly, Imperator, I thank you for asking,” he said in heavy Brahvnikian accent.  “My name is Vyasily Stevansson, and I work for the newly-established Brahvniki News.  I am sure all are aware that certain citizens of Brahvniki undertook to combine funds to build a Press of equal size to that of the Great Press of Arko.  That engine is now complete and the publication has now commenced dissemination.  I am very proud to be here working for it.”

“Congratulations, Teik Stevansson,” Chevenga nodded at him. “Please pass on my congratulations to everyone involved, and tell them I wish the publication the best in the future.”

“Thank you again, Imperator.  My question is to both Sers Itrean and Aan.  May we be assured that under your administrations, Arko’s membership in the Council of All Nations that the current Imperator is working to unite will continue?”

I look at Kall and then answered for both of us: “Kallijas and I have spoken of this and we will carefully consider the pros and cons of membership in that Council, when the time comes.”  Chevenga hadn’t really had any time at all to pursue that.  He’d actually started it before, when he thought he had no chance to live past thirty.

“I have a second question, if I may, to Ser Itrean,” Vyasily said, to which Chevenga signed chalk.  “Are you disappointed that the Imperator’s endorsement, which was yours alone until now, is being altered to favour the son of Kurkas as permanent Imperator?”

They were treated to the brilliant Itrean smile. “No ser.  This change will allow me to do my duty by Arko and still not be permanently separated from my alesinas.  Had this opportunity not come up, I would have done my best to the limits of my strength but, given the choice between power and love, I think I have demonstrated that I will choose love first.” As he spoke he began blushing and by the time he finished he was almost as red as his shirt.
Shemeya Shae-Asila, of the Pages asked.  “Semanakraseye-Imperator,” she says.  “Not to put too fine a point on it but... are you out of your mind?”

Chevenga... didn’t answer for a bit... half-stifled grin on his face.  It was a slightly sheepish grin, a bit like the boy caught stealing cookies from the jar... but obviously purposeful. The tension in the room grew as he waited.  Finally he said, “Shemeya, I’m going to assume that you are following the direction I set at the outset, that this meeting would be for one purpose only, to discuss the topic of Minis’s candidacy, and therefore you are asking me if I’m out of my mind for endorsing Kurkas’s son.  So I’ll add to everything I have already said, and everything everyone else has said, so far, by noting that if the son were always the perfect reflection of the father, that yes, I’d be utterly out of my mind.  But sons almost never are, and in fact often turn out quite the opposite. Knowing Minis as well as I do, I am satisfied that he’s sufficiently different.”

Norii Maziel was recognized again, as a senior writer some more junior were passed over, kept their hands in the air, resolutely.  “Serin Aan... however much you are reformed, we all know that you were raised in the ultimate luxury and indulgence of the Marble Palace, up to age fourteen, by which time a person’s character is pretty much formed.  If you are like every other person known to history who was shaped by such circumstances, you feel in your bones that this sort of life is your due, that you deserve it just by the fact of your blood. Would you claim otherwise?”

“Ser Maziel.  This is very often true.  I had a number of experiences in my youth that convinced me otherwise.  If a child is given permission to see the truth of what is around him and has the ability to see gilded excrement for what it is then such self-delusion tends not to stick.”

“Follow-up question, if I may...” He paused until he got a chalk from Chevenga. “What experiences were these?”

“Let me just say that following the dynamic between Chevenga and my sire, when Chevenga was fighting in the Mezem was an intense and powerful experience.  I could go into detail but I have been surrounded by both wealth and scarcity -- that, under Mahid control.  They are very good at pointing out your exact worth.  Is that sufficient...” His pen was in the air for a third question and I shrugged and nodded even as Chevenga signed chalk. I’m not going to tell you some of the horrific specifics if that is what you are pushing for Maziel.

“Well these questions --” he turned to Chevenga-- “I hope the Imperator might make an exception to the three-question rule since Serin Aan’s answer generated another question in my mind, or perhaps more exactly an argument with his reasoning.  I am not sure what relevance the dynamic between the current Imperator and the late Imperator has to do what you, Serin Aan, feel at heart is your due in life, so I hope you will answer that first.”

“My due in life...”  I had to sigh at that.  Under the table I noticed that Chevenga was scribbling a note upon a scrap of paper which he passed to me.  “I came to believe, Ser Maziel, that my due in life was to live as the best man I could, to escape damnation.”

“One more, Norii,” says Chevenga.

“Well, all right... I would submit that what you say, Serin Aan, ‘to live as the best man I can,’ is not a notion of your due in life so much as your duty.  All these other questions are preambles to my central one, and one I think is absolutely vital and must be on every Arkan’s mind, as they consider who to vote for.  That is: what guarantee do we have that, if you are voted in as Imperator, and living once again in the ultimately lavish surroundings of the Marble Palace, and the lifestyle of ultimate indulgence that you grew up with, you will not revert to ways more similar to those of your father, and indeed of yourself, in your childhood?”

Chevenga’s note merely said, “Get used to this.  Just be yourself.”

“Ser Maziel, thank you for being so precise.”  It was as correct as I could be in the face of his pushing me.  His eyebrows climbed up his forehead when I said it. “I do not want to EVER live like my father, or my grandfather!  I am not due this...” I used a very Yeoli gesture to take in the ballroom. “I was unhappy living that way and it was killing me.  Arko will be safe from me as long as I cling to the teachings and support of my people and the Ten.  How could I go before the High God with gold on me? It’s all dross in the eyes of the Gods.

“The Assembly of Arko is there to keep a rein on me and the impeachment vote and the Ordeal, should that be voted into place once more, are all there to keep me from sliding down that treacherous slope.”

“If I may intercede--then you, Kafiras--to point out alterations in the law since I began as Imperator,” Chevenga cut in. “Much of the cause of the problem of Imperators drawing excessively from the national revenue to live ostentatiously was the lack of distinction between the empire’s bank account, and their personal one.  The custom was, until I began, for them to be one and the same, and the law allowed it.  That was changed almost as soon as I took over.  I made it illegal for the Imperator to own any property at all, same as the semanakraseye of Yeola-e, a law that was put in place about two hundred years ago in Yeola-e after a semanakraseye grossly overstepped his bounds.

“Now that law has since been softened somewhat by the Assembly of Arko, but there is still a very strict division between national revenue and the Imperator’s, so that he may not legally consider the national revenue his.  He receives a stipend, which allows him to live much more modestly than, say, Kurkas did.  That law is in force now, and I don’t think either Kallijas or Minis has any intent to change it... true?”  He looked at both of us.

I found myself giving nod and chalk sign, while Kall nodded.  “That is true,” I said.
“And for me as well,” Kall echoed.

“So Arkans need not fear the Imperator sinking into decadence so long as that law is in force, and should the regent, or the Imperator -- whether that be Minis, or one of Sers Torii Itzen, Kinian or Kallen -- undertake to repeal it, I strongly recommend that the people of Arko move to impeach him.”

“Kafiris, go ahead.”

“Serin Aan, I’m struck by something the Divine Imperator said back at the beginning, that he is endorsing your candidacy in part because he thought you had no ambition for it.  If that was true, then why are you campaigning for the Imperatorship now?”


  1. "when orating, don’t let your them see you sweat, Spark" There is an extra your in the sentence.

    "He’d actually started it before when he thought he had not chance to live past thirty." Should the not be no?

    I am enjoying the campaign:)

  2. LLLOOOOOVVVEEEE IT!!! grammatical errors or not, this is a very powerful addition to a very great story.

  3. Thanks for catching those, oakwind... and thanks for the praise too!