Thursday, January 6, 2011

411 - A Gold-Chick with Inked Glove

I have stories… I have Hayel-sucking too many to write all of a sudden and I tell you, Jem… I hot-footed from the presser at the Marble Palace alla way across to the Liren Manor.  Now I’m not the only one. Other writers trying to get in a quick interview with the new… new! Candidate fer the Crystal Throne.  I tell yah it pays to be a writer in the new Arko!  I’ll drink to that!
I get to the manor.  It’s named Diamond Upon the Earthsphere… nothing hubristic about that, hmmm?  The gate porter directed me up the drive and off to the right, around a shrub cut into a mythical Apla bird, and there’s a minor entrance to that wing.
Servants around know we’re coming it seems and I get shown to the greeting room and find that who Serin Aan has as a welcomist and secretary is… of all things… an aitza.  A bleedin’ gold-chick, with the fanciest set of spectacles I’ve ever seen, matching her lace gown no less, but with ink-stained glove and appointment book just like a real, professional secretary.
I peek over Entenek’s shoulder as he asks for an interview and she has a lovely, fast hand.  “…thank you, Ser.” She says like she’s done it thousands of times and more than just today.  “We will see you here at that bead, then.” Five more writers show while I’ve waited.  She looks up at me as if there’s no pressure at all an says, calm and clear, “Good day, Ser.  How may I help you?”  So odd to hear the high sweet voice.  Easy on the eyes though, with her hair all the way down to the floor even braided into the classic ‘Ten Tens of Tens’ style.

“Good day, this one’s name is Kafiris Loren, fessas. This one has the honor of writing for the Donkey’s Mouth as a reporter on staff, may this one be lucky enough to be with the correct person to make an appointment to interview Serin Minis Aan?

She smiles.  “You are, Ser. The next opening is today at the last bead before dinner, last tenth.  Shall I pen you in?” She’s talking equal to equal.  Wow.  Her mother must not be here to hear her. I answer in kind and she don’t take offence at all.

“Yes, please, that would be fine.”
“Lovely.  All other interviews begin tomorrow morning at Rim Dawn. How do you spell that correctly?” She held her pen poised and then scribed my name neatly into the last space upon the page. “I am not booking any interviews for this evening after dinner, Ser.” With a truth-drugging presser being arranged? Not likely. The kid is gonna be flattened. “Excuse me, Ser, while I book for these other fine writers...”

“Of course, thank you for the appointment Serina, you have been most courteous and efficient.” In for a link in for a chain I always say.  I lowered my voice, Jem, yeh should see the sour pickle looks on the other’s faces… they think I have the nerve to chat up an aitza? Heh, more power to me.  “...Serina, may I set an interview with YOU? I’d like to write a story about you for the Donkey’s Mouth.” 
She blinked a bit behind the specs, Jem then nodded. “Oh.  If you wish, certainly, Ser.  I should have a moment to speak afterwards.”

“Would you mind, Serina, if I were to wait here and take a few notes?”

“No, not at all.  There is a chair right by that table over there... the kaf was just brought... please... sit.”

My kaf mug… strapped to my belt, had been empty since I drained it at the presser and I could smell the fine kaf just brewed hot.
“Thank you very much indeed.” There’s messenger kids – Dyer kids – on faib skates dashing in and out the door to her desk and she hands them bits of paper.  Dyers.  You wouldn’t think that serious kid on the dais this afternoon, trying not to wilt under Intharas’s brutal verbal shen storm, would have a Dyer messenger service hired already.
A half tenth later another aitza with an embroidery basket came out and sat down near me.  Even if the woman is working… talking alone to a man… even a fessas man, and she’s gotta have a watcher to pr’tect her virtue, ah well.  The secretary finishes her entries and sees people off while I sip this excellent kaf.  I, of course, get the hairy, bloodshot eyeball from my more competitive colleagues as they leave, right Jem? She locks her books away and comes over to settle her sleeves and her hair around herself, in the spindly little Erforean chair across the table from me and sets her glove on the kaf pot presiding like a great Sera over the kaf table.  “Shall I refresh your cup, Ser?”
Oh, she has my heart… I hold the cup across the table like I’m an Aitzas at one of them fancy salons.  “Thank you.  And thank you for your time, Serina. Please, forgive my rudeness, but, so that I may properly record and attribute your words, may I ask your name?”

“Of course, Ser Loren.  I am Atzana Jaesara Mil Kallen Aitza.  No relation to the Kallen family.” I’m not surprised that she distances herself from them.  Not only is one running for the Imperatorship but the family has a name for it’s… well… shen stupidness that has to keep reminding itself to breathe.
“Fine kaf is always a welcome pleasure, thank you.  Serina Mil Kallen, the readers of the Donkey’s Mouth are primarily Arkan Seras, and I have found that my most popular stories are those that touch on the lives of women here in the City.  This is why I would like to ask you a few questions about your work here.  Will you be amenable to this?” I sipped once more.

“Oh certainly, Ser Loren.  Please do.”

“Wonderful. So, you are the social secretary of Serin Minis Aan, the former Spark of the Sun’s Ray - now, candidate for the throne of Imperator. How did you come to meet him?”

“That was in the Marble Palace Conservancy.  I was assigned as a volunteer to help him while he was in his fessas disguise, doing his research for his last paper... the one on the Yeoli/Arkan connection two hundred years ago.”

“Ah, so this is not your first position of work? You volunteered in the Conservancy?” Sips more wonderful kaf.

“In the Archives actually, before the Conservancy was established.  Ser Buranas Muras found I had a fine hand with ancient paper. Sera Liren was a friend of my mother’s and suggested that I might be able to assist there, originally. And Serina Liren was a friend before she was Mirror of the Radiant Light so it worked out quite well.”

“So, Serina Liren arranged for you to move to this post as well?”

“No, Serin Aan asked me himself, offering me my first paid post.  Isn’t that grand?”

I think my eyebrows near bounced off my hairline, Jem, and I nearly sputtered kaf through my head and out my nose.  I made notes about that one you can be sure.  I’ll add it to the story where he says there’d be women upset if he were to take rights away.  Like his own welcomist and secretary for one.  I was so busy scribbling I put my kaf down an forgot it.  Shameful thing to do to good kaf.
“That sounds quite astounding, actually. Have you been working for him for very long?”

“Only since he was convinced to attempt the campaign for Imperatorship.  We worked together in the conservancy for some time with him in his fessas disguise but this position has only been in existence for a few eight-days.”  She held the pastries out if I should like one.  Dang, if I lived like this I’d have an Imperial paunch.  I shook my head.

“No thank you, but warm kaf would be lovely.”  Then I get to fight off anything that would adulterate good kaf, sugar, cream, sweet spice and chocolat powder… a shot of that Silk Gloves stuff on the other hand…  but not from a Serina, fer sure.
“Are there many other aitza on the campaign staff with you Serina?”

“My friend Serina Liren is managing Serin Aan’s larger social engagements more than I, Ser.  She has a fine oversight for more public functions.  A solas friend of ours, is helping her with that. His heart’s brother’s woman friend, Farasha – she is a Gybr… she is helping us and Serin Aan’s family is assisting.  His mother... though she is not allowed to leave the Marble Palace as yet, has been creating these little embroidered patches...”  She showed me this Red and silver Phoenix in the middle of flames on black.  Very striking.  “We shall be giving these away to supporters.” She had a twinkle in her eye that I swear was well aware of how much I wanted to ask for one.  I can’t yet.  I have to appear impartial.  I’ll get one later, Jem, even if I never wear it… it’ll be a mark of an important vote.  And they’re like the Voters Feminine Arkan… Ara Min Kian keeps saying women need to ignore caste and work together.  I make a note to find out if any of these women belong to that league of voters.

“Oh, those are quite eye-catching! Bold in color and easy to recognize.”
Her smile grew a little.  “Thank you, Ser.”

“You mentioned that the Serin Aan’s family was participating in the campaign...I was unaware that Serin Aan HAD living family besides his younger brother. May I ask who.....”

“His mother, Inensa Mahid... and his grandfather, her father, the Imperial Pharmacist.”

“Ah! My. Thank you Serina.” Weren’t that a kick in the guts.  The Lighting Snake in White Mahid was his Grandad?  And a Mahid… o’course… Kurkas never married so claimed kids from them but… finding out his motherstone goes to a Black Dog?  There’s stories there, Jem.  Stories.  I can smell ‘em.  I wonder if I can even get the Mahid woman to talk… and why’s she still incarcerated, hmmm? Didn’t they say in the Presser all renegade Mahid were caught?  I grabbed up my cup and swigged it, cold.
“Is Sera Mahid—“ what a weird thing to be saying, if you know what I’m saying… “Is Sera Mahid being held for some reason?  You said she was not allowed out?”  Weren’t she sworn?  If not, why was she still alive?
“I’m afraid I don’t know the reason, Ser.  I just know that she is confined to the Marble Palace Mahid quarters.”  That set me to scribbling.  Candidate Imperial’s mother in the Marble Palace dungeon? Weird stuff if so.
“Oh, excuse me… Serina.” I pulled my attention back to my interview here.
“Not at all, Ser.  Um… I do hope I’m not sounding too… kallenish, am I? I wouldn’t want to sound flittery minded, with all the accusations being flung about that women cannot and should not work.”
“Serina, you sound very intelligent in your answers.  Please, don’t worry.  Our readers sympathize with those fears.”  She’d re-filled my cup while I was still scribbling my other story ideas down. “So, what is it like to work with Serin Aan and his family?”

“Very easy, Ser. It will certainly be much more hectic now that he has been announced, but in the Conservancy he was diligent in his research and very focused.  I admit I am nervous in his grandfather’s presence but I remind myself that the Mahid always prided themselves on perfectly reflecting the Imperator, so I need not hold old fears.”  She put her hand up to her mouth… “He even made a few statements that got everyone laughing.  His wit is dry as Srian sand, Ser.”

A Mahid making jokes to get people laughing? Maybe someone did put some Silk-Gloves in this kaf… nah… she must be mistaken.

“Do you happen to know if Serin Aan still has a stable of miniature donkeys in his household?”  Gotta get the line for the Donkey’s Mouth.  People love their animals.  “Or if he has any particular pets or favorite steed?”

She laughed right out loud at that, Jem.  Nice.  “Serin Aan, while on Haiu Menshir, purchased a domestic octopus for his little brother.” What in Hayel is a domestic octopus?  I’ve never seen one.  “The little beast is doing a marvelous job reducing the garden snail and slug population.  The gardener loves him. And Serin Aan recently purchased the horses that were Ilesias’s and his, the one he was trained on, from the Imperator.  He calls his horse ‘Nasty’ in an affectionate way, because it is a Mahid trained war-horse, and has too many scars, he says.  He hasn’t kept a stable of house-donkeys for quite some time since he has not had a manor to tend.”

Gotta talk to the Imperial Stable master about Mahid horses.  Bet there’s stuff there people will want to know, even about the poor animals that belonged to the Mahid.

“Well, quite a few of our readers still fondly remember the skating house-donkey.”  I remember seein’ that.  That was my first story sale to the Donkey’s Mouth.  A funny piece on what it would take to teach a miniature donkey that trick.

I got her to laugh again. “His little brother gave him a gift of a gold donkey on a chain that he wears around his neck in memory of that incident!”

I’ll have to check, or ask if I could see it, next time. Dang, Jem.  We’re living in interesting times when one presser leads to a hundred story leads.

My thanks to Cat for playing Kafiris Loren and to Karen for journalistic consulting. 


  1. As you said over at my place, "You're welcome, any time."

    My fave thing in this post is what you did with my suggestion of having Atzana worry about whether she'd sound intelligent when Kaf quoted her. (People I'm interviewing say that all the time.) By asking whether she sounds too "Kallenish"... she's sneaking in a bit of campaigning in a way that sounds perfectly natural. Ha ha!

  2. I love the way that so many people of the press are being made into "real people".

  3. I am really loving the parts that show how the Arkan women are blossoming now that they have rights.

  4. I'm glad! The Arkan women's movement is really just getting underway!