“Good Assemblyman,” Kin Kazien said. “I can certainly speak first, or last. It makes no difference to me. It may arrange things as it sees fit.”
“Ser Asimir,” I said. “It would be both just and appropriate to my age for an adult to speak first. Please, let me defer to my elders and speak second.”
Kazien sniffed at being referred to as an elder. “Quite proper, young Serin,” he said. “Very obvious.”
“You are being too polite for a young man, Serin. It is obviously a put on show for our good Assemblyman here.”
“I’m sorry you think that, Ser.” I wanted to kick him in the shins as hard as Ili could. “Ser Asimir? I would like to make myself a bit more presentable, if it is not too much trouble?”
The Assembly man had noticed, I was sure, that Kazien was speaking down to him and I was addressing him as equal to equal. People were still startled by that in the Imperial accent.
“Of course, Serin. Ser Kazien, will the exalted be willing to speak at the next bead’s fall?”
“Why yes, good Assembly man. That will suit me perfectly.”
For some reason the look he gave me was venomous. Had I even been too polite for him to dismiss?
From Sinimas Menden’s journal:
I witnessed the two opponents face off, bristling at each other politely. The old Spark had come in, scruffy from his flight and sat down to talk to the town’s children. He has said privately to me that they are the future voters of Arko and he thinks it is as important to speak to them as well as impressing himself to their fathers’.
Now he’s in a plain, dark blue silk and white kilt and looks very much the elegant young man, sitting behind his rather imposing opponent, next to the Assembly man for North Gate, giving his careful attention to the speaker. He wears only his silver chain with a number of small, personal tokens on it.
Kazien stands up front, striking an impressive pose. He looks every inch an Imperator, the wind catches his hems and his hair, flaring them around him like a halo of red silk and blond.
“Arkans, hear me!” Is how he starts. Very strong. “I, Kin Immas Kazien, am the absolute best candidate for Imperator of Arko. My line has been here into the Past Age and we, as Kazien’s, have held manor houses in and around North Gate for this entire time! We’ve been good shepherds of the district.
“We Kaziens have been Aitzas from the time the word was conceived and from the time it meant shepherd, guard and protector!”
“I have been taught how to be the overlord here, in peace and safety. I know how to do this. If you vote me in as Imperator I will take my training, all my teaching and apply it equally to the country!’
“Alternately, you may look at my opponents! A party planning man, a man known for the intelligence… or lack thereof in his family, and a corrupt, decadent stripling of the old order destroyed by invasion, war and blood.
My honourable opponent, present here and now, I may point out… is a child. He plays with your children. He is only second threshold and not capable of upholding an adult position and responsibility, like the Crystal Throne. He is a child...he thinks like a child, and will act like a child. He is a child of a tyrant, and perhaps the worst thing one can give him, however civil his tantrum... is a throne."
The candidate tugs his shirt straight as if he were girding himself for battle.
“Speaking of my honourable opponent… it is better to be a braying jackass than a jackass on wheels... the bluntest of the old hobbled with the tawdriest of the new. One watches it for the inevitable peril of the crash than the expectation of any prolonged stability.
“The donkey is steadfast, sturdy and not skittish, loyal and not unpredictable, hard-working and not pampered... and his opposition is both obstinate, and keen-eared. They do the labor with a fraction of the feed, and do not wrap themselves in the trappings of pompous appearance, and regal stature. What better creature to emulate a proper public servant? What finer beast with which to associate a truly democratic society?
“Yet my inestimable young opponent did so greviously abuse such a poor animal in the fleeting attempt to amuse another child, his younger brother. Abuse I say. Abuse and torment for a shameful public display for the amusement of the ignorant masses. Who else would take such a sure-footed animal and mount him on wheels to try and pass it off as progress?”
“And his barbs… they should not only deflate him in public, their sources can be just as readily borrowed from the Archives...One imagines the speechwriter minions scurrying through the texts, fueling an Age of Enlightened Slander with words too old to be considered dangerous, but still carrying an edge for a snowing mind, and considered witty for those hearing it the first time!
“The Arkan public cannot know that this child… this stripling… is not merely passing off the fatuous wind of his own, wasted, ruined, destroyed ancestors as his own words. And if not them, then the insidious, too liberal words and ideas of the man who not only conquered Arko and drowned this boy’s father in blood…”
“Ask yourself. Can you trust the son of the man murdered by the conquering king… the Mezem-maddened creature, blood crazed and corrupt enough to drown his rival in blood… who trusts said murderer? Who believes the father-killer is the good man?”
He goes on in this vein for long enough that the crowd is muttering, uncomfortable with the ugly images Kazien is spinning. While this is going on, Aan is sitting, listening, truly his face is tensely held still but neither pleased nor furiously upset.
Aan’s lips thin and his pallor grows more and more green as Kazien winds to a thunderous finish that makes him out to be a sickly, retarded child of a played-out and wasted line. There is moderate applause when Kazien finishes and turns to Minis, hand extended, as if to say ‘Top that, boy.’
Minis stands slowly, and the crowd quiets. The boy looks green as grass, ill. He twitches the smallest of smiles and says loudly and clearly, “To some of the things I have heard on this stage today, I have only one opinion.”
And then he vomits upon the stage at his opponent’s feet.
He raises himself and calls for a wet cloth and wipes his face with it, all the while ignoring the empurpling of his opponent’s face. He takes two steps to the side, so as to be down wind of his opinion, and begins his speech as if he were perfectly healthy, though looking somewhat wan.
“Sers. Seras. Serins. Serinas.” He turns and hands the cloth to someone else on the stage. “Ser Kazien comments long and extensively upon my youth. I may only say that it stands in my good stead because the youth of Arko have the greatest ability and opportunity to learn.
“We are not hidebound in immovable tradition until the outside world comes and shatters that tradition with the stroke of a sword. I have good men… good adults… to guide me into an honest and honourable Imperatorship of the new Empire.
“I know that people possibly feel that age could be a problematic factor, but I don't feel that my opponents are such doddering fools that Arkans need to be extremely concerned.
“I did, indeed take a house donkey and fed it treats enough to bear faib skates and my little brother. Some might say this is a childish prank, but the dedication necessary to train a recalcitrant, obstinate, stubborn little beast speaks more of my good will than of my abuse.” A wag from the crowd shouts “And the donkey too?!”
Minis laughs himself which almost stops one wave of laughter and starts a different one… “why yes, a lot of children are. I was. But yes, ser! The donkey too! And I should not care to compare the voters of Arko to an animal more often known for its pig-headed, inflexible, adamant, persistent, headstrong and mulish ideals.
While Minis is speaking Kazien is attempting to quietly edge away from the mess at his feet, his nostrils pinched tight together almost more against the laughter roaming through the crowd as against the stench.
"Oh, that Mezem-maddened creature you spoke of? The man who conquered Arko... you must mean the one by whose actions you have hope, however slight, of becoming Imperator of Arko? The man who actually arranged for you and I to be able to exchange words upon a public stage and let the people of Arko choose between us? The man who was voted into the Imperatorship a second time, by the people of Arko? He Whose Will is Now Give to Us, the People? Him?"
He left a certain amount of time to allow Kazien to answer if he would. He did not.
“My speeches are not written by anonymous scholars from the depths of the archives but by myself! I feel that I should speak from my heart, from my soul...“ He pauses and gazes at the crowd that starts to laugh as if they can guess how he feels. He shakes his head sorrowfully at them. “Within the bounds of propriety, of course.”
“Though the Holy book condemns the son of a corrupt bloodline, it also forgives, and gives the children of those who failed a chance at salvation… more than a chance, a blessing, a gift, of freedom from corrupt blood and past sins. I refer you, Ser, to your priest, to the Chapters of King Dafidas, to the Songs from the Prophets and the Chronicles of the Lost, where Muunas promises us… fallen Arkans… not only the right but the blessing of rising to Selestialis once more, despite what our fathers did to have us cast from the stars!”
“No one knows, Ser, better than I what my father was truly like. No one knows better than I how exactly not to repeat his errors. His errors were my daily life and he was a daily example of what not to be when I became Imperator.
“Not only was I trained in how not to be Imperator by my father, Ser, my training by my teachers was in how to be Imperator, from the Ritual of Ascension onwards!”
“I watched my elders, Ser, and wished for a champion like the man who has agreed to be my Regent until I can grow into myself! A man of integrity, rather than the venal, back-stabbing, plotting, scheming Aitzas who wrangled to get their sons into my company and into my sire’s company to give them a better place in the tiger-pit that the Marble Palace court once was!”
“If I am elected, Ser, I will not have any such people near me! If I might quote Ilesias the Great, to his son, out of Idylls – “My beloved boy. Surround yourself with men who smile at you with a whole face, not merely with their lips. Beware the smile that never reaches a man’s eyes. Men who will sell their integrity for status have no wholeness to begin with and as such are not to be tolerated by a wise ruler.’”
“Men may rule well enough, out of indifference, out of sloth, out of sheer inertia. But they will never rule better than ‘eh, good enough’. To be a true shepherd one must think, guide, be guided by his flock for they know where the best fodder and forage is, and have courage to stand for them against the weather, the rain and storm and cold. He must have courage to rescue the lamb from the cliff’s edge. He must have the will and courage to stand against the wolf pack.
“Don’t tell me, ser, how to recognize the wolves, ser. Any man, any Aitzas, who has stood in armour… any solas protecting the roads... any fessas or okas who has fought the flood. Any man or woman of any caste who has fought drought, famine, banditry, graft, high taxes for no return, they, Ser! They know the wolves. An Imperator’s job, Ser, is to fight the wolves, Ser. Not to be one.”
“Vote for me as Imperator, Arko, and I swear I will never -- Never! -- be one of the wolves you fight every day, that tears at your children’s guts in the winter. Thank you all for hearing me.”Kazien merely raised his nose as if Aan had thrust something noisome under it, as Minis bowed to him, and to the crowd.
Author's Note: My thanks to Kevin for a healthy chunk of Kin Kazien's discourse.