Tuesday, March 1, 2011

441 - Trying to Steal

“Serin?” This was getting uncomfortable very quickly.  I had just closed the door of the garderobe behind me. Thank goodness no one would follow me into that private little room…
“A message from the Marble Palace, Serin.”
I took it and nodded.  “Thank you.”
It was from Kall, saying that Chevenga wanted to see us both as soon as possible.  I donned my skates and glided out to Atzana and asked her to put my schedule back a bead or more.  If any of the writers cared to stay to speak to me, they could.  I could always sleep a bit less tonight.
“…sorry about this…” Kallijas was saying as I was shown into the Carnelian rooms.
“No, don’t apologize, you were absolutely right.” Chevenga answered.  The two were sitting on one of the lover’s chaises, knees touching. Well, more than just knees. Kallijas had his forehead leaned against Chevenga’s and wisps of his hair were tangled in the black curls.  He had one hand laid tenderly against the Imperial temple as if to protect it from a blow and the other hand -- I had to look away.  Their fingers were interlocked. “Surya says to expect things like this…”
Kall was risking so much for me.  He likely would have won… fairly easily in the new Arko.  He would have likely been Imperator.  Separated from Chevenga, truly, but Chevenga had just believed he was going to die young anyway.  Now, with me, I may actually have opened the door for him to be with his love, so perhaps I was doing them both a favour, trying to win the Crystal Throne.

If I won, they would still be apart for two years, but if Chevenga succeeded with Surya, he would likely have a long life for them to share together; or at least the normal uncertainty of any couple.  If I lost and thus if Kall lost, he would be able to go to Yeola-e immediately.  It was to his credit that he would never think of doing less than his best, to gain that time with Chevenga.  I smacked myself internally for such cynical – some might say realistic – thoughts.

Of course, neither man would thank me for losing, since Arko would be injured if I lost.  So I just couldn’t lose.  The Polls chalked up all over had no one truly in any place in the race, except for Kin Kazien. He now firmly held last place, now on the bottom, apparently where he liked to be. He hadn’t withdrawn--withdrawal seemed like anathema to him--stating firmly that he had done nothing against the law, nor harmed anyone.  To him there was apparently nothing better than the tumescent organ of a sexy young, rippling-muscled, thick-maned stud, but no one wanted an Imperator who apparently liked being ridden hard and not by his own species.

Chevenga raised his head away from Kall’s just as I was wondering if I should give them more privacy and how I could do that without letting the door click. “Minis, good you’re here.  I don’t have much time.” That made me wish I had managed to give them a few more moments together.  He waved me to a seat near them.

“I’ve learned someone’s trying to steal the election.  I don’t know who yet... Roras Jaenenem came asking me if it was illegal for a poll clerk to look the other way from the ballot box for a bit if someone offers him money to do so, because he’d overheard one asking at Serenity... on behalf of himself and ten other poll clerks.”

Steal the election?  More like buy the election.  Shen.  And thank the Ten someone was careful enough to ask or we might never have found out. “Shen.  Excuse my language.  We might never have found out without this man being conscientious.”

Kall took a deep breath, shocked to the bottoms of his feet.  “But... that’s immoral! That’s theft of the will of Arko if I’m understanding it rightly.”

“Yes, it is.  The will of the people... it’s hard to understand for me, really, because it’s never happened in Yeola-e, that I know of--it’s sacred  there!--but... well of course Roras was asking if it’s illegal.  And it wasn’t.  Because Arko has had so few elections, it hasn’t come up... it’s illegal now, though.  I skated down to the Assembly chamber between appointments and had them vote through a law.  And Rafas Izas is on it, finding out who.”

“Good!”  I snapped, perhaps a bit more forcefully than I should.  The idea enraged me.  After all Arko had gone through, after the war and getting rid of all the rot... it struck me as another kind of rot, trying to establish itself.  “That needs to be stopped at the roots before we get another rotten power installed over Arko.”

“Exactly.  What Rafas will do is find the man, then work his way up the chain of command until he finds who conceived it,” Chevenga said.  “Even if he has to threaten to truth-drug every poll clerk in Arko.”

“I’d speculate that it is Kallen behind it, but I’d just be guessing.”

“Or Kazien, seeing his hopes ruined trying to steal what he cannot win... we cannot know, though.  We might be dead wrong, no point in guessing.  I had to inform you, have to get back to work now.”  He hugged Kallijas and kissed his cheek, patted my shoulder and went gliding out.

“Well.  It is nice to know that one of my opponents has stepped into deep shen so suddenly,” I said into the quiet.  Kall would never smile at my crudeness but I think his mouth twitched.
Kall sent me a second message late next day.  I’d hoped it would be quick enough that he could tell me when he and I trained on the Marble Palace roof in the morning, but he just shook his head at my raised eyebrows.

This time we were in the Recumbent Nude parlour and the windows, the curtains still un-drawn, were like sheets of ink. We were talking about some ancient political debacle I’d found in the archives when Chevenga skated in. His face was set and two points of red flamed on his cheeks, just barely restraining tears.  He took a deep breath, about to tell us... then stopped and sat down instead, with his face in him fisted hands, his forelock clutched hard in them.

Kall was there so quickly I missed his motion... I must have blinked.  He had his arm around Chevenga’s back.  “Sheng.  What’s wrong?”

“I know who it was,” he said.  “It was...”  He had tears standing full in his eyes, I saw.  “It was Yeolis.  Kamallo Iren... works for Faraiko Terero, you know, worst mouthpiece of the hawks... they were doing it for Mil Torii Itzan.”

I shut my mouth with a click.  “Yeolis?  But... but... I thought it was...” I stopped myself from saying it. The vote was obviously not sacred to some, and it was just tearing Chevenga apart that it was his own people doing this.

“Sheng.  Take a deep breath.  Those people ceased being your people when they began perpetrating atrocities in Arko.  The lawsuits show that.”

“Perpetrating atrocities!  I  perpetrated atrocities!  If every Yeoli who perpetrated an atrocity in Arko is not really Yeoli, then there are kyashin few of us left here... myself included.”

“No... the Hawks.  You know what I mean.  Most of the people who went wild in the sack came to their senses the day after.  Yourself included.  The Hawks... they maybe never really were Yeoli.”

He seemed to calm a little, for a moment.  “Funny... Rafas said that too.  But the fikken writers won’t!  Kevyala... we come here with a mandate to change Arko’s ways to the betterment of all, and then some of us do this... and they conceal it from the Arkan on whose behalf they’re doing it... because they know he’s too shennen honest!”

“You think Intharas wants to hurt you that much?  The Pages know the difference between Hawks and real Yeolis as far as I’ve seen.”  I said as firmly as I could.  “They’re pretty recognizable.”

He took another deep breath.  “Maybe not Intharas.  But the anti-Yeoli writers will have a field day, and all the editors have to allow them their say.  I spoke to Roras, who will quote me... shen, I’m not sure he might take what I wrote as me blaming Arko for Yeolis becoming corrupt... I might have fikked it up... I’ll have to see how it plays out.  I said nothing about you two, by the way.  Just spoke from my own heart about how I felt.”

“That’s good, Sheng,” Kall said.  “You didn’t ‘fik it up’.” The obscenity sounded so strange in his mouth.

“As soon as it comes out--and it will next Pages--Mil will be out of it, innocent though he was.  He was innocent of the stealing, but he was not innocent of making a deal with them.  They’d put him on the Crystal Throne, he’d restrain any prosecutory or legal action against them, and safeguard their positions. Arkans won’t like that.  He will be a sell-out to them now.

“And it’s not good for you, really.  Between the three of them, they were splitting the anti-Aan and anti-reform vote.  Now Kazien and Itzan are both out of it, that will all fall to Kallen, making him much stronger against you two.  He might even play the sell-out card against you, since I endorsed you, Minis was my protege of sorts and Kall is my lover... that depends on how Arkans see me, and of course that’s what I see least clearly.”

“Yes.”  I could feel my stomach cramp and tried to hide it.

“At least you have all the reform vote... the anti-Aan, pro-reform vote was going to Itzan, now it’s all yours.”

“I am not going to change things in my speeches... I want to stick to the positive.  Let the others throw mud at one another.  I want to take my cues from Kallijas and from you.  I will continue to speak about how I and how we can benefit Arko.” My hands were shaking, and I tucked them under my armpits to make them be still.  It was just going to be that much harder.  That was all.

“Wise course.  But have answers ready, when they ask you what you make of this scandal, both of you.  It may be that Kallen is wise enough to quit throwing mud... he actually doesn’t need to, at this point.  They’ve both heaped themselves with enough of it.”

“We will have to see,” Kallijas said firmly.  “Arko is so new to voting things may turn out differently.  And Minis, yes.  You are correct.  We will stay our course.”

“Yes, Ser.”

“Differently?” said Chevenga.  “Mil and Kin can’t unheap themselves with mud.  We’ll have to see the next polls.  Much will depend on you, and how you can convince people in the last few days... I’m thinking maybe I should speak, too... apologize to Arko yet again for letting these people foist themselves upon you.”

“Sheng... you realize these people have committed treason against Arko?”

“Treason... not technically... but in spirit, yes they have.  Mil would have been as much a usurper of the throne as if he’d knifed whoever was on it.  Even if he did not know it... Still.”

“It is about the vote, but it is about the possible theft of the will of the people of Arko,” Kall said decisively.

“I’d have to look up how treason is defined exactly in Arkan law... or put Veresinga on it.  If it’s broad enough, and it ought to be, it’s possible...”

“It might be similar enough to a case approximately three hundred years ago.  One of my ancestors executed a Fenjitzas.  He was tried for preaching sedition.”

“This is very different from that, though... more severe in a sense.”

“Well, I’m certain that Rafas will tell you if a conviction for that is possible.”

“Not Rafas so much as the lawyers, but, yes.  They have to decide what they can charge on.  I can put it in their ear, and I will.”

I looked at the hold Kallijas had upon Chevenga and rose to my skates.  “I need to check my next speech to make sure I don’t put my foot in it.  Ch’venga, thank you for telling me.  Kall... good night.” I nodded to them both and glided to the door.  I flung a last look back just as I left and saw Chevenga lean his head into Kallijas’s neck as though landing a difficult wing, or finding refuge from a storm.


  1. Down to the wire! Keep it together, lad!

  2. "Thank you, Ser! I shall do my best!"

  3. Firstly ... Shirley, Ma'am, welcome back you have been missed as the fine reporter of all things Arkan and most especially of the young Ser Minis Aan.

    Secondly... Minis, If I were Arkan you would have my vote. As it is, I wonder how I could go about gaining citizenship so that I could vote??

  4. Thank you, Kliklikitty! Intharas fired me a dozen times this week but alas, I am still in the employ of the man....

  5. Serina, I thank you for your vote of confidence. You were not among those who chose to stay in Arko after the war?

    Welcome to the Empire, either way. You might find that the Ministry of the Outside has information for you concerning Arkan citizenship. If I am incorrect, please inquire again and I shall ask Atzana to correct my knowledge.