“Has Arko gone out of its collective MIND completely? Is it not mad enough with women running wild, being forced out of their safety and must endure the rough world of business? Is it not enough that Dyers terrify citizens in the streets? Is it not enough that rogue artist or artists are defacing public property? Are we completely lost that we should consider re-creating the clan Mahid in ANY form?
“They were the vile and despicable reflection of one of the worst Imperators Arko was forced to suffer in all the long years of Empire. Stories are told endlessly of how depraved, wicked and abominable they were. If anyone had contact with them, they had a story of how terrifying they were. At BEST… at BEST they were unpleasant, dreadful, horrid reminders of the former Imperator’s ultimate torment of innocent citizens! These foul and repellent monsters we are well rid of! May they serve perfection in Hayel! They were nothing but repugnant and served no good in the city at all! They were sickening!
“The Mahid were torturers and the Imperator’s clenched fist! They were…”
As Festen continued, sonorous and ponderous and grave, with a most extensive reviling vocabulary, I wanted to bury my head in my hands, cover my ears, but I didn’t move, giving him my most attentive and calm face, as if I were under 2nd Amitzas’s eagle eyes watching for the tiniest fault. I was very aware of the writers in their galleries, at the opposite end of the room from the Crystal Throne, watching him and watching me to report on my reaction, watching Kallijas as well, pens poised. They were like Tanifas’s sight hounds leashed, watching the rabbit just peering its nose out of the cage, tense, trembling, quivering with excitement, getting ready to run.
Did Festen not realize he was insulting me along with the Mahid? Did he just not remember or think of the Mahid as my family? My grandfather and my mother and my little brother whose mother was also Mahid, rest she in Selestialis? I knew the vile reputation that they had, but I also knew the potential for astonishing good… perhaps even greatness if they were allowed to reach for it. There were many stories of Mahid courage and stellar performance… under great Imperators.
Didn’t all Arko know the story “Saviour of the Children”? That was the most senior of the Mahid at the time… a First Boras who, during a bloody coup attempt, when Fifth Kurkas’s whole family was ambushed by his brother, got the Imperial children out of the trap and trekked across the country with the Spark, the Coronet, the two little girls and the Ember who was only a few months old? He had an apprentice Mahid with him since the rest had stayed to protect the Imperator. Two Mahid brought five little children safe out of danger.
How about “The Empire Owes Nothing’? or ‘First Among Mahid, First Among Men’? Those where the most well known of the stories. There were a handful of lesser stories and a few funny ones as well. The Mahid were people and people were more complicated than ‘villain’ or ‘monster’ or ‘EVIL’. To consign a whole family to die out, because the Imperator threw them between himself and death, and they obeyed Him… is hardly an act deserving of extinction.
Of course, the Assemblyman considered me of the Aan line, not Mahid, but if his argument was to be coherent then he should also excoriate me for being of the line of Sixteenth Kurkas and he couldn’t do that without insulting the voters of Arko.
I reminded myself of the old saying. “If someone calls you a jackass it doesn’t automatically confer ears a tail and a bray. Wait to see if more people call you a jackass before considering the matter.”
“… in conclusion, I call on the honourables Assembled here to squash this idiocy completely, to let the Mahid line die out naturally! It is a despicable thing that the Imperial Pharmacist! He is seeking to further his power by having the Empire fund this project of his… and renew his family, under his control! Kill this proposal where it sits!”
I swallowed a little as he made his way back to his seat and settled into it with a smug, self-satisfied look on his face, absolutely certain he’d won the day with his eloquence and force of character. He, utterly and completely, knew he was right.