Author: Andrea Rimsky PM
In Ozorne's Carthak, Kaddar has his friends and his studies but also family duties, dangerous rivals and little actual power over his life or the lives of those he loves. Amid the paranoia born of constant fear, the surveillance, and the essential helplessness, how precisely does the imperial heir differ from his slaves?Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Drama - Kadar & Ozorne - Chapters: 11 - Words: 17,617 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 08-19-12 - Published: 06-05-08 - id: 4303893
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From Kaddar Ghazanoi Iliniat to Tecmesso Ghazhanai Iliniat, health and greetings.
If you are well, my dear, dear Tecmesso, and my mother is well, then I am also well.
I am sure that you and Mother are too wise to regret missing the foul heat of the city and – what is worse – the press of flattering and perfumed courtiers. Nor would I wish you exposed to the crowds and the sun in the spectacle that the People require. (I have heard His Majesty say that he does not relish the pomp, for he should prefer to leave the greater part of the glory to the soldiers whose bodies accomplished the feat, while he himself enjoyed quiet.) But so that you will not be able to complain that you were absent from General Metorat's triumphal parade, I shall give you an account of it.
We assembled early on the Royal Stairs, and I was honored to stand just below the Emperor. The court was spread out in order of rank. Everywhere was the to-ing and fro-ing of sunshades and fan-bearers and chilled wine – and this in spite of the mages' best efforts! We were far above the city, and so I can only tell you what my impression was as the army approached. The soldiers appeared in good order and fine polish: you would see the gleam from far away, and then the warm shimmer growing brighter, and then the blinding lightning flashes or the rays of ten thousand stars as the companies marched. It was like a great serpent of steel and bronze, whose roar was the clashing of shields and the happy cheers of the populace. But you will have to imagine, just as I did, what deafening sound and unbearable heat and glare and stifling press the people lining the streets of the city must have endured in order to witness the triumph and might of our empire.
First General Metorat approached and His Majesty congratulated him; I could see that he was relieved to be done with marching and grateful to lay the burden of field command back at His Majesty's feet. He was followed by his lieutenants and legates all in their richest parade dress. The emperor thanked each by name. Among them Farid Heroboi Aelsikh, who is the elder brother of my friend Maharcal. The ordinary soldiers marched past the steps, except as many as were compelling the captives and carrying the tribute of Jiang-Ra. Here I am afraid that my perception fails, me, and I can only sketch the impression of curious treasures from silver and pale stone; silk robes in a thousand colors and embroidered in a thousand more, mountains of golden bangles (for such is the high cost of rebellion). There were not more than 1000 captives, I was told: some were sullen in their chains; others showed their inner nobility with serene faces in spite of their bare feet and arms twisted back and shackled. The greater number of these latter are in fact the children of chieftains, whom the emperor purposes to keep not as slaves but as honored hostages, so that they may learn our ways, and show their lands how merciful and bountiful Carthak is under his Majesty's gracious rule.
But my celebratory tone must become a little more serious, for I have to write to you now not just as a brother but as an older brother and your guarding. Our Imperial Uncle wishes you to marry the son of General Duke Metorat. I pled your youth and inexperience – do not be angry at the words, Tecmesso! – but His Majesty earnestly desires this, and you know I would not oppose my uncle or my emperor. I hope that a betrothal will suffice for the present, and that you will be permitted more years to enjoy your girlhood and grow into a woman. I am afraid that I am not expressing myself naturally - please forgive your brother! I do not know how to write about these serious things as a brother to his beloved sister, and I am sure that you are reading this letter in disgust because I did not have better trust in your own innate good sense. Be assured that I do, and I fully expect that you will teach me mine when you and our mother finally come to Court. Perhaps these nine months in the Capital with so many elegant and subtle noblemen and courtiers have corrupted me into a creature who cannot express himself clearly and simply! I am sitting in the courtyard, and when I close my eyes, the sounds and the scents make me almost think I am back home. I shall try then, to recapture the simple, plain, and true speech of home as I write to you.
I think about our Father nearly every day, and I want to remind you of something that he would often say: that when we act out of duty and in accordance with our orders from our superiors the gods and their deputies, there is nothing that is truly painful or unpleasant; our consciences must be strong, but if they are so, then our bodies and the lower, passionate parts of our minds will obey us, whose bodily condition is then negligible. (This is like what Druson says about the primacy of the intelligent mind over the corporeal, but it is the practical wisdom of a nobleman and a soldier, who understands what part of himself he must surrender to the power of the common good.) I picture our father as he was when he was alive: his tallness, his imposing but kind visage, the godlike darkness of his cheeks, his stern and piercing eyes. The weight of his authority when he put his hand on my shoulder or embraced me, and the clear low roar of his admonition. I have come to learn or at least experience the natures of many men, and now I truly understand how exceptional his character was, admixing as it did the best learning and culture of Carthak with ancient virtue, yet unadulturate because recently brought and newly distilled from the old-fashioned vintages of the provinces to the tables and center of our Empire. When he spoke of the gods and of necessity and of sacrificing one's pleasures, I knew always that it was true. And we have seen it fulfilled in his life and death.
Imagine, my sister, our father upon his charger in battle: his seat, his sword, his expression. His seat: constant on a horse always guided to the most opportune part of the field; his sword: flashing justice and authority that is aimed at the common good; his expression: unyielding to the accidents of war but committed to the gods' care and his duty. Examine yourself against him. do you ride your position in life as firmly and efficiently, and with as good attention to both the necessity of the moment and the common profit of the future? Do you exert yourself always in accordance with your duty and aim all your resources and privileges therein? Is your mind fortified against the chances of life but submissive to the commands of duty and fate? You object, perhaps, that I am putting a man's example before you when you are a woman. But I know that our father's steadfastness and goodness guide you, and, as your state is suddenly changed from maidenhood to the woman's world, I am afraid that you will have need of "good precepts and – what is more important – of good examples" for dealing with greater things than before. I revere our mother, and urge you to imitate her virtues in every way, but your life at Khazoi is farther removed from the city in morals and scope than it is in distance. When you come to Carthak, and especially when you have become a princess of the court and a woman betrothed and then married, think that every hour is the crisis of battle that demands your foresight and valor. Although you are a woman, act with the constancy that is a rare virtue even in a man.
Having given you so much advice that I hardly have any right to pronounce, I shall break off, asking you to pass on my loving affection to our mother and remember that you are my dearest most beloved sister and I wish that nothing would ever trouble you in all the world. Be well.
From Tecmesso Ghazhanai Iliniat to her very dear brother Kaddar Ghazanoi Iliniat, Prince of Siraj, &c. the warmest, most affectionate greetings.
I have a difficult task, my Lord and my Brother, to answer your most recent letter, which is as impressive and learned and gentle as if you yourself were standing in my chamber and advising me; and as if, through your words, I seemed to see our father and hear instruction from his own dear mouth. I must tell you that our mother approves very much of what you wrote about our father, and Lord Paiewen pronounces it a vigorous admonishment in fine good style, as he is wont to say (although – forgive my presumption, but I must say it and I know you are fonder of the truth than flattery, dear brother! - I am inclined to think that your citation of Druson was a little bit forced, and the analogy of the vineyard was pretty but overly fastidious). Our mother had communicated to me His Imperial Majesty my Uncle's will, but I think that I understand your meaning, as well. I am not afraid of marriage, Kaddar, and – if it is permitted for a younger sister to sound so bold when she writes to her wise brother and guardian – I do not think I shall be any more unequal to the task of womanhood and marriage than any other female – 'come it now or anon' – especially when you present me with such manly examples of patience and endurance of fate. I am sure, at any rate, that my Imperial Uncle would not give me to a husband, and you would not acquiesce in it, were not my marriage in the best interests of Carthak, and that must be sufficient reason for me. Nor could I regret a husband from such a noble father as you have described, and from a house that has brought so much glory – as pleasant to read about in your fine description as to witness – to the reign of our Gracious Emperor. So 'though I female be, yet I'll be resigned,' and what is more important: you need not fear on my behalf.
Now I shall relate to you, in proper girlish style, a cunning story about Tito's kittens. When they were all five weaned last winter, we had judged four of them - hardy and dull animals - to be of servile nature, whence we sent them to the granaries. But the noble descent of the fifth was immediately recognizable: he was proud and of high bearing, and dainty and handsome besides. I named him Wanqem and we endowed him with a cushion at his dear mother's side.
Now I confess that I spoiled my darling pet. Look! Wanqem is fast grown: sleek and haughty he deigns not chase wool or leap at the hems of a robe. He would look disdainfully at the shadows of my maids and would rather laze gloriously on his mistress's lap than stir himself for coaxings and tricks. But I cannot fault him, for, as you know, cats are no philosophers, as the rustic said to the Shang Warrior. And besides, you will see that he had yet the sign of true nobility in him.
I had ridden out to circuit the working estate, and my lord Wanqem was proud and content in a little basket at my saddlebow. We had just circled the granaries when Nibpul (he is the under-steward now. since the spring) ran to my mare and begged me to settle to a small matter among the hands – I shall not trouble you with the details, for you have many greater concerns, and it was entirely trivial. We dismounted and I heard the dispute, with Wanqem in my arms, for he was too fastidious to set his paws on the dirt! I was just accepting his gratitude (I mean from Nibpul), when we hear a fearsomely pitiful yowl and a poor cat scurries from one of the barns, pursued by blows and deprecations of his laziness. Shrieking women, servile insults: the scene has a comical mien, but suddenly my Wanqem is stirred, he leaps from my arms and interposes himself with proud and lordly stare between the wretched animal and his punishment, as if to say: "I place this creature under my protection, and you slavish hands shall never touch him!" It seems he had recognized his suckling-mate and strove to keep him safe with all the favor of his own grand station.
Even Mother laughed when I related the adventure and drew the moral, which I shall not presume to teach you, for I am sure you can subtly divine it! I am sure, also, that you and your fine companions will laugh at the triviality of country adventures, and you will all pronounce me unfit for marriage or any serious pursuit. You will be equally unimpressed, I am sure, to hear that your sister is is becoming astonishing good at measuring out the day's work to the women. But measurement and a careful eye are a woman's virtues, and if I am a poor, unsophisticated excuse for a bride, at least I shall keep my lord Metorat's household in order, and no one shall say that Princess Tecmesso is proud but useless!
I do not want you to think that I am not serious, my dearest dear Kaddar, because indeed, I am very serious. You urged me to consider my father's example and to remember that I have a duty, just as if I were a soldier of the emperor's legion. I think that my little fable has answered this in part, but I shall tell you the rest more plainly. I know that no woman is so high born but she is under the command of her husband. As no soldier his general, as no deputy his officer, as no man his emperor, so no woman is wise to question her lord, be he just or unjust. Do not worry that I do not realize what a state of freedom a maiden has, especially if she is the only daughter and her guardian is far away at the imperial court, and an indulgent brother besides. But a married woman has certain privileges, too, and I shall be ready to pass into a new state whenever you and My Royal Uncle think it good.
I am sending you 10 loving kisses in this letter and (what I fear you will like even more), the last peaches from the late-blooming tree at the end of the orchard. Think fondly of me, and be well.