Koscuisko rose up slowly from out of his chair in the staff room,
plucking the paper-fish from off his head with a contemplative gesture
as he did so. "Gentles, it seems my departure is to be accelerated,
I did not realize that I had offended our Lieutenant."
he had done no such thing, as far as he had any indication, at least.
But a man had to say something, else looking at his senior staff
- seated all at the table, waiting to take their cues from his reaction,
and each of them with an absurd Sarvaw fish-hat tied into place
with the precision to be expected from senior medical staff - was
going to give him the giggles. TOP
been trying to break his composure all week, and they had succeeded
upon more than one occasion. Where they'd come up with the very
idea of the fish-hats in the first place he didn't know, although
he had a dark suspicion that Lek Kerenko had had something to do
with it. Kerenko was Sarvaw. And Kerenko had friends in Gross Tissue
was at Staff, three weeks ago," Gille Mahaffie suggested. "You'll
remember, your Excellency, you were pretty emotional about your
little run-in with her -"
was beginning to think that he knew where this was going, and he
was very certain that he was going to regret having raised the issue
once Mahaffie got there. "Yes, well, of course, a little precipitous,
I shouldn't want to miss the mark, and she did ask me for something,
before I was to leave." TOP
would not be silenced, and spoke on over him smooth and unstoppable.
"- she'd questioned the return rate on the injured-or-ill list after
our little problem with the Curdiver camitollisis, and you asked
her what she meant by challenging your medical protocols, and she
said that it wasn't the protocol but the return rate that she wanted
clarification on, and you told her to -"
unison, now, everyone was caught up in the joke, and having too
much fun with it for him to really grudge them their laugh at his
voices as one caroled out the damning phrase. Truly he had not really
said it, not in so many words, but it was true that he had lost
his temper, and he had wanted to say it. Andrej blushed crimson
nonetheless. They knew too well how to discountenance him, it had
been four years.
did not think that he had told ap Rhiannon to go fish in the technical
Dolgorukij sense. Although he'd certainly told enough other Command
Branch officers to do so. Captain Irshah Parmin, in the middle of
the battle of Suichylle, calling for his casualty count before they
had had a chance to see to even so many as half of the casualties.
local Bench authorities, when he'd been on any one of the special
assignments with which Fleet had been so wont to bedevil him. Captain
Griers Verigson Lowden, and to his bitter regret, because he had
paid for each such lapse with blood and horror, and the pain of
other creatures who were innocent of the war between them.
Lowden was dead, Andrej reminded himself, firmly. Captain Lowden
had been murdered by a Free Government insurrectionary in port Burkhayden
more than half a year ago, and Andrej remembered the murderer in
his prayers on the odd occasion when it occurred to him to pray.
Lowden was dead, and he was on holiday, and Brevet First Lieutenant
Jennet ap Rhiannon was expecting him down in Cleared Unsecured Dispatch.
I will deal with you lot later." Setting his fish-hat down on the
table in front of him, Andrej admired its splendid cheerful rudeness
for one moment before he shook himself out of the joke and back
into the real world. "Expect me when we hit Fibernag space, and
don't take any questions from anybody on return rates. Do please
ensure that none of Staff sees any of you with fish on your heads,
it cannot but undermine authority, and so forth."
they had been waiting for this, then, and he had given them their
opening, all unknowing. They pelted him with fragments of colored
paper, fish-fins and fish-tails, driving him from the room with
your mother wades in fishponds!" Alika Sudipisct, his Chief of Pharmacy,
and who would have thought that she would say such a thing, proper
as she ever was? Yet his senior second, Gille Mahaffie, the man
who had sat his watch for countless hours in his absence, was no
sure to let us know if you can find any minnows in home streams!"
the party favors off his shoulders as he went, Andrej fled the room
for Cleared Unsecured Dispatch, trying not to hear the final taunts
that followed him cheerfully as he went.
your sister likes fried fins!"
your uncle eats fish on marketing-days!"
your elder brother wears his first-born's fish-cap!"
your father thinks fish hatch from hen's-eggs!"
your mother's brother runs a hatchery!" TOP
and nodding to people as he went, Andrej cleared his Section at
last. He checked the time: he would have to hurry, now. There would
be no time to go to his quarters, and retrieve the Bonds. He would
have to explain when he got there, that was all.
had she meant, a problem? Why should he be leaving immediately?
Was it possible that he had actually told her to "go fish"?
put the ghastly thought from him, with a shudder, and concentrated
on getting down to Cleared Unsecured Dispatch to get an explanation
for this sudden change in plan.
next two scenes are in transit on board of a transport bound for
Azanry. Andrej Koscuisko is attempting to prepare his Security for
the experience that they are going to be facing, since there is
no environment in Fleet that is anything like the one into which
they are going. I'm including them here because there is some background
about Azanry and Andrej's family in these scenes that didn't end
up in the submitted draft. TOP
Kerenko knew that there was no reason for him to nurture his resentment,
not even surrounded as he was here by the tangible evidence of over-lordly
power. Wealth. Privilege. Power and wealth and privilege all built
on a dense foundation of bodies - dead and dispossessed bodies,
exploited and abused bodies, Sarvaw bodies, sacrificed through no
fault or crime of their own to the bloody iron gods of Dolgorukij
oligarchy. No fault past that of having been too slow to gauge the
threat, that was. In that he could feel a sort of vindication in
shared victimization; few peoples had responded to the Dolgorukij
with the absolute degree of resistance that was the only thing that
could stop the Aznir long enough to get their attention.
was Sarvaw, the thrice-great-grandchild of an annexed people, and
after more than two hundred Standard years the word for 'sarvaw'
was still conjugated and declined as any other word-class related
to property, in the Aznir tongue. Three hundred Standard years,
and there was no word in Dolgorukij for 'sarvaw woman' that did
not mean the same thing as "whore."
his Excellency, Andrej Ulexeievitch Koscuisko, was Aznir. And not
only Aznir, but Koscuisko, tracing his descent in the female line
from the savage Chuvishka Kospodar himself; Chuvishka Kospodar,
who had drowned children in the Scorriar River for the crime of
having two Sarvaw parents, on the grounds that excess animals should
be disposed of when young if there were not mines to work or markets
in which to sell them.
Andrej Koscuisko was carrying him deep into the icy heart of cruel
Azanry, into the very embrace of the murderous goddess herself.
He could not rise to his feet and decline the dread honor, because
orders were orders, and he was bond-involuntary as well as Sarvaw
- a slave twice over, even if only in his own heart. Koscuisko was
an officer. Bond-involuntaries were not to controvert with officers.
sat on a low padded bench and listened to Koscuisko talk, pacing
slowly back and forth between the benches and the chairs. "There
is this briefing package, it was sent a few months ago," Koscuisko
was saying. "I have looked at it several times, now, with Mr. Stildyne,
who would undoubtedly be asleep half-way through the sequence were
it not for the fact that Mr. Stildyne does not at all ever sleep,
or if he does has never been reliably reported to have done so.
I, myself, have almost conquered sentiment, and to such an extent
that it may be possible for me to view once more the companions
of my childhood, without weeping." TOP
was nervous, for all the cheerful flippancy of his language. At
least two kinds of nervous, and perhaps so much as three; Kerenko
knew the minute worried furrow of Koscuisko's forehead, a little
crease between his light-haired eyebrows like the imprint of the
edge of his Mother's thumb.
Mother, Koscuisko's Holy Mother, was the bloody conquering goddess
Azanry, the mother of all Aznir and the glad rewarder of Dolgorukij
conquest. The Holy Mother of Koscuisko's youth was nothing to do
with any honest Sarvaw.
Kerenko could empathize heartily with Koscuisko's tension, if with
little else. And Koscuisko had not been home in more than eight
years, had not been home in fact since he had learned the secret
to his own peculiar talent - for torture. Any man might well feel
awkward to have been so long away from his family. For a man of
Koscuisko's nature, haunted, hunted, horror-struck and horrifying,
it might well be a journey back into a life too different to even
we begin. This first portion we are all of course familiar with,
in concept and in execution." The room's ambients dimmed progressively
to almost total darkness, and the grapher started to engage in a
Standard pattern almost too well known from sixteen of such.
star-map, from the common perspective of the central Supicor Judiciary,
presented as if the room in which they sat was a monstrous polar
cap on that all-but-deserted world.
standard progression in powers of eight to the eighth, with brief
pauses to register common reference-points on the way: past Supicor
Proper, out toward the massive Didigort Frond, through Orgafft Judiciary,
past the Arutiphon clusters, all the way out to the Combine worlds.
was one of the outermost of the Combine worlds, and Kerenko knew
her by the dusty blush of her atmosphere, and swallowed hard against
his own emotion. TOP
sequence slowed as it had accelerated, stepping down again in exponential
quanta: the vigorous young star of Fortigern with its linked worlds;
the mines and the ship-yards of the Arakcheyek Particles; and the
great glittering Edeslok Line that stood between the Combine and
the Jurisdiction with the polite fiction of its Home Defense Fleet,
the non-aggressive force, the token Fleet allowed a subject system
brother Lev is on one of these ships, here," Koscuisko said, and
a minuscule detail of light enlarged in chunky leaps of line and
form to reveal itself as a battle cruiser, the rear flange of its
carapace projected in the illusion of three-dimensionality precisely
where Taller had set himself down. An elite craft, the best that
money could buy, and why the Jurisdiction chose to believe that
the Combine had no expansionist ambitions any more - having made
peace with the Bench - was beyond Kerenko.
should be able to guess that the truth was quite otherwise, and
the battle cruiser that Koscuisko was admiring was all the proof
that anyone should need. It wasn't as though one had to be a Sarvaw
to be able to see. The teeth of the ravening gar cut without respect
no, perhaps not this particular craft, but one much like it. My
grandfather served his duty to the Autocrat in the Home Defense
Fleet, but it has lost somewhat in luster since postings to the
Jurisdiction Fleet became available. It is still quite good enough
of course for any younger brother. Or sibling, I should say, since
not all families are so old-fashioned as that to which I was born."
himself had hoped against hope to be permitted to serve in the Home
Defense Fleet, rather than that of the Jurisdiction; because Koscuisko
was a surgeon, was a doctor, and there were few postings for medical
personnel that were suitable for a man of Koscuisko's family's status.
To Koscuisko's cost, only the rank of Ship's Surgeon would satisfy
the self-image of the Combine as a proper placement for the son
of the Koscuisko prince, for a man who was prince Inheritor to the
Koscuisko familial corporation. TOP
had not wanted to be Ship's Surgeon.
Koscuisko had feared the duties of Ship's Inquisitor, even before
Koscuisko had come to understand the nature of his own passion.
there was the ghost of a hint of wistfulness, of longing for lost
innocence, it passed quickly enough. "Now here we come to the world
of my origin, here is Azanry, we will perform the standard orbitals,
of course. From here the family's propagandists have taken over.
I am from the lower hemisphere by Standard referent, it is this
land-mass, here, you see. It is most pleasant and temperate between
the mountains and the River -" No hint of self-pity any more, and
no self-consciousness, either. " - which is what we have been long
accustomed to call this ocean of water. There are the mountains,
and the lands beyond are grazing and the growing of grain, and then
come the real mountains." And, of course, another River, or rather
an inland fresh-water sea, the source of the rains that kept Koscuisko's
home earth fertile even at higher altitudes.
'real' mountains? Sir?" Ivish asked, his disbelief and confusion
clear in his voice. "The contour's got to be, oh, it must be nearly
an octave, and that's on the shoreside. And those other - big rocks
- are -"
fell silent, as if unwilling to say the words. Koscuisko supplied
the offensive qualification, cheerfully. "An octave and four again,
yes, Mr. Ivish. It is where riding animals were first bred, and
there are several religious Houses of great antiquity. We will be
spending much of our visit - here."
detail from the shoreside flank of those "real" mountains spun itself
into a great looming presence filling the room, its holographic
image embracing Ivish and Taller alike. Ivish looked queasy, in
the blue-white light of the surrogate mountains; Ivish had been
born and raised in a mud flat world, where the water table had been
only a few eighths below the surface for sixteens Standard in any
direction, where refuse had to be carefully treated above ground
and where fabricated plankie was the most solid thing imaginable.
Kerenko didn"t blame him for feeling a little nauseated at the prospect
of those mountains. TOP
on the other hand, sounded too happy just to see those sharp stone
slopes once more to even notice.
come to the section where my family is boasting of its fields under
a pretense of orientation. This is Koscuisko land, Koscuisko fields.
This is the holy grain." The fly-by had dropped down so near the
surface that the pattern in the earth of cultivated earth and inhabited
cities could be easily discerned, easily grasped by the eye.
others might well take Koscuisko for generalizing, as the scan covered
sixteen after sixteen of field and forest, city and estate.
was not speaking metaphorically, or generalizing. It was the literal
truth. Koscuisko's family owned a significant portion of this land,
itself the second most significant land-mass on Azanry. And a substantial
slice of Sarvaw's plundered flesh, as well, among sixteen or twenty-four
other such substantial holdings on other Combine worlds.
were families that were greater in the Combine than Koscuisko, Kerenko
knew that - greater in wealth, greater in land. But very few indeed
who could match his Excellency's family in wealth and age and history,
and no eight holdings on Sarvaw and Kevchaya and Halipsest and Pariloc
could match a single such holding on Azanry for prestige and political
will be considerably closer to a great deal of these, so we may
safely pass over this part. The local folkways are to be exhibited
next, see, here we have the various modes of dress, and typical
Aznir merchants and farmers and weaving-women. I am holding the
image here, because there is an important point to be made." TOP
did not put a great deal of emphasis on preserving old forms of
dress, but the common forms were still different enough from uniform
to look exotic. Soft cloth footgear and leg-wraps, boots and trousers.
The ubiquitous apron of the women, with all of the wealth of meaning
to be read behind each stitch; the elaborate embroidery that decorated
the long vests that men were accustomed to wear beneath their dark
sober coats. Who wore ruffled shirts, and how many rows of which
sorts of needlework, some of it familiar to them all from long experience
of wrestling Koscuisko into his nightshirt when he was too drunk
to remember who they were.
was the religious that Koscuisko had frozen on, however.
hated Dolgorukij religious even more than they hated the common
run of Dolgorukij. It had been the religious who had encouraged,
then excused, then indulged the crimes of the Aznir conquerors;
and he would be expected to show respect to such. And he would show
respect. He had no choice.
are the servants of the Holy Mother, in one degree or another. It
is important to recognize them, or their behavior may seem to be
a challenge to you. Which it will be, but there will be nothing
of the personal, and they will only be surprised if offense is taken."
people had set an array of religious before them, representative
members of what Kerenko knew to be the dizzying number of Households
serving a truly unfathomable quantity of Saints. There was no difference
between the Saints and the group-gods of his own ancestral place,
as far as Kerenko was concerned. TOP
fact he had more than once suspected that the Saints were simply
the same as family gods and personal gods, each raped away from
their own people and consumed whole by ravenous Azanry, the Devouring
Mother. Nor would the Dolgorukij cultural imperative permit the
dispossessed to hide their shame in silence; no, each debased and
abused deity only re-appeared, suffocating in the livery of the
slave-master and leashed in chains of liturgy, forced to choke out
praises of the alien whore that had flayed them alive to serve her
own absolute cult.
notice that the men are wearing braids, and some have plaited beards.
This is a unique privilege, for an Aznir male, because it signifies
a greater closeness to the perfection of the Holy Mother. Men who
wear hair on their face are not religious if there are no braids."
did not like the Saints any more than he cared for Koscuisko's Holy
Mother. The arrogance of the race could not be separated from the
substance of the species, no, not even under the most extreme of
who wear the apron - here -" Koscuisko stepped close to one image,
gesturing. " - are officers within the Households of their chosen
Saints. Others are brothers-dedicate, and all of them may be most
safely addressed as "cousin."
the word was not exactly "cousin," not in Koscuisko's dialect. It
was the word for the son of the elder brother of one's own grandparent,
and "cousin" in such a sense meant superior as well as related.
Koscuisko himself would not use such a word; the "cousin" that Koscuisko
would use would be the "cousin" that signified the child of a younger
brother of the mother of his father's father, and meant related
but subordinate while deserving of special consideration and respect.
was only the one word in Standard, however, unless it were to be
qualified. Kerenko supposed that allowances would be made - for
the others, at least. He was not at all sure that he would not himself
be more prudent to be more precise.
"cousin" that a Sarvaw was expected to use was the word for a philanthropic
foster-parent with lots of money and plenty of children of her own,
who had lifted one out of the sewer out of the goodness of her own
heart and given one every advantage in life. TOP
religious are perhaps less difficult to identify, because they are
not so much in the public. This fringed head-dress is an example,
though not a sure sign. If you see a woman, and there is something
about her to suggest that her hair is unbound -"
was a female religious with her hair uncovered, one of the more
severe Households clearly. Koscuisko wandered amongst the arrayed
images, picking out details, sometimes not remembering that they
would not always be sure precisely what he was looking at; and then
forgetting, sometimes, to even mention what he was pointing at.
then you must suspect a sworn-sister. You must never raise your
eyes to the forehead of a sworn-sister, do not make eye-contact,
unless she speaks to you. And she will not speak to you, because
we are the inferior sex, although the favor of a greeting may be
extended to an outlander as a signal act of charity and self-abasement."
if a sworn-sister snapped her fingers you were to touch the ground
in gratitude - as being the dust beneath her feet - and follow her
immediately, to perform whatever errand she might have in mind.
Or whatever service. That was unlikely to happen to any of them,
here is a peculiar collar, it suggests from the back a woman's hair.
This one wears the thousand-plaits, short though they are, and these
scarves are also considered to refer to the sign, although this
Saint wears a shorn neck. Here is a woman of Saint Busonrab, she
is the one whose apron-strings are laced down the back of the garment
in this particular manner." Koscuisko was silent, for a long moment,
gazing at the figure in question. TOP
this cousin, over before Pyotr, is of the house of Saint Dasidar
Strategist. I had not noticed, Mr. Stildyne, I am surprised at myself.
My sister Mayra holds the accounts of Saint Busonrab in our time,
and of course my brother Mishka serves as the Strategist's Exemplar.
That cousin with the red braids in his beard, he is of the Household
of my own forename's Saint. My family is here before us, in fact,
there is almost no need for the pictures later."
Saints were represented, was what he meant. Kerenko knew that. Taller
could hardly be expected to. "Your family, sir? Your 'forename's'
Saint? I don't understand, your Excellency."
toward the back of the room, a bemused expression on his all-too-Aznir
face, Koscuisko seemed to have regretted raising the issue. "It
is not important, Talle," Koscuisko assured the helmsman, giving
his shoulder an affectionate shake. "All of my names have Saints
attached to them, and there are many with the same name. One must
be a religious professional, like my sister of Busonrab or my brother
of Dasidar, to keep them sorted out." Stepping close behind Kerenko,
Koscuisko paused, laying his hands on Kerenko's shoulders at the
back in a quiet massage by way of an abstracted sort of a caress.
"Is it time to drink, yet? Perhaps we should stop the sequences,
because I am rambling."
knew quite well that there were tensions in Kerenko's Sarvaw heart
about Aznir and Azanry. Kerenko could only trust that Koscuisko
also knew that he did not hold it personally against Koscuisko,
who was as close to humble - in some ways - as a man could get,
and still be Aznir Dolgorukij.
is still his Excellency's family, and his Excellency's dogs, his
Excellency's housing and his Excellency's house-staff to get through,"
Chief Stildyne rumbled, sounding considerably amused.
you are right. And I want you all to be rested and attentive, because
we will be staying at the Matredonat and at Chelatring Side, you
will all need to know where the kitchens are." Koscuisko gave a
final comforting pat to Kerenko's shoulders, obviously decided.
"Very well. Again after sleep-shift, then, and that will give us
plenty of time yet to rejoice in having nothing whatever to do,
before we are to exit our vector. I am hungry. You may be hungry
or not, as you like, but - Lek - someone has done us the kindness
of stocking sweet-grainy kelats, in the second-stores, and there
are crows-eyes and bride's-blood jelly, I saw it with these eyes."
kelats were the common treat of Combine nations from Grasslo Chello
to Khevchaya, Sarvaw not excepted. Kerenko half-rose from his seat,
scarce hoping - 'sweet-curdled, your Excellency?"
sour-curdled. Yes. Are you coming?"
was Koscuisko, and he was only Sarvaw. But there was but one race
in the Dolgorukij Combine, when the Book of the Founder was consulted,
even if they were not all Dolgorukij. The thick paste of the black
crows-eye berry was equally and uniquely pleasant to Sarvaw and
Aznir tastes alike, and when the jelly of the bride's-blood fruit
was laid on sweet-grainy kelats only a thick clot of sweet-curdled
stood between the native and absolute bliss. At such a moment the
temporal world was as one with the Eternal, and nothing else even
am right behind you, sir." Under the powerful influence of such
an offered treat even a bond-involuntary might use the personal
pronoun, and suffer no correction from his governor. "If his Excellency
would be pleased to hurry."
Koscuisko was in danger of being run over, else.
man. Mr. Stildyne, we will see you after starchcakes," Koscuisko
waved, on his way out of the room.
would be time enough to remember his grievances against Azanry later,
would be too ridiculous to scorn the sweet merely because there
had been bitter. TOP
it were up to his choice in the matter Andrej Koscuisko knew that
he would be just as content to leave the entire issue of his familial
ties and speak nothing of them. For one, it was painful to him,
especially where his father and his child were concerned.
another, family was denied to bond-involuntaries. Although it might
well be that his un-Bonded Security - Smath, Taller, Ivish - had
chosen to forego such distraction, in their lives, Pyotr and Kerenko
had been permitted no choice. Pyotr might have a family, somewhere,
but if a man was not to be permitted to see them or to seek them
out for the twenty-eight years that comprised his Bond, being reminded
of the fact could bring only bitterness.
had no family.
Security Chief Stildyne - who was not bond-involuntary, of course
- had obscure family troubles in his past to which Andrej had never
heard him refer.
things, therefore, argued for tact and reserve on his part on the
question of his relations - and especially his son, his child, the
priceless gift of the lady Marana, who was very unfortunately neither
married nor pledged to him. Anton Andreievitch, by acknowledgment
but without legal status as his son, a little blue-eyed child of
eight whom he had never so much as kissed yet in his whole life
- he had not been home in more than eight years.
a man would certainly prefer to keep this tangled mess quiet to
himself, as of no interest - and possibly the source of pain - to
still these were his Security. TOP
all of them Bonded, but all of them assigned to him, responsible
during the planned four months of his leave for his safety, for
his physical protection. It was their duty under Law to put themselves
between his body and any hazard, and to take the killing blow themselves
if there was no other way to stop its fall on him. Such people needed
to know as much as he could tell them about his life, about his
state of mind, about the environment in which they were to travel
- anything to help them predict, detect, prevent a threat against
such people a man could have no secrets, for two reasons; one, that
any secret could turn out to be the fatal one; and two, that if
they were to die for him he clearly had no right to hold himself
aloof from them, in any sense.
was going to have to talk.
is a place called the Matredonat," Andrej said to the room at large,
setting the sequence to re-initiate. "It is where we paused, yesterday,
and sought recreation and sweet-grainy kelats. We will go from the
entry port first here."
sequence scrolled them through a quick close aerial survey before
the point of view dropped to ground level. A man could see how the
avenues had prospered, in his absence, and admire the blue-gray
slate of the new roof over the great hall. That was part of the
point, of course; he was to appreciate how carefully those of his
father's Household who had been attached to the Matredonat by force
of tradition had husbanded his property, while he had been away.
is a knot-garden, here, that my seven-times-great-grandmother planted
with her own hands for her oldest daughter. It is a self-sufficient
estate, and until very few octaves ago still fielded its own militia."
had spent his warm-seasons at the Matredonat since he had been blooded,
when he had received the estate as a gift from his mother's family.
It was certainly as antique and venerable to look at as anything
at the great medical teaching center on Mayon, where he had been
to school, all great granite walls and tall glassed-in garden-doors
and the shadowed arches of its cloistered walks. He wondered what
his Security would make of it all.
these are living quarters. This ship's-bay of a room is actually
a bathing-place, and a little further on - here, yes - this large
padded raised exercise area is actually a bed. One is expected to
sleep in it. Notice the identifying characteristics, there are steps
up and fabric curtains all round, these distinguish it from the
shipboard one slept on rather less spacious an area, and Andrej
could still remember how difficult it had been for him to adjust
to Fleet-issue sleepracks at Fleet Orientation Station Medical.
Of course, he had had a great deal on his mind, with which to worry
his resthours away to nothingness.
is more frequently done in a basin or a tub, as you see here, than
under a water-jet. You will not be permitted to clean any of your
own clothing. Nor will you be allowed to assist the house staff
in any way, not unless you are specifically invited to do so. You
will only insult people, if you offer."
the familiar settings yet again, after being away for so long, had
at first given him a very uncomfortable sense of dislocation. The
man he had become, the man he was, could have nothing to do with
the man that he had been, the last time he had slept at the Matredonat.
It was a struggle to reconcile his sense of fractional selves, and
he was not yet certain that it would work at all.
course he had specific reason for taking the home leave now after
so many years. Stildyne knew some of those reasons already. And
there were things he had to do that he could only get accomplished
from the center of his father's world, in the bosom of his family.
have indulged themselves in whimsy, here, because of course these
are animals. They are - first - these mashounds, and the one with
the cataract in her right eye and the grizzled muzzle may even be
my little Shubenca, who was scarcely half so big when I last saw
her." Mashounds would live to see their fifteenth year, and grew
to be nearly as tall - taken all in all - as he was. Since he was
not tall. "Yes, Maut, there is a problem?"
Ivish was looking a little alarmed, which amused Andrej, coming
from Security. Ivish was accustomed to handling much nastier problems
than a mere mashound during the every-day course of his daily life,
and Andrej knew how competent Ivish was to handle nasty problems,
because he himself was the nastiest of them. "His Excellency's -'little'
- Shubenca? With respect, sir, those teeth look as long as my forefinger.
And the neck and shoulders don't look particularly dainty. Sir."
was a point. "Perhaps not. If you were to see one of the wild tuskers,
or even a small few of dire-wolves, it might explain a mashound
very comprehensibly. The first time I went to the hunt of wild tuskers
I came home convinced that no three mashounds could be fierce enough
even taken together to reassure me. I promise you will find her
reasonable, if only you do not presume to much."
he had also been convinced that he had either enjoyed himself wonderfully,
or been terrified out of all sense and reason, or perhaps both at
the same time. "We continue. These beasts, you may learn to ride.
They used to comprise our primary transport, in our history, when
fuel for powered movers was still hard to come by, and had to be
hoarded against the day of need."
among his Security seemed to trust themselves to venture a comment,
as they stared around at the mountain kleviots who seemed to move
across the room. Andrej was amused; kleviots probably did look rather
odd, especially to people accustomed to automated transport.
was not so much their size, though they were easily half again as
tall as the mashounds of the previous sequence. The great black
heavy curled horns of the rams and yowes alike were splendid to
behold; and their dainty little feet with those pretty little cloven
hooves seemed scarcely proportionate to their size. TOP
again - Andrej reminded himself - perhaps it wasn't their awesome
aspect, or the splendor of their close-shorn curly coats, that had
so effectively silenced his Security. Perhaps it was the sight of
riding-harness and guiding reins, bit and halter and saddle, and
his threatened suggestion that they might learn to ride them. Their
gait did take getting used to, and even for accomplished riders
a long day mounted could be tiring.
I myself have not ridden in years. Obviously." Perhaps a reassurance
was in order. Perhaps he should simply hurry on. "There is one more
thing of note at the Matredonat, and they have sensibly put it at
the end, because it is the one of critical importance. They could
not show very directly, because of tiresome points of protocol which
I refuse to frustrate us all by trying to lay out before you. It
is just this, here, where they have it seems gone back to show the
walk at the side of the canal, with the maiden-trees."
had not yet quite got used to this part, although he had played
it through for himself time and again since its arrival. There,
come walking down between the black trunks of the rustling trees,
their flexible green branches flowing like a maiden's hair from
the crowns of their stately canopies to the ground, and blowing
in the breeze from the canal -
woman is named Marana, and you should say to her "respected Lady,"
which means she owns the best of my good-will and yet has no title
to my father's name. And the child is named Anton; Anton Andreievitch,
which signifies the son of a man named Andrej, which is to say myself.
He is my child, and I have never met him -" TOP
did not think he had discussed this aspect of his life with his
Security, ever. With Stildyne perhaps, perhaps. And it was also
perhaps technically true that - as Two had tattled to Mendez - he
was father in the general sense to other children as well. Those
were different. Land-pledges belonged to their mothers and to their
pledged fields and to the Holy Mother, and his part in their engendering
had been the dutiful submission of a son of Azanry to their divine
Genetrix. Marana was different. Anton was different.
was his child, and to see the child - oh, a little boy, eight Standard
years old - walking with his mother and playing with the loose tresses
of the trees nearly staggered him with his sense of grief and loss,
to have not even met him, in all of this time.
your Excellency," Pyotr's dark deep quiet voice had always been
calming, to him, even in the throes of worse torment. "This child,
if we are to greet him, what language are we to use?"
had the best of reasons for not going home. He knew that he would
only have poisoned that bright little life by merely looking on
it with the same eyes that had rejoiced so in the nightmare of torture
and agony that was his craft and his most especial talent. He knew
that he only dared to risk it even now because he was sure to die
in the near future. None of these sensible considerations could
stand against the power in the child's confident stride to move
his heart and drown him in shame for his long neglect.
will be permissible to call him by his two names, Anton son of Andrej.
But perhaps it would be better to use 'young gentleman,' instead.
Thank you, Pyotr."
had not neglected either Anton or Marana in the material sense,
no, he had installed her as the chatelaine of the Matredonat with
powers of contract and quittance, and no-one - not even his own
parents - could touch her, interfere with her, where she was. He
had sent letters, when he had been capable of composing a decent
message. He had sent gifts, and he had sent money. He might as well
have denied her his house and the child his name: it had been eight
years, and he had never even seen him. Not in person. Not in any
way that mattered. TOP
let us go on. Yes. Here is Chelatring Side." The people who had
prepared this Security orientation - ostensibly for his use - had
not spent too long in the sequence, on Marana, or it might have
become too obvious for familial respect for the proper forms to
let it pass unchallenged. The sequence shifted, and none too soon
for Andrej. So intense a feeling, for such a little man - it confused
as well as shaming him, in his knowledge of his own failings. He
could not bear more of it than they had sent.
is not Rogubarachno, where I was born. We come to my ancestral place
during the early part of the winter, and in the winter we go up
to the mountains. It makes little sense, but there are traditional
father's Household spent the warm seasons at Rogubarachno, set deep
within the glittering gold of black-bearded grain on the lower plains.
When winter came they moved into the mountains. Once it had been
for protection against raiding parties; then it had been because
of the need to patrol the wide white slopes of the snowy foothills
to prevent too many wolves from preying upon livestock in the lowlands.
Now it was more a matter of habit and tradition than anything else,
though there was usually at least one hunting-party between the
first storms - the annual Cloak of Saint Shovan, dependable and
ferocious - and the final fury of Saint Aestwar Engraver, patroness
sequence that had been sent was from the previous season, because
Chelatring Side was widely held to be displayed at its best under
three eights of snow. It was true that the gentle mounds of glistening
snow in late-season drift smoothed out the sharp contours of the
rock, and made the fortress - for that was what it had been - seem
more a part of the grim peaks around it, than a huge stark alien
imposition on the landscape. The bright lights from the fortress'
watchtowers looked welcoming and homely, to Andrej; there was no
telling what it might look like to the others. TOP
house is called Chelatring Side because it suckles at the bosom
of Chetalra. There are hints that Chetalra may have been a goddess,
once, but such hints are considered to be in excess liberal by the
Holy Mother and all of her Household. Except -" there was a point,
and perhaps now would be as good a time as any to make it. "Except
there are the Malcontents. Saint Andrej Malcontent, prince and martyr,
and it is said that among the many questionable aspects of the Malcontent's
Household is a carefully qualified suspicion that not only might
there once have been Goddesses other than the Holy Mother, it is
not outside the realm of fantasy that the Goddess may actually have
been male. It is better not to speak of such things. Not even the
Malcontent can always protect his slaves."
wanted them to have heard about the Malcontent, because it might
become important. Stildyne had heard a little bit about the Saint
already; but not the most important bit for the present circumstances.
And he also did not want them to lose their concentration; and Pyotr
Micmac, for one, was easily staggered, in matters of religion.
are outbuildings, estate installations, the ancient funicular. At
this point I wish to make it clear that no-one will be expected
to ride in the funicular. Although it is perfectly safe - it has
been years since we lost a car to the mountain."
was babbling, and he knew it. He was nervous, and they knew it,
they kept the watch while he slept, and awakened him from dreams.
For some obscure reason his Security had taken it upon themselves
to guard him from his own Furies; and these had been somewhat more
active, recently, under the strains of his approaching visit. He
was not looking forward to seeing his parents, and he did not even
like his brother Iosev, although he tried not to hold that against
Iosev's wife. He didn't like Iosev's children, what he knew of them.
And he anticipated scenes with the woman to whom he was betrothed.
The whole thing made him distinctly of two minds about his leave,
and the guilt that he felt on account of the child touched quite
naturally on other guilts which - if they were not greater in degree
- were unquestionably far superior in number.
had hoped to have gotten past the worst of the dreaming, once he
had decided to die; indeed, there had been few dreams, if any, for
the first months after port Burkhayden. But they had come back to
him. And Security had been there, to wake him from the worst of
it, and indulge him by pretending to be interested in playing relki
while his sleepshift wore on wakefully toward morning. Why did they
do it? They simply always had. Joslire Curran, at Fleet Orientation
Station Medical. Joslire and St. Clare, among others, on Scylla.
quiet somber image of Joslire in his mind reminded him of something
that might actually pertain. "There is a point to be made, here.
No-one carries weapons under the roof of the Koscuisko prince without
explicit leave. We will be expected to disarm ourselves, first thing,
before we may enter the great house, and I bid you gentles all to
divest yourselves of all your external weapons without rancor. I
myself rather look forward to the look on housemaster Ekofrit's
face when I lend Joslire's five-knives into his custody."
external weapons they could surrender without prejudice; Security
could never really be said to be unarmed. Not stark naked, not drunk,
not even asleep, never. Housemaster Ekofrit and Security Chief Stildyne
should understand each other. And the weaponsmaster would lust fiercely,
in his heart, after the five-knives that Joslire had given him,
because Emandisan five-knives could not be purchased at any price.
it was not the same because Joslire had been enslaved as Pyotr and
Kerenko were - bond-involuntary; a man without title to his own
the authorities would eventually demand the five-knives back, on
grounds of the expiration of their Bond.
could demand Joslire's five-knives all they liked. They were not
getting them back. Joslire had given them to him.
time he noticed the scar on the back of his right hand - where the
blade had pierced his hand and Joslire's hand together - he could
remember Curran's dying words as vividly as if Joslire still lay
bleeding in his arms. The coughing, as he brought up blood from
his ruined lungs. The rasping note of determination, desperate to
finish the phrase out before he died. My blood, your blood. To the
end with thee, my master, and beyond. TOP
cleared his throat, very formally, and Andrej realized that he had
wandered in his thoughts, and was keeping people waiting - quite
other than his original intent. He wanted to finish this briefing
in an expeditious manner, he wanted them all to get a good rest
before they made planetfall.
Ah. Excuse me. There is really only the grand-house yet to get through,
and the pictures of pertinent people. Here we go up the master walk
into the grand-house of Chelatring Side, as we will not on our first
instance, as I have explained. It was most carefully constructed
to rest upon the living rock, these risers are part of the mountain
master walk, three eights wide in a great grand sweep of gray granite
rock, fourteen eights long. The master gate of Chelatring Side's
grand-house, less formidable than the entrance gate, but much more
splendid, with time-smoothed stone left in its original state to
suggest the image of great power and abiding strength rather than
allude to it directly. The common-hall, with its twinned open fire-nooks,
each the size of the fasterthan they were traveling in. The state
staircase, at the far end of the common-hall. And posed upon the
state staircase, in formal dress, forbidding and distant -
are my mother and my father." He could not quite keep an even tone
of voice; there was too much emotion in the very concept, for a
man raised Dolgorukij, and the anguished resentment he had long
cherished against his father's choice of a Fleet posting on top
of it. For years he had told himself that his father was at fault,
somehow, for what his life had become, since - despite all of Andrej's
most abject pleas - he had been sent to Fleet after all. TOP
had only been lately that he had begun to really understand that
his father had nothing to do with it.
the idea that one's parent truly did not control one's destiny was
almost more traumatic than his earlier rage and despair had been.
Dolgorukij were supposed to be filial. It practically defined the
may never see these people, and, if you do, they will probably not
speak to you. I expect to have some conflicts with them. It is hard
for a child of my family to have a conflict with a parent. It is
bother to explain? They could not possibly understand. Or they more
probably did not care at all, not about why there was a problem.
He had better go on. "This is actually a posed-piece, as you can
see. By way of a painting or other visionage. Since there was no
way to tell exactly who would view this orientation with me it is
clearly impossible for them to move, or speak, because to me they
would speak in a manner quite different than to others. Mr. Stildyne,
am I again incoherent?"
had been standing at the side of the room, next to where Pyotr sat.
He straightened himself to attention, being spoken to, but his reply
was diplomatically indirect, and addressed to his troops rather
than to Andrej himself.
any Fleet posting you've ever seen this environment shares almost
no common ground with anything we've encountered before. There will
be a need for extreme caution." Translated it meant yes, your Excellency,
you have strayed from the point, but it's my point to make - not
yours - so it doesn't so much matter. With respect. Sir. "We'll
all need to be careful not to discount the dangers we may face simply
because it's a little too unusual for comfort."
other words, the threat of the knife was not to be ignored simply
because it was so simple a weapon. "Thank you, Mr. Stildyne. And
now unless anyone wishes to sit through the whole sequence yet again
perhaps we should go eat."
less than a single Standard day they would make Azanry space, and
come to ground.
then it would only be a matter of hours before he could hold his
child in his arms. TOP
Mr. Stildyne," Andrej suggested, knowing that Security was too polite
to simply stand up and walk out on their own under so small an influence
as a suggestion.
would head them out, and off to mid-meal.
himself Andrej wanted very much to be simply left alone with his