707 - The happiest day of my life
I took the letter to my mother. Alchaen would only speak to it to my personal benefit, that being how he was trained. My mother, who had been close to the semanakraseyesin most of her life, would know that I wanted advice that would benefit semana too. “How right is he?” I asked her.
“Absolutely right,” she said. “You are an Imperator worth following to the death.”
“That’s not the part I meant, and you know it,” I said.
“I know it, Chevenga. But you pay far too much attention to your flaws and your errors, making them huge, and not to your strengths and your triumphs, shrinking them.”
“That’s because I’m trying to correct my flaws and my errors, since just one can ruin or even end thousands of lives.”
“I understand, but you are going too far,” she said. “He is very right, in that. Destroy you as Imperator, those are strong words, but then of course he is thinking over twenty or thirty or forty years.” We were in an atrium, close enough to a fountain for her to say this. “The Sack you cannot correct in the sense of undoing it; but the two things a person can do instead—show remorse, and repair what can be repaired—you have done to the utmost.”
Since Artira had visited Arko, incidentally, she’d been far less against my spending money to rebuild it that could have gone to rebuilding Yeola-e. I think she had no conception of how big the City Itself is until she saw it.
“But you still have not made peace with yourself about it,” my mother said. “You need to finish forgiving yourself. It’s been two years, my child.”
“Two years is nothing, after losing family,” I said. “We still miss Tennunga.”
“Yes, but they are going on with their lives, love, as we did. And your remorse does not help them, now. The best you can do for Arko is keep your mind on the good you are doing in the present and will do in the future. And Farniya… my child, when you are dead, do you want to be remembered for that in you which was great, or that which was small?”
“That which was great, of course,” I said, thinking, Arko will always remember me for Sacking it.
“Do that for him, then. Forget his smallest moment, his lapse into cruelty. Just remember what was great, and take pleasure in loving him for it as I know you love to do. Do his soul, and your own, that favour.”
I felt as if I’d been hit on the head without knowing when the blow had happened; then my eyes were awash. They were the tears of revelation, that cleanse the soul.
You are beyond all smallness now, my one-time friend who I loved, I said to Farnias in my mind. I saw him bathed in the light of the Fields of Valour again, and glowing with it from within himself, so vividly it was almost as if I were there myself, though attenuated. I was, for the first time, happy for him. When my tears stopped, I felt as if a great stone weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Abolition Day marked by freedmen’s celebration, little violence
By Darmas Abasenas fessas with files from Sisaria Nomena, Alabrakas Kirias fessas and Timas Braken
Pages of Arko, Anae 20, 54th-to-last Y.P.A.
Doomsayers’ predictions of the Empire collapsing into blood-soaked chaos the moment its slaves were freed have been proven wrong—at least so far.
After being postponed twice—first from its original planned date of Imbas 1 and then again from Anae 1—due to the Imperator and relevant Ministers judging that preparations were yet incomplete, the law forbidding Arkan citizens to hold other human beings as property came into force officially on Anae 18. Contrary to some expectations, all commerce did not grind to a halt, and there were only a few reports of the violence or destruction feared once slaves were no longer under the control of their masters.
According to reports: about 50 people were killed and many more wounded when liberation celebrations in the square of the salt-mining town of Sapiasso turned into a riot; a brickworks in Fispur was burned to the ground by its former slave staff; several Aitzas farm families in near provinces of the Empire were massacred by their former slaves in revenge for severity; and there was sporadic mayhem on a smaller scale here and there. But for the most part, the day passed in wildly exuberant but peaceful celebration.
In the City of Arko, all Sereniteers were on duty in anticipation of trouble, but only a few brawls and murders took place. After a noon Imperial ceremony to declare the law enacted in Presentation Square, freed slaves danced and processed through the streets, returning to Presentation Square for a mass open party in that lasted long into the night.
“We are just happy,” said the newly-renamed Amas Sarsas okas, formerly a slave in a leather shop on Fidelity Street; in their applications to become full citizens of Arko, freedmen have been given the one-time right of choosing either to claim a surname of their choice or change their existing one. “Most of us have made new arrangements with our old owners, or set up to go our own way if we couldn’t. The masters who were [swear-word]s, whose people want to smash in their heads with shovels, are lying low; some of them even left town. We’re all looking forward, not back, as Shefenkas asked us to. We just want to live our lives free.”
The day before, the Imperator gave a heartfelt speech from Presentation Balcony, adjuring newly-freed slaves not to engage in retribution, but rather cast their minds ahead to their future as free citizens and what opportunities are now open to them. He noted that freedom and citizenship bestow responsibilities too, which they may never have known and so must accustom themselves to.
But what was no less striking than his words was his dress. Since seizing the Crystal Throne, except during Jitzmitthra, Shefenkas has invariably worn the typical white and gold working or ceremonial attire of the Imperator when appearing in public. For his Anae 17 speech, he came out wearing a shirt in his signature Mezem colours of red, black and gold, and the fifty prize-chains he won as a Ring-fighter around his neck, to a roar of acclaim. The message was clear: he meant to speak to slaves as a former slave himself.
For the law-enacting ceremony, the former Karas Raikas went a step further, adding the gold-trimmed Yeoli-style bracers he often wore on his wrists while fighting in the Ring, and the gold leaves he always wore in his hair.
“To me, Mezem chains were always chains,” he said at the appropriate moment. “I did not wear even one by choice, but only because I was a slave of Arko. In the end they were taken from me, of course, and returned to Skorsas. But I have still been wearing them in my heart, because I could not take them off, in my heart, while anyone else in Arko was enslaved. For this reason I wear them again today.”
On declaring the law enacted, immediately after noon observance, Shefenkas ceremonially removed the chains, to a deafening roar from the crowd. He made a donation of them and the bracers to the Museum of Arko, but unpinned all the gold leaves from his hair and threw them to the crowd, reminiscent of Imperial glass during the Ten Tens. Though he is still Hayel-rain debilitated and so kept mostly to a chair when he was not being carried on shoulders, he celebrated with his fellow former slaves until he retired on healer’s orders about midnight. Asked for comments, he was willing only to take his attention away from the joyous revelry to tearfully state one thing: “This is the happiest day of my life.”