12 Aglidis 1138
The approved succession plan on the first sealed ballot got seventy-five votes, but that was still a failure. All five Teregenis Advocates in the room — Ragin, Royalist Bruckides, Reformist Catalan, Progressive Julianis and me — and the fifteen Advocate aides watched the ballot box from every angle. We all fixed the memories, and after, we compared, looking for where we had let it happen.
Seventy-five. That number is so odd, given the factions. Twenty-nine Reformists. Twenty-six Royalists. Two Royalist-leaning Ascendars. One Reformist leaning Ascendar. Forty-five Progressives. Take the Progressives and Royalists as a given block for approval, but that’s still only seventy-one. Add Ragin and me. Seventy-three. Two of the Reformists broke ranks. Perhaps one was Savrin; that still leaves one. Tiwendar, perhaps? Or Catalan, who seemed ready to be done? Maybe Tristari. Or maybe two of them broke and Sav didn’t. That ballot was odd, but ultimately futile.
After, the Reformists demanded a recess to consider their options, and withdrew to their faction room. The Progressives and Royalists remained, milling in the tiers, building their next plan. Watable, Kurzon, Alvard and Haelens approached me about the preference plan. I agreed, if they chose to present it. Most of us stayed in that room, with the ballot box in full view of everyone. Nobody approached it. Why should anyone? With fourteen remaining Advocates in the room, a pair of eyes was always on it, and nobody wanted to be accused of tampering. We weren’t even counting in Welces’ Square, just on the off chance the lock wouldn’t work.
I am positive that the Progressives and the Royalists anticipated the next ballot. We discussed it, and we all agreed the Reformists were likely to nominate Savrin alone. They had the right, as the last proposal had been Royalist and the previous — to use the sealed ballot — had been Progressive. We had a solid block against. Twenty-six Royalists, two Ascendars, and fifteen confirmed Progressives. After yesterday’s chaos, only four Progressives were feeling much charity towards the Reformists anyway; Watable was nearly certain that at least forty and probably all forty-five would vote against Savrin. Either way, it did not matter. He wouldn’t get eighty under any circumstances.
I spent most of that morning not thinking about ballots, but wondering where in hells Sam and Efan were. They had seemed determined to issue warrants this morning. I’d half-expected to arrive in Prava chambers to five missing faces. And yet… nothing by eighth hour, nor ninth, nor tenth.
Warrants aren’t that difficult, especially when concerning the assassination of the Razin. They’re inquiries and orders to produce documentation. They are not sentences. They have a low burden of proof, and being issued a warrant is not a presumption of guilt.
As expected, the Reformists returned to nominate Savrin, and in doing, Mathes repeated, word for word, his speech against me of yesterday. This time, I watched the reactions of the more Reformist-leaning Progressives. I saw the expressions of contempt, not at me, but at Mathes. I saw them roll their eyes at Savrin. I knew they weren’t swayed, and they were kind compared to the Royalist-Progressives. Those on the left side of Avah’s curve turned away, doodled, and in Vandahl’s case, took exaggerated care in cleaning his nose and ears. With his fingernails. They were not in favor, I would stake an arm on it.
The Prava press struck the ballots on a portable press. The typeface was crooked, but uniformly so. The ballots were simple — the candidate’s name, a box marked yes, and one marked no. They pressed 106 quarto sheets right before us, because by this, the fourteenth day, trust had evaporated.
I assume it must have been the box, though I’ve no idea how the trick was managed. We had all seen it — a plain, oak box with no lining, a simple flat lid held shut with hasp and the commonest sort of lock.
And yet. The trick was managed, though fourteen Advocates would share the memories from fourteen perspectives and try to see when the substitution had happened.
Either that, or the majority of the Prava was so tired of wrangling that they took what they thought might move us forward.
Except. By the time the tally read fifty to seventeen in Savrin’s favor, the Royalists were getting restive. By the time he reached sixty, the Progressives started to eye each other suspiciously. By seventy, the south and center tiers were shouting in indignation. And at eighty, the room erupted into chaos.
For the first time in at least two days, and maybe in years, I managed to catch Savrin’s full gaze. I queried him silently as the last votes, all against him, were counted. He looked back at me across the circle, utterly stricken, his eyes large and horrified in his face. We couldn’t speak now, but would once we returned to the Karsai. We’d have a few days before the Coronation to work this out. My mind started working the possibilities, to keep the Privy Council intact —
The Optimus rose. “The Prava of Galantier declares Savrin sator Lethis to be Razin of Galantier.”
Savrin didn’t move as at least fifty Royalists and Progressives charged from their seats to the center dais. He was only a quarter of the lowest circle away, no more than five or six yards, and if the room hadn’t been ringing with outrage, a speaking voice would have carried. Savrin slowly shook his head, so bewildered he might have just awakened in a fresh hell.
Before I could stop him, Ragin, with more force than necessary, pointed at Savrin to get his attention. I heard him speak over my shoulder, each word enunciated so that Savrin could read it on his lips. “If you don’t keep her by your side and let her rule, I will personally tear your throat from your body and leave you to rot in the desert.”
Savrin’s eyes went hard. “Make me,” he spat back, for an instant his old self, rebelling against any and every authority, including his elder brother and good sense. He stood and walked to the Optimus’ table. His years as a priest served him well. He spoke over the din, but he did not shout, and he got attention. “I consent. Since we are in mourning, I suggest this coronation befit the simplicity of a nation in deep grief, and as we are under threat of war, an immediate coronation is in Galantier’s best interest. I believe we need only the priests and senior members of this body. I move we adjourn to the Hall of Hermache immediately.” He turned back to us for one moment. He did not point his tongue at Ragin; otherwise, he was twelve and recalcitrant until he turned away and walked with dignity towards the great doors.
I glanced at Mathes as Savrin left and guards surrounded him. Mathes smiled down at me. Figure it out, he said.
Ragin caught it. “You filthy, scabrous, faithless, lying, goat-fucking, piss-drinking, child-raping son of a whore! I will murder you and flay the flesh from your bones. Beetles will feast and dogs will drink your blood. I will ensure your soul never finds the Afterworld and — ” he said, his voice starting soft but rising with rage as he threw himself over the desks towards Mathes’ seat and the sergeants at arms descended.
“The Prenceps threatens the life and soul of a member of the Prava,” Mathes said, utterly delighted. “Rest assured, son, I’ll file charges this time.”