18 Frumentis 1138
Not the best thoughts to be having as I picked up my post after a trip south. Letters from the various Patronae who run my langreves, one from Ethene at Haelens, and a thick one from Rien, as well as her regular daily messages. I shoved everything in my pocket, took my ruck to my cubicle, and sent my equerry for whatever the mess had available. Good thing about the small rooms assigned to Advocates — security through obscurity becomes necessity. Ryten and I had an agreement — he kept my office and left my quarters alone now.
I sat on my cot and cracked the seals, putting aside those needing reply and dropping the rest in the brazier. I saved the thick one for last, expecting it would require more of me. Not wrong, there. The sheets were covered in her spiky script, but just repeated her other four letters.
She considered whatever she had written secret. That explained the paper — heavy rag stuff that can stand a wetting, more cloth than paper. The backs of each sheet were blank.
Once Ryten came and left flatbread, beanpaste, soup and fondal, I soaked a sponge with iodine and wiped it over the pages, then left them to dry. I’d still have to iron them to develop her invisible ink, but that gave me time to eat, bathe and wake my mind.
The hidden letter, written with a fine nib in tiny sigils, had a salutation, an oddity, and none of her usual scratched out lines. She’d recopied it. This wasn’t good.
My beloved Ragin,
As I write this, Da has been dead three hundred days. Nearly a year. I’ve worked through it, and my grief no longer entirely wants to pull me under the current. I thought grief was like a wound — agonizing at first, but in time, I’d notice less. That’s true; one can’t maintain forever the sense of loss. My mind and heart have scarred over. I limp a bit. This work’s a good crutch to let me relearn to use legs cut out from under me.
But grief is also a flood. It washes away everything and there’s nowhere to hide when it pours down. When it recedes, the landscape’s indelibly altered. For me, and Galantier.
This is the hardest letter I’ll ever write, but this must be said. I’ve spent much of the last quarter-year assembling the document you now hold. As of today, I don’t know how to reclaim Galantier. Circumstances can change, but I don’t know if we can wage war, and now, that’s what we’d need. I don’t foresee a political solution, and I fear a martial one is impossible.
We face a graphic manifestation of hypocritical cynicism in the Triumvirate, but we’re at their mercy — they own the means of communication with the populace. As more Cimenaran broadsheets close or change editors, the news has become less critical and more cautious. That’s no way to raise the rabble. I’ve hope we’ll ride out the storm, manage to kick down the walls and swim this sea, simultaneously — when the time comes. (Forgive the mixed metaphors, but the impossibility of those concurrent acts perhaps conveys my frustration and the enormity of the challenge.) It won’t be easy, but it will only be possible if I remain in obscurity. Savrin holds processions for the Army’s every little victory to divert people’s attention from what he’s doing, and I’ve faith that one day, those parades will celebrate true freedom, real justice and peace, but that won’t be soon.
Galene and the Founders believed government too important to be relegated to amateur hands. We never have, but I feel distinctly probationary. The political tide varies, but current circumstances and the likely immediate future lead me to believe the collective mind seeks at best a redress of grievances, not drastic change. Galantier lacks a legal mechanism to implement that alteration.
Which means the situation will continue to deteriorate until we can gather enough disparate supporters of rebellion to alter the leadership and address those grievances. Which means war.
Today, Galantier can’t afford civil war. We’ve survived marginal monarchs, even bad ones, and we’ll do so again. I don’t agree with the creeping changes I see, but excepting one series of events that were personal in nature, the changes are not yet devastating.
We both know that civil wars break dreams, scar the land and the collective hearts and minds for generations. They’re nothing but sacrifice and destruction for both sides. Da did not raise us to be short-sighted tyrants and we can’t betray him. We would ask the kingdom to tear itself apart and not just district against district, but langreve versus langreve, village against village, even families against themselves. Without the most pressing need, Galantier shan’t survive.
The need is not pressing right now. The Triumvirate seems content to let me live in peace and obscurity as long as I remain a backwater lawyer. I’m no threat here. They’ve had ample opportunity to destroy me and I’ve been neither commanded to return to the Karsai nor seen hostility directed my way. Though it pains me to admit it, Mathes, and to a lesser extent Tiwendar, balance Savrin’s excesses well, as Savrin does theirs. They collectively represent a swing of the pendulum that is by no means in keeping with Da’s ethics, but all pendulums are limited, and theirs approaches apogee. Given another year, I believe the situation will settle.
I’ve not abandoned my hopes and dreams, but for now, we must be pragmatic and place them on a high shelf until the time for defiance is right. This wasn’t an easy decision, but Galantier’s best interests come first. A civil war places us at greatest risk from Spagna. They’ll use internal disorder to attack, either simultaneously or immediately after, before the victor can reassemble the fragments. Even if our plan works, a civil war leaves the border ill-supported for at least two years. In that time, Spagna can certainly force their way into the border langreves. That threat is greater than a few years of a poor monarch. The Prava will protect the border as long as they’re not divided against themselves.
Our political situation is unlike that which split Tasleroi from Darsania two decades ago. The Tasleroi were concentrated in their own lands, oppressed for their faith and language, taxed heavily. They possessed naval and militiae units, and the historical will to make themselves independent. Nor does our situation resemble Razia Renea’s reclamation of the monarchy from Gadrik. Gadrik was mad and murderous, tearing the country apart. Savrin isn’t.
This isn’t surrender, only… cease-fire.
Don’t worry about me. I’m neither alone, afraid nor unhappy. I miss Da and I can’t forgive myself for allowing the trap to be sprung upon him instead of me, but I endure. I concede nothing, and do not accept the Triumvirate’s vision for Galantier’s future, but to succeed, I must temper our defiance until the time is right.
Ragin, I ask you to set aside your plans. You’re a brilliant General and becoming an exemplary Justiciar Advocate. Rebuild your life, as I’m doing here. Marry. Do what you love in Galantier’s service as I am. In time, the world will change in our favor. We must be patient.
Please, let us not discuss this until Midwinter when you’re here, but hard logic and simple accounting — included — convince me this is the right decision. I love you. Be careful and be brilliant.
The other sheets in the packet were balance sheets — her proof. I couldn’t argue with her figures and notes. We’d need millions of teanders. Her map of support and opposition showed a patchwork of Royalist langreves near Reformist strongholds. Her census proved Galantier didn’t have the men to fight a second war, and if we insisted, we’d decimate the country for generations because Spanga has been killing one fiftieth of our men a year for three generations. That adds up quickly. A third of the men between the ages of sixteen and forty already fought one war, and we needed the rest where they were. Logic agreed with her assessment.
Our duty to Galantier demanded we not damage the country unnecessarily. On that, Rien wasn’t wrong. Most nations don’t survive civil wars at all, or spend generations, if not centuries, repairing the damage. They’re anything but civil — the bonds of brotherhood, friendship and country turn to bitterest hate.
Rien’s perfectly logical, responsible and dutiful to Galantier’s greater good to wish to avoid a civil war. She’s also wrong.
My Prognostication is weak — I’ve never seen the future nor known with certainty the outcome of anything with specificity — but I know when a choice is right, be it wheeling out a flanking force or picking the route home in uncharted territory. Putting Rien on the throne is right. My guts clenched. No capitulation, brat. I planned to have breakfast with Els. I hoped she’d decide she was done with me, because a lot of horseshit in Celestan desperately needed her shovel.