Chapter 11

“He is no longer unassigned,” Jihan said. “You will accord him the respect of a youngest!”

Pyr looked up, refusing to flinch. “Unassigned wander the colony every day, seeking work, if no one comes to the dochaya to secure their labor,” he said. “Such — as I was — see many houses on a regular basis, while those who have their own elian mostly stay home unless they have outside tasks. I remember a small structure that may well suit your — our — needs.”

Well, it might be no better than what she had found so far, but she might as well look. “Lead us there,” she said.

Pyr hopped to his feet, almost wriggling with joy, and started off down the winding street. She followed the youth, with Kajin lagging behind. They passed the magnificent facades of Ekhatlore and Historykeepers, the eloquent architecture of the Distributionists. The sight of the huge houses, so very old and lovingly maintained, saddened her. The Ekhat, the great devils whose music was destruction, would sweep through and raze everything. If only the Lleix possessed the might to destroy them instead!

And then she expanded that wish to include the Jao, who in their own way were worse, because they’d had the chance to escape the Ekhat’s control and had chosen instead to remain slaves.

Other Lleix gave them disapproving looks as the three passed, then quickly turned aside. Admittedly, they were an odd group, she and Kajin with their blank, hastily draped robes, homely Pyr in his ragged unassigned’s shift. Word must have spread about her transgression because all elian had been represented up at the Han. Quite literally everyone knew how badly she had conducted herself.

But Sayr had said, despite her graceless breaking of sensho, she might well be right. She held onto that, and the fact that Ekhatlore was willing to aid her. She could only go on from here, make the best of what circumstance provided.

“This is it,” Pyr said suddenly.

Jihan looked up from the inlaid stone road. They had stopped before a small tidy house at the western edge of the colony, surrounded by large dried-up gardens. Huge windows swept from floor to ceiling. The interior must be flooded with light at all times of the day, she thought. Most elian sought privacy. How strange.

Faces, though not Boh, had been carved into a series of posts supporting a covered area around the front so that the membership of the former elders seemed still to be present. Each face seemed wise and knowing like the Starsifter elders Jihan had forever left behind. She felt another pang at the enormity of what her actions had cost.

Kajin scowled. “What kind of elian lived here? There is so much wasted space!” He stalked into the empty gardens, crunching through dead weeds. “An establishment of this modest size would not require such a large garden.”

“I have been told that this belonged to the Flowercultivators,” Pyr said softly. His skimpy aureole flattened in respect and he did not look at Kajin. “They have been gone for some generations now. I do not know how many, but the structure is still solid.”

Flowers grew wild along with other weeds. Jihan had never known heard of an elian organized for the sole purpose of cultivating such a thing. Her thoughts whirled as she followed Kajin into the gardens. What had the flowers been for? Who made use of them? She gazed at the abandoned house with its barren gardens. There was no one left to ask. Unless they had left records behind, she would never know.

Inside, the rooms were orderly and a fair amount of dusty furniture remained. She even found a few bolts of leftover cloth featuring fading patterns of blue, yellow, and purple flowers. Huge empty glass containers occupied each room as though waiting for something.

The colony had lost an interesting function when this elian died, she thought. And there were many empty houses now, each marking an group which had once contributed a valued quality to the whole and now was lost forever.

Like Jaolore. There must have been an elian devoted to the study of the Ekhat’s client species. If it had survived, now they would be so much further ahead in understanding and preparing for the menace that was surely sweeping their way.

“This will do,” she told Kajin and Pyr, and relief swept through her. She dispatched Kajin back to Ekhatlore to retrieve their copied files and beg the loan of several viewers. Pyr, she ordered to the dochaya to select servants to clean this dusty house so that it would be fit for habitation again.

She herself would go to the colony’s central commodities warehouse and draw food supplies to last them for a few days. Also, she would stop at the Patternmakers to request a simple pattern for Jaolore so that they could go decently clothed. The rest would have to wait. The Jao were coming and it was upon her head to do what she could to make the colony ready.

Her head swirled with plans. First, she must study the Jao’s barbarous language. Then they would be able to conceal nothing in their transmissions.

She would have Kajin teach Pyr how to run a viewer, then the two of them could sift records faster. At one point, there must have been a Jaolore. A great deal of that information would have been subsumed by Ekhatlore. They would have to pull it back out again.

There was too much to do, too much! She felt twitchy with dread. So much responsibility and so little with which to work!

A short time later, she looked out one of the huge windows and saw Pyr returning with five unassigned, ranging in height from very slight to quite tall, each individual utterly homely in his or her own way. She met them at the door. They filed into what must have once been the Application Chamber and gazed at her with expectant black eyes. All decisions fell to her now, even the assignment of their labor.

“I know these five well, Eldest,” Pyr said with a modest sweep of one hand. “They will work hard.”

“If they do not,” Jihan said, “we will find others who will.” She gazed at them critically. “The two largest of you shall come with me to the Commodities Warehouse, and the rest will sanitize the house while we are gone. Cast nothing aside unless it is damaged. We have limited time to replenish supplies.”

She headed for the door, but none of them moved.

“Mistress,” the tallest said, when Jihan turned back, “is it true that you might select more unassigned for membership in this elian?” The speaker was female, grown into respectable height, a full head taller than Jihan, but possessed of an oddly ragged brown aureole which seemed plastered to her head.

Pyr gazed at Jihan steadily, almost hungrily. He wanted — something.

She had broken tradition by accepting him, but he was still young, barely out of Festival. It was not beyond the bounds of reason that she put such a youth to work as a full-fledged member of her new elian in this time of extreme need.

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17 Responses to THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE — Snippet 32

  1. Summercat says:




  2. Mr. Masterson says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for all the book suggestions. You guys have excellent taste.

  3. Harold Early says:

    You know I’m wondering if they were created a long time ago Like the Jao? I mean they just seem so structured almost the same way the Jao are but just into different types of groups, etc…

  4. robert says:

    @3 Sort of like different nations? Or cultures? Or, wait! I have it! Religions? Nah!

    @2 Yes, we do have wonderful taste. Thank you for noticing…practically nobody else I know does. Notice it, I mean.

  5. Alejo says:

    Perhaps the Lleix and their culture were something of a template used to create the Jao. It’s a thought.
    Robert: Tell me about it. All my friends think I have weird taste. They get the “space stuff” sort of but the alternate history and how enthusiastically I like it truly boggles them. Oh, well. I’ll gladly leave them to their Westerns and trashy romances.

  6. Nico says:

    Nah, Alejo, the Jao are organized around their blood clans (or breeding groups). The Lleix are organized around function groups – did we not read earlier that there exists a temporary elian house where pregnant females give birth, and we know that the dochaya is where the unassigned (young & adult) reside, until they are chosen, if at all, to serve in an elian.

    I must say, theirs sounds like a much saner society than our own, though even in a system like that it seems that prejudice and exploitation can be rife…

  7. evilauthor says:

    > First, she must study the Jao’s barbarous language. Then they would be able to conceal nothing in their transmissions.

    I find this line hilarious. Apparently, Jihan has no idea that languages can EVOLVE.

    And even if the Jao language hasn’t evolved enough to be unintelligible, the Jao can always resort to a language that didn’t even exist when the Lleix settled this planet.

    For that matter, has anyone else gotten the impression that the Lliex might not be as… flexible and dynamic as they used to be?

  8. rick says:

    Another rigid society fixed in its guild like ways… I think the guilds were created to promote learning and advance human society, which seems to be applied here in this book as well. Of course, like our guilds it seems the Lliex in this book became fixated on guild membership and power casting out any who didn’t fit their idea of “fitting in”. Of course, the trash at the top of these guilds were usually power hungry freaks, who maintained their sumpremacy by keeping the power in their families and associates. Hence the aristocratic/nobiligy. Kind of like many of our politicians now a these days… trash i mean.

  9. Daryl says:

    Still on the topic of good authors and books, CH Cherryh with her Pretender and other series, Bujold’s Miles, Scott Westerfield’s Empire, David Brin, David Drake, Ben Bova, Greg Bear, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Bear, Julian May’s Many Coloured Land series. Shared series include Fred Saberhagen’s Beserkers, David Niven’s Kzin Wars and Known Space, any Bolo titles, and of course Eric’s 1632 franchise.
    @6 No mention of encryption or codes so they must have lost much of their technology and be just coping by routine.

  10. evilauthor says:

    6. I must say, theirs sounds like a much saner society than our own, though even in a system like that it seems that prejudice and exploitation can be rife…

    The first thing I thought of when I read that Lliex without elian (guilds) were doomed to low caste manual labor jobs was that after meeting Earth humans and hearing human ideas about labor unions and such, was that there would be the creation of a “Labor Elian” whether the other elians want them or not. All those unskilled manual laborers would still be second class citizens, but they’d be second class citizens with a voice.

  11. robert says:

    Actually they seem to me to have a society that is a combination of the guild system and a medieval university…or maybe the University of Delgado. Does anyone else get that? It is still a bit cloudy in my mind, but that is what it feels like.

    @9 and @5 Aren’t we lucky to have all these great authors to read! When somebody asks who my favorite SF author is I always have to protest and provide a list. And the list keeps growing.

  12. robert says:

    Oh,I almost forgot. Have a great holiday fellow fans. All of you.

  13. saul says:

    My impression was that the decline was mostly due the fact that this is a resource poor world. Less wealth means less ability to support specialized guilds.

    Other than that, the tradition of selecting people based on looks rather than competence is surely damaging in the long run.
    That makes me think of a rich spoiled society that has failed to change tradition in the face circumstance.

    As to the language. Their language may have changed very slowly, especially if they have a language guild to enforce stasis.

  14. alejo says:

    I agree about the language changing very slowly if at all. Monolingual speakers of English who are familiar with the history of their language often don’t realize that not every language has experienced as much change as theirs in so short a time. English is an extraordinary case due to all the invasions suffered by Britain and the subsequent wide distribution of English around the world. Now, my native tongue is Spanish. I will tell you that I have far less difficulty reading the Poema Del Cid written in about 1140 than I do reading the words of Wulfstan and Aelfred or even chaucer. This is in spite of the fact that English is something of a second mother tongue to me. I’ll go further by saying that I can even make out the meaning of works written in vulgar latin like the Perigrinatio Aetheriae from around the 5th century or Jerome’s biblia Sacra from around the same time with little difficulty because the languages haven’t drifted quite so far apart. Now, if I want to make out what is written in one of the ancient pagan Anglo-Saxon charms to Freya or Woden, I’ve got to break out my German and do some serious construing. All of that to make the point that a society as conservative as the Jao with one language across the whole species and an attitude toward other sentient species that frowns on anything they come up with (borrowing words included, I’d imagine) would experience very little linguistic shift in 3 thousand years. It’d probably be like reading the writings of De Foe, Peppys or somebody in the court of Queen Ann.

  15. Mike says:

    Yes, well the US Air Force generally speaks American English, but if I manage to listen to some chatter from them on the radio it’s not necessarily the case that I will understand what they are saying.

  16. zathras says:

    @14 I agree, English has always been more of a jumbilia of a language. One point you did not raise is how widespread literacy, and fixed forms of record keeping (books, recorded music, and the Internet, have tended to fix the language. English has “grown” with new words, and loanwords, to expand to areas and ideas that Shakespeare could not have imagined, yet Shakespeare is understandable and is included in English classes today. (The only reason Shakespeare is hard to understand because he tried to make everything fit a rhyme and rhythm scheme, not because of the language).

    English has changed far less from Shakespeare to today, than between Shakespeare (16th century) and, Chaucer (14th century). If you don’t agree with Shakespeare, try the KJB.

    I would only imagine further “fixation” of the language with widespread video/audio used as the storage medium. Written language can only fix structure and spelling. Audio recording can “fix” (fix used only in the form of set, not in terms of one is better than another) phonetics as well.

    This can be seen today. Regional dialects are dying out; in place the “Midwest” dialect; promoted by TV news anchors for the last 50 years.

  17. robert says:

    Shakespeare was also responsible for inventing many words that have since become a part of the language. And even with the Norman invasion, English remains a Germanic Language. In fact until quite recently many Germans believed that Shakespeare was German because the translation of his works into German was so precise. Linguists use basic words to determine how languages are related (e.g., Stone:Stein, and the very basic f-word). English grows by adopting new words and inventing new words and in this age of mass global communication a Hungarian teen will pick up new English slang as soon as it appears. As our economic influence wanes our cultural influence grows. Hooray for Hollywood!

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