A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, April 23, 2010

Oderint dum Metuant

For your amusement, a short draft passage from In the Lion's Mouth

In this passage, Donovan is a passenger on the ship of Gidula, one of the leaders of a revolution among the Shadow-agents of the Confederation.  The rebels are trying to convince Donovan to join them.  Present are Donovan (whom the rebels call "Gesh"), Gidula, and Gidula's servant Podiin, who has just brought some appetizers and drinks.  Gidula calls citizens of the Periphery "Peripherals," and praises Confederal society thusly:

"Our society is a tightly woven network of obligations.”  He wove his fingers together and tugged.  “I am as much in Podiin’s service as he in mine.  No, do not sneer, Gesh.  You have lived too long among the Peripherals and their anarchies.  A tightly-woven web, I say, of beliefs, customs, tales, fealties, and the like.  Our law books are thinner than the Peripherals because we are led by living words and not by dead laws.  When right action is needed, a parable is a surer guide than a statute.  It is what gives us stability.  It is why the Confederation is still what it always was, while the Periphery is constantly stumbling about.” 

(Podiin returns with the appetizers, here omitted; then Donovan replies:)

“A stable system, you say.  Yet, you want to overthrow it.”  Donovan tossed the challenge out.  Gidula was supposed to be a leader of the Revolution.  There was a limit to how far he might plausibly go in defense of the status quo. 

Gidula made his own selection, then waved the boy aside, to stand by the wall out of earshot.  “A dead man is stable,” he said.  “Only a living man may stumble.  But that the fabric has frayed a bit at the top does not mean that the tapestry entire must be burned.  Ravn understood that.  You see, Those do not command our customs the way they command our laws, and custom is king of all.  If it is our part to obey Those, it is Their part to be worthy of that obedience.” 

Donovan considered this while he carefully studied Gidula.  “And some of them are not.” 

“It is the part of a good shepherd to shear his flock, not to skin it.  I believe you Terrans have a saying.  ‘Numpollyarky something, something.” 

“Numpollyarky ysceala tattoo.  The act is unworthy of such a person.” 

“You Terrans….”  Gidula laughed and shook his head.  “You always have a great mouthful of words.” 

“It gives us something to chew on.” 

“Clever, too.  I suppose with every man’s hand against you, the Fates have sharpened your wits, or you’d not have survived.” 

Donovan said nothing, and kept a tight rein on his temper. 

If Gidula noticed the silence, he said nothing.  “Well, it’s been a long, hard time since the Commonwealth fell.  Those were other days, and they worshipped other gods.  The heat has gone out of it.  Our scholars look back now with neither the fear nor the anger that once consumed them.  We can begin, a little, to regard the age with dispassion.” 

“I wonder if dispassion is an improvement.” 

Gidula leaned forward.  “Listen, Gesh.  We may have to kill men in this struggle – our brothers in the Abbatoir, even some Names.  Best if we don't hate them as well.  Hate makes personal what should be dispassionate.  They have done, as you Terrans say, acts unworthy of their status; and so must be expunged, some of them.  But it is no more a matter of hate than would be the stomping of a cockroach.” 

The Fudir swallowed a spiced tuna roll wrapped in a banana leaf.  “I’m no cockroach," he said.  "I’d rather be hated.” 

©2010 Michael F. Flynn

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