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446 pages, Hardcover
First published April 1, 2014
“He thrives on brambles. The thornier a problem is, the happier he seems to be in the solving of it.” Her smile made her lovely. “Our thanks is worth little, to be sure, but nevertheless, we thank you, Serenity. For landing him in the brambles.”
“In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.”
“You consider that unjust, Serenity?”
“We consider it cruel,” Maia said. “And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.”
When he opened his eyes, he looked around at the cool darkness, this well of silence, the weight of rock and loneliness, and thought, This is what it is to be emperor.
Maia knew—everyone knew—about the emperor’s nohecharei, the guardians sworn to die before they would allow harm to come to him: one, the soldier, to guard with his body and the strength of his arm; the other, the maza, to guard with his spirit and the strength of his mind.
“Yes,” Csevet agreed. “But, Serenity, you have also gifts from a number of Barizheisei merchants in Cetho, and from the Trade Association of the Western Ethuveraz. There are messages from mayors and hierophants in every principality. The people of Nelozho have sent you a letter with nearly five hundred signatures, which must be the entire population. The crew of the Radiance of Cairado have sent you a model airship. The families of the crew of the Wisdom of Choharo have sent you message after message. And that doesn’t even begin to account for—Serenity?”
“We don’t understand,” Maia said helplessly, sinking into a chair. “What do they want?”
Csevet frowned. “They want you to have a happy birthday.”
But he did not forget, and told himself he would not forget, that it was possible for people to be kind without ulterior motive, that sometimes bargaining was not necessary.