Through the Cracks Ch4 bit – Wariness

Sejanes watched the Guard walk off, nape of his neck still prickling at the thought of just what was beside him. “He has no idea you don’t need his protection, does he?”

“This one hopes he never has need to learn otherwise.” Choshu’s most deadly hitokiri shrugged. “Sejanes-san. This is Haven, not Kyoto. The war is over, that it is. This one is only a rurouni, resting under Kaoru-dono’s protection, who never wishes to take a life again.”

Only a rurouni. Only a masterless killer, with the strength to take an Adept down. “I never knew just how we managed to get away that night,” Sejanes said quietly. “I saw you move.” Saw steel and crimson flash once more in memory, guards falling like bloody leaves. “If you’d wanted us dead, I’m not sure I could have stopped you.”

“Your Eastern Empire had decided to remain neutral, not aiding either side.” The friendly cheer had faded from Himura’s voice, leaving it cool and clear as a mountain stream. “Your troops had withdrawn from our ports. All that remained were diplomats such as you and Tremane-san, and you were leaving.”

Sejanes laughed once, without humor. “We weren’t your targets.”

“Aa.”

The Adept’s lip curled in black amusement. “And I told Captain Kerowyn you were just a swordsman.”

“One would… prefer you let that impression remain, Sejanes-san.”

Sejanes shot the smaller man a dark look. “She already knows you’re hitokiri.”

Hai. But she does not know this one was once-” Himura’s lips tightened. “This one has listened to Kaoru-dono’s tales of this land’s history, that I have. If Valdemar, who prides itself on its Heralds, and its honor, would send she who was their own Heir to assassinate another land’s king….”

“Ancar was declared Oathbreaker,” Sejanes said carefully.

“As were many in Yamato.” Red bangs hid those speaking eyes. “This one was once a blade in Katsura’s hand. But he is dead, and the war is over, and we lost, Sejanes-san. And now there is only the making of a new life, here, among strangers.” A subtle shift of red silk; the afterthought of a shrug. “There is a garden to tend. Young ones to look after. This one wishes nothing more.”

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25 thoughts on “Through the Cracks Ch4 bit – Wariness

  1. Firstly, Kenshin, Valdemar isn’t an honor culture. They have the concept of honor and personal honor and taking your vows seriously but it’s not tied into the fabric to the degree it likely is in Yamato. Aslo their concept of what you have do to maintain your or your lord’s honor is NOT the same.

    You might have listening to the history but that doesn’t mean you understand the culture yet. Granted, you haven’t been Valdemar all that long.

    Secondly, if my memory of the Wiki and FAB series is accurate, Ancar did kill his father and a Herald diplomat. MOST countries would consider it a violation of honor to kill their diplomats. And his use of blood magic was not like yours – blood magic has a nasty side and nasty applications and he used those. Not to protect his own but for his personal gain and power. And I think Elspeth got sent against him because she was a Mage and those were thin on the ground in Valdemar at the time – ones with any training whatsoever especially.

    Also on the subject of oaths, are these oaths that ones swore personally? Or ones that one is assumed to hold because of being born in a certain land or to a certain family?

    Through I have the impression that part of that oathbreaker talk is him probably beating himself up over Tomoe. Especially considering he flays himself for that on a regular basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You remember correctly about Ancar, yep. I’m just wondering how much of the surrounding circumstances is actually public knowledge. Even Skif admitted Elspeth’s knife falling through the Gate in someone’s heart with the insignia of Valdemar on the pommel-nut was… kind of a slap in the face to the whole Empire.

      There’s two big factors feeding in here. First, Kenshin’s going by “better too cautious than otherwise”. Much, much better, in his mind, to be totally underestimated and overlooked than to be obvious and force a foreign Queen he has no ties to, to make a decision about him. Second – if you’ve read “Oathbreaker” and some other books, it’s Velgarth universe canon that getting someone declared Oathbreaker is a legal as well as a mystical thing, and it’s been thrown around in a lot of wars. Given at various points Kenshin, the Ishin Shishi, and all of Satsuma and Choshu were declared in violation of their oaths at different points in time, learning Ancar was targeted because he was an Oathbreaker does not given Kenshin a warm and happy feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Doesn’t help that for the longest time no one remembered that the Declaration of Oathbreaking was actually a spell, one that Kethry managed to reconstruct during the Rethwellan Inheritance Crisis. While the White Winds School has it I’m sure, not many people would if the use of the spell literally summons the ghost of the wronged to judge. Hard to spin a man as scum of the one he betrayed absolves him of guilt, even if a ghostly lynching removes all doubt of guilt. Idra was more than happy to see her Sunhawks and comfort them before ripping her brother to shreds.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Never read “Oathbreaker” – I going by what was in the first two Colllegium books and FAB and the wiki. And the wiki is generalized and I have to know what I’m looking for.

        I was also wondering just what qualifies as an oath,

        Is it only something you, yourself, personally swear do to, uphold, etc?

        Or it is something that can be implied? Like you join this group, you are tied to the same oaths even if you never personally swear to uphold them.

        Or it the rules of hospitality? By accepting this guest, both the host and the guest are bound to behave certain ways and violating that makes you an oathbreaker?

        Because the only people that Kenshin made outright, personal oaths to were Katsura and Tomoe. The former released him and the second he is trying fulfill – and since she was originally planning to betray him, might want to be a little careful of who one calls an oathbreaker. Because, arguably, Tomoe is one.

        Maybe I’m just leery of the idea that you can be considered or declared a oathbreaker for a promise you didn’t know that you made. If you going to be held to your word, then you need to actually give your word.

        NOW, I can understand wanting to keep certain things quiet for Selenay. Because it would be handy, if anyone asked, if she had plausiable deniablity. So it is probably for the best, that there are some things that she does not want to know.

        Re: KohakuRyu
        And having a ghosts of the wronged make the judgement seems like it go both right and wrong.
        Because are they sure it will only summon the ghost if they have actually been wronged? Or if said soul THINKS it has been wronged.

        Because I don’t see how just being dead would stop someone from being just as much of jerk as they were when they are alive.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Canon, the formal oathbreaker spell has to be sworn to by a priest, mage, and honest man of the guy’s own people, all of whom must have suffered personal, irreparable harm at the oathbreaker’s hands. Since there are no native mages in Yamato, they wouldn’t have this magic, and they only get a secondhand rendition of what it requires from the people they’ve dropped in on.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. No, but this is hilarious! Kenshin is pointing out that Elspeth is a princess-assassin! She’s a hitokiri too! Ahahahaha! Man, Elspeth ain’t gonna like that one.

      Although I’m pretty sure that Aoshi would think it was totally awesome to serve a mage princess ninja. (Not that he’d say it like that.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. So of course Kenshin thinks that if people find out, the queen would just be panting to go send him to assassinate people! Because if a queen will send out her own daughter to assassinate people, at a time when she is one of the only mages Valdemar has, everybody must be expendable!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Bingo! *Shivers* Seriously, no matter how you slice it, that does not look good.

        In fact, it makes Selenay look very much like a Yamato Empress willing to sacrifice her own heir for the sake of the kingdom. Very… samurai.

        Kenshin is not a samurai. And he’s had more than enough of being someone else’s sword. Yipes.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. As someone who knows basically nothing about both series I have to say the fact that Valdemar sent its heir to assassinate rival ruler trips some of my suspicion flags. The way I see it this is a win-win situation for Valdemar either the heir succeeds in assassinating the target and the rival nation has some internal issues or the heir fails and is killed giving Valdemar a casus belli to war. Of course you would have to be morally bankrupt to consider a situation where your son or daughter dies a win but if Crusader Kings 2 has taught me anything it is that you have to be more morally bankrupt and sociopathic than your neighbors in medieval times to survive and thrive. This message was brought to you by Crusader Kings 2 where assassinating your 16 year old son so your 3 year old genius son is the heir is a perfectly valid strategy and betraying a century old alliance so your borders are continous to satisfy your ocd is just how you play.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That type of grand strategy game diverges at least a little from how even the craziest would have experienced decision making.

      IIRC, Elspeth had some sort of forced arranged marriage going on with Ancar.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a dynastic game over the course of centuries which can involve intrigue or conquest. Default start is whatever inheritance laws were in place in that location at that time. Admitting that they simplify that down to only about a dozen categories, I would guess that the game can be modded the way EU can. (IIRC, the latest update was plague mechanics, so that the Black Death could be simulated.)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Note, Elspeth wasn’t the heir at the time, as she had publicly declared she was stepping down beforehand. Also, Ancar had not only started the war by killing his family and diplomats, but by the point he was killed had pretty much destroyed his own country. The only reason he wasn’t fully declared an oath breaker (an actual term of art, which Kenshin wouldn’t qualify for.) Is they couldn’t find any Mages he had personally wronged that survived.

    But yeah, even in the series, it’s pointed out it was dumb. They were just out of options.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. how do you think the story got told?

        Most likely not how it was told in the books.

        And even if some people knew that Elspeth had renounced her position of heir, did everyone take it seriously? Because there were probably at least a few people who didn’t believe she actually meant what she said – heck, there are probably STILL people who don’t believe what she said. Or if they do believe she isn’t the heir, doesn’t believe that she voluntarily gave up that position.

        Plus, for a lot of people how Valdemar’s Monarch and Heir are determined doesn’t seem to quite compute. I got the impression that inheritance in most places and even with most families in Valdemar operated similarly to how it did in medieval times in our world.

        For example, if the wiki was accurate, Selenay’s traitor ex-husband couldn’t seem to get through his head that she couldn’t make him King Consort unless he was Chosen. And that killing his wife would not leave him King of Valdemar or able to act as regent for their daughter – because as long as Elspeth wasn’t Chosen, she wasn’t officially the Heir.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The wiki’s definitely accurate in that. The Heralds all know he’ll never rule, he can’t seem to get it. Heck, in the original Arrows Trilogy Lord Orthallen can’t seem to wrap his head around “must be Chosen to rule” – and he’s Valdemaran born and bred!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I just listened to the “Oathbreaker” song before reading this snippet. Weirdly appropriate. πŸ˜› Kenshin, I think you might be a bit confused about Valdemar culture – Kaoru, you should probably explain things better. Given the way Elspeth’s actions look to the Yamatoans, that might be why a lot of people don’t want to talk to the people they invaded. πŸ™‚ Best of luck on your writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kaoru might not realize exactly how Yamatoans view some of Valdemar’s recent history. Her father might have been Yamatoan and he did teach her about that part of her heritage. But she was still raised in Valdemar, not Yamato and that makes a difference.

      Also he might not have been able or thought to explain certain things because they were that bred-in-the-brickwork, feed-to-you-with-your-mother’s milk stuff that you just don’t think about. There is a lot about your own culture that is just so normal to you that you don’t think about the fact that not everyone in the world does it or views it that way until that fact is pointed out to you.

      Maybe she should start asking people like Kenshin how a native Yamatoan would view or interpret this event. Kenshin should probably do the same about Valdemar viewpoint. Not just WHAT happened people, but why it happened and what people thought or think about it.

      Because it seems like everyone is assuming everyone else is viewing everything the same way. And they aren’t.

      Maybe just adopt the motto: Never assume. Especially never assume that you and a person from this culture will interpret the same event the same way.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. A comment as far as the “assassination” term goes for the attack on Ancar – on one hand, it is accurate, but in another way, it was a legitimate strike on an enemy mage who was effectively personally attacking Valdemar – because he was holding compulsion spells, or chains thereof, on the troops which were attacking. So, for those who knew what was going on, and understand mage-warfare, it was a valid military tactic. Granted, the number of people who fit both categories can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand…

    And yeah, any outsider can be assumed to not understand Valdemaran politics. By a very large degree.

    Liked by 1 person

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