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Post last updated: Sep 07, 2021 10:49 PM
beyond seven rivers
Bell and Theo in Shadows of the Limelight
Permalink Mark Unread

Captain Theo Tanner is on a mission for Chellas. Several goals, it wouldn't be worth sending him out for just one, but currently he's primarily looking for Curator's library to ask after histories. Only, she seems to have switched names - now she's Gazette and circulates a regular... town crier for the literate? He's curious, and fortunately incidental diplomacy and information-gathering were on his list. Shortly after lunch, someone with a copy of the thing pointed him toward her print shop. 

"Excuse me, are you Gazette? I'm visiting from Chellas and interested in your new profession."

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"Well, the point of it is to be interesting. How can I help you, Chellas-visitor?"

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"I'm Captain Tanner, I work for the Masked Council - though this is more personal curiosity. The sheet I read was entertaining, but I don't quite see where you're headed with it."

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"How's the literacy rate in Chellas, Captain?"

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"Good, as they go - I don't mean to disparage your new line of work, I just don't see how it goes better than the library."

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"I didn't exactly put a torch to the library. It's still there. But I think the dissemination of more information that can then qualify as common knowledge, as opposed to theoretically available references, is a neat place to be right now."

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"Certainly going to get attention from illustrati", the illustrati says with a wry expression. "What is literacy like here? Chellas has the university and some lovely passionate egalitarians trying to push schooling, but I don't actually know how different we are in practice."

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"Oh, yeah, illustrati love it, especially me. Literacy here isn't that much higher than our neighbors, but a lot of people can read a little, and I think more will when there's more to read. About things that interest them and are low time investments."

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"Hmm. Probably not going to reach the farmers any time soon, but in town, yes, I see your point."

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"You'd be surprised, I have an almanac page."

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"I am surprised! My impression was that farmers generally can't spare the time for learning. Admittedly that's mostly secondhand or worse."

"How proprietary are you about the idea? I suspect there are going to be fans of it back home. Particularly the idealists."

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"You can start a newspaper if you want, I'm hardly going to stop you. Tell everyone I invented it."

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"Of course, I'm not a boor. They'll try to make it educational, so I expect yours will catch on better anyway. University students, you know?"

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"If there's a stereotype specific to your university I don't know it."

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"I don't know if it's just ours or all of them. But they're very earnest and very devoted to their idea of what the common people want and need. Rich merchant's sons and landowners who barely speak to servants, let alone the actual poor. I am very patriotic about our governmental experiment but less so about some of the people involved."

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"Tell me more about the governmental experiment?"

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"So, the Masked Council is the notorious part: the seventeen people who run the country are strictly forbidden from admitting to being Councillors or tying their actions to their public faces in any way. Anyone who runs - which you have to pass a few levels of election to do - has to be available to go into seclusion when the Council does even if they lose. It's democratic elections at every level, secret ballot with one vote per adult - in practice only the literate at high levels - and those who win are the voters for the next level up. The prohibitions at lower levels are less strict, a town council work masked but aren't expected to try hard to hide their position. We've successfully decoupled fame from authority. The idea, which we got from those idealistic students, was that this will make the common people's concerns more important in policy, and reduce the distortion of feeding the egos and standing of the rulers. In practice... well."

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A sheet of paper slides under her pen and she writes this down in a quick shorthand. "In practice..."

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"The university students are way over-represented in those who pursue higher offices, and this has made us have their biases quite a bit. Illustrati obviously don't run much, because even at low levels they don't get standing from any time they're governing. I'm an exception - I have standing, mostly from the wars, and I run a few levels up every time and work as an agent of the Council. I take the position that standing is a weapon we can't unilaterally disarm from. We don't have people who were raised expecting to govern in charge, which might hurt, but it's clearly better than the Queen of Flowers or King Goldtouched-In-The-Head who we had before. We're not clearly better or worse than Geswein, who had a similar revolt at a similar time for similar reasons but pivoted to the merchants ruling instead. It's messy, and takes a lot of work, and the benefits aren't overnight, but I think they're going to be real in the long run."

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"So, standing isn't solely a positional good. I need it to, like, walk."

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"Huh. Bad leg? I haven't seen much of that, the obvious reasons. I mostly agree with the idealists who think society would be better - healthier - without standing - but it wouldn't be costless."

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"Bad balance. I do know the stories of the megalomaniacs but I don't plan to be a megalomaniac, personally. I'm optimistic that the newspaper can distribute standing more for praiseworthy rather than merely remarkable features."

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"Oh, that could work... Hmm. The Zerstors and Vidres of the world are bad, but I worry as much about the Baron Brasses and Salt-Sellers. The little illustrati who warp everything more subtly, but there are so, so many more, and does it add up? Though of course I'm as guilty as any of them."

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"I'd ask who those were but it sounds like perhaps they don't need the help."

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"I'm sure you have the type around here, I just don't know their names. Petty people with petty ambitions, little nobles and mediocre merchants, but putting their fingers on the scales anyway. Probably they read your newspaper."

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"Well, if they read the newspaper they are contributing to the swift recovery of anyone who comes down with the flu and has a memoir on file."

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"Temporary standing as medicine! That's an excellent idea. Maybe they should try and poach you, rather than just the idea."

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"Heh, what would they tempt me with?"

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"Less competition for fame? I'm not really sure. They might be willing to fund more presses and increase your reach, but everything's a messy compromise so it's hard to predict anything in advance."

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"Well, they're welcome to pitch me. I have assistants who could take over here if they succeeded."

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"I will be sure to make a note of it. Uh, actually, spare me a page? I should write some of this down."

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A page scoots in his direction.

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"Thanks." He pulls out a thin piece of wrapped charcoal and jots some notes, then rolls and pockets it.

"Do you still keep track of what's in the library these days? One of my tasks is to look into history, see if anyone else has tried something similar we can learn from. So far I have vague references to some northern place called 'Kenning' which probably really existed."

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"I handed off a lot of it but I keep generally apprised. I've read the name Kenning, at any rate, you'll want the stack where history and fiction abut, legends go there."

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"Good enough. It's been a pleasure meeting you, Madam Gazette."

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"The pleasure's all mine. Here, take one of this week's." She tosses him one from a basket by her desk.

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"Thanks!"

And the next morning, he stops by the Curator's Library. Gazette's Library? Either way.

"Hello! I'd like to look through your stacks for some history, or possibly legends."

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The librarian at the library (which is labeled The Curated Collection) gets up to lead him through the shelves. "Legends are on this shelf."

There's a guy lounging in a windowseat, drawing on a tablet of wood.

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"Thank you. It'll help with my - quest - for the Masked Council."

Then, muttered to himself, "Now, what's most likely to talk about Kenning..."

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Tablet guy is looking up at him now. "You have a quest?"

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"I'm an illustrati! Of course I have a quest. I'm searching for evidence that Chellas isn't the first of its kind."

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"First of what kind?"

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"The whole Masked Council thing, which I thought was a bit more notorious. We don't allow anyone to get fame or standing from serving in the government. And we elect them, but it's the masked government I'm looking for."

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"Huh. How d'you know if somebody stole an election like that?"

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"We have tiers so each round is only a couple hundred voters, and anybody who gets at least a few votes is entitled to see the total. And required to assist in hiding who it was who won, for the top end. It's probably easier to steal, but we consider it worth it to avoid putting glory hounds in charge of public policy. And I say that as a professional glory hound."

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"Heh. Is Ky going to write an article about you?"

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"If Ky is the Curator/Gazette? Then we spoke yesterday and she was taking notes, so, probably. Captain Tanner, nice to meet you."

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"Iskander. And yeah, that means she'll write about you unless she hates you for some reason."

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"I think I avoided mortally offending her. I hope so, at least, she's clever and interesting. Are you two family?"

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"Twins!"

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"Oh, that makes sense. You look quite similar but I didn't want to assume. What were you drawing?"

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He turns the tablet. It's a map. "I do the woodcuts, for the paper."

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"Neat. Do you have much standing for that?"

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"Enough to know my domain's mushrooms and not anything convenient, but not as much as her."

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"My condolences, but at least you get the health benefits. I was fairly lucky, leather is a good domain for a soldier."

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"Is it? I guess you could... fix your boots?"

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"Leather armor is flexible enough for me to move easily, and my standing makes it tough enough to stop most things steel would. Also leather makes slings, and whips, that let me fight from more distance than most illustrati. Plus I don't stand out from my squad unless I want to. I envy fire or air or steel sometimes, but it has a lot going for it."

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"Yeah, I guess that would be convenient if you're a soldier. Ky's really happy with hers. She'd be happy with ink too though. Or one of the generically good ones but she might've done something besides the library and newspaper if she had water or something."

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"Probably still something more useful than violence. Even when it needs doing, it's - eh."

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"Yeah, nah, she's rather against violence. I have designed her a stylish paper arsenal if the need arises but hopefully it won't."

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"Better to have it and not need it. Do you do other styling for her? I mostly muddle through with the tweaked uniform."

(Tanner wears a lightly-decorated long leather coat, vest, and straight pants, with the main color being accents present on Chellas's standard uniform, including the rank insignia of a captain. There's an twined leather bracelet wrapping his left arm, and he has a somewhat bulky shoulder bag which currently contains his helmet, whip, and big sling.)

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"Yeah, she's terrible with clothes, if she had her way she'd go around in completely normal clothes and a paper sunhat. I shop for her and design the hat to be more interesting. She's got a cape, too, lots of little folded up paper bits look like scales, it's real keen."

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"I never know how much that actually matters. All the really famous people do, but they also get it cheap, so maybe they would anyway."

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"I think it makes her more recognizable, more memorable? But yeah I don't know either, it just seems dumb for her to go around dressing like a random person."

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"Well, it surely doesn't hurt. Did you two grow up here in the city, or somewhere smaller?"

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"Born somewhere much smaller! But moved here when we were babies." He gestures a medium-baby-size.

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"I lived in a medium-sized town until the wars, myself. I'd probably have moved even without the obvious fame benefits, cities feel more alive. I partly ask because Chellas is going to love the newspaper, and I'm sort of - composing my thoughts for when they ask me whether we should copy her idea or try to induce her to move. Anything I should be tempting you with?"

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"Art and dance scene?"

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"The university has lots of artists around it. Some of it's pretty good, though I don't have a great eye for it. Not sure about dance, but I suppose I'll check if they send me back."

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"I'm not hard to please on the dance front. Ballrooms with events I can get into more'n once a week and pretty girls will do it."

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"I'm pretty sure we have that much. I just stay clear, I had to do dancing lessons when I was younger and I soured on it."

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"Yeah, Ky doesn't dance either even though she could now."

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"The balance thing? Makes sense."

He glances over at the stacks, a little restless.

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"Go ahead and look up your legends, don't let me stop you."

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"Should get around to it, there's the quest to consider. But I try not to be rude."

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"Quest away, I won't tell Ky to rip up her article or anything."

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"I certainly appreciate it."

He looks through a few titles. There's something claiming to be a travelogue of the northern countries, that might even be true. He'll probably be here a while.

 

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Iskander leaves a bit later, having finished the portion of his woodcut best done in a window seat in a library.

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Tanner manages to notice, and doesn't even seem distracted when he responds. "Nice meeting you, Iskander!"

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"You too!"

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The travelogue is relatively recent and seems not totally embellished, and mentions a coastal part of the north, Norshden, in much more detail than it gives to the distant island. He looks for that in the proper history section, and finds a recent book about their trade and ships - embellished to make the author's merchant patron sound much more impressive, no doubt, but it talks about Kenning's fishing boats and their dislike of anyone coasting off their family's names, and how they have no government save for an annual meeting where all men were considered equal members. This doesn't confirm anything he'd seen about the use of masks, but it's definitely gesturing toward confirmation.

After looking for other things for an hour or two, he takes the book with him toward the entrance.

"I'd like to make a copy of this book, or at least a portion of it, to take with me, out of the city. Do you have a usual way to arrange that?"

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"You may scribe your own copies of anything in the collection on the library stationery," it has Gazette's letterhead on it discreetly in each corner, "for one smallbronze a page. If you want many copies you may commission a printing from Gazette's office for much less per page."

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"What's the minimum print run, fifty? If you have anyone who can do simple book-binding, I expect I'm willing to pay for that, this will be thirty-odd sheets."

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"Minimum print run for text only is twenty, but you can get better rates for larger orders. It comes with a simple sewn binding for small booklets such as your thirty page one."

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"Hmm." He thinks for a minute, but no. It will be boring and eat time...

But ah well. He shakes his head. "I'll just copy myself, thank you."

Afterwards, he plans his next few days. He should visit the local nobility for informal diplomacy. See if any of the more combative local illustrati will spar with him. If he's lucky, combine the two and show up an annoying noble.

By the time that's done, the next week's newspaper is likely to be out.

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It has an article about him in it! It's not a large feature, the big news is about a fire in the downtown, but he's there, between the "memoir" pieces where she runs a column featuring pre-banked entertaining anecdotes from people who might later need the extra strength to breathe or chew when struck down by an illness, and the almanac page with its farmer-relevant items. The paper also carries classifieds, recipes, sports, and contests (this week's is a pun contest; it also announces the winners of last week's, which was one about how many distinct types of flower you could name in theme with the issue having a feature about a florist).

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Good enough! The captain of the city guard sparred with him in the park, with an audience, so some of this may even stick around after he leaves the city. (The man was a weaker illustrati, of iron, but quite good, particularly at how to fight without doing lasting harm. Theo deliberately sandbagged for their third bout so that the local man won and would have a better story to tell, about how he proved himself over the foreigner. A private fight with a noble with Blood demonstrated that they shouldn't take him or Chellas lightly, so he can spare the apparent weakness.) He doesn't have much to stick around further for, though, and a few places more to visit. But before he goes, thanks are in order.

He stops by Gazette's print shop again and knocks at the threshold.

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"Quest guy! What's up?"

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"Oh, come on, I put a pun in the title and everything."

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"It wasn't very good."

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"All right, it wasn't up to my usual standard. Hello, Captain."

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"I'm headed away later today, but I wanted to stop by and thank you before I did. Both for the article and the library, I found some helpful books."

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"That's what it's for. You're very welcome. Do you want a few copies of this week's to share around back home?"

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"I have a couple more stops before I go back, but I would love a few copies - or a dozen, that would be ideal. Anything else you'd like me to pass on?"

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She packs up a dozen of this weeks' and a few back issues she has handy for him. "I'd want a very detailed proposal, if they want to poach me. Particularly if they want to limit what I print any more than not spreading stories of villainy."

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"I'll make sure they know. Would letting you publish whatever you want for profit, and having joint-funded things with restrictions, be acceptable? I think I'd know who to try to sell on that."

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"Sure, if someone wants to subsidize only a fraction of projects I'm up for that."

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"Good! Well, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, and I hope we'll meet again. But I -" he strikes a needlessly elaborate pose "- have a quest to continue. So, farewell!"

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"Farewell! Good luck on your quest!"

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He travels for several more months before he returns to Myzathas and sits in Council again. Other libraries, other courts. One visit is poorly timed and the Zenith is in dock. Little fame to be gathered, and Vidre to avoid - she only fought in the tail end of the second war, but she may be holding a grudge despite her 'reform'. But he does find independent confirmation of Kenning, so that's helpful.

And then he's back to the capital, where a trio of Councillors meet him at the dock, masked. A showy ceremony of him demonstrating he is subject to their authority, which is one of his least favorite parts of the job. Not because he resents it - he doesn't, and wouldn't even if he wasn't displaying being subject to the authority of himself - but it's grating and posed and everything he dislikes about fame.

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Slightly later:

"I have the report from our Captain Tanner, Councilors."

They all know he's a member, and probably everyone in this session here knows that he's delivering the report firsthand. But it's better to keep up appearances, especially when he-the-illustrati is making suggestions to the Council.

"There is a summary of courts met with and sparring sessions to make clear our capabilities and his own, which I will elide unless there is an objection. One incident is noted in which the captain notes that he favored his standing over our national reputation; he left a Scythian city with the sole public sparring session leaving a weaker illustrati come off the better. He presents in his defense a successful private bout against the local nobility, and adds secondary reasoning which will be mentioned in the remainder of the report. Do I hear a request for censure?"

"I move to vote on censure after the full report." "Seconded." "Third; so noted. Please proceed with the report."

"On the subject of antecedents, he has brought reports of a distant country, Kenning, which holds annual meetings of all free men, a weak government of their island, in which possibly-exaggerated reports say all members meet masked. They do not maintain strict confidence and smaller meetings are not secret, but it is encouraging. Two small volumes are available for our perusal..."

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"On the subject of intelligence, he has minor reports from several locations, updating our political assessments slightly. He summarizes it as 'no surprises'. The Zenith's movements are also updated, and she is not expected to be nearby for the next several months at least." Chellas holds its own grudges, especially at the top.

"Outside the explicit goals, he notes an innovation among the Scythians, an illustrati who has created a weekly printed broadsheet of news. She has received some notoriety for the endeavor, but he notes it for two particular qualities that recommend it to us: first, it encourages literacy and puts the printed word in the hands of the populace, as several councilors have noted they favor. Second, small memoirs of local people in very ill health are included, such that they might temporarily receive standing and so recover more quickly and safely from their diseases."

"I move to ask the city council to investigate feasibility of establishing a similar endeavor here in Myzathas."

"The captain anticipated this and has some preliminary notes. Additionally, I have here a collection of the broadsheet, primarily from the week in which he visited; he was interviewed and it contains an article about him among other topics."

"I agree with the motion but ask to table it until we have examined the broadsheet and heard the notes."

"Oh, taking all my fun! Very well, let's..."

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After they'd read, and heard, he continued.

"Further notes on the subject of that visit. This was the same city in which the sparring incident occurred: he sought to secure the benefit to his standing of the interview, and considered good relations with the area more relevant than normal. Particularly, he notes the woman in question as of interest. I request to name her while reading the report."

"Seconded, proceed."

"This woman was previously known to us as Curator, the founder and proprietor of a library of some note, which contained some of the gathered material on antecedents. She now trades as Gazette, and devised both the idea of the paper of news and the medical benefits to it. She related to him that she thought the existence of a useful and entertaining written work, regularly occurring, would be salutary on encouraging literacy, in a way he thinks would be complementary to direct education. Gazette also expressed hope that it would have benefits toward funneling standing toward those whose deeds are beneficial, not merely memorable. On the basis of her clear talents for novel ideas, he suggests that rather than simply importing the innovation, we may wish to import the innovator, and sounded her out on the feasibility of such."

"I dislike the idea of offering gifts to illustrati, even useful ones."

"You dislike even employing illustrati, sir."

"Is that not the point of this Council?!"

"Councillors! I believe we all are familiar with that debate. Can we please avoid repeating it tonight?"

"So should I not object to this idea?"

"There will be adequate time to debate the merits well before we take action. There is no need for haste, I think we can all agree."

"...very well."

"The primary concession the captain notes Gazette would insist on is broad freedom to publish what she wishes. She notes the ordinary prohibition on bolstering villain's standing as obviously acceptable, and if we committed public funds to joint ventures she expressed being amenable, but her private ventures would not be a propaganda instrument and might even criticize us. This would be the principal drawback of bringing her on rather than creating our own."

"I repeat my objection."

"Noted. Continue the report."

"This was the final element of the report the captain indicated was of immediate interest. Shall we vote on censure?"

"Seconded. Any arguments?"

...

"Please tally your votes, councilors."

"We have here three votes for, nine against. Censure fails, but shall be raised at intermediate sessions for those now absent to express preferences if desired."

"Next business: Do we have a second for debate over the feasibility plan?"

"Yes." "And third."

"Good. Is the councilor from the trades district willing to speak?"

"I am. I estimate a minimal investigation would need two weeks and take about two hours per day for a team of three to five. For a thorough investigation, a month and possibly as much as two, and a group of five to six. Primarily investigating sourcing paper and how busy the local printers are, with the slowest portions evaluating creating new print shops for the enterprise."

"Do you have a guess at their estimate?"

"Printing presses are expensive. I believe we have about six full presses operating in Chellas, all but one within the capital. I don't know their slack time, but if we had less volume than four full-time presses, I would expect the fifth press to move elsewhere. It's likely we would need to fund a new press within the first six months even in ideal conditions. I can't speak to revenue from sales - did the captain note that?"

"Not in his report - I'll get an estimate within a few days." (Theo didn't like lies, even the polite ones where he pretended the councilor wasn't the same man as the captain. Half-truths were more bearable.)

"Please do. Overall I estimate it would be a substantial undertaking, on the same order of cost as... Well, to compare like with like, schooling for another hundred children per year. Possibly as much as five hundred students, if we need multiple presses and journeymen are scarce."

"Any remarks before we vote on the investigation?"

...

"Tally your votes, councillors."

"We have seven for, four against, one abstention. Ah, is the captain willing to speak on why he has abstained?"

"I am. I intend not to vote on measures stemming from my report unless the tiebreaker is required. I am sensitive to the significance of our illustrati suggesting matters to the council. My censure excepted, as I drew attention to the matter much more than honesty required and I feel that is adequate concession to principle."

The vocal anti-illustrati councilor sketched a polite nod.

"Any old business...?"

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They tried the local one. University students were doing the writing, and this was, as expected, skew to what the audience was actually interested in reading. He did warn them.

He writes a letter to Gazette.

Dear Gazette,

As you can see from the other sheet I've included with the letter, the Council decided to start its own press. With about the results I predicted when we spoke. There's a small faction that doesn't even like the illustrati who work for them, who I had to fight a little to credit you in the first issue, but the politically involved class are discussing your name anyway. I started a betting pool going on how long this lasts before the students admit they aren't very good at it - most of the money is on three to six months. We'll see what the men in charge do after that, I suppose. Do they have the idiom about seeing sausages and laws get made over there?

I thought of one stipulation they'll probably insist on about what you can print. Not unmasking the Council. We try to keep it protected, but I think we mostly know that a dedicated investigator could manage to unmask them. You'd be in a position to break the whole thing if you publicized it, so they might even try to insist on 'no speculation'. Lower levels of government they won't be that strict, but they'll want to negotiate. I'd hope that's not a deal-breaker, but please write and tell me if it is.

I'm sure the newspaper's been doing well, so I'll give you my hope that it's been exceeding your expectations.

Best of luck,
Captain Tanner

The attached newspaper has an article about what it's purpose is, expressed rather grandiosely and academically, with a box crediting Ms. Gazette, a southern illustrati who also operates a library, for the invention of the idea. The rest is a mess - some arcane political philosophy squeezed next to an almanac-type entry and some actual news about university enrollment and trading negotiations with Abalon.

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Dear Captain Tanner,

Perhaps the students will improve with practice! If they print their letters they can get more feedback, people love the chance at their name in the paper.

I have no interest in unmasking the Council per se. If they don't want to jump over buildings that's their prerogative. I would however be concerned with the possibility that I might discover their identities in the course of other investigation and find some independently newsworthy example of corruption or suchlike - the incentive must be greater, mustn't it, if one's collaborators need never have the ability to expose you? Which, naturally, I would not care to reward with greater fame, but which would certainly have to be reacted to in some way. What's the standard protocol for finding candidates unworthy of the office when you don't know which is who? What precisely is their issue with illustrati as a class, anyway?

Sincerely,
Gazette


She encloses another newspaper; it has, as mentioned, a letters page.
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Dear Gazette,

The letters page is another of your good ideas! It may help them improve, though I am perhaps a bit cynical about their ability to learn this lesson. Still, I'll pass it on.

We haven't had major tests of what we do to bad actors in the Council, yet, so we don't have a formal process. The pool of people who know the members is bigger than the Council - I'm one, at least five of the three hundred who elect the Council voted for me. I've had someone come to me with accusations of mild nepotism and asked me to pass it on to people who might be Councilors. If we had, I don't know, treason accusations, I'd expect it to start the same but the Council to spread it internally to all of them and then pull in people outside their ranks to write a process down. There's a reason my 'quest' was looking for history - we're making this up as we go more than we're happy with.

The principal objection to illustrati - and I basically agree - is how pursuit of fame tends to warp everything leaders do. Our idiot king, our neighbor's idiot king, and their wars, made it a sore subject. The ones who have outright animosity usually have more; I couldn't say which specific illustrati-hater(s) are on the Council, but of the ones who congregate in political circles and give me trouble, most lost people in the war. Vidre, particularly, made her debut in violence toward the end of our second round of war, when Abalon thought we'd be soft targets. That's left quite a lot of bitterness to go around, especially since we're one of only a handful of countries to consider her a villain.

There's also a thread of thought that it's bad to have people divided into haves and have-nots, and particularly to have power, both abstract and personal, be divided that way. Your point about it not being zero-sum is true, but despite that caveat, I agree. Even as one of the winners in the system it galls me that most people's opinions are essentially irrelevant on the large scale, because they haven't achieved enough standing to be treated as a player rather than a piece - or as just part of the board. And most people don't ever have the chance to change that - even our war heroes almost all knew their domains before the wars. So there's a notion of trying to right the cosmic unfairness as much as we can.

Best Regards,

Tanner

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He goes and talks to the actual writers and printers, and shows them the letters page. Frame it as 'voice of the masses directly' and they insist quite earnestly that they'll publish it all. "You might not have room", he points out, but they seem undeterred. Well, it might work out.

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Dear Captain Tanner,

I wasn't good at newspapering at first! I've changed the layout several times, had to learn some of the finer points of press operation by trial and error, and got better over time at writing, let alone managing a staff. Don't count the students out yet.

I think the problem with illustrati has less to do with the fundamental workings of fame and more to do with what sorts of things people find interesting, and I don't think there's any reason to think that that's an immovable trait. Combat is kind of the least creative application of illustrati powers, the most direct route from initial fame to ongoing fame accumulation. But there's no particular reason for that to be indefinitely the main way to accomplish renown. However many paper weapons Iskander draws for me I'm not planning to pick any fights, and I'm in a position to meaningfully shove fame around on my own recognizance and don't hold with the battle royale model. I think more people being able to read and having more reading material to choose from will reduce the extent to which spectacle draws disproportionate attention. The most popular article that ran two weeks ago was one about the winner of the cauliflower-growing contest.

If I ever scale up enough I'm considering having a domain testing service, but I don't think I have the readership yet. And I could screen people for it, so I'd test would-be healers and horse-breeders and not conquerers. I'm not a perfect lie detector, of course, but I think I'm better than nothing.

Sincerely,
Gazette


There is a clipping of the woodcut of the fellow with the prizewinning cauliflower.