Chapter 49 – Coronation
This chapter is full of quotable quotes. I’m tempted to quote the whole chapter! It’s beautifully written (as ever) – but at an overdrive of style that combines simplicity and complexity, fitting for readers seeking cloying texture or for readers seeking sparkling limpidity or a reader (such as me) seeking both. No mean feat.
It represents, I’m sure, the first half of Tuerqui’s own epilogue, explaining to whom the book is aimed as primary reader (i.e. to one of its own characters as this reader!) and this in turn explains some of the style, content, omissions (self-censoring?), possible inconsistencies etc and the ‘subtle punishment’ that inexplicably codifies earlier reprehensibilities of taste etc
It tells of many things, a coronation and of tying up gradually loose ends and loose emotions. And more than I can put into words!
I can do little better than give a sample of passages below (and look forward to Chapter 50 and the Epilogue proper – that the author has already led me to believe are now in waiting to be commented upon and apocryphised into these loose footnotes of footnotes that I call comments).
“I’m sure we’ll meet again,” said Lisa-Louise. “Follow your star, sister. It was a pleasure to ride and fight with you.”
“There are words, Tuerqui, but they’re not enough.”
Jane had been persuaded to join Lisa-Louise in taking up one of the newly-founded Empress Berenice Scholarships to study sciences at the University.
 The Empress Berenice Scholarships, designed to promote the empire as a centre of learning, were set up within days of Nadine’s defeat. Those awarded to Lisa-Louise and Jane were probably the very first of them. Endowments in the will of Berenice I ensured that the scholarships have continued until the present day. The annotator, in her early days, was a beneficiary of this excellent scheme.
The institution of protective slavery had been codified under the Statute of Slavery Protection. Under its provisions, persons under protective slavery orders could not be branded, although they were usually tattooed. They were immune from slaughter as blesh, and could be assigned only to a limited number of types of work – specifically excluding any sexual use. Gardening or horticulture were the usual occupations of those enslaved under these provisions. Less often they were assigned light industrial work.
With sudden realisation, and sick panic, I recognised the newcomer as my poor murdered mother. Struggling towards waking, I all but emerged from the world of dream. Then, soothed by the gentle touch of the goddess and my daughter, I allowed them to turn me so that I could look upon my mother’s face. She was transfigured with astonishing beauty – even her slave harness gleamed as though formed of precious stones.
The following day, pleased to be assigned to some hard work, I was donkey stoning the front steps, whilst Tuerquelle followed with a bunny cloth.
Considering my mother, happily harnessed in the World to Come, perhaps she was a victim of fairy mischief, rather than me.
My mistress, who has kept her promise to correct my errors, deserves what praise there may be for this book. Were it permissible to think such a thing, I might sometimes have considered that she whipped me less than my prose deserved. My half-formed thought, here, is clearly wrong – as it would be a great wickedness for a slave to disagree with her mistress, and I hope that I’m never guilty of such a thing. Clearly, if I ever doubt her judgment, it’s because I’m an ignorant bondling who knows no better.
Deeply fulfilling as my life at the University of Pain is, most of it would make a wearisome narration. It would be vain to attempt the history of every time I’ve donkey stoned the step. More interesting, perhaps, are the many times I’ve taken a tumble in my mistress’ bed. These are set out in sufficient detail in my pillow book, and do not belong in this place.
Lady Isobel, Tuerquelle and I travelled to the coronation field in the beautiful carriage drawn by high stepping platinum blondes.
We arrived in the late afternoon, as the sun’s rays caught the splendid scene almost horizontally. There were hundreds of tents, all but the largest of them brightly coloured – no two alike. Over each floated a banner picked out with metallic threads, gleaming like sunbeams upon ruffled water. Dwarfing all others was Berenice’s great black tent, but even that shone as the light caught its satin panels and sombre embroideries.
On a flattened hilltop stood a curious structure, the function of which I couldn’t yet imagine. It was a huge framework without canvas or silken covering, an enormous horizontal hoop supported upon a dozen or more lofty pillars. The construction seemed to be filled with a spider’s web. Subsequently, I discovered that this was formed of stout cords, although – from a distance – they seemed gossamer threads.
“An oz-dredge, mistress?” Tuerquelle asked, her eyes already grown round with wonder.
“Yes – an oz-dredge, sweetheart. It lives beyond the edge of the world, nests in the golden fruit trees of the sun, and will eat only sapphires.”
To my surprise, I found that my gaze could meet Berenice’s, so assured was I in my slavery.
Turning from the throne, I found myself simultaneously frightened by Berenice, and liking her.
I think the author agreed earlier that ‘discernible’ is preferable to ‘discernable’ that appears in this chapter.
Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.
The links to all Chapter comments by me are here: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html