Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

  Laurence flinched; and through the grip Bonaparte felt it and pursued, as a breach in his lines. “Do you think they would hesitate to forge your name to letters? You know they will not, and in any case the messages will only be read aloud. A few words—you are well, you think of him, you hope that he is obedient—and he will be imprisoned by them better than iron bars. He will wait and linger and hope for many years, starved and cold and neglected, long after you have swung from a gibbet. Can you be satisfied to condemn him to it?”

  Laurence knew all this sprang from a selfish concern: if Bonaparte could not have Temeraire’s active complaisance, even in the matter of breeding, he would still have been glad at least to deny him to the British; and he probably had hopes of persuading them, in time, to do more. That knowledge, cold and impersonal, gave Laurence no comfort; it did not matter to him that Bonaparte was interested, when he was very likely also right.

  “Sir,” Laurence said unevenly, “I wish you may persuade him to stay.—I must go back.”

  The words had to be forced. He spoke past a constriction, as one who has been running a race uphill, for a long time: since that moment in the clearing, since they had left London behind. But now the hill was past; he had reached the summit, and he stood there breathing hard; there was nothing more he had to say or bear; his answer was fixed. He looked over at Temeraire, waiting anxiously inside the open pavilion. He thought he would try and put himself in Temeraire’s hands, at least, rather than be marched back to prison; if he was killed in the attempt, it did not make much difference.

  Bonaparte recognized it; he let go Laurence’s arm, and turned away from him to pace frowning up and down; but at last he turned. “God forbid I should alter such a resolve. Your choice is the choice of Regulus, and I honor you for it. You will have your liberty—you must have your liberty,” he said, “and more: a troop of my Old Guard will escort you to Calais; Accendare’s formation see you across the Channel, under flag of truce: and all the world will know that France at least can recognize a man of honor.”

  THE COVERT AT Calais was busy: fourteen dragons were not easily put in order, and Accendare herself was inclined to snap and be difficult, irritable and weary with coughing. Laurence turned away from the confusion, and wished only, dully, to be gone; to have done with everything, all the hollow ceremony: eagles and flags, polished buckles, the fresh pressed blue of the French uniforms. The wind was fair for England; their party was expected, letters having traveled across and back to arrange the parley. There would be dragons and chains to meet them: perhaps even Jane, or Granby, or strangers who knew nothing more of him than his crime. By now his family surely would know all.

  De Guignes was rolling up the map of Africa from the table; Laurence had shown him the valley where they had found the mushroom supply. It was nothing materially more than he had already done; the mushrooms were growing, but Bonaparte did not care to wait, Laurence supposed, or risk a failure of the harvest. They meant at once to send an expedition, which was even now outfitting in the harbor: two sleek frigates, and he believed another three going from La Rochelle, in hopes that at least one would evade the blockade and reach their destination, and by stealth or negotiation acquire an immediately useful supply. Laurence hoped only they should not all be taken prisoner, but even if they were, he supposed it could not matter; the cure was established and would spread; no more dragons would die. It was a small satisfaction, at least, if a dry and tasteless one.

  He had feared some last attempt at bribery or seduction, but De Guignes did not even ask him to say anything, with a great sensitivity, but brought out a dusty bottle of brandy, and poured him a generous glass. “To the hope of peace between our people,” he proposed; Laurence moistened his lips, polite, and left the cold collation untouched; and when it had been cleared, he went outside to Temeraire.

  Temeraire was not embroiled in the general clamor; he was sitting quietly hunched on one side, looking out to sea over the straits: the white cliffs were plainly visible, from their perch. Laurence leaned against his side and shut his eyes, the steady heartbeat beneath like the rushing tide in a conch shell. “I beg you will stay,” Laurence said. “You serve me not at all, nor your own cause; it will only be thought blind loyalty.”

  Temeraire said, after a moment, “If I do, will you tell them that I carried you away, against your will, and made you do it?”

  “Never, good God,” Laurence said, straightening, and wounded even to be asked; too late he realized he had been led up to the mark.

  “Napoleon said that if I stayed, you might tell them so if you liked,” Temeraire said, “and then they might spare you. But I said you would never say such a thing at all, so it was no use; and so you may stop trying to persuade me. I will never stay here, while they try to hang you.”

  Laurence bowed his head, and felt the justice of it; he did not think Temeraire ought to stay, but only wished that he would, and be happy. “You will promise me not to stay forever in the breeding grounds,” he said, low. “Not past the New Year, unless they let me visit you in the flesh.” He was very certain they would execute him by Michaelmas.



  The Tswana Kingdom



  Sipho Tsuluka Dlamini





  Being a history of the Tswana Kingdom from its origins to the present day, and a complete geographical survey of its territories, with particular reference to the capital at Mosi oa Tunya, and several interesting remarks on the native customs.

  THE GRADUAL PROCESS of consolidation of the Tswana and Sotho peoples brought together a loose confederation of tribal kingdoms, founded originally, according to tribal historians, throughout the southern part of the continent towards the end of the first millennium, by a general but undeliberate southerly and eastern migration, whose impetus has been lost to us: perhaps a search for fresh hunting grounds, and new territory, by an expanding population both human and dragon.

  The first vague beginnings of elephant-farming are believed to have developed shortly after this vast migration was mostly complete, and the pressures of hunger might no longer be relieved by further nomadic progress; a study of the art of the ivory-carvers gives testament to the success of the breeding project that rendered the domesticated beasts more bovine-docile, and considerably larger than their wild counterparts: a succession of tusks held at the capital, each pair the largest harvested within a generation, carved elaborately and presented to the (then largely ceremonial) king….

  These tribes, previously united only by distant ties of blood, mutually intelligible dialect, and certain shared customs and religious observances, most notable among these of course the practice of dragon-rebirth, first began to collaborate more closely for the joint administration of the elephant herds, which demanded more labour than could be organised by a single tribe…. [A] centralisation further encouraged from the seventeenth century onwards by the increasing demand for ivory and gold, which penetrated to the African interior for several decades before the hunger for slaves was risen to a sufficient pitch to overcome the reluctance of the more aggressive slave-taking tribes to venture into dragon-territory; and spurring, from the middle of the eighteenth century, the rapid development of gold-mining (a venture that the Tswana authorities indicate is most productively pursued through the co-operation of at least ten dragons, more than belong to nearly any individual tribe), and of the ivory trade, which by the open of the present century was sending some sixty thousand pounds a year to the coast without any suspicion on the part of the European traders, who carried the elephant teeth away, that these were obtained by, and not in despite of, the dragons who barred any further entry to the interior….

  On Mosi oa Tunya

  THE FALLS AT Mosi oa Tunya, so justly celebrated by all who have beheld them, were, despite their beauty, as a settlement inconvenie
nt to men alone, who could not easily navigate the gorges, and in their natural state offered no real haven to feral dragons; admired and occasionally visited, either for mere scenic pleasure or religious observation, they were yet undeveloped and uninhabited when the first Sotho-Tswana peoples moved into the region, and quickly made them their ceremonial capital, a further centralising tie among the tribes…. [T]he desire of the dragon-ancestors for more comfortable shelter impelled the first attempts at cave-drilling, the relics of which may yet be seen at the falls, in the holiest and roughest chambers, low in the cliff-side…and which later were to prove the foundation of the efficient gold-mining operations….

  The practice of rebirth here requires a few words, to expand upon the treatment it has received in the British press, at the hands of well-meaning missionary reporters, who in their zeal have too easily disposed of it as a matter of pure pagan superstition, urgently to be eradicated in favor of Christianity…. It will not be found that anyone of the Tswana imagines that the human is naturally reborn, in the manner espoused, for instance, by the Buddhist or the Hindu, and if one should propose leaving a selected dragon egg alone in the wilderness, in accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Dennis, to snatch such an egg “to demonstrate to the heathen the wild fancy of their custom,” by proving that the resulting hatchling would have no recollection of its former life, no tribesman would dispute this as the natural consequence, but merely abuse the bad husbandry and irreligiosity united, which should so waste a dragon-egg, and insult the spirit of the dead ancestor.

  That the feral dragon in the wilderness is no more a reborn human than is a cow is perfectly understood by them, and viewed as no contradiction to their practice. Careful coaxing and ritual are necessary, besides a suitable housing, to induce an ancestral spirit to take up residence again in material form; the article of faith is to believe, once this has been achieved, that the dragon is certainly the human reborn, a belief much harder to dislodge, by its being firmly held not only by the men but the dragons, and of so much practical importance within the tribe.

  The dragon-ancestors at once serve as a substantial source of labor and military power, and as repositories of tribal history and legend, compensating for the neglect of the written word. Furthermore, each tribe will consider carefully the disposal of the eggs of their own dragon-ancestors, common tribal property, which may be used to reincarnate one of their own, should there be one of sufficient standing to merit the honor, or, far more commonly, traded to a remote tribe in more urgent need, through a complex network of communications sure to bring the news of a suitable egg to those seeking the same, this network serving to knit together tribes that might otherwise have grown more distinct, left to act in isolation. Nor are these dragon bloodlines ignored, as might be expected by one who imagines a sort of simplistic literal belief; rather, such an exchange of eggs is held to establish a kind of distant familial relation between the receiving tribe and the donor, much like state marriages, further strengthening ties….

  Mokhachane I (h), a Sotho chieftain, carved out a relatively minor territory that proved notable for its position on the extremes of the Sotho-Tswana tribal regions, touching upon Xhosa territory to the south, and thus indirectly receiving at least vague intelligence of the growing Dutch settlements at the Cape, and having some communication with the beleaguered Monomotapa kingdoms on the East African coast, the descendants of the zimbabwe-builders.

  Broader relations were established with this latter power near the turn of the century under the urging of his son, Moshueshue I (h), demonstrating from his youth that wisdom for which his name was to become a byword, which relations were to have great significance after Mokhachane’s (h) death in raiding during the year 1798, when Moshueshue was able to negotiate the acquisition of a large dragon egg of the Monomotapa royal lines, for his father’s rebirth; the Monomotapa government by this time fracturing under increasing pressure from the Portuguese gold-hunters along the eastern coast, and in need of the gold and the military reinforcements that Moshueshue could provide, as a result of negotiations with neighboring Tswana tribes….

  The acquisition of so powerful a dragon, in conjunction with Moshueshue’s coming of age, which eliminated the last barriers to his being received as an equal by other tribal chieftains, very shortly vaulted the tribe to pre-eminence in the southernmost regions of the Tswana lands. Mokhachane I (d) easily established dominance over the dragon-ancestors of neighboring tribes, in joint raiding that Moshueshue organized, and together they were soon able to establish several new mines, both of gold and of precious stones, in the formerly unexploited region; and with the steady increase in wealth and respect soon acquired a primacy that enabled them, in the year 1804, to claim the central seat, at Mosi oa Tunya, and the title of king.

  The depredations of the slave-takers had by this time for several years been making systematic inroads into the Tswana territories, as more than isolated incidents, and were a not inconsiderable factor in the willingness of the smaller kingdoms to submit formally to central leadership, in hopes of making a united answer to those raids, and repulsing them decisively, an argument that Moshueshue did not fail of making, in his careful solicitations of fealty from his fellow tribal chieftains, who might otherwise have resisted from pride. The practical as well as ceremonial reign of Mokhachane I was confirmed by the conquest of Capetown and the Slave Coast raids of 1807, and the Tswana themselves date the founding of their kingdom from this year….



  Naomi Novik, Empire of Ivory



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