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Author: C. J. Cherryh
Publisher: DAW Books, 2007
Series: Foreigner: Arc 3: Book 3

1. Destroyer
2. Pretender
3. Deliverer

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Colonization
Hard SF
Soft SF
Avg Member Rating:
(27 reads / 10 ratings)


In the aftermath of civil war, the world of the atevi is still perilously unstable. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with his son and heir, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to their seat of power. The usurper, Murini, has escaped to the lands of his supporters, but the danger these rebels pose is far from over. Ilisidi, Tabini's grandmother, the aiji-dowager, has returned to her ancient castle in the East, for though she supports the rule of her grandson, she also has powerful ties in the lands of the rebels, and she seeks to muster whatever support she can from among those enemy strongholds.

In his father's heavily armed and tightly guarded headquarters, eight-year-old Cajeiri is horribly bored. Two years on an interstellar starship surrounded by human children have left him craving excitement and the company of his peers. But unbeknownst to this dissatisfied youngster he has become a target for forces bent on destroying his father's rule and everything it stands for. Though still a child, Cajeiri embodies a unique threat to the venerable, tradition-defined lifestyle of his people. For this innocent young boy is the first ateva youth to have lived in a human environment, surrounded by human children. And after hundreds of years of fragile, tenuous atevi-human coexistence, Cajeiri may very well be the first ateva to ever truly understand the so similar yet so dangerously different aliens who share his home planet and threaten the hidebound customs of his race.


Great-grandmother, a Stability of One, was having breakfast with the Lord of the Heavens. That was marginally more fortunate to say than to remark that Great-grandmother and the Lord of the Heavens were having breakfast, an Infelicity of Two. There was, of course, a compensatory flower arrangement on that table on the drafty balcony, and the bodyguards, five in number - only Jago had come with nand' Bren, which was odd - made a Felicity of Seven ...

All of which was to say that Cajeiri was not invited to that table, but he was sure it was not just the numbers. He was sure it meant the grownups were discussing him, because ti would have been a great deal less fuss over all to have provided him a chair at the same table and made Felicitous Three, would it not?

As it was, he had a quiet breakfast with his bodyguards, Antaro and Jegari, who were brother and sister, and only a little older than he was. They were Taibeni, from the deep forests of the slopes of the Padi Valley, and they were not at all accustomed to city manners, so it was a relief to them, he supposed, not to have to stand in the hall and try to talk to the likes of Cenedi, Great-grandmother's chief bodyguard, or Banichi or Jago, who were Bren's, and terribly imposing - Banichi was actually a very obliging fellow, but Jegari was quite scared of him: that was the truth.

His guard liked the informal ways of Taiben. He, on the other hand, was accustomed to servants at his elbow, oh, indeed he was. He had grown up first with his mother and father, in the most servant-ridden place in the world, and then with great-uncle Tatiseigi, who was a stickler for propriety, and finally with Great-grandmother, traveling in space with nand' Bren, in a vast ship far too small to hide him from proper manners. It was first from Uncle Tatiseigi and then from Great-grandmother he had learned his courtesies: they were very old-fashioned, and insisted on the forms even if they secretly didn't believe in the superstitions. He had been locked up in Great-grandmother's apartment for two years on the ship, and she had made sure he would be fit to come back as his father's son and her great-grandson - his left ear had gotten positively tender from all the thwacking.

He had left the world when he was six. He ws now in that awkward year before nine, that year so infelicitous one could not name it, let alone celebrate its birthday in any happy way. That was very bad fortune, since it was the only birthday he had had a chance to have with his new associates on shipboard - Great-grandmother had finally agreed he might have a small celebration, and then he had not even gotten that much, because of the crisis - because they had plunged right down to earth on the shuttle, leaving all his shipboard associates behind and spending the next number of days getting shot at ...

Well, except he had gotten to ride in the engine of a train. That had been exciting.

He was very precocious in his behavior and in his schooling: nand' Bren said so, so he was alreadys as good as nine, was he not?

He could speak Bren's native Mosphei', as well as ship-speak. He could speak kyo, for that matter, which only a handful of atevi or humans could do. He had learned to ride and shoot before he went into space - well, he could ride, at least: he had learned to shoot on the ship; and Great-grandmother had taught him how to write a formal hand in all the good forms and made him memorize all the lords of the Association and their rights and duties ... and proper addresses ...

So he was really not too uncivilized to be at their table, was he?

He was not yet fluent enough in adult Ragi to dance across the nuances, as Great-grandmother called it. Using it could still get him into embarrassing trouble. And it was ever so hard just to sit and listen when really interesting questions were bubbling up into his head.

But he could at least parse everything that was proper at that table. Bren, a Stability of One, he most-times referred to very properly as Bren-nandi. Bren's guards were, together, Bren-aishini, not just aishi, the association of Bren-paidhi, and his guards were aishishi, meaning the protective surrounds. So, there! He could handle the basic forms of the adult language and remember to put in the compensatory numbers - that was at least sure, and people did use the easy forms, well, at least they did informally, or when they were pretending to be informal, which wa a layer of pretending which he understood, but he was not supposed to use it with adults or he was being insolent ...

How could one learn the whole nuance of adult Ragi if no one would ever talk with him?

How could he be i-ron-ic if people only took him for a baby who used the wrong form because he had not a clue?

He wanted company other than Great-grandmother's staff. He wanted people he could surprise and make laugh.

He missed Gene and Artur, his ship-aishi (one could not call them aishini, or at least one had certainly better not do it in Great-grandmother's hearing.) He had gotten more used to young humans than he was to atevi over the last two years, and still found it strange to look across his own informal table and see two dark, golden-eyed atevi faces, so earnest, so -

That was the heart of his domestic problem. Antaro and Jegari felt man'chi toward him, a sense of duty and devotion so passionate it had drawn them away from all their kin to live in a city they hardly understood. It had brought them to risk their lives for him on a dangerous journey, with people shooting at them, and he knew he should feel a pure, deep emotion toward them in turn - Great-grandmother had said on the ship that he was in real danger of never developing proper feelings, which would be a very unhealthy thing; and that once he was back in the world, proper feelings would come to him, and that what he felt toward his aishini would be ever so much stronger than anything he had ever possibly felt toward Gene and Artur, because that feeling would be returned ... in ways Gene and Artur could never return what he needed.

But on that point everything broke down and hurt, it just outright hurt, because Gene and Artur did care about him, in their human way, and he knew they still cared - in their human way. He knew they had been hurt when he left - they must have hurt the same way as he hurt, and no one would acknowledge it.

Aishimuta. Breach of association. Losing someone you never thought of losing.

Losing someone you could never ever explain to anyone, someone that no one else thought you could care about ... there ought to be a word for that, too, even worse than aishimuta. He had never thought he would lose Gene and Artur. He had been so confident he could just bring them down to the world, and that sensible grown-ups would, with no problem at all, agree to the idea of their living with him.

Copyright © 2007 by C. J. Cherryh


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