MK Wren's House of the Wolf [book excerpt]
Here's a thrilling cut from the third part of MK Wren's science-fiction epic, available now as an ebook exclusively here at Boing Boing.
"House of the Wolf Special Offer" by M.K. Wren on Ganxy
PHOENIX MEMFILES: DEPT HUMAN SCIENCES:
BASIC SCHOOL (HS/BS)
SUBFILE: LECTURE. BASIC SCHOOL 28 MARCH 3252
GUEST LECTURER: RICHARD LAMB
SUBJECT: POST-DISASTERS HISTORY:
THE MANKEEN REVOLT (3104–3120)
DOC LOC #819/219-1253/1812-1648-2833252
When the Mankeen League Lords met in Mosk in 3104 to sign the Charter, they also elected a Council of nine members, and to contemplate the character and fate of those nine men is, to a great degree, to contemplate the character and fate of the League itself.
Lionar Mankeen was, of course, elected Minister of the Council (he refused to be called "chairman"), and his character and fate are well established. Second only to Mankeen, the foremost of the five landed Lords on the Council, was Alric Eads Berstine, whose Home Estate was in Omsk; he held land grants on an area east of the Ural Mountains, sharing that border with Mankeen, as well as similar grain franchises, and a friendship of long standing. The relationship was so close that Mankeen signed Contracts of Marriage between his daughter, Irena -- his favorite child, it's said -- and Berstine's first born when Irena was only four years old and her Promised, Aldred, only eight.
Irena was nineteen when the marriage took place in 3115, and I wonder if Mankeen didn't even then regret the impulse that led him to sign the contracts so early. At that point, five years before his final defeat, the League wasn't faring well, and neither was his friendship with Berstine. The worlds weren't faring well, for that matter; the extraterrestrial colonies had been evacuated or abandoned, and the revolt had become a vicious civil war fought out on Terra's war-scarred surface. Irena and Aldred were childhood friends, but apparently little affection carried over into their marriage. Aldred was not as convinced of Mankeen's ultimate victory as his father, and Alric was losing his confidence. Mankeen later -- too late -- recognized his old friend as a consummate opportunist who was not inclined to stay overlong with a foundering ship. The crisis came in 3118 when, for reasons never entirely clarified, Aldred sank a knife into Mankeen's chest, missing his heart by centimeters.
Mankeen's guards reacted with a barrage of laser fire that killed Aldred instantly. Mankeen survived the knife thrust, but his friendship with Alric Berstine didn't survive the death of his son, however deserved it was. Berstine renounced Mankeen and surrendered to the Concord, and he was one of the few League Lords whose House survived.
Another councilor, also Lord of a landed House, was more loyal to Mankeen, and his House paid the price. Myron Holst Desmon held land grants on most of the Missour River drainage in central Noramerika, and although he was among the last Lords to join the League, he was one of the most loyal to Mankeen. He was also one of the three Lords who accompanied Mankeen on his final voyage toward the sun. Afterward, his first born, Danis, managed to trade his and his family's lives for a merger with Olin Fallor, whose lands adjoined his on the north, and who treated the Desmons despicably. Danis survived the merger by only three years, and his death, officially listed as suicide, probably occurred when he tried to kill Olin Fallor.
Another landed Lord and councilor who remained loyal to Mankeen and joined him on that final flight was Owen Alis Arnim, who held sheep and cattle franchises and a large land grant in north central Conta Austrail. His wife and three children accompanied him on Mankeen's death flight, and few of his remaining relatives -- or even his Fesh and Bonds -- survived the Mankeen Purge. His holdings were awarded to the House of Hamid, which under the aegis of the Selasids was very much a rising power at that time, and within ten years of the end of the Revolt occupied the House of Tadema's seat on the Directorate.
Another agrarian House on the League Council was that of Bernar Po Kien, whose Home Estate was in Ningsi in central Sinasia. Kien was, like Mankeen, the descendant of a "native" Lord appointed by Ballarat, and traced his dynasty back ten generations before the Wars of Confederation. The dynasty ended with Kien, who would undoubtedly have joined Mankeen on that last flight, but he was killed six years earlier at the Battle of Paykeen. His holdings were absorbed by Titus Vanevar, a Cognate House of Omer.
The third Lord who accompanied Mankeen on his last flight was Winston Grenwell Pretoria, one of the two mining Houses on the Council. His Home Estate was in Sudafrika, in Pretoria, from whence the House name was taken; his predecessor was one of the Fesh commanders awarded Lordship by Ballarat. Pretoria apparently inherited a talent for tactics and took an active part in Mankeen's military campaigns, after 3112 serving as Cormoroi's second-in-command. Perhaps for that reason, his House suffered particularly during the Purge. His holdings and basic metals franchises were given to the House of Cameroodo, which was also very much a rising power, and a few years later Lerenz Cameroodo was sitting on the Directorate in the Adalay chair.
The other mining House on the Council was that of Lore Videl Valera, whose Home Estate was in Cracas, Sudamerika. He was one of the first Lords to join the League, and one of its most outspoken partisans in the beginning, but his enthusiasm waned quickly, although he didn't work up the courage to break way until Berstine left Mankeen in 3118. Valera joined Berstine in his renunciation of Mankeen and surrendered to the Concord, but he didn't fare as well as Berstine, perhaps because he wasn't as adroit an opportunist. The House of Valera and its holdings were a few years later absorbed by Ivanoi.
There were only two industrial Houses on the Council, and both were Mankeen partisans for palpably selfish reasons. Karol Zleski Delai, whose Home Estate was originally in Victoria but was moved to Varsaw during the Revolt, held computer franchises that put him in direct competition with Omer, a Directorate House that was systematically forcing Delai into bankruptcy. Obviously, Lord Karol had his reasons for fighting for the emancipation of his House, but whatever his motives, he fought hard for the League and was killed on the battleline in the last Battle of Toramil. His first born, like Danis Desmon, managed to make a bargain for survival, with Omer in this case, and in the resulting House merger, Delai's descendants fared far better than Desmon's.
The other industrial House, and the last of the nine original Council Houses, was that of Lord Aram Sejanis, whose Home Estate was in Stanbul. The name of Sejanis has since become synonymous with treachery, and for good reason. The House was a Cognate of Selasis with franchises for the manufacture of certain cast-metal parts used in Selasid ships, and until Aram became First Lord, the relationship between the two Houses was peaceful, with the previous Sejanid Lords carefully avoiding antagonizing the Goliath of Selasis. Lord Aram, however, was an avaricious and ambitious man who thought to play the role of David. He was among Mankeen's most zealous partisans in the beginning, but later became the first League Lord to renounce Mankeen. That was in 3112, and it's never been clear why he chose to do so at that time; the League was then in a good position strategically and still a potential winner in its contest with the Concord. Sejanis, however, was to a great degree responsible for the change of the tide of the League's fortunes in that year. He wasn't satisfied simply to desert the League and surrender to the Concord, but took with him information and strat plans that led to Cormoroi's shattering defeat at the Battle of Pollux.
For a while it seemed that Sejanis had made a good bargain. Lord Bernar Selasis took him under his wing and treated him magnanimously, which perhaps should have served as a warning to Sejanis. Apparently it didn't, and he enjoyed the fruits of his treachery for five years before he met his death in a fall from a balcony in his Stanbul Estate. Few people accepted his death as an accident, especially when Selasis moved so quickly afterward to consolidate the House's holdings with his own. But there was no great outcry for justice on Aram's behalf. Despite the fact that he gave the Concord its first major victory, Aram Sejanis was as much despised by the Lords of the Concord as he was by the Lords of the League.
Before the end of the Revolt, Mankeen had become accustomed to renouncement and desertion. By 3118 a third of the League Houses had been destroyed, their holdings absorbed by Concord Lords, and another third had deserted and surrendered, most of them suffering the same fate. And in that year, while Mankeen was still recovering from the stab wound dealt by Aldred Berstine, his wife joined the exodus. Lady Lizbeth sought sanctuary with her father, Lord Tomas Lesellen, but she didn't go alone. Feador, their first born, and Julian, their third son, accompanied her. There is evidence, although Concord histories play it down, that Mankeen not only didn't oppose this desertion, but insisted upon it. Leo, the second born, and Irena did not go with their mother and brothers to Bonaires, and I can't believe they weren't given a choice. They chose to stay with their father and finally join him in his last voyage, as the remaining third of the League Lords chose to remain loyal to him to the last battle, however hopeless.
"House of the Wolf Special Offer" by M.K. Wren on Ganxy
House of the Wolf Special Offer
The Philip K Dick Award is given to the best paperback original each year (past winners include Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates, Rudy Rucker’s Wetware, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife).
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