Welcome back to the reread of Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts! This week: everyone starts remembering that Mara is actually the protagonist, and Arakasi needs his own theme song for spy antics.
Chapter 9: Miracle
SUMMARY: A wounded and possibly still bleeding Hokanu keeps vigil by Mara’s bedside, hoping desperately that the antidote is genuine. Lujan reports that the archers who set upon Hokanu on his way home were definitely part of an advance guard sent by Jiro of the Anasati. Now it’s Hokanu’s turn to declare war on Jiro! A fine family tradition.
Mara’s eyes open and she starts parsing the political implications of the situation even before she’s properly awake. YAY we have Mara back!
She is annoyed at herself for letting her greed for an exclusive trade deal override her concern for her personal safety. Hokanu has to break the news to her that the baby did not survive, and Mara is quietly furious that she has lost two sons but is still forbidden to seek revenge.
Damn it, Great Ones. You are the reason that we can’t have nice things.
As soon as Mara falls back asleep, Lujan picks Hokanu up and forces him to go to the surgeon because, you know, he still has an actual arrowhead inside him. Hokanu protests, and even attempts to fire Lujan, who basically laughs at him for trying that one. Lujan is his Lady’s man and will take no orders from the Shinzawai tonight.
The surgeon removes the arrowhead from Hokanu’s leg, and then breaks the news to him that the damage was extensive—he will walk, but with a limp, and will not be able to lead men into battle again. Hokanu is stoic but miserable about this.
An unexpected miracle comes in the form of the Priest of the Hantukama, who saved Keyoke’s life some years earlier. He was here to help Mara, and now turns his attention to Hokanu.
There is more to be healed here than Hokanu’s leg: the priest chides him for risking so much to save Mara, and treating himself as a mere shield to protect her when Hokanu himself is just as important a player in the Game of Council.
It seems as if the priest has some knowledge of the future, which makes Hokanu very worried. On the other hand, he also seems to think he can fix Hokanu’s leg, so—that’s good, right?
Meanwhile, we have the adventures of Arakasi: Grimy But Determined Spy Master to entertain us. After hearing of Mara’s recovery and the attack on Hokanu, our favourite secret agent catches a ride on a riverboat, gets cleaned up and costumed in a brothel, and then follows the money.
At the moneylender’s guild, while hunting the paper trail of the Anasati and the recent attacks on the Acoma, Arakasi spots none other than Chumaka, First Advisor to Jiro of the Anasati.
Cue the “My Nemesis” song from Phineas and Ferb. You can decide for yourself whether Chumaka or Arakasi is the platypus.
Chumaka is here to investigate if anyone else has been investigating the Anasati accounts. Luckily, Arakasi is ahead of the game, and his pre-paid moneylender’s clerk spins a bunch of fanciful tales to Chumaka about various suspicious characters who have indeed been asking questions about how the Anasati have been spending their money.
Phew, that was a near miss! But Arakasi is still concerned. Someone has to have made Chumaka suspicious in the first place, and that suggests that one of Arakasi’s own agents has been talking out of turn.
COMMENTARY: Well, it’s nice to have Mara back! This whole Great One edict against an Acoma-Anasati blood feud is getting more and more constricting. Who’s going to break first?
Interesting that the healing priest is the one to stage an intervention against Hokanu treating Mara like she’s made out of fine china. I mean okay, if your wife is poisoned it’s pretty reasonable to hare around the country trying to rescue her, but the whole thing of not letting a surgeon look at his leg because he was busy pining by her bedside? Mara would definite give him a smack for that, and I’m surprised Lujan didn’t step in earlier.
Lujan manhandling Hokanu because he’s had enough of this bullshit is absolutely adorable. Hokanu dismissing him from his service? So much less adorable. And yet, Lujan knows it has no power.
What it comes down to is that the priest chides Hokanu for acting like he is a supporting character in his wife’s epic life story. Which is slightly amusing because that’s totally what he is, several Point Of View chapters aside. They’re all orbiting around Mara because she’s the protagonist as well as the Servant of the Empire!
Still, it’s awfully nice to have a character point out how strong Mara is, and that she doesn’t always need her boys falling over like ninepins to keep her on her pedestal. Let’s hope the narrative supports this message by letting Mara actually do something in the near future.
I miss Mara doing things.
It’s ridiculously exciting to see Chumaka and Arakasi practically in the same room with each other. Nemesis bros! I want to watch them play speed chess against each other, and possibly engage in some kind of acid-edged banter.
Instead, we get them both poring over the same spreadsheets and trying to find things out by questioning the same clerk, but hey. It’s a step in the right direction.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is an Australian fantasy author, blogger and podcaster. She won the 2013 Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Tansy has a PhD in Classics, which she drew upon for her short story collection Love and Romanpunk. Her latest fiction project is Musketeer Space, a gender-swapped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers, published weekly as a web serial. She is also the co-editor of Cranky Ladies of History (Fablecroft). Come and find her on Twitter!