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Author: C. J. Cherryh
Publisher: DAW Books, 2012
Series: Foreigner: Arc 5: Book 1

1. Intruder
2. Protector
3. Peacemaker

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Colonization
Soft SF
Hard SF
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Civil war on the world of the atevi seems to be over, but diplomatic disputes and political infighting continue unabated. Bren Cameron, brilliant human diplomat allied with the dominant Western Association, has just returned to the capital from his country home on the coast. But his sojourn was anything but restful. Attacked by rebel forces hoping to kill not only him, but also Ilisidi, the grandmother, and Cajieri, the young son, of Tabini-aiji, the powerful head of the Western Association, Bren and his resourceful associates have had a small war of their own to contend with. And this small war has ended with a daring proposition: that their longtime enemy Machigi, having been double-crossed by his allies and approached by Ilisidi with an offer of alliance, will sign a trade agreement with her Eastern district-a situation which has upset both the rebels and the loyal north.

But Bren's accustomed role as negotiator for Tabini, Ilisidi, and their associates has suddenly changed radically—for Machigi, to Bren's utter shock, has evoked an ancient law. Bren wears the white ribbon that for the last few centuries has identified the single official human-atevi negotiator. But before humans landed, this white ribbon represented a specialized negotiator between atevi adversaries—a mediator who agreed to represent both sides with equal loyalty. These ancient mediators frequently ended up dead.

Now back in the capital, Bren finds that things are even more complicated than they previously were. He has now been put in the precaroius position of representing both Ilisidi and Machigi to the congress, and is becoming embroiled with both conservative and liberal factions. Meanwhile, Tabini-aiji is enraged to have lost the personal negotiator who has been his associate for decades, and is also jealous of any other party who stands to influence his young son. But there are even more dangerous things afoot, for Bren's bodyguard has warned him there is a crisis inside the immensely dangerous Assassins' Guild, and that the recent dustup with the Shadow Guild, a rebellious faction within the Assassins, may be only the beginning.


Spring in the southwest, and the heavens had opened - not the gentle rains of the summer, but a sheeting deluge that warped the spring landscape beyond the tinted windows of the bus.

Inside, warm and dry, working on a tray table almost sufficient for his paper notes, Bren Cameron enjoyed a sip of tea from a scandalous plastic cup. He had the four-seat executive arrangement to himself at the moment, and his briefcase lay open on the adjacent seat. His four-person bodyguard had all gone to the rear of the bus to converse with the young contingent of Guildsmen they'd been handed for protection, and that left him room to work.

Lightning flashed just uphill from the bus. Thunder cracked - worrisome for electronics, but the wasn't working on his computer this trip. That machine had far, far too much in its storage to be bringing it into Taisigi territory, and he'd sent it on to the capital with his valets and significant items of furniture, the computer itself to be hand carried and guarded every step of the way. The spiral-bound notebook was enough for him, along with a stack of loose-leaf work and printouts and, within the briefcase, a folder of very official papers, vellum with red and black wax seals and carefully preserved ribbons.

A dark presence moved down the aisle, loomed over him and switched out the vacuum-thermos teapot on his little work surface. Jago was not a servant - the sidearm attested to that. So did the black leather of the Assassins' Guild. She stood a head taller than any tall human, black-skinned, golden-eyed - atevi, in short, native to the world, as humans were not. She was half of the senior pair of his atevi bodyguard - a bodyguard, and his lover, moderately discreetly, of some years now.

He was the sole human on the bus, a single individual of fair hair and pale skin and pale civilian dress in a company of black-uniformed atevi. He was the sole human on the mainland, by now, and his personal world had gotten back to the atevi norm, where he looked up at everyone he talked to and struggled with steps and furniture. He was not a small man - as humans went. But here, even a small teacup meant a generous pouring, and the seat he occupied, scaled for atevi, accommodated human stature with a footrest.

It was his bus. And it had such amenities. He was dressed for court, lace at the cuffs and collar, a pale blue vest. His coat, beige brocade, hung behind the driver. He had his fair hair braided, and the ribbon that tied that braid was white, the badge of the paidhi-aiji - translator for the aiji, the ruler of the aishidi'tat, the Western Association. The white ribbon meant peace and nonviolence, the paidhi's job being that of an intercessor in the affairs of lords.

The white ribbon was supposed to mean peace and nonviolence, at least, and the gun he usually carried in his pocket was in the luggage this trip. The bulletproof vest was only a precaution.

Jago made a second trip forward to advise him, leaning on the seat back across the aisle. "We have just crossed the border, Bren-ji."

The border out of Sarini Province, that was.

So they were now in Taisigi district, in what had been hostile territory for centuries - a place he never would have contemplated entering. Not on his life.

But he'd already been there. He'd negotiated with the lord of the Taisigi. He'd gotten out in fairly good shape, despite the efforts of some.

And he was coming back, to finish what he'd started, now that the Assassins' Guild had taken "supportive control" of Tanaja, the capital of Taisigi clan.

"Will you want lunch, Bren-ji?" Jago asked him. The galley on their well-appointed bus was in operation. A pleasant aroma had informed him of that some while ago.

"A light one, Jago-ji, half a sandwich, perhaps." There was no knowing whether they were going to attend a formal dinner tonight - or a firefight. Although the odds were considerably against the latter, one still never quite bet on anything, not where it regarded the lord of the Taisigi ... who had just a little reason to be upset about recent events. "Have we made contact yet?"

"With the Guild, yes," Jago said. "Not yet with Lord Machigi's staff."

"Let me know when you have, Jago-ji."

"Yes," she said, and went back down the aisle.

Copyright © 2012 by C. J. Cherryh


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