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Author: C. J. Cherryh
Publisher: DAW Books, 2014
Series: Foreigner: Arc 5: Book 3

1. Intruder
2. Protector
3. Peacemaker

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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(17 reads / 8 ratings)


At last--Cajeiri has his young guests from the starship, three young folk entranced by weather and trees and creatures with minds of their own. It's all he dreamed of...

But now safety is foremost: Cajeiri's grandfather has been assassinated, hostile Assassins Guild invaded Great-uncle's house, and now Bren Cameron, paidhi-aiji, who was sent to keep the aiji's son safe, has more than the young guests on his mind. The aiji-dowager knows who's to blame for the attacks, and they're going after him.

The fact that the person responsible is in the heart of Assassins' Guild Headquarters, the most closely guarded fortress on the continent, is not going to stop her.

Bren Cameron has the pieces now, of a decades-old plot that's been threaded through Guild actions going back before his arrival on the continent, and more--he knows the person responsible is going to find out he knows, and find out within hours.

They have no choice. If they don't move, the other side will.

And the lives of the boy, the guests, the entire ruling family are at stake.



By the charter of the Assassins' Guild, there are several requirements preceding a legal assassination. First comes the Filing of Intent. In this process, a Document of Intent is entered into the official state registry, stating the issue between the parties, so that there is a permanent record, sealed, ribboned, and kept in archive. Any answering document is similarly filed.

There must then be a public advisement of impending Guild Council action, and an opportunity for the Assassins' Guild Council to obtain depositions from both sides. Only after determining that there may exist adequate cause for a Filing, does the Guild Council debate the merits of the Filing, and consider the potential for remedy short of lethal action. This deliberation may, at the Council's sole discretion, entail testimony from Guild members employed by either or both sides of the debate as to whether there can be any settlement. And there may be yet another delay imposed while the Guild urges resolution short of action.

If all measures have failed to secure a legal resolution, the Filing is approved by Council vote, and there is a date set after which action is possible.

The Filing is published, and all parties are notified.

This affords an opportunity for the targeted party's bodyguard to take precautions, and a date and hour after which the complainant's bodyguard may initiate offensive action, entering whatever premises it needs to in order to reach their target.

In the case of lords or officials employing a permanent bodyguard, the bodyguard on either side will be in contact with the central Guild at all steps of the process. No advantage of information will be given to either side, but in the event an attacking or defending unit wishes to suspend action, they may contact the Guild and let the Guild mediate a solution mutually acceptable.

Generally in small cases, particularly involving property or divorce, approval is given by an office of the Council, without Council debate, but with the deposition of witnesses. Once the Filing is approved by this process, there is a time limit imposed, usually of ninety-nine days, after which all attempts to carry out an assassination must cease and the Filing is set aside.

In practice, the Guild wishes to avoid bloodshed among its own members, and Guild units may at any time ask a truce in which to advise their lord that their defense has failed and that he must cede whatever is at issue, since he and they will not otherwise survive.

The number of lords who have pressed a case against the advice of their own bodyguards is relatively small. A unit abandoning its lord or surrendering him to capture or death may be prosecuted, except if the lord has issued a false statement in the Filing or if the lord is judged to have been mentally or physically incapable of sound judgment. The latter escape clause has frequently been supported by relatives and servants.

In the case of a private citizen who has no regular bodyguard, a complainant must engage the services of the Assassins' Guild from the date of the Filing, and the case is heard by the Office of the Council. The defendant against the Filing must, on notification, either cede the case, if property or a divorce, or hire Assassins for his protection for the usual ninety-nine days-- an expensive proposition for the ordinary citizen to maintain long term, hence a heavier burden of time for the complainant-- but there are occasional pro bono Filings.

Lethal force in civil disputes is common in potential-- but far less common in actuality. The Filing of Intent affords a cooling-off period, requires depositions and an official vote at some level acknowledging that a wrong exists, and it offers constant opportunities for Guild to secure a negotiated settlement.

A Filing of Intent is absolutely required before action may be taken against a person or institution, except in defense against an illicit attack. In that case, whatever force the defender can muster on the spot is legal. An attack is defined as a movement within arm's length of the defender, or the first use of a distance weapon or weapon of stealth such as poison.

It is absolutely forbidden for anyone other than a Guild Assassin to bring violence against a fellow citizen, except in defense of self, employer, household, clan property, or national treasure. A person who violates this law is outlawed, subject to lethal Guild action with no time limit.

In the event a person finds himself thus outlawed, he is permitted to surrender to the aiji's judgment, in consultation with the Guild.

Edward P. Wilson, Translator, ret., The Assassins' Guild, Emeritus Lecture Series #133, The University of Mospheira...


There were rules of operation for every guild-- and in the case of the Assassins' Guild, the rules were literally a matter of life and death.

There were rules against collateral damage.

There were rules about specificity of the target. An assassination had to be announced a certain number of days in advance. And the target was limited to the individual named.

There were rules about protection of children and uninvolved parties, like neighbors, or guests.

There were rules forbidding aerial attack, explosive traps, and the use of wires where any other individual, including servants, might accidently run afoul of them.

And there were rules forbidding damage to property. An action was not supposed to happen, say, where it might damage artworks, national treasures, livestock, or a person's means of livelihood.

Well, they'd done that, a bit, this morning. There was bound to be complaint.

Bren Cameron closed the computer file. The last time he'd read Wilson's paper on the topic, he'd been on a plane bound across the straits to serve a new aiji in Shejidan. He'd been, in that long-ago meeting with the Secretary of State, handed his credentials, computer-printed. He'd been handed the official dictionary, containing all the words approved for him to use in communication with the atevi.

And with that, State had launched him, the youngest paidhi who'd ever held the office, as Wilson-paidhi's replacement.

He'd been excited by the appointment, scared to death of the responsibility-- and completely unsure whether a novice in Wilson's job was going to survive the year-- in the real sense of life and death-- or even whether he might be met at the airport by some party that wasn't official, and he'd have no way on earth to know who he was really dealing with.

He'd studied the Ragi language for years. He was good at math, a requirement for the language study program. He'd qualified as a backup translator for the Department of State, intended to become one of those faceless individuals who sat in little cubicles parsing atevi publications for clues to policy and mining them for new words that weren't officially approved, but that ought to be known to other translators.

He'd landed at Shejidan airport on a sunny afternoon. He'd been met by two of the aiji's own black-uniformed bodyguard and escorted up into the Bujavid, the fortress on the hill that rose picturesquely above the red tiled roofs and maze-like streets of the capital. He'd been assigned living quarters, a modest suite in the servants' wing.

Then he'd been handed a small ring with three keys, and had had only enough time to toss his bag into the room before his escort had led him on a confusing route to a barren office roughly three meters by three.

The office supplies, on otherwise vacant shelves, had consisted of a packet of copying paper, a packet of fine paper, three well-used pens-- computers were not part of the technology surrendered to atevi at that point-- and three somewhat worn message cylinders. On that small desk had stood a bottle of ink, a bundle of reeds, a pen-rest, a shaker of sand, and a waxjack for the seals he'd create with the resized seal ring he'd worn back to the mainland. It was Wilson's ring, surrendered along with the office.

He still wore it. And used it.

He'd had no clue on that day even how to use the waxjack. Left to his own devices, he'd found the lighter beside the device, lit the wick, and discovered that its whole function was to melt white wax from a winding coil on its baroque stand and drip it-- he'd hastily inserted a piece of paper to prevent a wax spatter on the brass plate below-- into a small, nicely unstained white puddle on a document. One adjusted the flame to prevent the wax collecting soot.

That, indeed, was what it did. It was the finest instrument in the little office. In point of fact, it was the only instrument in the little office, except a penknife to sharpen reed pens-- literally, to shape pens out of the little bundle of reeds, a species that grew to a natural size, of a certain toughness, and that actually made Ragi calligraphy rather easier, once one got the knack.

He'd made his first impression with his ring of office on a letter to Tabini-aiji officially reporting his presence, his satisfaction with the arrangements, and his hopes for a good relationship between atevi and humans. He'd put his rolled letter into one of the little message cylinders, the nicest. And there he'd sat-- Bren Cameron, from the human enclave on the island of Mospheira, on the Earth of th...

Copyright © 2014 by C. J. Cherryh


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