The Moon of Xxene

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


Definitions and Pronunciation Guide: [Kada (“Kah-dah”) – King’s response to the greeting “Umogu”, roughly meaning, “Grace upon you.”] [Ovye ("Ohv-yeh") – “King.” Ovye is a stand-alone title used to
address the reigning king.] [Ovyeme (“Ohv-yeh-meh”) – “My King”] [Umogu (“Ooh-moh-goo”) – Deferential greeting only for the king, roughly meaning, “Greetings to the revered”] [Onorogu
(“Oh-no-roh-goo”)] [Onéki (“Aw-nay-kee”)] [Ehwoéki (“Eh-hwoh-ay-kee”)] [Ehworegha (“Eh-hwoh-ray-gah”)] [Ivyogbere (“Eve-yohg-beh-reh”)]

Chapter 10 (v.1) - Tenth Phase.1

Submitted: July 20, 2019

Reads: 17

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Submitted: July 20, 2019

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The Bureau of Court Affairs was a division of the Department of Court Inspections, which fell under the Ministry of Justice. Though the bureau oversaw the inspection of Eunuchs and Maidens, Emeravwe soon discovered that this was not the extent of its function. On the morning she and Akpokene reported to the bureau to begin their training, they were greeted—along with other Maidens and Eunuchs who had qualified—in the bureau’s instruction hall by the Aye and Eunuchs who would be their instructors. They explained that the reason they were tested on Xxene’s history, politics, and economy was not because these subjects would be useful when inspecting the Maidens’ and Eunuchs’ Quarters, but because they would prove valuable as they carried out additional tasks in the bureau.

They revealed that the Bureau of Court Affairs’ principal function was to conduct preliminary investigations on cases which implicated court personnel, but which occurred outside the palace, thus allowing the Ministry of Justice to take preemptive measures to mitigate any damage to the court. As the nature of their work was one which required meticulous attention, and whose results carried great consequences, they were told, their training, too, would be thorough.

An instructing Eunuch explained that they would undergo six months of training which would consist of both theoretic and practical instruction. Their education in Xxene’s politics and economy would continue, and they would also be instructed in how to conduct investigations and court inspections. At the midpoint of the training, they would be tested in both a written and practical exam on all they had learned up to that point, then, at the end, they would be given a final exam, and only those who passed both would be awarded official appointments to the bureau.

Emeravwe felt intimidated by how rigorous the training sounded but gritted her teeth in determination. She had made it this far, and the road ahead was one which would lead to the king and the betterment of her station.

From that day, after attending her classes on the Four Classics of Xxene and Mannerisms of a Maiden, Emeravwe reported to the Bureau of Court Affairs for additional instructions in politics, economics, investigations, and inspections. The Eunuchs and Maidens attended all classes together but were split into two groups for the practical portions of the training. The Aye who instructed the Maidens informed them they would be tasked with inspecting the Maidens’ Quarters up to four times a year if they were accepted into the bureau and taught them how to go about a proper inspection.

Through her studies at the bureau, Emeravwe also furthered her understanding of Xxene and its people. She had learned from the Four Classics that Xxene was a monarchy based on a caste system, with the king at the top followed respectively by the Onorogu, Onéki, Ehwoéki, Ehworegha, and at the very bottom were the Ivyogbere. The Yaroy were a subclass of Ivyogbere, and the Wuhwuh belonged to no class.

She also knew that the gem embedded in one’s forehead was representative of their caste; a tradition that had been passed down from the era of the Four Tribes and embedded in the caste culture. Upon their birth Onorogu were bestowed rubies, Onéki emeralds, Ehwoéki yellow apatites, Ehworegha tree agates, the Ivyogbere the carnelian stone, and those born to the Royal House wore both the ruby and purple sapphire. Now, Emeravwe discovered that this social structure also served Xxene’s political and economic structures, for it put the Onorogu in a position of power, allowing them to control how much the Onéki could trade, what goods and services the Ehwoéki could render, and how much levies were demanded of the Ehworegha.

During this time, Aslan’s help again proved indispensable to Emeravwe. She informed him of her training and all she learned, and they discussed Xxene’s policies and caste system, as well as its implications.

“Do you not think that this practice limits an individual?” Aslan asked her one night.

“Well,” she began thoughtfully, “not so much the Onorogu, but someone of the Ehworegha class would immediately be deemed ignorant and fit for nothing but farming because of the gem on their forehead. And people without gems, of course, are ostracized altogether,” she said, thinking of the Yaroy and Wuhwuh.

Aslan nodded. “But one would not be wrong in making that judgment of the Ehworegha.” Emeravwe eyed him questioningly and he said, “The Ehworegha do not have the luxury of education as the Onorogu do. They are born and raised on farms, and cannot afford the tutelage of scholars, most of whom are Onorogu and Onéki who would not lower themselves to educate Ehworegha. The only skills and knowledge they have, then, is often of farming.”

“But how can they better themselves if those who have the resources cannot be bothered to share?”

“Exactly.”

Emeravwe paced contemplatively before the bench. “Then again, it is not in the Onorogu’s best interest if the Ehworegha better themselves. Who will farm their lands if all the Ehworegha are off getting educated?”

Aslan stared somberly into the night. “Do you not think that the Ehworegha, and even the Ivyogbere and Wuhwuh, deserve an equal opportunity to prosper?”

His words fell on silence.

Emeravwe saw that Onorogu benefited the most from Xxene’s caste system, but she also knew that anyone could fall victim to it—including Onorogu. The system placed emphasis not only on class, but on lineage. If one did not have the right gem or proper background, these were both grounds for them to be disdained. This was something she became aware of through the years, for though her jewel set her apart from other Maidens, it carried little weight because she had no family to give it distinction. Whether the other castes deserved the same opportunities as the Onorogu was something Emeravwe could not afford to care about in her situation—she was an Onorogu who was not even treated like one. She could not help but feel a sense of despair when she thought about Xxene’s system and her lack of place in it, and she wondered what might have become of her if she had not entered the palace.

Emeravwe came to enjoy her training with the bureau more than she anticipated, and before she knew it, they reached the midpoint of the training period and were given their first exam. As they were informed, it consisted of a written and practical portion wherein they were assigned a mock investigation. Both Emeravwe and Akpokene acquired the necessary marks and continued with the training.

Though she quite enjoyed all she learned, Emeravwe did not forget what brought her to the Bureau of Court Affairs and was always on the lookout in case the king decided to pay a visit. She began thinking of what she would do when she saw the king; how she would attract his attention. Even if he did visit the bureau, he would be surrounded by attendants and officials, she was sure, so how could she meet him, let alone make sure he would not forget her, but summon her to the Inner Palace? She realized she did not know, and the more she thought about it the more complicated it became, and the more impossible her plan began to seem. So Emeravwe decided she would not think about it. She had already determined to let things take their course once she entered the bureau; thinking about it now would only cause her to lose her focus near the finish line and dampen her high spirits.

As they entered the New Year, the Maidens’ Compound was hit with a frenzy of excitement, as it was each New Year. But this year, more so than in previous, Emeravwe was swept up in the excitement. This was the year she turned sixteen, the age at which she would be recognized as a woman and officially given the title Égodo Orodje Agaenaye. Each year, a celebration was held in the Maidens’ Compound for all Omote in the palace who would turn sixteen. This celebration was both to commemorate their appointment to Agaenaye, and to honor their coming-of-age. Though the celebration was not till March, following the festival of the Day of Rebirth, preparations began as early as January. Emeravwe, Akpokene, and other Omote turning sixteen that year all had their measurements taken by Maidens of the Weavers’ Department in preparation for their attires as Agaenaye, and whenever Emeravwe met Aslan in their garden she spoke excitedly of the approaching celebration.

****

The Maidens on either side of the doorway pulled apart the light silk curtains, and the Aya entered the bright, cavernous chamber with textured walls embellished with geometric floral patterns and lined with golden sconces. The yellow alabaster floor was carpeted with lush lions’ furs, and a wide bay window overlooking a verdant garden spanned one wall. The ceiling was domed, making the room seem even more capacious, and ornamented with opulent decorations of splendid patterns and vivid colors. At the far end of the room, standing before the low dais upon which was situated a vast, circular platform bed surrounded by translucent golden drapes, was the king. Aslan stood with arms apart as Maidens and Eunuchs moved around him, dressing him for his outing.

The Aya who entered knelt to one knee in a butu of the first degree and relayed her message, “Ovyeme, the Royal Prince Etegah seeks an audience. May I show him to the parlor?”

“No.” Aslan instructed, relaxing his arms, “Escort him here to our sleeping chamber.”

The Aya humbly backed out of the room, returning to announce, “The lord Prince Etegah.”

“Enter,” Aslan allowed as Eunuch Iroro fastened the last buttons of his inner garment.

Entering the room, Prince Etegah bent to one knee in a digwe. He greeted, “Umogu.”

Kada,” Aslan answered, walking to a broad embroidered couch covered with cushions, his attendants trailing him with sandals, headcloth, and accessories. He took a seat and they continued to dress him. “You may rise,” he excused Prince Etegah.

Standing, the prince was silent a moment as he watched the Maidens carefully wind up Aslan’s long copper locks and wrap the brocade headcloth around his head, just above the two resplendent gems in his forehead. Onto his right index finger Eunuch Iroro slid a royal heirloom passed down from generations of kings; a golden full finger ring embedded with various tiny gems: rubies, jadeites, alexandrites, the grand centerpiece a large iridescent black opal. The Grand Maiden placed small pearl ear studs in each earlobe.

Prince Etegah began, “I was informed Ovye would continue his inspection of the ministries today, and that he would be inspecting the departments of the Ministry of Justice.”

“Yes,” Aslan answered, lifting a foot as Eunuch Edewor slipped off his silk slippers and strapped on leather sandals. “But why do you not look pleased by this, Etegah?”

The prince’s perpetual scowl had darkened upon Aslan’s answer, his brown eyes registering his displeasure. Aslan smiled at his brother’s inability to mask his thoughts. Many would mark his character as difficult, but this was because they did not understand the prince as he did. Prince Etegah had always been the most reserved of his two siblings, and also the most sensitive. When their Sovereign Father had been alive, however, he had smiled and laughed more, for their Sovereign Father, though often ill and engaged in court matters, had done his best to shower his children equally with affection. Upon his death, though, Prince Etegah became more reticent.

Aslan attempted to draw him out by engaging the prince in the sports and arts he had enjoyed with their Sovereign Father, and by assigning him tasks such as aiding the Bureau of Court Ceremonies in organizing celebrations and performances, or overseeing the purchase of prized horses for the palace’s race tracks and hunting excursions. Through these, Prince Etegah became more engaged and Aslan came to understand his brother, who simply needed affection and wanted to be useful.

The prince said measuredly, “I wish Ovye would not personally take part in these inspections. It is enough that the ministers oversee them. If there is a matter which concerns Ovye or…a subject whose audience he desires, Ovye needs but summon them to the Inner Palace.” Prince Etegah paused, glancing briefly up at Aslan, then proceeded cautiously, his voice low, “Although, I feel Ovye must use discretion with regards to whom he chooses to meet, be it in the Ministry of Justice or…elsewhere in the palace. I fear his frequent visits to the Outer Palace will be frowned upon by the court, and it grieves me to see his dignity lowered in such a way.”

Aslan studied his brother; the full lips drawn in a grim line and clenched jaw. He intoned, “Etegah, our dignity is not an entity to be so freely esteemed, nor will it suffer readily. Dignity, too, will not gain us control of our kingdom or our subjects’ trust. These inspections are neither simple formality, nor are they a guise for dalliance in the Outer Palace. Through them we are able to learn of each department’s activities in a way reports do not detail, and they provide an occasion for us to interact with our officials in a way court audiences do not allow.” Aslan paused, his expression growing severe. “A way in which the Queen Dowager cannot interfere.”

Prince Etegah’s scowl deepened at the mention of the Royal Queen Dowager, but his eyes registered contriteness. He bowed his head. “May Ovye forgive my impudence. I failed to see the depths of his intentions and gave rule to my doubts.”

Aslan stood, spreading his arms as Eunuch Iroro and the Grand Maiden clothed him, finally, in the diaphanous royal outer robe, the back embroidered with a golden sun flanked by crescent silver moons. “Dear Etegah, be at peace. We know what troubles you, just as we know you are aware of our night excursions.” Prince Etegah looked up with surprise, cutting a quick glare to Eunuch Edewor who ducked his head. Aslan’s voice was stern as he said, “However, it is not for you to judge whom we meet in the Outer Palace.” He paused, his tone softening, “Yet, if it will set your mind a bit at ease, you may accompany us on our inspection today.”

Prince Etegah nodded remorsefully. “I shall do so with Ovye’s permission. Please excuse me to prepare,” and he began to back out of the room.

“Etegah,” Aslan called to his brother. The prince looked up and he said, “Your affections are not lost on us. We shall entrust our dignity to your protection, but you must always act within reason.”

Prince Etegah nodded firmly, his eyes shining with new confidence. “I shall not disappoint Ovye’s faith in me!”


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