[Author’s Foreword: Daybreak extra chapters are either scenes that don’t fit neatly into the story’s pacing, or are meant to address the interests of specific audiences and aren’t for everyone. This particular chapter is written as an introduction to Samaran history and culture. It is an expansion of chapter 12, when Kaede and Pascal met Captain Marko, the skywhale merchant captain.]
“You know, this is the first time I have dined with someone who has just tried to kill me.” Kaede heard Pascal comment in an odd tone as he examined the sauce that covered the slivers of meat on his plate. The food looked like a variant of beef stroganov served over bowtie pasta. However, it was clearly not Pascal’s unfamiliarity with the cuisine which left the shadow of apprehension in an otherwise nonchalant voice.
Kaede reached over with her spoon and took a generous helping of meat, sauce, and pasta alike from Pascal’s plate. She then put it into her mouth without hesitation, before closing her eyes in a moment of pure bliss as she enjoyed the rich, creamy taste.
“It’s not poisoned, if that’s what you’re afraid of.” She added with a smile while half-chewed food filled her mouth. It would probably be a faux pas at any other dinner with a diplomat.
However despite their host, Captain Marko’s status as the Acting Ambassador of the Grand Republic of Samara, this wasn’t meant to be a formal dinner. Instead, it was a casual affair in the lounge cabin of his skywhale’s gondola. The implications were not lost on Kaede, as the homey hospitality meant this was meant to be a ‘private affair’ and not one of statecraft.
“And you would be the worst poison taster in culinary history,” Pascal retorted dryly. “In case you forgot, your blood makes you immune to most toxins. Not that I believe this food is poisoned.” He added before bringing a spoonful to his own lips and smirked. “I simply find the meal… a bit too ironic for my taste.” He added before eating it.
Meanwhile Kaede groaned. That’s an awful joke to make!
Nevertheless, Captain Marko chuckled in response as the bulky Samaran watched the two with an amused grin.
“Threatening to kill you and trying to kill you are also very different.” He began in a humored tone that didn’t match his words at all. “If we were actually trying to kill you, you would have been dead long before you saw the weapon.” The Captain then shook his head with a smile. “Besides, killing you on my ship would have brought all sorts of… diplomatic inconveniences. Far better to make it look like the Cataliyans did the deed.”
It’s precisely this kind of behavior that kept getting Russia in trouble in public relations! Kaede thought back to her world.
“So are you saying his life was safe from the start then?” The familiar asked dubiously as she looked between Marko and the young woman who sat next to him. Apart from introducing herself as Tatyana, the Shadow Guard Major hasn’t spoken a word and merely watched Pascal and Kaede with hawkish eyes as they ate.
“We mostly just wanted to impress upon you how dead serious we were.” Tatyana’s voice remained foreboding as she answered this time. “The Shadow Guard does not take incidents of Samaran trafficking lightly. If your master had insisted on his right to possess you, we are given the authority to do what is necessary to protect those of our kind. Assassination of even high nobles is not off the table.”
You’re like the freaking Mossad. An icy shiver traveled down Kaede’s spine as she thought of the Israeli intelligence agency that would go to any length to hunt down perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Pascal, however, took it in stride as he responded with a courteous smile. “As I have said, first time having dinner in such… deadly company.”
Kaede groaned again. “<Would you stop making such bad jokes?>” She pleaded over their private telepathy.
“<Making jokes is about all I can do right now,>” Pascal responded. “<They are interested in you, not me. I am just the accompaniment.>” He added in a slightly sulky tone, as though begrudging the fact that he wasn’t the center of attention for once.
“<Now you know how I feel most of the time,>” the familiar commented. Though unlike Pascal, the introverted Kaede didn’t really mind.
“<You forget whose shadows I grew up in.>” Pascal added. “<Still, I know you have been anxious to meet another Samaran so you can ask questions. Now is your chance.>”
That’s true, Kaede thought as she remembered her real goal for this meeting. Though before that, there was a burning curiosity she wanted to satiate first.
“Speaking of assassination, can I see the weapon you used from earlier?” Kaede asked Tatyana.
The Shadow Guard Major blinked as this had clearly caught her off-guard. “S-sure.” She answered as she pulled the rifle out of an extradimensional storage pocket and handed it to Kaede.
“Is this a pressurized air rifle?” Kaede asked as she examined the long barrel which was cut with spiral grooves. Its stock had a large cylinder built in. When she tried to open it, she discovered that it also had a tubular, spring-loaded magazine. It was filled with rune-inscribed bullets of surprisingly aerodynamic design.
“Yes,” Tatyana replied simply.
In all of her reading on Earth, Kaede had only encountered one mention of such a weapon. It was famously used during the American Lewis and Clark Expedition. The fact it was never widely adopted on Earth was probably the same reason why it was a scarce sight in Hyperion.
“It’s a fairly rare weapon, mostly due to how delicate it is,” Marko explained. “The air reservoir seals require extensive maintenance to ensure there is no leakage, which would leave the weapon useless. Needless to say, the design never caught on with any army. However, it did find its niche among some merchants and intelligence groups.”
“I can certainly see why,” Kaede closed the stock chamber and returned it to the Major. “Thank you.” She added with a bright smile.
Tatyana tried to respond in kind. However, after several jerks at the corner of her lips, the pretty young woman only managed an odd-looking smirk. It made Kaede wonder if Tatyana had been a victim of trafficking herself before she joined the Shadow Guard — just like how the Mossad had many Holocaust survivors who carried a deep, personal hatred for their targets.
The thought only brought Kaede back to her real focus:
“Captain — if you don’t mind me asking straight — just how did the Grand Republic come to be named after an oppressed minority group like the Samarans?”
Kaede didn’t forget that despite everything the Soviet authorities tried, they could not stamp out the anti-semitism which had been deeply rooted in Russian and European culture. Governments were generally built on top of cultural mores. They had limited ability to change the underlying values of each cultural group, which were shaped by centuries of history and created the foundation on which society rested.
“I should note first that we Samarans weren’t always known by our blood,” Marko started with a wry smile. “Back in the days of the Polisian Federation — the predecessor state of the Grand Republic — the Samarans were just a small minority from a fringe protectorate known for being cowardly and lazy, since our kind is generally unambitious and lean towards pacifism.”
Kaede returned a wry smile. She certainly remembered how many pacifists and anti-interventionists were often called ‘cowards’ even in the modern world, particularly online in English-speaking communities. It was the unfortunate side-effect of Hollywood and other nationalistic media, who glorified the ‘heroism of war’ and self-righteously portrayed violent, military interventions — all while turning a blind eye to the crimes committed by their own troops as they occupied foreign nations.
“–Then the Great Northern War happened, during which the Great Khanate invaded the Polisian Federation,” the Captain continued. “Twice, the Polisian Federation rallied its armies and met the Khan’s forces in the field. And twice, they were utterly crushed, with the flower of the Polisian nobility either killed in battle or executed in the bloody aftermath. So when the nomads marched into the Protectorate of Samara, everyone expected the Samarans to just surrender.
“Instead,” Marko’s expression changed into a smile filled with irony as he raised his spoon into the air. “A Samaran commander whom the world had never heard of handed the Great Khanate their first major defeat. We even killed one of their princes — a complete accident, but it meant that a negotiated peace was no longer an option.”
“And the Samarans’ reputation changed completely after that?” Kaede asked.
“Not exactly. Certainly not immediately,” Marko responded. “But it did make every Polisian wonder — just what did motivate the Samarans? We were a people known for living frugal lives and asking for very little. Travelers to the Protectorate often compared its communities with those of monastic communes. Yet, we not only mobilized our entire society, but also unearthed remarkable talents in warfare. It forced people to start asking questions rather than believe they know all the answers.”
Kaede smiled as she recognized a cultural turning point. Historians on Earth often commented that one of the reasons why ‘Western civilization’ rose to dominance was due to the Scientific Revolution. This was not because of the fruits of technology it produced, but because they embraced a scientific methodology.
During the Age of Exploration, European navigators, scientists, and leaders set off in the world fully admitting that they didn’t know everything. Their maps had huge swathes of terra incognita. Their scientists had theories ending with question marks. Even their political leaders often lacked an answer for what was the best system to govern through. And it is because of this willingness to admit their own lack of knowledge that allowed Europe to embrace experimentation, innovation, and adaptation, which non-westerners couldn’t match even when they had the technology right in front of them, ready to be used.
…However, when the West grew arrogant and began to believe that they alone knew all the answers and every other culture should learn from them — that was when it began its decline.
“And one of those men was the founder of the Grand Republic, Konstantin the Tyrant.” Pascal then interjected, as if to show that he at least read the books.
“Or ‘the Lawgiver’, depending on which perspective you take.” Marko smiled before he took a moment to eat. “Konstantin Radomirovich Apraksin was, at the time, an exiled heir to one of the Princely Houses of the Polisian Federation. He famously had a young Samaran girl as his slave and close confidante. After the start of the war, he built a private army in secret and then used it to fight the invaders. His successes brought him more and more supporters, until he rose to become the Grand Prince of Ilmen.
“It was his reforms which transformed the Polisian Federation into the Grand Republic,” Marko spoke admiringly. “Though his heavy-handed methods to break the power of the old aristocracy also earned him the ire of the nobility, hence his moniker ‘the Tyrant’.”
Bit like Ivan the Terrible. Kaede thought of the infamous Russian ruler who centralized the Russian legal system by hamstringing the feudal privileges of the Russian nobility. However, after Ivan’s beloved wife Anastasia died of poisoning, the ruler’s notorious wrath led him to wage a war against his own aristocracy. Nevertheless, it was thanks to him that Imperial Russia didn’t become a failed state like the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Thankfully, the life of the Grand Republic’s founder did not become such a tragedy.
“Konstantin however did something that no ruler before him ever imagined doing,” Marko continued. “He married his Samaran slave, and took her as his only wife. Her name was Lucina Chandrabha Arrius, better known as Luna.”
Kaede’s jaw almost dropped to the floor. “You can’t mean… Luna the Kingmaker.” She uttered the name that came up several times in her reading.
“I find it amusing that Western Hyperion calls her that when the Grand Republic doesn’t even have a ‘king’ to make.” Marko half-snorted. “We call her the Soul of Civic Virtue. But yes, it is partly because of her that the new country came to be known as the ‘Grand Republic of Samara’.”
“Sorry, I still do not understand,” Pascal spoke with a puzzled frown. “How does marrying one Samaran girl make that much difference? It would be like Rhin-Lotharingie changing its name just because Emperor Geoffroi married a Faekissed.”
“It’s not the same,” Marko shook his head. “Samaran lineage is very different from the other human races, since our physiology is rather different, particularly when it comes to reproduction…”
The Captain scowled as a troubled look filled his expression. He glanced at the young major sitting beside him, which drew her attention before their eyes met in a silent exchange. Tatyana tilted her head at him as though saying seriously? before she turned back to their guests.
These two definitely have a relationship that goes beyond merely professional, Kaede observed.
“Samaran reproduction is unusual in two regards.” Tatyana began to explain it straight. “First of all is the fact our pregnancies are variable and long — between one to two years. The reason is because a Samaran fetus is an empty vessel that must wait for a soul to settle in before it gains life. Consequently, a baby that is born to a Samaran mother is also Samaran, regardless of who the father is.”
“And because of that, most scholars argue that Samaran reproduction lacks true ‘blood inheritance’.” Marko added before taking another bite to eat.
“That… creates a succession problem,” Pascal said as his eyebrows rose.
“Indeed,” Marko answered. “Especially since Samarans do not inherit magical affinity. Instead, it is determined by the karma of the soul that settles into the body. It’s why Samaran mages are rare, and why we are often called ‘sages’.”
That’s right. His skywhale familiar means Marko is a mage, Kaede thought. Based on what she had read, the affinity for magic among Samarans was far less common — around one percent rather than roughly one out of every twenty for regular humans.
“Does that mean there are no Samaran nobles?” She asked next.
“I’ve never heard of one with a hereditary fief, at least,” Marko responded thoughtfully. “Samaran traditions are also different in that we lack the inheritance laws found in other societies. When someone dies, there is no way to tell whose family they will be reborn into next. Therefore, any possessions that are not already in use by family members are returned to the community, with exception to cases such as an apprentice taking over the business.”
The certainty of reincarnation really does make a huge difference on how the culture views materialism, Kaede couldn’t help thinking.
“Though to return to the topic,” Pascal pulled back from the tangent. “How exactly did marrying a Samaran turn the Grand Republic ‘Samaran’?”
“The Grand Republic is not like the Arcadian Republic of the Inner Sea, which often comes to mind in Western Hyperion,” Marko pointed out by naming the predecessor of the Inner Sea Imperium. “We still have a Grand Prince, and sometimes a Grand Princess. Though the ascension to rule must be approved by the Veche Assembly first. And the ruler’s authority is limited by their ability to court the Veche.”
A Veche Republic, Kaede thought of the old Rus traditions during the Rurikid dynasty. The fact it was chosen by the translation spell spoke volumes.
After all, the Veche was significantly different from modern concepts of a legislature such as the Russian Duma. The modern senatorial class was the legacy of ‘noble assemblies’. Even today, they were formed from societal elites who gathered to make rules for the rest of the lower classes. Meanwhile, the Veche was descended from the Norse Thing — a public assembly that any free man could walk into and speak their mind.
“Konstantin the Tyrant came to realize that if there is one factor that Samarans adhered to above all else, it is their sense of duty: to morals, to family, and to community,” Marko continued. “He also recognized that his wife Luna was particularly good at reading people and grasping their core character. So he left her one pivotal responsibility, which she and her descendants pursue — to find future candidates for the Grand Prince.”
“Hence why they call her Luna the ‘Kingmaker’.” Kaede muttered thoughtfully. “Does that mean she does this across multiple lifetimes?”
“Yes,” the Captain nodded. “It’s not always her who finds the candidate, or marries them. But she always takes part in the vetting. Any candidate she rejects is not even considered by the Veche.”
“Marries them?” Pascal’s eyebrows rose.
“Yes. The Samaran who picks the Grand Prince always married them,” Marko clarified. Then, as though reading Pascal’s mind, he added with a smile. “Keep in mind that we Samarans don’t feel sexual attraction in the way most humans do. While physique and appearances do play a role, what matters the most to us are your actions. After all, we want our children to have good parents, so they may develop virtuous habits to improve their karma in the cycle of rebirth.”
Virtue over genetics, Kaede thought as she realized how different the Samaran modus operandi for life really was. For most species, the biological imperative programmed into our very DNA was the desire to pass on our genes — the ‘selfish gene’ as modern zoologists called it. But for Samarans, even this fundamental aspect of biology had been altered, due to their lack of ‘blood inheritance’.
“But what if an ideal candidate is already married?” Pascal inquired next.
“Monogamy is a Trinitian tradition,” Marko noted. “The Grand Republic allows polyamorous marriages. As long as there is consent from all involved parties, we see no problems with multiple wives or husbands. If anything,” the Captain added with an amused smile, “we believe that ‘triangle relationships’ — true triangles where all three respect and trust each other — create the most stable families.”
I guess it is said that triangles are the strongest force of nature. Kaede frowned before she interjected: “But that can’t be easy to achieve.”
“No.” Marko nodded. “It’s quite rare. But it does happen.”
“Also…” Pascal then rushed to swallow the mouthful that he had been chewing thoughtfully on. “What keeps Luna’s descendants from just choosing one of their own then?”
The Samaran system of succession had clearly captured his intrigue, enough for him to play devil’s advocate and try to poke holes in it.
“Konstantin the Tyrant set down a law that while the Grand Prince or Princess must be selected by a Samaran, they must never be a Samaran,” Marko stated. “Nor can they be related by blood or marriage to a Samaran, up to three generations. This was done purely to remove familial and minimize clan bias.”
“Then… this system of succession would actually fail if the Samarans became a majority in the Grand Republic,” Kaede realized.
“Quite,” Marko chuckled. “It is a system that is uniquely designed and uniquely suited to our country. Furthermore, it counterbalances the fact that the Grand Marshal — the highest military authority — is always given to one Samaran.”
“A Samaran in command of the military?” Pascal asked as he returned a skeptical look.
“I didn’t say ‘a samaran’,” Marko corrected. “I said ‘one samaran’ — the same one who surprised everyone by defeating the Khan’s armies. The position is reserved for him and his reincarnations.”
“That seems unwise, to have a single individual build influence in the military for centuries.” Pascal commented as Kaede thought of the Manteuffel Incident.
“If he actually had any interest in power, I would agree.” Marko commented. “However, we had to beg the Grand Marshal to take up command back during the Great Northern War. The man is a war god incarnate, but he prefers to stay a blacksmith most of the time. And unless there is a crisis, he comes out of seclusion only once a year to inspect the forces.”
The Captain then frowned as he exhaled a long sigh. “Something happened in his first life — something that he would not say — which made him averse to military command and wars.”
It made Kaede realize that while Samarans acquired many advantages from the memories and wisdom that they inherited across lifetimes, it also created their greatest problem. People accumulated mental scars even faster than the body received physical scars, as countless rejections, failures, and outright traumatic episodes would leave their marks. Not all bad memories were ‘regrets’, which meant that Samarans had to carry all their past baggage through every new life.
She wondered if this was yet another reason why Samarans focused so much on their inner selves. Without a healthy mental disposition, ‘immortality’ was a curse that could slowly drive people insane.
—– * * * —–
After Pascal finished his sumptuous dinner, he excused himself from the table to visit a latrine. Captain Marko offered to accompany him to show him where it was. However, once the two left earshot of the lounge cabin, it became clear that Marko’s real intentions were that he wanted a private word with Pascal:
“Your Grace,” the Captain dropped his warm, conversationalist tone and returned to a cautious formality. “I have a concern that I’d like to straighten out, if you don’t mind — just what is your intention towards Kaede?”
“She is family to me.” Pascal declared straight. “Unless there is something else you are wondering about?”
“There are different forms of family.” Marko commented as he stopped just outside the door that led to the latrine room. He then looked upon the younger man and stared straight into Pascal’s gaze. “What I want to know is — is your liking towards her… of a romantic nature?”
“My acceptance of her as family is not conditional, if that is your concern.” Pascal stated firmly. “That being said, I admit that I am attracted to her,” he added with a smile in the dim hallway.
“Kaede is cute, kind, diligent, and intelligent — everything I would look for in a girl. However, even if I was not already betrothed, which leads to some… complications,” he thought of the ongoing problems with Sylviane. “It is clear to me that Kaede herself is not interested in sexual relations.”
“That’s normal for Samarans,” Marko responded with a chuckle. “Our kind marries for companionship and interdependence, not passion. Trust and acceptance are far more valuable to us. And it is clear to me that Kaede trusts you deeply.”
The Captain’s smile then turned bittersweet as he sighed. “Personally, I would feel better if she did marry you. She would at least have proper social status, and not be seen as someone’s servant for her entire life. But alas, such things cannot be forced.”
Pascal frowned as he realized that he had never seriously thought about this issue. The Captain was right that Kaede’s current position left her in a rather precarious position insofar as social standing. Sure, Pascal might see her as family. But everyone else would hear the word ‘familiar’ and instantly jump to ‘servant’… or worse.
Yet at the same time, Kaede wasn’t a servant in the traditional sense. She certainly wasn’t accepted by the other servants as ‘one of them’, neither in Alis Avern nor in Nordkreuz. This left her in a state of limbo where both sides treated her as an outsider to their group.
It’s no wonder why she tries so hard to stay on good terms with Marina. He thought.
“I thank you, Captain, for taking her welfare to heart.” Pascal replied with an earnest nod of gratitude. “I will certainly give the problem of her social status due consideration. It is I who brought her into this life, and I certainly do not wish for her to be unhappy for it.”
Marko’s smile widened as he extended his hand and clapped the young nobleman on the shoulder.
“Just remember,” he added. “If you do ever try to make her your lover, please consult someone with experience so you don’t injure her.”
For a moment Pascal felt offended. It seemed as though Marko was doubting his abilities as a man. However, as his brain grasped for a retort, he realized he wasn’t sure what exactly Marko meant.
“What are you implying by that?” The young lord asked with a hint of irritation in his voice.
It only made Marko chuckle.
“Despite appearances, Samaran sexual physiology is not the same as most humans, and it is a common mistake for those who marry Samarans to assume so,” the Captain explained. “Samaran girls have next to zero libido, and you would not be the first young man who thinks you can put it in dry.”
“I am not that stupid.” Pascal retorted with mild annoyance.
“Well, at least you have some experience with women then.” Marko laughed. “In that case, I think you know what should be done first. The good news is that Samaran girls are quite sensitive. The downside is that it’s fairly easy to hurt them. And don’t expect them to validate your sexual prowess or anything — they’re not really capable of it and you’ll just injure them instead.”
For a moment, Pascal wasn’t sure what Marko meant. Then, as it slowly dawned upon him, his turquoise eyes widened with disbelief — if not a bit of horror — towards the implications.
“How did your race offend the Holy Father… or whomever your creator god is?” Pascal muttered. “No alcohol is one thing. But this!?”
“The concept of ‘recreational sex’ is largely alien to us for a reason,” Marko shrugged. “Our maker created us to focus on things that bring us contentment across lifetimes, such as self-actualization. And not to be distracted by fleeting pleasures.
“Besides,” the Captain added with a serene smile. “The rite of reproduction is sacred to us and not frivolous. It is a Samaran’s deepest expression of acceptance and trust, to offer their partner an unfettered view of their soul.”Author's Comment
If you've enjoyed this update, please take a moment to vote for Daybreak on Hyperion at TopWebFiction. Aorii isn't good at self-promotion so every bit of your support helps.
Thank you \(•ᴗ•)/
P.S. Please note that comments need to be approved (or your submitted email must have a previously approved comment) before they'll show up.