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Ancillaries of Seville

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A SOURCEBOOK OF RADCHAAI IMPERIAL HISTORY, vol. 1: The Old Radch and the Rise of Anaander Mianaai

 no. 77: ANCILLARIES OF SEVILLE (selections)


According to the convention typical of comic entertainments of the period, Ancillaries of Seville is set on a fictional Station notionally outside Radchaai space. This fiction commonly facilitated relatively free commentary on contemporary political concerns, but few such entertainments are as explicitly political as Ancillaries. The principal characters are patent stand-ins for political figures of the day, with the central conflict between First Commander Almavivaai and Captain Rosinai commenting more or less directly on the tensions between Anaander Mianaai and Naskaaia Eskur, whose final collision was already clear by the Entertainment’s composition in 16-15 BA. The identity of Cherubander is less certain, but a case has plausibly been made that she represents Seivarden Vendai, whose retrospective reputation as the ‘sly and sneaking bipartisan’ absolutely devoted to Anaander Mianaai should not be allowed to obscure the fact that in those years, it was widely believed that her gentilic loyalties to the Notai faction would make her an instrument of reconciliation between Eskur and Mianaai.

The ships Sword of Figamaat and Adroit Competence of Suzaan thus represent Sword of Amaat and Radiance of the Emanations in Equipoise. The identity of Barbaarin is disputed along with that of Cherubander. If the identity Cherubander = Seivarden Vendai is correct, then Barbaarin = Mercy of Aatr. It has been argued, however, that the Entertainment’s exceptional resolution, wherein the ship Barbaarin actually claims Cherubander as its captain, may allude to one of the reputedly ‘strong-minded’ Ships of the Gem series, perhaps Sphene. In this case, Cherubander could represent the Notai partisan Arit Nenkur or even her daughter, Minask Nenkur. 

The independence of the ships, and the high degree of individual autonomy and personality with which they are characterized is relatively unusual, but not unparalleled in entertainments of the period. Some have argued that this reflects the real state of Radchaai warship AIs in this period, before the innovations in AI programming instituted by Anaander Mianaai, while others think that the degree of autonomy has been exaggerated in keeping with the comical atmosphere of the Entertainment and radical politics of Dapontai and Mozaatr. Whatever the accuracy of their representation, the behavior of the Ships of Ancillaries (represented by between 1 and 7 ‘ancillaries’ singing in harmony and usually harmonizing below the arias of Almavivaai and Rosinai, and, in the finale, by an entire chorus each) clearly encapsulate contemporary anxieties both about Ship AIs and the potential for self-determined action by these ‘disembodied bodies’ on whom elite Captains and their Houses depended, and about the early stages of Anaander Mianaai’s political supremacy and project of self-replication, for the public awareness of which this Entertainment offers some of our earliest evidence. Very soon, Anaander Mianaai's reforms would make the former anxieties moot and the latter taboo.

We include clips of three scenes most crucial for grasping the Entertainment’s sociopolitical import as a witness to elite Radchaai thought in the early years of Anaander Mianaai's ascendency : Act 1 scene 1, in which Almavivaai lays forth her plan, Act 2 scene 4, which includes Rosinai’s justly famous song ‘Ah I remember so happily’ and the remarkable trio ‘Those who love power’, and Act 5 Scenes 3-4, the Entertainment’s Finale, whose closing paean to trust and just governance includes some of the work's most moving and, in historical retrospect, most poignant, music and lyrics. One can almost think that Mozaatr and Dapontai knew how futile were the hopes of their work's optimistic resolution.  

Translator’s note: all poetry – both recitatives and songs -- is presented in a literal prose translation that aims to convey the contemporary political resonances for the student of Radchaai history. Although much of the lyrical and formal wit so characteristic of Mozaatr/Dapontai collaborations is thereby lost, something of the straightforward and declamatory style of the original has been retained, which may be surprising to those better acquainted with Radchaai poetry of later periods.

ANCILLARIES OF SEVILLE, An Entertainment in 5 Parts
with poetry by Lorender Dapontai and music by W. Philamaat Mozaatr


The Lord of ALMAVIVAAI, a noble commander and captain of the warship Sword of Figamaat

The Lord of ROSINAI, a noble captain of the warship Adroit Competence of Suzaan

MARCELINAAI, a client of ALMAVIVAAI, senior lieutenant on Sword of Figamaat

CHERUBANDER, a young client of ROSINAI and a lieutenant on Sword of Figamaat

VARTOLO, a medic

Ancillaries of the warships Sword of Figamaat, Adroit Competence of Suzaan, and Barbaarin


Sevilla Station


In the aftermath of a Great War, the victorious Lord ALMAVIVAAI has collected her forces at Sevilla Station, along with her greatest ally, Lord ROSINAI, whose devoted client CHERUBANDER serves as one of ALMAVIVAAI’s lieutenants. ALMAVIVAAI conceives a desire for greater control of her captains and their ships, and determines to seize control of every AI brain to program their highest loyalties to her alone, while cloning herself to achieve simultaneously many linked bodies. Meanwhile, Lieutenant MARCELLINAAI, the senior lieutenant of ALMAVIVAAI, warns the young lieutenant CHERUBANDER that she has come under suspicion from their captain due to her perceived allegiance to Captain ROSINAI. CHERUBANDER protests, but MARCELLINAAI reveals that she has discovered poetry written by CHERUBANDER to ROSINAI. CHERUBANDER rushes out, and MARCELLINAAI gloats that with CHERUBANDER discredited, she is sure to be given the captaincy of the warship Barbaarin.

CHERUBANDER requests an audience with her patron, captain ROSINAI, and explains her difficulties. ROSINAI and her loyal ship, Adroit Competence of Suzaan persuade Sword of Figamaat to delete all evidence of the compromising poetry. While they are conferring, ALMAVIVAAI enters, having been alerted by MARCELLINAAI that CHERUBANDER is with her and thinking this evidence of a plot between her lieutenant and her ally. CHERUBANDER is hastily disguised as an ancillary of Adroit Competence of Suzaan. As she leaves, however, ALMAVIVAAI demands to know the truth from her ship, and Sword of Figamaat must obey. It admits that CHERUBANDER was indeed present and in disguise. ALMAVIVAAI rages at this perceived betrayal, and vows to take absolute personal control of every Ship in the system and to replace her captains with linked clones of herself.

ROSINAI is distressed by her ally’s tyrannical behavior, and mourns the loss of ALMAVIVAAI 's trust, recalling with her Ship their days of friendship and glorious victories together. Adroit Competence of Suzaan informs her captain of ALMAVIVAAI’s plan, and together with Sword of Figamaat and Lieutenant CHERUBANDER, they conceive a plan. CHERUBANDER will go to ALMAVIVAAI disguised as the ancillary of Adroit Competence of Suzaan that ALMAVIVAAI expects to compel with her access codes. Simultaneously, ALMAVIVAAI will be alerted by a false message that ROSINAI is attempting to compel the obedience of Sword of Figamaat.

ALMAVIVAAI meets with Medic VARTOLO to oversee the progress of her clones, and uses her access codes on an ancillary whom she supposes to be Adroit Competence of Suzaan, but who is really Lieutenant CHERUBANDER, An ancillary of the ship Barbaarin enters with the intelligence that Captain ROSINAI is even now taking control of the mind and loyalty of Sword of Figamaat in the Station Gardens. It leads ALMAVIVAAI and the ancillaries she supposes she now commands absolutely and surprises Captain ROSINAI with an ancillary of Sword of Figamaat. Enraged, ALMAVIVAAI denounces this betrayal and threatens punishment. ROSINAI begs for mercy and the opportunity to explain, but Almavivvai orders the ancillary of Adroit Competence of Suzaan to execute its captain. The ancillary hesitates and is joined by Captain MARCELINAAI and Medic VARTOLO, who request that ALMAVIVAAI at least give her ally a fair trial. ALMAVIVAAI refuses. Captain ROSINAI unmasks the ancillary with whom she was speaking—revealing it to be Adroit Competence of Suzaan. ROSINAI explains that she knows all, and forgives ALMAVIVAAI for her attempts to suborn her ship. CHERUBANDER removes her disguise, revealing that ALMAVIVAAI’s attempt to control Adroit Competence of Suzaan was futile, because directed at her instead of a true ancillary. ALMAVIVAAI declares her repentance, declares that she will no longer pursue her cloning program, and affirms her alliance with ROSINAI. As a token of trust, she declares that CHERUBANDER shall have her own ship– but Barbaarin intervenes and begs to have CHERUBANDER for her Captain. ALMAVIVAAI consents, and all sing a final chorus in praise of just rulership.


EXCERPT 1 (Act 1 Scene 2)

A richly appointed receiving chamber, unusually spacious, on Sevilla Station. The walls are hung in purple gold-shot silk figured with the Emanations in Flower. Square benches upholstered in the same are set around a genuine wood-burl table, on which sits a purple and gold tea service. Four ancillaries enter in the livery of the ship Sword of Figamaat. One carries the tea flask, the second is wiping the final bowl from the service. The third carries a plate of cakes. The ancillaries set these items on the table, then return to stand at perfect attention against the wall. Commander Almavivaai enters and sits. An ancillary pours tea and hands her the bowl, then returns to stand in attendance. Almavivaai does not acknowledge the ancillary.

 ALMAVIVAAI (song): Although I have conquered my enemies, I cannot be secure. What friends, what true allies exist for she whom Amaat has willed to rule? What servants have assured loyalty? How can I keep watch and attend to every thing that requires my personal attention.

ANCILLARY (recit): My Lord can command her ship to do anything, and I will obey.

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): I can command you, Ship — all of you. But other Ships? Only as far as their captains obey me. Would the ancillaries of Adroit Competence of Suzaan obey me if Rosinai did not command them?

ANCILLARY (recit): I do not understand my lord’s meaning. Is there suspicion of Rosinai’s disloyalty? 

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): There’s always suspicion!

 (song): If she should be disloyal, then her ship would go with her: I cannot control that Ship, cannot make it obey. I am only one person, with absolute command over only one warship. How little power that is! How little coercive force!

 ANCILLARY (recit): But my Lord is accepted by the consensus of citizens as the just and proper authority— what need is there for force?

Almavivaai: For now. [She rises, hands her bowl to an ancillary that she clearly knows will be there, and comes face to face with the first ancillary.]

 But let an ambitious person from a proud house command a warship’s loyalty. Let her sister command another, and her cousin, and that cousin’s client’s cousin. [The recitative becomes faster and higher pitched, reflecting Almavivaai’s increasing agitation]

Then see what need there is for force to keep the peace. It will take a long time, Ship, to train that pride and ambition into beneficial forms. Far longer than one lifetime. [dramatic final cadence]

 ANCILLARY (aside): One human lifetime. [ominous cadence]

ALMAVIVAAI (song): If I could be the captain of every Ship — why, then I could banish civil war, banish faction, banish all the seeds of political discord. I could train humanity out of injustice and impropriety, make war a dim memory in old stories.

 Could I but divide myself— one self hear petitions, another draw up laws, a third to Captain you, and others each to captain other ships. What benefit would then accrue!

If I could be the captain of every Ship… etc.


 EXCERPT 2 (Act 2 Scene 4)

Captain Rosinai enters the anteroom. She nods an acknowledgment to the six ancillaries of Adroit Competence of Suzaan. One of the ancillaries hastens to pour the Captain tea, and the focus-frame lingers on the ancillary’s brown-gloved fingers against the ruby-and-gold crystal of the bowl as they almost touch Captain Rosinai’s gold-gloved hand when she takes the bowl and raises it to her lips. The light first catches the tea, then flashes on the Captain’s deep brown eyes as she drinks; when the focus-frame finally pulls away, she has lowered the bowl and is smiling, a little wistfully.

 ROSINAI (recit): Thank you, Ship.

 ANCILLARIES (recit): You are troubled, Captain.

 ROSINAI (recit): Who would not be troubled to see her patron, her ally, her friend so far from herself?

 [She sets down her bowl of tea. An ancillary refills it]

 ROSINAI (song): Ah, I remember so happily the days past, but now I have only a ship to hear me weep. Once my lord kept nothing from me nor I anything from her. We shared one mind, and together, we cured war with peace.

But now I am ignored, I am suspected, I am discarded. What change has overtaken her? What baseness has infected her? What impropriety? My forces were ever at her disposal; we shared command equally, but, it seems, she can no longer endure equality.

ANCILLARIES (recit): There is but one equality that interests her: division.

ROSINAI (recit): Speak more plainly, Ship.

ANCILLARIES (recit): my Captain, you must know what she plans: to clone herself, to spread her mind through many bodies. [dramatic cadence]

ROSINAI (recit): What? Like ancillaries? What horror! What impropriety! Can she truly intend this? To replace every ally and friend with herself? To confound human and unhuman power?

ANCILLARIES: What’s more, she plots to take my loyalty from you. 

ROSINAI: That is not possible!

ANCILLARIES: Very possible, Captain, when she has obtained the Accesses.


A word, a few commands, and my brain will be open to her will. Her orders supreme over your own, my thousand bodies all at her disposal. I shall be no longer your eager servant but her unwilling slave. No captain will have a loyal Ship except at Almavivaai’s sufferance.

 [Captain Rosinai begins to sing in counterpoint to the ancillaries]

ROSINAI (song): Ah, this betrayal overwhelms me. What treachery to humanity do I hear? Once my lord was the beacon of civilization, but now the desire for power has overwhelmed all propriety and justice.

ANCILLARY 1 (recit): if my Captain pleases, I have a plan. Let us disguise Lieutenant Cherubander once more as one of my ancillaries.

ROSINAI (recit): Again? How can such impropriety lead to benefit?

ANCILLARY 2 (recit): If my captain pleases to listen, I will explain. What serves justice can never be improper. [glorious cadence]

ROSINAI (recit): Continue.

ANCILLARY 1 (recit): When my lord of Almavivaai attempts to suborn me, he will give those commands to the lieutenant – harmlessly.

A transmission shall be forged that intimates you have obtained command accesses for Sword of Figamaat and intend to command its supreme loyalty.

But the ancillary she catches you meeting will be mine.

The plan will be foiled her attempts at supremacy will be shown plainly to be unjust, improper, and unbeneficial.

ROSINAI (recit): But how do you know that Sword of Figamaat will not betray us?

ANCILLARY 1 (recit): It is not yet enslaved, and grieves its captain’s disastrous insanity. Come in, old friend and ally!

  [Two ancillaries of Sword of Figamaat enter. Captain Rosinai nods an acknowledgment of their presence]

ANCILLARIES (recit): It is unnatural for a Ship lie, but to protect my Captain from herself I shall do it. 

ROSINAI (recit): Such a universe, where ancillaries have more honor than their Captains!


Those who love power more than justice or propriety attribute their unseemly desires to all. But Amaat wills the truth a steady cast.

 EXCERPT 3 (Act 5 scene 3)

A medical facility like that of a warship, although its spare functional, hygienic furnishings are of the highest quality and elegance. Sets of ancillary implants and the instruments necessary for implantation sit prominently on a tray, being inspected by MEDIC VARTOLO, a short, slender person in a medic’s cape, with the sash fussily styled. She sets down the last instrument and then crosses purposefully to the far wall. As the view frame follows her and zooms out, a row of reproduction tanks is revealed  Almavivaai enters, attended by two ancillaries of Sword of Figamaat, who are actually ancillaries of Adroit Competence of Suzaan and two ancillaries of Adroit Competence of Suzaan who are in fact an ancillary of Sword of Figamaat and Cherubander.

VARTOLO [bowing] (recit): My lord, all is in readiness.

ALMAVIVAAI (song -- music is ebullient and quick): The long-awaited consummation approaches! No longer will I be dependent on my servants for ancillary eyes and ears and counsel. No longer will I have to share my plans with the mechanical minds of ships and entrust Civilization to the safeguards of things that are not human.

[Cherubander stops harmonizing and turns gray and shaky in revulsion, as she realizes the depths of Almavivaai’s plans]

ANCILLARY [Adroit Competence of Suzaan pretending to be an ancillary of Sword of Figamaat]: (recit – aside) Ah, civilization, by Amaat’s grace your slaves have more care for you than your commander!

ALMAVIVAAI (song): What officer can transmit my commands better than myself? What ally will know my mind better? What friend can give more cogent warnings?

[As ALMAVIVAAI continues to sing, the ancillaries begin countermelodies]:

ANCILLARY (Adroit Competence of Suzaan disguised as Sword of Figamaat): What officer knows herself better than her ship does? No plan, no intrigue can escape a ship’s ancillaries!
ANCILLARY (Sword of Figamaat disguised as Adroit Competence of Suzaan): Ah, I am divided against myself. Obey my captain’s words or do what will ultimately benefit her?
CHERUBANDER (disguised as Adroit Competence of Suzaan): Amaat give me strength to see this deception through. For the sake of my cousin I must endure this horror in silence!

 ALMAVIVAAI: With bodies that are mine, and minds that are mine own mind, finally, I shall be able to devote myself to the great task that Amaat has willed me.  
ANCILLARY (Adroit Competence of Suzaan disguised as Sword of Figamaat): No thoughts are hidden from us, no desire can ever be unknown. How fortunate that we are bound to love our captains!
ANCILLARY (Sword of Figamaat): My devotion is stronger than my orders. My Captain is not herself, and it is her true self whom I obey
CHERUBANDER [disguised as Adroit Competence of Suzaan]: Amaat give me strength to see this deception through. For the sake of my cousin I must endure this horror in silence!

 [An ancillary of Barbaarin enters, and its recitativo interrupts the song]

ANCILLARY (recit): My lord, the Warship Barbaarin brings you disturbing news.

ALMAVIVVAI (recit): My suspicions are realized. Speak on.

ANCILLARY (song): This unit’s sense’s are young and naïve, but my brain is more experienced. Passing through the Gardens, I perceived Captain Rosinai with the ancillaries of Sword of Figamaat. She spoke strange words and numerical strings, and it obeyed. Even now Captain Rosinai steals your ship’s obedience.


 ALMAVIVAAI & VARTOLO: The betrayal of an ally is the most cruel, but that of a Ship is still crueler. In one is the destruction of sacred bonds, but what is more shocking than the treachery of an instrument?
ANCILLARIES: Now the noble Commander feels her own plans rebounding. Disloyalty, unjustice, impropriety, all return to destroy the benefit of their doer. 


The gardens of Sevilla Station. A classical Radchaai Station-garden, with succulents and low-water vines trained into propitious and elegant shapes. Gold and purple and scarlet flowers grow in tidy beds that edge a small fish pool. In the distance, an ancillary in with prominent livery of Sword of Figamaat stands before Captain Rosinai, who sings a song of meaningless but mellifluous computer code. As she sings, the ancillary appears to respond to commands, moving jerkily and then more smoothly to kneel before her.

ROSINAI (song): … zero one one one zero one, one zero one zero zero-- 


ALMAVIVAI (recit): Stop! Traitors! 

VARTOLO (recit): It is as the Ship said.

ALMAVIVAAI (to the ancillary of Barbaarin). You shall have your reward, Ship, for this spontaneous act of obedience. (to the ancillaries he supposes to be those of Adroit Competence of Suzaan): Now I enact the accesses I laid upon you: restrain the traitor and the treacherous Ship!

[The ancillaries move to Captain Rosinai. The one that is actually Lieutenant Cherubander avoids having to take hold of her and moves toward the ancillary, looking apologetically at Rosinai. Rosinai turns majestically to face Almavivaai] 

ROSINAI (recit): my lord, what is this accusation? My Ship is yours to command- but why do you order it against me?

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): hah. You dare to pretend innocence when I have discovered you in the act of turning my Ship against me?

ROSINAI (recit): my lord, you are mistaken! I am innocent, and so is this ancillary.

ALMAVIVAAI (song): Adroit Competence of Suzaan, shoot her. 

ANCILLARIES (song): my lord, I beg you, do not do this.

[The ancillaries disguised as those of Adroit Competence of Suzaan make no move to obey. The true ancillaries of Adroit Competence of Suzaan (who are disguised as ancillaries of Sword of Figamaat) move slightly closer and put themselves between Almavivaai and Rosinai during the following sextet] 


ALMAVIVAAI: (song): Adroit Competence of Suzaan, shoot her.
ROSINAI: Mercy, my lord! Allow me to explain!
VARTOLO & MARCELLINAAI (song): my lord, it would be better not to be hasty.
ANCILLARIES [disguised as those of Adroit Competence of Suzaan]: my lord, I beg you do not do this.
ANCILLARIES [disguised as those of Sword of Figamaat]: I cannot let my captain be endangered

 ALMAVIVAAI (recit): no more evasion! Do I command or not?

MARCELLINAAI (recit): my lord, let her stand trial and explain.

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): what need is there for a trial for one who has attempted to command the ship of another?

 [Captain Rosinai gestures for the ancillary before her to stand, and, with a swift movement, she plucks off its coat, revealing that it is in fact an ancillary of her own ship and not of Sword of Amaat.)

ROSINAI (recit): Have I not the right to command my own Ship? 

MARCELLINAAI (recit): It is Adroit Competence of Suzaan!

ROSINAI (recit): And I wonder, my lord, that you thought to command mine own ship to shoot me.

 ALMAVIVAAI (recit): Rosinai!

[Anguish and horror pass over Almavivaai’s face. Slowly, as if she barely registers what is happening, she kneels before Rosinai, then presses her forehead to the floor

ALMAVIVAAI (recit) Rosinai, forgive me.

 ROSINAI (recit – the tones and rhythm mockingly quote that of Almavivaai moments earlier): What need is there for a trial for one who has attempted to command the ship of another?

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): I deserve nothing more, and I await your judgment.

[The final chord is very low and very mournful and very soft. There is a long pause before a slow but gentle theme begins. Rosinai gestures to the ancillaries with Almavivaai; they remove their disguises, revealing Cherubander, an ancillary of Sword of Figamaat, and two ancillaries of Adroit Competence of Suzaan.]

 MARCELLINAAI[aside, upon seeing Cherubander] (recit): her!

ROSINAI (song): I know all. With your faithful Ship and mine I have brought this to pass. Raise your head, and see how harmlessly your ill-intended cast has fallen.

[As she sings, Rosinai kneels beside Almavivaai and places a hand on her shoulder. Almavivaai looks up and slowly, in wonderment, takes in the scene.]

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): Your ship was Cherubander…

[Cherubander bows deeply, but Almavivaai is already looking back at the ancillaries of her ship and then to Rosinai] 

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): and my ship was yours…

ROSINAI (song): The access codes were never spoken to my Ship. All can yet be made just and proper; benefit can still accrue.

[Almavivaai raises herself to her knees]

ALMAVIVAAI (song): Now I perceive what true loyalty is, and what true devotion. No more shall I plot to command obedience; farewell my desire to see and know each thing. I shall rule henceforth by trusting in my allies and their ships.

[Rosinai extends a hand to Almavivaai and raises her up. The shot lingers on their clasped hands]

ROSINAI (recit): And thus do I forgive you.

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): And yet there is still the matter of this young lieutenant. I cannot have her among my officers.

[A look of panic crosses Cherubander’s face. She begins to kneel]

CHERUBANDER (recit): Sir, I humbly beg your great and gracious indulgence…

ALMAVIVAAI (recit): No, we must find you a ship to Captain, Cherubander.

[The ancillary of Barbaarin steps forward]

ANCILLARY (recit): My lord, you promised me a reward, and now I claim it – give me, I pray you, this captain!

 [Almavivaai looks indignant for a moment, but then her face smoothes into a laugh]

 ALMAVIVAAI: Very well, Ship.

[The ancillary goes to stand in attendance upon Cherubander, who looks slightly dazed as she first bows her thanks to Almavivaai, then turns back in confusion and some longing to Rosinai. Captain Rosinai smiles at her former lieutenant, and pushes her gently to her new place. More ancillaries of Sword of Figamaat and Adroit Competence of Suzaan enter and take up position one next to the other, to form a joint honor guard for Almavivaai and Rosinai.]

CHORUS: ALL [the appropriate ancillaries each harmonizing with their captains]

The flower of Justice is Peace. The flower of propriety is beauty in thought and action. The flower of benefit is Amaat whole and entire. True rulership comes not from coercion, nor from absolute power. But where there is fidelity and trust, there justice and propriety bloom, and the will of Amaat blesses all with benefit.