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Twelve Days

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It is said that the storyteller shapes the story, but I have found it equally true that the story is shaped by its intended audience. That was my experience through all the years that I served as chief slave and, more importantly, secretary to Nahuseresh, and that truth, at least, remains the same even now, when the world we knew has changed almost beyond recognition, and my own life with it.

I learned early on how to write according to my master's wishes, and in my master's voice. In a sense, he was both author and audience, shaping my story from both directions at once. I became proficient at writing in his name, and not just when transcribing his letters. Oh, never anything that I should not have written, never anything that was outside my authority to write, but in time I learned to tailor words and phrases, and especially details, to the expectations of any and every recipient.

And then my master was gone, or so I thought, and I had no choice but to go myself, and leave words and phrases and expectations behind with my pens and paper.

I have lost everything that once I had: power and position and security—or at least the power and relative security that flowed from my master's position—and, of course, my master's voice. Even my name is gone, and in the place of Kamet the ambassador's secretary is Kay, the humble scribe. And as for what I have found, and hold jealously, in place of all that I have lost? Well…

It starts with the account of my flight from the empire, which I wrote for Relius, the former secretary of Attolia's archives. He was its intended audience, but I had an eye to history as well as I wrote—and wrote truly in my own voice for the very first time.

A writer always chooses what to include and what to leave out of any narrative, and this one was no different. If I did not deem Relius entitled to the knowledge of every single second of my every day from the moment Laela brought me word that my master had been poisoned to the moment that I arrived, still somewhat unwilling, at Attolia's royal palace, even less could I see that history had a claim on those aspects of my story that did not impinge on the great events taking place in the wider world at that time.

Which, yes, is a lot of words in which to say more simply, as others might: some things are private.

In the narrative I started in the palace, and completed later in our lodgings in Roa, it was enough to say that eleven days passed as my Attolian companion and I made our way through the Taymets. Relius—and history—needed only to know that we travelled from one side of those mountains to the other, meeting no one, during that time.

But you need to know the rest, how it was for me.

And so I will write the story of those eleven days for you.