In this version I have replaced the colonial names with the precolonial names for peoples that I have found, and done some editing. What do we think? Which one is easier and better to read?
Also known as: The European Problem
Toklo looked around the gathering and sighed inside. He wondered if Meriwa’s trade negotiations were going any better. He sighed internally again running his fingers down his seal skin jerkin at the thought of his wife. She had his shirt and leggings made just for this trip, and even had them worked with their clan designs.
The family needed to look just so. Meriwa was a powerful trader, and this trip would cement many of her contacts outside of the Matriarch. They would strengthen their trade routes before the Hawai’ians began to protest the coming adoptions into the Matriarchy.
Toklo had come on this trip supposedly to accompany his wife on her aid mission to the Muskogean Bands that had suffered through another hurricane earlier this year. As a man he had no real place in the official trade or political negotiations, but he still had his strengths. It was for these strengths he had been brought, and here at this gathering he would put those strengths to use.
The Matriarchy had its many plans, and even if Meriwa did not openly admit his work, Toklo knew that she respected his place. But that did not mean Toklo enjoyed being out of the North, the air was so hot here, so dusty in its dryness. He did not understand how these people could live with such heat. The smell of the cedar boughs decorating the table should have been refreshing but in this hot weather the smell was cloying and made him want to gag.
He stilled his features and turned to the woman that he stood with in the middle of the gathering. He matched her use of the Diné language, a sign of respect since it was the Diné capital in which all the representatives had gathered.
“How will the Ice Nation handle the European Problem?”
Toklo winced internally at the name others used for the Matriarchy slipping from the tongue of the Haudenosaunee Republic’s representative Tekakwitha. “The Ice Nation” as if the geographically largest country in the world was nothing more then the ice fields of their capital created by the Inupiat. Those peoples were the birthplace of the Matriarch that taught them them their path, so in some ways it was fitting. But they had spread, grown, changed with each adopted nation.
The entire Northern world was part of the the Matriarchy now. They were the one lone nation to have spread across the world by taking in the many nations that chose to join them, they had never initiated war on a single group. They even had regions south enough to leave winter for part of the year. But to the world they would forever be the “Ice Nation.” Toklo sighed internally again.
“What will be will be.” Toklo said with a sad shake of his head.
“Surely you have an interest. With the different European groups you have taken into your fold. If the Zulu give independence back to the Islands it will be war throughout Europe. The refuges alone will bury those of us with land there. They cannot rule themselves so early in their development.”
Tekakwitha dug, but Toklo was not in a place to uncover his nation’s plans. He did not bother to tell her that the scattered Russky, Slav, Nordic and other pale groups that had signed the Covenant of the Matriarch barely considered themselves European. He had never heard them claim the title without adding a modifier. It was true that Toklo did not fully understand the differences, but those that had joined the Matriarchy considered themselves separate from those in the contested lands, especially those in the Islands. They had after all become civilized.
“We will defend our family, as we always have.” He said flatly. Let her chew on that. The Matriarchy had not been involved in a war in over two generations, and even then only the one major war recorded in history. They had been attacked, the result had been the One Day War, and they had devastated their attackers, leveled the threat to their family. The black powder and similar weapons brought over from their Asian trade partners had ensured victory. Smaller skirmishes had occurred along their borders since, but nothing of consequence. The Covenant of the Matriarch, made clear that trade and organic growth was the way forward, but the world had learned that the path did not forbid defense.
“But surely your populous will wish to help stabilize the region?”
“As the Matriarch teaches, ‘Everyone has their own way.’ We will respect their way of life, and give aid where needed.”
Tekakwitha cleared her throat in disgust. She looked at him with narrowed eyes, and almost spat, “You grow rich from trade, and yet do nothing to help the poor of the world. The Scots have already invited the Tenochcas in to help maintain order. Once the Tenochcas move North from their holdings in Espana they will be a danger to all our holdings there. The Zulu should have never agreed to granting the Islands independence before they are ready.”
Toklo looked away. It still unsettled him to see women with faces bare of the tattoos that were their right. One would think that after all his time dealing with those outside of the Matriarch he would be use to bare faced women by now, but it had always made him uncomfortable. He was at heart old fashion like that.
He took a moment to appreciate her well cut and hand sewn buckskin almost invisible under the necklaces of bead, and her broad thick belt of purple. The entire endeavor was colorful and garish compared to Toklo’s own simple seal skin top and pants with clan designs burned and brushed into the skin. He slipped his eyes back up to her naked face and forced himself to meet her eyes.
“It may be troubling for the Tenochcas to move north, but it is the right of the Scots to request their aid.”
“You know as well as I do, that the Tenochcas will not be happy with merely helping, they have often used the Colón Myth to claim rights over all of Europe. Their hold on Espana has only strengthened in the last generation. They will not grow by invitation as our nations do.”
Toklo almost laughed at Tekakwitha’s attempt at connection. He looked her full in the face. Her hard planed visage barely had a wrinkle on her unmarked skin, yet he knew her age was close to his own. He knew she would give up as little in this discussion as he. He could not help but tweak her though, “Yes because the Français King was so open to bowing to his Republic Fathers”
Toklo did not add that the Republic’s growth along the Eastern Coast had not always been the peaceful acceptance of democracy the Republic claimed, there was only so much he could dare.
“And all who stay within the Ice Nation choose to peacefully?”
Toklo felt his eyes tighten, “All who join sign the Covenant, sign of their choosing for a single generation, after which they are given a choice to leave or make permanent their place in the family.”
“And how many have left in all these generations?”
“Our success is based on what we offer, not on the strength of a ‘Father’s guns. They join freely, they stay freely.”
Tekakwitha blew air from her mouth in disbelief. Toklo ignored the insult, he could expect nothing less from the Republic. He could not help but dig back though, “The push of those in your Southern Regions that wish to leave, will your congress hear them before you go to ‘stabilize’ another land?”
Tekakwitha did not rise to his bait, instead she switched tactics.
“I suppose you will be too busy helping the Salish join the Ice Nation this year? Or will you have other work?”
Toklo was offended by such a forward question. But what can one expect from a representative of the Republic, avoidance was not their way as it was his. Toklo briefly considered her last statement’s implications. Could she be aware of his second wife, Tapeesa’s, trip to the Mongols with his daughter, Uki, in tow? It was unlikely that Tekakwitha had heard of the Mongol’s overtures to sign the Covenant this generation.
It had been a shocking request from their trade partners there. The Matriarch had sent negotiators with their traders assigned to the area post haste. None on this side of the Pacific heard much of the happenings across the Western Ocean due to the Hawai’ian Empire’s monopoly on all things crossing their waters. Only the Ice Nation had trade routes past the Empire seeing as they ruled the north on both sides of the Bering Strait.
It was likely Tekakwitha was merely fishing for information. Toklo knew better then to bite. Meriwa would divorce him and take their other wives and children with her to a new husband if he were to start a panic with such news. In his family he was not irreplaceable, spouses were easily left behind in the Matriarchy.
The threat of the Salish Confederacy signing the Covenant had enough nations on edge. The increase in land and power to two already powerful nations was something none could ignore, it would cement both nations as a singular power. To add the Mongols potential joining to those fears was not something the world was ready for.
Tekakwitha stood tall and looked him right in the eye, as if she were being honest. As if anyone in this room was fully honest. The room was filled with unofficial representatives of the nations of the Americas. The information and change diplomates that spoke from each side of their mouths. The Diné Nation had invited all those in the city to come in the interest of avoiding the potential future war in Europe that would likely spread throughout the world.
Toklo considered how to answer Tekakwitha as he ticked off who he knew in attendance. It was a soothing exercise of his memory as he worked out his potential answers.
There was of course the Diné in mass. They were dressed in a mix of bright fabrics covered in chevrons and other designs Toklo were not sure what to call. Similar designs graced silver worked jewelry they all wore. He wondered idly if the designs revealed details about the person wearing them as his own did.
He really should have read up more on the culture he would be stopping over with. He had expected the visit to only be a pass through though, and only last minute had Meriwa decided to stay for a week, giving him a chance to accept this invitation. This was the Diné capital, and their gathering. They were mostly peaceful as a nation, and had a strong interest in ensuring that a war did not start, or at least did not spread to this side of the Eastern Ocean. The size of the gathering reflected the deep respect the other nations had for the Diné.
A lone Tenochca noble stood to one side looking happy yet out of place. Brightly arrayed in green cloth, dark feathers and jade, the man drew the eye. Toklo unconsciously touched his labret. Though much of his piercings were walrus and narwhal tusk, this one piece was a gift of jade from the Matriarchy itself. A link between the two men by the stone they wore, a sign perhaps.
Meriwa would not be interested though. It was unlikely the noble was important to the other Tenochca nobility, or he would not have been sent here were most of the attendees would side against his people.
By a large window, surrounded by representatives of the Free Nations, stood a wizened old crone from the Tawantinsuyu Empire. She wore a bright red woven dress with shawls layered over it. The cloth looked finely woven, and the multi-levels of color highlighted the overall redness of the look. Toklo wondered how she could stand so many layers in this heat. Better to be one of the much lighter dressed representatives of the Free Nations that stood around her. Their clothing looked made mostly of feathers and gold and little else. Toklo was jealous as he looked down at his own seal skin, thin but still too hot.
The Tawantinsuyu would be here representing not only themselves but the Zulu. Both countries had expanded into Europe with the Zulu in the Islands, and the Tawantinsuyu ruling Portugal and the Romans.
The Tawantinsuyu had also spread into Africa when the Zulu had spread into the Caribbean. The two had signed a ceasefire some generations ago creating the Free Nations as a buffer which spread from the Caribbean over into Africa. The Free Nations were filled with the mixing of both cultures and peoples. The two larger nations had grown close in helping these new nations enter into the world stage as independent nations. It was likely the Zulu granting of Independence to the European Islands was another experiment along these lines.
It was ironic really, seeing as the overtaking of Europe had started with the Zulu invasion of the Islands so long ago. Back when they had been called the United Kingdom. An odd name really, seeing as the Islands were made up of warring tribes, United truly only after the Zulu came and taught them to become one nation if not one people.
Toklo could not help but smile at the sight of the Hawai’ian noble making eyes at him from her small court of sycophants in the corner. They were likely plying her with trade questions, and begging gossip from across the waters. There might even be several requesting permission to travel through the Empire, or visit within it here and there. She wound them around her finger like an expert tactician. She was dressed in greens and tans of palm and grass. Purple flowers circled her head like a crown. She seemed unbothered by the heat. Toklo winked at her, and she smiled. They both knew the score between their nations, he looked around to break that eye contact.
The Lakota had a contingent, as did the Numinu. Toklo had little dealings with either, though he knew the Matriarchy had been trading with them both for years. The Lakota had bristled at the thought of signing the Covenant of the Matriarch when offered, but more generations of trade may soften them. Time would tell. The Matriarch taught that patience and acceptance would bring others to the path.
There were so many other nations Toklo was not sure of. Some he knew he should know, others too small for him to currently worry about. They would all have representatives of the Matriarch within their borders discussing trade, but Toklo would have little to do with that. Every person and every nation was important to the Matriarch, but not necessarily to Toklo.
The one face Toklo looked for was Onawa, the Ndee representative. It was true the Ndee would likely use the coming war in Europe to relight some animosity towards the Tenochca, but that would be what it would be. The two countries had been at odds for generations, and would continue for more to come.
Toklo merely wished the familiar face of Onawa to come save him. He looked for her buckskin with it’s hand sewn yellow bead work. She was an imposing woman, if short, that should not be so hard to spot, but he could not seem to find her.
Toklo had met Onawa the night before when introduced to the caravan that would be taking him and his group by airship to the Muskogean Band next week. One did not travel far into Ndee Territory without an escort of some kind, and Meriwa had arranged for Onawa’s family to take them. The short woman was a bit fierce for Toklo’s taste, but Meriwa had become fast friends with the other trader. It did not hurt that Meriwa was going to negotiate aid for the hurricane struck Band’s and it seemed Onawa had family from the coast.
Having taken stock of the room Toklo decided on a way to approach Tekakwitha’s statement.
“It is true, we shall be busy. The Salish Confederacy has made it a requirement of their adoption that men be allowed full citizenry voting rights before they will agree to sign the First Generation Concord. It will be a massive undertaking, to prepare men for such a privilege.”
Tekakwitha sputtered. This would be big news for her to spread. News that the Matriarchy wanted spread. It was time they joined the rest of the modern Americas in offering equality. Men were the only gender not yet allowed this privilege and it was time, it had been recognized, and the Salish had pushed the envelope.
“You are finally going to enter the new era huh?”
“It is time, and it will make our new family more comfortable in joining with us.”
“I must say it is a shock to us all they are even thinking of joining. After the One Day War, most believed the animosity would go on forever.”
Toklo smiled, “Awwww, they were trapped between us and the Hawai’ians, unable to trade as they should because of the trade war. All that coast to enjoy, and no freedom to leave it beyond a few miles. Anyone would have felt trapped. But especially for the plateau traders.
“We understood this. The Matriarch taught us to see that others are different, to trade and help where we may. We helped them after the war, we traded with them, and they have helped us. Their land is vast, their people strong and wise. Their resources mixed with our trade routes have been a great benefit to both nation’s families. It only makes sense when two families entwine so deeply they eventually become one. It is the natural way.”
Tekakwitha blew softly through her lips dismissing his words as if unimportant. He was getting use to her abrupt manner. She waved over the darkest and most strikingly beautiful woman Toklo had ever seen. The woman’s skin was like chocolate straight from the Tawantinsuyu, and her hair was long, curly, and soft like a ready to shear sheep. She was both similar and not in look to the Free Nations representatives. She wore her regality upon herself like a born leader.
She wore a loose white cotton dress with wide sleeves. The edges were covered in bright embroidery of many colors, in intricate and strange designs. The bright white of the dress was like newly fallen snow, which only highlighted her dark skin and the colorful edge-work. Toklo took only a moments breath before connecting her dress and style with the pictures he had seen of the the Habeshan Kingdom. Everyone from the Matriarchy loved coffee, and it’s source was the Habeshan. The woman glided over to stand besides Tekakwitha who introduced them.
“Nigisiti Amanishakheto may I introduce Toklo of the Ice Nation. We were discussing the European Situation, something I know is close to your heart.”
The woman’s gaze was soft, yet hard at the same time. She smiled at Tekakwitha with only slightly hidden daggers, and then at Toklo with an appraising eye. Her voice was soft and lilting as she struggled in to the Diné language they were speaking. “Yes of course, they share a savage form of our faith there as you know. We send missionaries to their banks several times a year, to help them try and climb out of their primitive ways.”
“Yes, so primitive, and yet so much potential.” Tekakwitha fawned on the woman. From what Toklo knew of the strange blood cult found in Europe he doubted Tekakwitha would have much luck in wooing the woman if she shared such beliefs, but one can never be sure. If they truly were more civilized they might not hold the backwards ideas the Europeans had on sexuality.
“Aid to others is a great gift to oneself.” Toklo fell back on platitudes as he gauged the situation. A Nigisiti was a word he knew to be a title of some kind, Meriwa would know. He lifted his hands into the trade language as he spoke. The language of simple hand signs had spread from the prairies to the rest of the world to the point that no trader or representative would be caught outside their country without knowing it. He added this language to the Diné words he spoke in respect to Amanishakheto as she seemed to struggle with following all the Diné words.
“Oh yes, I had heard the Ice Nation will be joining us to the Muskogean to give aid.” Amanishakheto looked at him with a smile. Her own delicate fingers slipped easily into the trade language.
“Aid will be negotiated yes.” Toklo smiled back at her, “Will you be offering aid as well?”
“We shall, and from Muskogean we shall travel to Europe.”
Tekakwitha lept into the conversation, both her lips and fingers eager to ask, “So the Habeshan will take part in events in Europe?”
Amanishakheto’s smile soured, and then returned. Toklo doubted anyone less observant would have noticed, but he had been trained for just this. “We will be there to give aid. We are not so foolish to not see the war brewing, but we will not take part in the violence. We will be there to give aid to those that need it.” She paused before adding, “All that need it.”
“Of course, of course, as will the Republic, we will be there to help grant stability to what is sure to become an unstable region.”
Toklo could not help but groan within. The Republic would spread, this was obvious from what he was hearing. It was their way. The way of many nations. As the Matriarch taught, all had their own way. It saddened him though that it was likely so many nations would converge in violence over the fresh meat that would be the Islands. That violence would spread, to all of Europe surely, and across the oceans likely.
He smiled at the two women, and he could not help but appreciate the smile Amanishakheto gave him back. A Nigisiti whatever that was, perhaps Meriwa could see some trade here. His wife would appreciate him laying the groundwork. Connections and partners from around the globe were always to be desired. Words and stories from everywhere were constantly sought by the Matriarchy. One must have information if one was to plan, and the Matriarchy always had plans.
Part of my short stories in construction projects
Part of the Time Of Nativia Series
- The European Problem, Same story less editing, using colonial terms for most nations, Daniel Hansen
- Letters to Father Toklo I Next in Series, Daniel Hansen