I am Naime-Martisset yr Astok. My parents and their marriage-patron are long dead, as am I.
I persist now as a memory, one of the Ship’s-Hearts, though it’s no longer a ship, really, but … that’s another story. Too long to tell now. Though you asked me for great detail, you did not reckon on my time scale.
A lot can happen in seven hundred years, and it has.
Naime was the name given me at birth, Astok my great-clan. No one alive remembers the person I was. They tell me that the ceremony is re-enacted every year in the Shipwrights’ Chapel, to the accompaniment of the recording I commissioned. That at least satisfies me. I meant that to make an impression.
I commissioned that statue of the god of war, Martis/Mortis, the ghastly wreck of the ancestors’ world.
“Carve it with my face,” I told the sculptor. “I’ll sit for you as model.”
I sketched it, I took the things they all meant to celebrate in their sentimental recollections of the heroism of war. The artist and I conspired to roll them all into one unforgettable image: ancient beyond reckoning, that conqueror on horseback with the hanging skulls of the conquered, weapons strapped across the back, sword in hand–archaic even then, before our distant ancestors left the Original World–but with my face in white stone, white translucent stone to stand under the circular opening in the dome of the Shipwrights’ Chapel and be brought to life under the rays of an alien sun.
I sat for the portrait, in the ancient fashion.
“Bring work while you’re sitting,” the sculptor said. “If you spend the entire time staring off into the heroic middle distance, you’ll just look bored.”
So I brought my tablet, and my Gate of Hours, and the treatises of the ones I meant to refute. Not only engineering calculations, but the words of my enemies. I plotted this performance, I stared them down, I worked out refutations in the margins.
And the sculptor took notes.
They could as well have scanned me, measured bone and flesh, built a simulacrum —
But the traditional art of the portrait is something else, still mysterious after tens of millennia. There is the measuring eye, and then something else — the intent, the exchange of energy between artist and sitter.
When I faced her finally, Martis/Mortis who was of several sexes on the Original World, she looked back at me with the face I turned to my enemies — my own face, in the mirror of the argument between us.
“Death has neither sex nor gender, no more than the sea,” the sculptor said.
Old wisdom. Like the sea, death–or our lust for war–takes the shape of its vessel.
And then, in public ceremony, recorded for posterity, I did obeisance to the victims, kissed the foreheads of the dead. Then I took up the sculptor’s mallet and smashed my own portrait, Martis/Mortis who bore my face and sat her horse just like me.
And that is why I bear the second name Martisset, child of the god of war.
This was masterful. The tone, the phrases all gave a strong sense of the immense character of Naime. Thank you for posting.
Powerful intense snippet. I’d love to know more of the story