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Off the Books

 Extracted from the Grafeiokratia of Vibia Lymphatica Taran-Il, with little effort. 

This I heard on the subject of bureaucracy when the militia of the bear’s country were in the lands around Dwernapple, when Anlantina One-Eye was Inrana’s woman in the city. Claudia Hwarin-Nullia spoke first, arriving in Anlantina’s office on her invitation, where there already was an auditor, one Chichiton from Ganbarri. 


CLAUDIA: Hallo! What seems to be the problem? Riots over the swill they call brandy again? 


ANLANTINA: Hallo, Claudia, you old pestilence, the problem today is you. 


CLAUDIA: How’s that?


CHICHITON: Pardon me, colonel. 


ANLANTINA: Well, Claudia, you’ve been practicing a bit of the old daimonology, haven’t you?


CHICHITON: Madam legate…


CLAUDIA: Daimonology, you say. 


ANLANTINA: Yes. Your paperwork has been summoning spirits of headaches, of fatigue, of exhaustion, of grasping thirst for the fruit of the vine, and of mild annoyance to bedevil me. As this young man has taken the time to inform me. 


CLAUDIA: Ah, hallo, I don’t think I caught your name. You’re from the revenue service, yes? Checking up on the books? 


CHICHITON: Y-yes. My personal name is Chichiton, I was a temple orphan, and I’m currently-


CLAUDIA: A little dog under the devouring dog, ha ha!*

CHICHITON: -currently participating in a preliminary audit of the Queendom’s finances on behalf of the Imperial Revenue Service. I’ve been assigned to Dwernapple, and as your regiment is formally billeted here in Dwernapple, the provision of food, lodgings, and the disbursement of pay, as well as certain other services, are the responsibility of the legate and the city. 


ANLANTINA: A minor weight compared to the difficulties with the aqua vitae project, but at times the weight falls right upon the back of my neck, and it is beneficial to remove it, don’t you think, Claudia? 


CLAUDIA: Yes, inspector, that is the case, though there are some minor subtleties, of course. And the provincial command disburses pay as well. Are there some difficulties with the paperwork? Do I have to reprimand that girl Spuria for treating the request unseriously? 


CHICHITON: The paperwork appears to be complete and fully submitted in order. Stylus marks all precisely aligned. 


CLAUDIA: Then what causes such underwhelming inconvenience to the darling, impartial, valiantly just legate here? 


CHICHITON: The problem is that the paperwork contradicts itself. 


CLAUDIA: Ah? Are you familiar with the ins and outs of a working regiment, inspector puppy? 


CHICHITON: Not as such. So perhaps I should begin at the beginning. How many soldiers are in your regiment, colonel? According to the records from the Deezola priestess, which agree with the Ration Draws Worksheet I received from your aide-de-camp, you draw six thousand, eight hundred and five kilos of grain each week, except on Death weeks, when only six thousand, eight hundred and four kilos of grain are drawn, for a total of seven thousand, seven hundred, and seventy-seven times seven kilograms of grain as your formal rations. 


CLAUDIA: Oh, so that’s why we get less on Death weeks. 


CHICHITON: And by law, each soldier receives one kilogram of grain per day for their rations. 


CLAUDIA: Yes. 


CHICHITON: So there would be rations for nine hundred and seventy-two soldiers, and some scraps. And these are disbursed in units of fifty-four kilograms at a time. 


CLAUDIA: Well, I don’t have a counting board or a slate handy- no, no, that sounds right, put that down, legate. 


CHICHITON: But when I look at the Scroll of Organization and Equipment that was also provided, there is instead this schema. A “Wane” consists of seven files of seven soldiers, and there are in turn seven Wanes in a cohort, and seven cohorts in the regiment. So you should, by this measure, have two thousand, four hundred and one soldiers. 


ANLANTINA: A Wane of Wanes. 


CLAUDIA: The SO et E says that? Well, it shouldn’t. 


CHICHITON: I noted each commander of wanes and cohorts as I went through it, you can see them here. 


CLAUDIA: Mhm. Mhm. Ah, I see. You see where the fifth Wane of the third cohort is commanded by a Lieutenant Nihila? And the fourth Wane of the fourth by a Sublieutenant Neminis? 


CHICHITON: Yes. 


CLAUDIA: Those units have no one within them. Did you think that those were actual names? Especially when they were repeated with minor differences so often? 


ANLANTINA: Perhaps he assumed that, like so many other great families of the Heartlands, the militia prefers to keep things within the family a tad? 


CHICHITON: But even after removing all the Nihilas, the Neminises, the Ahtletzins, the Midenikas… well, I count seven Wanes in the first two cohorts each. So fourteen. And then there are four Wanes in the third. Two in the fourth. Two in the fifth. None in the sixth. None in the seventh. Total of twenty-two. 


CLAUDIA: Well, is his math right, legate? 


CHICHITON: This would work out to one thousand and seventy-eight soldiers, one hundred and six more than the number of rations you’re drawing. Which one is it? 


CLAUDIA: Hah. That’s what it is, huh? Well, that’s the difference between the ration strength and the book strength. 


CHICHITON: What? 


CLAUDIA: You see, when we- pardon my coarseness here- when we assemble a platoon and then put them together into a company, there is an ideal order of seven times seven times seven. That’s how it’s done by the book, as written by the Ram and Warrior himself with guidance from Polaris, and then as amended by my ancestress the Conquering Daughter, and again by Aronius Jaranthir, and then by the Bellex Maximus Primus, and- well, you get the idea, and the legate is stroking a letter opener again. 


ANLANTINA: I don’t comment on your personal habits. 


CLAUDIA: But, well, it’s a bit awkward to split up those forty-nines and three-hundred-and-forty-threes, yes? And the ration laws are carefully worked out for auspicious assemblies to approach the ideal of one thousand soldiers as closely as possible, and to extend our reach within Time, they assume a Wane of fifty-four soldiers, and then eighteen of them. Nine hundred and seventy-two. And that’s why the two words are mixed up, wane and platoon. 


CHICHITON: Go on.


CLAUDIA: So the ration strength and the book strength are of course calibrated for the ideal numerological synchronicity, but I can tell you right now that the first platoon of the first cohort, located right here in the city, has fifty-two soldiers who draw pay. Usually, they fluctuate between forty-eight and fifty-six, but sometimes when you know you’ll be posted to Balazar or worse** for a tour, you’ll start with close to sixty so that you can have a good forty-four when you finally make it home. Losses, desertions, that sort of thing. 


CHICHITON: How many soldiers do you have, then? Out of pure curiosity. 


CLAUDIA: The last time there was a count, I had one thousand and fifteen soldiers all together, not counting servants. I started with one thousand and twenty-nine. 


CHICHITON: How do you feed them all on rations for nine hundred and seventy-two? 


CLAUDIA: Oh, we buy more rations. There should be receipts on that as well. 


ANLANTINA: Where do you get the money for this? Your troops don’t look, well, pardon my assumptions, but-


CLAUDIA: Oh, yeah, my girls aren’t drawing from the haute sort. They all have places reserved in the Flowers of Death and such. No, the Steel Mask*** pays for those extra rations. 


ANLANTINA: Why? 


CLAUDIA: It’s in our budget paperwork, I don’t know if Spuria sent that over to you, Inspector Puppy. In any case, we receive the bounties for the raising and contribution of cavalry, both light and heavy, as we have both, and we receive the bounty for the organization of specialist magicians, and the offset for the organization of our own companionship program. 


ANLANTINA: You mean you’re getting paid for your two dozen bodyguards as if they were an entire cavalry unit? And those furtive little sneak-thieves that go gallivanting around on ponies too? 


CHICHITON: Where are the latter two on the scroll, exactly? 


CLAUDIA: Cavalry is cavalry, even if I do sometimes have to turn one of those girls upside down and shake her until half the regimental silver falls out. Oh, they’re both under second platoon, fifth cohort, immunes


CHICHITON: I see. Well, I don’t.


CLAUDIA: Well, we recruited heavily from the Uleria temples, yeah? But eventually they ran a little dry on such persons of numismatically mediated affections as wished to go off to sit around in garrison and hurry up and wait. And then I thought, with my scant intellect, “Let’s make up the numbers with some sensitive, artistic sorts.” 


ANLANTINA: And why did you think that this would allow you to scam- 


CLAUDIA: Not one bit of dishonesty on my part! The girls in that platoon offer a simple and straightforward service of producing lascivious artwork to order for the discerning customer, via postal request, in charcoals, inks, or full paints. And then they worked it up into a full ritual, which I am sure someday will be deployed to full devastating force on the field of battle. 


CHICHITON: I suppose I’ll have faith in that too, I actually don’t know how I would begin to report this to my superiors. 


ANLANTINA: For my part, I think that I shall offset the portion of my taxes that goes to this nonsense and solve this minor aqua vitae matter at the same time.


CLAUDIA: And how’s that? 


ANLANTINA: It’s “permitted and encouraged” to provide additional alcohols if there is a shortage of gin, and of course Great Sister’s favor falls upon those who encourage the stumble-footed to just say no to hard drink. And so, it is with a river of regret that I inform you that every amphora of our attempts at applejack will make its way into your barracks going forward, until we produce something that can be sold without shame.


CLAUDIA: Well. 


CLAUDIA: Eh.


CLAUDIA: I think it’ll give them a sharper fighting edge. Set their minds to working out ways to dispose of the stuff. And if all else fails, I suppose the girls in the 2/5th always need paint thinner. 


CHICHITON: There are still several other matters I would like to discuss. If that's not too much of an inconvenience for you, madam colonel. 


CLAUDIA: Inspector Puppy, your graciousness is a very raft against the flood of ingratitude that seems to swamp this whole district! Of course I'll sit and discuss things with you. With the aid of a drink.


ANLANTINA: Help yourself. 


CLAUDIA: Pfah! What do you call this stuff?


ANLANTINA: It doesn't have a name yet. We made it by mixing cider and mead and placing the result through the aqua vitae process. We might call it "honeyjack".


CLAUDIA: You might call it a hazard to the public health. 


CHICHITON: Madam colonel, my questions are related to certain expense reports you charged the Queendom for.


CLAUDIA: Yes? 


CHICHITON: For example, this submitted purchase order for thirty kilograms of beeswax for the purposes of "ear and nose plugs".


CLAUDIA: Ah, yes, that was a bit of overpreparation on my part. There were rumors going around that a local nymph was receiving highly restricted offerings of moon elf musk, and I thought it best to be ready to move in and take xer into custody. 


ANLANTINA: Musk?


CLAUDIA: Well, not literally musk, no.**** 


CHICHITON: And this was not done? 


CLAUDIA: Well, in the event, a settlement was reached where xe agreed to discourage such displays of devotion after I explained the process used to extract musk from the moon elf. 


ANLANTINA: So you lied. 


CLAUDIA: I was so perfectly honest that Dayzatar himself would grudgingly admit I had a fraction of light within me before having me ejected from the heavens. The nymph in question simply dreams xer way to acquire it directly and consensually from the source now. 


CHICHITON: I see.


CLAUDIA: I filed a report on these efforts, in fact. In full detail, to enable other such peaceable resolutions. 


CHICHITON: Tholm preserve me. There's another one, wherein a private soldier was sent home on medical leave via carriage at market rates because, and I quote, she "broke a nail". 


CLAUDIA: Ms. Legate, that look is very unbecoming on you. Inspector, I'm afraid that my aide-de-camp filled that request out somewhat hastily. The soldier in question was a sickly child, and she had a great many charms against Mallia and spirits of disease and plague bound together in a charm centered on her middle finger on her left hand, and she would dismiss such spirits with a gesture such as this. 


ANLANTINA: Well. That's gutsy. 


CLAUDIA: So when her nail broke, and the charm broke, a dozen spirits of disease attacked her at once. She's convalescing well, I've heard. 


CHICHITON: And the commissioning of "commemorative tailored leather kit” for the officers, with an additional set labeled only as “privately commemorative”?


CLAUDIA: May I see the order?


CHICHITON: I had it copied out, so yes. 


CLAUDIA: Well, I'm afraid this is just outright fraud, graft, and corruption. And signed with the legate's stamp, too. Who could have forged such a thing?


ANLANTINA: Claudia. 


CLAUDIA: Yes? 


ANLANTINA: Claudia, I think it's absolutely childish of you to do this. 


CLAUDIA: Corruption is no laughing matter, madam legate. Especially not corruption done in the name of a preversive desire to see an officer and equestrian of the Heartland Corps in the special polo gear and have her pose for you.*****


ANLANTINA: Do you think that your trysts with wandering fox women go unnoticed? While you're picking orange hairs out of your teeth?******


CHICHITON: This was a discretionary purchase by the legate? Well, it looks as if it was misfiled, then. I won't be getting to the general fund for several weeks, and I suppose I'll examine it in full context with other such irregular purchases then. Good day to you both. 


ANLANTINA: Rufelza's Sack.******* I'm gonna have to burn so many documents.


CLAUDIA: Or get a goat. There's a drive from Kostaddi coming through soon. 


ANLANTINA: Don't be absurd. Feeding the papers to a goat would be proof of the earthy corruption of my deeds. Fire purifies. 


CLAUDIA: Fire has its work cut out for it. 


ANLANTINA: What are the going rates for your…


CLAUDIA: Sketchy Sketchers? I think I can negotiate a special price for a particular customer. Horses are extra. Quite a lot extra. 


ANLANTINA: It's not the horse or the rider, it's the trousers, really.



* "Chichiton" means "puppy" in Dara Happan, and is not uncommonly given as a name in parts of Kostaddi and Rinliddi. 

** Claudia's rating of Balazar as the depths suggests that neither Pavis-jobs nor Corflu-jobs were in the vocabulary of the army at this time.

*** A synecdoche for the coterie around Bellex Maximus, the Steel Proxy, or a martially-inclined Mask which served as a makeshift general staff. 

**** Perhaps not even figuratively such, not having uncovered this precise report within the archives.
 

***** "Preversion" is of course the standard New Pelorian terminology for a kind of atavistic return to old Dara Happan ways of thinking, used as a frequent pejorative. It is unclear just how this particular interaction would have strictly been preverted, of course. 

****** Not actually proof in and of itself, as this is Holay and that red-orange color is common there. But perhaps there would be nothing scandalous about such activities with a worshiper of Vinga the Red Woman. 


******* There was a marching song still sung when I was in the service which explained at length the many things that could be found in this bag. Suffice it to say, pairs of balls were only the beginning. 




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