Sunday, September 05, 2004

Diary of an Imposter

(The following is set four and a half months before the start of Heirs of Mâvarin)

the mask is symbolicFrom the Diary of Her Royal Highness Cathma Selevar,
Princess of Mâvarin
(except that's not who she is)

Masheldu, 20th Day of Fredor, 896 MMY

It was my birthday today. Not the official one: my real birthday.

My official birthday, on the Sixth Day of Dortem, is a grand state occasion. Representatives of the Twelve Families, except for the two that intermarried with selmûn nobility, come from all over the country to honor Princess Cathma with lavish gifts. Even the royal families of Fãrnet and Derio send presents, whether or not any of them attend the event personally. Even the common people celebrate Princess Cathma's Birthday as a holiday. There is a parade, with decorated coaches and marching guards, and small coins tossed into cheering crowds. This is followed by a feast, with ornate decorations and exotic foods, a speech from the king, music and dancing. The musicians are not selmûnen, or my friend Rutana, but they do well enough.

My real birthday I celebrate in my private suite, writing in my diary and thinking about my life so far. There are no presents. In the evening I visit my mother, as I often do when my schedule permits it.

I am sixteen today. By rights I should have been given a horse, to celebrate my being exactly a year away from the age of majority. Officially, though, I won't be sixteen for four and a half months, so officially there is no horse. Unofficially, there is a horse in the royal stable who is as good as mine, and has been for years.

It's an odd status, being who and what I am. Sometimes I wish I could just forget my real birthday and my real age and my real name. But then I suppose I would have to forget who my real mother is, too. I wouldn't want that.

Exactly six years ago today, Jerela Awer called me into her private apartment in the East Tower and told me the truth. I'd suspected for years that something was odd about me and my family, and our relationship with the First Minister and his family. But I never quite figured out that I was an Awer myself, not until my mother told me my real name, and the date of my real birthday. I am Masha Awer, the daughter of First Minister Lokvi Awer and Lady Jerela Awer. King Jor is really my uncle, Nishi Awer. Nobody in the Palace is really named Selevar. This explains a lot, especially the fact that the king and I have never loved each other, as a father and daughter should, while Lokvi and Jerela Awer have been closer to me than an outsider would ever suspect.

Even they don't understand how I feel. My mother only told me the truth because she wanted to be sure of my love. Well, she has it, just as she's always had it. But she's also taken away the security of my knowing I'm Princess Cathma of Mâvarin. I used to know who I was, even if it wasn't true. Now I don't really know who I am, or who I'm going to be. Five years of growing up, learning my duties and finishing my education haven't helped at all. All this time I've watched the king and First Minister come more and more under the influence of the Royal Mage, and of Mâton. I've watched my brother become more and more like the king he's being groomed to replace someday: vain and foolish and caring for no one but himself. I've tried to find out what happened to the real royal familiy, but nobody seems to really know except Imuselti, and I never talk to him if I can help it.

So who am I? I'm fake royalty, a usurper, playing a role my parents chose for me long ago. Am I wrong to do what they expect of me? It's not as if there's any likelihood that some rightful heir, someone named Selevar, will come to the Palace and take my place. Someone has to be Princess Cathma. It may as well be me. I'm good at it. I know all the ministers and what they do, all the people from all the Families, all the issues, all the things that Mâton demands of us and why. I could rule this country someday, and rule it well. But I'm not the heir. My stupid brother is. We're supposed to be the same age, but he's the male heir and that's that. The fact that I'm really almost a year older than he is doesn't make any difference in the official order of succession. It doesn't matter how young the real Van Awer is, what the real date of my birthday is, what our names are and how we came to be in the Palace.

Except to me.

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