Born to the Blade (1.09): Assassination

Banner: Born to the Blade, a Serial Box Original

With the lowest tier of Twaa Fei on lockdown and rumours running rampant, Kris demands that the Warders’ Circle take action. But the nations are split between those who must follow Mertika’s lead and those who oppose the Empire. Will Mertika come to Rumika’s aid to stymy their ancient rival Quloo?

We need to talk about Bellona.

I’ve been sat on the fence about this ambitious young woman since the start of the season – by turns tempted into sympathy for her, being hopeful that she may see the error in Lavinia’s ways, and being appalled by her relentless arrogance. I watch her antics with a sort of fascinated horror as her decision making is so fabulously misguided.

Bellona demonstrates just how awful the Mertikan legacy is: her memories of her past lives give her a sense of entitlement. She was a hero, although it’s becoming clear she was never as powerful as she likes to think she was – and crucially, as she thinks she deserves to be. Mix in a bit of toxic colonialism (of course she knows better than everybody else, she’s Mertikan) and she’s a disaster in the making. And now Bellona is off the leash, because Lavinia has been summoned back to Mertika to prepare for war.


Oh, right.

Kris has learned some oratorical tricks, but still isn’t much of a diplomat. Their well-phrased, passionate cries for a response from the Warder’s Circle are met with stony faces and nary a twitch of the fingers.

…and then up steps Bellona. If Lavinia has taught her anything (and I’m not sure she has, this may just be a Mertikan trait) it’s how to be cruel when humiliating those you consider your lessers (so: everybody else then). She waits until Kris has lost all hope and is clear they have no support before she intervenes. This is not Mertika standing proud with an ally: this is Mertika letting a lesser nation know that Mertika is their last and only defence.

I’d usually read this with trepidation, as Mertikan support will come at an intolerable cost. If this were Lavinia (well, she’d let the Rumikans die, but bear with me) there’s no question that the price for Mertikan support would be Mertikan sovereignty. Rumika would be kissing their independence goodbye.

But this is Bellona – and I don’t believe for a second that she has official sanction for what she does. Lavinia was crystal clear when she shipped out: Bellona wasn’t to twitch a finger without orders, other than to organise day to day tasks at the embassy. Yet here she is (prematurely) declaring war on Quloo.

I fear the cost to everyone is going to be sky high.

Honestly, that should be enough for any week, but that’s only the prologue. We’re in the final throes of Season 1 of Born to the Blade and everything is kicking off. Anton finally decides who to trust with his secret and we finally – HOORAY – get to hear what the survivor of the Rumikan trade fleet has to say… to Michiko.

Which is just triply interesting, isn’t it?

Michiko remains caught between her duty to Kakute, her allegiance to Mertika and the advice of her squabbling ancestors. She has come to see Mertika for what it is – an oppressive colonial power that despises its subject nations – and to resent the way her people are treated. So it’s a minor act of rebellion to go meet Anton instead of attending Bellona’s spectacularly ill-advised dinner party for Adechike (Bellona, no – just stop. None of this makes sense, trust me).

…and now she has the evidence she has been seeking for weeks: an eyewitness account that can point a finger of blame for the sinking of the Rumikan fleet. It’s highly unlikely at this point that the truth will stop Quloo invading Rumika – the warmongering High Skies faction are entrenched, and will refuse to believe a Rumikan eyewitness anyway – but it puts Michiko in a pivotal position.

The big question about Michiko all season has been whether she will embrace Kakutan independence and join the resistance – no doubt as a figurehead, being the Warder for Kakute and the Golden Lord’s granddaughter – or whether she will follow Mertika’s lead. I just don’t think Michiko is political enough to turn what she has discovered into personal gain within the Mertikan hierarchy – but will this unpleasant truth be enough to final push her into open rebellion?

…if it’s true, that is. It could still be a false flag, frankly. I’ve always had a suspicion that the Kakutan resistance were at the root of all this – and that the former Warder was involved. Just what has Michiko gleaned from the scraps of his paperwork?

I am enjoying all this intrigue immensely. I need to know where it’s going. So no, I’m not going to talk about why the episode is called Assassination. Honestly, that’s the least interesting bit for me this week although if you’ll excuse me I need to tear on and find out what happens next.