(Cf. Uyseʔ Hrefai ‘flowing grace’.)
Hiefae was born in 3427 in Tsopwan, then ruled by the Siadese. Her father ɸiaowe was a Siadese aristocrat with several estates along the Hurtso; her mother Tsyar was Uytainese. She thus grew up in luxury, in calm estates on the Hurtso, with friends, servants, and her own horse to amuse her.
When Tsopwan fell to the Uytainese Restoration in 3438, the family simply moved upriver to Raumnye.
The Siadese conquest of most of Uytai (from 3358) was a strange interlude: Siad βo had always been a remote, backward cousin of Uytai, but now it was in a position to liberate Uytai from the totalitarian ħwentai (Patriot) regime. The Siadese, including Hiefae’s father, thus had the uniquely condescending progressivism of former subordinates. They ostentatiously restored the Yonram, the Uytainese legislature (ɸiaowe had a seat there); they fostered the study of Ereláean languages, science, and technology; they believed in traditional authorities (kings, nobles, priests) but emphasized noblesse oblige.
One consequence was that Hiefae, though she could not inherit, received a top-notch education. She grew up speaking both Siadese and Uyseʔ, and as a teenager was sent to Taiħwul, an academy established by the Siadese in the delta city of Thestyet which taught Uytainese and Siadese history, literature, and music; Hyemsur and Purpau philosophy; Verdurian, and Ereláean science and mathematics taught in that language. She was taught horsemanship and archery but, as the sole concession to her sex, the swordsmanship course was replaced with drawing.
This international comity was complicated by the wars between Siad βo and the Uytainese Restoration (turnon), which flared up in the 3430s. Thestyet and the coast were taken by Uytai by 3435, and Tsopwan by 3438. Taiħwul was closed during the war, but relations were normalized soon after, just in time for Hiefae to study there. ɸiaowe seemed to be grooming her for a diplomatic role. She certainly learned to be diplomatic in the ordinary sense; the Uytainese had less patience than ever for Siadese judgments about their culture.
But her life soon took a different turn. One of her Verdurian teachers, Šm Gardom Isorain, saw great potential in her, and procured her a scholarhip at the University of Verduria— something offered to few Uytainese, and never before to a woman. She left in 3444, at the age of 17, accompanied by two maidservants as well as the new Ambassador to Verduria, Nirtet.
She was enrolled at a girls’ avisar for a year, mostly to improve her language skills; she then studied history, geography, and philosophy (including science) at the University. She and her maids lived at the Uytainese embassy, on Svetla street in the Išira district.
The Verdurians were as interested in investigating her as she was in studying their culture. She was pretty and exotic, but spoke fluent Verdurian, and had an assurance (even a sense of entitlement) that gave her dignity in the face of endless, clueless interrogations (and even medical examinations; physicians were fascinated to have an actual example of an Adurise female to study). She spent as much time in high society as at school, meeting scholars, students, aristocrats, even King Vlaran, and took side trips to Šerian, Zeirdan, Žésifo, and Raizumi. She was called soa saza udanisë, the Uytainese Princess— inaccurate on both counts.
For her part she was curious about the Ereláeans in the way only a Siadese, perhaps, could be. Uytai was interested in technology but little else— all barbarian culture was no more than trifles. The Siadese wanted to know how to get ahead, how to become a great nation, and they were willing to look at Ereláean philosophy, religion, and history for clues.
In her first years she was something of a scandal, as she wore Uytainese silk robes that were transparent, and often revealed one breast entirely. On the other hand, she was herself put off by seeing Verdurian families taking baths together; in her society this was segregated by sex and age.
Despite the interference of Nirtet and his wife, Hiefae had several affairs, and with one of her lovers she had a son, whom she named Kharkhel (Ver. Carcel). One of her maids had recently had a child of her own, and Kharkhel was largely given to her to take care of. The affair wound down before the child had his first birthday.
Nirtet warned her that such carrying on was bad for her reputation and that of Uytai, but she didn’t see the problem— didn’t the Verdurian elite themselves behave the same way? Soon enough she was involved with a Verdurian novelist named Gayo Šandarey. When Nirtet threatened to kick her out of the Embassy she moved in with Šandarey; a month later they were married.
For a few years she lived in the Biško, finishing her studies and bearing a daughter, whom Šandarey named Ilisea (‘iliu maiden’), after his pet name for Hiefae.
She learned that he had lovers— often foreigners, he liked unusual girls. That didn’t bother her unduly; Uytainese men of her class were no better. More troubling was the fact that he was an alcoholic, and an increasing failure as a novelist— his successes were long behind him and he was unable to finish a book. To pay the rent and buy food, she used up the last of the gold she’d brought from Uytai. She went to Nirtet to sell her maids; he coldly informed her that slavery was illegal in Verduria, but he would take them off her hands and gave her a small amount of money.
Desperate, she asked friends for loans, asked the University for a stipend, offered to teach Uyseʔ. She received little sympathy— she was no longer the Uytainese Princess; she was just Ëfai Šandareya, wife of a failed novelist, no one’s idea of an interesting charity.
By chance she found an unexpected savior: Gardom Isorain, her teacher from Thestyet, who had sent her on this journey, and who was enjoying a year’s sabbatical back home.
Isorain had long before promised the Nations faculty a dictionary of Uyseʔ, and had returned with it half done. He hired Hiefae to edit and help complete it; she even drew pages full of logographs as a supplement. Šandarey was jealous, and she left him, with her daughter. She lived in a rented room with another student, sharing meals with the family that owned the house.
The Logora Sfahei Udanisë was published in 3451, and is of excellent quality; indeed, it was the necessary gateway to Arcél in terrestrial Almeology, so that we might say that without Hiefae there would be no Historical Atlas of Arcél. The work can’t be said to have brought her fame, but at least she was known to and appreciated by the small circle of Ereláean scholars interested in Arcél.
Isorain was about to return to Thestyet to teach at Taiħwul, when she learned that Šandarey had published a successful new novel— with the title Soa saza udanisë, with the subtitle Yežlureca coeliboe ‘An erotic adventure’. Mortified, she begged Isorain to take her back to Uytai.
She fell ill on the return voyage, and came off the ship emaciated, barely able to walk. Her daughter Ilisea died at sea. She was in limbo for some time— she couldn’t stay at the Taiħwul as she was no longer a student, and Isorain was of little more help; he had an Uytainese girlfriend who wouldn’t even let him bring her home. But finally she was able to send a message to her family and they sent for her.
She recuperated in Raumnye, back in the comfortable life of the Siadese aristocracy. She began writing letters to far-off family members about her experiences, and these eventually became her first and most popular book, In Verduria (see below).
She married Hanhar, second son of a Siadese aristocrat, in 3458. She lived with him at his family’s estate in Raumnye for only a year; she then established a house in Ɣardze where she lived, devoting herself to reading and writing, and raising three children; Hanhar only stayed with her for two months of each year. This was well within the norms of Siadese aristocratic life, though it would be less approved in Uytai, where the Swolanists, at least, felt that the only preoccupations of a woman should be domestic.
Over the years she wrote five major books, all influential and often controversial. (The titles are given in Uyseʔ.)
- Fertur thu (In Verduria, 3456), at once a personal memoir and a portrait of the country as seen by a curious, intelligent, somewhat disenchanted outsider. She was impressed by Verdurian science and technology, but noted that the vast majority knew no more about how it worked than she did; she was amazed at the acrimonious religious division in Verdurian society, which seemed to her entirely pointless; she noted that “Nothing is larger than the city of Verduria, but by the same token, no one is as poor as the poor of this city.”
- Khar khernrul (The new geometry, 3461), an integration of traditional Uytainese and Verdurian geometry, which she considered the best route to science; it includes the first description of calculus in Uyseʔ. She devised a new notation system for this, based on the Verdurian system but easier for those trained in octodecimal Uytainese mathematics.
- Tyolar keʔ nwai (Characters for children, 3464), a proposal for an alphabet for Uyseʔ. Hiefae maintains that alphabets would foster mass literacy and printing. Recognizing that there would be too much resistance to the idea of simply replacing the logographs, she proposes instead that the alphabet should be used by children, and by extension the masses.
- ʔarkhel nye yonram (Parliaments of the world, 3468), largely a detailed study of the Esčambra, a topic of great topical interest in Siad βo since king Hielam had created the Yuniam in 3450, a very belated imitation of the Uytainese legislature. Hiefae recognizes that popular elections create demagoguery and inefficiency, but believes that they reduce social friction and limit tyranny. At the same time she maintains that the more orderly, community-minded Siadese would avoid the factionalism and class warfare seen in Verduria.
- Har hwai nrar (Man and woman, 3471), a discussion of sex roles, with a spirited protest against Uytainese sexism. She discusses Verdurian society, where women have more rights and opportunities, though she considers that they don’t go far enough; she also discusses Beic sex roles with approval, but also references mostly Hyemsurist writers to show that feminism need not be derived from foreign sources.
Her works (including many shorter essays) have been very widely read; she may be considered the leading intellectual figure of Siad βo and near the top in Uytai as well. As such she’s often travelled to Uytai and Nyandai to lecture, debate, or simply meet other intellectuals.
Despite her measured and informed criticisms of Verdurian society, she’s often considered a zealous booster of foreign ideas, especially in Uytai. The Uytainese have been most interested in her as a reporter and political scientist; her books on geometry and the alphabet have had the most actual impact in Nyandai; and the Siadese seem most interested in her feminist works, as well as anything that seems to criticize Uytai.
To some, especially bourgeois writers, she is maddeningly measured, even conservative; she always reports multiple points of view and rarely allows herself passion or wit. She has very little interest in commerce or practical mechanics; one Nyanese writer complained, not very fairly, that she had seen Verdurian steam engines without even drawing a picture. She is a feminist but not a democrat; she assumes that the most benevolent rulers are educated aristocrats like her father, who wish to improve the lot of the lower classes but hardly to hand over power to them.