Life, stripped of all luxuries

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Title: Life, stripped of all luxuries
Author(s): Keerawa
Date(s): 21 December 2009
Length: ~2600 words
Genre: slash, hurt/comfort, backstory
Fandom: Chalion series
External Links: @AO3; @Audiofic Archive

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Life, stripped of all luxuries is a story in the Chalion universe of Lois McMaster Bujold by Keerawa, written for Dira Sudis in Yuletide 2009. It draws on the brief details of Cazaril's history at the Siege of Gotorget, which are given in Curse of Chalion, the first novel of the series, and particularly the aside about five ways to prepare a rat. The author states in reply to a comment: That sentence about the five ways to prepare a dish of rats in the book always felt like it was trying to open a door - I just had to walk through and see what was on the other side.[1]

It includes the non-canonical m/m pairing Cazaril/Palli; in addition to Cazaril (the point-of-view character) & Palli, it also includes original characters. The author summary is Poetry created under siege. It is rated 'Mature'.

The work is structured as a series of short scenes in the third person as things deteriorate during the siege, each headed by a brief snapshot from the past in the first person, which predominantly start Once I...; the two counterpoint each other. The concluding sentence returns to the first person.

Reception, Recs & Reviews

The story was well received, with reviewers generally finding the story very moving, and praising the characterisation of a younger Cazaril, the development of Cazaril & Palli's relationship, the work's structure, the Bujold pastiche, and the details bringing life under siege to life. Lionpyh credits the work with introducing her to the Chalion fandom.[1] It has been recommended by sasha_feather at Fancake, Espresso Addict and others.

The careful structure of this vignette counterpoints the increasing chaos of life during the siege of Gotorget, and Keerawa's affection for the characters helps to keep the grimness at bay (Espresso Addict)[2]
This is a beautiful story that explores the seige of Gotorget. The harshness, the moments of grace. The bonds formed between the men fighting there. A real gift of a story. (sasha_feather at Fancake)[3]
Caz and Palli under siege at Gotorget, developing beautifully--if grimly--into Caz/Palli under siege at Gotorget. And Cazaril is so very almost our Caz, slowly broken down until he's ready to invite the Gods in, and so proud of all his men. (And I am so glad I had already eaten breakfast before I read it or I expect I would be writhing in sympathy.) It makes me feel like I just found the missing prologue to Curse of Chalion, and now I need to go read the rest! (Dira Sudis)[4]
You've managed to condense a whole lot of emotion into a gorgeous little fic - it packs a real punch. I enjoyed it very much - despite the grimmness, there is a sense of love and hope through the whole thing. I also think you've captured Bujold's style very well, which can be difficult when writing book fandoms! (Jessikast)[1]
Oh, this is amazing. I love the Caz/Palli, but I think it's the story of Deni and the rat that really sums up the siege-- the grim desperation, and the love and loyalty. (Ellen Fremedon)[1]
Ohh. This is beautiful. Grim and agonising, but beautiful. The contrast between the luxuries of the past and the realities of the siege was perfectly done. (Philomytha)[1]
...I read this story at some point in 2011 on a rec, and really liked it, enough so that I became curious about the source, which then was my sole reason for offering the Chalion books for this last Yuletide...
[I]t's strange to reread it now, with all the backstory in place - or front-story, as it were, knowing the future. The glimpses (and in what a place they're given) of the refined, almost over-refined life Cazaril must at some point have had - nibbling at a surfeit of boar's tongue and roasted duck - are already strange to think of by the time the first novel opens, but yes, of course, he must have had a spell of fine court living at some point in his life, to know all that he does, and be as socially adept with royalty as he is. So in canon we see him amidst wealth and beauty once more, and with his mind always ruefully catching back to Gotorget and how it changed his perceptions, and here we see him in that siege and hardship thinking back to that first sort of innocence of luxury. This is one layer further in than we get in the books. The seasonal staging of this, the passage of time - the almost boyishly adventurous or exploratory first section, in summer, where they're still discovering what the fortress holds, and then the absolutely barren end of it, when they all know the place by heart and wish they did not. And augh, Caz and Palli: such a romantic, such a waste. That turned out to be exactly how I read them, too - friends in a very military-loyalty way, with enough affection for each other to be capable of slightly more-than-situational homosexuality, even though they are both more keen on women when there are any to be found. It's funny, I had a slightly different idea of what canon would be like, starting with this - more warfare, less magic, were my expectations in a nutshell - but coming back to it now, it works just as well for the actual-canon as well as my imaginary projected-canon; it's a slightly different story, knowing the world it's from, and a better one. (Lionpyh)[1]

Derivative Works

Kalakirya recorded a podfic of the story for Amplificathon 2013, archived at the Audiofic Archive and one of the first set of Chalion podfics archived there. It is 19 minutes 41 seconds in length, with a cover by Kalakirya.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Comments to Life, stripped of all luxuries on Archive of Our Own (accessed 3 July 2016)
  2. Espresso Recommendations: LM Bujold – Chalion series (accessed 3 July 2016)
  3. fancake: (Curse of Chalion) Life, Stripped of All Luxuries by keerawa (accessed 3 July 2016)
  4. dira: Yaaaaaaay Yuletide!!! (accessed 3 July 2016)
  5. amplificathon: four Curse of Chalion podfics (accessed 3 July 2016)