Friday, May 29, 2009

54 - Waiting for the Storm's Full Fury

I hid in the library next day. Outside the library the whole Palace was full of the threat of Father’s rage and upset. Mahid dragged almost a full ten of slaves downstairs from his suite for flogging or other punishment. I heard from Antras later, that servants lost their positions for ‘clumsiness’, ‘laziness’, ‘being too slow’ and even ‘I don’t like your look.’

Ailadas found me there and I snarled at him. I gave him a verbal history report instead of a written one and refused to answer him outright in scientific study. “You want to complain to my father today, go ahead -- if you dare. Someone defied him yesterday and he’s furious still.” I know my smile was ugly. “Have fun.” He stood in front of the desk where I had the books I wanted to read spread out. He looked at me and I propped my chin on my hands.

I could see him consider, his spectacles reflecting the light from the clerestory windows, hiding his eyes completely. He was caught between my recalcitrance and Father’s mood and it wasn’t his fault. I sighed. It was so hard to not lash out because I felt bad. “Koren. I… can’t… today. I will have your assignments done tomorrow evening, my word on it.” I had, so far, kept my promises to him and for some reason was glad my word was still good, unlike Father’s.

“Ahem. Of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” He bowed, and left me alone. I looked around to the other desks, the two old scholars allowed in from the University, the librarian sitting at his raised desk under the shaft of light from the windows. Under my papers were some of the books I had taken during the last Jitzmitthra, the books I wasn’t supposed to be able to read or bear for another ten years. The one I was reading was actually an Enchian translation of a Haian medical book.

I found out why it was a restricted book almost immediately. There was a whole section, complete with drawings, of people’s sexual organs, even… I slammed the book shut the first time I realized. Even unpurified women. But no devil showed up to drag me off to Hayel so I opened the book again, nervous that someone would see what I was studying, even though only Ailadas would dare look. And he wouldn’t bother me the rest of the day I was sure.

I read the whole section. I was fascinated, both horrified and enthralled, by the drawings of a child growing in a womb. When I read the Haian’s description of the damage caused by purification in Arko, and found out why so many babies died, I had to go vomit. I didn’t think it might be a lie because it was a Haian text and it was innocently trying to advise an Arkan husband to immediately seek Haian assistance for his wife, especially for a first pregnancy. Particularly if he did not wish to lose his first-born and possibly his wife.

I rinsed my mouth out and gathered my books, crawled back to my suite and into bed, hiding my contraband back on their shelves… that one… “Self-care and Basic Medical Aid for the Home,” by Vinchoser of Berit… tucked in behind the other books.

My suite somehow became an island of calm in the Palace, pressed on, on all sides by Father's rage.

Binshala brought me Post Observance, or Luncheon, in bed, stepping soft and quiet as everyone was doing. I looked at her calm face and wondered if she had children of her own, and if she’d lost any. It was something I couldn’t ask. “Binshala, would you inquire if Ilesias’s nurse would bring him to me? I think… I should learn to cuddle him.”

“Of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray,” she said, so quietly it was almost a whisper. I did my best to eat and ended up mostly drinking the hot milk meant to go into the kaf . I fed the fish to the cats, so ended up with seven of them on the bed with me by the time Binshala and Kaita, Ilesias’s nurse came in with the baby. “Oh dear. Did you want them here, Spark?”

“Yes, please.” Binshala took up the baby with authority from the younger nurse and pushed back the bedclothes. A thick towel went across my lap. “To soak up leaks should his silk pants not catch them, Spark,” she said, the glimmer of a smile on her face.

Ilesias was awake and looked less bruised and red, his blue eyes, a little darker than mine, fixed on me when he was settled with my arm under his head. He felt warm in a good way, not a pee way, and I smiled at him. I tried bouncing him a little and he gurgled at me. “Blphphph!”

“Blphphph yourself,” I answered him.

“If this lowly one may suggest. If the most excellent one would deign to make faces at the baby…” Binshala said quietly. I could make faces at him?

“Won’t that frighten him?” I asked softly. One of the white kittens sniffed at the fluff on the top of the baby’s head and began licking him. “Oh, look… He thinks he’s another kitten and is cleaning him!”

“No, Spark, not if the exalted one is gentle to start.”

Kaita twitched where she stood as if she would chase the cat away and Binshala shook her head minutely. Ilesias closed his eyes and as the kitten started to purr, he smiled. Then he looked up at me and I stuck out my tongue at him. “Look! He copied me!”

“He will Spark. The exalted one can show him all sorts of things, even before he can speak.”

He made me smile. I think he smiled back even though the Haian book said babies couldn’t truly smile this young. It looked like a smile to me. “Hey, Ilesias, you big fat little blob,” I whispered and kissed him. I’d have to quit calling him that or it would become his nickname. He cooed in my ear and grabbed hold of my hair in both fists.

“Ow! Hey! Quit pulling!” He squealed and Binshala and Kaita were there to free me without me losing chunks of my hair. I couldn’t help giggling.

The louder I giggled the louder he squealed and kicked and crowed. “You little stinker! You don’t have enough hair you need mine?” I tickled his tummy and he wiggled, his wrappings coming loose enough that he could wave his feet as well as his hands and he kicked and made a happy screech, with both feet kicking till he flopped on my lap like a fish.

“Spark of the Sun’s Ray?” One of my day servants… Lirenas I think… stood at the door, gloves tucked carefully into his sleeves. ““The Imperator wishes the Spark’s attendance. Right now.”


  1. Yeesh. Mad dad.

    I can't resist. I can't be the only one with this reaction...

    BABY! ^.^ *glee!*

  2. ARGh blephphph BABY! Thank god for babies! So far you are the only one who's said anything about GLEEEEEE. (insert hypersonics here!)

  3. Babies and kittens makes the world a nice place.

  4. Sometimes the only thing that makes life bearable at all.

  5. Babies don't excite me much (I'm not a breeder), but they are a good touchstone for humanity, and this one seems to have reached something human deep inside Minis.