Monday, June 8, 2009

59 - The Real Imperial Sword

Dear Che:

Father has forbidden me to associate with you. I am going to be developing an interest in someone else in the Mezem but I’ve just started sword training so I won’t have much time. It’s the same teacher who runs ‘The Bellicose Arts for Young Aitzas’, Master Ririan. He doesn’t like us getting all smelly working out and is very careful that we get the forms right. I think Koree is a better teacher.

I hope your friend M is safe. The Pages story makes no sense so the Ministry of Serenity is covering something up, I just don’t know what. I can try to find out if you like.

I’ve just been in bed an eight-day on Misahis’s orders [he’s Father’s Haian and he’s really good]. He said I was over-stressed.

I’ve found your advice about little brothers is really good. He has a cute smile and I’ve learned how to cuddle him without getting peed on much. I’m still praying for you and even if I’m seen to be ignoring you… I have to obey.

Until I can develop a passion for someone else at the Mezem I won’t be able to see you. Are you all right? Do you have a Haian? I mean about the germ… ummm. Never mind.

With my thoughts,

I sent Antras with my letter. He was being very good and he had never let on to anyone that I was sending him down to the Mezem with letters. I thanked him before he went, and asked him to wait for a reply if he would be so kind. He kind of smiled at me. “Of course, Spark of the Divine Sun.”

I finished some work for Koren, waiting, then went into the baths and told everyone to go away and practiced swimming. I found out that I could hold my breath and swim under water half way across the pool before I had to come up… and I could swim all the way round now without stopping. It gave me something to do while I waited.

Dear M:

The Pages story makes no sense because it’s a load of malarkey, to put it politely. They did escape. It was supposed to be all three of us, but something went awry. That big fire the same night, I set that. I say this all freely because the Mahid know full well. So I thank you for your prayers for Mana. I hope he is safe too.

Being peed upon is part of having a little brother, at least while they are so little. He'll learn not to soon enough. Yes I do have a Haian, thank you. And I am glad you have one, from what you write. Take care of yourself; keep thinking, all will be well. I know it's hard.

As far as getting smelly during sword-training goes... I guess your instructor has never smelled the inside of a suit of armour? Tell him that as far as Yeolis are concerned, you aren't really a warrior until you can eat a meal downwind from yesterday's battlefield on a hot day, and still enjoy it. That's what I was taught.

In regard to what stressed you: remember always, Minis, that we have responsibility for only for what we have power over. If you are made to kill, for instance, you have not killed; only the person who made you has killed.

Ever pleased to continue our non-association,


I wanted to tuck the letter under my pillow as if I could be closer to Shefenkas that way but the ink would just smear all over the sheets and I’d just lose it. I slid it into the Haian medical book since that was the book I was hiding most carefully. It was like a hug glowing away in my secret space under my fountain. There wasn’t a lot of space down at the bottom of the ladder but someone had built a wall niche in behind the rungs big enough for a book with a little space left over. And it was a place that only I knew.

I started wondering if it might be an idea if I hid some things away in the dead-end secret space. Just in case. If I wanted money than no one else knew about, for some reason. I couldn’t imagine a reason but I resolved to stash some things away there. It felt good. I could put away some of the books just for me too. Like a personal library that no one else knew about, of all the books and things I wasn’t supposed to have.

Dear Che: What if I hid you in a secret place in the Marble Palace?

And the answer I got back was obvious.

M: Your father would rip up the city to find me, truth-drugging everyone along the trail. Che.

Including me. Perhaps starting with me. I hid the note with all the other things I was starting to gather. It was so funny after a while… I put a pillow in this dirty old space, covering the dirt with a dozen little carpets and felt like a dragon pup surrounded by his gradually increasing hoard. I was careful to announce that I wanted this or that, so no one in my household would be sacked for theft. No one ever asked me what I was doing with these things.

But that day I waited until I heard the chime announcing the Imperators bath beginning and called Definas. “You come with me. Just you.” That was to keep the others from all trailing along like a straggly tail.

“At the exalted’s will,” he said. He looked nervous and that was enough to discourage the other boys and servants from asking any further.

“Father will be a full bead, getting lowered in, getting cleaned, getting lifted out and dried. We just need to be quiet.” He nodded but went a little pale. “You want to see the real Imperial Sword, right?”

Another nod. So I motioned with my head and we went down and over and along, avoiding the slaves polishing the hallway from Father’s chambers where they’d started, right behind him so he wouldn’t have to see them clean.

From the laefetas there were two suites to pass before we reached the clear glass wall demarking the Imperial Chambers themselves. The clear double doors were four times the size of the famous door in the Mezem. The inner doors were also glass but were covered with both frosted and clear flames. Just outside the bedchamber was the final set of glass doors but they had red and gold glass flames.

Inside the final hallway it was quiet, all the guards outside the inner hall so as not even their breathing would disturb Father’s peace of mind. It was un-nerving enough that we both looked over our shoulders. I threw a hand over my mouth to keep from giggling and he snorted, laughing and then I snorted and we hissed and struggled to keep our laughter in.

The doors to the bedchamber were counterweighted marble so heavily inlaid with gold they looked like solid metal and moved with a finger-touch. The latch clicked and I tugged the door open so we could slip through the narrow crack.

The bed was invisible behind the sheet of fine gold chains that were the bedcurtains, glittering not only with the gold but the chips of razor glass studding them. The chains were fine enough and thick enough they looked like a sheet of gold all the way around the bed hiding it and the massive black marble column that was the headboard with the Aan sunburst in the center. That was only visible with light inside the chains. In the daylight it seemed to be solid gold. Definas had never seen it, since he attended me not Father and he gazed at it with his eyes wide and round.

“Come on!” I whispered to him.

I led the way through the closet devoted to day robes, the closet devoted to his footwear, trailed my fingers across the Imperial armour closet and went on to the closet room devoted to night and under clothes.

Tucked in next to the laundry chute, the leather baldric snugged tight around it was the gold and leather scabbard that looked dark and almost shabby. The gilded brass basket hilt showed the cutout of the eagle his wings spread to protect the knuckles, the red satin lining replaced countless times in its ancient life.

I picked it up and pulled the heavy blade out of the scabbard a hand-span. The blade was a bluish-silver damask pattern of hammered steel marked here and there with the tiny dark marks showing a blade that had eaten men. It quivered in my hand and Definas had both hands behind his back.

“That IS the Imperial sword,” he whispered. “It makes the one with all the jewels look like a toy.”

“Yes.” I gasped as the sword nicked me as I slid it home. “Sorry,” I whispered to it as if it could hear me. “I’ll put it back.” He nodded solemnly, the stony silence in the bedchambers making the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I put it back softly and we ran, so as not to get caught in Father’s chamber without permission or summons.

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