Thursday, June 11, 2009

62 - Minisania

Haiksilias threw a complete tantrum because I had wiped away his day’s work, but after he threw his brushes at the wall and kicked his empty easel over, everything was all right. I owned up to having destroyed his work, promised faithfully not to touch the wet painting again. He stared at me.

"I've had my work critiqued before, but THIS was HARSH!”

“I understand, Master Painter. Was Kurkas a difficult subject?” He didn’t even need brother blob with me, just me standing in the marks again. I asked casually as if I’d known all along.

I could see him consider how much he would be violating Father’s decree, since I had already. “He was less… patient with standing, Spark.”

He moved over to the canvas, his mind already full of tone and pigment. “And if you move your mouth you little royal shen, you die.” He snarled under his breath. It was quiet enough I could pretend not to have heard him. "Oh well, it wasn't perfect anyway. This one will be."


Father decided we would withdraw to the Winter Palace for a few days, even though it was the middle of Anae and spring. He and I rode the Marble Palace laefetas up to the secure house on the Rim, together.

“I have your birthday present for you early my son.”

“Really? Really? Oh I’m surprised Father!”

His eyes were half-lidded making him look like a satiated predator. “It’s very special. Ah, here we are.” He rose as the outer door was drawn back, and waited at the top of the brass filigree stairs for his chair. I slid into my own chair and was carried after him out on the road to the Winter Palace, holding my anticipatory gorge down.

The Winter Palace was less about stone and more about wood. Built in a fifteen hundred year old style out of red and gold woods so the whole thing glowed against the tall-standing cypresses like a hearthfire. Father didn’t usually like the rustic palace, reluctant to leave his comfort.

Servants and slaves had been labouring to pack and remove to the manicured woods, and both Father’s Chamberlain and mine stood under the roof of the portcoche for us to alight.

My suites at the Winter Palace where smaller, even if the rooms were not. I only had the one room for a closet and there were no pools in the baths, only cascades. The windows were smaller though my view over the river was good. Father’s rooms were on the whole top floor.

Binchala waited already, with the obligatory meal, set up in marvellous informality. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”

“Thank you, Binshala. Father wants me to attend him after I’ve gotten cleaned up. He said he wants to give me my birthday present early.”

“That is indeed possible, Spark. The chamberlain has brought the current accounts to add the gift or gifts into the lofty one’s household records.”

My hair was still damp when I came down to the back terrace where Father sat, sipping a bright green drink through the finest white sugar. The area in front was cleared and ringed with lamp-poles should the sun set before the presentation was finished. I assumed that was where my birthday present would be brought.

“Ah, there you are my minimal! There you are. You’ve been very diligent this year and I’m pleased with you.”

“Thank you, Illustrious Father.”

He pointed to the low stool by His knee, indicating I should sit. “Here, my minimum. Watch this.”

He gestured, lifting one finger. From behind the stables a trumpet sounded, and a sound began like the lake on a windy night, or the beginning of a rainstorm. From the stable road a dustcloud rose and slaves along the road began sprinkling water to make sure Father and I would not have to contend with dust.

Out of the dust came slave coffles. Fifty people joined at the neck. Slightly shorter if there were women carrying children. And then second fifty. And a third… there were twenty coffles, two of them children. The Imperial elite guarded them, overseers cracked whips, though there was no fight left it seemed. Yeolis. Every one of the slaves were Yeolis. They hadn't yet been shaved so it was obvious.

I had both hands on either side of my stool, fingernails digging into the underside to keep from showing anything. They were exhausted, though not driven past what the children’s coffles could manage, the lot of them dressed in nondescript slave tunics, feet actually shod, even if in cheap slave sandals. Here and there were single people, men and women both, who were wrist bound as well as the neck shackle. Warriors.

Even not speaking, a thousand people make noise. Here and there a smaller child cried and was quickly suppressed. As they were settled in front of us, I turned to look expectantly at Father and raised my voice slightly. “Spoils of war, Eminent Sire?”

“Yes, yes, my intelligent scion! Happy Birthday! These people are yours.”

I had been dreading that this was the case, telling myself no, it couldn’t be. “Thank you Exalted Father, but my estates have all the slaves they can hold. Shall I sell them on the open market then?”

He laughed, delighted to have more to give me, delighted to have puzzled me. “Ah, my minimum! You will need your slaves to move into your new estate!” He waited a long moment and then gestured a servant forward. The man went gracefully down on one knee and unrolled a map for me. I recognized the coastline as what had been Yeoli. A patch on the map inland from the port town Asinanai… now renamed Kara… was painted silver. “They called this district Olanyeras… or something like that.” It was now painted with careful lettering. Minisania. “This, my son, is your birthday present. Wine country.”

I struggled to say something. Struggled to think. I own his people now. I own part of his country in my own right. In my own name. Bile rose into my mouth and I swallowed hard. “I can see I’m going to have to learn a lot, very quickly, Divine Father.”

He laughed so hard he knocked over his glass of absinthe, the sound of glass smashing on the stone brittle. I looked out over the sea of curly hair with the occasional hostile glint of furtively raised dark eyes.

When I am Imperator, if Yeola-e is conquered, I will set the country free. It was not a promise never to own a Yeoli, or Yeoli land, but I could not bear it. I could not own them. I had to find a way to commit treason, and set them all free, without Father finding out I had spurned my birthday present.

“Wine country? I shall have a steady supply of excellent vintages. Thank you, Illustrious Sire.” I am beginning to sin. I am beginning to hate my father.


  1. "Father decided we would withdraw to the Winter Palace for a few days, even though it was the middle of Anae and spring. He and I rode the Marble Palace laefetas up to the secure house on the Rim, together."

    Should laefetas be italicised?


  2. Can someone pull this hook out of my mouth? I was just swimming along, minding my own business and suddenly I was caught. Now I'm being dragged in a totally different direction.

    Seriously, you've got me now.


  3. It depends oh what poundage I have on the line! Ok. I'm glad to have hooked you hard.

  4. Given independent command of a district?

    If he does a bad job, Father will think he is incompetent and get rid of him. If he does a good job, his dear Illustrious Sire will think he is dangerous and get rid of him. Ah, the joys of being an heir.