Thursday, June 18, 2009

66 - Kahara, who is this kid, really?

I walk quietly out of the hut, trying to get used to the feel of air on my naked scalp. Kahara bless, it was better than anything I’d thought was going to happen to us even a few days ago. I had only just had time to get used to the idea that I not only wasn’t I dead in defense of Yeola-e but that I was alive and a slave.

The ship they’d stuck us on had been a nightmare and it had almost been worse to find out that one of my husbands, Irikai, was in the lot of slaves with me. It wasn’t great that any of my spouses were caught with me, but the good part had been finding out that Bibi and Tima-e got away with the kids.

I wasn’t chained up any more. I wasn’t getting pounded on, or flogged or raped any more. And this kid… When I saw both him and Kurkas I figured the only question was how long before we were all dead from abuse and use. I recognized the Imperator of Arko from the seals on his hands, and the wealth and pomp, as well as his face from ‘Lives of Notables’, even if I hadn’t had a clue already from all the Mahid. He had on a robe that had more metal thread on it than I’d thought possible, stretched over his fat paunch, and more and bigger gems than I had ever seen.

The kid… A chubby silver version with no birthmark and a look on his face like he’s curious, but the kind of curious where a kid pulls the wings off flies before he makes them walk into a puddle. There’s a lot of Arkan, and we find out later, after all we get marched out and looked at and marched back, that we’re presented to him for his kyashin birthday present, along with the deed to our homes, our land.

I’m a little light headed when he waddles down to look closer at us, holding a scented kerchief to his nose, though we don’t reek nearly as bad as when we were unloaded off that stinking ship and got rinsed down with sea-water before we got walked up here, past Arko the city. It helped the raw spots, even if it made the kids cry. Nobody had any bad infections. Then the snotty kid pulls me out of the coffle and they shave my head completely instead of the rough hack they gave all of us and give me medical attention. The stitches in my shoulder pull. They’ll get taken out tomorrow as far as I can figure out. The army medic doesn’t talk to slaves any more than he’d talk to a horse or a dog.

I reach the area he pointed out to me this afternoon, saying something about skating… though there’s no ice here. I have sweat pouring down my sides it’s so kyashin hot. In the dark the tall lights stand out like beacons, lighting a pale, circular strip of Arkan road. It turns around on itself, a closed circle. Not totally smooth, there are hills and bumps and stairs and waist high slanted railings built along the edges, with the center left flat.

And there, in the lit circle, is the kid. Minis has got skates with wheels and he’s tearing around this ring road like he’s trying to get away from something. I don’t go out but stay in the shadow leaning against a tree, and watch and think.

He was a different kid when he woke me up that night, different than the snotty little kyash from that afternoon. And then he threw these wild ideas at me. He won’t own Yeolis, he says. Or their land. But his Dad just gave us to him. So now he’s asking me to plot and scheme to get all thousand of us home and free without letting his dad know.

The kid scoots up one of those hills and actually goes into the air in a long jump that I’ve only seen at home in the winter… someone sliding down a mountain on a footboard seeing how high or long a jump they can get. Just a normal kid. But the lights catch the jewels on his clothes and around his neck and on his fingers and he looks unreal. Those wheeled skates must be worth a warrior's ransom if they have metal bearings and it sounds like it. And the black spongy wheels. That stuff only comes from some place south far enough I’m not even sure where.

I think of Minis’s face in the light of the lamp that night. I didn’t believe it at first. He was the same kid though he carried himself completely differently… and bam, hands me all of our papers to keep, just like that and all of our crystals. I clutch the crystal I picked out of the jar to swear to keep it all quiet, not sure I should re-string it and start wearing it openly yet, figuring its better just to keep it hidden.

I went into the barns today… picked out three more kraiyaseyel who’d been in my command, swore them to silence, since we’d need more people in on this to plan and make it work. Minis makes another round, wheels swishing on the round road, his hair braided back… probably by that servant woman he has looking after him… The kid has no clue and just up and declares “I won’t own Yeolis… or their land… because of a friend.”

I’m making a fortune just following him around and picking up the stuff he nervously rips off his clothing. Not surprising since his father is Kurkas. I’m amazed he’s both sane and polite. Polite no less. Also because of his friend. If I knew who he or she was, I’d kiss their hands.

So now I’m here, planning to pretend to still be a slave… but it’ll get everyone home again. People are wondering… seeing me apparently loose, but are willing to wait and see. Minis makes another round, bouncing up on a rail, arms out, sliding sideways. His servants must have a kyashin hard time keeping the weight on him, since Arkans like bulk in their high mucketies, if he does a lot of skating… and it looks like he does. But the food… I’ve never seen food like that before. If I ate like that I’d have to work out more than half of every day…

I keep thinking of his face again in the lamplight. He’s a needy kid. Wealthiest kid in the world and living with the idea that his dad might – on a whim – replace him, erase him, kill him and stuff his body away in a wall as if he’d never been born. And he just tells me as if it’s just normal, sitting in the middle of the hut floor. Kyash. Unloved. So where did he learn to love? He’s learning it from someone. And when he pulls back -- because he’s scared -- he gets either scary Mahid-like, or spoiled brat prince.

He’s doing another round, backwards this time. He trusted me. A bare moment after he found out I could talk to him in Enchian and he trusted me. It seemed very innocent for a kid growing up as Heir to Kurkas… but then he’s a kid, and he’s learned to trust Yeolis more than his own people, because this one Yeoli was good to him.

Minis loses his rhythm, sits down on his behind hard enough to knock the wind out of himself, waves the servant back who started as if to rush out and help him up. He says something to the… yeah… I see the bald head -- slave. I catch the Arkan word for ‘Go.’ So I figure he’s telling the slave to leave him alone, maybe it’s a ‘go to bed,’ command but I’m not sure with the wildly complicated Arkan language.

After the slave retreats, Minis stays sitting, legs stretched out straight and a little apart, first rocking his feet back and forth on his heels, then sitting, looking up at the moon showing in the trees. Looking for those voices in the sky they believe in, I guess.

You know, I trust he’ll find the person he’s looking for. Some Arkan I’ll work with to get everyone home to the village. I’d work with a torturing, scum-sucking, raping Mahid if I had to, to get everyone home. If I found out we needed a glass of blood every day for it to work, the person who told me would have to dodge the spatter.

I push away from the tree and head back to the hut that seems to be mine for now, leave the kid still sitting by himself in the middle of the skating ring still staring at the sky. “You be brave, Minis Aan, and help us get home, free and I’ll help you as hard as I can,” I say to myself as if he could hear me.

Kahara bless how do these things happen? Minis Aan, setting himself up into his own personal cell of the Yeoli resistance, because he loves and respects a Yeoli. A bard couldn’t come up with a story weirder than this.


  1. I love it when bards put lines like that in, though I've not the ovaries to do so for myself.

  2. Well, we all know we can't just make this stuff up! ;)