“Centurion!” I didn’t shout, to not startle my brother to his death. “Why in Hayel isn’t someone going after the Coronet?”
“Spark!” He looked frantically between his men holding the cloak, to Kaita who wept in terror for Ilesias to me. “I cannot ask my men to risk their souls to go up to get the Coronet Regal!”
The nurse, in her skirts and a woman, could not climb up and the guards didn’t dare, risking their eternal afterlife. Ilesias crowed, so far above, and a drop of drool splatted onto the stone floor next to the spread-out cloak.
“He’s just a baby... Kaita, how – “ I cut off. None of how or why was important. There was only one person who might dare climb up on Selinae.
I pulled off my slippers and thrust them into the solas Centurion’s gauntlets. “Here... hold these for me.” He took them, startled,
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray, what are you doing?”
I was already up on the top of the Goddess’s foot before he finished my title. Before he finished speaking I reached up to a fold of her gown. He came up to the base of the statue but I was already above the stretch of his reaching hand and he didn’t dare brush Her gown if he overbalanced.
My little brother crowed loud. “Mi! Mi! He was working on single words and couldn’t say Minis yet.
I looked up toward Ilesias. “Hey, little brother. Stay there. Stay there. I’m coming up to you.”
“You men! Hold that cloak tight!” The Centurion did his ineffectual best. I could hope they’d break his fall if he slipped.
He squealed and reached for me, slipped and grabbed the marble lock of Her hair, his wide smile transforming in an instant from joyful to afraid. “Hang on, Ilesias. You sit there. Sit still!” He tried to pull himself back as I clung to the slippery folds of the Goddess’s sleeve of her outstretched hand, and his feet slipped and he slid down her shoulder toward me, dangling by his hands. “Hang on, Ilesias! I’m coming!”
Below me Kaita cried ‘NO!’ and the solas as well, as if their cries could somehow hold him up in time for me to reach him.
Mother Goddess help me save him! Help him! He’s just a baby! I lunged up Her stone breast, my one hand slipping even as he lost his grip. No... squealing with fear, he slid down the Goddess’s gown toward the precipice, a flailing toe turned him away from the clear fall between her outstretched hands, instead, down toward me. He plunged into my chest, as I grabbed a handful of shirt and hair, but the force of his fall knocked me loose from my one-handed grip.
Everything went strange and slow and I felt like I had lots of time to turn him in my hands, tuck him against my front and put both arms around him, his little head pressed tight to my chest. I curled myself around him, clutching as we fell. Kaita screamed, and the guards were reacting too slowly, moving to try and catch us.
Instead of falling into the gap between the Goddess’s fingertips and her right elbow, we fell only a few feet, landing hard in Selinae’s open left hand, cupped across in front of her body at her waist. I saw stars, the wind knocked out of me, and struggled to make my chest open to breathe. We lay on my back in the palm of Her hand and I held my little brother hugged tight in my arms. I looked up and it seemed as though Selinae’s serene face held the faintest trace of a smile. My breath came back with a whoop and a sob and I sat up slowly.
Ilesias was silent in my grip and I checked him. He seemed to be all right, but a little dazed. “Hey, blob.” I poked him gently in the chest and smiled at him, before hugging him really close again suddenly scared I hadn’t caught him, scared that the Goddess hadn’t really caught both of us.
He was frightened enough without getting yelled at. His eyes were still shocked wide and round. “Ilesias, we know you’re a climber but this is just dumb!”
“Mi!” he said. “Mi... “ His clear words dissolved into gurgles. “Bruzza.” I think he meant brother but wasn’t sure.
“We’re all right,” I yelled down to the group calling from below. “He’s fine!” I did a quick check of his fingers and toes, arms and legs. "He seems fine. I just need...”
I paused because Kaita, suddenly seeing her charge safe, seeing him alive and unharmed, realizing she did not have to explain to Father how her inattention had killed the infant Coronet, fainted.
The solas beside her caught her and lowered her gently to the floor, the others all looking up at Ilesias and me, sitting in the gigantic stone hand. “Preserver of Children,” one of them whispered and they all made the quick prayer sign, one hand flying up to touch their temples, cupped. Their upturned faces looked a little like sunflowers, a little like discs. I wondered if the Gods saw us as flowers like that, gazing up at them.
I shook a little, then more as reaction from the fall caught up with me, but Ilesias wiggled and I knew if I let go of him he’d probably do something stupid like head straight for the edge of Her palm. I couldn’t stop, I still had to get us down somehow. For a moment I couldn’t think of a way to keep Ilesias close and still have use of my hands to climb down.
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray?” The Centurion called from below. “How...”
“We’ll be down in a moment, Centurion.” I tickled his tummy to take his mind off heading away from my lap and undid the sash I had around my waist. I was suddenly glad my top had long sleeves.
I pulled my twelve-more-years-of-growth-and-fat shirt off my back and pulled it over his head. His blond fluff of a head poked out of the big neck and he started giggling, sitting inside the puddles of cloth all around him. I laid him down and tied a big knot in the bottom and tied the arms tight around my neck so Ilesias was against my back, drooling down my neck, pulling on my braid. The sash went back around my waist, securing the bottom knot tight against his wiggling.
He was pulling on my braid both hands, having pulled it into the shirt/bag with him and was yelling ‘horsie!’ ‘horsie!” A huge bubble of relief welled up inside me and I was giggling too. I snorted and neighed at him and he shrieked too loud. But at least he wasn’t trying to climb out of my makeshift bag.
Very, very carefully and slowly, I clambered down the long folds of the Goddess’s dress, moving from rosette to ribbon, from trailing lock of hair to shawl fringe until, at last, I stood again on the top of Selinae’s bare foot, sat down and slid down from the instep to her toes onto the red granite plinth.
Ilesias liked that and shouted, “’gain! ‘gain! Mi, ‘gain!” Of course wanting me to do it again. I turned around on my stomach and slid us down to the floor. When my feet touched the floor, I didn’t kneel down and kiss it but I wanted to.
By this time Kaita sat up, looking pale and a little sick. The solas came and untied my ruined shirt, having to cut the sleeves at my neck since they were too tight to undo with any speed. When they put the bundle of brother into Kaita’s arms where she sat, she finally took a deep breath and some colour came back into her face.
I sat down on the floor, stretching my legs out so they touched all along their length, and my hands flat on either side, to feel the security all along through to my seat-bones and up my spine.
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray... This one must... This one will have to... report this to the Imperator,” the Centurion said.
I closed my eyes. It would be a disaster for Ilesias. And for Kaita. Father could even decide it was a murderous lapse and execute her. My brother needed his nurse.
“Splinter in the Mind of God,” she went forward almost all the way down, as best she could without letting go of Ilesias. “This abject worm set the Coronet Regal down for only a moment...”
I cut her off with a slash of my hand in the air. “No, I don’t want to hear it. He’s fast now that he’s running.” When had that happened? Last time I remember he was still pulling himself around on the edges of furniture, or on tippy toes sitting on his miniature donkey. “It’s all right, Kaita. Ilesias needs a nappy change, I think. Or I do.” I actually smiled at her shock. One of the guards snorted like he was trying not to laugh.
“Centurion. I’m sorry, but can I request you do something a bit dangerous?”
He looked at me as though he’d never seen me before. He was an older man, so he might have, working in the Marble Palace guard. I wondered if I’d made his life more difficult without noticing before. “This one... um... this one is at the Spark’s disposal, of course.”
“I don’t want you to lie... but I’d like you to stretch the truth a bit in your report. Can you leave me out of it and say it was the Aitza who rescued the Coronet Regal from climbing on... ah... a statue? My brother needs his nurse. No need to say which statue--you’re not required to be as precise as Mahid, are you?” I had goosebumps all over my chest and arms. The stone was cold and a chill breeze wafted across the back of my neck from one of the hallways.
He looked at me, hard, then at Kaita who hadn’t moved from her crouched position, and then at the men in his shift. They looked at one another and the decurion saluted sharply and said. “This one begs forgiveness for having disturbed the honourable centurion with so minor an incident. Did any of you men see anything that warranted my alarm?”
“No, Decurion, no, Centurion. Nothing. Nope.” A chorus of noes rumbled out from the guards. “These lowly ones saw nothing that required a major report. Nothing at all. No.”
The Centurion nodded and turned back to me. “This one asks the Spark of the Sun’s Ray’s forgiveness for misinterpreting a nurse’s upset with her charge. Splinter in the Mind of God, this one swears It saw nothing requiring panic.”
“I am pleased to hear that, Centurion... what is It’s name?”
“Kennas Shulashen, solas, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
“I am happy with your diligence, Shulashen, dismiss.”
Kaita had straightened up, her panic turning to gratitude, but before she could start gushing or saying anything I reached for Ilesias who reached back. “Come along, my brother, the splendour of God,” I said as the guards dispersed back to their posts. “I need another hot bath and another won’t hurt you.” Praise Your Name Mother Selinae. This lowly one begs to thank Thee.
Friday, July 17, 2009
“Centurion!” I didn’t shout, to not startle my brother to his death. “Why in Hayel isn’t someone going after the Coronet?”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I kept quiet hoping to fade into the background but Father waved me forward beside Him. “Would you have thought there were so many who looked like that barbarian my son? Yeolis do have a particular look, even with indiscriminate and uncontrolled breeding.”
“No, Divine Sire.” I studied the patterned marble at their little bare feet. Their heads hadn’t been shaved like most slaves, probably because it would lessen their resemblance to Shefenkas. Father put out His hand to have me be the one honoured to help Him to His feet.
His hand, the eagle seal ring embedded in the thick fleshed finger, the chains connecting it to the bracelet sliding, was hot and dry. He showed a smile but His hand quivered in mine. I was certain He did not realize how much He revealed of Himself in His touch.
He laid that arm across my shoulders and perforce I was forced to go with Him, to support Him as He strolled along the coffles of boys. Most stared, transfixed, at His bulk, dressed in a scarlet and gold tunic and gold kilt. His fleshy arms, in the loose sleeves were bigger around than some of the little boy’s legs. He reached to take one boy’s chin in His hand and turned his head to examine his profile.
“As commanded, You Whose Dreams are the World’s Obedience.”
“Hmm, yes.” Father shoved one little boy’s feet further apart with a nudge of His foot, to see his genitals more clearly. His foot was like a giant’s or an ogre’s next to the soft toes of the little boy.
They had all been cleaned up before being presented to Father and smelled strongly of His favourite heliotrope. Some were weeping, already in Mahid control long enough to know to do it quietly. Father touched none of those, whose noses or eyes were running.
“Are there any of these boys, my miniature, that remind you particularly of Shefenkas?” Oh, no. I couldn’t just refuse to answer.
I made a thoughtful sound, rather than answer immediately, trying to think. “Not really, Father. They’re just little boys, not grown warriors.”
“Yes, well that can be modified. Slaves can be sculpted to order somewhat, especially young ones. I remember how eagerly you used the original. Pick one for yourself.” I was seething sick, light-headed as Father pushed me back into that memory. No. No, he’s healing. He’s alive and escaped no matter what we did to him.
I swallowed and chose one, almost blindly. “He looks very close.”
“Very good. Excellent discernment my son, just like your Father.”
One of the older boys, perhaps ten, stared. Not bemused or frightened, but defiantly. No, don’t do that. Don’t defy him. You look more like Shefenkas that way. Father ran a finger along that boy’s cheek, then slapped him. “This one.” He indicated another angry boy in the second coffle. “That one.”
He pulled me around with Him as he turned to Meras, leaning enough weight on me to make me want to grunt. I held my breath instead. “Take those three. Give them the appropriate training to be like my slave who was lost. I want them to be as close as possible to his appearance, even to the disfiguring scar on the face... make that tidier, less hard to look at.” He turned back to His chair.
“I want their teeth done, the brand... everything. Find a Mezem boy to teach them to speak equal-to equal. They should sound right if I allow them to speak.” He settled down, sleeves billowing, taking His weight off me. “And prepare those four,” He indicated them. “As well, for replacements should the first three not be strong enough.”
He turned to the watching court, running His eyes over His current favourites. “Temonen, Liren, Kallen, I gift you each with a new slave... Pick one.” As they hid their eyes in gratitude, I saw Sarinen and Limen glance at one another, wondering why they were not graced with Father’s largesse. Then He turned to Meras again. “In fact, modify all of them so they more perfectly resemble that slave. Keep the remainder. I have other Aitzas to gift.”
I had sword practice afterwards, to make up for my attendance on Father . It felt as though the whole palace somehow ached for the amount of torment suddenly thrust into its stones.
The Mahid would have every room filled with little boys having the scars of a warrior and marks of torture cut and burned into their skin. It wouldn’t be as bad as if they were being fully wounded, more superficial cuts to the skin but... but... I kept having to try and think of something else.
I tried to read, or write, or do something to draw my mind away from what I knew was going on... Shefenkas’s torture and breaking in miniature, twenty times over. I read the same page eight times and could not remember a single word. My ash salver was full of katzeriks that I had lit and put down without remembering to smoke them, burned to the butt ends, like odd incense.
I had dismissed my companions after sword practice, wanting to be alone. One thing I did and could do, was swim. I found that I could push hard now and I might not be as good as I thought but the water was something I could take my jittery energy out on. I never had to put a toe down anymore and didn’t even think about when I was in the deepest part of the big pool anymore. But that distraction was short lived. The moment I was dry my mind circled around to what was happening in the Mahid quarters.
I suppose it was my evil, my fascination with their pain, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, like a dog returning to devour its own vomit. I was forzak so wouldn’t I be fascinated? I checked my body when I came out of the water and found it was finally beginning to behave itself. I didn’t have to strike it.
I couldn’t pray to Muunas... since that night I’d promised myself I wouldn’t approach the High God, so as not to offend Him, but Selinae might not be too insulted if I petitioned Her, for the boys’ sake. She was a protector of children. Perhaps I could petition Her from the Nurturer’s Hall, where her statue bulked as large as Her Husband Muunas’s in the Great Hall, almost three levels high. The nurseries and children’s rooms and the Imperatrix’s wing were guarded by Her. I’d have to try and love him, for us both to be safe, no matter what I felt.
That decided, I threw on my Ten Ten’s clothes. I would do Selinae’s portion of the Ten Tens before her statue. I was required to do the Ritual's practice every day, so it didn’t feel as blasphemous as an informal prayer.
In the hallway from my suites, running my hand along the vein in the marble, I stopped when I heard voices in the Hall ahead of me. The panic in Kaita’s voice frightened me.
“Captain! Please! I cannot! Save him!”
“Aitza, I’m sorry... we dare not. Filias, Damas, Tadas, stretch out that cloak in case the Coronet falls!” What in Hayel was going on? I ran into the hall to see Kaita standing under Selinae’s statue, wringing her gloves and guards milling about at the Goddess’s feet, spreading out a cloak like a net.
“Gods’ Splendor, please come down! Don’t fall! Oh my serene Goddess, help me! Solas... please!”
“Aitza, my apologies, my men dare not. We dare not lay a hand on the Lady. It would be blasphemy for a man to climb Her!”
My little brother, just a year old, sat in a marble fold of Selinae’s hair, cuddled against her neck, where he’d apparently climbed. If he slipped, and the guards missed him with their make-shift net – my heart clenched hard. He’d die. He was so high above the stone floor he’d... I couldn’t imagine it. It was too horrible to contemplate.
He sat, one chubby hand holding onto the Goddess’s ear, reaching out to pat the enormous, pale marble cheek, his little bare feet dangling out over the deadly fall, swinging as he kicked, and yelled down at everyone so far below.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Amitzas didn’t cry out when I broke those fingers, but burst out all over flushed and sweat. It is craziness. I wanted to thank him for being good to Shefenkas. I wanted to hurt him for having tortured him in the first place. I felt sorry for him being in the position he was. All at the same time. And the pain seemed to steady him in a strange kind of way. Mahid. Payment for sins in pain...
I left him locked up on the table, telling the Mahid guard that the medic was needed for him. I also commanded that he stay in his rooms until his bones all healed. Best that he not be under Father’s eye for the next little while. It was another one of those things that could be taken either as a reward or a punishment. I didn’t specify.
My precaution with the muffling gauze must have worked for Meras showed up with the medic. He’d obviously been listening. I ignored him and went upstairs to soak in the hottest tub I had. I had been washing in cold or ice water to mortify my hated flesh long enough that it felt unreal.
I felt unreal. It was like beginning to wake up after a long, long nightmare. I felt as though my eyes had been glued shut with pain and darkness. I wasn’t in the light, by any means but I was better.
The warm water eased my body. I had abused it enough that it was aching almost constantly, swollen and bruised. I relaxed for the first time in days. Perhaps I would be able to sleep tonight without nightmares.
I hadn’t destroyed Shefenkas. I hadn’t. He was alive and functioning enough to escape. Even if he remembered... even if he could remember, he was still alive and free. I could hear his voice in my head. “You choose, Minis. Always.” So even if I was evil by nature, I could choose to display it or not. Even if I were damned, perhaps I wasn’t helpless in the face of it. Even Tobeas said the Gods loved men’s efforts to be good, or just better.
Perhaps... perhaps I wasn’t completely lost to darkness.
Father called me to his side after the Noon meal next day. “My miniature! You should not neglect the place in my court that you were beginning to make!”
“Oh, my apologies, Ilustrious Sire. I was lazy this morning and slept through.”
“Hmph. You were doing so well, I will forgive you the lapse in attendance. You will attend me this afternoon.”
“Yes, Ilustrious Sire.” That meant a lot of standing around while Father did things and I found I was disappointed that I could not take up a new book that afternoon instead. I hadn’t been reading much, having lost my taste for it. It seemed too pleasant for me, and not reading was an ache that I felt I deserved.
We had just listened to the Harp symphony that I found I truly liked. My music master had taught me enough of it that I realized how it was supposed to mesh between the two great harps, the ten steel war harps and the hundred gut strung harps. As Father told the harpists they could rise, Meras came in and my heart sank, wondering what doom he brought with him next.
“Yes... yes... gehit, Meras. What do you want?”
“You Whose Whim is the Will of the World’s slaves have arrived for the exalted’s approval.”
I froze inside. It sounded charming for Father. But I thought of my thousand unwanted birthday presents. “Slaves, Father?”
“Why, yes. I sent a Mahid to the newly conquered territory to fetch me a number of slaves to choose from.”
I was confused as to why Father would want to choose specific slaves, until I saw the boys marched in, two coffles of ten. They were little boys, perhaps between the ages of eight and ten, just having lost the baby chubbiness. Every one had dark brown eyes and black curly hair. Every single one looked like a tiny Shefenkas.
Without the scars of course. I looked down the coffle, meeting all their terrified, overwhelmed and exhausted eyes, like seeing a tormented child of Shefenkas’s. Were any of these boys his children? Father would love that. If any of these boys were his children, I couldn’t know. My lightened feeling was crushed under the fear that rose in my throat.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I strolled along behind Meras, who dragged an unresisting Amitzas as if he were any victim, rather than one of his own. As first of the Mahid, he was exceptional, apparently perfectly able to ignore Father battering another of his family to death behind us.
Outside I was the same nasty boy I’d become over the last little while. Inside I was in a sweat and a roil. How was this possible? How was this possible? Amitzas, one of the finest of the Mahid, completely obedient, absolutely capable as a torturer, feared with almost mindless terror by common Arkans, had failed in his task to break a man. It was Shefenkas. He’d been broken. And somehow he’d come back. He’d recovered enough to not only escape but kill a solas with his bare hands in the dark woods. Cunning and mindful enough to loose the horses and burn the carriage he’d apparently been chained in.
He’d come back from the dark. He’d come back. He was healing from what Amitzas and Father and I had done to him. I was full of a mix of joy and fear and guilt. Joy because my friend... my spirit father... was alive and free. Guilt because Father hated and feared him and I should too. And fear because he’d hate me now for what I did, for what I was.
If he could overcome the best torment Amitzas and Father put him through, enough to think and plan and escape, he was capable of anything. And if the Gods were just then one day, he would kill us. If the Gods were just then both Father and I would be meted out the same kind of torment at Shefenkas’s hand. If the Gods existed, and it seemed They did, because Shefenkas was innocent and Father corrupt, and now Shefenkas was free.
He still had the germ of the head in him, but I was certain that would be somehow made right as well. The Gods... were just and merciful to the innocent. Father and I were not innocent and would be punished. I knew that, somehow, and it seemed a relief. One day I would pay for what I was, the Gods would see to it. If not in this life, certainly in the afterlife when I’d be sent to Hayel.
I had never entered a Mahid correction room before with anyone actually in it. Not to actually work on someone. Amitzas’s one shoulder drooped as he stood by the table. “Get the medic. Father graciously granted him his life. I need to know what kind of punishment he can take.” The Pharmacist stood, blinking through his spectacles, off over my shoulder.
“As the exalted one commands, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” Meras said, and the medic came and checked Amitzas.
“The front shoulder bone is fractured, Sparkle in Muunas’s Eye. He also has an aged heart and would probably not survive Mahid’s Obedience and perhaps not even truth drug.”
“Very well. Put him on the table.” Standard Mahid practise, take all control away from the subject. They stripped him naked of everything. I pulled off his spectacles and set them in the cabinet myself before they locked him down. He showed no sign of pain as they moved the broken shoulder, except for a tightening around his eyes.
“Leave me,” I said, not looking at Meras. I had the cabinet still open and looked at all the vials, neatly labelled, along with the wrapped and sterile syringes laid out on white cotton cloths. The scalpels and pliers, the hand-drills for teeth. There were knife-gags and gags meant to save the victim’s teeth from merely smashing in convulsions.
“As the exalted commands,” Meras said with that faint snap to his voice, showing his anger. I suppose he was having a rough day. Too bad. Amitzas stared at the ceiling. Over the cabinet, at the limit of my reach, was the opening for the listening tube going to Meras’s office. I unwrapped a trailing end of gauze before I jammed the hole with it. That way I could take it out without all this clambering around. Amitzas’s eyes widened slightly as he saw me do this, then snapped shut.
“There. I dislike being eavesdropped upon.”
I climbed down and adjusted my disarranged tunic, the gold medallions along the bottom making it easy to pull straight. I examined Amitzas as he lay on the table. Very wrinkled. Lots of moles and liver spots, even on his flaccid penis. He shaved, not only his face, but his body apparently.
The broken bone on the front of his shoulder was obvious because it was mis-aligned and there was the faintest hint of sweat along his brow and upper lip. His restraints were tight and Meras had even locked his head still. I laid a finger gently on the skin over the break and he flinched against the shackles and tensed up, his skinny, crepe-skinned thighs quivering.
He was very muscular, as Mahid should be, even at his age, the thin, ropey muscles stark under the wrinkles.He didn’t try to roll his eyes toward me. “So, Mahid’s Obedience is unusable -- and I would be risking It’s miserable existence with Truth Drug.” I unlocked the head shackle. “Look at me.”
Amitzas turned his head toward me, painfully away from the swelling shoulder. “It told Father It would not speculate what happened with Shefenkas. That is not an answer. Does It have a theory, It would care to share with me?”
“No, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” He looked beaten already, bluish shadows around his eyes, even though I had done nothing yet.
“I am loathe to risk truth drug to get my answers. Does It know what went wrong?”
“No, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
“What does it believe went wrong?” Of course he was not willing to divulge his failure with me.
He swallowed and was silent. There was something there. I could see it. “Some subjects are more resilient than others, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” This was true, but didn’t touch on what he was thinking. I understood suddenly why subjects were stripped naked. It was as if the act made their thoughts and fears easier to see.
“Tell me your failure, or I will force it out of you, Mahid. To confess it is part of your punishment.” I put a fraction of pressure on the break. “I and the Gods will hear. No one else.”
His eyes flicked to the blocked tube and then back down to me, his body shuddering in involuntary pain. Some things even Mahid cannot control. He licked dry lips and the tension fell out of his body. I eased up on the pressure, took my finger away. “This one failed the Imperator, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
“I know that. Go on.” He shook his head slightly, no. Perhaps he hoped I would be angry enough to try and torture it out of him. Perhaps even torture him to death, rather than tell me what he was hiding. I sighed. “I shall have to risk it.” I went over to the cabinet and pulled out a vial of truth drug and one of the standard syringes, then put it back. I had never administered a drug like that and from the books understood I could accidentally kill someone if I did it wrong.
I searched through the cupboard until I found a small vial of the chemical – paper sulphur - I had just read about in Amitzas’s own library. It could carry other drugs through the skin and thus was used commonly by healers, to treat inflammations. It could carry truth drug with it into Amitzas’s system without me risking his life through my ineptness. I mixed the dose with the carrier and by pouring, trickled it onto his chest without getting any on myself, spread it with a paper scraper. By the time I had it spread out evenly enough that it vanished into a film on his chest he was already beginning to loll.
I would never have believed in a thousand thousand years that First Amitzas was a giggler. I couldn’t help but remember Joras, helpless under the drug, being battered to death by Father, his face completely calm, probably screaming inside as he died. I closed my eyes and tried to close my ears until First Amitzas was deeply enough under the influence of the drug to stop. It was as bad as having someone serve you. It felt almost the same.
I called one of the hall guards to go to my bedside and bring the top book on my bedside stack to me. It was a History of the Phelanas Wars as I recalled. It would give them a look that I was doing as Father commanded, hearing the sobbing giggles behind me, and ensure they knew he was being punished as commanded. All was as it appeared to be. It was all part of being safe in Father’s court. Show people what was expected and no one would question you.
After a while his noise stopped and I put a bookmark in and ran through the ‘Lie to me’ questions. I thought he was not faking or fighting any more, so to be sure I asked him to lie to me about his favourite type of book.
"Romances." Of course.
“Of those you’ve read, which is your favourite?”
“Aitzas Enslaved,” he said calmly. I threw my hand over my mouth to stop myself from laughing. I shouldn’t laugh at him, that was evil, forcing such nonsense out of him. But I knew he was under the truth-drug’s influence or he would never have admitted to liking those books, much less that one, written for fessas boys.
I cleared my throat. “Amitzas, was it true you failed to break Shefenkas?”
“So you know he was broken?”
"Do you know how he could have recovered from that?”
“During that time, when you had Shefenkas as a subject, did you ever do anything you should not have?”
“Yes.” Ah, here it was.
“What was that?”
“Let him weep.” I turned away in my chair and put my face in my hands. I wanted to scream, cry, rage. He let him weep? Of course, no uncalled for actions at all. Make him a mindless poppet for Father. Make him predictable. I took a deep breath.
"Did you do anything else when you let him weep?”
“What was that?”
“Put a hand on his head.” I stared at him, lying completely still but for his boney breathing.
“And this did something?”
“What did it do?”
“Undid a procedure.”
“What procedure? How?”
“Breaking. Comforted him.” He answered in order, by rote.
"Are you ashamed of these actions?”
“Yes.” I took several more deep breaths. Of course the Imperial Pharmacist would think an act of mercy was a sin. I thought of how I liked Shefenkas, even when he was a slave and treated me like an equal, but not offending me. He made all people his people somehow, could even touch a hollow heart.
For that instant, broken, unknowing, hurt in body and soul in a way that Amitzas knew to his bones, Shefenkas could move even an old, hardened Mahid to pity.
Father taught me that loving and caring was weak. It wasn’t true. Father, beating a helpless man to death for telling the truth was weaker than Shefenkas on Amitzas’s table. Even there he could spur a Mahid into becoming one of his people, moved to care for him.
I stared at him on the table and realized I had to ask more. “Will that cure Shefenkas?
In a monotone Amitzas intoned, “This one does not know.”
Of course he didn’t know. “Will he be able to heal?”
“This one does not know.” Even admitting he didn’t know would have to be like fire on a wound for the precise old man.
That was when I realized my mistake, after being so careful to ask the right questions. If Amitzas remembered those last questions, he would realize I cared about Shefenkas. What was I going to do? Then I let out my breath. If he reported me, I would be able to also report him. It might not save me, but he had tried hard not to confess this, so he didn’t want to die, either.
Would he consider himself a failed Mahid and just confess to Meras or Father and die? Would he think it his duty? I sat, and worried over it and threw my hands in the air. Of course, if I was already compromised, what harm would one more question do?
Do you know if Misahis is still alive?”
“In a black cell.”
“What’s a black cell?”
"No light allowed."
“On whose order?” As if I didn’t know.
“The Imperator.” Of course.
“For what reason?”
“Disobedience.” Of course. It was as I thought. Everyone with a shred of compassion or will around Father was being harmed. I didn’t want to know more. I couldn’t help him any more than I could have saved Shefenkas when he was in the city. I hated how helpless I truly was.
I sat and worried my lip with my teeth some more. Even if he wanted to live, Amitzas would crave a suitable punishment, atonement for what he saw as his guilt and sin. Only that way could he live at all. He was Mahid. He needed to pay enough and more than enough for failure. How would I give him that without killing him? How would I satisfy his need for physical contrition? Like my body's sins, he must feel better for suffering for them, like I did when I made my hated erections subside. The pain was so deserved it made me feel better.
It was approaching the Dinner hour and I sent for a tray and a pot of kaf. I had to pull the wad of gauze out before the Mahid apprentices came in and saw. Ordinary servants were never allowed down here. Once they delivered it, I replaced the plug. There would probably be more things going on that I did not want Meras to hear, puffing as I pulled my bulk up on top of the cabinet for a second time, hearing things inside clink together as my legs shook a little.
I was going to have to hurt someone who I wanted to laud for helping a friend of mine. He needed to atone for failing. I was starting to see why Shefenkas thought all Arko was crazy. Amitzas didn’t deserve this. But I was going to have to come up with some way for him to suffer enough that he felt cleansed of sin.
Once back down, I sipped my kaf and waited for him to come out of the truth drug. It was the motion of the already broken bone in his shoulder that gave me an idea. Even at Amitzas advanced age, broken bones would heal.
It was a boring enough time I considered trying to read again before he finally began to twitch in his restraint, his head moving back and forth where I had released it as if he were trying to shake it off or very slowly sign ‘no, no’. Eventually he lay on the table, quivering all over, his breathing changing to a pant.
He was probably shuddering with shame for having shown the ultimate Mahid sin, humanity, and been forced to reveal it. He shook with guilt, his iron control finally cracked, his diamond will tormenting him worse than any drug or torture I could administer. His ‘failure’ was that of a Mahid who was cursed with enough compassion that he had to fight every day of his life to submit, to be as corrupt as Father and me, to be the perfect reflection.
His eyes were closed, brows pinched enough drug in his system to allow the pain through, still forcing a modicum of relaxation. “Amitzas Mahid, can you hear me?” He opened his eyes and stared up at me, bleary, blinking.
“Yes... but what would that one say if this one said no?” His lips snapped shut, too late to call back the loose words, as he struggled to control himself.
“Are you thirsty?”
"Yes." He confined himself to a monosyllabic answer as the horrific tension slowly began to creep back into his body. I offered him water, the design identical to a Haian invalid bottle. It gave me a shiver using it, thinking of Misahis held in the dark.
I turned away and pulled a finger-press out of the cabinet and placed it on my tray. I poured myself another cup of kaf while I waited for his eyes to finally be steady on mine. They flicked to the finger-press and were very thoughtful as they looked at me. I shivered inside thinking he knew I cared about Shefenkas. “Amitzas Mahid. Listen. Your confession was the beginning of your punishment. I have heard your confession. I decree you will keep this secret. You are condemned to live with this knowledge. You are required to be alive to suffer it, every day you are allowed on this Earthsphere by the Gods. And if, by some bizarre circumstance, you are able to place that life in Shefenkas’s hand, you are required to do so, to place your fate in his control.”
He stared at me as if I had somehow grown strange and fey. I wasn’t sure where this came from but it would appeal to Mahid madness, the madness of a Mahid required to be as corrupt as Father and I.
“That arm will be immobile for the next moon, as I recall from your books, so your physical punishment will be further on that hand. Two fingers should be enough to remind you. Do you understand your punishment?”
He continued to stare myopically at me for a long moment before he nodded abruptly, reacquiring a bit of his composure now that I had said something more normal, more expected.
I pulled the listening tube plug out for the final time, tugging it free with its trailing tail, picked up the finger-press and Amitzas moved his gaze to stare up at the ceiling, preparing for me to break two of his fingers on the same side as his clavicle. He wouldn’t scream, but I would bet money chains that Meras had his ear pressed tight to the tube. He would hear enough. “For your disobedience to Father,” I intoned and unclipped the finger-press, settled the four fingers into the separate slots and clipped it shut with the metallic snap such instruments always seemed to have.
I hadn’t eaten tonight and I didn’t think I would, later. I checked to make sure I wasn’t getting any kind of passionate response from my disgusting body before I began ratcheting the handle to begin breaking Amitzas’s middle finger. I should enjoy this. I was evil. Why did I feel so sick?
Monday, July 13, 2009
I spent a lot more time with Father, rather than Him summoning me, I was with Him more and He could just look up and have me there, at hand. I just joined the crowd of hangers-on and became part of the crowd.
They all gave me space in the midst of the crowd, though. I was like a darkened ember floating on the sea of glitter. More gemstones than metal, only Father and I could command gold or silver or steel in any quantity. I took my place in the court and they circled and sniffed like the pack of dogs that they all were, thrust that much further away from the top dog by me, not daring to show any kind of hostility.
I stepped out of childhood then, or began, under Father’s eye. And they began to pay me careful, delicate, court. I had disturbed the smooth flow of court politics by entering into it, the surface so smooth, so unruffled, the undercurrents as invisible and cruel as the drag in the lake through the deep filters where it plunged out through the cliff wall. Anyone trying to swim near there would be dragged down, pinned against the first of the stone gratings and drowned, to be hauled up when the rest of the trash was cleaned out every few days.
In my blackened, unfeeling state it was easy to stand and watch, watch Father play with them, one against the other, feeding rivalries here and there, maintaining them all at a pitch of fear and loathing each other that they couldn’t even think of trying to band against him. After all, He had the power of the Gods on His side. He had all the power. I finally understood what He’d been trying to teach me all these years. The power of fear and hatred was soothing, not painful.
It hurt to care about other people. Like Shefenkas... already practised at not thinking about him I cut off that thought, replaced it with others. Not like stupidly loving people who where to be used and discarded. Take all they could give and if they couldn’t, make them give more. I deserved it. They owed it to me. How dare they not give me what I need, what I wanted.
If they won’t give me what I deserve, I can take it, or something like it. If they won’t give me love then I’ll take obedience and fear. Anyone who shows an open hand risks getting the fingers bitten off. Father would. Therefore I would.
I killed one of the white cats because I could and Binshala became estranged from me after she cleaned the blood out of my salon. I drove them away from me with kicks now because they stupidly kept trying to love me.
The one kitten risked its life and kept sleeping beside me no matter how often I’d start awake and find myself pressed to its soft belly as it purred, and scream and thrust it away from me.
It kept coming back to me when I managed to sleep. I even had the Mahid put it in a bag and take it down to the Mezem. It found its way home an eight day later and I ignored its existence from then on as much as I could.Every time I saw it, I would think ‘I should have someone drown it...’ and then forget that I hadn’t ordered it yet.
My sleep grew no better, but at least now Binshala no longer tried to comfort my nightmares. I had privacy to punish my body if it woke me up at night, usually with ice water, or cold cascades. I would plunge into the ice pool in the baths and when I was shuddering with chills I’d drag myself out, let the slaves dry my skin, standing like a mannequin and take my icy, still-wet hair to bed, cooled away from any kind of passion, any kind of emotion or ardour.
I moved through my days in a half stupor that had Koren in an almost screaming frustration because he would try to insist I study and I couldn’t make myself do it. I would stare at him as he spoke and not hear half of what he said, lost in a fog of blackness and a kind of deadly despair. My exhaustion was constant and there was nothing wrong with me, the Mahid medic pronounced.
I smoked katzerik after katzerik, just to get the ugly rush of energy they gave, making me jittery as well.I no longer skated. I couldn’t be bothered and I ate, always to excess and grew heavier, like Father. I avoided the Temple and all the images of the Gods because I either believed they did not exist or that I was forzak and damned in their sight.
In the fog, I didn’t much count days. What did it matter, as long as I did my ceremonial duty? My secretary would be waiting for me the moment I rose from my blasphemous, vile Ten Ten’s practise and my steps were guided every moment of every day. I no longer struggled against the regimen. On some level it saved me.
I need never see Ilesias, though he cried for me, holding out chubby arms to be taken up. Stay innocent as long as you may, little brother, you don’t want to be near my corrupt and stinking soul. It’s for your own good that I stay away.
Father had me next to him some time after that, watching a new fire-breather and tumbler when Meras came in with one of his seconds. Joras, I thought. They stood, like doom-crows, to one side, not daring to interrupt but obviously wishing to speak.
When the tumbler finished and Father turned to them, they both went down in the perfect prostration, razor-sharp Mahid style.
“Gehit,” He said, somewhat impatiently, wanting to see Nuninibas Temonen’s dance troup that was to have been next.
They came up with the perfect Mahid snap and settled into stillness except that Meras spoke. “I have a report, You Whose Will is the World’s.”
Father’s eyes settled on Joras and His gaze sharpened. He threw up a hand, the chains on the seal clashing, to point at the Mahid. “You. You were in charge of the ransom party."
What ransom? Who’s being ransomed? I couldn’t think of anyone Father was ransoming at all. It couldn’t be... no... the man was mind-broken, a sex-slave kept in the dungeons. He couldn’t be talking about...
Meras said flatly, “The Most Exalted might wish to hear this report in privacy.”
"Yes. All of you... get out... Minis, my son, you stay.” He stopped me from withdrawing along with everyone else. The Mahid stood waiting like black columns.
When the door clicked shut behind the last servant, Meras turned to his man, Joras, and snapped, “Report, Mahid.” It was so clear he distanced himself from his own man, throwing him to my Father’s mercy. Whatever he had to say, he was somehow doomed.
“You Whose Will is the World's, on the twentieth day of carriage travel, the Yeoli prisoner, when taken to relieve Itself in the wood, pulled Its chain out of Its handler’s hands and fled. When pursued, It stopped and killed Hurinibas Aren, solas. This one called the search party to a standstill to track the fleeing slave by sound and these miserable ones heard nothing. It was waiting to attack and kill more searchers. The common solas at this point broke and this lowly worm was unable to call them back.” His voice was flat calm as always, recounting this disastrous – for him – failure. “This worm then regrouped to the carriage to find the daifikas had quietly circled around the searchers, loosed the horses and dragged the gaol-carriage over the camp fire so that it burned.”
Father had listened, frozen, to this recital, while I struggled to understand... Yeoli? Ransom? What was he talking about? It was as though someone had stuck Father through with an impaling stick he sat so rigid.
“You lie,” He said flatly. “Shefenkas was mind-broken, incapable of movement without command.” The Mahid could not answer. He had not been asked anything and any word from him would be seen as a provocation.
Father got up from his throne chair, looming rage. “Get Amitzas in here. We will truth drug this liar.” Shefenkas. Shefenkas. The name rang in my head like a bell. It was like struggling to wake up. I can’t hope. It’s a lie. He was too damaged to escape. I helped damage him. I helped Father destroy him. It can’t be.
Joras was commanded onto the floor right at my Father’s feet and Amitzas slid the truth drug needle into the tender skin at the crook of his elbow with his usual smooth economy of motion. It was always more brutal knowing that it was usually going to take someone apart rather than heal them, though.
While the drug took effect Father didn’t move, staring down at the man gradually relaxing from the rigid Mahid to merely a man.
He was a drooler and Father toed the stream coming out of one side of his mouth. “Lie to me, Mahid. What’s your family?” He foamed and blew bubbles and coughed as he fought to lie as demanded.
“Ef... e.. eff... Efoas,” he finally managed. Amitzas gently ungloved one hand and tested his blood pulse.
He looked up at Father who demanded again.“Lie to me, Mahid. What is your name?”
“T... t... t... J...Joras Mahid, Aitzas."
“Lie to me. How old are you?”
“Tw.. forty-four.” Father waited another moment or two, even after Meras confirmed that the age was correct. Amitzas stood up and backed away, leaving Father with the prostrate Mahid at his feet.
“Mahid. Was your report correct?”
"LIAR!” Father shouted at the helpless man and kicked him in the face, the toe of his slipper connecting with his cheek, snapping his head over to one side.“Shefenkas was broken! He was completely incapable of motion without command! Are you telling me he escaped?”
“Yes.” The drugged Mahid lay, his head canted at an angle. Father kicked him again.
“Not possible!” No answer from the Mahid except for a thin trickle of blood from a small cut over his eye. He could not answer because there was no question. “You’re telling me that Shefenkas killed a solas escaping?”
“And the Yeoli used his bare hands to do this?”
Each time the Mahid answered the way Father disliked He kicked the man again, concentrating on his face. The man’s head snapped back and forth unresisting, the red of contusions now coming up as Father repeatedly drove his slippers into his cheeks. The streaks of red became longer as more cuts were opened. Father raised his foot and stamped down on the centre of the Mahid’s face. No pain showed, no reaction, even as his nose broke and began pouring blood down the sides of his face.
“LIAR!” He turned to Amitzas, His face purple with rage. Was that fear, too? "You! You said he was broken! You showed me a perfected slave!” He stamped on Joras on the floor again, a muffled crack as his cheekbone broke. “An obedient slave! Perhaps you are no longer a good Pharmacist? Or even a good Mahid? You FAILED!” He hammered on the helpless man drugged on the floor with his feet until the man began coughing and choking on his own blood.
“Amitzas Mahid, you failed to do as I commanded you! Meras! Punish this failure! I will be magnanimous and not bother training up one of his tedious apprentices, so he gets to live, but he’s been Senior too long without a reminder that he can fail!” Father’s slippers were slimed with blood and he kicked Joras Mahid again.“Liar!”
Amitzas went down in full prostration, falling on his face. I thought I heard another bone break, this time one of the Pharmacist’s aged ones. “Gehit, you failure!” Meras dragged Amitzas up by the collar and Father slapped him once with either hand, marking him with the seals. “He was BROKEN, you said! He was unchained in My PRESENCE! Just how is that possible?”
Meras shook Amitzas who whispered, “The unenlightened worm dares not speculate.”
“Father.” His head whipped around and I steeled myself not to shrink from His blood-shot glare, His eyes red all around. “Let me correct the Pharmacist.” The birthmark on His face was almost invisible against His flush. His nostrils flared as He considered. Why did I do that? It must be I want to be part of Father’s revenge. Yes. That must be it.
“You go do that.” He spun back to the Mahid on the floor. “Mahid. You’re saying Shefenkas, mind-broken slave Shefenkas, escaped.”
“Yes.” This time Father’s slipper slipped in the blood and tore an ear. “Liar! Liar! Liar!” Each time the sound of his feet pounding into the Mahid’s head got wetter as Meras pulled Amitzas with him and I bowed and followed them, taking Father’s words as permission to leave.“Liar! Liar! It’s impossible! Liar!” Father’s rising shout followed us out of the suite of rooms as he railed at the Mahid, kicking him to death with every word.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
“I... had not yet decided, Ilustrious Sire. Last time... last time, I had the two boys fight in the Faibalitz bowl. Bloody noses and broken arms. One was designated Mathematics and the other... another subject, I forget. The one that won... I would study that day.”
He laughed at the idea. “Good. Excellent idea. So, now you are planning something similar?” He nodded at the books on torture and pain in the servant’s hands now.
“Something like that Divine Father.”
He clapped his hands together, just as the Mahid four I’d sent out came back with the two young men. “So... which shall be which? Entertain me, my son!”
I took a deep breath and reached for the muck inside my soul. They were entirely in my control. Their lives were mine and I should take the fear in their faces and bodies as they flung themselves on the floor below when they realized that not only was I there, but Father was too.
“Mahid,” I called down to them. “Get each one a sword... and a chain.” The two men... they looked to be brothers... were okas. They would be like an untrained novelty act in the Mezem. Father clapped his hands.
“Oh, yes! Gehit! Gehit! Both of you!” Father leaned forward, elbows propped on the same banister I sat on. “I am very pleased with my heir and I give you to him as a gift.”
He expects me to use them up. Just the same way He used Shefenkas. I won’t do that, sexually. It will be more merciful this way. I told myself that, as they stood looking up at us as we waited for the Mahid to fetch the arms.
“I will leave you to your amusement, my miniature.” Father held out his hands for a slave to pull him to his feet, the chair whisked away. He actually patted my back absently as he continued on to the orrery, having given his permission for me to do anything and all that I willed to these two men.
I turned toward them. “You two will fight. Or I will give you to the Mahid, to learn upon, both of you.” Torture it was clear they understood, from their faces. They accepted the swords and chains, reluctantly and they looked at each other, agonized. Then they looked up at me in mute appeal.
As they stood, the four young Mahid, clearly pleased at the prospect of having them to torture, spread to give the two room, and block the exits. As if they would even try to run. I waited another long moment and they did try to break, willing even to face Mahid and torture than raise a blade against each other.
The Mahid were on them like a pack of dogs before they’d taken three steps, disarmed them, struck them once each and threw them back on their faces underneath me. My face was like marble. I felt nothing. I had to make them fight. I wanted to make them fight. They were mine. Father had given them to me. What would Shefenkas think of me doing this? I shivered all over and dismissed the thought. Yes, and look what I did to him... what happened to him. He was destroyed. He's dead. It was as if I were dead.
I looked down at them as they lay on their faces, arms wrapped around their heads. They were in Hayel. I knew that. My smile felt vicious to myself. “Get up. Or you both go to the Mahid and your family will never know what happened to you.” It was a glorious sick feeling inside, my control over them. “You fight... you have a chance that your parents will get one of you back.”
They staggered back up onto their feet, holding the weapons as though they were poisonous serpents that would bite them. Father would say that they had to be forced to obedience, even in the face of damnation. People had to be made obedient to our will.
It was a fool’s dream that someone might actually want to obey, a dream of someone who believed that they were loved, that they were capable of being loved. People were stupid, venal and cruel and the only way to get what I wanted was to be more cruel than they. I had forgotten that and been reminded.
“It is allowed one spasm of disobedience, okas. Enough delay. I wish to see the two of you fight.”
They looked at each other and up at me. I waved at them and one of the Mahid, with a ten-strand whip, tipped with metal spiked stars, cracked it to encourage them. I saw the whisper between them, though I couldn’t hear what was said.
“FIGHT!” I shouted the way the trainer at the Mezem shouted and they jumped and began circling each other. They tried to spin the chains over their heads and flinched back from each other at the vicious buzz, the younger man misjudged and laid his chain around his older brother’s shoulder with a ‘crack’ that staggered him and slashed his shirt.
“First blood to the younger!” I cried. “Younger against older! Who did your parents love more? Who was allowed more? Who got more? Who was the favourite?” I hurled my words at them like darts. All I was doing was pulling sibling rivalry into the open, honestly. “Brotherly love.” I sneered at them. “Tell the truth with the swords!”
They struck at each other, less tentatively, swords ringing as they blocked full on, the younger brother having it knocked out of his hand. The older brother waited until he picked it up again.
"He’ll inherit what pittance your family can scrape together,” I called to the younger man. “You’ll get nothing.” To the older I called. “And he gets away with everything, doesn’t he? He can do no wrong because he’s the younger, while you work so hard to get what is given to him just because he asks.”
They struck harder now. I could see that, they were gaining some feel for the weapons and as hard as they fought, not to fight one another, they were pulled into it, helpless as moths spiralling into a candle. Their despair was obvious and kindled a dark, glossy feeling in my guts, as polished as a gem. Their damnation was mine, like feeding a hunger in me.
I watched as they battered and then cut each other, as much from unfamiliarity with the weapons as ill intent. The older brother had a cut across his face deep enough that his cheek and lip were laid open, blood pouring down his neck, spreading like a flower into the collar of his shirt, his chain hand hung limp, the loop dragging the injured arm down so it dragged on the marble, leaving bloody patterns on the white stone.
The younger had a gash open in his forehead and couldn’t see for blood, he slipped and fell, sliding to a stop at his brother’s feet. He lost the sword in the fall and lay on his own chain. I leaned over as he threw up his empty hand to me, like a gladiator begging for the white.
His brother begged me with his eyes, standing there. I could have relented. I could have been nice. Nice just gets taken apart, I thought bitterly. “Kellin.” I said. Mahid pricked all around him, anticipating him trying to refuse me. He looked down and whispered something, perhaps a goodbye, perhaps an okas prayer. He put the point of his sword on his brother’s chest and pushed hard.
He didn’t hit the heart perfectly, and the younger man writhed and screamed around the sword pinning him like a butterfly on the floor. Blood poured out of his mouth and I heard the older brother weeping and telling him to die already. “Please, brother. Please. Go to Selestialis. Please.”
When at last the younger brother ceased moving, the elder stood frozen for a long moment before looking up at me. He stared up and his eyes caught mine. I had to look away, the sick joy turning bitter.
I still could feel nothing. I made myself cold and black all the way through. He sank to his knees, gently pulling the sword out of his brother’s corpse and flung the weapon away, gathering the shell of a boy to his chest, beginning to moan, ‘No No.’
I felt something now. I felt the beginnings of cracking open and swallowed and swallowed and swallowed more black, plastering over any emotion that might spew out to hurt me.
The Mahid stood at attention still, the one having re-coiled the whip, around the two brothers. I could see their disappointment, even if no one else could. The older brother cradled his younger brother in his arms and raised his face to howl his anguish in a most un-Arkan way, his eyes clenched shut. I signalled to the oldest Mahid to come up to me without calling out.
“See that the young man’s corpse is delivered to their home, with him. After that It is dismissed.” He nodded and withdrew and I stood in the shadow and watched the man cry.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Next day I did every ceremonial thing I needed to do, my day divided up into almost tenth pieces. I ceased mouthing trivial words of politeness. It was hard to make anything come out of my mouth unless I was enraged. I had no energy for anything but snarling.
Shefenkas was as good as dead. I had helped kill him. I had helped murder the father of my soul by raping him, putting a final nail in what Father had started. His mind was gone. He was dead. I could only weep in the middle of the night, silently.
I hadn’t slept well, though I had no dreams I could recall. It was late and dark and I threw down my pen in disgust. I had given Koren the words he wanted. I had given Tobeas the words he wanted, every reference to the Gods hot coals and scald in my mouth and on my heart. I was full of boiling blackness and went down to First Amitzas’s office. I was forced to knock, since he and Meras were both now locking their doors even while they were inside.
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray?” His voice was calm as ever, but he looked frayed around the edges somehow. I stood there, hating him. He would have been the one torturing Shefenkas at Father’s command. He was the subtle torturer where Meras was more direct, more brutal and more physically damaging.
“I require some of Its books, Imperial Pharmacist.”
He blinked at me a fraction of a second. “If the exalted thinks it approp—“
“—of course I think it appropriate! I wouldn’t be here otherwise.” I stepped into his office without asking and he gave way to me. I had never pushed him so and I could see his discomfort. I sat down in front of his shelves. “I will borrow these from you.” I picked out the first of the poisonous and medicial herbals, an anatomy text, `Torture, Punishment and Execution`` and ‘The Dissection of Nerve Tracks in the Human Body.’ I picked out his knuckle suckers and looked up at him. He tortured Shefenkas. He stood, bland as always. I smiled at him beautifically at him and picked up the first one between thumb and fore-finger. “Perhaps I should borrow these too?”
“As the Spark of the Sun’s Ray wishes.” His voice was perfectly flat, but not as calm. I took the book in both hands and ripped it down the spine, still smiling.
“I think not.” I tore the second one as well. “Nor this one.” I picked up the last one, and with a quick shove and slam, dropped it in the lighting snake’s tank. “I’ll be back for more, later.”
“As the Spark of the Sun’s Ray wishes.” There was the faintest hiss on the end of his sentence, almost an outbreath. That was good. I’d gotten him to show me something. I had an effect on him.
I strolled out with my books, leafing through the anatomy text. I turned down the hall to the Mahid apartments and opened the door to a juniors sleeping room. The four in the room scrambled to attention from their bunks and chairs. “Ah. Mahid.” The most senior turned to me while the rest, improperly dressed of course, stared through the walls.
“Chip of the Effulgent Light?”
I smiled at him again, the twisting blackness coiling in me like a lightning snake in my guts biting and biting me. “I require two young men. It and these others will go and get them. I don’t care where It finds them. I don’t care what caste they are. Go hunting for me.”
“At once, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” He nodded and the others began scrambling to dress themselves.
“Bring them to the Great Gallery when It finds them.” I strolled out again as they scrambled behind me. My companions waited for me at the top of the stairs. They were no longer allowed in the Mahid sections by my decree. Not a hardship for them. “You all look like water-brained, boring idiots. Get lost until tomorrow.”
I sat down on the edge of the balcony over the Great Gallery with my books. I read the descriptions of various kinds of torment a human being could be subjected to, dispassionately, feeding the dark sickness that coiled in my groin. This kind of excitement must be what Father felt.
I administered a quick slap to my testicles to discourage any kind of arousal and turned a page. Was this possible for a man to survive this? It was horrified fascination that pulled me through the book. I was engrossed so I heard absolutely nothing until a hand... Father’s hand... snatched the book out of my hands.
I started so violently I nearly fell off the banister where I sat, down onto the marble below and the guard attending snatched a handful of clothing to keep me from going over. “My heir!” He was jovial, on the way to the orrery. “How fortuitous!” He looked over the book I’d been studying and laughed. “An excellent choice if one is to use your Mahid effectively! He looked down at me where I now stood, straightening my clothing. “But why are you out here?”
“I sent some young Mahid hunting for me, Illustrious Father.”
"Oh?” Oh, Hayel. He was intrigued. “Hunting for what?”
“A pair of boys... young men... to set against each other.” I’d been going to do something like Math versus Geography again, have them beat each other bloody... perhaps to unconsciousness.
“Ah.” He signalled and a chair was brought for Him to sit next to me. “Then you and I shall wait together, my amendment.”
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I dreamt Misahis came to me and his compassionate kaf-coloured face almost made me crack, either burst into tears or scream. "I'm not sick. Go away!
“Spark of the Sun's Rey," he said in that distinctive accent, in my dream. "Let me give you your base remedy and I weel leave you be." I sullenly opened my mouth and accepted the drops under my tongue. A second later I was in tears and couldn't stop them coming. I believe he saw them before I hid them, throwing my arms over my face and he dissolved away into my older brother Kurkas’s face. He didn’t say anything to me at all. He stood looking at me, bleeding all down the Presentation gown, over his feet, his blood rising around me, pressing on me up to my chin until I strained to swim in it but couldn’t float and it washed over my lips and nose up to just under my eyes. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t open my mouth to my brother’s blood.
I sat up with a gasp, sweating enough that my bedding was soaked through. It was all a dream, a nightmare. I didn’t do that to Shefenkas. Father didn’t make him do that to me. It was a dream. Yes.
No. It wasn`t a dream.
I had stinging cuts on my back and arms where I had plunged throught the gold chains. I was naked under the silk. That was right. I had left the robe on the floor somewhere. Shen. The servants would have found it. I turned to look through my curtains at the horde of people waiting for me to rise. "Go away and all of you leave me alone,” I snarled. “If anyone wants me they can come to me here."
Binshala came to me with a tray in her hands, with a steaming bowl of water, gauze and a pot of salve and stood silently, waiting. I sat up and slid my feet out onto the top step and wordlessly held out my arms to her. There was no reason for me to be polite. I was evil. I was darkness all the way through. I was irredeemable. If my body could do that to the best friend I had in the world I was Father’s son in every way.
I moved through my morning not bothering to speak. There was nothing to say. I moved through my Ritual Ascension practise, every sacred move grinding into my body my hypocrisy. No wonder Father didn’t believe in the Gods.
My penis lay on my testicles, to one side against my thigh, wrinkled, soft. How could such a small amount of flesh cause such pain? Such intense pleasure? Such hatred? I could just grab the offending organ and cut it off.