Wednesday, July 15, 2009

83 - The Replacements

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.

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