You’d be proud of me, I think… I have six friends now. I am teaching them all to swim because they demanded it and we’re passing Ilesias back and forth in the pool so he’s learning to paddle around too!
You’d be upset with me I think… I’m pretending to own part of your country and a thousand of your people. They’re very good at dissembling. The garrison at Kara has no idea that the area isn’t pacified and he can focus on the huge problems he’s got at Kara. It’s all treason but they seem to be willing to keep my secret, and willing to work with the fellow I hired as a factor… he’s an honest man—even at his own expense--and if you ever need some Arkan to work for you look him up… his name’s Inthilin Amras, aitzas.
You’d be proud of me, I think… I managed to find Misahis and my friends and I got his remedy case to him and the other Haians in the cells.
You’d be disappointed in me, I think… because I couldn’t get them out.
You’d be proud of me, I think… because I’ve gotten 1st Amitzas kind of at a détente with me… he and I don’t talk about it but he’s not hurting the Haians the way Father wants… and he’s not stopping me helping them.
You’d hate me, I think… because of what I did, and what I’ve done. I’m so much like Father it isn’t funny and the Gods will send me to Hayel for hating Him… I’m confused by it all…
I found I couldn’t necessarily confess my letters to Chevenga to the flames and bundled them together, keeping them in my horde… It was a little like talking to him, so I kept writing them. It’s not as though anyone but me was going to see them, ever, anyway.
1st Amitzas had left the corridor dark behind him and the silence was deadly. “Misahis, I’m sorry…” Sorry to disturb him, when Amitzas had just been there, working? How dumb was that? “It’s Minis.”
“Minis.” His voice from the end of the row was no weaker thank the Ten. I set the lamp in the niche opposite. Eight cells. All full. Of Haians.
“Did he hurt you?” I set my robe on the floor and the case. Would the case fit through the bars? I hadn’t thought of that, and wouldn’t be allowed a key to his cell. Forzak it. He was at the bars and sat down opposite me. I put the case up to the bars and it wouldn’t fit. I leaned my head against those stupid bars, so tired all of a sudden I couldn’t think straight.
“Minis,” Misahis reached through the bars and hugged my head with his hands. “Just open it and give me the vials… I don’t need the whole case… but if you empty it and undo the clasps it folds together… see?”
Of course. It was full… empty it would fit. “Are you all right, Misahis? You hide this, okay? Amitzas saw me bring it in but didn’t say anything. I think he’s letting me help you, but we can’t talk about it with each other.”
His smile was wonderful to see, though his hands shook as he started taking the remedy vials in through the bars. “Here… take this on up to the first cell… if you can reach Alchaen there… put two drops on his lips if he is in your reach… all right?” If I could reach? Why couldn’t he just… oh…
“Is Alchaen the healer who fixed Shefenka’s… um… obedience…problem?” I meant the complete obedience only to Father but Misahis understood.
“Yes. He is not moving without direct command from 1st Amitzas. I hope you can reach him from the bars.”
I took the vial up and found that whoever had placed Al…chaen his name was, had put the pallet he lay on fairly near the bars. I could reach him if I stretched. He lay completely still, eyes open and blinking occasionally and I fought back tears as I remembered Chevenga in this state. It was somehow worse to see his healer… the one who had healed him from it… reduced to this. The drops went onto his lips and I whispered. “You are allowed to take this in, Alchaen.” I re-stoppered the bottle and laid a hand on the top of his head, that I could reach more easily.
“You fixed this for Shefenka but there must be those who will be able to fix it for you. Ten Gods, you don’t deserve this. You’ll heal… I pray you’ll heal. I hope you can hear me, in there. You’ll heal.”
The next cell across held a woman. She stood, clutching the bars, watching me, in the dim light of the one lamp, her warm brown features, drawn. She – they all—still wore the black Haian robes, the white stripe like a priest’s stole, soiled.
I couldn’t think what to say. It seemed the world’s rudest thing to ask what had been done to her. “What’s your name?”
“Kaninden,” she said. “I’m a surgeon. Be careful of Megidan in the next cell. He’s given her drugs causing delusions and she is set off very easily.”
“Minis!” Misahis called me back. “Here. Give this to Kaninden and see if you can coax Megidan to the bars to take this…”
“All right.” I went back up to Kaninden who watched me, face pressed to the bars. There was no sign of movement from Megidan’s cell. Or the others. “May I ask… what did you heal Shefenka of?”
“And suffering from now?” she said dryly. “I heard Misahis and I’ll take the remedy, thank you.” I gave her the whole vial. “I cut the grium sefalien, hm… germ of the head, out of his head.”
“Oh.” A brain surgeon? “I didn’t even know that was possible.” She took the remedy under her tongue.
“Yes. And I am hoping that my apprentices will be able to do the same for me. In under two years.”
“They will.” I told her firmly. “You’ll all be able to heal, I’m sure of that.” I didn’t know how, but if I could give them some kind of hope, some kind of the same reassurance that Haians gave… it was part of them, their conviction that Life would work toward healing. “Your Spirit of Life, or our Ten Gods, will see to that.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly and made to hand the remedy back to me, but Misahis called up and told me to put them in everyone’s cell and leave them there if I could. She nodded at that and the vial disappeared into her sleeve pocket.
The two men next to Kaninden and Alchaen, across from each other, gave me their names, Taekin of Haiuroru and Tajenden of Kibir, and took the remedies but refused to speak to me otherwise. They were frightened and I understood why they wanted to retreat to the backs of their cells.
The man next door to Tajenden was barely sitting up. He was more injured than she, but he was sitting up now, on his pallet on the floor, watching me, and another man on the other side of Taekin's cell.
He was dressed as a Haian, but his face was lighter, his hair wavier… he was a mixed-breed of some kind, very short, just a tiny bit taller than I was, child size. I took the remedy to Megidan’s cell as softly as I could, the others still watching me, and sat down with my shoulder to the bar, not looking directly into the cell.
They’d said, be careful, and I’d heard her screaming before. That must have been her. I started to hum a lullaby, playing with the vial as if it weren’t important, looking away down the corridor. “Megidan,” I said quietly, still not looking in. “Megidan, it’s all right. I won’t hurt you.”
There was a rustle of cloth but I didn’t look, trying to see how close she was. If it had been anyone but a Haian I wouldn’t have risked sitting so close. Delusions often triggered violent behavior in anyone but Haians. “Megidan. I won’t hurt you. I have something that will help, if you want it.”
I risked a glance into the cell and found myself eye to eye with the wildest looking Haian I’d ever seen. Her eyes were white all the way around and her features distorted with fear and confusion. Her hair was wild and her clothing torn… it looked as though she’d been ripping at them herself. She was much closer than I thought and I had to keep myself from flinching away from the nightmare that she must be living. “Megidan. I won’t hurt you. My name is Minis. A little name, right? A safe name. I won’t hurt you.” I looked away, didn’t move anything other than my eyes.
Then, without looking at the vial in my hand I held it out flat on my palm in front of me, parallel to the bars. “This is for you, if you want it.” I could hear her breathing, ragged and uneven, off to the side.
“Megidan, it’s Kaninden. You know me. Take the remedy, Megidan.” Kaninden called from across the corridor.
We all sat and waited. I tried to sit as quietly as I could. “That’s good, Minis. Keep that up,” Misahis called softly.
There was a sudden motion from Megidan, her hand clawed out and snatched the vial from me before she scrambled away from me to the far corner of the cell, clutching it to her chest as if it were the most precious thing in the world. She huddled in the corner, curled around it, her whole body quivering as she worked the stopper out and shook the little globules into her mouth.
“Shh… shh, Megidan… it will be all right… You’ll heal.” From the cell next to hers I could hear the child-sized healer… the non-Haian, Haian.
“You vill be all right Megidan. It vill be all right.” His accent was mostly Haian but he must have moved to Haiu Menshir from somewhere else, Brahvniki perhaps? I went to his cell next.
“Hello, Minis. Ay em Piatsri, and before you ask, yes I am recovering from something I cured Shchevenga of, and you don’t want to know.”
“I’m sure I don’t want to. But, of your courtesy, if you could tell me, please?” He and I are eye to eye for a long moment and Misahis called me to get the remedies for Piatsri. I turn away to do that and when I came back and handed them to him, he said quietly. “I will be working to recover my fertility.”
How is that possible? They can’t have removed… they didn’t remove Chevenga’s testicles… He’s right, I don’t want to know.
I could understand the pain creasing around his eyes then, the drawn look. “You’re working to fix this yourself? Is there something else, other than remedies I can get you to help you?”
He sighed. “Not really. It is a matter of energy… and protein… I am not like other Haians who eat no meat. I will let myself heal up until I have the means to fix the damage.”
“I’ll try and get you what you need. I don’t know how but since Amitzas let me carry Misahis’s remedy case in here without saying anything, I might be allowed to do other things.”
“Thank you, Minis.”
From across the corridor, the Haian sitting on his pallet called to me, “I wouldn’t mind a drink.”
I turned to him. “Aren’t you getting enough water?”
“I’m Merchoser and I’m not talking about water. You Arkans…” He started to sob. “I’ve been held by Arkans for more than twenty years now…” I grabbed the bars, appalled. He meant alcohol. Haians didn’t touch the stuff, usually.
“Shh… Shh. Merchoser. You’ll be all right.” That was both Kaninden and Piatsri. “You don’t need that poison. Your wound is healing.”
“Yes. The old Mahid stuck a knife into my chest-wall because I healed Chivinga—“ the Haian pronounciation of the name “—of a sucking and infected chest wound after he fought the sons of Horoken.” Merchoser had quit sobbing, and taken a drink from a waterglass next to his pallet.
“Horoken? Horoken the Accursed? The sons of Horoken the Accursed?” Only the most feared pirate in the Arkan sea. The name that Arkan mothers used to frighten little children into obedience. ‘Be good or Horoken will come and eat you.’
How… how had Chevenga done that? I shook my head hard. “He… um.. you… um… Horoken?”
“Yes. I can tell you the whole story if you like. Chivinga saved me, got me home to Haiu Menshir after nineteen years held captive by the Horokens… and now I’m here, held captive by the Mahid.” He held his chest and tried to take a deep breath. “Not much different.”
I went back to Misahis, who wordlessly handed me vials, nodding at me. “Um… Merchoser… can you reach these? Is it too hard to get up?” He was already working on getting to his feet. I could understand why of all the Haians here, he seemed the one with the roughest edges.
“I’ll reach the remedies. And if you want I’ll tell you about being rescued from Horokens by my own patient. Chivinga was without words, until he was under threat… then the illness inflicted on him by Arko was suppressed until the danger was over.”
He managed to get to his feet. “This, in truth, is very light compared to what I healed him of… don’t mention that to the Mahid, would you? I’m assuming no one would dare truth-drug you.”
“Hmph. Well.” He took the few steps to the bars and sat down, gingerly, supporting his chest with both hands. “Give me the remedies, and sit down. I’ll tell you all about it.”