I slid an anonymous note to the Speaking Elder into a parcel meant to go to the Embassy in Sailortown. If they opened it they wouldn’t be able to trace it because I used their own office paper and pens to write it rather than my own stationary. I figured it would be a little obvious if I used the rose-petal paper and my silver ink.
It said basically what happened to Misahis and that he didn’t deserve any of it. Of course they would know that he didn’t. It was the best I could safely do.
Ilesias sat on my lap and played with my buttons--even more than I normally did--as I sat at the desk and penned it and that made my penmanship less recognizable.
I took Kaita and Ilesias into the city that afternoon. This time I avoided Tobeas’s teaching rather than Koren’s. Ailadas was interesting enough that I would have to start sloughing off my less desired teachers rather than him.
I wanted to buy Ilesias his first pair of skates and so wore mine. I stayed close to the express chair and didn’t demand top speed, just a nice quiet, baby ride. Kaita had a ribbon to flutter in the wind for him if he got fussy but he liked the chair so much she had to hold him tightly or he would have crawled right out on the bearing bars.
It looked to me like he was a little throwback to the more martial ages. His chubbiness seemed as though he would develop muscle rather more like the guard lines of Mahid rather than me. I came down on the more slender, gracile side of that family. In that way Ilesias resembled Father already, much more than I, though no one could argue that I did not have the Aan eyes.
He was completely unafraid. He could barely walk and already could direct his miniature donkey at a trot through the palace, making Kaita put the animal on a lead rope so she could keep up. Soon she’d have to ask me to keep up on my skates or have a manservant to wheel after him.
She had already brought him to my sword lessons and he hadn’t been frightened by the shouts or the clash of wood. If he truly were martially inclined I’d hope he tended toward Ilesias the Great’s side of our family and not inclined to be like Tathenas the Brute, Filias No Heart or Boras the Appalling.
Little Ilesias was fearless and I watched him sometimes, wondering if Father would spring up into his features one day, the darkness and evil I knew we carried. If all babies were born evil… no, Minis, babies are born innocent, not evil… I shut off Shefenkas’s voice in my head. If all babies were born evil I would have thought I’d see it already. I would have to keep an eye on him.
At Tomin’s there wasn’t a sign out front but a discreet card in the window said “By Special Appointment to the Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” I raised an eyebrow at that as one of my Mahid handed Kaita out of the chair. I supposed I had bought enough expensive skates from the man that it was allowed. If I recalled correctly, my chamberlain had passed on his request and I’d just signed it.
The entrance to his shop and lodgings were, unlike everyone else’s, not stairs, but a spiral ramp so that one could actually leave the shop on one’s new skates. He had managed to buy one of his neighbour’s homes and had torn down the building to put in a garden and was having a stone circuit put in.
I skated up the ramp and stood looking down onto the one curve of the circuit. The workmen were building forms to pour the next section of stone. It looked like an interesting run and I’d have to come down and try it once it was finished. If those ramps they were putting in were jumps they’d be a challenge.
“Ririen. I require a set of adjustable faib skates for my baby brother.” He was all smiles as he pulled out the straps and adjustable foot plates. I had a cup of kaf while the skate maker gave Ilesias a foot plate with wheels on it, to play with, so he would keep his feet still to be measured.
Baby faib skates weren’t in a single line along the bottom of the foot like the adult, competition skates. They were built more along a box shape with a wheel at each corner, and the wheels were bigger and spongier.
I’d left my skates on, and when the plates had been adjusted with a key and strapped on over his shoes I held out my hands to him where Kaita had just set him on his feet. He was staring down at the straps and stamping his feet, entranced by the noise he could make now and I had to call him to get his attention.
“Ilesias... take my hands.”
Kaita had him around the waist to hold him up since he was wobbling at the hip as though he were a tumbler, his fat little arms waggling. I took his hands... so odd to just take someone else’s hands, and just feel skin on skin rather than gloves... Rather like Shefenkas, taking my hands. I shied away from that thought.
I was holding him up all the way around the shop, skating backwards. He thought he was doing it himself and crowed and laughed and yelled. “Those are good,” I said to the skate maker. “I’ll take them.”
“Of course Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
Ilesias wanted to wear his skates home, even though he was sitting on Kaita’s lap the whole way. I allowed Tomin to accompany us back to the Palace because he had some fittings and maintenance to do on the Mahid team’s skates, just before their next game.
After a time wheeling my brother around the halls, I left Kaita and Ilesias in his suites, him sitting on his butt howling because he couldn’t stand up on his new skates without me. But Father was about to have another bead or two in one of his offices and I wanted to hear everything I could before I had to run off to sword practice. When I eavesdropped on Father, I couldn’t take Ilesias.
Not only would it be too hard to climb up with him on my back… shades of climbing down Selinae’s gown… the swing over to the hidey hole would have been too dangerous. And I had visions of the sound of him giggling or screeching echoing back through the listening tubes… not a good image. So I left him and crawled up into my space. I was beginning to get my growth so the weight was falling off my frame as I stretched taller, to Binshala’s dismay. She tried to feed me up, to keep my Imperial bulk but I found it as easy as before to squeeze through the narrow spot.
He deigned to listen to a ten of audiences in the Small Porphyry office and I made notes on the ones that might impact Inthilin, so far away in occupied Yeola-e. Then I heard Meras’s snake voice.
“We are certain of this report, You Whose Whim is the Will of the World,” he said. I heard the rustle as Father took the paper. I pressed my ear tight to the opening as if I could read the report with my ears. Anything Meras spoke to Father about was something I needed to pay careful attention to.
Father must have finished reading and looked up because Meras continued. “He is in the House of Integrity and I have a force picked and ready to leave on the tenth.”
Who was he talking about? The House of Integrity was on Haiu Menshir, in their House of Healing associated with the University. If it was Meras doing the searching, could it be? Could it be Shefenkas he was talking about? There was no one else that Meras himself was looking for. Ten Gods. If it was--he made it.
“Excellent work, Meras.” Father’s voice was as perfunctory as if he were patting a dog on the head. Then it took on an edge. “Tell me, old friend...” I could see in my mind the stare. “Why did it take so long to find one supposedly mind-broken slave?”
They were talking about Shefenkas. That had to be who He was talking about. In the usual style, Meras did not prevaricate. “My people looked from the escape site toward the Yeoli border, You Whose Justice is the World’s. I have no excuses.”
A silence then and I wished I could see what was happening. Then a rustle as Father shifted. “Hmph. So. Send your men. Bring him back to Me.”
“Expediously, You Whose Whim is the World’s Will.”
“Hardly.” There was a snarl in Father’s words. “Shefenkas!” He called the little boy to him and I slithered away from the listening hole. It was hard enough to endure having a fake Shefenkas sleeping on the bottom of my bed, giving me shocks and nightmares when I woke up, sleepy, and saw his curly head below my feet. I didn’t need to listen to Father abuse his copy toys.
He made it to Haiu Menshir. He was in the House of Integrity. He wasn’t lost. He wasn’t dead. I wasn’t completely forzak.
Shefenkas... heal. You can do it.