Tobeas woke me, disapproval etched into his face. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray, once you pass your second threshold you will be required to take up a number of Heir’s Rituals. You are aware of this, yes?”
I blinked sleepily and slid out of bed for Ten Tens practice. “I am aware of this. Yes.” I mimicked him automatically, just to annoy him.
“You are required to learn these rituals, Chip of the Effulgent light.” His fruity voice actually held an edge.
“Yes. So I will do my Ascension Practice and then you and I will go out to the Presentation Square. I am minded to learn the Winter Solstice ritual in the Fire Fountain. The mist will be cooling.”
I held my arms for my cottons as Tobeas sputtered. “But, but, but –“
“If you say ‘but’ one more time I will think you are a part of the Great Press, Tobeas. Perhaps we will study the Ritual in question tomorrow if you cannot adjust? Or can you?”
“Spark of... of the Sun’s Ray, of course I have the capability of adjustment. Of course. I was merely startled. I... I... I... I will adjust...”
He was in a study all the way through my Ten Tens, trying to re-adjust his mind to teaching me outside the Marble Palace. He was no Ailadas Koren to come up with a way to teach me despite unreasonable demands.
The Fire Fountain was just off the Presentation square and I did like sitting in the midst of the mist on the hot days because I could be outside and cooled rather than in the mausoleum depths of the Marble Palace.
“Spark. You understand then that you will be required to accept the flame from your Divine Father?”
“And carry it on a complete circuit of the Temple... yes, yes. I play the part of the new sun making my first circuit to call the sun back. Then I place the flame in Muunas’s lap and prostrate myself to show that I am submissive to the most High.” I wrenched a button off my tunic and it slipped out of my fingers, arching high to bounce once off the stone grating where the mist poured up. It bounced and then skittered into the next slot, disappearing in the darkness.
The garden slave carefully raked the grass between the benches and grates, a dimly moving figure on the other end of the park, appearing and vanishing in the fog, unreal as a dream.
“Have I sufficiently learned, honourable dekinas?” It was so hard to try and be civil. But Shefenkas was civil even in the most hideous of circumstances. Surely I could manage to be polite to someone who merely annoyed me. He blinked and nodded abruptly.
“Thank you for your diligence, Tobeas.”
“I... oh.. of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray. You are most gracious.” He bustled away, somehow lifted by my simple courtesy, leaving me and my Mahid behind in the mist lit with morning sun. Like Shefenkas said. ‘Simple courtesy.” So easy to say. So hard to do. If I wished to be like Shefenkas I would have to watch my mind and my tongue every moment, so I would be more like him than like my sire, and like all my teaching.
I would need to be like Tobeas and adjust. He had just shown he was capable, was I? I raised my face into a coil of wet, letting the fog caress my cheek. I wanted a hug from someone so much, but there was no one who would give me an honest one.
"Enclosed is the latest accounting from your vineyards.” Inthilin seemed to be handling his assignment well. I’d gotten one letter from Ancherao and I thought she had probably gone to fight, since. This was his invoice, for the wines I’d told him I’d buy.
“There are a number of repairs still needed to the presses and we need a new shipment of barrels. There were no coopers in the slaves assigned to the estate so this one shall have to purchase.” Not that I cared what kind of excuse he came up with to fulfill the spirit of what I wanted. “The war is far from here now, and we very seldom see any sign of conflict.” This was good to know. “The estate is very pleasant, Divine One, and should the exhalted one consider a manor here it might be planned for soon.”
He wanted me to build a manor house there?
I supposed I could send the money. I assumed he needed it for something, not necessarily a manor, since he did not suggest I try to find an adaptable architect. It was his creativity. Or he was very, very obliquely suggesting I consider fleeing to my estate should I need refuge. No, there was no way. No reason for me to flee except from Father and He would think I might go there.
It was probably for some emergency.
Enclosed are drafts for the required funds. A manor house? Yes. I like the idea. Keep me posted.
I had hired him on my gut feeling and I hoped he continued capable. He seemed to be. Capable. Adaptable.
I felt like I was at war inside myself. Or withering, I was not sure which. I woke up screaming again, the Yeoli boy cowering away from me against the post of the bed. Had I touched him? I couldn’t remember the dream.
I tumbled down out of the bed not looking at him. No one came. That was good. They all knew it was just another nightmare. I flung myself in the cold pool and held my head under as long as I could, came up gasping and chilled, shaking. I could see the Yeoli peeking out of the bedroom, vanishing when I caught his eye.
I hoped I was capable. I clenched my eyes shut. For Shefenkas’s sake, I couldn’t leave one of his people in such a state. “Boy?”
I had to call twice. “Boy? Come. Come here.”
He slipped into the bathing room, hands behind his back, head down, watching from the edges of his eyes. The Mahid training painted over his little boy features. “Do you swim?”
I wasn’t sure he heard me, but his one hand slid out from behind his back and flipped up in a fleeting yes gesture. “Itai.” I said, not sure of the pronunciation. “Go for a swim, then. This is the cold pool. The middle one is cool. The bubbling one is hot.” I remembered Shefenkas swimming and showing me how to swim. I ducked my head under yet again to clear the burning from my face.
When I came up, he was sidling toward the middle pool, watching to see if I’d object or change my mind. When he settled into the water and stretched out to float it was if I’d taken chains off him. I caught a flicker of a smile and then he dove under and came up like a dolphin.
That was all I could bear and slid out to dry myself off. “Yeoli...” He paused, treading water, not looking at me. “You have permission to swim, if no one is around. Dry yourself and come back to the bed when you’re done.”