My companions were all on their feet waiting for me to get up next morning, barely. I opened one eye and moaned… sent them all back to bed before they threw up on my floor and triggered my own nausea.
The cat… the one I hadn’t been able to chase away, purred on my pillow and the others were all there… I had the odd notion they were trying to comfort me.
Not that it needed any help. I accepted Binshala’s help, her holding the basin. She even stroked my hair out of the way and I didn’t snarl at her. I leaned into her hand. “I’ll be the death of you, nurse.”
“Hardly, Splinter of the Divine Light. The exalted one might be the death of himself but not this one.”
I could hear the smile in her voice. Perhaps she didn’t hate me. My head hurt too much to pursue that thought. The room was still spinning a little, like last night, but not from drunk, I think. I took the cups of water she kept offering me. The Mahid medic came and gave me powder for the pain in my head but the taste nearly had me vomit it up again. I clung onto it as hard as I could and after a while I could stomach more water.
I could hear my companions in the next room, when he gave them their powders as well and I put a pillow over my head to shut it all out. That was when Father came in. The noise and clatter of his entourage was very loud. The court ladies jingled with their jewelry or chain-strung dresses, gloved hands holding their jewelled lap dogs tight in their sleeves so they wouldn’t chase the cats in my room – my cats now, I supposed. The excited whining, muffled through clamped shut mouths was spectacularly annoying.
I peered out from under my sheltering pillow and winced at all the gold on Father’s shirt. “Well, well, well.” I flinched again as Father boomed at me. Of course he was speaking normally but it sounded loud. “You got drunk and Meras tells me you climbed up the highest tower on the roof.”
“Yes, Divine Father.” It was all I could manage.
“And then you mooned and pissed on those sent to get you down safely, I understand.”
“Yes, Divine Father.” I waited for His wrath to fall on me, both hands clamped over the pillow on my head. I clenched my eyes shut tight and wished with all my heart He’d get it over with.
He started laughing. “I wish I had seen it, my miniature! I truly do.” He patted me in the middle of my back, once, twice, both too hard. “Next time you get drunk with your companions, don’t do something quite so dangerous, it upsets the Mahid.” And with the kiss-ass laughter of the court echoing His, He left, saying “… pissed on them all…such a sense of humour My boy has…”
I lay in my sweat and aches and nausea, feeling like Meras was pounding on the top of my head with spiked gloves, thinking blearily… that’s it? He isn’t going to punish me? Oh. He thought it was funny? I suppose… in a way… it was…funny. A prank. Like something He would have done, I guess.
The relief didn’t stop the next wave of nausea and I dragged myself out of my awful, dirty bed to the baths and just sat under the cool cascade, letting the water pounding on my head outside compete with the pounding inside. They’d be able to strip the bed while I was out of it.
If I needed to vomit, the drain was right there and I wasn’t lying in my sweat. And I could keep trying to drink the water falling on me as I was so inclined. I stayed in until I was wrinkled and shivering but was able to sleep again after I was dried. I was up in time to eat dry toast for Afters and managed soup for dinner. Blessedly, there were no additives in the soup at all.
It was several days later before I felt totally myself again. Silken Gloves was wicked stuff. And I was sure the Yeolis would make a lot of money with it. I’d do my part for that to happen, gifting bottles to people, warning them it was potent. I gifted a case to Father… saying it was from Minisania. He, of course, did not get piss-sucking drunk on it, but was very pleased.
I was just tying the sash around Father’s waist this morning, when he mentioned it. “I commend you, my son, for achieving something notable so soon, and from Yeolis. The second most insanely stubborn people on the earthsphere.”
“Thank you, Divine Sire. Um… Second?”
He lowered His arms and checked the fall of the tunic in the mirror. “Hmm. Yes. Haians are far and away the most stubborn. Ah, I’m going to force them to send their healers back into the Empire.”
I didn’t want to know. “How is that going to work, Father?”
“Ah. Well, once the new Governor of the Islands gets things straightened out… you know him… he’s the father of one of your companions, Pirelen Pasen. There was no nonsense about Sailortown scum killing our good solas.” He settled himself onto the shoe chair and waved Kallen out of the way to let me lace His sandals.
Kallen moved out of the way smoothly and I made sure I smiled at him as I took his place. I was pretty sure it was him who reminded father of my Jitzmitthra as a dog. I settled down to lace the ribbons around Father’s big calves all the way to his knees, with a horrible feeling of resignation.
I’d known Father was sending ships to take Haiu Menshir. I’d been waiting with knotted stomach. It had been hanging over my head and my dreams since I had heard Father screaming about it.
“Pasen had his orders, of course, and now that he’s sent me all the evil men and women who healed that Yeoli dog-son bastard as a surety that the conquest is no lie, he’ll be looking to send Me… and you… a new healer. In chains if he must.”
Father was calling Haian healers… evil? How was that even possible, that He could think that? “Ingenious, Father. And about time.”
He grinned at me. “I have 1st Amitzas inflicting on each one, what they healed that unpredictable pit of darkness, of.”
It took me a moment to realize who He was calling an ‘unpredictable pit of darkness’, but of course it would be Chevenga. Then I understood the rest of the sentence.
Father was inflicting catatonia, germ of the head and the Ten alone knew what else, everything he’d tortured Chevenga with, on the most gentle people on the earthsphere. Father grunted up to standing, with Kallen and Mekas as His lifters on either side.
“Come along to breakfast, my miniature. Let Us have our most excellent breakfast, with these lovely images to aid Our digestion.”
Breakfast with my father was interminable. He would eat and then chuckle again as he thought of the looks on the faces of the Haians, have his hands wiped and call for another vintage of wine... another sweet. And no one could leave until he gave them permission. I was finishing the meal with the finest kakoa and cream tart and it was like chewing anguish and glue.
When he called for a final cup of kaf and a hot towel he turned his eyes to me. “Are you not massively amused, my mini-amendment? It seems that even you don’t understand how wonderful it is to teach them the lesson they should have learned years ago.”
He wanted a real answer so I turned my face so the left-hand servant could wipe my lips where I had managed to waste most of the last sugar cream rather than swallow it, mostly to gain a moment to think.
“I was both foolish and blinded by sentiment until you opened my eyes to the truth, Illustrious Sire. May I have your permission to see their punishments?” I had to make it seem like I was eager, to be titillated, rather than eager to vomit on him. He tilted his head with a mischievous, conspiratorial air, as though he and I shared the same sentiment. I smiled hopefully. If I could get permission perhaps I could somehow help the Haians, ease them, Hayel, I would be able to bring them light. The secure section of the dungeons was dug into the cliff wall, with ventilation shafts that were clusters of tubes too small to admit anything but beetles and flies. They might all be in dark cells. Perhaps Misahis would be in the same section.
“I think it would be enlightening and enjoyable for you my son. Feel free.”
“Thank you, Illustrious Father.” I covered my eyes with my hands as if overwhelmed with gratitude, while I kept the smile pasted on my puppet face. My stomach lurched and gurgled, overfull of too-rich food. I swallowed and made my official escape, hearing the Imperator’s Chime sounding the end of breakfast outside.
I took my time in the Lesser Bath garderobe, ridding myself of the belly full of enormous breakfast I had swallowed but couldn’t stomach. To Binshala’s despair, I was beginning to lose flesh rather than gain it. She’d have something waiting for me when I got back to my rooms, trying to tempt my appetite. She’d done it before and would again.
I couldn’t know what they’d need until I actually went down. I didn’t take the lift since it was only one floor. I wandered down the massive staircase, frowned-down at by Third Ilesias, down to the White corriodor.
Past the gray and black and red section of the Mahid, was that door. Completely unadorned, white marble, with an iron handle. The corridor beyond was walled and floored all in white and the doors were white too. The lights were bright enough to hurt the eyes and it smelled of stone and sour cleaners.