“Def, Tob… you others… go upstairs to wait for me.”
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray… would it be better if the divine one were accompanied by someone? Even one of we lowly ones?”
I stopped, startled. Definas looked sick but seemed determined to be with me, if I wanted him with me. “Thank you, Definas, for your care. Please await me in your rooms. I’ll talk after.”
He tried hard not to show his relief. Of course, his father didn’t want him to be steeped in torture and sex. The others watched and I caught a few suppressed sighs of relief as they left.
Def was a good person and Tob too. I liked both of them and I should find someplace safe and prestigious for them, far away from both Father and I.
Their clatter back through the Mahid section faded as they headed down the hallway and around the corner heading for the stairs. The Mahid guard holding the White Door waited for me to continue so he could close the door.
1st Amitzas stopped at the corner to let my companions pass him, the white column of his robe and gloves immaculate. I hadn’t seen him much since I had broken his fingers, not coming down to see his snake, or check which books he was reading. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray,” he hailed me and I waited for him. “May I speak with you in my office for a short moment?”
I hesitated then nodded. “Very well, Amitzas.” The Mahid guard on the White door closed it behind me as I came back into the main Mahid section. He unlocked his office and opened the door for me to enter.
I was going to sit down in his chair, and realized there was no courtesy chair. “In consideration of your age and your joints, I give you permission to sit, Amitzas.” He tilted his head at me, though his face was as impassive as ever. I wondered what he was thinking.
“As you command, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” I could hear his joints crack as he settled into his chair. “I said only a moment of your precious time, Spark. I heard your Father give you permission to observe the Haians…”
I interrupted him. “—You aren’t going to try and divert my attention, are you, 1st Amitzas?”
“If you wish to observe my art, Spark, I have many more interesting subjects than the Haians. They are hardly… worthy subjects for your Divine self.” He drew breath to continue and I cut him off again.
“Amitzas.” He paused, looking at me, and I looked into his eyes behind his spectacles. They were perfectly Mahid flat and gave me no clue as to why he was trying to divert me from the Haians. “I am no more interested in your art than my Divine Father wishes me to be.” Let him consider that. He would know, almost better than any other Mahid, the cost of ultimate obedience to Father. I did not wish to compromise him. I wasn’t sure why, but he and I were somehow connected… through Chevenga in a twisted kind of way. He tortured the Yeoli. So did I, at Father’s command.
Before he could come up with something, I continued. “You do not wish, as a perfect Mahid, to know what I intend to do to the Haians.” I stared him in the eyes. “I do not wish to place you in such a position.”
“Do I not? Spark of the Sun’s Ray? Do you imagine I would not inform the Imperator even of this conversation if I suspect you of having sympathy for enemies of the state?”
“You do not know, 1st Amitzas, either way.” I sat down on the corner of his desk. “You may inform Father honestly, even under truth drug, that you do not know.”
“Spark, your telling me this is raising my suspicions.”
“Amitzas. I have my Father’s permission. If I didn’t know you better I would suspect you of having sympathy for these particular enemies of the state. But I know you are perfectly Mahid. I know you better than to suspect you. Even if you are, in your way, trying to save the Haians from my attention.”
I could see him thinking about this. “Chip of the Effulgent Light, may this one request that my work for your Divine Father not be disrupted by your visit?”
“Visits, 1st Amitzas. I intend to visit more than once. No more than I have ever disrupted your important work.”
I caught a flicker in his eyes. “As the Spark, with his Father’s Divine permission, commands.”
“Excellent. You keep an eye on me, Amitzas. I’ll keep an eye on you.”
One of his eyebrows went up at my directness. “Most certainly, Spark.”
“Then we’ll get along much better, Imperial Pharmacist. I’m pleased we had this talk.” I got up off the desk and left for the White Corridor and he didn’t follow me.
He gave in too easily. Even after that awful afternoon where he understood that I saved his life in exchange for some broken fingers… Is it possible there is more there than I could find out from him without truth drug? It was as I said to him. I’d have to keep an eye on him, and leave as little evidence of my tampering as possible.
I had to go through the White corridor to get to the dark cells. The cells where Misahis was being held. I hoped that Amitzas… in the name of Mahid efficiency had all the Haians in the same row of dark cells. The Mahid guard unlocked that corridor and the searing white light poured down the corridor, violating the dark making it gray and full of shadows. “Give me that lamp, Mahid, and lock the door behind me.”
“As you command, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” The whole corridor was ominously silent. I stood holding the lamp until the door locked behind me. Then I raised my eyes and caught the flicker of reflection in the eyes of the Haian cowering at the back of the nearest cell.
I closed my eyes for a moment then looked down the shadowy hall and called “Misahis! Misahis are you here? Are you all right?” They were so still that if I hadn’t known the cells here were full I wouldn’t have seen them, vague shapes huddled as far away from the doors as they could get.
There was a pause as the Haians in the cells realized I was calling for someone. Then a weak voice came from the last cell. “Spark. Minis.”
I almost spilled the lamp running down to the end. “Oh, Gods. Oh, Gods, Misahis are you all right? I’ve been looking for you…I’ve tried… Oh, Gods!”
The light falling through the stone bars revealed Misahis. Pale, pale for a Haian… almost gray. Skinny. But alive and sane. I put the lamp on the rack and pressed my arms between the bars to him. “Misahis, oh, Misahis. I missed you. I never stopped thinking of you. I missed you. I’m so glad you’re alive.” I couldn’t say ‘unhurt’ because all these moons down in the dark would have hurt him. “I…” I couldn’t say I loved him. Not with all these Haians under Amitzas’s hands listening. “Misahis.” I could only hope my voice would tell him.
I had the sudden huge pressure behind my eyes. I could feel the tears rising up against my defenses and they choked me silent as I tried to keep them in, but the flood overwhelmed me. Every word from that instant on was wet with them.
He clutched my hands and laid his face into them. “Shh. Shh… Minis. They might still truth-drug us. Shh.”
I held onto him as if I could pull him out of the cell like pulling a drowning man out of the ocean. “I can’t get you out of here. I don’t know what Father was upset at you about, but he won’t let me.”
“No. No. Minis… don’t fight Him. He’s not hurt me any more than you can see.”
“You’ve been…” I cut myself off. “I saved your orchids. They’re just leaves now… the flowers fell off and the stick they grew on… but the leaves… they’re all right I hope.”
His smile was like a flash of lighting in this gloomy place and his eyes went to the lamp before coming back to me. “Thank you, Minis. Just to see you is good.”
“I’ll see what I can do, Misahis. I’ll do what I can. Your Spirit of Life… is strong, its strong. Ten Gods, Misahis. What do you all need? Tell me, quietly.”
“Light is good, Minis,” he whispered. “Just the light.” His eyes flickered to the tiny flame as if it were the most precious gift I could have brought him.
“I don’t know where your kit went… but I’ll look for it… I think I found the storage rooms where it might be… your remedies… I’ll try.”
Now he was weeping, a ragged sob that he caught back with a deep breath. “Don’t get hurt, Minis. Be careful.”
I didn’t answer that but he and I wept ourselves out, clinging through the bars. I felt so old, just holding onto him.
“So… Amitzas is hurting you all, is he? He’s obeying Father.”
“Minis. Minis you can’t command him. You are not allowed.” I let go one of his hands and massaged the other with both of mine… then the other hand and he sat, just watching, looking as though he were storing up images against the dark when the lamp would either be taken away or go out.
“Since I have permission, I’ll be back, Misahis. Father thinks I’m taunting the lot of you as His enemies. I’ll sneer at you if anyone...can hear. Hang on. I’ll do –“ The click of the door being unlocked stopped me talking and recoiled into the middle of the corridor. “You stupid, Haians! You’ll pay for defying Father!”
It was 1st Amitzas, standing with his kit in his hands, looking like doom, the white behind him somehow radiating deadly intent that melded with his robe. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
I’d managed to wipe my face before the door was entirely open, so I turned grandly. “Amitzas. Here to do more of your work? Fine. I have schoolwork to do. Carry on.”
I hadn’t seen clearly into the other cells. I needed to come back and talk to all of the other Haians.
At that moment one of the women half way down the row began to scream in wild terror of Amitzas. I sniffed at him and, leaving the lamp behind, pushed rudely past. I bet he had nothing to do to them, but wanted to interrupt me. That was all right. I gazed at him thoughtfully as I passed him. He ignored me, waiting till I cleared the way for him.
I don’t think he noticed my reddened eyes or put it down to the harsh, actinic light flooding from the White Corridor. I had Misahis’s kit to find and that store-room was locked. But I had an idea of how to get that key.