I went down to my secret place to think, taking off my shoes to honour Misahis. I looked around my hoard and I think… perhaps I could hide the Haians down here? If I could get them out of the dungeons? I quail at the idea. Getting them out of the cells in the first place. Getting them past my own Mahid guards in the White Corridor. Getting them down here. Water. Food. Getting them out after… I’d need a whole gang of people to do this… I couldn’t do it myself.
I couldn’t even get one Pages writer to the Yeoli war front to give me accurate information , how could I get six Haians out of the White Corridor? I put my hands over my eyes, sitting on the grass mat from Misahis’s room. I didn’t cry much anymore, even in private. It didn’t do anything but make it obvious to others that I felt things. No, it was a dumb idea.
There were shelves now… since I’d found an artist who made folding shelves. I’d ordered a set for my Viridian parlor, saying I wanted more books in my private rooms. Two of them had come down here and I had wrestled them down the spiral and set them up all by myself, so now not everything was heaped up. I looked around at all the useless gold and gems I’d gathered and leaped up, kicking one of the vases over to shatter against the floor. It was stupid, I was stupid. What good was it, gathering all this, when it – none of it—would ever do me any good. The only thing I could do… that would help me… was keep trying to hoard people instead of things.
I had to keep working on getting people to like me, to be on my side. That was the only way I’d find my way out of this maze of ugliness cased in gold that Father had had built around us. It was people, not things, that did. Things… were nothing without a mind. It could all be smashed, burned, ruined and destroyed and as long as there were people they would live. They would live and love and re-build. All the earthsphere had, at one point, almost burned the whole sphere down to nothing. People had almost succeeded in killing every person alive. It had been weapons and illness and starvation. And people had still come back and re-built things. Beautiful things destroyed could be mourned, but they could be replaced. As long as there were people to make them. I snuffed the alcohol lamp and dragged myself upstairs, leaving priceless things behind me jumbled together in the dark.
Kyriala sat at her embroidery frame and placed tiny, careful stitches, while one of her ladies in waiting played the double flute. The light was fading and it was getting harder to see the hair-fine stitches. She placed the needle in its cushion, pinched the bridge of her nose with thumb and forefinger, the white kid of her gloves almost too fine and soft to feel.
“Shall I cease playing, Future Mirror of Luminosity?” Dishia lowered her flute.
“Yes, please, Dee. Your playing is lovely but I’m developing a headache.”
“Oh, this one will fetch the lavender water, Mirror,” Nissa, jumped up from her sewing and bustled out. Two little fluffy dogs jumped up on Kyriala’s lap as she sat back, while a third put its paws up against her knees. All three were pristine white with golden bows on their heads.
“Careful, Lovey, you’ll knock Fluffy and Socks off my lap!” The two little dogs jumped down and then the three swirled over to a chaise and leaped up on it, lying down. “Good puppies. Dee, have the boys needed to take the dogs for a run again?”
The lady blushed a little. “Milady… I’m sorry… did the splendid one know that the Spark’s companion borrowed the dogs? This humble one…”
“No, no, that’s fine. I heard that they caused a lot of damage but it sounded so funny I wish I’d seen it.”
Dee blinked and smiled shyly… “The companion… Ordas Meriden… is very…”
“Persuasive? Dishia, I’m sure your father would not approve of your batting your eyelashes at the Spark’s companions… but I’ve never seen you do it.”
“Oh, thank you, Future Mirror.” Nissa came back with the lavender water and Kyriala leaned back to have her temples and forehead anointed with it.
“Any rumours about the Spark of the Sun’s Ray, Nissa, that you’ve heard below stairs?”
Nissa gently turned back her lady’s glove cuffs and daubed the lavender on the wrists before carefully covering them again, taking her time. “Milady, I spoke to the Coronet Regal’s nurse. The Spark is careful and loving with his little brother and comes often to play with him, or requests his attendance when he cannot escape his duties and lessons.”
“I like hearing that.” Encouraged, Nissa went on.
“He is teaching the Coronet to skate and--” She dropped her voice to a scandalized whisper. “—how to swim! But the baby loves it and is very easy to wash… he splashes instead of crying! Or so I’ve heard from his nurse.”
“Really? How… interesting.” Kyriala sat up and opened her eyes. “The two boys… I heard there was something that happened a while ago… with their father. I heard an incident happened in the Celestial Chamber but I don’t know what that was.”
Both the ladies in waiting shook their heads mutely, either not knowing any more, or not admitting it. Dee said “I’ll summon kaf, shall I, Mirror?”
“That would be nice.” Kyriala pushed her tapestry frame away from herself and turned to the chaise so she could gather her dogs onto her lap.
“Milady…” Dee set the kaf service on the low table. “The Spark’s nurse, she won’t hear a word against him.”
“More than mere loyal silence?” Kyriala took up her cup, shook her head no, at the offer of beaten cream and sugar, drinking her kaf black.
“She defends him below stairs,” Dee said.
“And that manservant of his, Erelas, supported her last time someone tried to start vile lies about him,” Nissa chimed in.
“Truly.” She took a deep breath. “I’ll have to keep up my prayers for him.” She fed a bit of pastry to her fluffies. “I hope you ladies aren’t just telling me the good of him, to reassure me.”
“No, Future Mirror.” Dee fussed with her own gloves a moment. “If you like, I’ll ask for more Spark stories.”
“People will expect you to, of course. They’ll expect me to want to know every prurient detail and to be honest… I do. I need to know everything I can.” Her ladies nodded. “Perhaps I should cultivate the Coronet Regal and his nurse.”
Dekinas Tobeas went completely scarlet when I asked him to go over the sacred sexual verses again and coughed and choked. I didn’t really want to hear them again, I wanted to see him squirm out of having to re-teach them.
“Dekinas, my Divine Father showed me Muunas Chapter 12, verse 22 and 30. But not the verses in between—“
“—I will, I will leave that further instruction to your Divine Father then…” He wiped his face with his hand cloth, sweat streaming down his face.
“Thank you, Dekinas, I will see you tomorrow then.”
I skated away from my desk, hearing him sputter behind me. “—What? I had my lessons set for---wait, Spark of the --- Wait!”
I gathered up my gang outside where they’d been waiting for me to put Tobeas off, giggling, and we went whirling down the corridor leaving the Dekinas so puffed and out of breath behind us that he had to stop, hands on his knees. He didn’t even have the wind to call after us.
Father could command the Pages. Intharas didn’t like me, considering how much mess and chaos I usually spread when I came to his beloved press. So I had to do something to start making his life easier.
I picked up my Mahid – more than just two with the whole lot of us on our skates -- and the entire parade went down to the Pages, but I sent the companions and their protection down Ink Road to a café rather than have the whole clutch of us invade the Press. Not something I wanted to do if I was going to get Intharas on my side.
My Mahid, I left at the doors, where they could still see me all the way across the massive room and I still saw people cringing away from their gaze. Something had happened with Mahid and I had something else to find out even if I didn’t want to know it. I took care not to hit anyone or get in the way as I jumped down the stairs and glided across to Intharas’s office, my wheels making almost no noise.
He had his lamps high and his windows open. This was something I wanted everyone to see. “Hello, Terren.” He looked up abruptly and plastered a smile across his face.
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray! How can this most humble one assist the exalted one?” As always Intharas was very polite, out of fear. I could see it clearly now, where before I would have been completely oblivious or not cared at all. The wrinkles in his forehead and beside his nose were deep. I propped my hip against his desk.
“I have an idea for you Terren, as High editor of the Pages and I would like you throw the set-up to someone who has the skill to do it. I’ll fund it.”
His eyes flicked to a drawer of his and I wondered if that was where he hid his flask. Perhaps I should send him a bottle or two of Silken Gloves. “An idea Spark of the Sun’s Ray?”
“Yes. Literary and Journalistic awards, with monetary prizes. Some kind of gala presentation, perhaps Mil Torii Itzan could be consulted for that. Or more than one… Perhaps a literary week, culminating in an awards ceremony.” I thought he might like that. At least I hoped he would.
His eyes brightened. I could almost feel his relief that I wasn’t about to wreak some kind of insane amount of damage. Then he realized I was offering to fund the whole thing and he even gave me a smile. “This humble one knows a number of people who would be pleased and excited to organize such a project!”
“Excellent! I was passing by and thought I’d tell you my idea myself, but won’t disrupt your day more than I already have. Perhaps once you have the whole thing put together you’ll be able to present it to me. Over dinner at the Marble Palace?”
“Oh, this one would be abjectly grateful to do that.”
“Let me know… at your convenience.”
He’d survived the long years under my Father, so absolutely nothing but bland acceptance showed on his face. “Of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray. Of course.”
“I won’t take up any more of your time, Terren, thank you.”
He got up, but I pushed off from his desk and clattered down his stairs and back across to my black dogs. I needed to plant seeds, not burn the field.