My confinement lasted six more days. On the final evening, I sat in my window seat, looking out over the dark woods, and the faint twinkling of Lakeside walk lamps. This was safe, in here, having everything come to me. I wondered if that was why Father did it, wrapped the Marble Palace around Himself.
I leaned out and unlatched the window so I could catch more of the the city lights. I let in the flow of warm, damp air and the green smell of outside. I could just hear the lake lapping and the waterfall. The wind shifted and I caught a whiff from a street vendor, probably a wine seller in Presentation Square, who had hot dough twists in salt to sell with his wines. It smelled like that. I could even smell the sharp yellow sauce. I settled back against my pillow, leaving the window open.
The book on my lap was fascinating to read… it was actually a binder and had a number of notebooks from my ancestors… all written about the Declaration of War against Oromico, in the Past Age. The country of Oromico was now the province of Tathienas and had been for so long it was just ‘Arko’.
All of them had written about it at my age. In fact I had just finished the essay Koren had assigned me on the same subject. I leafed through them and my eye was snagged by the last one in the book. Father had written it when he was… I checked the date. A little older than I.
I read it, with interest and then with dawning understanding. I had realized on some level, that there was a difference in how Father and I thought. But…
This was childish. The writing was simplistic. He didn’t even mention General Mil Iren Foras’s turning of a Royal Brother and the betrayal and slaughter of the entire Oromico Royal Family which was key to the conquest! I was so shocked at how dull he made it sound I turned back to the first page to check the name in the book. It was my Father. He recounted the basic facts but made no arguments on the morality or military ethics involved. He actually said, in the paper, that because it succeeded that was sufficient analysis. If it succeeded it was correct, no matter how it was done. It was too much trouble to argue whether Arko was increased or lessened by such actions. He considered the increase of territory sufficient to forgive ANY action.
I’d thought something like that when He’d crowed about giving Chevenga a false safe conduct. It was how He was dealing with the delegations from the northern countries. I had realized that Father and I were not similar in power of mind, for years, without thinking about it. Little things, like not trying to make certain jokes, or witticisms, not laughing out loud at something the Fool said – while there was one – because Father wouldn’t understand and call me down for laughing for no reason. It was one reason the court no longer had a Fool.
The man had died because of Father’s… slowness and rigidity. And here, in his own hand, was evidence for my understanding. Evidence of such… there was no other word for it. Stupidity. Such stupidity, such laziness of mind, that I could no longer ignore it. It left me breathless and gasping.
He couldn’t be bothered to think about things like ethics and the morals of his own rejins and his Generals. He didn’t care and didn’t see a problem with it. He just didn’t see a reason… huh… reason. He had no reason and that was why he didn’t care.
The whole Empire… that gigantic ship plunging to disaster… was being, well, not directed, more like, played with… with a mind so rigid, so…
I slammed the book shut. No doubt the librarian would carefully insert my essay in behind Father’s once Koren and I had discussed the implications of my argument, but I couldn’t bear to see my Father’s… shortcomings so starkly displayed. It made me sick and despairing. “Binshala…” My voice cracked again and I swallowed and tried again. “Binshala!”
She was in the outer salon, quietly speaking to someone, a younger woman. I pulled the curtain back a fraction where I sat in the window seat.
“The Mirror and her ladies are most gracious,” Binshala was saying. The girl giggled in a way I think she wouldn’t show me.
“The Future Mirror thought it might be proper, Nurturer of the Spark.”
“She is correct and most thoughtful.”
I couldn’t make out what they were talking about, and couldn’t see before the Aitza made her farewells.
“Yes, Spark? Is there something this one may do for the exalted?”
I needed something to settle my stomach, and something else to think about. Unless I actually ask about what the lady in waiting and my betrothed was thinking would be proper I’d missed finding out. “Um… Binshala. I need a glass of ginger tea, please. And I think I should prepare for bed.” What was that about?
“Of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray… was the Spark wondering at the visit of the Future Mirror’s Ladies?” How had she noticed that?
“Um… yes, actually, I was.”
“The Mirror wished to be able to embellish some of the Spark’s tunics.” Was that all. Girl stuff. “She noticed that since the Gods were showing your preparation for your next threshold –“ I felt myself blushing, and hid my ragged, wavering tones by the simple expediency of not speaking. “And thought to commemorate that.”
She was going to commemorate my voice breaking? I felt my face flaming as I climbed the bed steps, turning away. Girls were so weird. I accepted the cup of ginger tea and it did settle me down so I could sleep.
Why did the Gods make me smarter than Father? Why am I smart enough to hurt so much? If I were stupider, my life would be easier. All this wouldn’t bother me. I’m smart enough to see everything that’s coming and stupid enough to stand there and take it. There is nowhere to run to, there is no fixing an Imperator’s ignorance. Then I thought better of it. Unfortunately an Imperator’s ignorance could be rectified, but it would take blood and fire. Or the Imperator’s death.
My eyes settled on the dark circle of the new moon, painted in a tiny corner of the ceiling of my bed. The earthsphere’s shadow covered the moon completely, hiding the reflected face of the sun. Did the sphere of the moon care that it would be plunged into shadow and cold? I shied away from where my thoughts were taking me. I could see it. Every logical, ethical thought I had was leading me to the same conclusion. My duty might be to accept damnation… and kill my Father.