My secretary had placed my correspondence on my desk. There were a half dozen approvals I needed to read and sign from the Press people setting up the first Sun Rising Literary Award. Nothing from either Inthilin or Ancherao. I wrote out four letters for charitable donations that I had started supporting after I had made the one brother kill the other. It was a small penance but the Gods would see it.
The last letter was plain and my secretary would have had it sniffed with all the others for paper poisons. The fluffies were all trained to react to most common poisons… The only three people they were trained not to bark at because of the smell of poisons were Father, me and First Amitzas. The seal was a Press seal and I popped it open and unfolded it.
To: The Spark of the Sun’s Ray, Marble Palace, Arko the city
From: Sinimas Menden, Disputed Territory
In recollection of the evening the Spark graciously extended the hospitality of the Marble Palace, this lowly one dared to write. The evening remains as a shining gem of remembrance in this most abject one, often taken out and examined for every nuance of every precious word.
This one is in awe, still, of the generosity of the Spark and the erudite discourse of the evening’s discussion.
At this juncture the Spark must surely see from the post address, that this lowly one will unfortunately be out of the city and so unable to accept any further invitations—“ a nice way to point out where you actually are, Menden, without being obvious – “to my tremendous regret.” He was hiding sarcasm well. No one but I would know that was sarcasm at all. “The Spark might be interested in finding out, that this lowly one has a number of Pages articles forthcoming.”
“Antras?” I called. But it was Durinibas who looked in. I took a deep breath. Antras and Erelas I trusted and they had told me that Durinibas was a good man, someone else I could trust. I would have to trust him if I trusted them. “Durinibas. If I could ask you a favour?”
He coughed. “This one is, of course, at the Spark’s will.” He looked nervous.
“Do you bring the mails to my secretary?”
“Oh, yes, Divine Spark. Either Antras or this diminished one.”
“If you or Antras should happen to see any letter from a Ser Menden, I should like you to place it in this drawer in my desk directly. Would that be too much trouble?”
He blinked. “Oh. No, not at all, Spark. No trouble.”
“Good, thank you.” My problem was that I had no way of getting a message to Sinimas securely. The only thing I could think of was to find someone myself, but I couldn’t. If I, as the Spark of the Sun’s Ray ordered someone to courier… it would be very very obvious. And I wasn’t old enough to go out into the city by myself… or perhaps I wasn’t. Hmm. I’d have to think about that. Until I could find someone to be my secure courier out of the city I’d have to wait.
I clenched my hands hard on the edge of my desk. I didn’t want to destroy anything in my frustration. That was too much like Father’s lack of control. I held my breath hard, until I dizzied myself and managed to keep my emotions in check.
The Pages front page screamed Fires out of Control! And had a story about a wild fire burning in the mountains north west of the city. Hidden away on the fourth page was the first story on the Yeoli war, of this fighting season. Chevenga had gotten his forces into the field before anyone would have thought it possible.
The snow had not even entirely melted but apparently he had gotten supply from somewhere and was using the brand new roads that we… rather Arko… had built to move troops. Of course I had to figure this out from the fulsome praise for the current General. And the correspondent was Sinimas Menden. Poor fellow.
“General leads brilliant strategic retreat!” Of course it meant he was running like a rabbit. “Yeoli advances should not be taken as ill omens” Naturally. Many such more brilliant strategic retreats would have the Yeoli/coalition meeting up with their own forces in the south mountains and right at their old border with the Empire.
Yeolis, by tradition, did not invade, even if invaded, but had a complicated land-for-lives kind of compensation system that led them to assume a certain seizing of the invading countries land in return for having been attacked and harmed. What their compensation would be for almost total conquering of their country would be, I had no idea. I know what I would say. And Chevenga would know that Father would never give up trying to get him back. Get him back, or destroy him and everything he held dear.
I closed the Pages and spread my hand over it. The writers and editors dared not give it any more attention than they had. They had to make as if wildfires, droughts and unsolved murders were more important. I heaved myself up from my desk and dropped my clothing, unwound the banding under my small clothes and stood under the cascade, letting the water pound down on my head.
It was in motion. I was not. Every step of the way all around me, my Father’s teeth ringed me around. I had to do something. Everything I did was so achingly slow. Chevenga’s alliance was moving fast. The storm was coming and all I could do was stand there in the thunder, lighting and rain like an ass and take it.
My penis stirred and I seized it hard to keep it from rising. There was too much hair now to keep pulling them. I’d tried shaving even every day but the stubble itched enough to make any public presentation or ritual a Hayel torment of struggling not to scratch. Perhaps I deserved it. I had a fuzz of hair there, spreading from my vilest organs to the nest of where they grew. I let go as if they burned me as it stirred again in my grasp and I plunged into the cold pool that I had made much colder.
It was cold enough to make me gasp in shock and my vile organs shrink . This went on and on and on. This was Hayel. I couldn’t catch my breath. I ducked my whole body under feeling the chill go all the way in, striking toward my heart.
Father has me on his lap. His big meaty hands are wrapped around me clutching me tight to his body. I can feel his penis up against my spine. He’s hard. He and I are naked. There are people streaming past us as though we’re a rock in a stream. They are all colours, all nations. They are the river pouring into the city behind us. We’re sitting on the Rim and the people pour into the city. They are the river that powers us.
Father reaches out with both hands and I can’t move. He rips pieces off the people and slaps them on me and over me, adding their flesh to me and to himself. He lards us with fat and meat and bone and blood, smoothing fat onto the both of us until my face is the only part still mine in a fat boulder sitting over the Marble Palace.
We are melting together in the sun, the fat flowing down the walls, flowing away and Father grabs more and more to not lose bulk. All I can see is the people’s faces… then I see that most of them are Arkans.
They’re weeping and bleeding and screaming… all silently to not offend us as we rip more and more off them until Father begins seizing whole babies and children to make part of us, then whole adults, women and children, their hair floating away from us like clouds floating over the city, over the whole empire, carrying their silent tears to fall on other Arkans.
I woke up completely tangled in my quilts and blankets soaked with sweat and panting. In silence. In silence. I don’t ever want to be silenced. I want to be able to say… somehow… what I see. I think of Sinimas Menden and his gagged words. I manage to wiggle my way out of my disarranged bed, pulling my limbs out of soaked wet bedding.
If I cannot say anything with my mouth I will learn to say things to the page. As dangerous as that is… I have places where only I go. I will keep my words there. And I will learn to do it well. I will learn to speak to the page so that someday I will be able to open my mouth and speak out loud what I once could only express in silence.