I found it was a relief... after Ilesisas’s birthday party I went back to my rooms. I didn’t quite go back into my bed but close. I stripped off the weight of the over-robes, with Definas and Silasas’s help. They didn’t say much, but just lifted the weight off my shoulders. Sapphires. It was all gold and sapphires. The under-robe was soaked with my sweat.
I put on my cotton clothing as if to do my Ten Ten’s practice, and after watering Misahis’s orchids I settled into my library to spend the rest of my day reading. Koren came to me in my rooms for three full beads a day. Unfortunately my Dekinas did too but since I was able to divert him into letting me read to him, or quote back everything I had memorized from Muunas’s Book I didn’t have to listen to him lecture much.
I signed a request from Intharas for the new literary award to release funds. There were no messages from either Inthilin or Ancherao. She was probably off to prepare for the new fighting season in Yeola-e. They would be up to their hind-ends in snow if I was correct, but they would be preparing to fight us, the moment it melted. It was possible I might never hear from her again.
My companions were’t allowed to interact with me for the eight-day so I pretended to not see them as they flitted around the edges of my most private rooms. Iamis was careful to lock their connecting doors, but notes kept appearing on my desk, jokes mostly. And little reports on Ilesias. There was one I didn’t understand and didn’t know who it was from. It was a tiny embroidered donkey on skates... on a handkerchief. It could only be from a girl but... Kyriala? It couldn’t be. Surely not. It smelled like Skywatcher lilies and I blushed, realizing I had it pressed to my bare nose.
I asked Antras but he didn’t know and Binshala just smiled and said, “The Spark has at least one of the Mirror’s Ladies on his side. This is good.” I tucked the ‘kerchief away in my secret place under the fountain. I could have gone out had I wanted to, secretly, and wondered if I could put on Minakas Akam and just disappear.
I dreamed about it, but it was just a child’s wish. All I had to do was think about what the Mezem guard had said to me, and the feral looks on the faces of the boys who had chased me. When we’d gone down to Hot Metal, I would not have felt safe going out without Antras and it was something I could do only if I had urgent need.
I was escorted out of my confinement two days later by my own Mahid, to go across to the Temple and take my part in the Solstice ritual with Father. The air was thick and heavy, full of water, though chill and windy. The howling wind thrust damp fingers under my cloak and into all the cracks in my clothing, chilling me to the bones, the sky dark gray with threatened rain.
I was nervous when I entered the holy place, fearing the attention of the Gods, afraid that They would make their displeasure with me known, but nothing happened. There was only the one Presence Light, Muunas’s, glowing beneath his statue.
All the other Gods were shrouded in black, the skylight shut tight. Rather than being warm and full of light and full of gold, the whole Temple was cold and shrouded with gloom. I took my place behind the black drape and waited. Father would be taking his place on Muunas’s lap, the Imperial Robe flowing down and making him seemingly part of the statue. The Fenjitzas would be standing below him, the Presence light on the pedestal before both of them.
I wore the gold on gold on gold clothing, to represent the new rising Sun, the only gem on me the Solar Diamond in my diadem that matched the one on Father’s Solstice crown. By the time the choirs had sung all the hymns, the soothing rumble of their voices settling the people down, my butt was getting numb from sitting behind the curtain in the dark.
It was my whole life. I closed my eyes and the dark behind my eyes was no less than the dark all around me. I sat, listening to the final hymn that plead with the sun to return. Truly, anyone who knew, realized that it was not the motion of the sun that changed at all, but the difference in the motion of the earthsphere around the sun. But the solstice rituals were arranged for the reassurance of the lesser castes and matched what the illiterate could see. Koren had also had me read the Philosphy of Turutas that points out these rituals in particular could be seen as symbolic of human life in general and the ordinary cycles of the fallen.
It made me unhappy. The people were being taught falsehood. We had known that we were off the earthsphere. They all knew at one point that the earth revolved around the sun. We all did. Now we were teaching the lower castes falsehood and evil, to control them. How was this being the link to the Gods? How was this raising us? I hoped I would be forgiven, but I could not help but pray.
In my mind I sent a prayer. Forgive me Gods. This lowly one is the most abject worm but this one is afraid, not for myself. Not for me. Forgive me for approaching the Highest... there is no one else. Please Gods, save them. I don’t presume to pray for me... But please allow me this. Let me pray for them, please.
I was living in the winter and the dark. I could see only living in the winter. Like the insides of my eyes. I could see the whole Empire spread before me, locked into the dark by my father. The only way I could bring the sun back would be to damn myself. Or damn myself further. It was dark, darkness all around me as the choir soared to its high note.
I waited until the note faded and stood up and the Dekinas pulled the black drape down to expose me to the people. Please Gods.
I watched the Spark of the Sun’s Ray, exposed by the Dekinas, as he walked down the glass stairs in the Temple. His face was calm but I suspected, that like me, he showed little of what he truly felt. But then it required someone of sufficient intelligence to perceive what an intelligent child felt, unlike some. Far be it from me to judge the Imperator.
It was as I said to He Whose Whim is the Will of the World, years ago. A child continues as he begins.
It seemed to me that this child began much better than could be expected and that someone laid down a line of glass in his soul for him to follow out of the molten chaos.
I was safely ensconced in the crowd of Aitzas, on our level, and anonymous to the younger men around me, all safely younger and none of them knowing of the time ten years ago when I clashed, ever so lightly, with the Sun.
Our family had never been inclined to the sexual excesses required to be close to the current Sun and had the unfortunate tendency to honesty. So far we'd succeeded in not being withered in the glaring light of that Sun. The most extended twig so far had been my brother’s son and I was exceedingly proud of that boy. His honesty and integrity and devious mindedness had made me extraordinarily proud. My success has only been to manage exile from the city with minimal honour, while my brother was now in the dishonourable and shameful position of Governor to the Arkan islands of Haiu Menshir, placed there to be spat upon by the world. My poor elder brother. He would do his duty of course, holding onto himself with both hands.
The Imperator took no blame for the assault on the most pacifistic, calm and peaceful country in the world. The Pasen family owed Haians for the use of my left arm, the actual existence of my brother... the current governor... and our mother’s continued existence, and he was sent to be their face of destruction. The Gods have a delicious sense of irony.
I watched the Spark move carefully through his prescribed role, turned my face toward each God, each station of the Sun, from mere Goddesses around to the Gods, in sync with everyone else our faces turning to the action like the faces of flowers turning to follow the light.
From my personal experience I believed that most priests and dekinas were unaware of the strength of the female. Where Solas and Aitzas men thundered and stormed, their wives and daughters would brace their feet and hold them up upon their backs so that their displays were effective. If I were a foolish man I would ignore the strength of my own wife and her mother. They were careful not to damage my fragile male pride and I was careful to respect them to the limits allowed.
The Heir completed his first half of the round of the Temple. I could see him brace himself as he turned to the Gods. The boy believes. Every motion of his body shows it and I find my heart going out to him.
My nephew was correct to write me, to ask me to come to the city. If I could risk my family’s continued existence to take the boy’s father to task years ago, the least I could do was risk myself to be in the city when he needed a teacher.
Minis Aan was not a ‘minus’ no matter what his name implied. His sire did him dis-service laying the name upon him. I spoke to him in my mind. I was with him as he did his Solstice round.
The boy who spoke to me in his library... the boy reading and understanding the books he had under his hand... if he could hold onto his humanity... hold onto his honour and his conscience... And his integrity... that boy I had hope for. Let us see if he continues his pursuit of truth, his pursuit of justice.
I prayed to the Gods for his strength. I prayed that I might be part of the Gods' will... beneath the notice of the Sun... who I suspected the Gods’ had turned their face from. I prayed. I prayed that I might be a sufficiently intelligent vessel. I prayed that I might be able to give that boy what he needed to save us. I braced myself, thinking of my quiet villa on the far, far distant ocean coast – and let it go. My duty lay here.
He Whose Will Rules the World destroyed his father to save us, then plunged down the same road. May I be the power who is the foundation of a whole new way? Hubris. I will be myself and see if my knowledge is requested and required. The Sun is past all hope, plunging toward Eclipse and darkness. The Spark raised his light to the Steel-Armed God and I directed my prayers toward him, to him, to uphold him. May I have the strength to tell the lies I must.
I raised my voice in supplication with every other unfree soul in the Temple. May the Sun rise again.