The Truth Award in Journalism gala was, for the first Award, going to stretch over two days, with all the nominees or their representatives being wined and dined by me at Feliras’s Glory, while the Presentations would take place on the Platform the next evening with the winner’s ball to follow in the Marble Palace. That left the first and second mornings and afternoons for fetes given the nominees by other Aitzas who wished to kiss my ass, because everyone knew this Award was something I wanted to promote.
Mil Torii Itzan was already talking about an evening ball the night before the Feliras’ dinner, for next year. I knew that Itzan didn’t want to specifically kiss ass so much as take any excuse for a fantastic party.
Feliras himself actually put in an appearance for this evening, in a wheeled chair and a brocade blanket over his ancient knees. His mostly bald head was to my left as I sat in front of the rainbow fish tank.
I had booked the whole establishment and added a flame and gold coloured carpet on the street before the lefaetas entrance, a touch that coordinated with his decor. All the nominees arrived in specially decorated express chairs and were greeted by doormen, who held back the crowd of curious onlookers.
Perhaps next year I would suggest musicians to fanfare our illustrious guests as they arrived. Charcoal artists had their easels up and a dozen backgrounds roughed in already to place swift portraits in them. There were the Pages engravers standing ready to make their sketches for the next edition.
That was a thought. If the writers and editors had their awards, should not the engravers as well? I’d suggest it to Intheras or the head of the organizing committee this evening perhaps. I sat with Feliras beside me to greet everyone as they arrived wearing their best. Hmmm. Another note to myself. Perhaps one or more of the tailors or seamsters would donate showcase outfits for the nominees since that way they wouldn’t show up looking as scruffy as they normally did.
It would be poor compensation for being forced to write my Father’s lies. I alternated between hating them and being sympathetic because I couldn’t make up my mind which was more right. I considered posing it as a hypothetical question to my dekinas but couldn’t think of a decent analogy so I wouldn’t have to say ‘writers’ or ‘Pages’ or ‘war information’.
The best I could do was read in Mikas’s Book about honesty and it seemed as though the fessas God was a bit more reasonable about it, considering a fessas’s honour to give the solas and Aitzas what they wanted first before making any allowances for their own integrity. Both Aras and Muunas, however, deemed lies a punishable offence. A true sin as opposed to an excusable fault. Honesty is the fundamental virtue.
Tathanas Mahid poured me another cup of water, since I knew I was going to be sitting through a hundred-course banquet the equal to a high-formal dinner under Father’s eye and I didn’t want to fill my belly with wine or kaf or juice before the start of it all.
The statuette that symbolized the prize, which was in truth the equivalent to a year’s pay for the recipients, was a golden image of an Arkan pen across the Aan Sunburst. Privately I thought it a little ironic that it looked like the pen was piercing the Sun when in truth it was doing no such thing. An enormous gilded cake of that symbol graced the centre of the restaurant behind me and the whole place was ablaze with lights.
I lit up a katzerik. I did want the writers on my side. Of course I did. But it was going to be a hard evening for me to smile until my face set that way. Every one of them knew I was behind it, even if the organizing committee was discreet about the foundation I had endowed so that the award could be a yearly affair, in perpetuity.
I leaned over to the head of the committee, Masalas Maken a professor of journalistic studies at the University and proposed my ideas for an image award and persuading the tailors that the nominees would be perfect advertising for their fashions.
“Of course! Of course, Spark of the Sun’s Ray! That would raise the number of awards from three to four but...”
“I’ll make up the difference in capitol to cover four... no let’s make it an even five awards every year, in case we think of some other journalistic endeavour we wish to honour.” He nearly wet himself thinking of that amount of money.
I pushed off one foot and coasted down the Little Spiral Stairs, which had a hand-wide ramp on the outside. It was possible that the artist who designed it never expected to have anyone skate down it.
My cottons fluttered behind me as I hopped the last step and out into the Stone Garden. It was filled with black and yellow roses this moon and their heavy scent filled the whole enclosed space. It was too dark outside for any light to come through the glass dome above. No moon. The many lamps around the walls were all in the form of golden roses and the open glass flowers, raised on slender posts made to look like the flower’s vines complete with thorns, made the ceiling a solid, smooth black surface.
I coasted down the middle, smelling the differences in the rose variants. The strongest smelling ones were the golden roses that the gardener claimed had fallen from the stars with us... as seeds he said. They didn’t have any thorns at all.
The bench under a sculpture of the Ten Gods in the heavens had an arbour with the flowers trailing down from their outstretched hands. I hadn’t prayed since I decided it would be presumptuous and I stopped looking at their faces that surrounded me in almost every corridor of the Marble Palace.
In amongst all of the artwork showing mere animals or nameless people were my ancestors or the Gods, even the women were there... Imperatrixes and their tapestries of symbolic, mythologic figures riding around the sun, riding thunder and lighting. I had been seeing them with my eyes but not my mind any longer. Now I looked up through the dark green foliage, catching glimpses of Their Divine faces as the flowers moved gently in the artificial breeze the fans created.
I closed my eyes against Their distant, serene faces. It was oddly soothing, the scent and I didn’t realize how far down the flowers reached, since I could feel their soft petals caressing my over-heated cheeks, as gently as Binshala’s kid gloves, or Chevenga’s delicate touch. I sat, imagining them... or someone stroking my hair away from my sweaty forehead... as if I were ill, lying in bed with no one to chivy me up to my lessons, no one to make me dance attendance on Father, seeing the little Chevenga slaves and the golden-chained Haian. I desperately wanted to live in a place where everyone didn’t breathe, eat, sleep and work immersed in a sea of fear. I wanted to not lie down in fear and get up in terror. I wanted to sleep in peace. I was sick of consuming fear and shenning spiked balls of dread salted liberally with horror.
I was weeping and hadn’t realized when I started. I opened my eyes, still looking up and through the blur of water standing in my eyes saw the serene face of Selinae peering down at me, my tears giving her a more compassionate mein, almost as if she wanted to comfort me, tell me it would be all right.
The water spilled out of my eyes when I tipped my head forward, and bowed my head as if ducking too much compassion. I would go on as best I could. I heaved myself up and skated away, head still ducked down to not disturb the low-hanging flowers. I needed to sleep. I still felt feverish and overwrought.
The next morning I did my morning rising ritual, and my ten tens practice, sweating heavily. My throat was on fire and my fatigue hadn’t gone away, the malaise had gotten worse. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray...” Narbutas, the garderobe man, spoke up. “The exalted’s skin is yellowish, and there is a rash upon the nether parts. Perhaps the Spark should consider a healer’s examination?”
“Thank you, Narbutas. I’ll consider it.”
I could barely speak but Father would be rising soon. The idea of breakfast was nauseating. I tucked my white cat into my sleeve and had Sil put my thick silk slippers on for me.
It seemed to me that I could not swallow correctly but was very thirsty and accepted only plain water. Tom and Ord flanked me very closely for some reason, though I had not asked them to. I remember Silasas getting me a chair in the antechamber, though I should stand with the rest of the court. I put my cat down because I was too hot in my robes, my teeth were chattering so hard.
The chamberlain opened the doors and I got to my feet and thought it was very odd that everything went gray around the edges and narrowed to a tiny image at the end of a long tunnel. I remembered the sensation of my eyes rolling back even as I fought to keep my gorge down and then I don’t remember anything at all.