Father must have finally done something because rejins began coming into the city to be re-deployed. I could see that they were not the full thousand, though perhaps one could not tell from the ground. They covered the same area but the centre blocks of units were thin. Father how could you do this to Arko?
The Thirteenth Luminous Manifest had been originally deployed in the mountains west. Would it not have made more sense to call in the sea-coast rejins? They could be moved faster, could they not?
They were cavalry, mostly, and their horses, the heavy destriers that were the backbone of the unit, looked bad. They looked skinny, though I couldn’t see their flanks under their parade barding. They must have stopped outside the city to get into parade order. Why? The horses’ heads looked hollow and they were not moving like war-horses. Their heads were low and they moved more like old cart horses than the fighting machines they should have been.
The rejin would have had to move hundreds of malas in very few eight-days. These horses were heavy and not made for speed. If they’d been pushed that hard... a line from a textbook Dafidas had suggested to me drifted into my head... “... force a solas to founder his re-mounts and ride his war horse and it will require three eight-days for the unit to recover itself to fight effectively...”
They had been pushed to get here. I could see that there were only a few re-mounts. To bring them back to fighting form they needed rest. Rest and good fodder. You could only hide so much with parade barding. They were in the city less than an eight-day to re-supply and I knew that wasn’t long enough.
Erl told me that the price of flour was going up. Something was happening that the wheat shipments to the city weren’t making it through Fispur. The shipments from the tribute kingdoms along the south coast and the City states weren’t arriving. It seemed that ‘pirates’ were stopping the usual convoys of early wheat. Any captain who made it through was making a huge profit, right at the docks. The Pages were raging on the front page about pirates in the Arkan sea.
It wasn’t pirates. Sinimas had told me a long while ago that the Yeola-e navy, once they’d freed their own ocean ports had teamed up with the Enchians fleet and a number of other maritime powers were winning the war on the ocean.
It wasn’t just the staple of wheat coming into the city. Antras had mentioned that a lot of the ‘aged beef’ people were buying were the foundered horses of the rejins being called in. And the refugees just kept coming.
The city could absorb them for now without showing too much but if they kept coming the poor quarter would spill onto the streets, or they would be turned away to camp on the plains outside the city.
Now that I was past second threshold it was harder to get any time alone. Even when I read there was someone with me. Father sent me ten brand-new companions and I looked at all their bland, trying to be pleasant faces. I could only see them as something to be ignored. I shouldn’t. I... didn’t know if I had it in me to try and get them to like me.
I tried to see their separate faces but they were just ten boys, varying shades of blue eyes, varying shades of blond. All hungry for my attention. I gave them my false smile, my brightest blank look and put myself into their hands, making myself into a puppet in their hands. Smile and be polite, nod and do my work. Eat and shen and be cleaned, all with a pleasant expression. Know that I felt nothing.
I couldn’t sleep at all. I skated. I skated, trying to get away. I’d shoved my emotion out of me and I skated in the night, trying to stay ahead of them. In my imagination they bayed on my heels and I knew the fangs of the hounds of fear and anger and frustration and shame snapped at me as I skated. My clothes flapped in the breeze of my passage. I felt the tears on my cheeks then cooling in my hair and my ears as they flowed back instead of down. What then shall good men do? What then shall we do? Stand by and watch the innocent suffer? Do nothing and let Father triumph in his destruction of self? Since he considered the Empire to be Himself? Evil will be the only outcome... until Chevenga burns the city to the ground. He’ll spare the fessas and okas and the solas that surrender. Some of the Aitzas... the women... the children... His army won’t be so merciful, but the people of the Empire... will survive.
And then they will be in his hands, Chevenga’s hands. He will set them free. I looked at the centuries of priceless works of art flow by me, only dimly seen in the night lamps and wondered how many of them would survive the purging of the Alliance Army.
I wondered how long my Father’s body would hang from the flagstaff above the Presence Balcony and how long Chevenga would keep him to torture before then. I wondered, as I skated, what my fate would be... what Ilesias’s fate would be. I knew Chevenga wouldn’t kill him. Chevenga had promised to not kill me. I didn’t know... I could only trust that the Gods would be just. Justice. I could hope for mercy, and I knew I could expect Justice from Muunas.
And so in the dark, I skated, as the devils of of my thoughts flocked after me. I was certain I’d have surcease from trouble one of these nights, very soon.