Wednesday, November 11, 2009

148 - You have to Move Eventually

“No,” I repeated, glaring into 2nd Amitzas’s deadly eyes, with all my spirit, with all my resolve. He was not going to have this death. Gannara was mine.

“You WILL.” His eyes were like razors on me peeling away the skin of my resolve.

“No. That slave is MINE to punish as I see fit.” He had no idea how much resolve I had. He had never seen my stubbornness. "How dare you damage a gift to me, from my Divine Father!"

He held out his hand for the whip. I stared at him for another long moment looking for what he intended. He was better at hiding himself than I thought and I believed I had won. I gave the whip to him, prepared to have him order Gannara cut down. He turned, brought it up and back and with the full force of his grown arm brought it across Gannara’s back.

He screamed, his head flung back and I didn’t even think. I found myself curled around him, holding on to Gan with both hands, his back to my front. “If you flog him, you have to flog through me, first. And you are not allowed,” I said through clenched teeth. Everything faded, even Kyriala’s now muffled bawling away in the distance.

I could feel every tremor in Gannara’s body and knew I was hurting him, pressing the fresh bleeding whip cut between us, but I couldn’t let go. He stank of fear sweat and urine where he’d soiled himself but I couldn’t let this happen. It was not right. It was not just injustice but madness. Madness like this had brought the foreigners to raze the city and the Empire. It was a point beyond which I would not go. Amitzas would have to kill me to make me let go. He’d found the line beyond which he could not push me.

There was an incredulous silence behind me. I could see nothing but a fragment of stone wall in front of us. I had only this one thing to defy him with, my own life. And the fact he was not allowed to injure me. With anyone else there would have been a roar of rage. As it was I only caught his in-breath and tried to brace myself.

I had no idea what a whip felt like. I had thought the correction rod was bad, having never even felt the smack of a hand on my backside in my whole life before. This, through my shirt, was a line of fire. I bit my lip through as it slashed across me and Gannara whimpered as my arms closed around him too tight. I had a half-breath of time to try and inhale before the next came cross-wise to the first. If he hit me like that once more he might crack ribs.

The third stripe tore my silk shirt but I didn’t have the breath to scream as I wanted, so unless you count a gasp, he didn’t get a cry out of me. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t see I could only cling to Gannara and wait to see if 2nd Amitzas would stripe me again.

The roaring in my ears began to subside. I could hear 2nd Amitzas’s breathing as if he were normal, not Mahid. I listened as hard as I could to try and prepare if he were going to flog me again. I didn’t want to risk turning my head. If I moved at the wrong moment, when he did, the whip could take out one of my eyes. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I turned my head.

Joras had one of the Pages crushed in his hand. Even from here I could see the red ink staining his gloves. Amitzas stood, looking down at the whip. A stone man, a golem enchanted to move, considering whether to continue, though golems could never consider. He turned and handed the whip to Boras almost calmly, deliberately.

“You have to move eventually, Spark of the Effulgent Light,” he said to me though he directed his voice to the one side, as if to Boras. “When you do, we will continue.” He left us standing there, with a watcher and ordered the others away.

“Th…thank you,” Gannara whispered to me as I stood, shielding him. “D…don’t l..let them hurt you. S…sp…Spark of –“

“Minis,” I hissed in his ear. “To you, just Minis. I’m not going to let them kill you for those lies.”

All of a sudden, I was years ago in my head, watching an okas man die a horrible death and Chevenga’s voice shrieking, “Don’t hurt him! Its not his fault! It’s mine! Hurt me instead!” I suddenly understood. I suddenly knew why he’d done that, what he’d felt. I couldn’t let 2nd Amitzas hurt Gannara.

I’m not sure how long he left us standing there, like some odd statue in the middle of the clearing, up against the ruin, but it was long enough for the sun to reach zenith and slide past it. By that point I had gone past any disinclination to drink, my mouth so dry it felt almost hardened inside and Gannara sagged against my hands and the ropes, completely exhausted. The sun beat down on our heads and I could only be thankful it wasn’t high summer yet. It would have killed us then, even at this altitude.

My lips were dry as my mouth. I had neither hands nor ropes to sag against and could not put my weight on him. My legs ached so fiercely it felt as though fire ants from the stripes on my back were crawling up and down them. The watching Mahid came and offered me a dipper of water. “You will not damage yourself in this, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”

I truly wanted to turn it down, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I tried to keep a swallow of it back to try and sneak a drop to Gannara and I couldn’t. I was that selfish. When he stepped back from me my other watcher spoke to him, too quietly for me to hear. I shifted my head over to the other side of Gannara’s head and whispered in his ear. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I drank it and couldn’t…” he turned his head sideways and caught the damp on my lips with his mouth but it was lightning fast and not enough.

“Shh. Spark… Minis… shh… its okay.” Then we stood there again, my cheek against his ear. Why hadn’t I been able to keep even a drop for him? The point was to save him, not torture him.

The night was cold, with frost on the grass. The only place we were warm was his back and my front, pressed together. “I’m not giving you up to them,” I whispered into his ear in the dark, before the moon came up. “They’d kill you.”

“This one… this one knows. Th… tha…” he was groggy, speaking up to me.

“Shh, it’s okay. And you can talk to me equal to equal.”

His whisper in the dark was stronger, as if he were slightly light headed. Light headed enough that his fessas accented Arkan was smoother. He hesitated and I repeated. “In private, it’s Minis. And equal to equal. You think we can go through this and not be equals? Shen, it’s us against them.”

Gannara was quiet, his head still hanging forward slightly as though it were too heavy for him, his shivering the only movement against me. “Yes,” he whispered at last.

When the sun came up next morning I raised my head blearily from Gannara’s. I’d tried not to sag against him, but hadn’t managed. 2nd Amitzas ghosted up to us. “Spark, are you ready to move?”

I shook my head, no. “No, this slave is mine.” Let me manage to speak in a way he understood. I could feel him standing behind us, threatening. My shirt was glued to my back where the skin had broken. I will not be moved. His ugly presence faded and left us to stand, letting the sun warm us, breathing in the fog before it burned off completely, grateful for the moisture in my mouth.

The sun was high when he came back, and I was shaking from thirst and fatigue so hard that I was moving Gannara against his bonds. I was starting to worry about his hands having been tied so long. That was when Amitzas came back with 2nd Ilesias and 8th Itasas.

“For disobedience to your guardian, Splinter of the Divine Light, you owe me a bead’s worth of Obedience.” Gannara went like stone under my hands, shaking so faintly only I could feel it. “Then you will administer two more stripes to the slave to match your own. If you do not, then he shall have two beads of Obedience.”

I couldn’t be sure it would be finished even then and, when they pried my hands off Gannara, I fought them as best I could. It wasn’t much of a fight in the state I was in and they carried me, thrashing, into the cabin. There they strapped me down to my own bed with broad straps around my forehead, my chest with my arms pressed flat, my hips and my knees. 2nd Amitzas shoved the gag in my mouth. “Precautions, that you not injure yourself.”

I stared at his face, sweating, terrified and silenced. I knew since they used the stuff on themselves it could not be permanently disabling but it would be bad. He had his torturer’s face on as he held up the needle in one black-gloved hand. It was full of a clear liquid, innocent as water. My back ached where my stripes pressed into the mattress. I clenched my teeth on the gag, perfectly designed to sit between them, be bitten upon, and not slide back and choke me.

He took the air out of the injector, expertly, and slid the small dose into a vein. For a few moments I wondered what I was afraid of, then my veins began burning. And my eyes. And the roots of my teeth.

Mahid’s Obedience is pain distilled. It is fire in every vein and a bursting in one’s head, every sound too loud, every convulsion too severe, pressure on every surface of your body inside and out. It is salt and vinegar in a thousand cuts and death beetles scrambling with red-hot iron feet over one’s eyes. It is knives in the ears and every one of your own heartbeats pains you in your chest. In that endless, endless bead I learned why Mahid are Obedient unto death and beyond. The threat of that is enough to make the idea of death not just tolerable but eagerly sought after if only to make it stop.

He administered only a bead’s worth. They punish their own for longer to begin with and threaten to increase it with each infraction. No wonder they are insane. I still wonder if I am in some ways as well, just from the memory of that pain. It made all my former discomforts just that. Minor discomfort.


  1. I want to give that jerk a week of that stuff D:

  2. He is a jerk isn't he... well, the head torturer...