Gannara zipped in after 2nd Amitzas left me and shut the door. “M… Minis?” He stopped and pressed his ear to the door, holding up a hand to me to be quiet for a moment. Then he came over and sat down on the bed next to me. “Did he… um… are you all right?”
“It would be pretty stupid of him to torture me when I’ll be the power over him one day, wouldn’t it? I’m starting to think he’s really tempted to risk it, sometime. I’m all right. He just taught me more about my family traditions.” I swallowed hard, once, twice. The fried bread kept coming back on me. “We’re all so ugly, so evil.”
He snorted. “You’re not.”
I shut the Imperial Book and re-wrapped it in the silver bag, folding it over carefully when I wanted to run and pace and scream, pound walls, break things. I thought back to when I opened cages and let birds free. Hundreds and hundreds of birds. “Did you know I just found out another way to create Hayel on earth for someone before they die? And my Sire killed my older brother that way for treason?”
“I’ll bet Ice Eyes loved telling you that.”
I pushed the Imperial Book back under my pillow. It made for a horrible sleep but it was there or in 2nd Amitzas’s control and I wouldn’t do that, even if I should have let him lock it up in his strongbox with the rest of our Eclipse Court treasury.
“Yeah, he was excited by it. I’ll bet he thinks of that when he stimulates himself.” I was too tired and overwhelmed to be anything but crude. I looked over at Gannara and was suddenly really tired of seeing him running around naked. “Put my robe on. You must be getting bug bitten out here.”
“You aren’t like him, if you think so.” He slid off the bed and wrapped himself up with my robe.
“Of course I think I’m like him. He and his disgusting family are my family whether I like it or not… and they’re less evil than my progenitor.”
He settled back down on the end of the bed. “I’m glad you’re you.” I could look at him, now that he was covered, my big sleeves falling away from his skinny wrists as he propped his chin on his fisted hands. Big brown eyes, forelock falling across his forehead. I was pleased that I wasn’t stimulated by how beautiful he was. I could appreciate it the way I could appreciate a fine vase or a perfect flower and not want to own it, or defile it. “He’s going to try and make you into a monster,” Gannara said.
“Yeha. Since he was the reflection of a monster he wants me to be something he can comfortably reflect.”
Gannara nodded. “You need to remember that you aren’t already a monster and that he’s going to have to fight to do it. I don’t think he’ll win that fight with you. If your… um… “ he choked up again, thinking of Kurkas. "If he couldn't manage to make you a monster then the black dogs won't be able to."
“Thanks for that. It’s all right… you don’t need to think of Kurkas… um… why not call him the fat guy if you need to call him anything at all?”
He managed a smile and it was sweet, his teeth flashing gold. “I can do that,” he managed to whisper. “Hey… why don’t I get you a snack of something?”
“We’ve got food someone might want to put in their mouths?”
“Yeah. Binshala said that there’s mixed fruit for tomorrow morning and she might be able to whip some cream,” he said.
“She did?” I couldn’t imagine my proper nurse whipping cream. “I didn’t think she could cook.”
He laughed, quietly. “Better than that Mahid Ice Eyes assigned to do the cooking. They’ve got her doing stuff because all that guy can cook is rabbit on the fire and fried bread and mush. He’s tried to bake some kind of bread four times now and messed it up grandly four times. I know how to cook better than he does but they won’t ask me.” He shrugged. “I’m actually having a little fun watching them all scramble around trying to do normal things, like normal people.”
I had to laugh. “And here I thought boiled barley mush for breakfast for ten days in a row was some kind of Mahid training.”
He grinned. “You know, Binshala has four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren on the way… all of them out of the city so she’s pretty sure they’re fine, don’t worry. Between the two of us I bet we can whip up that cream instead of just putting the poisonous crud into it and pouring it on your mush.”
“Really.” I had no idea about Binshala’s family at all and felt badly that I hadn’t thought of asking, even if she was only a woman. “That sounds wonderful. Um… will that mess up this diet they’ve got me on?”
“We won’t tell anyone about the whipped cream. You’ll have the fruit tomorrow morning anyway.”
“Thank you, Gannara.” He winked at me, slipped out of my robe and went out to fetch me something I might actually want to put in my mouth. I lay back and thought of the meals at the Puckered Fig, suddenly longing for the red-rootcrisps with the yellow sauce… or the earth-spike apple crisps with the red wine brown sauce. I could imagine the whole platter with the dozen different kinds of root slices, curling around the cluster of dipping sauces in the centre.
What had happened to Feliras’s Glory? Surely they wouldn’t have harmed an eating-house? The pink-fish mousse on smokey crackers, lemon on trout stuffed with butter, the blue trout so fresh it curled. I found myself dozing, dreaming of food, mouthful by mouthful. “Psst… Minis? If you’re asleep?”
“Hmm. No, no… oh marvelous!” He and Binshala had whipped the cream enough for it to be softly mounded on the sliced mixed fruits. Redfruit slices, with druplets, the blue globes almost the size of my pinky nail, greenapple pieces and yellow bows sliced. There was even some wine splashed onto the fruit before they put the cream on it.
He put it into my hands, the wooden bowl smooth against my palms. The colours were so bright and my arms and legs hurt so much and 2nd Amitzas had bruised me body and soul, Gannara’s kindness undid me. I choked back the tears but one hit the bowl before I scrubbed my hand across my face. I think he was busy putting my robe back on and didn’t see.
“Binshala said I was too skinny too and should have some. That’s why it’s so big. Since they don’t cook all she needs to say is that some went bad. They won’t notice.” He settled opposite me and offered me my choice of spoon.
I managed to smile at him. “Great. She’s right. You’re too skinny by far.” And plucked one of the spoons out of his fist. “Go ahead.” I wasn’t going to tell him it tasted funny to me because it wasn’t poisoned. We shared alternating spoonfuls, Gannara painted his top lip with the cream so I dabbed my nose with it and we sprayed each other with spattering laughter.
The Mahid insisting he stay so close to me was working, though not the way they thought. They figured I was hurting him, hating him, fixated on him. He was on my side. He liked me for some reason. He was my companion rather than my slave. I’d held onto him, hovered over him, clung to him for part of a day, a night, and another day. “Look, Gannara, I’m sorry… when they gave me water… when… I tried not to swallow it all, I’m sorry –“ He cut me off.
“Stop that. I know. They gave you the least amount they could, just to make sure you couldn’t hold back for me. I know it. It’s not your fault. They’d have killed me. If you need me to forgive you, yeah, I forgive you. But you saved me, you didn’t do anything that needs forgiveness.” He was talking much much more fluently now, as he got passionate about it. “So, stop that. You’re forgiven… and thank you. Now we’re done with that. Can we finish this?”
And quit talking about it. Right. Of course. “Sure, Gannara. All settled. Have the last redfruit slice.”