It was another ten days and I pushed myself too hard with the learning, and 2nd Amitzas pushed me too hard physically, since he didn’t think Ailadas’s lessons were that difficult. The First Second was not a scholar and had a certain contempt for anything that did not require restraints on a study partner.
My health was not good for the next days. I grew more and more tired and I flagged no matter how often I got stung by 2nd Amitzas’s corrector. He grew more frustrated as I not only failed to improve, I fell back. On the day I knew Chevenga must be doing the Ten Ten’s I stood at the marked out beginning of my practice. 2nd Amitzas had me in armour again and everything shone as if the forest floor was flooded with sunlight.
The Temple doors loom in front of me and I raise my hands to the sky and call the word of the Gods, the opening word. My hands are so heavy. It must be the seals. I would have had them on for the first time this morning, passed from my Regent’s hands.
The tree looming at the end of my practice space wavered again as I did the prostration to the Slave Goddess. I was sure I could see Muunas’s face in the trunk.
The sound of the God’sVoice rings in its piercing tones and the crowd behind me is like a hand at my back, holding me, giving me, offering me to the Gods as a gift. I find my heart seized and examined… is it Risae? I give…
The needles of the forest floor were under my cheek and I lie prostrate before the Gods. I need to continue didn’t I? I need to raise myself and go up to Mikas, I can hear the wild sound of the feda that was one of His best-loved instruments.
Riddle Me this, answer Me this… the beginning of the questions that Mikas asks every new Imperator. I’m so hot. Am I being covered in Imperator’s Glass? I run and run across the surface of the world, chasing the white hart, there is a sword in my hand and I am sparring but it is nothing like… Amitzas… it is wonderful. Even if I were to die sparring the God I would die happy. He would take me up and I would fight for Him in the Fields of War and Honour.
Mother! Mother! I call and She comes and gathers me up to Her breast. Is Ilesias safe? Did he fall? I’m frightened, Mother. The High God must hate me. He’ll burn me up. He’ll burn me. I’m so hot. She speaks gently to me and I hear the High God in the distance, a rumble of thunder but He doesn’t sound angry. He sounds sad. Don’t cry, oh God. It’s all right. Your Son is here, see?
I blinked my eyes open and found I was lying, shivering, in a cold stream, with Binshala holding me on her lap, her gloves beautifully icy on my cheeks and forehead. I wasn’t wearing the armour… I was in my padding. It was soaked through and felt wonderful. Gannara was stacking my plate on the bank of the stream.
Binshala had good hold of me. “This aged one requests she be allowed to resume her personal care of the Spark of the Sun’s Ray, First of the Mahid.” I looked up to see 2nd Amitzas standing next to the Mahid medic… Erias Mahid.
“First of the Mahid, it is possible that this is an intelligent suggestion. The Spark is exhausted. The dosage of his additives were obviously not correctly calculated. It is possible the Aitza may be correct.” What happened? I was doing my Ten Tens practice. I noticed a clump of bright hair floating away down the stream away from my feet. Was that mine? Or someone else’s?
“Boras, Tathanas, lift him up, put him back to bed.” He was completely disgusted with the state of my health, as if he could force me to be stronger. Binshala… I turned my head to see if she was following and saw Ailadas hand her out of the stream. I felt all right but tired. Every time I closed my eyes I could see the inside of the Temple, so I did that, hearing the triumphant chant of a successful, witnessed Ascension in my mind, the roar of a crowd overhelmed with the Gods. An open Ten Tens. With all the people who could fit cramming their way in, the hands reaching desperately to touch a single hair of the Newly Risen, the Newly Accepted Most Holy.
Imperator’s glass in rainbow tears pattered onto the pavement and landed in the reaching hands of hundreds of Arkans. The hair the glass tears glittered in, were suspended in, fell from, was black. I’m dreaming. Of course I’m dreaming.
The Mahid pulled the sodden padding off my body, wrapped me in blankets… they smelled like horse blankets but they were warm. It was so nice to lie flat. I felt so heavy.
Binshala came in, a robe thrown about her. She must have torn off her clothes to change so quickly; the ends of her hair were still wet. She closed the door on the Mahid and came to put her hand on my forehead. She’d seized new, dry gloves. “I want Gannara,” I said. Just that straightforwardly. “I want Gannara.”
He came up and climbed up into the bed next to me, threw his arms around me. “You’re still hot, kofreya.” I no longer felt good, I felt cold. I shivered and Gannara tightened his grip. It was a good thing he did because I shook harder and harder until I shook him and Binshala and the bed enough to make the legs rap the floor. My teeth clenched together and I couldn’t pull them apart, my head tipped back and both Gannara and Binshala flung themselves across me to hold me down. “Spark!”
I almost couldn’t hear her. Things went gray and then it was over. I was limp in the bed. I hadn’t sweated though. “I’m all right, Binshala.” My voice felt very thin and far away. I sound like the Muunas Voice instrument. I sound like my voice is made out of glass. “You know, Gannara? I think your semanakraseye just did the Ten Tens…”
Gannara smoothed my hair back off my forehead. "It's all right, Minis, shh, you can't know." And Binshala patted my shoulder and said "Not possible, Spark of the Sun's Ray. It's just not possible. Everything will be fine, Spark." I was so far away I didn’t care. It was so nice to be lying down and not doing push-ups, or running, or hefting a saddle or a sword. If I mastered the physical things, Amitzas said I’d be studying general-craft on a sand-table… Where was he going to get a sand table? Maybe he meant a beach? Yeah. Of course. That must be it. But who would be my opposing general? I want to study with Chevenga. He’s a good general. I fell asleep, feverish, still wondering, still trying to figure out who I could study with.