“Honoured daena,” Kyriala used the precise term for guardian/chaperon. “Is it proper for a lady to inquire for the state of her betrothed’s health?” She didn’t look up from the kerchief she was embroidering with tiny, stylized flames all around the edges.
Inensa Mahid, her fine features set in a way that almost disguised how similar the two women were in bone structure, smoothed the edges of the Mirror’s bed and turned to Kyriala.
“It is proper.”
Of course you black stick. Not a shred of emotion other than calm flickered over Kyriala’s face. “Then I would inquire about the Spark of the Sun’s Ray’s health and well being, daena. He… collapsed while practicing his Ascension practice and… it appeared that he was fevered.”
“Yes, Mirror of the Divine Radiance.” The Mahid woman paced slowly over to straighten the sewing box on the folding table. “The First of the Mahid is very hard on him."
Kyriala bit off a thread thoughtfully. “The Spark… tries hard,” she said at last, striving for neutrality. “He is quick to pick up on things and better than he thinks at the physical things… at least dancing.” Why am I trying to be with the woman? She is Mahid.
“Mirror?” Inensa showed nothing upon that face, no emotion at all. Just as 2nd Amitzas was onyx, she was marble. Of necessity. Who knows if she even likes her husband? For all I know she might be worse than him. Kyriala smoothed the kerchief over her knee to make it lie flat. She’d have to make the stitches, the images smaller to save space, allow less white-space between if any at all to keep her record longer.
“The Spark’s nurse is attempting to learn to cook,” Kyriala continued. “Of necessity. I do, of course, not know how to do such a mundane and earthy thing as cook, but will it be necessary for me to learn?” Definitely necessary, or we will all starve to death eating nothing but roast meat and boiled barley. It didn’t take the moment it usually took for 2nd Amitzas to process. Inensa nodded slightly.
“Expediency is where we are, at the moment, Mirror. I will propose the idea to my husband. Would the Mirror be affronted if it were proposed that she learn things beneath her?”
“Hardly, my daena.” Especially since I proposed the idea to you. She turned her arm gently back and forth, testing if it still hurt. It still felt fragile, but the soreness had gone away days ago. It had not been broken, just sprained. “Is it possible I might have some gentle exercise to strengthen this arm, somewhat? I would not wish to be less than perfect, for the Splinter of the Divine Light.”
Inensa smoothed her gloves, one over the other, looking down. “Yes, Mirror. I suggest that the gentle exercise be… a certain ladies' dance that I know of. In classical dance it can be done musically but the form can be played without the noise of the drums played by the dancer. A most correct type of ladies' exercise.”
“Really? I am pleased to hear of it.” It sounds far more vigourous than is correct, but if she can convince her husband… “My daena, I am most happy to pursue any activity that would make me more perfect for the Spark. Especially in these troubled and turbulent times.” Most High Goddess I sound like a heroine in a tedious play, but I have to address Mahid as though I’m a brainless doll.
Inensa examined Kyriala with more intensity than she was used to. The Mahid woman sat down slowly, folding at the waist, rigidly sinking to a straight chair. “For the Spark’s sake, Mirror. I will consider suggesting a number of unorthodox lessons to the First of the Mahid. They would, of course, be set aside, once life returns to normal.”
“Oh, certainly. Such things must only be used in emergency. And for the sake of one’s sons, one's husband, or betrothed, of course.”
Inensa answered by quoting Selinae’s Book. “And so to the Imperatrix, the Highest Lady bestowed upon her the skills of nurturance and love. The helpmeet to her Imperial husband, a bulwark in defense of the race. She is a jewel amongst women to be cherished amongst the most high.”
Kyriala answered with the next verse. “Women, to be a glory and an obedience to their husbands and an honor to their sons, must be obedient to the right world and a their honor is their strength.”
“You were incorrect in quoting the second line. It is ‘and a tribute to their sons.’”
“Yes, daena. ” Kyriala set her needlework down. “If I have yarn I could perhaps begin to produce a few more practical things… if you believe it would be proper.” The Empire is fallen and I have to argue I can, perhaps, knit sweaters instead of sewing tapestries! I have to argue that I can DO something! She rose decorously, and paced carefully to the door of the tent, mindful of the narrow gown she wore. As if I’m in the Marble Palace instead of the woods! She wanted to rip the thing up the middle and run mad.
The hem was already dirty and she felt filthy from head to foot and there was a maddening rash of bug-bites all up and down her back. It was all she could do not to scratch and scream. There was no lace on the back of the dress and if Inensa would only leave her alone for one moment, she would back up against a tent pole and rub to her heart’s content, without ruining anything.
“It is acceptable for women to learn how to nurture the invalid?”
The cabin where Minis was, was barely visible in the deep shadow of the trees. From behind, Inensa’s voice came, low and even. “The Spark will be all right, Mirror. He… is strong and once the Additives have worked themselves out of his body, he will be healthy once more.” Inensa’s tone grew more dry. “However proper it is for women to nurture the sick, it will not be acceptable for a Mirror to be so close to the Spark, even chaperoned. Unfortunately.”
Kyriala turned to look at the stone face of her attendant. “Oh, of course, daena. I just… I merely… I’ve noticed at dinner that he has trouble eating. Perhaps milk would settle his stomach. I have no idea what that may entail.”
“Ah. Yes. Well there are no Mahid women with babes at breast, so it would have to be another nursing creature and cows would draw too much attention. Perhaps the men should attempt something small, like goats, or sheep.” Was there the faintest, smallest hint of a sort of anticipation there? No, it wasn't possible for any kind of emotion on that marble countenance.
Kyriala nodded… There was obviously something more going on than was being said but she couldn’t imagine what. “For the Spark’s sake.”