Mahid Maxims: Eleven through Twenty
- Eleventh, “I am Mahid. The Imperator’s will is above the law. It is beyond law. It is the only law.”
- Twelfth, “I am Mahid. Pain brings attention to any incorrectness. Making things correct makes the pain go away.”
- Thirteenth, “I am Mahid. Be still. Being empty allows the Imperator to see Himself reflected in the pool of us.”
- Fourteenth, “I am Mahid. As I think I become. I will think correct thoughts and become correct.
- Fifteenth, “I am Mahid. The recalcitrant subject is always brought to the Imperator's will.
- Sixteenth, “I am Mahid. I have no impure feelings.”
- Seventeenth, “I am Mahid. I do nothing slow nor restrict the fulfillment of orders. I will maintain myself so that I may serve.”
- Eighteenth, “I am Mahid. The Imperator requires I keep my body in perfect condition by hard exercise.
- Nineteenth, “I am Mahid. I correct all flaws.”
- Twentieth, “I am Mahid. The women do not speak until spoken to. A Mahid hears all.”
It wasn’t as though the Maxims were very complicated. They’d never been designed to be complicated. As long as I could reel off the list, the First Second had no complaints, since I would never need to know them backwards and forwards and sideways to replace all my thinking, the way he and all the others were supposed to.
We were now on the shores of another alpine lake, blue/green clear and very cold, the sun just far enough over the mountains all around to make it sparkle.
An Aras monastery had been built by it and it had been abandoned. Not abandoned, truly, but the sword-monks had likely gone to the war against the Yeolis as a sacrament.
The place had been very carefully closed, as if anticipating the imminent return of the monks, so many moons ago. Again, it was a very remote location, with no village nearby. I surveyed the neat, covered garden plots, the row of tiny brick cells for the senior monks and the barracks hall. It had had perhaps eighteen common monks and a half dozen seniors living here. They had not taken their animals with them when they went.
I swung down as two Mahid unhooked Binshala’s litter from my horse and Joras’s, and took her straight off to a cot in a monk’s cell. Kaita and Ilesias followed and people began to disappear into the monastery buildings.
Ailadas muttered, ostensibly to himself. “Ahem – This is strange. Very strange,” as he dismounted. I looked around. He was right. He had just been lecturing me on the various monastic orders in the Empire and which Imperator had established their charters. Any Aras monastery would not have been left completely abandoned.
A fish-eagle screamed and dove in the sky, beleaguered by two smaller birds but there was no other sound other than the clatter and noise of our group.
“Ailadas, slave, attend me.” I ordered as imperiously as I knew how. The First Second hesitated as the two followed me, then as if against his better judgement, followed. I pursued my suspicions to where their graveyard would be, on the south side of the complex.
There were two fresh graves dug there. I walked around them and turned to face 2nd Amitzas. “They died so we could take their monastery without giving us away,” I said. It wasn’t a question. “Any Steel Armed monastery would leave a senior monk with a junior behind to tend the beasts.”
He didn’t bother to deny it. “The scouts judged this a good place for the Spark and carried out their orders.”
“To kill the last two brothers of this order.”
“Just so, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” I looked at the heavy clumps of dirt turned to the sun, shaken with emotions that I couldn’t put a name to. Then I looked back up at the Mahid, who gazed on the graves of two men he’d had killed, with complete indifference.
“Where is their chapel?” I demanded through set teeth. You have to accept responsibility, Minis. If the Imperator forgets that, the compact is broken. I wasn’t sure that Chevenga had ever said that to me, or if I had read it from the Imperial Book itself but it was right.
“The Spark will rest.” 2nd Amitzas’s cold gaze fixed on me, hard.
“I will. After the proper rites are done. For these two men. And for two men lost in the mountains.” If I was going to do the Service for the Dead, as I should, as would be right, I must include First Nuninibas and Fifth Eforas. I remembered Chevenga crying out, caring, concerned for the okas dying on the platform in front of him. If he could care for an Arkan okas I could, at the very least, care about my own. Even if I was in exile, even if I was only fifteen, even if I was never going to be the Hinge of the Selestial Realms.
I should care. I was tired and wanted to just fall over after riding all night. Binshala was safe and could rest. It was part of what any Spark of the Sun’s Ray who had any decency in him would do. Sinimas Aan would have done it. A decent Imperator would do it. I was full up with obeying when it was wrong.
“The Spark of the Sun’s Ray needn’t concern himself with these two solas, nor the Mahid lost in his service. They rest in Selestialis already.”
“My honoured Father wrote, ‘Raise him as I should have been raised.’ Though I am young I am of an age when I may understand and know my responsibilities to every Arkan who dies in my service.” I turned on my heel and went back to the central court. The Chapel should be on the north side, the door facing south, facing the court where the monks would have trained.
2nd Amitzas and Ailadas did not follow me but Gannara did. “You stay outside, slave. Or the God might strike you down.” Father had thought that was nonsense, but had not tested it. I had to give it some credence that he was wrong. The Chapel was small, with no seats, the Steel-Armed One at the heart, under the Sun-slit. The early morning sun was low enough that the only light slanted obliquely in the door behind me and the red glass east window, making the eyes of the God seem to follow anyone coming in, in the dimness.
For the rites for solas, any sword would do but for some reason I felt the need to use their own. “Father of Steel,” I said, looking up into the blue eyes of the statue of the God, stern under the red and gilt helmet rim. It didn’t matter that I believed myself forzak. “I come before You for two solas brothers, slaughtered without recourse to call on You to defend themselves.” I didn’t need to know how they’d died. I knew the First Second. His Mahid would have just darted the two men in the back. Or lied and slid the heart-knives in before the brothers would have even known they were in any danger.
“For Yours, the Spark of the Ineffable Light begs the use of Thy arm.” I lifted the sword held across the God’s gauntlets and walked out again. 2nd Amitzas had followed as far as the square. “The rite for the elder brother, to God, we bring.”
I saluted the North and the apex of the sky and went through the motions of combat, since I did not wish to do the honourable sparring with Ice Eyes. The ten formal motions were very close to the Ten Tens for Aras, but with differences.
Then I did it again for each of the dead I was honouring and ended up in the centre of the ground, their sparring court, kneeling over the sword laid in front of me. “Our brothers in arms we send to the Fields of Honour to shine under your Glorious eyes, the Luminous.” I picked up the sword and held it over my head as I knelt, then stood.
There was no sun crystal to hold in my hands for the two Mahid who had died but there was my person. I raised my one hand over my head to the apex of the sky as if I held the sun. “Muunas Triumphant, gather the fallen into just and merciful Hands. Nuninibas and Eforas Mahid are fallen in the field for the Glory of the Most High. Gather them, we beg, into Selestialis, their souls shining in service to the Ineffable light.” I let my voice go, the rising chant the Mahid hold as their own “Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Forever!” I chanted their chant, my chant, the ten rising notes to the sky. I bowed my head for the silence afterward and spoke the last words to the dead.
“All flesh is dust. Let the dust go. Rise to your reward.” I pulled in all the air I could and sang the hymn for a single celebrant, ‘Selestial Realm’. I didn’t care if my voice broke and it did not. I seemed to be settling into a baritone like the fat guy.
2nd Amitzas didn’t try to stop me except with the weight of his stare, the black column of him like the Summoner to Death on the edge of the monk’s most sacred space. Gannara sat at the chapel door, watching and Ailadas behind Ice Eyes. It was certainly witness enough.
I wished for the chorus who should have sung ‘Onward Muunas’ Solas.’ I sat down in silence, head bowed over the sword, my other hand empty and open to the sky.
That was when I realized. The song to complete the Aitzas rites rose from the direction of the cells. I stood up and Ice Eyes turned and we both gazed at 2nd Donaras, 3rd and 4th Amitzas and 5th Boras all standing before the brother’s cells, their eyes locked upon me, their voices raised together for their dead.
2nd Amitzas’s eyes tracked from them to me and back to them. If anything his face was more impassive, more stony than usual. I joined my voice to the Mahid singing, to sing the dead home.
I had not begun this to fight him for control of the Mahid. But even Mahid need funeral rites.