“Hello, Binshala. I’m so sorry you’re dead. It’s my fault.”
“Stop that! Minis, it was 2nd Amitzas who killed me.” She’s sitting on the edge of the stream as if Kyriala and I had just finished the dance. But she’s sitting in my bed. I’m on her lap and she’s stroking my hair. She looks like herself but I would never have recognized her in life, because she’s young and her skin is unwrinkled. Her hair is white gold, not white. I close my eyes and accept that she’s cuddling me.
“You need to stop running, Minis.”
“I don’t want to die, Binshala. It’s not because I’m afraid of dying but what comes after.”
She smacked me lightly. “You’re not paying attention to what’s real, lad, but what you’re afraid of and what you were taught. Look at the whole Book not just the pieces you know best.”
“I’m confused, Binshala.”
“Yes you are.”
Def is there in the bed with me, smiling at me and I hug him hard. “Oh, Selestialis, you’re not dead are you? Are you dead? Def, please don’t be dead.”
“You need to wake up now, Minis, or you’re going to have another nightmare.” He pushed me out of the bed and I tumbled down into the dark as if I were falling off the Rim and…
… my eyes opened and Gannara flung his arms around me in his sleep. I put my arms around him, listened to his soft breathing, feeling it stir the collar of my nightshirt. I would like more dreams that woke me up before they went bad. Ili, in his bed, rolled over, smacking his lips. It was brightening fast and outside I could hear the dawn sounds of a Yeoli port. We’d be setting sail today, for Emelayina.
Men in Veils
The first thing I have to say about wearing a veil is, if you fart, you live with it for far longer than you want to.
Crudeness aside, a rental veil is far heavier than one bought for personal, regular, long-term usage.
Women have told me they smell the anus gas we produce as intensely as if they were wearing the veil with our bodily gasses contained within it. Who knew?
In Hyerne, the etiquette is that a veil wearer, the male, MUST keep their hands showing through the slots for that purpose…
… when renting a veil, check the rag meant for wiping one’s nose, sewn just under the eye-slot. One may tell immediately if the veil has been cleaned since the previous renter…
I folded my rough draft away into my papers and walked, unsteadily, toward where Gannara stood at the bow handing onto Ili’s belt where he was leaning trying to see the dayanal better. Another group of them had found our little coaster to play with.
Gannara looked as though he wasn’t seeing the ocean at all, but staring straight at the horrors he imagined. I eased up next to him and threw my arm around his shoulders. “You look like Chevenga when he was confronted with another part of Arko that grossed him out.”
“I do?” He blinked and was back with us again, leaning into my hug.
“Yup. I told you I used to go down to the Mezem and bug him and he used to teach me manners? He hugged me then like I was his own when I told him shen about the Marble Palace, and looked like that.”
“Yeah, really. I hadn't been touched like that in years. Not by a man.”
“He didn't know whose son you were?”
“He knew, but he didn’t care. He just took me for me and not an extension of the fat guy... and they didn't really hate one another then. That came later.”
“Maybe that means, if he ever catches you, he'll be merciful. Probably... if he hugged you.” I shrugged.
“He'd be as good to me as your people let him be. I was thinking of turning myself in... but not now, with his sister on the Crystal Throne. She’d just kill me.”
“Ohhh yeah.... well, maybe. Maybe he'd ask her not to.”
“I’m not going to go running to turn myself in, Gannara. I'm just going to learn how to be a scholar, I suppose. Write more articles, be Minakas Akam, fessas scholar forevermore.” I looked out at the blue against blue horizon. “We got Ky and Ailadas and Kaita home safe. Now we just need to get you home, safe.”
“You aren’t scared to be by yourself? You’d burn the bacon and smash all your dishes by yourself.” He was serious. And it was what I was afraid of. I didn’t want to be alone. It loomed like a huge threat. I shrugged again, not wanting to think about it, or let him see how much it terrified me.
“It won’t be so bad. I... perhaps I need to be alone. Perhaps I need to learn what it's really like to do things for myself? And I won't be alone, completely. I'll still have Ili. It'll be the two of us."
“Minis… You're like me. – Hey, Ili, quit pulling like that or we’ll have to jump in to save you when your belt breaks.”
“It won’t break!”
“Just quit pulling, okay?”
I chimed in with “Ili, listen to your uncle Gannara, he knows better.”
“Uncle?” Gannara grinned at me.
“Yeah, you’ve been closer than family.”
“Eww, that would mean that the fat guy—“ I cut him off.
“You’re Minakas Akam’s brother. No relation. What did you mean, I’m like you?”
“You have no family... except... maybe I'm going to find mine.” He looked sad. “You've got none to find.”
I just nodded and he put his other arm around me, standing steady even though we were crashing up and down, with a good following wind. “Thanks for that, Gannara. I don’t know what I will do without you, but I will not cling, or stop you getting back with your family.
“Maybe… maybe I can talk my family into adopting you and Ili.” I nearly burst out into bitter laughter. Father, Mother, Shadow-parents, here’s a couple of Hayel-damned Arkans… they followed me home… can I keep them? I managed to keep it to a smile. “I've thought of you a my little brother for years.”
“I could say, they're my Arkan brothers... Minakas saved me and his little brother in a way too, we just never ever ever tell them whose sons you were.”
“Oh, Gannara I think that would be too much to ask them... After you were dragged away by Arkans, under threat of death and tortured and kept as a sex slave by Arkans? Let’s just find them first, all right?”
His eyes filled with tears. “Well.... I don't even know if they're alive.” I wrapped my other arm around him, glad that I was wedged into the bow fairly tightly. Then I had to grab the rail, but he knew I wanted to hold him.
“We'll find somebody I bet.”
“Yeah.” Gannara glanced around. “All the barokereyel are going to think we're lovers.”
“As long as they don't think less of you for it, I’m all right with whatever they think,” I said, shrugging.
“They wouldn’t think less of me. You maybe.” Ili slid down to put his feet back on the deck. “Here, Ili, let’s check that your safety line is secure.” He tugged on Ili’s line, made sure the other end was secure before letting him go down the rail. “If any of them whispers to me,” Gannara continued. “That they'll knife the Arkan if I want, don't worry, I'll say no.” I smiled at him.
“Meresi, amimya,” I said.
“Rya am’ya,” he said. “ – it’s nothing.”
“I'm very glad the fat one didn't take it into his head to have you teach me about sex. I think he was considering giving me a matched set like he had… but things went to Hayel before that.”
“Ai kahara.... me too…you mean... another little Ch'venga for you? Or two?” I nodded. “But you would have been kind to them.”
“As much as I could be... what he already taught me about sex is enough to have me a sworn celibate for the rest of my life, anyway.”
“Really? But.... I would have thought he'd want you to ...have sons.”
"It wasn't his intention, it just worked out that way. I don't like what he liked.”
“…you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but what did he do?”
I turned my head away and swallowed. “I don't think I can, Gannara. You're tired of hearing me crap on myself and to tell you, I'd have to do that, too. It was bad. It started when I was nine anyway... he had me watching his favourite way of executing Aitzas or, former Aitzas.” I swallowed harder.
Gannara was green in a way that had nothing to do with the motion of the boat. “Like, making them... You know...”
I nodded. “Yeah, while they were being impaled.”
He closed his eyes. “I saw that once.” He took a deep breath and we looked at the ocean, feeling the spray on our faces. “I... I should have just turned my eyes away. But I couldn’t look away.”
“Its almost impossible not to watch.”
“The more agony the guy was in the harder he sucked... it was so gross... Like right to death he was saying “Please don't kill me, please don't kill me, please please please...”
“The look on his face,” I said. “... is what I learned to call evil.” Both of us had our eyes clenched shut. “He figured since I was part of him I'd love it too...”
“I threw up,” Gannara said bleakly. “He laughed and made me clean it up. And I thought, if he ever does that to me, I'll bite it off even if I have to do it with no teeth.” I risked my grip on the ship’s railing to put both around him again. He had his hold and his steadiness, even lost in the horrid memories. “I’d have done it not just for me, but for Ch’venga too.”
He turned him the circle of my arms. “You wouldn't love it, you wouldn't love that shit. You're not like that,” he said fiercely, catching hold of me, his dark eyes angry. I closed my eyes against that stare, so like Chevenga’s.
“That's when I started finding out about it all, and about myself.” I could hear I’d gone flat as a Mahid. I took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Since he considered me part of himself - the fat one, that is -- I'm just as glad he wasn't into masturbation.”
“Ew!” He was torn between my awful joke and being upset.
“Ick! Good thing!”
We had never talked about it like this before. Now we had the time and it seemed as though we had the freedom to talk about it, as if something had unlocked when we’d found out where Gannara belonged.
“Sorry, it seemed funny in a gross way.”
“It is. In a gross way. When I think about it, my life was nothing but gross for years. I think about Karas sometimes. The one the gross fat guy didn’t kill. He must have gotten home when the war was over and the fat guy got killed.”
“Yes. I hope so. Chevenga would have seen that he did. And there’s that group of parents who were looking for their kids. I’ll bet your parents are looking for you still.”
“You think so?”
“I do. You saw that poster in Arko. Before we got to the city.”
“Yeah. Lightning got to go home… and Loner got to go with Minis… both ways we got away.”
I snorted. “Those names were my fault.”
“What, that.... oh yeah, you named Ch'venga in Arko!” He actually grinned. “Yup, all your fault.”
I slapped myself dramatically on my chest. “Woe is me! All mine!” I actually found it in me to laugh.
Gannara grinned wider, coming out of the Hayel of memory. “Maybe I should tell all the sailors, “It's his fault! Hiiiis!”
“They’ll knife me for sure! I'll just fling myself in the ocean now! Maybe one of the dayan will save me... the fish things!” He was giggling hard now.
“I'll tell them it's your fault! I can tell, they're Yeoli dayanal!” He leaned over the rail abruptly enough that I yelped and grabbed him.
“Hey! NOOOOO! I'm surrounded by them! Yeolis, Yeolis! Everywhere!”
“Hey dayanal! You’re wool-hairs, right? Wool-hairs everywhere! It’s all his fault!”
Ili looked over to where we were hanging over the edge of the railing. “You guys!” He yelled at us. “Don’t do that! It’s not SAFE!”
I looked at him solemnly and signed chalk. “You’re right, little bro.”
“And you’re turning into one! Waving, naked hands and all!” Gannara was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes.
“Eeeeeee!” I squealed, provoking his laughter.
“B'ru, it's aiiiiiiiiiiii!”
As if it were a language lesson I dutifully repeated it, solemnly as I had just signed to Ili. “Oh all right... aiiiiiii!”
He forced his smile into a thoughtful frown. “Bya, better.”
“I'll turn into a wool-hair by the light of the evil moon! I’ll howl and wave my hands!”
“Voting!” he gasped. I threw my one hand dramatically over my forehead as though feeling faint, like a knuckle-sucker hero.
“B’ru!” I managed to gasp, signing charcoal with that hand just as he jabbed me with an elbow.