Gan pounded the sand once we got out of the reception area. He sat down hard and pounded the sand with his fists. “I’m going to just kill my shadow-parents for putting those posters up everywhere! How could they? It’s embarrassing!”
“You’re famous, amimya,” I said, trying to calm him down.
“I DON’T WANT TO BE!” He buried his face in his hands.
“They wanted to find you that badly. They love you that much.” I flung my arm over his shoulders.
“Yeah.” He sighed. “I know. I know…”
“It’ll go away eventually.”
He shook his head, not in negation just frustration. “Yeah, now that I’ve been found… I’ll send them a letter, I will… the posters will get taken down and people will forget about it. That’s true. Just so long as no Pages writer picks up on it and writes a story.”
My first thought was, ‘what a good idea’. “Maybe I should write a ‘Grand Discovery of the Lost Son’ story?”
“Oh, great.” He reached down and flipped a handful of sand at me.
“If you try to interview me, I’ll kick your butt!” He got up pulled off his loincloth, whipped off his shirt and ran down to join Ili in the water, though Ili was actually playing with a clot of Haian children a little way down the sand.
I was a little early for my appointment next day, a little sun-burnt, having spent the rest of yesterday swimming in the lagoon with Ili and Gan, taking my nervousness out on the water. I’d promised, made an appointment. Why had I just gone along with Gan and not made a scene?
I sat on the low, woven chair meant for people to sit cross-legged in, and tucked my hands under my thighs, eyes closed, breathing hard through my nose, trying to calm myself down.
“Ser Akam?” The Haian I opened my eyes on was an older man with a phenomenally calm face with white-streaked hair long enough to make an Aitzas jealous. I got up.
“I’m Minakas Akam. Are you Zinchaer?”
“Yes… would you follow me, please?” His softly accented Arkan was different from Haians I’d heard on the mainland. We walked outside, through a butterfly garden, down a shell path and to a small cabin that had walls painted with gigantic flowers under a green and orange frieze.
The walls were solid enough that it looked like no one would hear anything once the door was closed. Inside, the walls and ceiling, even parts of the floor, were lined with sea-sponges giving the room a surprisingly cozy look. There was a massage table that had a bright cloth on it to one side, draped with mosquito netting, tied back. On the other side of the room an island of cork matting framed out two comfortable chairs. On a low table between them, a candle burned, sweetening the air, and a purple orchid like Misahis had had.
“Would you be happier on a chair, or on the floor?”
“Um. It doesn’t matter.”
“Very well. Have some tea, Minakas, please.”
I settled into the cushioned chair with my back to the table and accepted a glass of tea in a shell cup that fit nicely, comfortably into my hand, even though I felt like I was sitting on nail-heads and glass shards. I couldn’t swallow, so I held onto the cup without sipping. Like Gannara told me last night, late. I reminded myself of what he’d said We have to remember, it’s Haians. They’d never hurt a fly. “Thank you, Zinchaer.”
“You’re welcome, Minakas. I generally start by reassuring you, that you may say anything to me – nothing will go beyond these walls. That’s a sacred part of my calling. And also, you may ask me any question… about myself, about the healing process, whatever you want.”
I nodded. “Zinchaer… during the occupation… did you lose anyone? Or anything? Did Arko harm you?”
He set his cup down softly. “It does not matter if I did or did not. What is your age?”
“Um… seventeen…” I had to think, "Really, sixteen and a half." In all the travelling Ili's fifth birthday had come and gone. It was winter. Hard to think of it as winter since Haiu Menshir really didn't get the cold rains that Arko could. “Oh, um, my birth certificate says third threshold…” He waved a hand, acknowledging.
“So you were a child when Arko occupied us and bear no responsibility for what your elders did.”
I had to put my own cup down and realized with a shock my eyes were full of tears. “Zinchaer… I… need… to tell you…”
“Take a deep breath and have some water,” he urged, gently, and moved a stack of handkerchiefs closer toward me.
“My name… I’m… I’m not Minakas Akam, fessas.” I panted. “You might not want to help me once you know who I am but I need to be honest with you.”
His face remained quiet, non-judgmental. “Please do. It apparently will be a good place to start for you. Everyone is concerned with the fundamental idea of who we truly are.”
“I… um.” I had to swallow the water running together in my mouth, my stomach threatening to turn itself inside out. “I’m First Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan.” My whole body was twitching as it tried to bolt and I restrained it, held it still.
“Related to the late Imperator?” He asked it so mildly.
“Yes.” I had my eyes locked on his. “His son.”
There was a flicker of emotion then, but I didn’t recognize it. “Truly. The alias is necessary… I understand.”
I dragged more air into my lungs. “I… um… I’d understand if you might find it difficult to… um… be my healer.”
He looked puzzled. “Why should I?”
It was my turn to be puzzled. “I’m sure… I’m sure you know, Arkans think ‘like father, like son… I guess I keep thinking other people will think that too.”
He picked up his tea and I did too. “Again… did you order the warships here?”
“Then I would be wrong to blame you for them. And I do not.” He had such a kind face as he offered me forgiveness, so easily. Somewhere in me a hard knot started to loosen, just a little.
“I… Zinchaer… would I be able to find out if Misahis of Berit made it home safely? Father…” I gulped. “The fat guy… put him in a dungeon… with the Haians he seized from here, for healing Chevenga… I hope to find out if they made it home as well---“ My throat seized up and he held up a temperate hand.
“Softly… may I call you Minis?”
“Oh, yes, please do!” I went to one knee in front of him, and put my head down. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being able to stop him…”
“Minis.” He put both hands on my shoulders. “This is part of what we need to work on. You do not need to apologize for something not your responsibility.” His hands steadied me and then patted my shoulders.
“We will address these things. First… first I think you need to sit down again, have some tea and tell me how you know Misahis… and what help he gave you in Arko.”
“Oh. I…” I wanted to much to throw myself on the ground and wail but it was all right for me to curl into the depths of the chair. Asking his calm questions he prompted me to tell him about Misahis first.
He became a friend in that first session and, over the next little while, I became very familiar with the inside of his room, the butterfly garden and the University beaches.