Dear Shadow Mama and Shadow Daddy,
I’m sorry I didn’t write to you earlier, but I couldn’t really remember. I do now.
Minis got me away from the Mahid and took me back to Yeoli. He’s a good young man and hates what his father did to me. So he’s been pushing for me to get my memory and my voice back and to see that I get home safe.
“Gannara… maybe you shouldn’t laud me too much to your shadow-parents? After all, I’m the only Aan around to blame for your injury.”
“Shut up, Minis. I’ll laud who I like.”
We unlocked my tongue enough to find out that I was from Asinanai… I couldn’t remember that… and we went back to the city to find out that Mama and Papa were dead. I cried at the memorial and I have some more locks of hair to burn, I guess, but the harbourmaster nearly arrested Minis when he asked about the family… and I had to run in and talk him out of it. That big picture of me all over the Miyatara is embarrassing!
I was so scared and upset, Minis brought me to Haiu Menshir, figuring I needed help for what happened to me, and my Haian here, Initaeren, helped me get to a point where I could write this letter.
She’s right. I shouldn’t be scared to write you. I’m not the same. I have so many scars. Some things are fixed and are being fixed, at Minis’s expense… when we ran away from the Mahid we managed to steal half the treasury… so he’s paying for what I need, not to worry about money. He says he owes me, even though he didn’t have anything to do with what happened to me. He says that it’s his family's responsibility and I should just shut up and take it and quit arguing that it’s not his fault.
“It is my family's responsibility.”
“Just shut up and let me write, all right?”
Um… shadow-mama, shadow-daddy… I’m scared you won’t recognize me with all this stuff. I’m scarred like the demarch, if you’ve ever seen him. Some of the scars don’t show unless I take my shirt off. I had my teeth fixed so they’re not gold anymore and the scar on my face… will fade and move as I grow bigger. It has a little already so it doesn’t quite match the big face scar on Chevenga. Oh and Kurkas didn't have the germ of the head put in me so I'm fine that way too. They just gave me a little needle mark on my one eyelid as if I did have it and that's really hard to see.
The other marks will fade more too but I’ll have them my whole life, the Haians say. Oh, and they fixed it so I can have kids again. Kurkas tried to wreck that in me like he tried to wreck that in the demarch but, like him, the Haians fixed it. A healer by the name of Piatrsi. The same healer who fixed Chevenga.
You can write me here, care of the University, because I’m going to be here a while, working with Initaeren. She’s good at what she does. I like her, when she isn’t making me look at all the Kurkas stuff. But I’m safe and you can take down all those signs because you know where I am. I’m not lost anymore. I’m getting better, too.
I miss you.
“Minis, that’s a lie. I can barely remember them! I can’t lie.”
“It’s a loving lie, Gan. They don’t need to know the Mahid screwed that up. If you could, you would so you might as well put it in.”
“I suppose. All right.”
But you know I’m safe and on Haiu Menshir so everything’s all right.
Love and hugs and kisses,
P.S. Please take all those pictures of me down!
I stared at Zinchaer in horror. Had he actually said that? “Arkans have, as a matter of course, trauma related to their physical existence. They punish themselves for having normal emotions. A body feels what it feels. We will begin dealing with this. For now, all you need to do is submit to a massage.”
“You mean… take all my clothes off.” The fat guy had massages all the time. So do most other people.
“Yes. And lie down on that table. You will be covered all over by a sheet -- wherever I am not working. I think we shall begin with lavender oil. I will be outside until you are safe under the sheet.”
He smiled at me and patted my shoulder as he left. “You can do it, Minis. It’s just healing.”
It was easier without him there. I had been taking my clothes off to swim… so it wasn’t as though I wasn’t used to it. I took my time and folded every piece of clothing carefully onto the chair, leaving my tight wraps till last, crawled onto the table as if sneaking up on something, and pulled the sheet over me. I was covered to the neck, my arms folded up by my sides, my face barely resting in the opening for my nose, when Zinchaer tapped on his own door and entered when I said ‘I’m ready.”
I’m surprised he heard me, my voice was so faint and muffled against the padding, but then, it sounded like he was used to healing Arkans, not just me.
He came in and put a few more drops of scent into his candle-burner and came over to lay a spirit-gentle hand on my shoulder. “We’ve done enough work for you to tell me. What kinds of tension are we working on, here?”
“Um. Muscle tension… I guess.”
“Good.” His strong fingers dug into the muscles of my shoulders and my arms unfolded slowly, to hang down and rest upon the shelf under my head. It felt so good. When had he put the warm oil on his hands? “You have told me who are very good at controlling the mind through the muscles.”
“The Mahid. Yeha.”
“Ah, let it go. Relax. Just saying the name is enough to tense you up. It is one of the four tensions that many people have, when they have harsh body taboos.”
“Like Arkans do.”
“Yes. Can you think of another that we have talked about?” He stood above my head and his hands slowly coursed down my back on either side of my spine, fingers splayed over my ribs. There were sore spots all the way down, as if I had spikes nailed into me, here and there. I pushed my ribs out against his hands, sighing, and it hurt, but the soreness was good. How could that be?
“Oh.” I realized I wasn’t breathing as deep as I could so drew in a little more air. “Oh! Tension in breathing!?” I wasn’t sure but Mahid were strict on how and when you could breathe if you were in their training… or punishment. I tightened up again.
“Ah, ah.” I closed my eyes and managed to just pay attention to what his hands were doing on my skin. He’s Haian. He’s not going to touch the crazy corrupt shen except to help me get rid of it. “Yes. Tension in breathing. To heal that you can learn to breath like a child again, a baby has no tension and does not hold its breath, if it is at peace. It is like flying. You let go of the control, through here.” His fingers curled slowly, smoothly down my sides and very lightly tugged my body up from my stomach. The whole bottom edge of my ribs all the way around was sore. “That tension is muscular as well but for our purposes it is usually good to separate the two.”
“I understand.” I sniffed. “Bye dose is getting’ stuff’d up.”
“It happens when on a massage table. Things loosen up and your nose is one way it can get out.” He let me get up on my elbows to clear my nose and then lay down again. "It is also lower than the rest of your head in this position. You may extrapolate that the final two tensions are mental and emotional… and they rise out of and are controlled with the first two.”
“I… suppose. Zinchaer… you said that my growing up in the Marble Palace was of itself a trauma. How is this going to help?”
“Well. Hold on a moment here, I am adjusting the sheet so that I may work on this leg.” What he called a leg, I called a hip and a leg but it was so smooth and healerly a touch I didn’t tighten up. And he used his knee to dig into the big hip and behind muscles so it wasn’t as if his fingers ever got near my anus. “You have been taught a pattern of muscular tension, to control your breathing, your thoughts and your emotions, to be safe in your father’s court, to show nothing, correct?”
“Yes. That came in handy when I was in training by the Mahid. Though they are even more severe at controlling themselves. I think 2nd Amitzas would have been even harder on me, if he thought he had to turn me into a kind of Mahid instead of an Heir. To scrape the indulged brat off.”
“So he saw you as only the indulged brat.”
“But you were also a sensitive child forced to see and hear and do horrific things… ah! Don’t tighten up on me… keep breathing.”
“y… y… yes.” Somehow I managed to rasp that out. “Are you saying that hurt me?”
“You mean… well… maybe… all religion aside… I might… I might…” He didn’t interrupt but shifted things and moved to work on my other leg. I managed to swallow and breathe… and whispered… “It might not have been my fault?”
“I am firmly convinced that the things you have told me of, were not your responsibility and you needn’t punish yourself for them, by punishing your body.”
I was glad I was lying down. Everything was reeling. I hadn’t told him the worst of it yet though. It was hard enough to hear that about what I had told him. I felt faint and managed to tell him so.
“Breathe. You need more air. It is good you are actually hearing this. It is something that you need to practice telling yourself, to begin countering your negative training. I will hold up this sheet and you may roll over on your back and I will cover you again.” I did that, and he held up the sheet between us so I could roll without getting tangled and still keep my privacy.
When I was on my back, looking up at the bumpy, sponge covered ceiling, I was light-headed and feeling almost dreamy. He started work on my head and neck and all of a sudden I was so relaxed I was almost drooling. “Very, very good,” he said softly and moved down to my arms and hands.
“I will give you exercises to relax you, when you begin to think these horrific things about yourself and you will be able to apply them to each kind of tension specifically.”
“I… like this one…” He chuckled as he unwound the clawed knots of tension in my hands. “Like… lying… in a… field of… lavender.” Zinchaer’s hands were like… I couldn’t think of Misahis… they were loving, like his. He had been saved by the Yeolis, I had found out.
The Haian libraries all had sections now, devoted to 'The Conquest'. The captive Haians had told their stories in a record that I had found in a folio in the University. I had to laugh. Apparently I had skated right past the rescue party and never seen them. That must have been when 2nd Amitzas truth-drugged me.
Misahis was working in Arko again, though not for the Imperatrix. He must really like Arkans. That was good to know, that he and all the others were well.
I’d helped. I’d helped more than I knew, just by trying. I could give myself that, too. I could feel the clenched knots in my guts… those spots that Zinchaer said I was working on wearing holes in my stomach with if I didn’t stop… I could feel them loosen more.
Zinchaer was working on my feet and I found myself crying it felt so good. “Feet are often cramped if one is held captive in a constrained and rigid life,” he said. I could feel my stomach rise with my breath and my gentle tears rolling down the side of my face and into my ears. I sniffed again and found myself bawling like a baby. “It’s all right Minis. No one can hear you but me.”
As he let go my feet I turned on my side, curling up, howling with his arms around me. “It’s good Minis. You relax muscles and all the emotion and mental confusion will come out. Once it’s out. It will go away. Trust me on this one. You won’t fall apart. I have you and will hold onto you. You will not lose yourself in it if you start.”
I could not remember having cried like this. I was curled tight as Ili when he was starting a tantrum and I cried till my nose was red, raw and stuffed solid and my throat was sore and my cheeks were sore from all the tears pouring over them as if they were acid, leaving trails of pain. “These are tears and pain given you by your father. You have been carrying them for years and you can put them down now. This is not all of them… but some.”
My chest and abdomen heaved, the ribs and stomach moving more than I could remember as I breathed deeper into the pit of my stomach than I ever had… so hard it almost hurt stretching that much. But it was so easy.
“Here.” Zinchaer had a cool cloth for me when my tears and howling finally eased. He didn’t let go of me to hand it to me, either but carefully patted my face clean with the one hand. “I’m—s—“ He put the cloth over my lips for a moment, cutting me off.
“Do not apologize. That pulls some of the emotion back into you and that is not right.”
“A…all right.” He had the sheet wrapped around me tight as his hug and I could sit up without being immodest. “Zinchaer. I don’t know if I can do more of that.”
“Everyone wonders if they can. If they need to, the strength is there.”
I laughed, shaky as if I’d had a long illness, my arms and legs feeling both heavy as lead and light and empty as air… like I could fly away without a moyawas. I took the cloth out of his hand and cleared the last of the tears and nose goo off my face with it. He was too gentle to get the really sticky stuff. “Does… does everyone go through this?”
“Oh yes. Wait until we get to the rage you very justifiably have in you. Perhaps I shall have you hurl boulders off a very private cliff.”
I looked at him sideways. Sometimes I suspected Zinchaer of having a very dry sense of humour but it seemed he was perfectly serious now. Oh, wonderful. “It seems so… violent… Zinchaer.”
“You were dealt violence and it is acceptable to throw it away.”
“I… can’t wait.” Part of me wasn’t sure if I was being sarcastic or as straight as he was.