Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Impending Hiatus

I have just realized I need to give my brain a break, expecially just before the Novel Marathon, so I will be taking a week off beginning July 9th.  I'm hoping to recharge my writing batteries before Karen and I write a book over the weekend of the 16th of July.

I'll remind everyone a couple of days before!

299 - The Statue Seems Excessive

Dear M,

The papers and the pen were absolutely beautiful!  I particularly loved the paper with rose-petals.

I wonder if you picked this out, and when?  And where are you now?  The serina from the Marble Palace came and asked me in for another follow up session of questioning.  Have I heard from you?  Have you written me.  I was pleased to be able to tell them no with a clear conscience because I know I have a mysterious admirer but I don’t know for sure it is you.  I can say I have never received a package from Minis Aan.

This will, of course, end up in the fire.

I’m afraid Mama is starting to invite eligible young men to our salons, to hear us read and to read in their turn.  It is her way of winnowing out any men who would take exception to our reading skill.  And I know she hopes I will express my preference for one soon.  Unfortunately a lot of these young men… I find rather shallow and feckless.  Mama tells me that I should be careful not to let myself get too old to be eligible, though since the war women are making matches where before they would have been considered to ‘long in the tooth’ to be seen as valuable as a wife.

I am starting to question that.  I might even allow myself to become upset by the idea.  Such ideas.  The new ‘Fenjitza’ is still a scandal to half the city and a lot of people have been waiting for the Gods to strike her down, but she walks in the Temple before the Goddesses without harm.  Personally, I find her sermons to us women much more… how do I put it… real and practical.  Very enlightening and uplifting, appropriate for a people supposed to be sprung from the stars.

Mama nearly fainted the first time I invited her and some of  her newly ordained priestesses for afternoon kaf but now finds her very personable.  The mask is a little disconcerting at first, since everyone had it associated with something supposedly so low as… dare I even write the words?  Yes.  Prostitution and midwifery.

This letter is definitely going into the flames.  I could share such scandalous words and thoughts with you M, but I would never allow anyone else to see them.  There are writers who are writing such radical things in the Pages that a lot of women are talking about them and their ideas.  They are writing about how women have been gradually demonized in our culture, by fearful Imperators past. A number of people are following their lead and the Pages are actually printing their writings. Fascinating really.

Did you hear about the new initiative to raise a statue to the former Imperator, Shefen-kas?  They would have to remove most of ‘Solas Muster’ on the avenue of statues and perhaps one of the university buildings to make space for it.  There are protests being staged, the women and children of some of the solas honoured there, even though they have been reassured that the statues would be removed, with honour to another location, yet un-named. To my mind the statue to Shefen-kas seems a bit excessive, even for someone that people are now beginning to revere.  It is to be ten manheights high, seven of which will be the bronze figure itself.

There is a slow roil of unrest in the city, since people are becoming used to being allowed to express themselves more freely.  The Imperatrix, She Who is The Reflection of Holy Light is not hated really, more distrusted, and people are unhappy having an Imperatrix on the Crystal Throne.  Especially one who has never done the Ritual of Ascension.

My prayers go with you as you wander, and I wait with breathless anticipation for the next clue to your continued well being.


I managed to crawl up the stone steps and stagger out of the water.  My testicles hurt.  My head hurt, my gut hurt, my one knee was strained and my hands and arms and ribs all hurt.  They hadn’t hit as hard as they thought.  For all their talk of rape and their willingness to murder me they hadn’t struck with as much intent as Mahid did.

I felt a couple of my teeth where loose and I had care not to push them free with my tongue.  I’d bitten the insides of my mouth.  My lips were split and I’d have a black eye in the morning.  My nose was probably broken. But I could move.

I burned, wanting to have fought back.  I’d won by convincing them to throw me in the river but I still felt shamed.  I’d done what I should but I felt like a coward for not having done the heroic thing and fought back with deadly intent immediately.  They might have backed off if I’d killed or maimed one or two… but that would have brought the Yeoli authority down on me and Ili and Gannara.

I spat a little blood into the gutter, carefully so as not to send my poor teeth after it.  The clerk at the front desk was dozing when I came in so I slipped quietly upstairs.  I so wanted to lie down on the bed and wrap my aching arms around my heart’sbrother but if I did that I’d fall asleep.  There were a group of murderous young louts in the city who thought they’d killed someone and I didn’t want to disabuse them of that.

I pulled out our packs and began packing by feel.  Gannara sat up in the bed.  “Brother, what’s wrong?  What are you doing?”

“I’m packing, heart’sbrother.” I said, a little mushy because of the damage to my mouth.  “There’s a bunch of kids…young thugs who think they’ve killed me.  They beat me up and threw me off a bridge.  I pretended to drown and they scattered.  I think we need to leave.”

“What?”  He climbed out of the bed, quietly so as not to disturb Ili, on his truckle bed.

“If I try to report them, or they see me and realize they didn’t succeed… It’ll be a problem all around.  The truth-drug will come out… Can we just leave?  Please?”  I put my sore head down on the pack I was kneeling in front of.

“They think they KILLED you? Are you all right?”

“Yeha, I’m all right.  They were going to rape and beat me to death in the woods but I pretended to be so scared of the canal that they threw me in, instead.  I pretended to drown.”  I felt sick and shaking now, light-headed, trembling all over and cold.  “Please don’t light the lamp… I’ll bet I look like Hayel on sliced bread right n… n… n…ow.”

“Those kyashin kevyalin kaina mariugh meniren, fikkers.” Gannara hissed as he got up and lit the lamp anyway and saw me kneeling next to our packs, shivering.  “Get those wet clothes off, right now, Min.  No arguments.” His hands on my shoulders felt so good. “Here… I have some remedies from Haiu Menshir that might help.”  He rummaged and drew out the vials from his bag by the bed.

“I’ll get sleepy, Gan and then I’ll want to stop moving and if they see us…”

“Shut up.  You’re going nowhere tonight.  You’re going straight to bed and you’re staying in bed until you feel better.  We don’t have to run off like thieves in the night.  Stay in, don’t let the fikkers see you.”  He looked angry. 

“If I thought I could get away with it, I’d report you missing…” He turned my head with his hand under my chin to check my eye.  “…but I won’t.  But there’s no way you are going running off in the night, looking like you’ve been stomped by a mamoka.  When you’re healed up… and I’ll look after you… we’ll leave like civilized people.  We’ll just darken your hair a bit for now.  Your glasses…”

“They got stepped on.”  I let him help me up and take off my wet clothes and wrappings.  I hurt so bad now all I wanted to do was lie down.  I couldn’t argue with him.  Ili, on his bed, on the other side, sighed and turned over clutching stuffed animals to him, and Jiaklem on our bedpost cheeped sleepily.

The remedies were bringing my hurts up sharp and I just wanted to lie down until the healing part happened.  I made myself hestitate a moment more, sighed and lay down the way I wanted to and Gan tucked me in.  “Don’t worry, heart’sbrother,” he said.  “We’ll make sure this gets covered up and we don’t have to run.”

He blew out the light and climbed in next to me, hugging me carefully.  He was warm against my chills and the feather pillow under my head felt like Selestialis itself.  I was shaking and cold and he was so warm.  A vagrant tear or two forced its way out of my swollen-shut eye.  “Thanks, Gan.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”

“What are you sorry about?”  He gathered me onto his shoulder.  “You didn’t get killed and didn’t kill anybody or draw authorities or writers down on us.”

“I should have paid attention.  I shouldn’t have been walking alone like that.”

“Shut up, heart’sbrother.  You won’t do it again.  So stop beating up on yourself for not coming across all heroic and stupid.  What? You wanted to be all mythic and calling lightning and fire from heaven down on a bunch of stupid, vile boys who mobbed you?”

“You’re right, Gan.  I’ll shut up now.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

298 - Ouchie Call an Advocate!

Report: Joras put the pen down and rubbed his fingertips as if they stung.  It was so hard to just write as if to another person at home rather than an official report.  Reports were so easy.  You just took the required words, slotted the new information around them and then signed one’s name.  There was none of this ‘friendliness’ nonsense to hide code in.

He burned the first page and took up his pen once more.

Dear Cousin Amitzas,
I’m going to be coming home soon because our dear friend is all healed up and has left Haiu Menshir.

I would have been most diligent in passing on your felicitations to him, had I seen him, but he was healed and had left before I arrived.

I’ve consulted with the medical glassworkers here and they tell me that glass needles, while a good idea, are unlikely since they are so brittle and are likely to cause more harm than good if used.

I send this letter on ahead to herald my coming and hope to see everyone hale and whole soon.

My best regards,


“What the kyash are you doing here, Arkan?” They were swigging out of flasks in their hands, the stenches of alcohol on their breath. Who do you think wants to see your ugly slab face?”  It was all confusion, my hair in my face, my scholar’s robe tangling around my limbs as they pushed me.  I took a deep breath.  Idiots. I was starting to be afraid because Mahid are Mahid even if they aren’t trained.

“Go back to kyashin Arko where you belong!”

“There were enough of you ass-suckers here long enough!”

They were shoving me back and forth between them, too many to fight. I was unarmed and if I killed someone I’d be discovered. I had that flash of thought as my glasses hit the ground and crunched underfoot. I struggled upright and snarled at these young thugs. “ War’s over!  You won. I can walk where I like!”

“No.” The next shove half threw me into the arms of two behind.  “You can’t, you straw-haired piece of kyash!

I cried out “Hey!” even as they thrust me upright and forward, hard and I took advantage of their pushing me, dove under the outstretched arm of the ring-leader and ran like a rabbit.

I heard a flask smash as it was dropped, and cursing. The deep shadows around the rose-bushes gave me a head start and they were after me like a pack of hounds, baying human sounds.

“There he goes!  Get him Fin! No, cut him off! Ouch! That was me! There, look there!”

I ran for the bridge thinking that if I could get to the other side, it was that much closer to people, to an inn or something…  I tried to dodge, hearing their panting breaths come up faster than mine, they knew the ground better and  one flung himself at my heels and both of us landed hard, my chin hitting the grass on the edge of the pavement just at the bridge, with a smack that had me seeing stars.

My breath was knocked out of me and they hauled me upright as they all came up again.  They were mostly shaking me around as they spoke.

“What shall we do with you?”

My breath came back with a half-sob and I heaved my chest open enough to snap back “Nothing, shen you!  Leave me alone!  I’m no warrior!  I’m just a scholar!” 

“Hmm.” One of them said.  “We hurt you, kill you… a jury would take one look and go, “Oh, an Arkan!” They won’t give a flying kyash about what we did.”

I started struggling harder.  One of them cuffed me in the back of the head, another jabbed me in the kidneys, though fairly lightly.  They were working themselves up to it.  “Let go of me!  I never fought! I never hurt a Yeoli!”  That was a lie.

They were ignoring me, egging each other on.  “We could… strangle you…” one of them said, thoughtfully.

“Or smother him,” said another.  I got an elbow into one gut and he grunted.  I could hear bracelets rattle.

“I think we should beat the kyash out of you before we decide what else to do to you,” he said.  The edge of my hand cracked into someone’s temple but I was held hard enough it only staggered him.

A fist drove into my gut and I snapped forward around it, vaguely grateful it was only a fist and didn’t have a knife in it. Yet.  It was getting more vague as another fist glanced off the top of my head.  They were getting in each other’s way.

“How about flog the kevyalaseye  to death?”

“Fik you, you dirty wool-heads!”

They were laughing.  “Ooooh! Tough Talk!  I feel soooo mortified.” “Ouchie, Ouchie, call an advocate!”  “Whooo! The boy has words! Got any more for us, bumboy?”

“Filthy beasts!”  I was on one knee and struggled up to standing, my arms over my head.  Don’t go down unless you want to get kicked to death. I hurt.

“That’s what we should do!” One of them exclaimed as I tried to kick, with my robe binding around that leg and one kicked back, hitting my calf.  “The Arkan thing!  That’s kyashin’ perfect!”

Shen, shen, shen!” I was yelling now as much as I had breath for, one backhanded me across the face and I tasted blood.  A hand slapped itself over my mouth.

“Where do we take him?  We can’t do it here by the bridge, my mother might see.”

I bit the hand over my mouth and he yanked the hand away. “Kyash! I’m gonna get a disease!” “Take him into the woods, rape out his brains there.” A knee slammed between my legs, doubling me over, gasping, making me sag for a moment in their hands. “I don’t know how.” “Now’s your chance to learn, Kam. If you don’t do it with your dick, cause you're too drunk, you can get a tree-branch.”

I have to do something to get them off this. I don’t want to die, Sinimas, Ancestors… I surged upright, struggling hard enough that the robe tore, leaving me with my shirt and kilt, the one sleeve of the shirt already ripping. Can I convince them…? I thrashed and smashed my toe into one gut and half freed myself, but shied away from the bridge.  “Gods! Oh Gods!” I started screaming, as the knot of us lurched toward the canal. “Not the water!”

One of the younger ones sounded uncertain and a little sick.  “I don’t want to do this.”

“You can stand guard, then…and watch our flasks,” and to me, “Shut the kyash up!”  And his fist hit my face hard enough to almost stun me.  I sagged a moment then scrambled up, trying to thrash away from the water again.

“Not the water… Gods, no, no, no… oh Gods… anything but the water…”

“The little kyashaseye is afraid of water, just like his fikken Imperator…  Shut the kyash up or we’ll throw you in!”

“Hey, Fil let’s show him the deep part!”

“AHHHHHHH!” I screamed as if completely terrified.  Oh Gods yes, let them try to drown me.  “Shen you, shen you, you kaina…”

They dragged me, struggling, screaming almost as high as Kyriala, to the middle of the stone bridge and heaved me up slamming my gut into the stone rail so I was looking down into the black water.  “Shut up or we’ll throw you in!” 

“HEEEEEELLL—“ I got hauled back and struck again, open handed across the mouth, by the leader, I could see the mole on his chin in the lamplight. “Yeola-e doesn’t want you, you kevyalin ass sucker… I wouldn’t soil my dick with you.  Shut up or you go swimming.”

I managed a sniveling, half scream… “I can’t swim!!!!!!  Hellllllp!  Assssakkkkkoooooo.

“Then it’s straight to the bottom of the canal you little asshole…”

“Throw him over! Throw him over!” I managed to let go enough to piss myself as if I were that afraid of the water.  “Eww! Throw him over!”

I was screaming again as they hoisted me up in their grip, struggling… “We’ll say we were just joking around and he slipped… oops…”  They heaved me back and swung me forward hard, arcing up and I caught a glimpse of the stone flying under me and the black water below before I hit with a huge splash, flailing.

My belly hurt where I’d hit. I thrashed as though struggling, flailing the water up all around me, gurgling and coughing.  I went under once, struggled up, splashing, screaming for my mama.  I kicked with the current as much as I could and though it was hard, through the flying water, I thought I could see pale faces along the rail of the bridge watching me.  “Mikas help m-glgleleph.”

I flailed and splashed and went under again.  “I’m too yo- cough-ng to die!  I –akkkaffspcoug—never fought—“ I gagged and made retching noises. I hope you feel guilty you fikken wretches. I was trying to give them enough of a show of drowning I caught a breath of water and coughed and choked for real for a bit, slowed my thrashing, gulped a lung full of air and made myself drop under, pulling myself down hard with the one arm, reaching up with the other, till the water closed over my fingertips.

Then I turned and swam as hard as I could underwater in the direction of the trickle of current.  My sandals dragged but weren’t as bad as boots. Thank the Gods the robe was torn off. I have to get as far away as I can, underwater.

It’s black as a Srian’s armpit I can’t see anything how far? OUCH.  The current had banged me into something a rock or a log, I was lower than I thought.  I was running out of air… I struck for the surface and tried to come up quietly.

Thank my Ancestors the water is cool.  Sinimas pass on a thank you to the Gods, please.  I’d be hurting a lot more if I weren’t in the water.  I struggled not to gasp in a lung-full but it was so sweet.  I was perhaps ten manheights down the canal, clinging to a set of steps leading into the water for harnessing the tow-animals.

There were no more heads fringed along the bridge and I could hear fast fading feet. However much I wanted to, I wasn’t going to complain to the authorities... or show up as a bloated corpse, so my torn-off robe probably wouldn’t cause anyone to raise any kind of questions. I heard someone in the distance, but I couldn’t make out the words.  Probably coming up with a story of some kind. I stayed still and was so glad it was summer so the water was just cool, hanging on to the edge of the steps in the shadow and enjoyed breathing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

News Flash Tristan Bumpificated!

We were on the way to the hospital when they called.

 Tris has been bumped to tomorrow.  They had seven surgeries in the fracture clinic and he's number five.  So... they will call us.

Waiting. But not while a boy is in surgery, waiting for the space...

Tristan update

Hey guys I just wrote my latest blog-post about what's been going on here:

http://shirleymeier.blogspot.com/  You can also follow the link at the side of the page, Shirley's Blog.

I will try to get internet access while in the hospital waiting room tonight.

We'll see.

Friday, June 25, 2010

297 - A Kyash-Sucking Kevyalaseye

Dear Chevenga,

I’m so sorry to have to cancel any other meetings we might have, I have been suddenly called away on an urgent matter of family.  My sincere apologies and hope that I might one day be again in Vae Arahi and call upon you and your gracious family once more.
Minakas Akam, fessas

We reversed our progress down to Hirina but this time, at the crossroads, we headed up river to Tinga-e rather than down to Selina on the sea.  We had no destination specifically in mind, so I thought I would perhaps find some interesting books and research materials in the Plains Library.

We took our time and toured sites of the battlefields and memorials along the route where the Yeolis had won their country back.

What was I going to do with my life?  And how could I convince Gannara that he should take up his own again?  And I couldn’t take Ili back to Ailadas, simply because if I were an investigator I would periodically check to see if I had had any contact with him since the last time. 

And Ili... I was seeing myself as a crabbed old scholar but I could hardly as him to share my life or try and make him into something he was not.  He was smart but his strength was... literally his strength.

What was he to do?  Follow me vaguely about the earthsphere playing with Jiaklem?  I needed to settle down somewhere, and permanent residency on Haiu Menshir was discouraged or half the world would try to move there.

I wanted desperately to live in the city itself if I could establish my persona as a fessas well enough.  But Joras showing up on Haiu Menshir showed me that as long as the Mahid were out there, searching for me, I couldn’t stay in one place for very long.  I had no idea how they were finding me.

It was evening in Tinga-e and I had presented my credentials to the librarians there and already found some interesting articles and correspondences around the time of Notyere... actually his sister Denaina.

Gannara and Ili and I had taken some time to tour the new Tinga-e paperworks.  With all the new presses there was an enormous demand for paper and the trees quilted the land in their thickness from Tinga-e up into the mountains right up to where they gave way to the lichens and mosses.

The paper works were the most advanced I had ever seen, built by Arkan craftsmen.  Likely with loot from Arko as well but I was just as pleased to see it used so.  It was big and new and for a small fee they would tour you through the whole process of how some papers were made.  I thought it fascinating and Ili seemed to, Gan was almost more humouring us but got caught up when they showed him papers that could be written upon but were water and salt resistant for use at sea.

They made paper of wood pulp, and plant pulp and worn linen.  There were paper masters who made great single sheets of paper with flowers and grasses pressed into them, meant for shade windows and art works, or to be cut into  the finest of writing papers.

I bought eight varieties and had them wrapped and sent to Arko for Kyriala and for Ailadas, along with a gold and rosewood pen for her and an inkwood and silver for Ailadas, each in their own presentation boxes.

But it had been a long, full day and Gan and Ili and I had all lain down with the intention of sleeping in the next day, but I found with all I had to think about, I couldn’t sleep.

There were torches all along the river and this series of four shallow locks, the thick stone blocks glittering almost white in the moonlight.  A rush of water and a distant group of singers made things seem both less lonely and more lonely, both at the same time.

There were gardens all along this walk, with the torches becoming lamps as they proceeded closer to the market place, deserted this time of evening.  The only thing open now would be the inns and drinking houses and perhaps a late eating place.  Up ahead, the rounded bump of a bridge crossed this canal here below the locks, leading back to our inn.  It would offer me a good view and a place to stand and think a while.

I climbed up the steps between two enormous rose bushes, thinking of Ky as I did so, even though it was just past their blooming time.  It was too dark to see if they were blue roses.

Where could I settle Ili and I and be safe?  A hand came out of the dark and smacked against the middle of my chest stopping me where I walked.  I had my hand on it and was going to fight back when the fellow who’d stopped me pushed me back… staggering against someone else’s hands.  I’d walked right into the middle of a group of Yeolis.  Young men surrounding me.  In the light of the torch behind the one who’d pushed me I could see five, or perhaps six of them. I sucked air.

“Well, well, well.  Hey, Sal, would you look at this?  An Arkan kyash-sucking kevyalaseye, walking around our country, all by his lonesome, like he owns it.”


Sorry for the short post, but I'm a bit distracted tonight.  Tris is scheduled for tomorrow evening.  Have a good weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

296 - In Another Life

It was too early spring in the mountains to sit outside, but not to go for a walk in the evening after dinner, so Ili and I did.  We walked over to  the Hearthstone Dependent, to where they’d closed up the new cold-frames over the public gardens for the night, against the chill.  All Arkan glass.
I couldn’t help but look across the valley to the Hearthstone Independent, lit-up against the dark mass of the mountain.  There didn’t seem to be any alarms being yelled.  So no one had recognized Minis. Yet.

You idiot.  You just had to go to dinner in disguise.  You just had to.  I could just kick you.  You’re a wanted fugitive and what do you do, walk into the semana-- the former semanakraseye’s house right under his and all his guards noses. Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, if you get yourself caught and killed because you want to talk to Ch’venga over dinner, I am going to--- THWAPSlfff.  I staggered a little sideways as something hit the side of my head and latched on.

“Hey!”  Jia, cheeping, as loud as he ever got, clung to the side of my head where Ili had thrown him.  “That’s not nice, kid!  Do you think he liked being thrown?  You could have hurt him!” I put my hands up and the tentacle he had clinging to my face under my nose let go.

“You weren’t listening to me.  Jia’s all right and so’s Minakas.  Don’t worry, Uncle Gan.  He’ll be all right.  That’s what I said and you didn’t hear me.”

Jiaklem, pulsing between pink and the colour of my shirt, a pale green, crawled down to my shoulder, quiet again.  “I suppose.  I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention to you Ili, but you’ve got to promise not to throw him at people it’s not polite to him or the person who’s got hit.”

“It worked!”

“But it still wasn’t polite.  You cuddle him and say sorry.” I held out the pulsing creature to Ili.

“Sorry, Gan.”  He took his pet and tucked him in a writhing ball into his coat.  “Sorry, Jiaklem.”


The adults had tired of the water before the children and had all gotten dry.  We were out in the garden again, all with fresh glasses.  I sat near Kallijas the elder and chatted with him, in my fessas accent.  Across a raised bed of jasmine vines I could see Skorsas talking quietly in Chevenga’s ear.  I wasn’t worried at first,but then caught Skorsas looking across at me and then back to Chevenga, saying something else.

They’re talking about me. My heart contracted.  I had to leave, if the real one-time fessas suspected me. I watched without watching, my eyes apparently fixed on my wine glass.  “Living with Shevenga,” Kallijas was saying.  “I do have the occasional alcohol, now.  I’ve learned it isn’t all or nothing.”

“T’ honoured solas must find it easier,” I said trying to be polite while I wondered if I could run straight out the pool room window if I had to.  I hadn’t seen how far down the ground was on that side of the house.  My heart started pounding hard.

Chevenga looked at me, looking quizzically over, then his brow cleared and he signed charcoal at Skorsas, saying something that made the Aitzas shrug, glance at me, shake his head as if to illustrate a hair-law... an Arkan still gestures somewhat, even without using hands.

Chevenga held out a hand and he took it.  They both laughed and then it wasn’t about me anymore.  It was about the held hands.  I took a deeper breath.

“’m sorry, kere Kallijas.”  I said in a mix of fessas and Yeoli.  “I was inattentive, what was that you just said?”

I needed to stop pretending and get out of here so I had to make my goodbyes to my host and I had to ask him one more question.  I had sent the letter, I had confessed to what I did to him.  I had to know.
I excused myself from the conversation and went over to where Chevenga was, seizing on a rare instant when he was by himself, except for the dogs and the wing-cat draped over his shoulder.

“Ch’venga,” I said, realizing I was saying his name the way Gannara did...  “I had one question I couldn’t really ask in the pool, may I ask it now?”

“Certainly, Minakas.” He clicked his fingers at the big dog sprawled in front of the bench next to him and pointed. “Shoo, dog, you’re always in the way and underfoot.”  The big dog sighed but got up, slouched over and sprawled again a few feet away.

I sat down and drew my courage in with my breath.  I’d never get a chance like this again. “You were talking about Minis Aan earlier.  Just between you, me, and this dog... oh, and off the record... it sounded like you truly liked him.  Did you?”

I had sent my letter of confession to him when we left Haiu Menshir.  He would have gotten it by now. I held my breath.

He looked thoughtful, his one hand petting the wing-cat purring on his shoulder idly.  “Yes.  Yes, I did.”

“What did you really think of him?”

Chevenga smiled a little, in a reminiscent way.  “He was very smart for his age.  In that way he reminds me of you.”

I nearly choked.  “Thank you. Um... thank you.”  I could squirm in my chair, embarrassed, naturally enough.  “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should.  In some ways he was older than his years, than he should have been.  I only knew him as a child.  He had an absolute, unshakeable sense of entitlement.  What he wanted, he saw as his by right.  But all children have a little of that.  He had a good heart, though.  As I said, he craved what everyone craves, someone to give him their whole-hearted attention and love and his father was, to put it politely, indifferent to him.” And you are being so careful of my confidences, to a stranger, thank you.  Thank you, Chevenga.  But I know you are not going to say anything evil about anyone usually, not even the fat guy.  That’s just you.

He scratched under the cat’s chin and it began purring loud enough that I could hear it where I sat.

“So you consider him... or did consider him a friend?”

“Yes.”  Had he somehow not gotten my letter?  Were the Gods so merciful? Or did he only mean he considered me a friend in the past?

“Was it hard to be enemies with the father while friends with the son?”  I was craving every word.  He liked me then and, somehow, still did now.

“Harder on him, actually.  He wanted to set me free, for one thing.”  I could feel my cheeks heating a little and buried my face in my kaf cup so I could blame the fragrant steam if he asked.

“Truly.”   I should sound amazed.

“Yes,” he said, making the chalk sign at the same time, for emphasis.  “He couldn’t do it, though.”  Roshten came out of the water room and trotted over to his mother for help getting his head towelled dry. “So, why are you so interested in Minis?” Chevenga wasn’t looking at me when he asked that, his glance going across to Niku and Roshten.  It gave me time to gulp and say,

“Oh, I’m interested in all the political figures through the whole transition... and I mean, the war, conquest, your retirement.”

He laughed at my prevarication.  “Such a polite way of putting my impeachment.”

Oh dear... I hadn’t wanted to bring that up, that way. “I’m sorry,” I started to say and of course he said “no, no, lad, not at all.”

“So, I thought you were more interested in the historical things, the Notyere and Tatthanas era,” he continued.  “Rather than modern politics?”

“I have that paper to finish researching but it’s Yeoli/Arkan relations past and present that interest me.”

“Of course finish the historical piece but I have a big library of contemporary political books and papers.  If you are going to be in Vae Arahi you could always come back and we could talk about it.”

“Oh, I would love that,” I said.  Oh how I long to do that and am terrified of it all at the same time.  No, I had to leave tonight.

“We could arrange it then, if you like.”  I definitely had to leave tonight.  “Why don’t you let me know once you’re done your historical research?”

“Oh, I will, thank you.” I wanted so much to fling myself into his arms.  I could see the rest of the children in the pool room. Kima and Vriah were rubbing the water off the glass to look into the enclosed garden.  They would be out soon and then the music and drumming would begin and I’d not be able to tear myself away.

“Ch’venga, I am so happy to have been invited to your lovely house and to such a good dinner and good company.  It has been a wonderful evening.”

“Well, you’re welcome.  I’ve had a good time talking to you.  Perhaps next time we’ll be able to get into a more intense discussion, hmmm?”

You have no idea how intense this whole evening has been for me. “I’m always glad to have a good political, or historical, or philosophical discussion, thank you.”

He grinned at me and rose.  “Let me walk you to the door, Minakas.”

“Thank you, Ch’venga.”

“If you keep coming back maybe I’ll be able to figure out why you are so familiar to me.”  He was turning to lead the way fortunately so he didn’t see my face.  I managed to swallow and tried to keep my answer as light as if I were lying to 2nd Amitzas.

“Like you said.  Lakans would say you and I knew each other in another life, Ch’venga.” Another life where I was a fat, spoiled rotten child, longing to be loved and you a gladiator all alone, enslaved and imprisoned.

The Model for Pitpit

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

295 - How Do I Get Into These Situations?

He looked at me quizzically. “You’ve hardly imposed. If you wish, of course, but you’re welcome to stay.”
It had taken all I could muster to say that I should leave, so I smiled at him. “Thank you, Chevenga. I was... nervous I was imposing. I’d like to stay a little longer, if I may.” What are you doing? It was as if I had a terrified voice inside screeching things at me. You said you should go. He’s already almost called you Minis TWICE, or was it three times? I told the voice to shut up and followed him down the stairs.
The moon was at the wrong angle to shine in the glass roof but there were kraumaks and wonderful smelling beeswax candles everywhere so we could see easily as we crossed the garden to the side opposite the dining hall. The glass doors there were all shut to keep the moisture in, water condensing down the big sheet doors making them easy to see so no one would walk into them. It was like stepping into my own baths years ago.
There was a lovely, natural looking waterfall pouring down into what I could see was the hot pool from the tendrils of steam rising. There were plants up and down it and channels that could be adjusted so that it could be a rushing stream, churning the pool below, or a mere trickle. The hot pool butted up against and overflowed into what must be the cool pool, big enough and deep enough to swim. Next to the hot pool, so one could walk in, were a graceful arc of steps. The windows looked right out onto the mountain as far as I could tell, the gound falling away on that side but it was dark enough I couldn’t see out.
There was a cascade to one side, shut off and racks and cubbies so people could leave their clothing to stay dry. A cabinet to one side held Arkan and Enchian swimming costumes I could see.
“Do you need one?” Skorsas, who was already in the room, tilted his head at the costumes and I shook my head no.
“Thank you. I’m all right.”
There were cushions and chairs and padded places to sit, made to look like part of the walls in places, or a glass table by the chairs, should someone wish to sit but not become wet.
I hung up my clothing and loosened my loin wrappings before pushing them down my legs with my scholar’s kilt. There is nothing on my bare body that will give me away. No one will ask about any scars, you won’t have to lie about anything... and if you pretend you cannot swim, so much the better, since Chevenga knows he taught Minis how.
I pulled off my parrot-nibbled glove and the other one, left my spectacles on, however as if I needed them to see with. Am I dreaming? I’m going to go into a hot pool with Chevenga and we’re probably going to talk politics. 
Most of the rest of the family came in to join us, even Pitpit, released from her bondage. Both parrots now sported a ribbon hat placed on them by Kila and looked disgusted with life. The wing cat was at the top of the waterfall, trying to catch drops from a trickle. Then the children hit the water with screeches and yells as they jumped in.
I settled gingerly into the hot pool, as if a little nervous, glad to hide my cringing skin under the froth. It was so hot and felt so good. It was as if I peeled off a layer of rotten just by sinking into it. I couldn’t help it, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, just listening.
The children teasing each other, though it grew a little heated now and again, was truly loving. You could hear it. It reminded me a little of how Gan and I teased each other and how sometimes, Ili was starting to get old enough to try.
The murmur of the adults voices undercut the children’s louder, more profligate shrieks. Steady. Interlocking as they spoke back and forth. You could hear they’d rubbed their conversation smooth against each other over years.
“Kall! Kall! Daddy, throw me! Mummy, throw me!” Kallijas and Chevenga and Niku ended up at the deepest part of the cool pool, with apparently murderous intent, flinging their innocent children repeatedly into the water to laughter and giggles and cries of ‘more’ and ‘do it again, please.’
When the adults were tired they came into the hot water, with Skorsas and me. “Too soon after food, to do that,” Kallijas said. “They’ll all cramp and drown.”
“You are teasing, Kallijas,” Kaninjer said. He had joined the rest of the family only a few moments ago. “Eating before swimming does not cause cramp.”
“Yes, Kaninjer. I am teasing. And you are being serious. Terrible. Just terrible that a man cannot be taken foolishly around here.”

A man known to be as lethal with a sword and other weapons as Chevenga. Arkan. And he is teasing a Haian in the gentlest of ways. I don’t truly understand how. Chevenga is odd that way because he’s Yeoli, but Arkans? The faces of the Mahid who had been all around me in my life marched through my memory, hard as marble. But I was reminded of the solas courier I had hired, ruined by his commander over a girl. I had liked his face and manner, soft spoken as Chevenga and now, I found, as Kallijas. I didn’t know how good a warrior Tzanas was so I couldn’t correlate soft-spokenness and excellence as a warrior.
“Minakas," Chevenga said. "Where did you find out about the unacknowledged graveyard in the Marble Palace?”
I was deep enough into my thoughts that I was startled a little, slipped and coughed up some water. My eyes popped open. "Oh... that..." How in Hayel was I supposed to explain that one? Chevenga had slid into the foam a few seats down, Kaninjer was almost across from me, the adult Kallijas on one side of Chevenga, Skorsas on the other. I was next to Skorsas and the rushing waterfall was next to me. "I suppose I could be coy and say a writer never betrays an informant, but really..." think, you idiot, think... "A bureaucrat was sloppy about erasing Seventeenth Kurkas's existance...an old bill to the household of the Spark of the Sun's Ray and I realized there was a discrepancy and started digging around."
"So you must have come in and looked at it... after I read that, I went to look at it myself, and it's just as you described."
"Oh it was total chance... a friend of mine... his father was a harness maker and when we boys helped clear out his old records, there was an undelivered bill and a letter to Seventheenth Kurkas. The family had hoped to gain the Spark of the Sun's Ray's permanent patronage... and apparently when the order came down that there was no such named Spark... they never sent the letter, though they should have burned it." That's plausible enough.
The sadness in his face made me want to hug him. He'd hate the idea of people vanishing like that. "I see. You always wonder, when that happens, what sort of person he was, what sort of Imperator he would have been, what he would have done in the circumstances as they were... ah well. How old would Minis have been when he was killed?"
"He would have been in his second year."
Chevenga shook his head, still sad. "I wonder if he has any dreamlike memory of having a brother. I knew Minis... when I was in the Mezem."
"You did?" Oh my... Sinimas how did we get here?

"Yes. He declared himself my first fan. He came to all my fights, when he could. And we spoke, several times."
Don't swallow obviously... "I'd heard that he named you. And that he was a little rotter, like his father. I heard stories that he could have you killed, just if he felt like it." I am going to die and sink into this hot pool, melting away into the drains, never to be seen again, right here as we sit.
"Yes, Karas Raikas was his idea. He wasn't as bad as his reputation, in truth. He was just being raised without enough love, and he was angry about it, as a child has every right to be."

Why I do some things I have no idea, like worrying at an itchy cut. "Do you ever worry, Chevenga, that he might try and avenge his father on you?" Knowing myself that's about the stupidest question I could ask. But it would seem like I not know me very well, and it would be the right question for your average Arkan man to ask. "Whether you are Imperator or not?" I feel a little like a cat chasing his own tail. What am I truly chasing and what will I do with it if I manage to catch it?
"I could be wrong, but I don't think so. He and his father... didn't entirely get along."

Earthquake, Broken Bones, Rain and Busted Cars

Author's Note: It never ends, really.  This afternoon we had an intercrustal earthquake that registered 5.0 on the Richter scale. Interesting.  That was around the time that my sun's summer camp called me to say they were taking him into the hospital to x-ray a swollen ankle just to make sure he hadn't broken it.  Sigh.  He fell.  He said it didn't hurt.

And now I'm sitting in the waiting room the counselor just arrived with Tris... it's broken.

It is pouring rain and the town is crawling with police and G8 security.  I just hope my car starts to get me home.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

294 - I Never Want to Leave

The cheerful clatter and pretend protests of the children that they had to work soooo hard, was like music, though music I had only heard a faint echo of in the Marble Palace, when I was pretending to be a servant boy. The servants and slaves there, in the vast kitchens, had been making the work as cheerful as they could rather than expressing true happiness.

It was also done very quickly with everyone knowing the routine.  I helped carry, but as a guest was settled to one side where the stove still radiated a lovely heat.  I hadn’t noticed any of the traditional Yeoli stoves anywhere but the house was warm.  The kitchen stove was the first heater I had seen.  It was something innovative, I was certain, but put it aside to ask about later.

I sipped my wine and watched and listened.  “I like big families,” I found myself saying suddenly.  “Since mine was so small.”  And so mad, bad, and corrupt.  That, of course, I didn’t say.

“You’ll fit right in here, then,” the adult Kallijas said to me, with a smile, passing by with a stack of cleaned plates to put away in the butlery.

“You wrote about horse costumes being a form of protest that Kurkas hadn’t liked?”  Chevenga came back to that, sitting down next to me with a cup of ezethra, his clean-up work apparently finished.  “But you didn’t write precisely why he arrested and jailed people during Jitzmitthra.”

“Oh, that form of protest was linked to a massacre in Tatthanas – and incidentally Notyere’s – time.  Tatthanas used cavalry to put down a mob in Presentation Square.  I’m still researching what that was all about, because the histories all say the mob was rebelling and calling for his downfall and that he was justified in what he did.”

“I see.  So people wearing horse costumes are in a very subtle way… referring to the Imperator as illegitimate?”

“It can be seen so.  No one would ever say the word ‘tyrant’ out loud.”

“Very Arkan.  I’ll be interested in seeing what you find.  Especially with the links with Notyere.”

“I’d be pleased to send you a copy once I’m done, kere Chevenga.”

“Just Chevenga, please.”

“Chevenga.  May I ask you…how was it… working with generals either disgraced or who had fought you?”

“Two very different questions, Minakas.  I generally found that it was easy to work with generals like Dafidas Pasen… and even with his brother, since men Kurkas didn’t like most often turned out to be very sensible, practical men.”  There was a quirk of a grin.  “One might say even smart.” I had to smile at that.  “When I was Imperator I was very happy to find that General Perisalas wasn’t dead, merely exiled.”

“You – um – called him back from some hinterland where the old Imperator had stuck him... possibly to either get killed or die of some obscure illness?”

“Exactly.  I wish I hadn’t had to kill Triadas Teleken.”

“Is there still a petition to have a statue to him added to the ‘Solas Muster?”  His gaze was steady on me but the red came up on his cheeks. I hadn’t meant to embarrass him.  The general’s lover hadn’t attempted the memorial until after the Impeachment vote.

“Yes.  People didn’t understand that I would have supported that while I was Imperator. I asked Skorsas...” there he did stumble a little, probably over the idea of having control of his own money... “I donated to the statue trust.”

“Chevenga, we Arkans haven’t been free long enough yet to understand that kind of thing.”  I tried to tell him that gently.  “People still think the Imperator is above the law and a vindictive person.”  I caught myself again from saying ‘my father’.  “Kurkas was in power for more than thirty years and his sire was like him, apparently.  Bad enough for people to look to Kurkas to save them.”

He sighed. “I do think people will change faster than I think they expect. Most people will change lightning fast given the opportunity.  Others, I know, would rather die than change.”  How odd.  He was thinking better of my people than I did.

“You were saying how hard it was to give up power,” I reminded him so we could veer away from this topic.  “You were surprised?”

“Yes and no.  On one level I was relieved.  It was an enormous amount of responsibility.” For a moment there was a flash of tiredness on his face that was far deeper a kind of fatigue that could be fixed by a few days of rest.

Pitpit flew into the kitchen and straight toward her perch and then at the last moment veered over to land right on my head even though I ducked. I managed not to spill my wine.  She seized a hank of my hair and pulled hard even as Chevenga said “Pitpit! NO!” He seized the bird in one hand and held her still so as to not pull my hair, apologizing as he set his tea down and cupped the bird in both hands. “Mini… sorry.  I don’t know why I keep doing that, sorry again. Sorry, Minakas, Pitpit, let go!  Let go right now!”

The bird gave a hair-muffled squawk but did not let go until I put a hand up as well.  She grabbed the tip of my gloves, two or three fingers as Chevenga lifted her up and dragged the glove half off that hand.  “I’m sorry, Minakas... Pitpit..."

“It’s all right, Chevenga. Don’t worry...” He set the bird down on the counter between us and she refused to give up the glove.  Since she couldn’t use her wings held by Chevenga’s hands she scrambled on the counter top with her claws trying to walk backwards, still pulling.

“Sorry shadow-daddy. Sorry, Minakas. I let her in.”  Kila came and held a piece of apple under Pitpit’s beak.  The pupil of the birds’s uncanny eye expanded till it was almost black then contracted to a pinpoint.  She dropped my glove fingers and snatched the apple piece then tried to grab my glove again.  But I had already drawn my hand back out of reach.

“Thanks, Kila.” Chevenga said and carried the bird over to sit it on the perch.  “Bad bird. No snatching hair!”  He set her on the perch with her apple and tied a ceremonial ribbon around one leg.  “You’re confined to your perch for a full tenth!”

Pitpit, who could have bitten through the ribbon in a heartbeat sidled over to Chevenga and tried to lay her head against his chest, whining mushily around her apple.  “Poor bird! Bad bird!  AWWWW!  Noooo!  Sorry bird!”

“You will be a sorry bird if you get off the perch.  No, don’t try that.”

“I’ll come get her when her time’s up, Shadow-daddy.”

“Thanks, Kila.”

“Minakas,” she said.  “You wanted to see our domoctopus?  Shadow-daddy, let’s show him!”

Chevenga hugged her and laid a kiss on the top of her head as they turned back to me.  My heart was a roil in my chest but I smiled.  Gods, why?  Why did I have to be born with a rotten soul and bad blood? As long as I was a guest here I was part of it and I never wanted to leave.  “I’d love to see her?  It was a her wasn’t it?  And any other creature you happen to want to show me.”

“Oh, good.  Vita has a scarf-snake that just had babies... they’re so cute because they want to keep coiling around your fingers but they’re almost too little,” she said.

“It’s too bad they don’t live very long...” Chevenga said quietly in my ear.  “There are tears every few years because of that.  And tiny funeral pyres on the mountain.”

She led the way out into the garden from the kitchen and Chevenga caught up my wineglass and handed it to me as we went.  Just thoughtlessly polite.  I might want it. I smiled at him and tried to pour a little wine on the fire in my throat.

“It sounds like you’re researching a whole era of a lot more turmoil than was written.”

“Well, by all Arkan accounts, Tatthanas’s reign was quiet.  Not a lot of wars, but that was because he was building up the rejins quietly -- leading to a whole generation of aggression.  Of course Arkan historians see this as a good thing.  To get a better picture you have to go to other countries and find out their perspective.”

“A lot more books are being circulated in a lot more languages.” Chevenga said.  Totally matter-of-fact when he had every right to be proud.

“And Presses being built in almost every major city in this part of the world,” I said, reminding him.

The glassed-in garden was lush and redolent as if it had been growing here for years, the big pailas trees in their pots, along with raised beds of flowers as red as the one parrot, and some as blue and gold as the other.  There were white flowers cascading down from a balcony all the way around, since the second floor hallway was also open to the garden.

It’s impressive, if you’ve never seen the Marble Palace. Or only once or twice. “You have an amazing manor house, Chevenga!”

To my surprise he blushed red again.  “It’s not really mine.  It belongs to all the people who donated to build it.  Mostly Skorsas... but people want it to be mine.”

“Probably because they love you,” that was... what was her name?  Shaina... yes.  She sat near a small fountain by a staircase leading up to the second floor.

“Yes, Shaina,” he said quietly, “I know.”

To me, once we were well up the half-spiral behind his daughter leading the way, he said.  “I find it difficult to accept that people want me to have things... especially things like this.” I nodded at him.  “I’ve been taught all my life that wealth, an abundance of accumulation, is suspicious," he continued. "Yeolis tend to think of Notyere immediately.”

“When they’re talking about a man who had the whole Empire of Arko on his hands and gave it up?”  I stopped at the top of the stairs.  “Even if you said it was hard, giving up that kind of power, you still did it.  As always you choose and you show who you are by your choices.”

He smiled at me, gold teeth flashing.  “Now you’re quoting me back to me, lad.”

“Yes, I am,” I said.  “I did say I read all your columns.” He laughed.

Kila showed me a room with a number of glass tanks, lit with tiny kraumaks in them, some floating, some sitting on the bottoms.  The domoctopus was playing with the glittering little balls, arranging them around the bottom of her aquarium.

She came out waving two tentacles when we came in, insisting on being petted, slime and all, before she went back to her toys. 

Chevenga offered his daughter a towel, since I had not wanted to get my gloves wet.

There were three bowls with different colours of fish, swimming. Apparently they belonged to Kall the younger, who also had a bowl of frogs, with eyes that shone gold, almost as bright as the lights in their bowl.

“We have a lot of animals in the house.” Chevenga said,  “The children love them.”  He was ignoring the big black dog pacing with us, apparently to keep him company, the little black dog alternated between him and Kila.

In this room there were a number of clusters of ribbons hanging from a rack on the door and Kila picked out two.  “I want to make Pitpit wear ribbons along with Kvas tonight,” she said firmly.  “Because she needs to learn manners with guests.”

We followed her back towards the stairs and along the corridor met with Etana and Vriah and Kima and Vitara all carrying drums.  “We thought they might come in handy later tonight,” the man said.

This is turning into a party.  “Has everyone finished their schoolwork?” Chevenga took the big drum from his littlest daughter who giggled and said ‘I’ll get another, Aba.”  Even as Etana signed chalk.

“I think I would like a soak before everyone gets into the instruments,” Chevenga said.  “No drumheads in the pool room.”

“We know, Shadow-daddy,” the boy said.  “The heads get soggy.”

“Would you care to join me in the hot pool?” Chevenga addressed me.  “It’s shallow, to sit.  You needn’t worry about swimming.”

I hesitated and then thought, why not? “Thank you for the invitation.  Like the grand-old fashioned baths that were popular in Arko a hundred years ago?”

“I’m told they are like that.”

Can I pretend I’m your oldest and just move in? No. I’m your hated enemys’ son, who raped you when you were mind-broken.  This is just a dream a longing, something impossible. But I can feel it and long for it and want it with all my heart.

“On second thought, Chevenga, perhaps I’ve imposed on your hospitality enough and should wish you all a wonderful evening.”