“Ili! Come out and play! Ili!”
I groaned and rolled over. The sun was up. Well up; the reflected waves on our ceiling making my eyes ache. I checked Ili’s bed. It was empty but had been made. He was being very, very good that way… better than I sometimes. If I had a really rough session with Zinchaer sometimes I just left it, or pulled the sheet roughly straight.
Gan lay on his stomach, both arms clutching the pillow over his head. He was flattened by the thought of seeing his shadow parents tomorrow, or the next day depending on the wind.
There were licked-clean chunks of snail shell on the foot of Ili’s bed, on the sheet just below the railing. Had the silly creature been sleeping on the bedrail again? No matter if we latched the netting windows, or wedged the door shut with a boot or even a chair Jia unlatched them or squeezed himself through the tiniest of cracks. He was worse than a ferret for pouring himself into tiny spaces.
I’d have to talk to my little brother about it, because the animal belonged to the hostel, not to him. He shouldn’t encourage it.
The call came from downstairs. I leaned over the balcony and looked down. The Hyerne girl he schooled with stood below, her drumsticks in her belt. What was her name again? “He’s already up,” I said. “ Have you checked the privy?”
Even as I said this, he came running around the side of the hostel from that direction, belt and sleeves flying, his hat flopping on his back… Jia had hold of it in a couple of tentacles.
“I’m here! I’m ready… let’s go!”
“Do you have enough links for your breakfast, Ili?”
“Yes, Minakas. And lunch too… it’s a rest day… we’ll be on the beach all day…”
“Except for when we climb the kids’s rocks,” she said. “Up to the waterfall. We’ll be careful.”
“Did your mama have a good night, last night?” My tongue tripped over the endearment, ‘sweetie’ and I managed not to spit it out. I was never going to call anyone older than a baby a diminutive again, especially not a Hyerne.
“Yes, thank you,” she called up. “She has rest today too and might be on the beach later… carried down by the orderlies.”
“Wonderful. Have fun, all of you.”
They ran off, safer than anywhere on the whole sphere of the earth that I knew of. I went back to bed and pulled the pillow over my head, even if it was hot. It was a rest day. Hmmm… what day was it? I’d have to look it up when I got up again.
It was Imbas 31 on the calendar, 53 to last year, Present Age... verkina 45 according to the Yeoli one, 1554... I’d gotten up to check, sitting down at the desk on the balcony with morning kaf, that Gan and I brewed, bumping into each other as if we were recovering from hangover, though outpatients of the University healers tended to follow the Haian ethic of ‘no self-induced alcohol poisoning’.
Gan was normally up with the sun so I teased him unmercifully about sleeping in, while he growled at me.
“I should find out if the hostel master is willing to sell us Jia... the stupid thing has adopted Ili and for one, I don’t want to try and pry all eight of its limbs off his head.”
“I suppose. It’s not like a dog or cat, as long as we’re travelling it’s easy enough to feed. And quiet.”
“The problem is... if I get Ili every animal he falls in love with, we will have a troop of them following us around,” I said. I wasn’t very firm saying it though. I missed my own sleeve pets. Hayel smothering, I even missed Nasty. I found myself clinging onto the little donkey pendant around my neck. “No, I think Jia Klem is what we need for a five year old’s happiness. Unless you want to try and pry—“
“No! No no no. It’s fine. Just don’t ask me to scoop slime off the floor.”
I had to laugh. “He’s only slimy when he comes out of the water! That would be Ili’s job.”
I am practicing writing every day now. I have such a bundle of letters to you it isn’t funny. Mama is starting to ask if I am amassing a trunk of ‘wedding letters’ as opposed to a trunk of ‘wedding linen’.
I finally managed to get Laisa’s ‘Sack’ story out of her and I just have to write you all about it... but not in this letter. It would be a separate story just because it is so long. She is so martial it isn’t funny, but Mama is no longer scandalized. It’s so funny. She’s even asked Laisa to make her special fan for me and some of her hair ornaments! Oh-so-proper Mama!
She told me that hiding with the slaves and the children under the Fire Fountains changed her outlook on things a little bit. She isn’t even scandalized when I say that the current Imperator—the Imperatrix – is doing all right. Not as well as her brother but far, far better than a lot of these Aitzas blow-hards predicted.
Jallenas Bekias actually paid to have his insane rants published in the Pages... with suitable disclaimer from the high editor! But he went too far and enough people donated to the ‘Remove JB from the Pages fund' that Intharas did so.
This must be another form of the Yeola-e vodai. Yes. We are vodai-ing with our wealth. How odd.
I find that I like this. This having an effect on the world.
Your canary is singing his heart out as if he has never heard of darkness, though he is blind. I have named him Sinimas in memory of a dear friend. Thank you for the gifts. I am struck, over and over again, how carefully they are chosen. Something a dear friend, a careful friend, a loving friend would do. I particularly love the books on philosophy. I wish I could send this to you and tell you, they are magnificent.
I’m sorry I am so greedy for them. They are more addictive than sweets, or kaf, or a hank of rare coloured embroidery thread.
I have to admit I used a tiny part of the hank of hair you left me to destroy, as embroidery thread. I made a pillow with a besieged unicorn upon it for my bed, where I can lay my bare hand upon it in the middle of the night. Oh, that is terrible isn’t it? I lie in bed at night, with my hand upon your hair and wonder what it would be like to lay it on your cheek, or on your chest. Oh, mama would be scandalized.
I have been reading a great deal in Selina’s book and find myself falling over the verses from the BridgeGroom to the Bride and what she says to Him! This is not the holy book that is often taught in Temple! I find my breath coming very quickly and feel very warm when I read the Heavenly Lady's heated words.
2:2 “Oh, Thou Manly Stag’s Pride, You display yourself to me in all Your Glory. I am overcome. I smile upon You, who are the Essence of Men, the Sweet Perfume of Your Passion. I open myself to you and lay My hands to raise My Breasts to Your Mouth, Your Heat.
2:3 “Oh, My Husband of Fire I enfold You. I take You into Myself. Lay Yourself upon My Breasts and Sing of My Beauty.”
2:4 “Oh, My Lady of Peace and Power. I bring Myself to Lie in the Valley of Desire that is You. I Praise the Strength of Your Thighs, the Fragrance of Your divine Skin. My Wife, You are All. Our Children Shall praise You and Sing in Your honour.”
2:5 “Your throat is the column of the Temple most High, Your sleekness inspires me. The Voice of Desire for Me is the flood of birdsong in the greenwood plain...
I hear your canary and I read this and there are all sorts of feelings in me that I should suppress... except they are scripture. I read these passages and find myself most... uncomfortable. Most inspired by the Heat of the God, rather than the cool of the Goddess. But She does not seem cool at all to me. M... I feel some of the same things... but I may read them because they are holy scripture... If they are scripture... is it a sin to feel these things?
I look into the future and I pray. I pray that what I feel, that what I dare, that what I do, will have some power. I pray that what I long for will come to pass.
Dare I say it? I sound like a heroine in a bad novel... one of the trashy ones that Mama thinks I do not read... who is... comfortable with her husband and his lover in the same room. In... the... same... oh, I can’t even write it in a letter I shall never send.
I shall burn this letter... or sleep with it under my pillow. I cannot decide which. Ah! Words on the page are more slippery than my tapestry images. I can, at least control the thread in a way I cannot yet control the ink!
Joras slapped his new friend on the back as they parted at the Sailortown dock, swearing to look one another up the moment they could. A lie on his part, of course. And a polite falsehood on the part of the glass-blower, no doubt.
He hefted his pack and stepped across the boardwalk, paused as a stream of children ran in front of him, a mix of races, enough to turn his stomach. He almost paused to pull the Arkan child- a boy, with a vile parasitic little vermin pet on his head, out of the mongrel pack, but checked. It was so far outside his purview he could not entertain the idea. 2nd Amitzas would have his hide if he strayed from his orders.
He found a room with a good view over the harbour, though his target would likely still be inland. A resident of the House of Integrity. He set his pack safely in his room, locked it tight and proceeded to the beach promenade along the House of Integrity beaches to begin looking for Shefenkas, should he still be mind crippled enough to be restrained there.
I was, unfortunately, in the privy when Ili came blasting back from his beach adventure. He was by himself. That was enough to make me take notice if he hadn’t flung the privy door open and in complete disregard to my privacy, making me clench up painfully.
“Joras!” He whispered. He shrieked. “I saw Joras get off a ship! Min, Min, Min, Min!”
I gathered him in, stuffed some random bit of my clothing between us and managed to yank the door shut again in this mildly smelly dark. His little body was quivering all over and the silly creature on his head was dark brown as if it could express its distress in colour.
I sat, with my loincloth around my ankles, my little brother on my lap, screaming his fear into my chest, a domoctopus partly wrapped around him and me both, my hands full. Ancestors you must be laughing your guts out. Sinimas. This isn’t funny.