I made it to our rooms in Terera and collapsed backward on the bed with my arms over my head, wondering what I should do.
I had felt completely safe in the library thinking… for some odd reason… that Chevenga would never go into it. But of course that was stupid. That was foolishly reacting as if he was like my father… who wouldn’t have been caught in a library unless forced into one.
Gannara came in. “Hello Min, Ili’s downstairs--” He cut himself off. “What’s wrong?”
“We have to go.” I’ll admit I whined.
“Oh, shen, did Joras follow us here?” He sat down abruptly on the end of the bed. “Oh, kyash, how—“
I cut him off. “No… worse.”
He went silent before whispering, “Second Amitzas? What are we—“
Now he was puzzled. “Worse? What in kevyalin Hayel can possibly be worse than Second Amitzas!?"
“Your mother’s shade isn’t going to like me teaching you to talk like that.”
“Fik that! What’s worse than Second Amitzas and where do we run?”
“I…” I flung my hands over my face.
“Will you just spit it out?!”
“I ran into Chevenga in the library and he invited me to dinner.”
There was profound silence for a moment on the other side of the wall of my fingers. “You... ran... into... Chevenga... in the library... and he invited you... to dinner!?"
"Yeha, as Minakas Akam, the writer whose work he likes in the Pages..." I said, a bit muffled.
"That’s not worse than Second Amitzas! That’s not bad at all!”
"I... it's probably just for politeness. And how likely is it that he's going to be in the library again? It was probably for form's sake. He left it vague."
"So you didn't settle a date." He looked distinctly disappointed.
"No, he just said 'sometime'. Gannara... if anyone should go to dinner it should be you... He'd be concerned to find out about you. As long as you and I weren't together, your looking like him wouldn't give me away."
"He doesn't know I'm here. And it would be too risky for me to go--we'll end up apart." He looked even more disappointed.
"Gan, I'm sorry."
"So you go... I mean... that's risky too, he might recognize you. But then... if he didn't already..." This was a good time not to mention how Chevenga had felt he knew me, if I didn't want Gannara giving me grief for going.
"He was probably just offering to be polite in front of his son..."
"His son was there? The oldest one, the anaraseye?"
"Tawaen, yes. He's a very polite boy which is no surprise seeing who his father is. I mean... when I said run into him... I did... with a pile of books..." his hands had steadied me before I went down on my knees... I remembered that touch all over again. I'd recognized him the moment he touched me, even before his voice."Talk about the spreading of literature..."
Gan didn't answer me.
"I... There's one more set of records I really want to delve into... I should be safe enough doing that tomorrow. Then the sensible thing to do would be to leave."
I was just pulling my glasses off and rubbing my eyes next day, from squinting at the ancient, faded text, when Chevenga's voice said "N'yingi, Minakas," next to me, freezing me in place yet again. Now why did I think he wouldn't come back into the library?
I gulped again. "N'yingi...s.sss.sssemana... Chevenga," I managed, and put my glasses back on to look at him, as if I needed to.
"We forgot to set a date for dinner yesterday; when is good for you? And do you have anyone with you who should come as well?"
"Ah... ah... date... oh..."
"You needn't be shy." He had his grin back. The last time I'd seen him smile so light and fast was years ago, in the Mezem before things went completely to Hayel for him. "I know I'm famous, but so are you."
Gannara, I'm sorry. "Any day. This 'un's time... is this 'un's own... oh, I should be speaking equal to equal... I... can.. but forgot."
"We can speak in Enchian, if you prefer," he said, in that language.
"Oh... I'm sorry, no I should speak Yeoli, I suppose, if I'm doing the research in it... sorry." I said, in my Asinanai-accented Yeoli.
"You speak Yeoli? I gathered you must read it, but reading and speaking are two different things..." I was so happy to hear him speak his own tongue and glad I could understand him in it. It changed how he seemed to me in a strange way. The soft, almost rolling inland accent compared to how Gannara spoke, made him seem more complete, of a piece, rather than ripped out of his context. Though I had met him so displaced.
"Where'd you learn to speak it?" he added. "Asinanai?"
"Yes, kere Chevenga." It was easier to speak equal to equal in a language that didn't have a lot of caste separations. It felt less disrespectful somehow.
"You did well... no surprise for one of your intelligence. Let me think... I don't have anyone else coming the night after tomorrow."
"Ni...night after tomorrow... um what bead should I come?"
"It's usually fairly late these days, with the decadent, easy life I'm living. Say around six and a half. Just come to the door and say to whoever opens it that I invited you."
"Thank you for the invitation, kere." He'll be less likely to recognize me speaking Yeoli. Stick to Yeoli.
"You know I was thinking," said Gannara, when I got back to our rooms. "Going to dinner with Chevenga... would be really risky... I don't think you should do it."
"You're right. It's risky. But I feel better about it... especially if I stick to speaking Yeoli. He never heard me speak it when I was a kid."
"But you speak it like me, and he knows that I'm from Asinanai and he... well, I don't know if he'd figure all that out... but he's really smart, so he might."
"Asinanai is a big city and has a lot of people coming and going. There's no reason for him to put those particular two things together."
"You sound like you... are going..." His big dark eyes were so worried.
"Well... since he actually asked me today.. He invited me for night after tomorrow at six and a half beads..."
Gan threw his hands over his face. "Kahara... mamaiyana... I can't believe you sometimes, first saying he's worse than Second Amitzas then going to dinner with him. Fine, if you don't come back, I'll know why."
"Gan! HE's not worse than Second Amitzas! I don't think anybody alive is worse than Ice Eyes. If I don't come back would you look after Ili for me?"
"I'm kidding, you're going to fikken come back! But you know, of course I'll look after him, if anything happens to you." He looked at me under his brows. "Fikker."
"Yeha. I am sometimes." But I grinned at him while I said it. Suddenly I felt full of wild recklessness. This was going to be fun, even if it was dangerous. Even if he did find or figure me out, he probably wouldn't drag me off to his sister in Arko. Probably. He might throttle me himself but that wasn't... well... I'd just have to be careful to be Minakas through and through. And not get found out.
The Hearthstone Independent was the newest building in... or rather just outside Vae Arahi, uphill. The Assembly had gifted Chevenga's family with the use of the land to build on and it had been built by donations of Yeolis and others all over the known world.
An Arkan would call it a middling to large Aitzas manor house, built Yeoli style with the steep pitched roofs to throw off snow over the edges of deep porches all around, not only the first floor but the second. There were arched windows set in the roof all along for the third floor, giving what would have been a severe cedar shingled expanse a whimsical, inquisitive look, almost like Chevenga's arched brows when he was curious. And all Arkan glass.
I could see a glass room off the south side second floor as I came up the path, which was curved completely naturally into the mountain, though it had been carefully laid out, I could see. An Arkan architect would just have rammed it straight from town to house. The house had no 'wings' coming off the sides, but a series of terraces and gardens curved around it and up the mountain behind.
The front doors were a fantasy of dark wood and light glass where Yeolis would have had shutters before, or perhaps a green pieced-glass window instead of the clear, see-through panes.
I was met at the door by someone I recognized and I ducked my head, hoping beyond hope that he would not recognize me. Skorsas Trinisas. Of course. He was a grown man now. And a devastatingly beautiful man, perfectly turned out. Now his beautiful clear blue-with just a hint of turquoise-eyes were set into the fine lines of a man, his hair my shade and cascading down past his knees. "Ser," I said in my best fessas. "This abject one's bin bidden here by the exalted owner."
"Shefen-kas, it means?" he said, two-down as was appropriate to his current station. "Name?"
"Ay, exalted ser. This un's name's Minakas Akam fessas, ser."
"Minakas Akam? That name sounds familiar... it looks familiar, too, I'm sure I've seen that face. Oh..." His perfect brows rose. Oh, no. "I know who you are!"