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.”