Friday, July 30, 2010


Chere Readers,

My apologies for missing my Thursday post... I believed I had much more done on it... and hoped I would find time to finish it before midnight...

But it was not to be.  As you can see it is an hour and a half or so past midnight and the post is not finished.

My hapless characters must wait for this Canadian long weekend...[with visitors from the States... hi Cat, Blue and RavenRux!] So I will do my best to make up for this lapse by posting on Sunday, probably late afternoon or evening. 

Monday is a holiday here in Canada, so I will resume my regularly scheduled posts on Tuesday...  thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

313 - An Eclipsed Sun

From where we were, half way across the Square, I could see his black, curly head and the dark shirt he wore, his face a white smudge.  I could imagine it though. At the dinner I had finally been able to shake the memory of that horrible night when I looked at him, but seeing him on the Presentation Balcony, in the Marble Palace, reminded me.  My guts knotted. I looked down at the toes of my skates instead, and just listened.

The Balcony was designed to throw the voice of the speaker, as long as he stood or sat in the right place, so that everyone in the square could hear him without the need for shouting.  He thanked us for voting him back in.  He promised that the statue would not be built and that a committee would be formed to study what should be in its place on the Square.

He announced that he would immediately begin setting up our own Assembly, with our own representatives and write a new constitution.  But then he addressed our confusion directly, about him doing the Ten Tens again.

"Some might wonder why I intend to do it again when I have done it once, and other Imperators have only done it once, accepting that as proof that they have the approval of the Gods.

"It is this: the Gods approved me before as I came to the Imperatorship then; this time I ask Them whether they approve how I came to the Imperatorship this time.

"In other words, this is to ask whether They approve what you have done--how you have voted, and indeed the entire notion of voting.

"This is to confirm that an Imperator chosen by the people of Arko is legitimate as Imperator in the eyes of the Gods, and to sanctify--if I am successful--this vote and the act of voting itself.

Of course. I felt as though someone had snuck up behind me and smacked me in the head with a board.  That is so... perfect.  Of course.

“You know,” Sera Eren said thoughtfully.  “We have a truly extraordinary man as an Imperator... again.”

The truth of it all had me reeling.  He was talking about what he’d said to us in his campaign, that Arko needed to be returned to Arkans.  An elected Arkan Imperator.  We could do it.  We knew how, now.  We had the tools.

I thought back to the sickening feeling I lived with under the fat guy, the feeling that there was not only no direction offered the Empire but that we were all being steered toward grotesque destruction... and realized that the Gods had answered our prayers.  The Gods had punished us... for allowing such a Son of the Sun that they repudiated him and raised up a foreigner to teach us.

The corruption is not gone.  It is still here in the form of the Hawks now, but that is both less and more identified as corrupt.  There is not a vague formless mass hovering over the city and the Empire. The mood and will of all Arko is better.  It’s the home I wanted when I was a child, the home I was supposed to have.  That I had to pretend was perfect.  I have been so much happier, so much lighter as a wild subversive Dyer rolling messages and packages all over the city.

We had the tools, and the crowd knew it.  His speech and His presence raised cheers and applause all over the Square.  The whistles of approval came from all around the plaza, trying to make Him stay longer on the Balcony, though his speech was fairly short.

“I want to camp out here, on this spot, to make sure we see His Ten Tens.” I said.

“Oh.” Gan said. “Yeah.  We’re closer to the Temple here.  It’s a good spot.”

“And Sera,” I said to my friend.  “We can hold place for you.”

“Pish!” She said.  “I can help us out as well.  Ribbons and I can hold our ground and let you boys free for things like getting this young man to his schooling and back!”

“Aw, Grandmother Eren...”  Ili whined but didn’t have his whole heart in it.  When I had taken Ili with me to play drum for her, or tell her what news the street had, he’d almost instantly adopted her as an unofficial Grannie.

“Not very attractive, young man,” she said and he giggled.


So we set up camp on the Square, right where we stood, exactly in front of the great Temple doors.

Gan and I took turns staying overnight and Sera Eren often came in the mornings or evenings, to sit with Ili when he was not in school or with one of us.  Ribbons decided that our spot was the exact extent of his leash all the way around.

So it was that Sera Eren came with Ili, earlier than usual this day, to relieve me of duty.  Gan was back at our rooms and I scooted back to fetch new clothing before heading to the public baths.  I was no longer dying my hair, letting the blue fade naturally.  I wasn’t sure why but it seemed right.  I left the nose ring in.

I unlaced my skates and grabbed them by the laces, padding up the stairs in the boot liners, pushed the door open and froze.  The bed was folded open and there were bodies on it... heaving, moaning, groaning bodies... having sex...

Gan’s head, tousled and sweating jerked up from where he was kissing... a girl... they scrambled up, him jerking sheets up over themselves though not before I saw the girl’s dark nipples staring at me like her eyes.  She was one of Gian’s people... the caravaneers... and she wasn’t covering up.  Gan had taken in enough Arkan propriety to want to cover them.  “Min!  What are you doing home early?” Then his nature as a Yeoli asserted itself and he dropped the sheet, leaving them both sitting naked to the waist.

I manage to swallow and look away, sidle over to the cubboard... “Oh, you two having a... nap? Sorry I woke you.”

“No, no,” she said.  What was her name again? Farish?  Something like that. “You didn’t wake us, we were just having sex.”

I nearly melted on the spot. Oh, wonderful... another race with no basic decency... I grabbed for the first set of fresh underkilts that I had and a clean shirt, babbled “Oh, well, then don’t let me interrupt.” I managed to squeak out a faint “have fun,” before fleeing downstairs and out to the baths, away from the image of her dark breasts and his pale, tattooed chest.  He’d had the semanakraseye brand covered with this purple bird-like thing he said was an interpretation of their Summoner to Death, and Ice Eye’s initials became sails and waves. The colours inked into his skin effectively hid the scars and he would be able to take his shirt off without explaining to people that his burns were because of Mahid torture.  I thought the whole scene on his chest was beautiful.

I fled their eyes, hers amused and Gan’s confused at first, then – what burned me most – full of compassion. He was feeling sorry for me.  It’s good.  It’s good.  He’s normal. He’s healed enough.  Yeolis like girls and boys both but Gan’s always like the look of girls more.  It’s good.  ‘Having a nap’!  Of all the dumb things to say!

I managed to wash some of my embarrassment away under hot water in the paid cascade booth, at Rathanas’s Cleanser: Hot cascades, Private Baths, and Laundry, dropping off my dirty clothes at the desk.

It’s good.  It’s good. He’s recovering fast. Maybe he’ll bring home a Yeoli girl next.  But I should get him to at least put something outside the door so I know not to come barging in on them.  A loincloth on the latch or something... When I think of it, according to all the knuckle-suckers... I’m surprised I haven’t walked in on him earlier... just because I don’t, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t.  My brother is healing.  This is good.  My face is as hot as if I had a sunburn.

I laced my skates back on and let the wind of my going back to the Square cool my burning cheeks, just at rim sunset.


I sat, on our mats, all by myself for once.  All by myself except for the little community of campers in the Square, all of us staking out our space for the Ten Tens.  But it was late and  mostly everyone was sleeping.

There was a fessas couple, Alasas and Trina, a few paces to the one side of us and a young solas boy, Idiesas, to the other, holding space for his mother and grandmother at night.  A few centuries ago, there had been theft and violence done to people camping out during the cleansing time and the ceremonial guard was mandated to not just keep the people away from the Temple but to protect them from thieves and pickpockets at night as well.

I sat, with my knees hugged to my chest, my chin upon them and looked at the Temple.  The darkness was evaporating off it and I could feel the heat of the building from here. The black was being eaten away somehow and one could see the glow of the white and gold exposed, cleansed, renewed.

I am still doing my Ten Tens practice.  Why? It is so illegal... just as my existence is illegal. I don’t want to die but as long as I am free I’m a threat to Arko. The stone under our mats is radiating the warmth of the day and is very soothing.

...Blood.  The battlefield is covered with blood.  It is all Arkan blood.  I can see the young commander, a boy who looks vaguely like me, wearing a black suit of armour with blackened silver fittings, like a Mahid.  He stands on a war tower with a banner flapping overhead, an Eclipsed Sun, the rays bloody as the battlefield.

He is on Finpollendias and the whole city is on fire, flames reaching up to tower high enough to see over the Rim, smoke billowing, blackening the sky.  I see Tawaen... as an old man... his daughter... in armour...

I know the boy in black armour... He claims to be Third Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, but he is not, truly.  I had no children but who is to know that? He is about to take an Empire so ruined it will never recover.

Arkans are lying dead everywhere I can see... injured... dying... screaming as they are ridden over by other Arkans...

“This is a strong possibility, you realize.” The voice I hear is full of steel.  I am horrified, soaking in Arkan blood and cannot scream.

“Oh, Selestialis, no! No!” I managed to say, but I cannot look away to see who is speaking.

“It is not an honourable war.  3rd Minis truly believes himself descended from you... he’s 2nd Amitzas’s grandson, truly.”

“No, this can’t happen. It mustn’t happen.”

“Do you care?”

I whip around in a rage, finally able to move.  “Of COURSE I...”  My voice seizes solid in my throat and I fall to my knees. He is still a God and I am forzak.  “Steel Armed.”

“I’m glad you still recognize Me.” I cannot say anything under that gaze. I am trained enough under His eye that I am ashamed, just kneeling before Him.  “This is... as things are... what might be.”

I gaze at his knees and that it almost too much.  “Father of Swords, can I do anything to stop this?” I manage to whisper.  “Do I have the power to stop this?” I cast my eyes down further, onto the ground. Blood flows around my knees in the mud, Arkan blood.  “Let me do something, please!”

“You do have that power.  And thus the responsibility.  Think on it, my shadow son.”

“ son?”  I cannot help it, I raise my eyes to His and am shocked to see them full of tears, and His face full of compassion that strikes to my heart.  He reaches His hand and I am raised to my feet. For an instant I think His eyes were brown and His hair dark.  “Ch’venga? But... You are Aras...”

“Stand tall before a commander, Minis.  Don’t grovel."   He is speaking to me equal to equal. "Think on it.”  His voice shakes me to my bones and I open my eyes to find I have fallen asleep, lying on my side curled up, still facing the Temple.  I’m soaked with sweat but I didn’t wake anyone around me, it seems.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

312 - He's Going to Do It Again

“They are being very even-handed,” Sera Eren said quietly as everyone stilled to hear the count in  Arko.  She opened her lace sun shade and people all around shuffled a bit to accommodate her. “I thought there would be a bigger will to vote him back in but they like the Imperatrix’s work for them.”

“They aren’t upset by her being a woman,” Gannara said as he wobbled up to be with our group.  He was still a little unsteady on his skates but that was going away fast.  A Dyer girl with a butterfly dyed into the back of her head, sent a ripple of sound around us with her Jang drum as the herald held up his hand.

“THE TOTAL VODAI COUNT REGISTERED IN ARKO WAS TWO MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED NINETEEN!”  We were so unused to the idea of our power, in our numbers, that the announcement of the number of us who voted raised a cheer in the square.  Please Gods let us be sensible and vote the Imperator who really knows Arko back onto the Crystal Throne.  A huge arguing point during the pre-vote campaign was the fact that Artira Shae-Arano-e had never learned Arkan of any stripe.

“SPOILED BALLOTS, SIXTY ONE THOUSAND, TWELVE.”  Of course they’re going to drag it out.  The crowd is going mad with noise. “THE VOTE AGAINST SHEFENKAS RETURNING TO THE CRYSTAL THRONE—“ Get on with it, man!  Do all heralds have to drag it out like this? Are you paid by the word? “FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND EIGHTY SEVEN!”  The roar as people figured out what that meant submerged his final bellow of “THE VOTE FOR SHEFENKAS, TWO MILLION, THREE HUNDRED THIRTY-EIGHT THOUSAND, NINE HUNDRED TWENTY!”  under a wave of sound, cheering, screaming, chanting and many of the women present weeping, for joy I believe.

I had both hands in the air over my head... most of the crowd did as well, the expansive prayer gesture that dared to reach up to sky as opposed to just stopping at one’s head.  My throat hurt and I realized I was adding to the noise as much as anyone, though I couldn’t hear myself.

Sera Eren had both hands clapped over her ears and Ribbons had his ears pressed flat against his skull as the thundering boom of fifty thousand people in the square, rolled on. They looked equally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sound. Ili was jumping up and down on his skates even, Jia locked around his wrist, clinging for dear life.  Gan’s grin split his face and I realized I was grinning just as wide. Chevenga, at least, understands us, I thought and then bellowed it.  Why not?  Why not say that out loud?

The noise ebbed back a bit into people’s throats and actually faded to startled silence when the two gongs at the top of the Temple steps, behind us, began sounding.  It was the beat that the city had heard once before in this generation, when Chevenga had done the Rite of Ascension.  The Ten Tens.

The two priests who alternated so there was an unbroken ringing, wore the black robes of cleansing, as did the two rows of dekinas filing out of the great golden doors, half of them now female... Maskers... so they would be dekina.  They carried the great books of the Ten, that normally were open on altars before each God or Goddess in their hands, all bound in silver metal cloth... just the same as I had the Imperial Book and Ilesias the Great’s book wrapped in, at home on the bottom of my closet with the Imperial Sword.  That wrapping I knew in my bones now, was impervious to water, never snagged and was impossible to tear, perfect to protect the God’s Books.

The Fenjitzas, and now the Fenjitza as well, came forward out from under the shadow of the portico into the sunlight on the top step and raised their arms to the sky. The gongs faded and everyone’s attention locked on the High Priest and Priestess in complete, befuddled silence.
The two turned to face the now-empty Temple, her raised right arm crossing his raised left so they looked like one creature.  “Ergas. Rabi. Difment. Rogran.”

I found myself staring with everyone else.  The Ten Tens was being called for.  The Ten Tens.  Again.  In response to the sacred words, the massive golden doors began to close without being touched by any hand but the Gods.  They shut with a BOOM that I felt through my feet and made my chest quiver.  “My most high Goddess.” It was quiet enough, the crowd stunned silent, that I heard Sera Eren whisper behind me.  “He is going to do the Ten Tens.  Again.” The sun shining on all our heads seemed more intense, more real, pouring down over our heads.

I swallowed, realized my mouth was dry, raised our water jug from the bench next to Ribbons and drank without taking my eyes off the Temple.

As the Temple door sealed with a sound I had never heard before, as if they kissed each other, an almost moist noise, from the roof the okas,--not slaves—tipped the massive vessels, built into the edges of the roof, over and sent the black coating inside sheeting down over the building.  It was not tar, nor paint.  It seemed alive and spread as though the building welcomed it and drew it into every crack and crevasse.  The priests now ringing the building began painting the base stones.  It would take them the rest of the day but by the time the sun rose tomorrow the building would be entirely covered and the ceremonial guard pacing the sacred boundary.

They were there not to protect the Temple but to protect people from coming too close as the Gods burned the dross off the outside of their House on the Earth.  The Temple would be glowing with forge heat as it cleansed itself over the sixty days.

I would have seen this... if Arko hadn’t been conquered... after my father died.  I would have watched that from the Presentation Balcony, dressed all in black, my head dyed black, not bright blue.  In sixty days, when the Temple was clean again – had cleaned itself over that time, I would have stepped up to the doors, raised my hands, newly weighed down with the Seals, to touch the hands of the pretenders who wished to attempt the Ten Tens and so, possibly, become the new Son of the Sun.

I would have opened the doors with the sacred word.  I would have danced for the Gods... That was when my mind skittered to a halt.  The Gods had showed me how much they did not want me.  The Gods... if Father – the fat guy—was wrong and there were Gods --  Sinimas, my ancestors, please apologize to the Ten for my blasphemous thoughts, my questioning of Their existence.

I hiccupped to another stop.  If the Gods did not exist then I was not damned.  I did not have to believe myself forzak once I died.  I would have to cease believing in Hayel... or Selestialis for that matter.  I would have to become athye, like a Yeoli.  It would be so good to not look at the end of my life and expect nothing after death, rather than eternal punishment for having been my father’s son.

But to repudiate the idea of my damnation, I'd have to give up my Gods... I feel them.  They are real to me.  I dream of Them.  Aside from a few lapses, much apologized for, I haven’t dared pray directly to Them, since I realized how evil my soul must truly be for Them to hate me so much.  I...must think on this.  Gan would just say ‘You’re not evil, that’s just crazy. Why have Gods to punish you that much, just for being born? Because you were born to a bad man?  If Gods are merciful and just they wouldn’t set babies up like that because it’s just mad... and unjust.”

All this flashed through my head, even as I stood staring at the blackening building, Ili hugging me around the waist, my arm around him.  He looked at the Temple, then up into my face.  What am I showing? I smiled at him to wipe the remnants of my thoughts away, like a napkin rubbing oil off my lips.

The trumpets from the Presentation Balcony cut through the rising, confused hubbub as people wondered aloud whether all this meant really that Chevenga, having been voted back onto the Crystal Throne, would truly be contemplating doing the Ten Tens a second time.

Our attention swivelled back to the Marble Palace and I said to Sera Eren, “It’s Ch’venga. He’s here, not in Yeola-e.  He’s here and He is going to speak.”

311 - Results of the Vodai

Dear Elder Brother,

I have found out that our missing relative might be in Arko... perhaps even the city itself.  I will renew my search there and report to the family shortly.

My journey from Haiu Menshir was somewhat delayed by storm, a minor illness and pirates, however I shall be posting this letter from Anoseth as soon as the ship docks.

In duty,
Joras Enkasas, fessas

2nd Amitzas crumpled the letter and tossed it in his fire.  “Wife!”  He called.

“Yes, husband?”

“Prepared the women to move tonight.”

“Yes, husband.”


I was in a group of Dyers in Presentation Square, with Ili on his skates as well.  Gannara was somewhere about... possibly hanging around with a girl from Tall Grass Alley, one of Gian’s people.  She was pretty enough in a dark way but he and I had talked about girls on our various travels and she was much more his kind of girl than mine.  Even if I thought of girls at all.

I thought maybe I might be spared that nonsense any more.  Gannara hadn’t caught me indulging that even in my sleep lately.  Though I hated getting the sheets sticky, I was at least able to keep a lot of those perverse dreams more private.

The crowd was almost as festive as a pre-Jitz party... sausage sellers doing brisk business next to beer sellers and a fellow with a waist-tray and a row of wine bottles jingling... “Peanuts!  Sweet wine!”

I bought Ili a paper cone of fanilas flavoured ice shavings and chilled melon spheres.  I had my drum and we made sure that the Sera Eren and her enormous cat on his leash had a good place.  “Sinimas... I hardly need to ‘see’,” she said snippily and I laughed.  I had been to play for her on the boardwalk almost every day. “I merely need to hear well and I can do that from here.”

‘Here’ was at the edge of the ruin made to make way for the monstrous statue.  All work had been suspended on it since Chevenga’s coming out against it, but the boards still stood... now covered with good, bad, indifferent and Banaksias’s chalkwork.  People had set up informal benches before some of them and I had settled Sera Eren on one of these, Ribbons at her feet.

“And we truly have no good sight-line but the Presentation Platform offers enough of a sound-line.”

Ribbons sprawled over my skates and growled and clawed at Ili’s.  He giggled and dropped JiaKlem on the cat.  Everyone froze and Jia nibbled on Ribbons and the cat pretended to shred Jia into seafood.


The whole crowd quieted and turned our attention to the herald on the platform.


Sorry for the short post, guys, but having a wheel fall off the vehicle has thrown me off... more later...

Friday, July 23, 2010

310 - Voting and the Hunt for Minis

The chalk spreads on the stone smoothly, making tiny squeaking noises as I draw.  The Sereniteers look like black and white donkeys chasing Dyers with big butterfly nets and the Dyers flying away like birds.

The whole dry-wash will be full of my drawing until the next washing day seven days from now. The line of an ass’s grin, big flat white teeth... The Dyers’ flapping away.  The iridescent chalk that will glow so nicely, highlighting edges and shadows...

Oh, here come the lamp-tenders.

The tenders came down on either side of the wash, calling to each other.  They were friends who made a little competition of who could snuff and tend all his lamps before the other.  They’d been doing it for years.  The one ahead called excitedly to his friend.

“Hey!  Hey!  Tan!  Lookit!  It’s another Banaksias!”

“Mikas bless, that’s a big one!”

“Lookit that!” They laughed at the silly faces on the Sereniteer Donkeys and then looked around but saw no one they could identify as the elusive artist -- an old man walking his two dogs, the great hound and the sleeve dog, an okas girl carrying a chamber pot off to the night-soil buyers, a farmer just pushing his hand-cart in toward the High market, a Masker Midwife, and themselves.

The artist smiled and kept walking.


The line-ups for the vodai to bring Chevenga back were, if anything, longer than the lines to impeach him.  Everyone knew that to bring him back would mean we would be doing this again in less than a year, when the two countries would again be separate.  Chevenga would take his Yeolis home and we would vote for an Arkan Imperator to sit upon the Crystal Throne.

Everyone in the line was talking about it, wondering what family, which Aitzas would be competing to be the new Son of the Sun.  “I’ll bet the Hawks don’t go home.  They’ll say they’re Arkan citizens and maybe even put one of them forward to run for the Throne.”  I smiled to myself to hear such analysis from an okas brick layer.  “... what if an okas is born brilliant?...”
The question echoed from years ago.

I had my hair braided back and tucked under a sun hood, my glasses firmly on my nose, since I had my identification as Minakas Akam in my pouch.  As Sinimas, I was too young to vote.  Gannara had been in the machine smithies quite a bit while Ili went to school.  He liked his teacher and was coming home with new friends every day, to introduce Jiaklem to them.

I had gone back, as Sinimas, to track down the fellow who had bellowed the job offer at me, to find out if he’d been serious and he had been.  I skated courier a few beads a week, as well as writing.  Not that I had to but it was fun, and I did know the city, aside from the changes that the sack had wrought and those were quickly learned.  If I didn’t do something, I found I was quickly bored with lazing about.

The Sereniteers were ignoring the Dyers making their music... voiceless today to not draw them, but the pounding rhythms coming up, weaving together and fading as they moved from place to place along the lines.  They also turned a blind eye to the Dyers on faib skates swooping around the ‘Back to Truther’ protestors.  Aitzas every one... and their children, with okas paid to shave their heads and pretend to be slaves – since the abolition of slavery it was fashionable in a certain crowd of Aitzas to hire okas like that.  They waved their picture signs, since women and okas weren’t supposed to be able to read; signs showing Yeolis and other foreigners stuck through with swords and spears.  Two lone signs read “Muunas hates Foreigners” and “Muunas Hates Arko!  Repent!  Don’t vote!”

“Friend...”  The voice next to me was quiet, friendly, equal to equal.  “Hot today, hmmm?”

“Yes, it is.”

He was a pressman, by his dress.  “You bringing the wool-hair boy back?”

“I wouldn’t say, ser.”

“Of course, of course.  You watch out for those thugs up ahead...”  He nodded at the rough men standing near the door of the polling place.  They looked frustrated and hot and the Sereniteer patrol, leaning on their staffs also a carefully casual distance away, smiled and chatted with the line.

“You think they were supposed to do something?”  I blinked behind my spectacles.  “Something illegal?”

“Not with the patrol right there...” he shrugged.  “I’ll bet they were supposed to threaten people.”

I made my voice squeak as though shocked.  “Influence the vote?

He looked solemn.  “You never know.  Say friend, what say we and my friends go have a beer – I’ll buy -- until the line thins out.”  Other people around me, who he’d been talking to before, nodded thoughtfully.  “It’ll be easier to wait after Rim dark.”

And easier to persuade me and how ever many others here that we have plenty of time to vote.  Plenty of time to find out if I want to vote for, or against and see if I and a dozen other people want to bring Chevenga back... and get us drunk.  I’d seen other men working the lines somewhat like this.  Whoever thought of it was smart.  “Oh, I’m sorry ser, I have to vote now... later I must pick up dinner for my family.”

He nodded genially and managed to get four other people to just step out of the line with him, just till later.

The blue/green posters were everywhere, however much the red poster people tried to pull them down or paper them over.  I was happy to see the Sereniteers still blithely ignored Dyers zooming by to take another drumming pass around the protestors, keeping their attention firmly on the obvious ruffians.

I think I shall be in presentation square... as Sinimas... when the vote is announced.  I would bet a gold chain that we shall have Chevenga back soon.


“Ahem, good day again, Ser Perisalas.”  Ailadas settled himself familiarly in the ornate little chair across from Perisalas.  “I am assuming you wish to ask me, yet again, whether Minis Aan or any of his aliases had contacted me since the last time you asked.  Alas, the answer is no.”

“Good day, Ser Ailadas.  You are quite correct.  Are you certain of this?”  Perisalas placed the kaf cup next to Ailadas’s elbow.  “Cream and two spoons of sugar, correct?”

“Yes, ahem, perfect thank you.”  Ailadas stirred his kaf and sipped appreciatively. “Yes.  You may, ahem, of course, truth drug me to confirm this.  I have no classes to, ahem, cancel this afternoon, thank you for that consideration.”

“Oh, you are welcome.  I shall confirm with truth-drug.”

“I -ahem- quite understand.”

It was the typical ‘Did you tell me true,” truth-drugging, though Perisalas learned about a different date in Arkan history as Ailadas succumbed to the drug.  And Serina Liren’s undrugged answers always corroborated the old scholar, so it seemed that the former Spark was scrupulously avoiding his one-time fellow fugitives.  It was also the most frugal of ways to cross-check them against each other.  He saw the old man on his way and went back to the latest raft of Minis sighting stories.

This one has him grow wings and ascend to the Moon like our esteemed ancestors.  So now I am supposed to go to the Moon to find his fortress?

The Moon fortress keeps coming back lately.  Lunatics.


“Yes, Dagasas?

“The Melachiya boy’s parents are here to see you, Ser.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

309 - Anti-Shefen-kas Rallies

Anti-Shefen-kas Rallies Paid For!

The Pages headline screamed.  The story made it clear.  An Aitzas lord who actually liked things the way they were, had been quietly funding the near  riotous rallies against the former Imperator coming back into power.

The Marble Palace declined to release the name but did say that the caste of the ‘person of intrest’ was, indeed, Aitzas.


The pro Shefen-kas rallies had almost doubled in size since the Pages article came out.  Speculation all around was that the Aitzas was fronted by the Yeoli Hawks, but that hadn’t yet been comfirmed by truth-drug.  I’d seen three other Dyers chased through the streets by Sereniteers trying to catch the seditious vandals.

What is the world coming to, our landsera groused, when I asked her to see to a leak in the roof as well as the ants.  “These young people... hardly respectable.  They’re probably stealing things to afford those faib-things...”

“They’re probably half-broken down faib skates thrown out of the Aitzas league, Sera,” I said quietly.  “Thank you for attending to things in the apartment so promptly.”  I eased back a roll or two on my skates so her tom-cat wouldn’t instantly spray on them.

“You’re a good boy,” she said.  “I’ll look after the roof, not to worry.”


“Now, Ili, you have to leave Jiaklem with Gannara or I… or put him in his brand new tank while you are at school.”

“I don’t want to!  I want to take him!”

“He’ll be bored, Ili and crawl around under the teacher’s desk and nibble on his toes.  The teacher would end up not liking him and that wouldn’t be fair to Jia.  He can’t read or recite with you.”

“Will it be a school like Haiu Menshir?”

“No, Ili, sorry.  It will be an Arkan school though I looked for one that has a lot of foreign students and different ideas.  You’ll have to sit and listen more than you did on the beach at Haiu Roru.”

“Sounds dull.”

“The teacher is very nice.  He doesn’t cough as much as Ailadas did… or does.”

“Can we visit Ailadas?”

“No, Ili, I’m sorry.  We’d be putting him in danger if we did.”

Since I had rejected Ser Farakam’s school out of hand I’d inquired of three others, all further from where we were lodging.  I took Ili’s hand in mine and we went out over the Blackstone Bridge and down the way to The Bright Sparks of Mikas’s Eye School over on Tall Grass Alley. 

It was interesting that in the middle of the fessas quarter usually straight-lined, scoured clean cobbles, this winding road had actually been turned into a forest of tall grasses and flowers with a stone path meandering through it.  It was still wide enough to let people pass easily without stamping the grass down and the residents of the street kept it looking half wild, quite carefully.

The school was tucked into this apparently ocean of grass, with short cut grass leading neatly up the walk.  It was a plain block building with square windows and a black door.  “It looks nasty.” Ili said, but without nervousness.  He clung to my hand and threw his shoulders back.  “I can do it!”

“I know you can.”

“Are there girls, like on Haiu Menshir?”

“Yes, Ili.  They were particular about letting me know.”

“Oh.  That’s all right, then.”

Bright Sparks was a less rigid school than most private fessas schools, the best of those I had toured.  I had chosen it just for that reason, since I figured Ili had enough of rigid even though he had not been taught by Mahid.  Just being forced to be with Mahid must have been bad enough.

I’d remembered how I felt when Father just picked a tutor for me, though I had been lucky with Ailadas, so I asked Ili what kind of things he wanted to learn and held that in mind while I looked for a place for him.  He said he liked the Haian school, or being tutored by Gan and I.

I saw him into his new class room, where ten other children – even girls -- were diligently building wooden models of various machines, including several who were working on a wooden replica of the Great Press itself.  Ili immediately wanted to join them but I made him say his hellos and introductions to his new teacher, a young, dark man who introduced himself to Ili by his first name.

“Ili, my name is Gian.”

“Hi, Ser Gian… can I go help those boys... um... and girls?”

“In a moment.  Please sit here and you may look at these books that have the plans for all these models, while I walk your brother out.”

“All right, Ser Gian.”

“Just Gian, thank you, Ili.”

“Gian.”  He already had the top book off the stack and was leafing through, looking at wooden gears and rods as we stepped out.

“I think he will do fine here, Ser Akam.”

“I hope you don’t mind my asking, are you Niah?”

“Ah, no Ser.  My family were caravaneers.  We are a nomadic people… but we brought our caravans to the city after the sack and settled ourselves in Tall Grass Alley.”

“Oh.  So you could have your homes roll into place and wouldn’t have to build?”

“Exactly so, Ser.  Though we have done our own bit of gardening to the street.”  So they were the ones who had made the Alley truly Tall Grass.  Interesting.  Ili will like him, I think.


“All right, Gan all you need to do… oh… did you ever do this on ice?  Ice sliding?”  Gan looked at me a little sourly.

“I don’t remember, Min.  And I was on board ship or in Asinanai which doesn’t get a lot of snow.”

He sat on the bench by the used skate merchant with a set of really decent skates on his feet, that looked terrible.  Probably scratched and dinged up in a Mahid game and discarded.  The merchant had smoothed the leather but dyed the leather this ugly greenish colour that had absorbed oddly.  Not that I cared if they were expensive, but it would have been out of character for us to have bought him new.

Ili was already wobbling along on his new big-boy skates, remembering from a long time ago, giggling like a little devil.  Gan grinned and got up, flailed and sat back down on the bench, grabbed my wrist and managed to gain his feet the second time.  “These feel odd!”

“You’ll get it.  It’s fun.. whooo ho ho woowh... hang on to me!” It was a funny, almost slow motion fall. We ended up on the pavement sprawled out like some weird Haian starfish.

Gan was laughing, his chest going up and down under my shoulder as I rolled off him to get up and help him to his wheels.

“You’ll get it!” I said.

“I get why the skate seller insisted on selling me this padding for parts of me!”

“Yes, exactly.  So let’s go catch Ili before he makes it all the way to Holystone Footbridge into the park!”

I ended up towing him because he did manage to keep his feet pointed in the same direction and steady, even if he couldn’t yet glide on them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

308 - Academy of the Illumination of Young Minds

The school seemed nice enough from the outside. It was on Wash-River Street, very close by.  If we were going to be in the city for a few moons, Ili should get the advantage of more education. 

It was easy walking distance, one reason I chose to inquire about it to see if I wished to enrol my little brother for a time. It had boys in the yard, shrieking and yelling and running around, though it did seem to be an angrier noise than the schools in Haiu Menshir or Yeola-e. The yard seemed harder too, a pounded dirt rectangle, rigidly fenced.

I let myself in and found the office immediately at the front door, with the welcomist acting as gate keeper and guard behind an intimidating slab of desk.  "Excuse me,” I asked him. “Who would I speak to about possibly enrolling my little brother in school here? For several moons at least."

The dragon guarding the sacred school space was an overly made up man, trying to look much younger than his age. "I'll see if Ser Farakan has a moment to speak to you..." There was a noticeable pause as he looked me up and down, his eyes catching on both the hair and the face jewelry. "If you would sit..."

I barely had time to put my posterior on the uncomfortable chair when the dragon was back. "He will see you now."

"Ser Farakan," I said and nodded politely as I came in. He did not rise to greet me. Not a good sign, I thought. He seemed an amiable sort of fellow though, with a pleasant enough round face. "My name is Sinimas Akam, and I am looking to enroll my little brother in some learning establishment."

"Good Day to you, young Ser," he replied, while sitting straighter in his desk, and lowering his hands out of sight. "Welcome to the Academy of the Illumination of Young Minds." He stood then, and began to pace and lecture; leaving me standing before his desk as though he had summoned me. "I am Ser Hikaras Farakan, owner and founder. This professional establishment offers the finest in education in academics and propriety available to the Fessas of the City Itself." It was amazing how I could hear the capital letters. He was reminding me, unfortunately, of my dekinas, Tobias.

"Truly? I am impressed." I managed to keep most of the sarcasm out of my tone. I shouldn't jump to conclusions, just because I took a sudden dislike to the Head Master of the School for no reason. I would have to see more. "What kind of curricula does your establishment offer for the age six to first threshold student?"

He blinked, as if mildly surprised that I would interrupt, then remembered to smile and sell. "For our smallest scholars we have a three bead program and a six bead program. My system of pedagogy for these most malleable students depends heavily upon instilling proper foundations for later accomplishments. Reading, beginning penmanship, memorization of laudable works and of course, comportment are covered in the three bead program, while the six bead day includes noon observances, a meal, another exercise break, and more comportment.

"And if the student in question can already read? He is currently reading "Tathanas's Eagles'."

"Well then surely he could use extra instruction on writing with a clear and graceful hand. Copperplate is a jewel of great worth in any field of endeavour. My calligraphy master teaches an exquisite fist."

Just what Ili needs... he'd spit in this man's eye inside a half-tenth. "Might I see your most estimable establishment, Ser?"

"But of course! Please, do follow me." He then turned to the outer office, and summoned the dragon. "Boras, take the young Ser upon a tour." He raised his hand as if to snap his fingers, but jerked to a stop and carefully clasped his hands behind his back before turning back. "I am sure that you will see that we have much to offer. My assistant will show you about and answer any....questions you might have." He began to turn away even before he finished speaking, then turned back when I spoke up again.

"Oh, Ser, I have two more questions for you, before I tour your charming school."


"My brother has been attending a Haian School. What are your opinions of those? And what are your policies regarding corporal punishment?" These two would tell me more than just my vague feelings about the place.

He reared back as if someone had thrust a turd under his nose. "Haian school? A school taught by...Ahheem. Hem. Well, we usually do not do any sort of placement testing, but your little brother sounds...well you mentioned that he is reading at an advanced level, perhaps an evaluation by one of our tutors would help us place him best. Yes. An evaluation, yes. Ahem, and what was your second question?"

Hmmm. "Your policy regarding corporal punishment? Oh, and is there a different curriculum for those who can pay silver as opposed to copper?"

"We do not have a different curricula per se, but there is always more available to those who are prepared to pay extra for additional lessons, tutoring, and of course we do have several different packages for the uniforms and meal plans." His eyes skittered across my head when he mentioned uniforms, but then he resolutely tried to ignore the colour. "We have a deluxe package for those who feel that their sons deserve more refined choices of fabric and diet."

I see. Fine cotton and cheap silk if you can get it. Beef for the paying student and who knows what meat, if any, to the others. I would lay chains on it.

"I pride myself on only hiring teachers who respond with properly gauged responses to juvenile misbehaviour and defiance. Any teacher who cannot control a class with no more than a standard yardstick has no place here, and I would never keep an instructor who loses control while administering discipline."

A Mahid corrector is smaller than a yardstick. And he is starting to sound very Mahid to me. I nodded. "Thank you for your time, Ser Farakan. You have been most gracious." Never let a Mahid know you can see through what they've said to what they really mean. Flogging with the rod is, it seems, allowed in this school. Or encouraged.

Boras led me through two empty classrooms, explaining that the young gentlemen were out in the yard obtaining physical exercise at the moment. The rows of desks were perfectly aligned, as were the books and papers upon them. A single pen lay just so across each desk. The drawings hung in a single line along one wall were grid-rendered copies of classic paintings, all the same.

"Our drafting teacher is excellent," my guide said when he saw me looking at them. I think Ili would go mad here. Perhaps I should see if I could steal a word or two with one or two of the students.

"Thank you for your time, Ser." I said to Boras. "I'll let myself out."


"Hey, boys." I didn't have my drum with me but I rapped my hands on the edge of one of the wooden row seats ringing the field. Two boys sat on one row two seats up. Everyone else was out running about to the instructor's calls. Shouts, really. The instructor had a yard-stick tucked under his arm like a long corrector.  He used it occasionally to point, either at boys or where they were to go. "No joys? No toys?” I said, quietly.  “Could you talk to me a moment?"

"Your hair is blue, mister, why is your hair blue?"  That was the younger boy, who had a small wen on his face next to his left eye.

"'Cause I made it that way. I tried holding my breath long enough but that didn't work, so I dyed it."

That caught a furtive giggle from the two of them, which they hid behind behind dusty gloves, glancing at each other, then at the teacher on the field as if to make sure he hadn’t noticed them not paying perfect attention.

"You like going to school here? I'm thinking of putting my little brother here."

The half-smiles cut off and they stared at me without saying anything, glanced at each other, then away.  Their faces had gone still.  I knew that look, that ‘don’t let anything slip’ look. Ice Eyes would call it ‘dumb insolence’.

"That good, hmmm? Thanks." I rapped out out a rhythm on the stand they were sitting on. "Hey, hey teacher, preacher, beat-cher... harsh man, old man, cold man! Keep your words within your mouth and keep your teeth... got no relief...." I stopped and nodded at them.

One reached back to scratch his back, gingerly, along a line, as if to sooth a welt.  I understand, lad. He whispered to his best friend, then asked, "Where's your drum?"

"Wasn't going to bring it talking to a Head Master. But everything's a drum and everyone is a drummer."

They grinned at each other, then both stomp out a long drum roll, and began to shove and squirm.  “Intharas! Tathanas!  Attend since you cannot participate!”  The instructor called them to order.  

"I'd better go before I get you in trouble." I raised a finger and ran it over the faint scar the fat guy's ring had left on my cheek. "I had a teacher like some. Bye, boys."

"Bye, Dyer!"

"Bye-r Dyer! I'm no liar!"  It got another giggle that faded behind me.  No, I don’t think Ili will have his mind illuminated here.