Monday, July 5, 2010

303 - Pata Pata Pat Boom Swish Boom

Dear Shadow Mama and Shadow Papa,

I am still doing all right and I’m safe, that’s all I can tell you right now.  I hope the family is all alright.  You can come back to Asinanai if you like because when I come home I’d like to come there instead of Arko. You don’t need to stay in Arko to find me.  I’m sorry I missed you on Haiu Menshir.  I’m really sorry, but there was a Mahid there that I recognized and we had to run.

I realize this must be very frustrating for you, but the best I can do right now is to keep writing you regularly so you know I’m all right.

All my love and hugs,


“Gannara.  This is going to sound dumb but I want to head back to the city Itself.”  I had my gloves off and was helping Gan give Ili a bath.  Somehow the kid managed to find dirt in a completely bare room, so if we went out at all during the day he’d wind up needing to be washed at least.

But he was perfectly happy in the sit-bath the inn brought up and the four buckets of warm water we carted up for the job.  Hardly a Great Bath, but he played with the round cakes of soap and sang while we scrubbed his hair.  Jiaklem had tasted the soap once and hidden under the bed thereafter, during bathtime.

Gan looked at me seriously.  “You haven’t seen a scrap of hide of a Mahid, have you?”  He rinsed his hands and said to Ili, “Stand up and I’ll rinse your head.  You’re almost done!”

“No, I’ve mostly been in this room being turned into a Dyer!”  The hair felt odd, a little stiff, and the nose-ring, sitting oh so shockingly in the corner of nose and face, sometimes itched.  No one had commented on the scholar taking to his bed and coming out a Dyer.  I changed my hair color, to a Yeoli it was a shrugging matter.

He thought about it a moment longer, pouring, bubbles and soap swirling down Ili’s back into the sit-bath, while I got the towels from the windowsill where they’d been warming in the sun.

“All right.  We should keep moving anyway.”

“I want to stop moving someday.”

“I’m not sure you ever will be able to stop, Min.

I closed my eyes for a moment.  With both Marble Palace and former Mahid after me that was probably true.  “Yeah. Maybe not.”

“So we’re going back to the city?”  Ili jumped and splashed.

“Hey! Stop that or I’ll use the towels to mop up the mess instead of drying you!  Yes.  We’re going back to the city.”


I didn’t send my ‘Stone Hammer Riots’ piece to the Pages.  The mood had changed since it was Artira on the Crystal Throne.  But there were lots of less-than mainstream spawn presses and I sent it off to Madajanas Press.  I’d be able to pick up the mail I’d been paying that fessas fellow to hold for me and perhaps I would find either an acceptance or rejection by the time we got to the city.

By the time we got downriver, to Selina, the Pages had huge headlines ‘CHEVENGA SEEKS REINSTATEMENT!!!’  Good for you, Chevenga.  You should never have been forced to give it all up.  Then I realized he was going for more than just semanakraseye again.  Since the conquest Arko and Yeoli had been, in effect, one country.  He stated in the papers that he believed they should once more be two separate countries and hoped to see that accomplished.  Unspoken was the implication – vote me back and I’ll separate the countries…

The posters sprang up almost overnight. The wild blue and green printed “YES! BRING BACK CHEVENGA!” were everywhere.  In Yeola-e they were all but unopposed; not surprisingly.  This time the lurid red ones screaming NO! to Chevenga again, were few.  What I saw with a certain deep satisfaction was that the pattern held in Arko, even though there were a few more red ones.

This time I liked hearing the orators on the edges of the horse-troughs.  Even though my own head was the blue of a parrot’s back feathers and I sported a nose ring, I hadn’t actually seen a Dyer until we put in at Fispur.

There was an anti-Chevenga orator up at the dock and he was being bellowed at by people, with Sereniteers pushing people on with their sticks.  Once the black n’ white sticks were down the street, further along their patrol, a young man sitting quietly to one side of the ranter on the horsetrough began beating on a pair of drums he had on his lap.  People stopped to listen and he flipped back his hood to show an astonishing iridescent pattern of dye in his hair, cut on a five-step angle up his head, all five caste levels including a short plush around one ear that had a fringe of silver and glass bells ringing and chiming as he moved his head to his own beat.

pat pat patapon pata pata chaka don
Sister, or brother, or sister, or brother
jingle jangle patadon chaka jangle jingle pon
We’ve had both now what the bother?
pat pat patapon jingle swish boom boom
We can choose, come here, go there
jingle jangle patadon chaka swish boom boom
As plain to see as my rainbow hair!

Pat pat patapon jingle pat patpon
We’re under the wing of Hawks not
Patapapapapapata pata pata pon
Eagles.  They have a claw in every pot!
Pat patapon patapon patapon

His fingers flew over the drums and the chiming from his earbells counterpointing the hoarse, unsophisticated shouts of the orator, making them crude by comparison. 

"Stamp and jump and scream with joy!
This is freedom! Relish it, boy!
Somewhere in between toe and heel
You'll find out how you really feel!
Passionate brave hearts, come to me!
Come be a Dyer, wild and free!
Sing out your truth to all in sight!
Make the Hawks wet their kilts with fright!"

A shout from down the street and the man flipped his hood back up, rose gracefully, bagged his drum and vanished in the crowd just as the Sereniteers came pounding back, looking for him.

I kept my own hood up. I reached up and tugged off the nose-ring and tucked it away in my pouch.  I agreed with the man, but I certainly didn’t want to be arrested on suspicion of illegal oration.  Chevenga wouldn’t have cared what orators on the street said.  There were a number of dyed heads openly sported by people in the street, young women, young men.  The Sereniteers couldn't stop everyone with a dyed head, especially since most bards and street theatre folks were not doing anything illegal.

Time to bleach my head, perhaps.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. The original Fifth Mill dyer was a Yeoli bard by the name (though it might not be his real name) of Merikin Mara. His long hair is naturally a spectacular flame-red, and he colours the front ringlets of one side white and the other black. He lives and plays in Brahvniki.

    Merikin makes an appearance in Shadow's Son, bringing the news, via song, that the Yeolis have voted to authorize Chevenga to conquer Arko, which is how Megan and Shkai'ra find out. Part of his act is weeping some sarcastic tears for the empire and dabbing his eyes with a scarlet kerchief looking suspiciously like Arkan naval sail-cloth, much to the mirth of the denizenry of the Knotted Worm.

    He will also show up in PA with more clues to how Chevenga got away from the Arkans after he was tortured. During an appearance at a Marble Palace party, he sings a tragic song about a solas who is drinking himself to death on Brahvniki's skid row because he considers himself alone responsible for the fall of Arko...

    Maybe Merikin should be in Arko during this time of foment. He'd be able to get away with singing more subversively than most, because he's Yeoli...