The Pages and spawn press articles were mostly more moderate than their headlines. Apparently Chevenga went to the committee who were attempting to reinstate him… but he did not seek this but rather would allow them to pursue their stated purpose.
“Chevenga Meets with Group Re Reinstatement” with the sub-head being “Ex-Imperator throws his support behind sister's deposing!”
What the story actually said was “he was persuaded to go along with the bring-back-Chevengaists because of developments in Arko that he disagrees with.” Probably that fikken statue, among other things.
“The former Imperator says that he wishes to remain on good terms with his sister Artira and is not opposing her specifically.”
I folded up the Pages and tucked them under my arm. I had my hair tied back and under a hood so none of it showed, my glasses on and scholar’s robe. I had my eye on a set of rooms for rent very close to the house I’d bought for Ailadas on Bright. The rooms were actually on the next street over and two up from him. I wasn’t going to endanger him by actually staying with him… since they might truth drug him any time to check and see if I’d contacted him.
I knocked on the door with the little placard advertising an apartment to let and smiled, a little nervously at the pinched-faced woman who opened the door. “Sera… ye have rooms fer let?”
“I do. For yourself?”
“Nah, Nah, Sera Landlord, fer m’cousin ‘n his friend and little brother. I’d be here too, Sera but m’job’s called me away agin.”
“I rent respectable!” She sniffed. “No wild boys!”
“I’m sure they’ll be quiet’n, Sera.”
“Let me show you the apartment.”
It was a horrible little space, damp with a badly cracked wash-curb so that the eight-day washing no doubt poured in around the front window. “Nah, Sera, this’ll not do, thenk yeh fer yer time.”
I nodded at her and turned to go. “Wait a moment, young Ser,” she said. “Ay have another. P’raps too big fer yer touch?”
She’d been showing me what she thought I could afford. It made me want to rip out my bright blue hair. “P’raps not with them both payin’, Sera.”
This one was three sleeping rooms in the attic with a huge tree so close over the back one could reach out and touch the branches and leaves, leaving no view whatsoever.
“No cookin’ up here. No open fires. Th’ stove niche’s not safe to use. I’ll see ta the ants.”
“What were ye thinkin’, Sera, fer this moonly?”
“Fer this, premium space it is… I’d want eight coppers per.”
I made my calculations. “Give yeh five, fer no cookin’ no heat.”
“Six and a half.”
“Done!” She said. “Person under yeh is a junior Sereniteer, m’own is under that, so you tell ‘em no noise and no Maskers brought in… an’ I consider smokin’ herb an ‘open fire’, so none o’ that!”
“I’ll tell im, Sera Landlord. M’names Minakas Akam, Sera.”
She nodded. “I’ll hev yeh sign that then and first three moons payment upfront.”
So my glasses went away with the scholar’s robe and the nose-ring went in again. I bought the tiny, fashionable, risqué kilts that were the stiff front in the angular patterns, and the back all but a mere loincloth drape, leaving my legs bare to the waistband. And since I was a boy I could wear all the open shouldered, short sleeved shirts.
Gannara braided up one side of my head in love-knot braids vanishing under the hair at my neck and I bought a drum and one indulgence – a new pair of flash faib skates and I moved into Sera Rusas’s apartments, as my own cousin, Sinimas Akam.
Ili immediately lined up his stuffed animal army along the window of the room he claimed as his and began begging for another. We conveniently didn’t mention Jiaklem to the landsera since the sign on her door clearly said, ‘No Pets’. Considering that there was a yappy dog somewhere in the building and at least three cats in various windows, I didn’t think we would have a problem.
I spent the next few days just skating, reveling in the speed again. I usually ended up going up Fast Street to the turnaround to Race Road at the beginning of the Aitzas quarter, across the University circle past all the supposed mad women, mad like foxes… They were there in their hundreds. One or two up on their husband’s statues, declaiming one of the Mad Imperatrix’s speeches… which they wouldn’t have known about if they hadn’t read them at one point or another, since no man would have ever read these things to them.
My wheels thrummed on the smooth race road and I heard bits and pieces as I soared by. “…we not bleed? We bleed before we birth… we bleed at birth… now we bleed…” “…My Father made me this… frail… weak… hobbled…” “… cry and scream and weep and make outraged noise against my husband…” “My son... listen... I am not mad… not overwrought…not overly emotional…”
Their words, quoted from the Imperatrix who dared say she had a mind as well as the ability to bear children, wove around my skate wheels beating against the pavement like a drumbeat. Hayel, I was supposed to be a Dyer… why not?
I coasted to a stop next to the board wall hiding the hole in the ground that had been the Religious studies building. I could see straight up to Feliras’s from here where I never could before. I began beating my one skate against the board wall, using it as a sounding board.
BOOM BOOM BOOM
My drum was a yarbak played under one arm. I had a faint thought that this might not be such a good idea but dismissed it.
Thoom, Thoom, Thoom!
Listen to the women! Listen to them speak!
They have tongues and hearts and will,
Enough to decry a foul reek!
No freedoms here, no vodai so new
Back to the old ways, slaves!
How dare you spew?
They think we’re dogs
To suffer, whipp-ed curs
And they almighty, owning Gods!
Aitz-ass asses asses
Give us courts and Shefenk-ases
And kick their brasses!
The sliding shriek of a Sereniteers whistle sounded from Sword Street and was answered by another from behind me, around the boards I had kicked to get such a loud noise. Not good poetry but it was a first attempt...
Time to go. The drum went into the bag and I pushed off hard, down the hillock on Race. Then I realized with more than a little shock that the Marble Palace was putting some of their Sereniteers on skates too. The wailing whistles were moving in far too quickly for mere runners.
“There he is! That's the one! You there! Stop! Stop!”