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.”
“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.