Wednesday, August 11, 2010

319 - Ethics and Liquid Glass

I held my breath and somehow, half the crowd could see, or sense something was coming, even if they didn’t have my centuries' old blood-connection to the Temple.  The Goddess’s shadow of light reached toward Chevenga and if anything He offered His throat even more to Her, tilting His head back even further, His face a mix of forced calm, ecstasy and terror.  “Oh, Goddess.  She is… She will…”  I couldn’t tell what She would do.  I flung my hands over my face, then pulled them away just in time to see Chevenga gain His feet, a fine mist of blood flowing from His neck, His face glowing with joy I could only describe as divine.

AIGH MAMAIYANA CH'VENGA!  CH'VENGA!  BORUUUUUUUU!!!!!!”  Gan screamed in my ear and Ili pushed on my head as if to try and stand, everyone was screaming as Chevenga arched back in one of the classic poses for Risae, as if held standing in a lover’s arms.  Kaninjer… I could hear the Haian accent in the crowd noise and Kallijas caught him around the chest to keep him from plunging to Chevenga’s aid, half lifting him off the ground, clamping him against his armoured chest.

The noise was so much it was like a hammer of sound spiking into my ears. “It’s all right!” I yelled.  “It’s all RIGHT!  LOOK, LOOK!”  And my yell was picked up by others, including Ili.

I grabbed Gannara by one arm, shaking him slightly.  “It’s all right.  It’s all right.  He’ll be alright... it's not a lot!  She's just taking a token!"

Boru! Boru! Chevenga!”

“Gannara.  He's with Her. She won’t let him die!”

He’d flung his own hands up over his face and now peeked through his fingers to see Chevenga, still on his feet, no longer bleeding, even the tiny spray of blood.  It just stopped.  His neck wound closed before our eyes and a bare sheen of blood appeared on his brow.  A lip-print, as though Risae had kissed him.  He looked more than a little stunned as though hit in the head with a brick, but He was still on his feet.

This was no where near what had happened last time.  There was blood, but only the amount one might get from a cut finger rather than a cut throat artery.

There were a few spots of blood on His chest and the imprint of the Goddess’s lips on His forehead and… He… was erect.  That showed clearly through the gold kilt.  “Kahara,” Gan breathed.  “How he hasn’t fallen on his face yet, I don’t know.”

What had that felt like that it would excite Him so?  Bleeding?  And still ecstatic.  Fessas Goddess, You are brutal in Your love of excellence…

“She was with Him the whole time...” In all the crowd noise I was surprised that Sera Eren heard me.

“Yes, lad.  She was.”

The table before Risae had a few drops of  His blood, all the sacred instruments upon it.  A drop or two of scarlet on the marble floor at his feet.

Forae... forae Ch'venga, forae semanakraseye mya...”  Gannara was almost chanting it now, with the other Yeolis. Chevenga took several deep breaths and proffered His hands to the Goddess, as if accepting something… a bowl or cup or something from Her. I blinked, surprised to see a glittering sparkle of silver between His hands and showing around His fingers. He raised His hands exactly as if He were raising a cup and quaffing… something.  I was close enough to see His throat working, the shining light back in His face, incongruous against the mark on his forehead.  You could see His pallor going away as He drank.

He bowed to Risae and offered up to Her the invisible cup, making the ten steps to Her in stately slow motion as He did so.  Then He turned to Mikas across the Temple.  The glass instrument in the music loft above cut across the crowd’s noise, the jubilation, the hysteria from some.  Many people, lower caste, were crowded before their own Gods, who had approved the Imperator, on their knees, hands cupped to their temples, the bulk of the crowd on their feet flowing past them to be closer, pressing up behind us.

"Five Ten! Five Ten!"

A full ten of herald/priests at the Temple doors relayed what was happening to the crowd, still jamming the square, so that all those who had not camped had a chance to know the Gods’ will.  Their collective physical presence was like a gigantic animal poised.  Not poised--pushing, pressuring, leaning on those in front of them, as much a part of the rite as we, the direct witnesses, were.  It was hot and people held each other up and priests handed water through the crowd so that no one would be hurt in so important a rite.  Only the Imperator and His pretenders risk death here. I was surprised by the ironic thought, and it hurt.  I thought I was past the bitterness.

Mikas’s statue, where He sat, was different.  We were close enough to see into His niche.  He wore a pressman’s smock and there were different tools and animals around Him.  “That’s a marya on the back of his chair!”  Gannara seemed almost indignant.  “A carved stone marya!  And there’s a kind of horned sheep that you only find near Vae Arahi next to him!”

“I don’t understand it, Gan.  I’m as surprised as you are.”  Chevenga did ten slow steps across the central aisle toward Mikas… the same as in the original, the first Ten Tens.  Each paced step was a classic pose of a profession.  That hadn’t changed.  Before the God a cushion lay upon the stone with three clear glass cups full of what looked like white wine in front of it.  It was ironically welcoming, as if the God were an ancient Arkan host about to greet a guest.

As Chevenga stepped across the line of gold tiles around the throne of the God a deep brass gong rang through the whole Temple and a fountain sprang up from the floor tiles.  It wasn’t clear as I thought it would be, nor was it the flow from the ceiling that I was expecting either.  Most of the streams were clear, but not all.  Some were coloured brightly, some were gold or silver and some where white.  We could feel the heat of them from where we stood behind Chevenga’s guard holding us back.

“Ayo! That’s… not… water, is it?”  Gannara swallowed hard.  “What is it?”

“Glass, youngster,” Sera Eren said, Ribbons coiled between and around her feet to keep from being trampled upon.  “Liquid glass for the Professional God.”

“Oh, kahara.”

Chevenga had prostrated Himself before Mikas and, to an unheard voice, risen and seated Himself upon the cushion.  He appeared to be listening but it was hard to see through the shimmering, moving, flowing wall of glass, quivering with heat. He raised each wine glass and tasted what was in it, and delicately spat the last sip into His hand, then poured it upon the floor where it vanished.  “This one…” He said to the statue of the God.  Then He answered a question none of us could hear.  “Anywhere else, I would say, probably not; here, I’d say, probably yes.”

“What did that mean?” Gannara asked me.

“The God is talking to Him.  Probably asking which of the wine cups is poisoned--” “—Arsenic,” Chevenga said, even as I whispered it.

“Ooooh, Ch’venga, nepa vyar sa…

Then the three glasses melted away into the floor and two took their place filled, apparently, with red wine.  Chevenga picked them both up and sipped but this time did not spit.  A surprisingly cool breeze wafted past my face as I watched.  Cool, while liquid glass arcing from the floor and what felt like half of Arko jammed into the space. How?

Two ghostly images came into being between Chevenga and the God, floating in the air.  People cried out in wonder and fear.  The images were ghostly but not white or pale or tortured looking; rather like two paintings but more real than real.  One Arkan pale child, one dark, foreign looking, appearing as though they stood between Mikas and Chevenga.  One could not tell if they were male or female.  “They are both equally valuable,” He said to the God.

This is what Tobias meant when he talked about the ‘Test of Imperators’?  An Ethical test.  The fat guy would never have had to do this because it is not in the first Ten Tens.  Ethics.  He would have failed and died.

The two children faded and were replaced by equally perfect images of a serpent and a fish and Chevenga was obviously listening very carefully.  “The serpent.  If refined in the Haian way, a drop of its venom can cure a million.”

“My dekinas taught me a whole series of questions and answers by rote in the God’s tongue, in case they ever came up.” I said to Gan.

“What's Ch'venga using... just his wits, I guess?”  I nodded and signed chalk to Gan.  Nobody was listening to us whisper, even though people had quieted to watch and listen to the Imperator talk to Mikas.

Then Chevenga stood up and walked to the wall of flowing hot glass that was higher than His head, on the side toward Dimae and hesitated a long moment.  “No, he isn’t going to do what I think he’s going to do –AIGH TE FYIRERAI TEMANAE!”

Gannara and the other Yeolis in the crowd screamed as Chevenga reached out and thrust His hands into the liquid glass.


  1. There are no words for how awesome this is and how much suspense I'm in. I can't believe this was created. I have to remind myself it's not real, lol. =)

  2. What's going to be fun for me is writing it from Chevenga's point of view. Twice. I'll be trying to pack as much gunpowder as possible into the descriptive fireworks.

    He was actually in training for this for longer than is clear here, longer than he even knew. The beginning of it is going to come fairly soon in PA.

  3. Risae's a bit more ghoulish than previously portrayed. I mean, I know gods are supposed to like blood, but the kiss on the forehead is a bit much. Laboratory mice do not display such behavior. Rats do, which is one reason I like them more. Did Min just mis-identify the species of her avatar due to sleep muzz?

  4. Hey, Michael... the Surgical Goddess... the Geneticist... the Vivisectionist is definately the most frightening of the Goddesses. Especially to Arkans.

    Her animals are both white mice and white rats...among others. surprisingly not hooded rats (some of my favourite animals). The kiss on the forehead is... hmmm. More like a seal than a siphon.

    I`ve just started seeing Dr. Ruth Mason in my head... she`s just started her residency and she and her mother and grandmother attend Westboro Baptist church. (With approvals pending from Karen.)

  5. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwokay fine. You have my approval.