Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Five: The Crystal Throne 329 - On the List

329 - On the List

I watched the last, faint vestiges of blue wash down the drain at the Bath House.  The suds were mostly white and I ran my hands over my head pushing the water and soap through my hair, pressing hard down to the roots.  I’d paid for double time today and gotten a mix of lime and yellowfruit juice to strip the colour out completely after I washed.  Then I had a trifle of oil to ease the stiffness and chalky feeling the lime always left behind.

I was going to have to explain to the landsera that my young cousin had been called away... on family business of course... no one questioned that, and that I would be staying in the city for a time so taking over his portion of the apartment rental.

The line-up for the Marble Palace Audience list is always long… and they tried to weed out people with a two-tier system… The first line got you to the Imperial Secretary and the second for Chevenga himself.

I was very properly dressed as I walked into the Black Door of the Marble Palace that led to the bureaucratic offices.  I was Minakas Akam again, very firmly.  My gloves were full with no odd Dyerly cut-outs, no nose, ear, eyebrow or lip-rings. No risqué kilts that were nothing but loincloths and my shirt had full sleeves, even if thin cotton.  My scholar’s robe was very properly pressed and to the floor. My hair, my own blond and trimmed exactly the correct length though many people were becoming lax about cutting their hair now, particularly the younger ones.  The bathhouse had a station with a razor for lower castes to cut their own hair… a fixed box that one put one’s head in and it clipped everything precisely with the trimmer, once the caste was dialled in and the lever was pulled… usually a number of times to make it even but that was still better than trying to cut one’s own hair with a dull edge or a glass one. 

I adjust my spectacles upon my nose and inquire at the main desk as if I’d never been there before.  They directed me up three floors and down the express-chair wide gold and red tiled hallway through to the Imperial Sub-offices, rather more rarified than the Hall of Internal Serenity and the cells.  

The halls up here were plainer than anywhere else but Serenity, and full of people.  Most had papers in their hands, some had odd glasswares and at least one person I saw had a cage with something in it that I couldn’t see well, but its eyes flashed red in the lamplight.  Perhaps a ferret being brought in to clear out any rats the ratters could not catch.  Or some odd creature as a gift intended for either Chevenga or the Imperium.

There were easily a dozen people ahead of me in the correct line, of all nationalities.  I had lots of time to think as the line moved up.  I knew I had to do this.  I knew it as if the Gods had told me.  I’d be dreaming of that asshole kid drowning Arko in blood until I did. The man in front of me was as tall as a Srian, though not as dark skinned, with a slick skull cap of jewel-like feathers.  He had a box in his hands that was inlaid with chips of gold, lapis and tiger’s eyes.  He couldn’t be one of an official entourage because that kind of thing wouldn’t have gone through these channels.  Most of the others were Arkan of various stripe and caste.

I looked up at the angelic frescoes on the ceiling and tried not to fidget.  Or run.  I wanted to run out of here so badly my calves were twitching under the proper, sober scholar’s robe.

I knotted my hands together and locked them with a little Mahid exercise that stilled the muscles. Then I began the counted breathing.  That way I could just step forward as if nothing were wrong, as if I signed onto the Imperial Audience list every day.

“Name?”  The bureaucrat was an older Aitzas fellow with pinch-spectacles on his nose, but with a scar or two that a desk-driver would not normally have.  Probably all the oddness in these war and post war years.

“Minakas Akam, sor.”


“A short interview with He Whose Knowledge is the World’s Treasure, sor.”

“That cannot be researched without direct quotes from the Imperator?”

“No, sor.  Arkan/Yeoli political history, sor.”  He was speaking equal to equal.  He tapped his pen on his teeth, thinking.

"Would he know you?  Best tell the absolute truth."

"The World's Wisdom and I discussed such topics more than once when He was between terms.  He invited me to dinner... and He knows my writing; I've had pieces published in the Pages." That did the trick.  It was probably overkill to mention the dinner but I wanted him to stop blocking me.

“Ah, indeed.  Go up to the sentry over there and they will direct you to the Imperial offices.”

“Thenk yah, sor.”

The door into the Erinkilan level was new.  It had been an open hallway before.  The sentry had a servant-guide waiting to lead me through to what I knew were the lesser Scarlet rooms, not quite as overwhelming as the Highest Office, in its own cliff-perch over the Marble Palace, under the Eagle, with an enormous window and the inside--walls, floor and ceiling-- almost all gold.

Chevenga and his staff would probably want to work here more than in that grandiose space unless they specifically needed to overawe someone.  The Imperial secretary was a Yeoli fellow with kind eyes but a very precise manner.  “How long do you truly need, young man?” He asked me.

The rest of my life, I bit my tongue on.  “Two tenths shou’d be generous enough, sor.”

He perused his book and every half-tenth of Chevenga’s day, including meals, was apparently accounted for.  Page after page, from early morning to late at night.  He wasn’t going to have time to scratch in the next year it looked like.

There were several half-tenths open but not close enough to re-arrange everyone’s schedule to give me a full two tenths of a bead.  The secretary’s bare finger finally settled on the first open slot of the correct size.  “Five moons and eighteen days from now, young man.  First bead of the afternoon.”

“Thank you, ker,” I said in Yeoli.  That fetched me a smile.

“You’re welcome.  Sign here.”  It was the final formality, to discourage anyone who truly did not need to speak with the Imperator.  I took the pen with a hand that didn’t seem to be mine, distant and strange, suddenly finger-sweated inside my gloves.  I watched the line of black ink flow from the nib, dreamlike as I signed ‘Minakas Akam’.  It flowed smooth as blood and just as significant, though more controlled.

It was as though the whole world shifted as I laid the pen down gently.  That was the commitment.  That was it. If Perisalas Shefenkas and half the office of Internal Serenity and even Irefas were not looking for me at this moment, with a Mahid caught in the city itself, I’d eat my underclout, raw with no sauce.  I’d spend the last few moons of my freedom mostly in our apartment, writing.  I wasn’t sure I would have time to finish my Tathanas/Notyere piece after I turned myself in.

“Good day, ker.”  The secretary said.  “The servant will show you out.”

“Thank you.” It was easier following the servant out because I wasn’t really seeing the halls of my former home at all.  I was going to do it.

Gannara was going to kill me.  I hadn’t told him that was what I would be doing today, getting on the audience list to turn myself in.


  1. No, no, boy, you need the sauce or you'll choke, it's too dry raw. At least fry it up with some butter or something!

  2. Heh, but they ARE looking for him in the city so he doesn't need to eat it at all!

  3. It's not necessarily dry, it depends on [REDACTED BY AUTHOR GROSSNESS PULVERIZER v.2.1. "Keeping your comments in good taste always!"]