Headache. That was a good thing. It meant I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t... in any other distress so... I wasn’t in full restraint. Full restraint was, in and of itself, distressing. It was arms, legs and head restrained, even fingers strapped down. A chest strap and an abdominal strap to restrict one’s breathing. A blindfold. A knife gag. Ears sealed with wax and felt. One would be naked and impaled upon a thin rod in one’s anus and for men a wire inserted. 2nd Amitzas had illustrated it for me once, as one of his training sessions. I didn’t like to remember that.
I wasn’t naked. I lay, on my back, on something soft. Why am I not in full restraint? I suppose I’m not considered that dangerous. I heard the click of a bead clock. I wasn’t on a table downstairs... that was good. I opened my eyes to find I was in a room of the Marble Palace that I didn’t immediately recognize and realized it must be an antechamber to the High Office itself... or a room back across the Glass Bridge. I hoped not that. If Gan had seen me carried out, he’d be beside himself with worry.
Chevenga sat beside me, just turning away from the clock that showed I'd only been unconscious a tenth or so...a bit more than half my audience. How was that possible? To recover from being stunned it usually took a half bead or so depending on the person. I let my breath out, thankful I would still be able to carry out my plan... but I didn’t say anything at first, suddenly not sure what to say.
I looked down at the glasses someone... perhaps Chevenga himself... had placed in my hand and didn’t bother putting them on again. I really didn’t have much time left, in the audience or otherwise. I’d been planning just to tell him after he looked at the Book but that plan was long gone.
“Good, you’re awake. It was my fault for getting you stunned. I’ve had my healer make up an antagonist, and since you were stunned because I was slow I figured you deserved some. Here, take this, under the tongue. The headache will get a lot worse for a moment, then go away.” He offered me the remedy from His own hand.
“Thank you.” I said, equal to equal, using my own accent, that I had not used since I’d left the Mahid two years ago. It felt strange, but good at the same time, as if my tongue had craved it, even as I forced it to accept a different caste’s cadence and rhythms. I took the remedy and winced my eyes closed at the bolt of pain lightning behind my eyes. But like all correct Haian remedies, it worked as well as he’d said. “I hope you didn’t have me carried out somewhere across the Bridge. I have a Yeoli friend waiting for me in that waiting room and he’d worried and upset if he saw that...” I found my hand tugging at my hair on one side as if I could pull it to my mouth, as I had before 2nd Amitzas broke me of the habit.
“A Yeoli friend waiting here with you?” He asked, intrigued.
“One of my best friends in the world, his name is Gannara Melachiya.” He signed chalk and his hand hesitated a moment as I sat up, still looking at him straight.
“Your friend is named Melachiya?--” And that was the moment when he knew me. He blinked, as I pulled my knees up, wrapping my arms around them.
“Minis!” he said.
I held my breath and waited.
Then he said the last thing I would have expected. “You’ve... changed!”
I had to laugh. It startled me enough that it hurt coming out. “Yes. A bit.”
“Gannara...” He glanced at the cascade of tiny beads that marked out hundredth beads, flowing like sand into the container below. “I’ll have him shown in... Don’t worry. Neither of you have anything to fear from me. I got your letter.”
I had to close my eyes. He’d gotten my letter, from Haiu Menshir that enumerated what I had done to him. And he didn’t have me hustled off into full restraint? He was so much saner an Imperator than the fat gu... my father. I opened my eyes again, trying to face what might be coming.
He raised his voice. “Krero? Could you...” the guard captain was in before he’d finished calling. Here it comes. I’m ready, just breathe and submit... He wouldn’t need a full guard to haul me off to a cell. The Yeoli captain might have been in the trap-booth himself for the odd look he gave me. But Chevenga wasn’t telling him anything. “Yes, Krero. There’s a Yeoli boy – where did you say?”
“In the waiting room on the other side of the Bridge.”
“Yes. His name is Gannara; could you fetch him here, please?” You have nothing to fear from me, he’d said. Another glance at the clock. “And on the way by could you have Binchera send for Skorsas, please?” He’s not called the guard captain to haul me off? What?
“Certainly, Cheng.” In that familiar, Yeoli way, he signed chalk and left.
There wasn’t much time left in my audience. Already the next supplicant would be making their way to the Bridge. “I... Ch’venga...” I was surprised at how choked up I was. “I’m giving myself into your hands, you realize this?”
“Yes, I realize. Minis... don’t worry. You know me. Don’t worry about it. Ah, here’s Krero again.”
Gan’s eyes were wide and apprehensive and he relaxed a little when he saw me, sitting free on a chaise, next to Chevenga. His reaction... trained by Mahid... tried to put him on his face on the floor but he’d healed enough that he stiffened before that happened, took a deep breath and nodded at the Imperator. “Semanakraseye,” he said.
“Here I am, Jewel of the World,” Skorsas said coming in on Krero and Gan’s heels.
“Good, Skorsas, thank you Krero, I’ve got it now.” And Krero, though curious as to what was really going on, left. “I have a couple of guests for you to look after, Minakas Akam and Gannara Melachiya, if you would, Skorsas. I have another audience in less than two clicks.”
“Certainly, Jewel, I’ll see to it.” I slid my gloves and spectacles back on while all this was going on. Chevenga touched my shoulder and Gan’s on the way by. He was on faib skates I saw as he rose and glided to the door.
“I’ll see you two tonight, after my day is over,” he said and pushed off, hard.
“So, would you like to see some of the Marble Palace before I show you to your rooms?” the Imperial Chamberlain asked, brightly.