Thursday, September 9, 2010

340 - Truth and kaf

Minis staggered downstairs from the absolutely beautiful conservancy room with a stack of barely legible papers, a half ten of folders and two thick books of Chronicles.  And a chest... his chest...the one bounded by his own ribs, full of confusion.

Atzana knew... she’d figured it out and she finally had mercy upon him and told me where he’d slipped.  It had been the Marble Palace itself that had lulled him into being sloppy.  And she... apparently attended Kyriala’s salons.  How many Arkan women were so smart?  And as effective?  The Yeolis kept saying so.

He asked the servant for the suite if it would be possible... if it would not be too much trouble... for a cup of kaf?  He sniffed at the parochial waffling.  “A pot of kaf is eminently fetchable, ser,” he said.  “It will be but a moment.”

“Th... thenk yeh, ser.”
“Oh, not at all, Ser Akam.  The High Chamberlain charged us... the servants assigned to this suite of rooms, ser, with your care.  We understand that you might not be used to being served.  Not to worry.  Just ask.”

Minis nodded and blinked at him as if he were completely overwhelmed.  “I’ll get that kaf for you then, shall I?” And he winked before he left.

The papers he laid out carefully on the big table in the suite and sank down with the the cup of excellent kaf and put his feet up to think.  Gannara was down making sure that everything they hadn’t packed up was out of the house.  He was probably taking advantage of the privacy with Alya or Tahatina, or Maru... Minis tried not to feel jealous.  He probably would never be comfortable with boys or men that way.

There was a knock at the door and he set his cup down and went to the door, calling through it.  “Yes?  Who is it?”

“Perisalas Shefenkas, solas.  May I speak with you?”  The voice was precise and very calm. “I have the permission of He Whose Knowledge is the World’s Safety.”  Minis opened the door to him and found he had a fessas clerk with him. Ah, Chevenga said the investigator would likely wish to speak to me.  Here he is.

“Please, sor... ah sors...” he backed up, indicating the chairs by the fountain.  “How may t’s lowly ‘un help ‘t honourable ser?” The man scanned the room automatically, even here in the Marble Palace, the most secure place in the Empire. Minis wouldn’t have noticed him looking if he hadn’t been watching for it.

The moment the door was closed and the clerk ensconced in a chair with his notebook folded open, the solas cut straight to the heart of his visit.

"As I said, my name is Perisalas Shefenkas, solas, Spark in Exile, I am an investigator for He Whose Will is the Support of the World, and I would like to speak with you, if I might."  He looked as though he were setting his teeth into raw onions and refusing to acknowledge the bite of acid into his gums.  This man is the agent who was searching for me.  I look at his calm, calculating face. Did he make the hunt for me, personal?

Minis dropped the fessas accent.  The clerk was obviously an Irefas man or he would not have been there.  "Ah. Certainly.” He said.  Why do I want this man to like me? “You have been seeking me for quite a while.” He spoke in his own accent but equal to equal.  “Please, gentlemen.  I just asked for the pot of kaf, may I offer you cups? I am hardly in a position to offer hospitality but He Whose Generosity is the Worlds will surely give me that graciousness."

Perisalas bowed, just slightly.  “Thank you, Exalted. I have indeed been seeking you for quite some time, it seems even longer than your Mahid were seeking you.”

"I am no longer "Exalted or Chip of the Light' or anything else. Please call me Minis... yes... My Mahid and I had a falling out."  If he has Chevenga’s permission then this is part of my turning myself in.  Honesty here. I am broken open in the Imperator’s hands and given to those who ask. It was a relief, to be honest to myself.  No more cramped shut hiding of parts of myself from any other parts.  I was free to be whole.  There was no one to protect, no one to hide, no one to shield.  He sipped his own kaf and savoured the rich, hot smell, and the cream and sweetness of the chip of sugar.

"My Imperator has made it clear to me that your status, while ambiguous, was inarguably elevated, and I wished to put you at ease. I am sorry. Minis, then?”

"Thank you. Yes."

"I hear more of how you and your, ahem, the Mahid parted company, but first I would like to know more of the events right after you left the City. It would satisfy my curiosity as well as helping me complete my files and reports for the Imperator."  He needs to know.  The perfect Irefas man.

"Of course... Gentlemen.”  He found there were three extra cups on the tray that the superior servant had fetched and poured two cups of kaf.  “Perisalas, do you take your kaf black?”

He looked startled but only for a moment.  “Yes. You need not serve...”  Minis shook his head at him.

“Please.  I have been infected with Yeoli ideas of hospitality.”  He set the cup down in front of him, and picked up the sugar tongs to place a single chip of sweetness upon the plate.  “Should you choose to indulge yourself, ser.”

He stared at him and nodded, sharply, once before reaching to touch the edge of the delicate, gold-trimmed saucer, accepting it.

“Ah, sor,” The fessas said quietly.  “Thenk yah.  Cream please.”  You are comfortable with this in a strange way.  Who are you? I shall have to find out, just for my own curiosity. Minis set the cup before him and turned back to Perisalas.  The special investigator had not drawn any attention to the man, so ignoring him would be polite as well.  “It is a long and rather tedious story..."

He sipped the kaf lightly and set it down again, listening.  I am so glad I did not know this man was on my heels.  What sleep I did have would not have been nearly so peaceful, had I known.

"As you undoubtedly know, my brother and I and my betrothed were rushed out of the city in litters with an escort of fifty Mahid. 2nd Amitzas pushed us until the litter slaves collapsed and he killed the lot. You will find their bodies and the destroyed litters at the bottom of a cliff under a rockslide North East of the City."

Perisalas glanced at the clerk and then set his eyes back on Minis where he sat.  Is he surprised I no longer have anything to hide?  I shall explain. "Ser... Shefenkas I have no more need to hide, no more need to run from anyone but the renegade Mahid. It is the right of Empire to know all that I know."

"I thank you for your patriotic concern, Ser Aan, for I feel a great personal need to support and work for our Empire.”

Minis smiled at the man.  It was a pleasure to deal with a competent Irefas man, especially since he was no longer running from him and it made him feel good to know that the Empire was being protected by good, intelligent men.  "It is pleasant to find officers in the bureaucracy of Arko who are diligent and competent... The first morning after the flight, I... fat, snotty little bastard that I was... I attempted to command the Mahid and found that my father had commanded I be given to their command rather than the other way around." He grimaced, remembering... "That first day of training was not pleasant and it took me all day to do fifty push-ups."  He sipped, trying to be polite and still clear the pain out of his memory. "My father left letters to me and to 1st Amitzas laying out our relative status..."

He sipped as Minis did, apparently unmoved by the rich kaf, finally free of bitterness.  My whole life I had been taking in the taste of corruption and madness.  I was finally free of that. "Really?” He inquired, quietly. “Serina Liren said as much to me when I asked her about those times. She described them as 'hard' and that the Mahid were not prepared for life outside the City. Would you agree? Do you feel that First Amitzas was unprepared?

 Minis had to laugh. "Oh, they had no idea. Ser Shefenkas... First Amitzas lost a dozen of his Mahid the first year! Snowblindness, lung-clot, exposure... attempting to impose Mahid correctness on wilderness... hmmm... how do I put this? My little brother needed better food so they struggled with goats and burnt food..."

Perisalas’s lips twitched involuntarily at this picture. "Was this up in the mountains near Two Kills pass?  The site with the small cabin?"

"Yes.  Just so.  He lost people in the mountain passes... yes.. after we left there... that was just the first winter... It was a... learning experience for him... if he chose to take it as such."

"It seems to me that you were the one learning." If he truly smiles will his facade shatter?  No, he really is amused.

"I should hope so." Minis smiled back at him. "I'd be a 'right knob ser',” he said in a bit of the fessas accent. “If I could not learn from such severe mistakes."

"Did the Mahid train you in how to change your caste traits?"

"Oh, no. I had to adopt those after we fled the Mahid so they could not find us. And it was hard... I had enough incentive however."

"Ah. I had received a number of reports about okas Mahid, in amongst the MANY strange sightings of you, that I wondered if there was a new sub-set of Mahid who trained to impersonate lower caste Arkans, though Joras Mahid was the only one we apprehended."

"There was only one 'okas' trained Mahid that I knew of. First Matthas. Though Joras was more dangerous because he knew how to be 'ebullient'. He could smile easily."

"He has sworn to the Imperator, and is re-training under the Imperial pharmacist. I tell you so that you will not be frightened into fleeing again, should you see him in the Palace."

"Oh. Thank you, Ser. I... He swore?" Oh Ten. Oh Ten.  Joras is here and sworn?  I would have sworn that the sun would fall out of the sky first.  But then... Chevenga, I think, can turn anyone.  He saw Chevenga do the Ten Tens, he reminded himself.  That would hit a fanatic hard. He swallowed hard.

"He swore. After a full bead of drunken fessas bawdy verse, the truthdrug took hold and he swore without reservation." The look on his face was almost painful.  Of course he would have sat through any amount of ribald doggerel.

"A full... bead? and without... without reservation?" Minis managed to choke out. "Oh. I... I saw him in the city. I paid a herb-head to report him..."

Perisalas smiled again and nodded encouragingly.

"Well... I suppose I should not hate any of my relatives... no matter if they are Mahid or not."

I had confused him.  I wouldn’t have seen that had I not been watching so closely.

"You know... Ser...” I continued.  I would let him know I did not deny any of my mother... who... who was my mother?  I had never asked.  “My father had not wanted me to ask which Mahid concubine was my mother.”  Whose name on the woman’s cenotaph should I honour?  I didn’t know.  I was to have sprung fully formed from his loins... but that was rank insanity.  I would have to find out.  I should find out.

"At the time, that might have been one of the LEAST remarkable things one was to believe in Court." He said.  Yes, he was being that dryly humourous.

Minis snorted and set his kaf down and wiped a drop away with his napkin. "Ha! Yes. I will not say anything directly against my father, Ser, whatever I think. I might be made to acknowledge certain things that should or should not have been... but I will not speak against him. The Gods do not bless a father-hater."

The expression on Perisalas’s face was interesting.  I wasn't sure how to interpret it.  I settle back into my chair and anticipated a long afternoon.  He would want to know every detail.

“If I had known, ser, that you were following me, I should not have rested easy.”  Tell him the truth.

He snorted. “You, ser, misdirected me well enough... the ploy of being escorted to the city by our own road Sereniteers was nothing but brilliant.  I was inclined to rip my hair out by the roots.”

Minis picked up his cup again, smiling slightly.  This was going to be considerably more fun than he thought it would be.


  1. This is great! A relaxed, candid Minis,no fear of this authority, no plot, no intrigue - this is almost as much of a vacation for him as can be imagined! Now the next step is to find a mind-healing Haian. Maybe for him, maybe for poor frustrated Perisalas, hard to say, isn't it?

  2. Ehh... Minis needs a psyche-healer.

    Perisalas can suck it up. It's his job. And he got a nice bonus.