Friday, September 10, 2010

341 - Whose Name on the Cenotaph?

I handed the precious permission to the Imperial Archives to the librarian, rather than to Atzana. She was too diligent and perceptive.  I knew the fellow… Atzana’s superior,  from years ago.  He was more stooped and had less hair.  His mouth was tighter pursed but since he survived war and sack and retained his job… there was more to him than I ever gave credence to.  Like everyone.  People had so much more strength than I ever knew and I found myself impressed and awed by it over and over again.  I had been forced away from them by my father.  Then I had run, and run and run, trying to run away from people and here I was, back again.  Meanwhile he, and others like him, had endured.

After gazing at me over his half-moon spectacles in a look that I think all librarians must have learned in the cradle, he passed me into the Golden Archive without a second look.

The door opened into the dim room where I, years ago, had blown through on my faib skates. I took a full step in and stopped taking a deep breath.  The parchment, vellum and paper and ink smell sunk into the stone seemed to fill me up in spaces I hadn’t realized were empty.  I had needed this place and hadn’t recognized how much.

The Imperial records were in the gilded bookshelf across the whole room, set up so that one could see them, slightly higher, between the lighted corridor of stacks, the leather volumes and folios all gold.

The book I needed opened with a crackle and I was suddenly finding it hard to catch my breath, my heart leaping up to gallop away on me.  I stared at the words appearing underneath my finger… there… 

The birth of Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, son of 16th Kurkas Joras Amitzas Boras Aan, birthed from an Imperial concubine.

“Shen!”  Two other scholars looked up at me, startled at my outburst.  That kind of language wasn’t usually heard out loud in here.  They couldn’t be bothered to list her name?  Of course.  It was what my father wanted.  I was his alone, sprung from nothing but him.  If he could have had me without the necessity of my having been grown inside a female he would have.

Suddenly, in my mind, I was back in the town square of Asinanai, watching Gannara find out that his blood parents – both of them – had died in the war.  He knew.  It was important that people knew their parents.  Parents, grandparents, brothers, even sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins.  Without knowledge of them, I had come to understand, you were isolate in the world.

My father had tried to isolate me to himself alone and that way lay madness.  I had to find my mother’s name.  It was important.   I tapped my gloved fingers against the unhelpful page, as isolated from the knowledge as my skin was from the book.  This wasn’t going to be so easy.

The Mahid records were as dark as the Imperial were golden, set in a bookshelf of blackened silver, tucked into an alcove off to one side, in the shadow of the Imperator, one might say.  The black leather books of the years of my father’s reign were too heavy to carry to the desk in one trip but took three.

I started looking backwards from my birthday to be certain I wouldn’t miss it, though I did understand normal human breeding was nine months – I didn’t know for sure how many I was carried… if I were full term or not.

Most of father’s concubines were boys… but he went through phases… there were times there were more girls… and there were -- two births recorded.  I had two half sisters almost my age.  “Lia Mahid… Divinely conceived on Ilanai Mahid. Born 10 Anae Year 70 PA.  Amali Mahid… Divinely conceived on Tira Mahid.  Born 4 Muunas Year 69 P.A. And one boy.  Chosen Heir, First Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan. Divinely conceived on Inensa Mahid. Born 1Muunas Year 69 P.A.

Inensa.  Inensa Mahid.  Inensa? She… she… I knew where she was.  She was still alive.  She was married to 2nd Amitzas. She had been head of the women in my eclipse court and had laid hands on Kyriala when the men had killed Binshala.  That woman was my mother?

I covered my face with my hands.  I was wrong.  I didn’t want to know.  And now I couldn’t un-know it.  I blindly began putting the books back and spun away… then, almost reluctantly went back, my footsteps dragging.  If I knew my father’s lineage back more than a thousand years wasn’t that enough?  Why was I drawn to this?

I had to guess, because I didn’t know how old she was.  It was hard because I kept having to blink.  I wasn’t crying.  That was impossible.  I was half Mahid.  I’d had training as one.  I stopped and closed the book.  I couldn’t bear this.  Why couldn’t she just have been some Mahid I’d never seen?  Some woman who died in the sack? It would have been so much easier if that had been the case.

My finger tracked down the lines of the Mahid clan.  No… no… I checked a dozen family lines before my finger fell on her name.  Her brothers… my uncles…were all on the men’s black cenotaph, in the Mahid chapel.  Her father… My finger froze again and I swallowed. 

Her father.  My grandfather, was also still alive. He was the Imperial Pharmacist, 1st Amitzas Mahid.

I could come back… I had to… later…

I managed to compose myself and walk in the halls… full of the sense of having done this kind of thing before.

Gannara was there on the bed, reading a book that I… for the life of me, could not remember.  He put it down and said “Minis.  What’s the matter?”

I sat down as if my bones would shatter if I moved too quickly.  “I found out who my mother is,” I whispered.

“Oh.  Um.”  He put a hand on my shoulder.  “Condolences—”  

“—No!”  I leapt up to pace back and forth. “She’s not dead.”

“Not dead? But you look like --” He waved his hands, confused.

“She’s alive,” I snapped.  “She’s with 2nd Amitzas.”
“With SECOND AMITZAS?”  I hunched my shoulders at his shout, turned and paced back again.

“You don’t need to shout, Gannara.”

“Yeah, sorry, but… You mean she was with us?”

“Yeha.  Why couldn’t she just be… just be safely dead, some anonymous woman, so I don’t need… um…”

Which one???!

I took a deep breath.

“His wife.”


  1. Oh I have been waiting for this for so long... ohmanohman Inensa! Well he had to get his brains from somewhere and clearly no brainfruit ever fell off the fathertree. Also probably his looks and stamina (once he worked the fat and poisons off) and endurance. I think poor Minis will go through several layers of being horrified about this the more he thinks about it and comes to accept it, and that this is going to do nothing to help him engender some positive self-esteem "I crawled out of a cesspit..."

  2. Ha! Yes... wait till I can get to those conversations. He thinks it's so bad... but it's Minis... so...