Gannara took a deep breath and I put my hands over my ears. “HIS WIFE???!!!”
I took my hands down and paced faster. “Inensa.” Why did it have to be her? The only time… the snow-fight… the look on her face when she hit 2nd Amitzas with snowballs. She was Mahid and a near perfect one. I would never have guessed. Why her?
“Kahara! INENSA is your MOTHER? That layer-forged tight-faced... um... Sorry.”
“SHE's as much a MONSTER as HE is! AIGH!”
“No, she isn't. Nobody is.”
My hands were clenching and unclenching and I ripped the forzak gloves off and flung them across the room and they fluttered down in the middle of the room. “She’s… his. Aigh!” Unwilling, the memory of the sounds, the meaning of those sounds, heard while my nose was a fingerwidth above water, muffled sounds of tent canvas splitting under a knife and thunder and rain… floated up in my memory like a bloating corpse in a lake.
“That…” he said thoughtfully… “can’t be any fun.”
I dragged a breath in as though someone had just punched me in the gut and I was struggling to recover. “No. I knew I was part Mahid. I knew it. I knew I should know, but I don't want to know.”
“You figured chances were she was dead right?”
“Yeha. I did. I... thought... I'll just find out.”
“Why don’t you sit down, Min? You thought you’d know whose grave to put a flower on...”
“Yeha.” I did sit down but I clenched my hands in my hair, my forehead almost on my knees.
Gannara was quiet for a while but when I didn’t stir, spoke up. “So... I guess maybe this might change the plans for capturing them, hmmm?”
“I... didn't think...” I actually hadn’t thought that far ahead. I… she… I didn’t want her dead. But… Inensa Mahid. “She’s my mother.” As if that answered anything or gave him any kind of useful information.
“Yes. She is. You owe her life.”
“I know the fat guy’s lineage for a thousand years… and now I know her’s as well. I feel like I crawled out of such a cess pool.”
He put his hand on my shoulder. “You're a good person, whatever you crawled out of.”
I clawed at the tears staining my face. “Only the Gods know how.”
“Aw, Minis…” He held his arms open for me. I turned on the end of the bed and crawled into his hug.
“Shen, you hear this kind of thing from me all the time. You shouldn’t have to. It’s just shen. Sorry.” But since this was said, against his neck, it didn’t have the force it should. I was just so tired.
“What, hear you found out your mother's Inensa? It’s only happened once.”
“Thanks brother.” I took a damp, shuddering breath. “Yeha. And I can only have one. I need to try and plan so that the women don’t get killed or kill themselves when the Mahid raid happens.”
“Hey, bro, I think I’d be crying too, if I found out something like that… I bet she’s nice underneath what she’s required to be. You had to get it from somewhere. And your smarts, too.”
I blinked, thinking that odd thought. “I suppose. You know the fat guy didn't bother putting her name in the Imperial records?”
“Doesn't surprise me,” he said. “He always saw you as a little more length on his dick or something like that.”
I sat up, shuddering, and he let me go, even though he kept his hand on my shoulder, a warm spot. “Maybe it was a reward to be married to Ice Eyes. For birthing me.”
“Oooh, some reward! If that’s a reward, I want a punishment.”
“I…” I swallowed hard. I…heard... some of the stuff he did, the night we escaped.”
“What do you mean?” He looked sick and like he didn’t want to know but couldn’t help asking.
“He was beating her to get himself up, I think.”
Gan stared at me in silence. “Really?”
“Yeha. I didn't care, then.”
“That means she must have got beaten every time he wanted to get himself up, at least with her.”
“Yeha, he never marked up her face.” I turned and flung myself stomach down on the bed. “Aigh!” His hand that had been on my shoulder settled on the small of my back. It was as though it helped steady me, let me breathe.
“You didn't know she was your mama.”
“I hated her for handling Kyriala like that. But she had to.”
“But what's going to happen with capturing them is that Second Amitzas will either kill himself with his poison tooth...or get captured, in which case Ch'venga will kill him. So she'll be free of him.”
“She... and the women have to be told not to cut their own throats... it’s Mahid… she might think it a requirement to die.” I clenched my teeth.
“She might chicken out of that,” Gan said helpfully.
“I don’t know her!” I said through my teeth.
“Are you going on the raid?” he asked. “You hadn’t said.”
“Yes. I have to. And now I have to figure out how to get to her.”
“Maybe you can talk her out of it...like, 'I know you're my mama! Maybe you could order her as her son, and Kurkas’s.
“Oh, Gods. She'd have to listen.”
“And then maybe not getting beaten up and made to slit throats and so on for a while will make her turn more normal.”
“I need... to figure this out.” I turned my face down into mattress. “I need to know her better and her father might know her some… more than I do anyway. I need to talk to him. Um… I guess that makes him my grandfather…”
“Him? Her father? Talk to him? The only old Mahid who is alive and available for you to… talk to… is…” His voice faded away. “You… found his name in the records too? 1st Amitzas?” I nodded without looking up. “The Imperial Pharmacist? The highest, most dangerous torturer in the whole Empire? The man who nearly broke Ch’venga’s mind into tiny little pieces?”
“That would be him.” I said, and folded my hands over my head. “I once tore up his books and tossed one into the lightning snake’s --- that’s a terribly venomous snake by the way – tank. He doesn’t like me very much. He must know that I’m from his daughter… he must know. Oh, my ever spinning ancestors… Sinimas what am I to do?”
Gan coughed. “Um… talk to him, I suppose?”
I lay there without looking up, breathing the hot air I had just breathed out into the cloth under my face. “Yeha. I do need to talk to him.” Oh, shen. I had to talk to him if I wanted to have any change of convincing my newly discovered mother from not slitting her own throat rather than be captured. I had to talk to him and he didn’t like me much. Surely he would help me, for her sake?