I left Gan in the arms of his family, I could see and hear they were immediately celebrating so I nodded at my guard and came… well, home.
I had something on my desk that I had to send up to Chevenga, rising out of his question about what I wanted to do with my life. I had sat down and taken up my pen a ten of times and couldn’t come up anything.
What came out of my mind wasn’t a ‘plan’ it was… poetry, and I didn’t understand it. It annoyed me. It was not a logical answer to anything I had been asked. So finally I thought I needed to send it to him and perhaps he would have some kind of explanation.
The world is full of the worm of error
And I am seized with the wild wind of possibility.
Pulled between the heavy worth of earth and
Oh thou wild
Oh thou unlimited inhibited and swept by
Wind and world and…
I tried to explain my trouble with it, in the note, but finally, in frustration, just sealed it and sent it.
The woods around the city are thicker than I remembered. I am running under the trees and see the Fire-flowers everywhere. There are eagles soaring above me, so high above the Rim that they are flecks of solid gold in the sun.
I am running and the golden flecks are suddenly falling toward me. Not falling, diving. I hear the eagles scream and I run faster. They are after me. They are eagles bigger than a man, bigger than a horse… big enough to carry off a man on a horse and carry them into the sky. To them I am a mouse in the grass.
I dodge and dodge and am surrounded by the thunder of wings. The screams beat in my ears. I fall flat as if I am prostrating myself. Then I am up and running again. They are above me again and I hear them screaming. They stoop on me again and this time something big comes up crashing behind. I’m afraid, but not, all at the same time. I run faster as if I can escape and I see sharp, bony points come out around me and I realize there is an enormous deer about to scoop me up in her horns.
I know she is a she. The horns are white. White as snow. White as teeth. White as bone. I am lifted up in the cage of them, swinging up and up as the horned doe runs into the sky, I cling to her horns with my hands, jolting and laughing and terrified all at the same time.
I am safe in her horns. I want to hide from the eagles and it is as if I am invisible, but she cranes her neck and bells at the eagles to no effect. They swoop and screech and search. What are they looking for? She carries me through the arc of her enormous leap and we are back on the ground, in the greenwood.
The horns are warm in my hands and I grasp them in bare hands, and lean out and down and stare into her wide, brown eye. “Can I get down now?”
The doe flings her head and I hang by my hands, flapping like a flag, over the rim and I lose my grip. I fall down toward the roof of the Marble Palace and fall past the image of the Eagle cut into the cliff. But it has been re-gilded. The golden image peels up off the rock, the paper-thin and perfect, searching, seeking. I catch the edge of a hair-thin neck feather with one hand as I fall and, like the time I was drunk as a child, I hang from it above the slate roof.
It folds itself down and sets me safe on the roof. “Miiiiiiiiiiii” It shrieks and folds up to put itself against the rock once more but I notice the gilding running from its eyes like tears.
I wake up in the middle of the Great Hall, apparently in the middle of doing the Ten Tens. I can feel the echoes of whispers in the ceiling of the last of Risae’s prayer. I should not stop. I should no longer be doing this. But it is not right that even the practice be stopped once begun, so I go on to the Cunning Mikas’s part of the rite. Then Dimae, Sera of the Wild Wood and… in the appropriate place, in the dim light of the moon shining on Muunas’s head I put my hand on a sword. The Imperial Sword. Chevenga had sent me to get it from our lodging and not demanded custody of it, saying I had kept it well so far, and asked me to keep it until he asked me to give it back.
Steel Armed Aras. I had brought a sword with me, in my sleep, to the Great Hall, to do the Ten Ten’s practice. I picked it up. The Ten obviously wanted me to do it, so I would give it every scrap of my will. As They willed. But I could not stop the tears running, in the dark, where no one could see, or hear me.
The Temple must, for me, be forever empty. I had submitted myself to the true Imperator's hands, surrendered all claim on the Crystal Throne. This practice, these motions, in my hands, in my body, were illegal enough that the penalties for doing it were horrific. Chevenga would not care, trusting the Ten to mete Their own justice. The dark made it easier. The Temple must be silent for me. My punishment for being Aan will be to be exiled from that light, from that glory.
I would finish and go back to lay my head down in the bed once more, hopefully to no more dreams. Gannara was still home with his family so I hadn’t disturbed him with my night walking.
I managed to keep my calm enough to do the rite well, all the way to the end, and I could kneel in the middle of the floor with my hands over my face in the dark. There was no one there to hear me weep.
Next day Gannara came back and said he’d wanted to bring his shadow parents up to meet with me but thought he should let me know, so I could be prepared. “Thanks, Gan.”
“You look tired. You having bad dreams again?”
“Dreams, sure. But not really bad.”
“Right.” He didn’t sound convinced. I liked the way he looked. He looked lighter, more whole. More comfortable in himself and I loved seeing it.
“I trained on the roof this morning… with Kallijas. He’s being very gentle for someone with his tremendous reputation as a warrior… I was scared shenless. He acted as if he could see all the training scars Ice Eyes left on me. He’s… um… cracking me loose, he says.”
“Oh yeah?” That diverted him and I was able to regale him with tales of all the odd things Arko’s greatest champion was having me do, and stopped Gan from asking about the dreams.
‘… there, where the two men first met, when they were boys. The Spark of the Ineffable Light and the Yeoli anaraseye--” The knock at the door made me jump but I was lucky and didn’t blotch my page.
The servant handed me a note from Chevenga, in his awful short-hand scrawl, asking me to bring Gan, if he was with me, to the Scarlet Rosary Chamber that evening.