Wednesday, October 13, 2010

358 - Scraped

Chevenga cut in fast.  “Hang on, Minis, don’t answer.  Kallijas, you said that Minis gave you permission to truth-drug him... did he give you permission to scrape him?”

“He did not, Sheng. but he said that I should ask him what I needed to.”

A sigh.  “Minis, does Kallijas have permission to ask what you’d least like him to know?”

“Yes.”  Of course.  If Kallijas was going to trust me he had to know what kind of man I will be.  What kind of boy I am.

“You have to repeat the question, Kall.”  He did, voice careful, full of strain.  Now my mind flapped around in circles.  What did I least want him to know?

“That I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

I was silent.  It wasn’t a simple answer.

“Oh, sorry, right, specific.  What are you most afraid of?”

I was silent.  There were too many things I worried about... I didn’t know which.

“Are there many things, lad?” said Chevenga.


“What’s the one that you think and worry about most often?”

“Being like Kurkas.”  Of course.

“What’s the one you think and worry about second most often?”

“Failing.”  I was afraid of failing to live up to the standard that both he and Chevenga held up to me, of failing the standard of the best Imperators. Of just not being able to be like those men.

“Failing in what, exactly?”

“As a man.”  Failing the Gods. Failing the Empire.  Failing my people.  Being forzak. It was all possible.

“He’s not even a man yet,” Kallijas said.  “And he’s already worried... well, I was at that age too, when I think about it.” They were?  That was obscurely comforting.

“So was I,” said Chevenga.  “Minis, is it also failing as an Imperator?”


“What does that mean?”  He added to Kallijas, “Too big a question for him to answer, possibly, but let’s see what he makes of it.” I was curious as well.

“Too much power.” It was the power versus responsibility thing again.

“You mean seizing too much power for yourself and using it irresponsibly?”


“Same as his dad,” he said to Kallijas.  “You see how the answers fit together.  Minis, your father didn’t consider that a failing: why do you think it is?”

“Not right.” Power concentrated was dangerous... but I couldn’t explain.

“He probably has a thousand other things he’d like to say in his mind that he can’t,” said Chevenga.  “You can ask him to elaborate afterwards.”  I could hear a pen scratch.  Kallijas was writing his list to ask me later.  Good for him.  “Got more questions, love?”

“I want to know what else he’s nervous about, if it’s so much.  Maybe he’s too nervous to be a good Imperator.”  Good point, I thought vaguely.

“It depends on what he’s nervous about.  Nervous about being like Kurkas is to his credit.  Nervous about failing at such a huge responsibility is natural--look how much you feel it.  You think I didn’t--All-Spirit, I still do!  But if he’s nervous about trivial things... well, ask him.”

“Minis, what are you most afraid of that we haven’t mentioned?”  Kallijas was getting the hang of it.

“Having heirs.”

“Having heirs?” said Chevenga.  “You mean, not being able to have heirs?”


“Why wouldn’t he be able to have heirs?” said Kallijas, baffled.  “Is there something wrong with his... em... sorry, Minis.”  I broke into another sweat.

“It gets very personal again... Minis, would you rather not talk about this under the drug?”

“No.”  I wouldn’t be able to dodge out of embarrassment.  I’d tell the truth.

“You mean you’re willing?” said Kallijas.


“This is reminding me of you,” said Kallijas to Chevenga.  “All right then... why... no, wait.  May I ask Chevenga what the concern is?”


“He has concerns that he cannot perform sexually with a woman... it all has to do with what his father did to him.  This is one of these things where you can’t know until you try it, you know how it is.  Whether his seed is good, a Haian could test; I know from having it done with mine.  I know only one way to get him past that, but I haven’t broached it with him yet.  I think it’s doable, though...”

Could I feel the heat in Kallijas’s face from here?  I imagined so.  A gulp and an outbreath.  Would I be able to just quietly melt into this couch? “Maybe we should ask him... Minis, should we?”

I was silent, confused as to what he was asking. Should they what?

“Ehh, I didn’t ask that well enough.  Minis, should we ask you about whether you will be able to perform with a woman if you try?”

I wanted to know that too.  “Yes.”

“Will you be able to perform with a woman if you try?”

“Yes.”  That was a relief.

“One less thing to be afraid of.  Though he still won’t really know until he does it... a problem for another day.  What else do you want to ask him, Kall?  More about what he’s afraid of?”

“Well, the things he’s mentioned are important for a possible candidate for the Crystal Throne to be worried about.  Or a teenaged boy for that matter,” Kallijas said.  “As you pointed out.  I was worried about odd things and they don’t seem to be coming up.”

“What sorts of odd things?”

“Things he would have learned either from his father or from his father’s court.  There were always rumours about the peccadillos of the court Aitzas and some were true.  He doesn’t seem to have picked up his father’s taste for the deaths of people around him, though, even though that is what he knew.

“He’s not afraid of water.  His favourite thing to do when he’s in knots is to swim.  We already asked him about getting pleasure out of someone else’s pain... the thing is, Kallijas, there’s a good argument to be made that Kurkas only had the worst of his proclivities after his brain was heavily permeated with the Imperial additives.  Minis wrote a paper about that himself, about how the most bizarre excesses of Imperators, or at least certain Imperators, arose after they started using the additives.  And we know Kurkas had a lot of them.  Minis is off them and plans to stay that way.”

Perhaps Kallijas nodded or signed chalk.  I couldn’t tell. “Minis, what is your opinion of 2nd Amitzas Mahid?”

“Hate him.”

Kallijas sighed. Was it with relief?  I couldn’t tell.  I wanted him to like me.  Not just willing to work with me, but like me.  Was that just dreaming?  “I was concerned. Having a Mahid as a tutor when he was older, disturbed me.”

“What are you worried that that has left him with?

“Some boys don’t need much encouragement to torment small animals or bully other children.  From the stories he was on the way to being a bully of that sort when he was a child.  The Mahid… 2nd Amitzas… would have encouraged that in him.”

“Well, you have two things to ask about there.  I have a theory about why he behaved as he did when he was a child... now we can test it.  Minis, why did you hurt people when you were little?”

“Attention.”  Trying to get my father’s attention, and when that didn’t work any kind of attention was better than none at all.  I could make people pay very careful attention to me.  And I was angry.

“Wouldn’t you have done better for attention by being good?” said Kallijas.

I was silent.  “Such a judgmental question,” said Chevenga.  “Besides, how can he know?  Was trying to get attention the only reason, Minis, or is there more?”


“What else, then?”

“I was angry.”

“At whom?  For what?” said Kallijas.  “Oh, sorry, two questions--first, at whom?”

“My father.”

“But you were hurting other people, not him.”

“That’s not a question,” said Chevenga.  “He couldn’t hurt Kurkas.  He could only hurt other people.”

“Right,” said Kallijas.“Of course.  Minis, what were you angry at him for?”

“Not loving me.” Hearing my own voice, just flatly saying it, almost hurt more than I could bear.

“How was hurting other people going to help with that?” said Kallijas.

“Don’t answer that, Minis,” Chevenga said, with a touch of exasperation.  “Kall, you’re asking far too much logic out of a young child here.  Besides, did you never yell a little more loudly at one of your solas when you were hacked off at a commander?  You’d have to be more than human if so.”

A silence from Kallijas.  “Yes, to my shame.  I did my best to apologize if I did that, however.”

“We’ve all done it.  He was a child, who not only hadn’t yet learned this sort of justice between people, but whom no one was teaching.  Until he met me, which was at eleven... a little late.”

“True.  My apology, Minis.” I wanted to accept but could only lie there, looking at the ceiling.

“Any other reason you were such a hellion, Minis?”


“What is it?”

“Angry at them.”

“Them?” said Kallijas.  “The people you hurt?”


“Why?” he said, absolute bafflement in his voice.  “What did they ever do to you?”

I lay with my mouth open.  I’d started to answer but stopped when he asked the second question.  It was too much.  It felt so good to feel Chevenga’s breathing and his strength as he held me.  I wanted to shake, I wanted to weep.  I could do neither.

“Ehh... too judgmental again?” said Kallijas.

“Yes, that and two questions, not one.  Break it down, Kall.”

“Why were you angry at those you hurt?”

“They were grown ups.”  It was the closest I could come to explaining.  They should have saved me.  Helped me.  But they couldn’t out of fear of my father.  I understood.  I felt they should have saved me because they were the adults.

“Why would that make you angry?”

“I needed help.”

“And weren’t getting it from anyone?” said Chevenga.

“Yes.”  Yes, I wasn’t getting help I meant... Perhaps I should say ‘no’ I wasn’t?

“Well...”  Kallijas turned to Chevenga.  “He wasn’t theirs to rear, and besides, no one could oppose Kurkas in doing whatever he wanted anyway.  Why would he fault... curse it, I just know you’re going to look at me in that Yeoli way, thinking ‘How can Arkans be so dumb?’ again.  Fine... just explain.”

“In Yeola-e, every grown-up around a child is held responsible for that child.  Because... well, it’s the power and responsibility thing, right?  If they have the power, they have the responsibility.  If my mother isn’t there but my mother’s friend is, and I can’t reach an apple from the shelf, and she can, I’m going to ask her.  And if she says no, I will know she chose it.  That’s natural to kids... natural to people.  The problem for Minis was that the court of the Marble Palace... was not a very natural place.  People weren’t allowed to do for him what his father wouldn’t.  As a child he couldn’t really understand that.  I can’t believe this is a particularly Yeoli thing, though... would your parents’ friends not do things for you?”

“Of course they would.  But they would never usurp a father’s natural authority.”

“Right... they wouldn’t try to make the rules in the house.  But if one of their friends wanted to be friends to you, too, teach you things, tousle your hair, lift you up, play with you... would they have minded?

“No, of course not.

“Kurkas did.  People who were more loving towards Minis than he liked would… disappear.  So his answer to why he was angry at his dad was not complete... it would not be just not loving him, but not letting anyone else love him either.”

“Love him... Sheng, I love it when you nurture my own son... I don’t understand that kind of thinking at all.”

“Neither do I.  But it’s true.  Minis told me this himself when he was a kid.  Kurkas was crazy and this is the craziness he grew up with, and this is why he’s so afraid of turning out the same... that and his father expecting, nay, demanding, that he turn out the same.”

Yes.  I wanted to say.  Yes. Yes. Yes.

“But... you know the saying, the fruit never falls far from the tree... what if he turns out the same even though he wants not to so badly?”

Chevenga’s arm around my head tightened tenderly, and he looked at me. I could just see the edge of his face in my field of view. “That’s his choice,” he said.  “True, Minis?”


“He just answered the most important question correctly, in my view,” said Chevenga.  “If he’d said no, I’d have changed my mind about endorsing him.  You have more questions?”

“No. I think I’ve gotten more than I expected.”

Chevenga snorted a bit of a laugh and hugged me before he let me go.  He reached to the other couch and pulled a quilt over me.  “I’ll have Skorsas see you to your bed once it’s worn off Minis, you need to get a good night’s sleep.”

Kallijas stood up.  “Sheng… I will be along later.  I will sit with him until it wears off.”

“Of course, love.”  I heard them kissing and then the Imperator left as quietly as he’d come.  Kallijas settled back down into his chair and watched me, calmly.


  1. Much better this time 'round! It's good to see you can take the dross of bone-tired roleplay and polish and build up and rearrange until it shines and is elegant and makes sense. I already admired your skills as a writer. Now I admire your editing skill as well.

  2. You guys were great! All of you...

    But thank you for the compliment!

  3. I have to give credit where credit is due. Karen did huge amounts of work here to assist me. She is, by far, the better editor!