I am still Mahid. I looked at the rule-straight cut ends of Minis’s hair across his shoulders as I followed him. I should think of him in honour, I should exalt him, but he said Minis, just Minis like friends, like… family.
He called me family. He said… and had proved to me that we were family. I was his third cousin, through the First’s Wife, who was the Scorched Bastard Son of the Ten’s concubine. He said… he was family, acknowledging 1st Amitzas as his grandfather… which meant that his mother… the woman married to 2nd Amitzas... was his mother.
In the moonlight we walk. I could not hear the others though I knew they were around us, shadowing us. I was amazed that they were so good… as good as Mahid. The other Mahid are going to swear, or die.
I was still ringing from finding out that I was not the only one turned by the astonishing Ascension ritual. I scanned to see if I could spot the contacts who would intercept us. 2nd Amitzas might send one contact with one back, but I did not think it was likely.
It would be my duty to protect Minis. He was using himself… had offered himself to draw them out of their hidey hole. I did not understand why he would do that, not just let them die of their own venom. I had not expected anyone to explain, but the Spark… Minis… had sat down with me and explained to me that the threat was too much for the Empire and that we could not rely upon 2nd Amitzas being less cunning, was the term he used, being kind to our unsworn relative.
He spoke to me in the the fessas manner and it made things easier to hear, to comprehend. Ideas that would have fallen straight of my Mahid ears and thoughts, clung and let me think about them. That was one reason I had actually thought of my wife.
2nd Amitzas had married me to her the last time I was with the group and I was required to attempt a child upon her. To begin creating a larger power base for the attempt to overthrow the barbarian Crystal Throne, surely. I doubt he wished to tie me more to the family with wife and son, since my attachment to her was minimal. We did our duty, very efficiently, and more easily than I thought. She was very competent for a woman. I did not quite understand why I requested Minis to command her to not die.
Perhaps it was because the Empire needed more sworn Mahid, more correct Mahid. That made a certain amount of sense. Muunas be with us. The unsworn were like vipers hidden in the grass. Let us be efficient as we walk out like good day-old chicks, to bait the snakes out.
I had the fantasy that the moonlight was cool and the shadows warm as we left the deep ditches behind and climbed the hill. I was aware that the lake was somewhere off in the dark, though there was no wind and no sound from the water at all. Ahead, the trees shaded the road into darkness. I heard the tree frog trill that must be commander Kaneka, that meant ‘slow down.’
I did not know if he had spotted something, or heard something. I pulled my tube out and hissed a warning at Minis just as two of the unsworn stepped out of the darkness in the road. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray,” 2nd Iakobas said to Minis.
“2nd Iakobas and 3rd Amitzas,” the Spark said calmly. “A good escort.”
“We honour the Spark—“he began as, in the darkness, I heard a click I knew… a dart sliding into a tube.
“—Spark! Look out!” I stepped in front of him bringing up my own tube, heard the hiss and snap of firing and a dart flowered in my shoulder.