Thursday, October 28, 2010

370 - The Women Talk About Difficult Things

Kyriala fanned herself thoughtfully and smiled up at a tiny bright, bright blue bird hovering before a pink flower three times as big as it was.  The Most Splendid and Regal Wings Aviary reached all the way to the glass dome above, full of flowering trees and vines of all sorts, looking like a forest lifted from the tropical islands. Laisa stood over by a triangular glass wall that let one walk three-quarters of the way around a tree trunk without letting any of the birds out into soaring halls of the Palace.
Socks snored inside Ky’s left sleeve pocket.  She could feel his feet twitching as dream rabbits fled him.
Atzana and Riala came down the grand marble staircase from the Conservancy, with Skala and Laisa. “Hello, Ky, Laisa, I’m so glad you could come.”
“Nice of you to host our gathering, Atzana!” Kyriala said, rising.  “Mama and Grandmother did not come… nor any of the aunties.  They didn’t want to ‘muck about’ with dirty old books!
Atzana laughed. “Of course.  The Fenjitza is already in the Chime room with kaf and cakes and we’ll be able to go up to work on our projects afterwards…”
“So we shall be telling the absolute truth to our relatives when they ask what we did today,” Laisa smiled behind her own rose patterned fan.
“Mama really does like the Fenjitza,” Kyriala said to Atzana.  “She just finds it hard to forget what being a ‘Masker’ used to mean.”
They walked up the stairs together, holding their sweeping skirts off the stone.  “Don’t you girls hate those skirts?  You can’t hold anything but the skirts themselves!”
“I couldn’t wear a boy’s kilt,” Skala said.  “I mean… Riala… I know you lost your second cousin because of her skirts but…”
Riala stopped and glared at them all.  “She had a candle and her little boy in her hands.  On the stairs.  No servants to carry lights any longer, no money for something as safe as a kraumak any more… so?  She trips and falls down the stairs, and they both die because her kaina skirts are too long?”  None of the women gasped at her language, used to it.  “I’ve got some ideas for new gowns that are perfectly respectable,” she continued.  “Just not likely to kill my friends and family!”
Kyriala nodded firmly as they stepped out onto the Etzentz landing and turned into the salon chamber.  “I’d like to see your ideas Ria… If we wear safer clothing then our mama’s and aunties will squawk but other girls will follow our fashion.”
The Fenjitza put her cup down and rose as they all came in.  “Serinas…”  Below the false filigree edge of her mask, her lips smiled at them all.  “Did I hear you speaking of how dangerous women’s fashion is?”
“Yes, Fenjitza,” Atzana, as hostess, took the lead.  “May I re-fill your cup?”
“Certainly, thank you.  Serina Riala, you have some radical ideas?”
“Yes I do.  I don’t have anything left to lose so why not?  And Ky just offered to see my designs.”
“Wonderful.  I should like to see less dangerous clothing on my dekinaesses and priestesses.  We often have to carry vessels and tools before the Ten and have no hands free to lift trailing hems.” The young women settled down around the low table, the trailing hems and sleeves in question spreading out around them like butterflies wings as if they settled upon one of the flowering trees down in the Aviary.
Riala blinked.  “I never thought of that.  Of course!”
“May we then discuss changing the costumes of our Temple dekinaesses, then?” The silver mask never moved, of course but her eyes were lively as her lips.  “My Temple office tomorrow afternoon?”
“Oh! Yes, Fenjitza!”    
Atzana settled the last cup in front of herself and everyone leaned forward to dress their cups with sugar and beaten cream and spices.
“Serinas… you’ve asked me here to answer some serious questions about women’s spirituality, as I understand it,” the Fenjitza said. “You all know my name is Narilla, please feel free to use it.  Shall we ‘let our hair down?’”
Laisa laughed.  “Please let us be informal!” She said.  “It isn’t as if we have to be careful of the boys' tender sensibilities!”  The rest of them laughed and Narilla smiled. 

Kyriala slipped a tiny piece of cake to Socks, in her sleeve before she looked up and said, "Narilla. We were talking at my last salon about the new purification laws… and I’ve been taught all my life that Muunas’s Book commanded it.”  The Fenjitzas’s eyes were on her attentive and quiet.  “But now that I may read this myself I have read through the Highest Gods’ Books backwards and forwards and I cannot find the God’s command requiring it.”
The expressive lips under the mask twitched before pursing in anger, the upper lip showing an odd pull and discolouration on one side.  “You are correct.”  She set her cup down and folded her hands together in her lap, absolutely still as if to control her emotions.  “There is no command in the Holy Book requiring purification to save Arkan women from Hayel.”
“But… it was taught me… from Muunas’s Commands to the Handmaidens,” Skala said.
“Me, also,” Laisa said.
“The verse in question…” Narilla took a deep breath.  “It says – ‘Men and women be clean in thy bodies.  Be clean in thy souls.  Be clean in one another’s eyes to ensure thy place in My Celestial realms.’” She took a deep breath.  “Verse 10… and this is the one most often mis-represented… ‘If thy flesh offend thee, pray to the labiraritrey’ … the word in the God’s tongue that no mortal remembers… ‘pray to the labiraritrey and to the chiurgeon’s small knife for correction…Be pure. Be smooth and white and gold with clear eyes the colour of sky to show thee as one of the chosen, as untouched by filth of the lesser races.”
She took up her cup again and stirred with her china spoon.  “The thing is… that these commands are not truly addressed to mortals, but to the other Gods, specifically Risae… in her guise as the Merciful One.  She who made us pure, in the beginning.  It was only the interpretation of a Son of the Sun in the Past Age made into law and tradition.”
“So the current law… that says a woman may chose purification at her third threshold but it may not be done by anyone before that day… is in keeping with the Holy Books?”  Laisa tapped her teeth with her closed fan.
“The Gods never commanded the ‘Chimes of Noon’.  It is the will of men.”
Riala looked sick.  “But our daughters will be saved from this… this… travesty.” Kyriala was nodding in support. “—“And they will not be condemned to Hayel, without that pain.”
Riala looked down.  In privacy, Skala and Atzana both laid hands on their friend’s shoulders.  “…after… my injury… the Haian fixed the damage...” she put her hands over her face.  “the… the… tearing that happened from the warriors… she fixed… and she said… she… did what she could to ‘help’ what the priest had done.  When I was a little girl,” she whispered.
Skala looked sick and turned away herself.  “Yes…”
Kyriala got up and wrapped her arms around the two from one side and Laisa and Atzana joined her and for a long moment they clung.  Narilla... the Fenjitza herself… joined them.  “The Goddesses do not wish us pain,” she said quietly. “The Gods are angered by it.  To heal… to be opened or eased by a Haian rather than a bridegroom with a wedding knife is not only acceptable but wished by the Ten.”
“Mmmmoon times,” Riala continued, straightening but not pulling away from the clutch of hug.  She stared into Naerilla’s eyes.  “Moon times don’t need to be the torture that they are, for some.”  The Fenjitza’s eyes blinked closed for a moment.
“Yes,” she said.  “And elimination need not be hard or painful or time consuming.  Apparently it should happen as easily as pouring water out of a jug.”  Riala straightened more and they slowly let go to go back to their own chairs.  “We do not need to risk our lives so much when we give birth, and we do not need to expect to lose our first child to ‘open the way’.”  Narilla’s voice was firm.  “Even the mild form of purification may be eased, without fear of eternal smothering.”
I cannot imagine a wedding knife in Minis’s hand. Kyriala thought.  He’d probably hurl the nasty thing straight into the garderobe.  Hard enough to break the steel on the stone.
Kyriala pulled a handkerchief out of one glove and dabbed at her eyes.  So many women injured and dead from their purification being torn open by rapists during the sack... as Riala and Skala shared.  “We need to have more women’s only salon gatherings,” she and Atzana said, at the same time.  They smiled at each other, shakily.  “Have a Haian in to talk about such things…”
Riala smiled.  “Ky… you thought your salons were notorious before… people will be chattering like magpies over these kind.”
Ky set her handkerchief upon the table, Socks stirring in her sleeve to whimper up onto her lap to lick her cheeks.  “Shh… shush dogling.  Enough.”  She set the little dog down on the floor.
Skala let out a little shriek, pointing at a shelf by the door.  “What in the Great Goddess’s name is THAT!!!”  Socks… sniffing… began barking and howling and jumping up at the white and gold coloured creature now hanging down and waving its tentacles at the little dog.


  1. Who's a good cephalopod?

  2. Onward Arkan Feminists! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

  3. Sung to the tune of Christian Soldiers

    "Onward Arkan Feminists marching off to war, with your sexual freedoms going on before.

    The gods are not sadists, that's the work of man. Teach your daughters better, Change things as you can."

    -inspired by catfitz.

  4. Hah! We have our Elizabeth Cady Stanton in here and our Amelia Bloomer!

    And our new High Priestess, the Fenjitza...

  5. Very painful. Love the touch about Minis in her mind.

  6. Thank you GG! Purification sucks.