Monday, November 8, 2010

377 - Equus, Cease Assail!

Inensa’s eyes narrowed at me, over the gag.  I wasn’t talking to the floor any more.  Sometime in my address I’d picked up my gaze.  So like mine.  So like all Mahid, hiding vast depths.  Grandfather was just as blandly blank and I knew there were depths to him I could only guess at.
Her eyes flickered down as if she were thinking.  Then up to me once more.  She gave me the minimal Mahid nod, just as Kaneka came in.
“You’re awake.  Good,” he said in Yeoli.
“I’m awake.” I answered in Arkan.  “I feel like shen.
A snort of laughter from him.  “I’m not surprised.”  His eyes slid toward where my mother lay and then back to me.
“I believe I’ve gotten Inensa’s parole.  If you will repeat that motion, mother, with the raid leader’s witness?”  Kaneka half turned to see.  “Mother will you promise not to kill yourself?”  She nodded again.  “Mother, will you swear to not try to kill anyone else?”  A longer pause and then she nodded again.  Akminchaer came in with a tray as Kaneka turned toward Inensa.
“Inensa Mahid you must also swear to not kill anyone.”  I could have smacked myself.  I had only asked her to not try to kill anyone. Her eyes narrowed at Kaneka, then to me before staring at him again as she nodded for a third time.
“I’m trusting his assessment.  If you break that, I’ll take it out of his hide.”  It wasn’t true, but she wouldn’t know that.  It’s the sort of hostage thing that Mahid understand.  He cut her loose, the knots too tight to undo, and she sat up, slowly.
“Inensa,” I said.  She did not look at me or acknowledge my existence.  “You are required to command the women who are still alive, to abide by these oaths as well.  You are First Wife.  If you command they will obey.”
She was still not looking at me.  “I am thirsty and require the use of a chamberpot,” she said to Kaneka.
“You can use your latrines here,” Kaneka said and did not offer to help her up… which was good.  She rose, slowly, working her stiffness out, and responded with a sharp nod.  “Min…I’ll be back afterwards to let you know how everything went down.” He escorted her out.
“Here.  There’s bean stew.  There were enough stocks for us to cook something,” Akminchaer said.  “No milk or cheese though.”
I had to snort laughter, thinking of Mahid and goats.  “Thank you Akminchaer.”
“You’ll have your left arm restrained for the next few eight-days… it could be as long as two moons if you are unlucky, but in my professional opinion it is unlikely.”  I looked out the door of the tent, that was open to let the breeze in.
Kaneka handed my mother’s escort to one of the Arkan elite and he stiffened but nodded.  There was a shriek and a young woman… an Aitza, dressed as a Mahid but very obviously not, flew out of a group standing half obscured by another tent… “YOU, YOU BITCH!  You could have saved me!  SELINAE CURSE YOU YOU MADE ME! YOU MADE ME!”
My mother dodged the initial wild slap and seized the young woman’s wrists. A twisting move and she had the Aitza held tight facing away from her, so she could not easily kick.  I could not hear what she said to the Arkan guard but he pulled the Aitza away from her.  A Yeoli woman came and took over control from my mother’s guard.
Inensa smoothed back her hair and waited until the young woman was escorted to a place out of my sight.  “Akminchaer… those women... are other women here, not Mahid?”
He sighed.  “Yis,” he said, his accent stronger.  “Apparently the Mahid were stealing girls and marrying them forcibly.”  Rape, he meant.  2nd Amitzas would have declared them husband and wife and then told his Mahid to get them pregnant quickly, if he were starting to build up his Mahid forces.  “A number of them are carrying children.”  

The rabid dogs around the mad 3rd Minis from my dream...
Kaneka came back as I stared at the bean stew with loathing.  My stomach was not settled enough to eat, though my headache was responding to the Haian remedies.  “We have thirty-six Mahid bodies, male bodies.  Two were stunned and went down without using their poison teeth.  Neither of them can, now, so they’ll go back to the Marble Palace for trial.”
Trial? For snakes?  Just cut their forzak hearts out. Then I thought better of it.  That was an Aan kind of thought, not 'abide by the spirit of the law' kind of thinking.
“We need to find out what happened to the missing four.  2nd Amitzas might have killed them, or lost them to accident.  Or sent them out on a mission.”
“I’ll truth drug the older of our captives,” Kaneka said.
“How many did we lose?”  I didn’t want to ask but I had to know.  I quit trying to eat and set the spoon down.
“We had enough antidotes for dart venom that we only lost seven people, who couldn’t ingest it quick enough.  And we do have double handful of injuries.  You and Joras were the longest out.”
“And Joras isn’t awake yet.”
“I am doing my best,” Akminchaer said, calmly. “It is up to his own strength and my remedies.”
“Of course, Akminchaer, thank you. Kaneka, that is amazing, against Mahid.”
He smiled slightly.  “They were surprised.”
1st Elsha sat with the other women inside a closed tent.  All of them were finger bound, gagged and ankle-tied.  Inensa looked them over.  They were disheveled but appeared whole.  The solas escorting her made no effort to touch her, either to push her or move her around.  “Mahid.” she said quietly.  “You are required to cease fighting.  Surrender to those currently holding us. The men are dead as far as I have been informed.”
She drew in a deep breath and continued. “I have given my word to neither attempt nor succeed in killing myself or anyone else.  You will swear to this as well.” She gathered in their nods by eye and turned to the solas. “They may be sworn under truth-drug, excepting 1st Elsha, Selisa and Tesha, for they are all with child.”
He nodded and tilted his head toward the outside. She inclined her head and followed. Her eye skimmed over the pyre of bodies wreathed in flames and thick black smoke, skipped like a stone off the group of hysterical women she had been ordered to prepare for Mahid marriage.  They might have been dressed correctly but they were certainly not Mahid.  Several spat into the flames of the pyre, instead of making any kind of proper sacrifice to their proper husbands.
The solas escorted her to a stump set up as a chair, in the shade and requested her to sit, but did not leave her unattended.  I am sore. My lungs burn from having inhaled water and my ribs hurt from having been hammered upon to save my life.  I am tired.  Grateful to just sit.  My husband is dead or captured and if captured he would have used his poison tooth… so… dead.  My… Spark of the Sun’s Ray… is calling me ‘mother’.  How shall I respond to this?  How do I respond?  I am unsworn. Yet I have given my word to no longer fight.  I do not have my killing needle.  Someone who knows Mahid searched me and I am stripped of weapons, even the cluster of silver burr-spikes in the bottom of my braid. I… am surprised.
Selinae. Mother Goddess.  Am I required to endure?  Is this a test?  I do not know how to feel without the pressure… the weight of requirement.  My duty… my duty is… what? Should I die?  Yet Mahid… are sworn to the barbarian Imperator.  My… father… is sworn if what my son… may I think that?  My son?  His father is dead.  Rest He in Selestialis.  Yet my son… calls me ‘honoured mother’.
With the Yeoli raid commander, Minis emerged from the tent set up as infirmary, his face animated and his uninjured hand flying in the wild Yeoli gesticulation.  He is speaking Yeoli. A flight of silk wings soared overhead and dropped behind the trees.  Probably landing in the open field.
Her eyes went higher into the sky wondering if they were natural birds, or the silk and wire machines. Will I fly? Will they fly me home? The thick, black pall of pyre smoke dropped and blew across making her guard cough.  She pinched her lips together, holding her breath against the smell of Mahid dead burning.
It looked as though the women… formally Mahid… were going to be brought back on the ground, with the remnants of the camp, and the string of horses. 

Minis came toward her, a bowl with a slab of bread upon it.  She was so hungry now the thought of food made the water run together in her mouth but she turned her head away from him, gazing serenely across toward to where the horse-lines were being loaded… with the attendant difficulties of loading Mahid horses. 
“Mother, please take this.  You haven’t eaten today the Haian tells me.”  He held out the bowl to her.  It was bean stew and the rich, thick aroma wafted up to her nose.  Somone knows how to spice the food. The solas behind her shifted and attempted to hide his reaction as he overheard.  She looked at Minis’s gloved hand, accepted the bowl but held it just as he handed it to her. She gazed past him, unmoving.  “Mother, please listen to me.  Your father is sworn to the Imperator on the Crystal Throne… He requested me to pass on his…words… his…recommendation to you.” She could feel the solas’s eyes upon them both, taking in this little drama intently.
Still without looking at him, and in silence, she lowered the bowl as if it had just appeared magically in her hands and took up the bread and the spoon.  Bread.  Fresh bread. Given me by the young man who I was never allowed to think of as mine in any way… my son. 

“Mother.  Your father…he said -- he speaks to me, we visit -- he said… he would be gifted if I brought you back alive to the Marble Palace.  Uninjured, unharmed.  If my will has any weight with you, let me tell you I don’t want you to die. I would persuade you, if I can, to live.  You are my surviving family and I do not wish to lose you.”
She listened, but did not answer as her hands moved, feeding herself, trying to ignore how good it tasted, wiping the last bit of bean stew up with the last heel of bread.  She gazed resolutely down to where the Yeoli/Arkan elite were still fighting with the horses.  The animals were trained and too valuable to just slaughter. 

Two men… an Arkan and a Yeoli cursed in their respective languages and a horse yanked its head free, screaming, rearing, striking at them with forefeet as they dodged.
“Mother, excuse me…” Minis turned and headed down the slight hill just as one of the Yeolis pulled her sword.  “Wait!” Then she did not understand what he said.  More Yeoli.  He couldn’t run without jarring his shoulder. “EQUUS!”  The precise, rigid commands rolled, clipped off his tongue.  “CEASE! CEASE ASSAIL!” The horse settled to all fours.  “Await!” He said more quietly.  She could just hear as he stepped under the war horse’s nose.  She could not see if it was the creature that 2nd Amitzas had trained him on, but it would be the Ten’s irony if it was.
She set the bowl down upon the grass, cleaned her gloves one against the other and folded her hands in her lap in silence, watching.


  1. “I’ll truth drug the older of our captives,” Kaneka said


    Kaneka shows himself to be very discrete.