Tuesday, November 9, 2010

378 - The Vigil

Even the journalists eventually ran quiet, out of questions.  Gan stood next to the door as close as he could and did his best to be invisible in the hush.  People were just waiting.  Twice journalists came in and the Imperial Secretary answered their questions all over again, with immense patience.  “Is Chevenga all right? What happened? How did it happen?”
Two beads… perhaps two and a half beads later, there was a stir down the corridor and the journalists actually shuffled aside to let someone through.  That was odd enough that Gannara craned away from the wall to look.  It was Idiesas Firnean, solas.  He was seen as one of the highest of high elite, champion, able to give both Chevenga and Kallijas a hard spar… he'd nearly killed Kallijas on the field years ago… Here, now, he was the Imperator’s favourite sparring partner after Kallijas.  One of his favourite sparring partners...  But now his face was haggard, his cheeks torn and scratched by his own nails… his gloves off, fingertips bloody. He staggered slightly as if he had no balance or were drunk, though he wasn’t known to drink much at all.
The journalists began to ask him questions but the Guard Captain, Krero, who was at his elbow, cut them off with a slash of his gauntlets.  Idiesas didn’t seem to see or hear them but fell to his knees as if someone slugged him from behind, outside the clinic door. He crashed flat onto his face in the solas prostration, hands outstretched over his head.  “You lot are not allowed to speak to Idiesas." Krero said.  "He is recovering from truth-drug.”
“You think it was him?” Someone whispered near Gan.
“You think?” Gannara wanted to roll his eyes upwards. What was your first clue, genius?
He could hear murmurs of whispered conversations all around… “There’s no way he can survive that.  I’ve never seen anyone survive a wound like that.  It was touching his heart, I’m sure.  He was probably dead as they carried him through here, and they’re trying to conceal that until they get some shit settled...  No, he was breathing, I saw his chest move... Yeah for now...”  
Some people stood silent, holding tears in their eyes.  Some sobbed openly but turned away with their heads wrapped in their arms, against tapestries or pillars.  Others just stood silent, clinging to each other as if they were each other’s safety.  A steady thread of prayer rose up from Idiesas, on the floor. The names of the Gods rose like perfume… then his arms came up and and over his head as if he could sink into the floor.

One writer spoke to him. “Ser Firnean... may I speak with you?” and another spoke to the Imperial spokeswoman. “Was Chevenga sparring with Idiesas Firnean when this happened?”

The Guard captain had disappeared inside, but had whispered into the spokeswoman’s ear on passing.  “Yes, he was,” she said. “…but I request, if you don’t mind, that you ask Ser Firnean no questions but leave him to his prayer.”

Yet another writer was just saying “Ser Firnean, what happened?” as she spoke, and Firnean didn’t move from his place on the floor and didn’t respond.
Krero emerged from the clinic as if he knew. “One more question of Idiesas and whoever asks it is out on his marble-scraped behind.  Go ahead and speak to him if you want to be thrown out of here.”

Another writer addressed the Imperial spokeswoman. “Have Chevenga and Idiesas had any... disagreement... recently?”

Kahara, the Imperial spokeswoman knows her job. I’d have punched all of them by now. “No,” she said patiently. “… not that I know of, or anyone else I’ve spoken to knows of.  It was purely an accident as far as we can tell.”  Idiesas, if that were possible, seemed to sink flatter on the floor.

“How many people witnessed it?”

“Well both Arkan and Yeoli elites were up there, but I can’t say how many people happened to be looking at the time.  Most of the others were busy in their own sparring sessions.”

“I heard his shadow-mother was there, is that true?”

“Yes it is.  She is in with him now.”

“Was she upset?”  What a dork.  

“I can’t speak for her, but I can suggest you imagine how she must feel.”

The stone wall behind Gan was cool and he pressed his back and his palms against it.  It just seemed that it was hot in the corridor with all the people waiting.  Idiesas’s quiet, firm prayers, in a steadily hoarsening voice, continued in an unbroken thread.

The door opened  and people started up as if they’d had a thorn thrust into their butts.  Skorsas peeked out to a pack baying ‘Ser!’ ‘Ser Trinisas!  Ser Trinisas!  How is he?  May we speak to the healer?’ ‘May we speak to you?’ But the door closed without him responding.

When it opened again it was the Imperial healer, Kaninjer.  His white stripes were somehow pristine.  Perhaps he changed his black robe after the surgery.  – ‘Healer, how is he?  Is he alive?  Will he stay alive?  Healer! Will he be impaired –“

The spokeswoman cut in “One at a time!  One at a time, I will call on you, please!” She held up her hands until silence fell… except for the finish of Idiesas’s last prayer and he fell silent too.  She pointed to the first.

“How is He Whose Strength is the World’s?”

“The wound is entirely closed,” the healer said.  “… and he is holding steady.  He has stayed strong enough that his heart and his breathing, neither of them, stopped while we had him open, which was good.  He is stable now, though being watched every moment.  It will be a little while yet, half an aer or an aer, I will guess, before he wakes up.  He won’t be able to take visitors today, though, other than family.  Maybe not tomorrow either, we’ll see how it goes.  He will be off work for a while.”

A sea of waving hands… the Imperial secretary pointed to the next. “Will He be all right? Will He recover?”

“I cannot know absolutely for sure, but I think he will.  I have seen people survive a wound such as this before, and he has a very strong constitution and a very strong will to live.”

“Was he truly transfixed?”

“Yes, the sword went through him from here” He touched a place on his own chest with one bare finger. “...to a little higher on the back.  It fortunately did not cut his heart or any of the big blood vessels that go into it.”

“Did it hit on the heart side?”

“No, no, here.” He touched the spot on his chest once more. “The heart is more over to this side” He indicated the left side of his chest.

“How close to death was he?”

“It’s as I said, his heart never stopped beating and his breathing did not stop either, so we didn’t have to try to re-start these things.  He held and is still holding.”

“Is he going to lose any lung function?”

“It is too early to say.  It will depend on how it heals, and I cannot say.”

“Will he be impaired in any other ways?  Was his pure air impeded or... will his mind be all right?”

“His mind should be fine, because he never did stop breathing, as I’ve said.  He will have a scar, obviously, and the relative stiffness in the affected muscles that goes with it, but the way he heals, he tends to overcome these things, and his muscles come back to what they were before.  He didn’t take any bone damage.”

“Will he be incapacitated all the way through the election?”

“No, I don’t think so, not in the sense of not being able to work.  I will let him start when it’s safe to do so, which will be some days but definitely before the election.  Any physical exertion will be out for a while after that, though, will be contra-indicated until his lung is fully healed.”

“Kaninjer, did he say anything to you before he went under?”

“Not much.  He just thanked me.”

“He didn’t blame anyone for this?”  Gannara couldn’t help but look at Idiesas lying on the floor and probably everyone else did too.

“Not in my hearing, and from what I heard, not before that, either.  It was a pure accident, from all indications.”

“How long before we can speak to him?”

“I am going to say four days at the very, very least, but it might be longer.  We are going to move him to a room now, pardon me.”  He backed up inside. Krero took Kaninjer’s place and yelled “Clear the corridor!  Clear this corridor!  Do I have to get ten of my underlings?”  People cleared the way slowly and Idiesas inched out of the way on his belly.   

The medical equipment was all over … Chevenga's whole chest was bandaged.  A bottle hung on a rack over the stretcher, mask on his face with the apprentice carrying the pure-air bottle.  Tubes and things full of various of his fluids, yellow, red.  He was unconscious and had a totally flat look, deathly pale...  “We are moving you, Chivinga,” Kaninjer said to his unconscious body as if he could hear.  “To a quiet room to regain consciousness.”  His family… the children too… were close around his carried bed.  Idiesas followed after, on his hands and knees to another door and disappeared behind that door, the vigil re-establishing in the corridor outside.


  1. Maybe the Imperial Spokeswoman should post a FAQ to cut off some of those deep deep questions

  2. Oh how she'd wish she had the option, if she had the concept.

    Oooh weird thought... you know... we're going to forget how people thought before the Internet... and younger generations are not even going to know it. The time you couldn't just Google something unfamiliar... write to people all over the world... post FAQs... edit things with someone else far away... just grab any piece of info you needed instantly... etc. etc. etc.

  3. Yes...interesting thought. You mean you couldn't just connect with someone in Britain or Japan or Australia at a moment's notice? Weird.

  4. My partner mentioned this disconnect after reading Clarke's "Childhood's End," when a character has to find a way to slip away to London to look up a star designation. Her first thought was to head to the internet and look it up there, and wonder why Clarke would posit all the advanced technology he did, yet completely miss the idea of the internet.

  5. Wow...

    Just wow. O_O