Wednesday, December 8, 2010

397 - The Penumbral Occulary

The plant material crushed well under the back of a spoon.  Normally such poisons would be best and most quickly crushed between the teeth, carefully, without swallowing of course, and the resulting pulp spat into the alcohol.  But in her condition anything taken into the mouth had to be carefully considered.  Things could too easily be absorbed through the wet membranes.
Inensa scraped the pulp from the plate into the dregs of wine in the glass and swirled it delicately, looking for the oil to begin collecting upon the glass.  Then, carefully, she held the crystal over the flame of her reading lamp.  With the shade removed it made a tolerable burner to speed up such reactions.
The needle, pilfered from the tapestry set in the Solar slid into the poisonous oil at exactly the correct angle.  It was not a proper hollow needle but the oil of that flower was pernicious enough to cling to the metal.
It was so odd.  Did no one consider that even women had ears and that the daughter of the Imperial Pharmacist might have some facility with these things?  Or perhaps her Father knew very well and was placing these things to provide… options.
She placed the needle upon a square of paper and wrapped it smoothly so that it would retain the oils and still sit snugly in her glove pocket.  The bit of paper would not impede its action should she choose to use it.
As always, she felt better, safer, with her newly made killing needle securely in her glove.  It wasn’t that she had a target for the needle.  It was the possibility that made life more tolerable, even when all that life had become complete chaos.
The shade went back upon the lamp, the mess of plant material and wine went into the garderobe.  Then the empty plate and glass were set upon the tray.  The datura was an amazing plant, really.  She paced down to the end of the corridor to the plant in its miniature garden.  It was so astonishing.  A garden space in Mahid quarters.
“Daughter.”  She turned and curtsied to 1st Amitzas.
“Your husband has just failed the oath to the Imperator.”  She nodded, slowly.  I expected it.  “You are not required to witness his execution, but he will be prepared for burial by this evening.”
“His burial is being allowed?”  That was surprising.  She inhaled sharply.  “If it is allowed… I will witness his execution.”
Her father examined her face slowly as if he were checking for flaws.  “That… is allowed.  Present yourself at the Penumbral Occulary in one bead.”
She went to cleanse herself from head to foot, her wet, squeaking clean hair braided tight and made into a coronet around her head.  Every crease in her onyxine gown was sharp as a razor.  The killing needle in her glove felt heavy as the weight of a head.
The Penumbral Occulary was in the blackest, most shadowy depths of the Marble Palace dungeons.  The corridor that led to it had three oubliettes under the floor so that when the Imperator deigned to view punishments, his tread fell upon those so unfortunate to still be alive.  The Occulary had a small version of the Crystal Throne in it, the floor raked to offer a perfect view of the room below through the sealed glass wall.  It was sealed so the Imperial nose not be offended with the stenches of those tormented, though vents could be opened should He wish to hear and smell what occured.
There were two chairs set immediately before the glass.  Two chairs?  Who else will see 2nd Amitzas die?
She stood, looking down at the table below, glistening with the sour cleaners just used upon it, waiting, wondering what exactly she was feeling.  Child… may you be mine and never his in spirit.  May you be strong in spirit, like others in your line, not needing torment to feel whole. The door opened once more and she turned to see Minis enter quietly.  She blinked and felt suddenly as if her head would fly away off her shoulders.  Of course.  He would want to be certain of 2nd Amitzas’s death.  Will he know that I am here not out of loyalty to my husband but out of a burning need to see the man die?
She finally admitted to herself that she wanted her husband dead.  Forgive me, Selinae, for my failure of faith to my wedded oath.
Minis stopped, but hesitated only for a moment.  “Mother.  Please come and sit with me.  These places are for us.  Grandfather informed me.”  He held out his elbow to her, just as if she had not been shunning him all this time.  Now is the end to all separation, she thought and her hand came out to lie upon his sleeve, lightly.
He smiled at her and she thought her heart would break.  No matter what horrors you have seen my son, your smile is still sweet. She thought of his calm face receeding away from her as she sank down into the lake.  Calm only because of the drug.  Tisha had told her later how frantic he had been that he save her from drowning.  What is this connection my son?  Why did you not just let me go with all the other evil in your life?  The brutal teacher’s brutal wife?
He escorted her to one seat and held it for her and sat next to her as she settled her skirts and sleeves around her, folded her hands in her lap.  The killing needle burned against her palm.  If I were my husband’s true wife, I should drive that needle into you, Minis. But I cannot. I will not.  I am told I, even though I am a woman, I choose my fate.  Not my husband, not my father, not my Senior, not even the Imperator.  Not even the Gods. I choose.  My choosing begins here.  Witnessing.  His death is my freedom.
When the door below opened and 2nd Amitzas was carried in, Minis’s hand, lying upon the arm of the chair, trembled.  The Mahid could not walk.  It was obvious that someone had broken his limbs, beginning with the small, moving to the large.  But his eyes stayed steady, a snake still attempting to bite, even as it died.
The guards placed him on the table.  What was said to him, could not be heard.  None of the vents were open.  They strapped him down, though he could not have moved effectively.  The clerk read from the charge sheet.  Probably his truth-drug failure of oath, the sentence and asking any final words.
He can see us up here.  Surely he can… but the room below is bright and we are in darkness here, behind the glass.  Surely he will say something toxic… but 2nd Amitzas set his broken teeth in a bloody mouth and shook his head, no.
They laid the blind-fold over his eyes and the guard took up the pin dagger.  Almost without thought Minis held out his hand toward her and she reached and took it.  It was the hand without the needle.  It almost hurt how hard they clutched one another as the guard thrust the pin dagger into 2nd Amitzas’s heart.
He twitched all over once, and was still.  Inensa gasped for a lung full of air and heard Minis take one in too. “Mother.  I must stay until I see them dismember him.  Formally.”
She nodded, not letting on that black spots swam in front of her eyes. Yes, my son.  I too.”
He glanced sideways at her and did not let go of her hand.  “We will see him dead, mother.  We will be free of him.”
How does he understand? She blinked once more and looked down at her tormentor’s corpse, the man who had hurt both her and and her child.  “I will be easier in a moment.”  The guard tipped 2nd Amitzas’s head back and using the correct knives, took the head off in three strokes.
“He was indeed dead,” Inensa said quietly.  “Else the blood would have sprayed out.”
“He’s dead.”  Minis’s voice was intense and fierce, both.  Their joined hands were like an almost solid knot of bone they clung so tightly.  “He’s finally dead.”
“Yes.  Praise the Ten.”  Inensa was surprised to feel something hot and wild boiling up out of her.  “May he be forever in Risae’s studies.”
Minis actually snorted.  “Terrifying.  Yes.  That would be his hayel.  I’m glad you are speaking to me, Mother.”
“I will allow myself that, now,” she said.
He rose, tucked her hand, that had been clutched in his, into his elbow, holding her, raising her to her feet.  “May I escort you back to your rooms?”
“Yes, please, my son.  I believe I shall allow myself the decadence of some rest.”

I shall be travelling this week so my posting will be either erratic, or non-existant... and my computer will be down for part of that time for cleaning and maintenance.

Thanks for your patience.  I will be certainly back on a regular schedule by next Thursday.


  1. Wow I loved this chapter. Every batter person needs something that allows them to feel safer & in some control of their lives. Inensa'a making of a new poison needle is poignant for that very reason. Her love for Minis & even her unborn child make her a wonderful character. I am so glad that she is now speaking with him.

  2. ~tears and relief~