I walked mother back up to her room in the Mahid quarters, suppressing my reaction. I was cold. Not in shock. Just cold relief. Rather than just leave her there alone, now that she was speaking to me, I went in to sit.
She was pale and I wondered what was going through her mind. He had brutalized her as much or more than he had brutalized me -- years more… and my father had done as bad or worse before him. How was it that she was still calm and proper and sitting there and not in a mad rage? Angered at us all for having poured ourselves through her body?
The men… Kurkas and her family and 2nd Amitzas and… even me. I had not had a choice, but that did not change that she was forced to carry me… I shook my head and saw her seated comfortably and because I was still there, she called for refreshments as was proper; hostess in her own place…
I saw her pour me kaf and I offered her a plate of sandwiches. She was still pale and I was starting to wonder about her health somewhat. Perhaps a bit of food and more water, the way Haians were always telling me… oh and Gannara… and Chevenga… and Farasha… well. It seemed to work since she gained some colour back as I sipped my kaf and pushed the crustless sandwich around the plate.
“Yes, mother?” I looked up from where I was glaring at a completely inoffensive crumb.
“I am finding the food is settling me somewhat. May I suggest that ingesting that may be more efficacious than pushing it about or tearing it into small shreds?”
I stared at her. Was she actually teasing me? No. It was impossible. She was Mahid. And everyone knew that Mahid had no sense of humour. “Yes, mother.” I picked up the fragment of sandwich, with its shred of meat and fleck of green and placed it into my mouth. It was good and I was surprised to find it went down easily.
“Honoured mother… I shall see you tomorrow then?”
“If my honourable son wishes.”
The jeweler blinked at me when I told him I should like to see some mother stones that were a cut above the ones he had just showed me. I was dressed as Minakas so I supposed I should not have been surprised.
“Oh, of.. of course, ser."
It was Iirinian’s, at the corner of Goldsmith’s Row and Shining Chips of Sun Lane, and was the front room of his house, that had several large, heavily armed, hired solas guards. There were also the heightened patrols of the sereniteers always present in this neighbourhood and I had already dismissed all the mother stones that he had presented in his glass cases out front.
The clerk had gone and fetched someone with more authority and I now sat in a small room with a guard all its own, with a cup of kaf in fine china. “Ser,” he said and gulped a little. “One moment if the exalted pleases to wait. I must summon the owner.”
“Oh, of course. Thank you for your time.” I wasn’t speaking equal to equal in the fessas mode but with my own accent. The room was decorated in the neutral whites and the lustrous blue that the family was making their own in the city. Even my kaf cup was in porcelain in the trades’man’s colours.
I could imagine the quickly hissed conversation well out of earshot in the back… “… no… he’s asking for better stones than THAT!...”
It only took a moment and the owner/jeweler came in, with one of his boys -- a young man now – in tow and a small jewel tray in his hands.
“Ser.” He said. “Let me show you the five finest stones I have in the store.”
“Good. I’d love to see them. You see, Ser Iirinian…” I nodded to him and to his son, acknowledging him as well. “I never had the opportunity to choose or give my mother her stone and she deserves the best that can be had.”
“Ah-hm. Of course, ser.” The jeweler said and laid the glass-topped tray in front of me, whisking the cloth away.
They must have been his best for I could not imagine finer stones or finer settings. They were all the traditional horizontal oval and with the finest gold or white gold settings and chains. There was one the size of the end of my thumb… a yellow sapphire set in white gold flames all around and tiny brilliant cut night-sky blue sapphires all around that. Somewhat untraditional but I thought it appropriate the moment my eye fell on it.
I could see he was nervous of my ability to pay but not wanting to bring it up in case it offended me.
“This stone set in yellow gold is a bargain at four thousand,” he said. I didn’t know if I even cared to haggle with the man.
“I have a black diamond that is rather more precious than this mother stone, if you would care to trade stone for stone.” I said. “Or a smaller flawless square-cut emerald. Of course if you preferred payment in gold chains that may be arranged at the Goldsmith’s First Chain Exchange.”
“Ah.” I could see him re-assess me in his mind. Not a jump-up fessas finally daring to sell or trade off ill gotten gains; and hardly for something as distinctive and specific as a mother stone. “If this one would be able to see the emerald in question?”
It was a smaller one from the Imperial regalia itself. I truly wanted to take the stone I had from my father and get rid of it, for one for my mother. I laid it out on the cloth gently.
Ser Iirinian looked at the stone, still in its wave brooch mounting. Then he looked up at me again, more carefully.
“This stone is mine, Ser Iirinian. Gifted me by my father.” The son leaned forward and urgently whispered in his father’s ear, glancing at me. The old man looked sharply at his son and then back at me and then down on the black cloth where I had placed the emerald. I laid my hand over my stone, cupped. It was less to seize it back and more a protective gesture. I believed they realized who I must be, but weren't certain what to do.
The emerald was certainly worth enough I thought. “Ah… serin…” the older man carefully folded his hands together and the young man looked for all the world as though he wished to run out the door and report me to the Marble Palace on the instant. “Would the exalted care to choose a stone from this unworthy worm’s offerings?”
It was amazing how his language changed with a bargain like the one I was offering him. “Yes, please. I should like this one.” I tapped the glass over the one, and the young man unlocked the case and placed the stone out for me to see, unimpeded. “I will take it if you are content that my emerald is of a sufficient value.” He nodded and said ‘yes’ and my bargain was struck. They wrapped the tiny box in silver paper in front of me and I raised my hand up off the emerald to let him take it.