Thursday, November 25, 2010

392 - I Have No Say Then

He went completely serious. “Well... it’s pretty simple, really... ‘Would you like to go in a year and a half at the most, maybe just months, or would you like a chance at living another fifty or sixty?’  How is anyone going to answer that?”

“‘course, sor...”

Krero nodded again. “You have two more questions, Minakas.”

“Ay sor.  Will t’ Imperator tell us how he’s holdin’ up ‘gainst these intrusive questions?”

Blessedly that got another real laugh out of him. “It’s not easy.  But I’ve been managing it since I first got here.  It helps that I love you all.”

“Course, sor.  Might this ‘un ask, how ‘t Imperator thinks his own people ‘l react ‘tah this revelation?”

“Well... I can’t say for sure until I get there... part of me wants to say, I have no idea... but... I think they’ll be... shocked... surprised... I think... they’ll wonder how this can be...

“There are some, I think, who’ll rake me over the coals... Idiots, I thought -- and others... who will...”  He choked into silence.  “Sorry... bear with me...” It took some time to pull himself together.  “Others who will be loving about it.  If... if it could be put to a vote, how they’ll react, I can’t call it, obviously... I hope I will be forgiven.” 

“Sisaria, go ahead,” says Krero.

“Thank you.  Semanakraseye-Imperator, did Kallijas Itrean, Aitzas know of this prophecy before he became a candidate for the Imperium?”
Yes, he did.  The certain version of it.”

“Semanakraseye-Imperator, what do YOU think your odds of success are in this healing endeavour?”

“Not going to spare me with easy ones, hmm?  Phew.”  He ran his hand through his hair. “My odds... I have no idea.  I’m sorry... that’s the true answer.  I... I’m taking it one step at a time...  It’s like training, or fighting... I just have to keep my eyes on the path ahead.  I know that can’t be a satisfying answer... but it’s the most honest one.”

Krero’s runner came back and whispered to him and that was passed on to Chevenga who looked a bit surprised.  “Yes, Niku is willing to be interviewed about this,” he said.
“Thank you, Imperator, and please convey my thanks to the Radiant Mirror.  This one’s paper will make an appointment for it later.”  He signed chalk.
In the crowd I could see a hand waving.  A bare hand so it was either a Yeoli or another foreigner. Krero pointed.  “Go ahead.”

“Semanakraseye, how do you think this revelation will affect your relationship with the Yeoli people?”  A Yeoli.

“I... I have to say again, I don’t know, I can’t know until I get there.  Tell the truth... I think, and I hope, that in time the whole thing will blow over and be forgotten, and my relationship with them will be as it ever was.  You know, Surya... my healer... had me do a chiravesa... yesterday.  He asked me to imagine myself twenty years from now... looking back on all this.  Distantly. I... it was very hard, but I got the idea... so with any luck, it won’t affect my relationship with them at all, permanently.”

“Yes.  Semanakraseye, now that you anticipate a normal, full life time, what plans are you making?  Politically, not personally, of course.”

“Politically?  To continue as semanakraseye of Yeola-e.  It’s as I alluded to in another question... that is not really an ambition, or a plan.  My people might have plans for me that I don’t know about.”


“Imperator, you said you revealed this - the certain version, as you put it - to your mother at age eight.  After so many years of knowing that, how is she taking the news?”

“She’s ecstatic.  She’s... I mean, you’d get it better from her, but she’s writer-shy, so she might not say anything.  But she is very, very happy and hopeful.  She was... when I was a child and then a youth with it, she was always there for me... she was the only person I could talk to about it for... until I told Niku, so, that’s, sixteen years, roughly.  So every time I... hit my head against it somehow, or didn’t know how to deal with it, I would go to her.  She’s lived with it for all that time.  So when I say happy, it doesn’t do her feeling justice, I’m sure.” Kafiris had such a grin on his face as he scribbled.  His readers would certainly want to buy the rag to read about this.

“Imperator, could you please identify your other guest at the table for these ones?” That was another Arkan.

“Oh... yes... Surya Chaelaecha.  My healer.”   He whispered in Surya’s ear.  Surya didn’t look terribly upset. “He trained on Haiu Menshir for two years... after going asa kraiya right after the battle of Porfirias.  Because his gift manifested.”

“His gift?”  It was the same reporter, not waiting on Krero.  He was obviously willing to risk it to follow up on that!

“Yes... seeing the aura.  That means...”  He turned to Surya. “You want to explain this?”

The whole lot of use writers looked hopefully at the healer. “What is meant by the aura,” he said. “…is the energy bodies that surround us, and are in us as well... it is the immaterial aspect of our life, that which separates from the body at death.  I can see it... to me it appears as light, and colours... the various parts of it, as well as that which is individual to the person mentally, emotionally and physically.”

Chevenga spoke up.“And don’t worry, he’s not looking at yours right now.  He doesn’t do it except when he gets permission.  What it means, in effect, is that, when he gets permission, you can have no secrets from this man.  I didn’t tell him what I have told you.  He saw it.”
A babble of questions though Krero waved.  Finally Chevenga raised both his hands and people quieted down, following the lead of the Arkans in the room.  A whisper from Surya.  “My healer will be available for questions afterwards, he assures me.”

I could hear Intharas inhale and raise his hand.  What was that look upon his face?  “Go ahead, Intharas,” Krero said.
“Don’t worry, You-Whose-Mind-Conceives-The-World, this one should be fairly easy.  Before you found an out, and I suppose if that out fails as you say it might, what were your plans for your bereaved? Which, I suppose, is everybody in two countries, but I specifically meant your family and immediate political colleagues.” The look on Chevenga’s face was a puzzled on.  Intharas had pity on him and continued. “Had you left specific instructions in a will that will now need to be changed?”

“Well.... I’ve never written a will.  I’ve never had to, because--sorry, pardon me, yes I have.  In that part of my life that is out of my life, in the Mezem... I wrote a will that would be legal in Arko.  But I’ve never written one in Yeola-e because wills concern property, and I’m not allowed to own property.”

“Ah, no, I’m sorry, property concerns are fairly straightforward and not usually newsworthy.  I meant . . . well, let me give an example.  You knew your designated heir would be thrust into your situation at the age of, what, eleven?  Which, granted, four years older than you, but had you left instructions or advice for him?”

“Well... what I did for him was tell him... so he knew to expect it... for me it was utterly unexpected.  Instructions... I always told him one thing, that really... overarcs everything else... that is the only thing he needs to know from me, really, that answers all the other questions. I always told him, whatever anyone else might ever say, that he was good enough for me, and always would be.  I told him that when he was very, very young... so that he would carry it in his heart for life.
“I also have plans to write him--to write all of them--fairly lengthy letters, to be read when they reach sufficient maturity.  I’ve done a fair amount of work on that already.
“I hope--I plan--not to have to finish it now.
“You ask me about plans for my bereaved... I’ve made plans with my bereaved.  It’s not as if they don’t know... I mean, I... all right, maybe I’ve had thoughts of setting a person or two up with someone else without them knowing it, but...”  He smothered his grin.  “Plans... their lives are their own, once I’m gone.  I have no say then.”


Author's Note:  I'm posting early today because of travel mess ups (I missed my bus this morning!)  And I may not be able to post on Monday or Tuesday, though I will try.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and please don't get killed on Black Friday, k?

391 - First Round of Questions

Krero spoke up again. “In turn...  Raise your hand and I’ll call on you.”  In the sea of waving digits, Intharas raised his pen a bit.  I saw one fellow on my other side defer to Intharas, who nodded firmly.  “Intharas Terren, go ahead.”  Chevenga looked at him as though he’d rather dive out the window than be here.

“Imperator, how does this revelation affect your plans towards abdication?  Do you plan to move up the schedule so that the public remains largely unaffected?”

“No, I have no plans to change the schedule.  The election... so much has been planned, so much is in motion, it’s not worth changing all that for this... I’m going to be gone five days, and it’s not as if the campaign can’t go on without me here.”
Krero pointed at the woman beside me, another pages writer with Intharas. “Sisaria?”

“Thank you. Is He-Whose-Strength-Upholds-the-World going to take a hiatus from his regular duties for this healing?” She spoke firmly, even though she blushed. So very strange to hear a female voice.  I wondered if she knew Kyriala and the book restorers
“You know... I don’t mind being ‘you...’”  there was a faint smile upon his face. “I... I’m certainly not going to take a hiatus from what I am doing here in Arko, because time is so short.  I haven’t thought about it beyond that, to tell the truth.  You want to ask me more, go ahead… let’s do it three questions at a time... so Intharas I owe you two more.” The High Editor nodded but didn’t press the point immediately.

“Semanakraseye-Imperator, are all Yeoli Foreseers, or are only members of your family prescient? Did you also know that you would become Imperator?”

“I... had no idea until... well, all right... I was going to say, I had no idea until I read the count for the national vote in Yeola-e.  But... there were some things that happened before that which, on retrospect, were flashes of foreknowledge.  I didn’t recognize them as such at the time.

“No, all Yeolis are not foreseers, and it is certainly not only members of my family, and not all members of my family.  The best foreseer in Yeola-e is not related to me at all.  I’m referring to Jinai Oru.”

“Semanakraseye-Imperator, have you received a new augury that countered your previous Foretelling?”

“Em... no, it’s not that, exactly.  It’s... it’s a bit different from that.”  He glanced sideways at Krero. Is that a help, call on someone else look?

Krero signed chalk.  “Kafiris, go ahead.”  He didn’t want to answer that one.  Che, someone is going to jump on that one.

“Imperator, why did you keep this, what you assumed was foreknowledge, secret aside from the immediate few?  And may I add, I will pray fervently for the success of the cure.”

Chevenga twitched, looking truly surprised.  “Em... thank you, Kafiris.” He seemed embarrassed. “Thank you.  I appreciate that.  Em... you asked... why I kept it secret... at first it was just... everyone was in such grief already from my father’s assassination, I didn’t want to burden them.  Then it was more... um... how do I put this... well... it was strategic once I was a teenager, because I knew how prominent a warrior I would become, and that I would be a general too... you reveal something like that and then enemies know it.  I was also... well, I’ll say it, I was also afraid that I would not be approved of by Assembly as semanakraseye if I revealed it.  There was a precedent, of an anaraseye who wasn’t approved because she had a disease that was going to kill her in her mid-twenties.

“When I was nineteen... I had Jinai Oru, who I’ve already mentioned, do a reading for me... and from that I decided again not to reveal it.  I got him to see for me the results of three different decisions... and the one in which I didn’t tell turned out the best.”
I pushed my glasses up and pinched the bridge of my nose, bent my head and scribbled diligently, eyes down.

“Beyond that... I’m in the habit of secrecy, I guess.  I’ll have to break that now.”
“Further questions, Kafiris?” Krero asked.

“Yes.  Imperator, if this rumor hadn’t leaked now, when were you planning on going public with this information?”

“I... em... wasn’t.”

“One more, Kafiris?” Krero prompted, over the babble of request and the waving of noteboards and pens in the air.

“Yes.  Thank you, You-Who-are-the-Light-the-World-Reads-By. My third question - if you are sufficiently cured in time, will you submit your name as a candidate for the election?”

“No, I’ve already answered that, several times.  The idea here is for Arko to have an Arkan Imperator.” The sound of pens was almost like and insect swarm it was so intense.

Krero pointed in that easy, Yeoli way. “Echera-e, go ahead.”

Semanakrayese...” The Yeoli is looking like a stabbed puppy. “How... you didn’t tell anyone? The Darya could have protected you! You were anaraseye... you didn’t think withholding this from Yeola-e was important?”

“Yes I did think it was important.  That’s why I did it.”

“Further questions, Echera-e?” Krero said.

She looked a bit angry at this point. “So you admit it was to further your own ambitions that you withheld this?”
“No, I absolutely do not admit any such thing.  For one thing, being semanakraseye was never an ambition of mine.  It was the course set out for my life when I was born.  Second... the crucial point... when I was nineteen... it wasn’t about that at all.  When I say, the best result that Jinai Oru foresaw... it was the best for Yeola-e.  In the other two... let’s just say, that was the only one in which we won the war, or which had anything suggesting that we might.”

Krero looked more than a little thunderous under his eyebrows, but his voice was calm and even enough. “Echera-e, one more.”

Chevenga waved at his guard captain. “Let me add to my answer to that one.  I am about to go home to Vae Arahi, to lay this out for Assembly and through them the people of Yeola-e.  I will be judged, I am sure.  However I am judged is acceptable to me.  I have no argument with that.”

“Echera-e, last question... in this set, we might be able to repeat, go ahead.”

“Does Artira know?”

“Yes, she does, I’m sorry, I didn’t list her off at first.  I told her the night of the vote count that reinstated me as Imperator.”
Kafiris was scribbling to my left.  I raised my pen with the rest, Intharas smiling slightly and the others on my other side shooting daggers at me with their eyes.  Who is this child daring to push himself so?  Krero pointed at me.  “You... I don’t know your name, lad, sorry.”
“Minakas Akam, sor.  Thenk yah, sor.”  Chevenga said something quietly to Krero, probably explaining.
“Minakas,” he said.

Thenk yeh. Semanakraseye, yeh said yeh told yer children, who were of an age to un’erstand.  How’re they dealin’ with this both initially an’ now?”

He sighed again. Perhaps only I caught the slightly ironic eyebrow he raised just at me. “At first... no, all through, they’ve dealt with it really well.  Very very brave... But I... I’ll tell you something, remember when I first came back to Arko after I was impeached, to let people know there was a move to reinstate me... and I brought Fifth?  And everyone wondered, why is he bringing this kid into this political situation, there might be danger and so on...?  It was because, when I told him, he said, ‘If that’s so, why were you away...’”  
He choked and coughed, caught by surprise by his own emotion. “I’m sorry... bear with me...”  Surya supported him while he breathed. “He said, ‘If that’s so, why were you away so much?’  I cried then, too, and I apologized to him.  And I swore him an oath that I’d never go away and leave him behind again, so...”  His laughter was full of tears. “I had to bring him.  He held me to it.

“Now... now they’re asking me, does this mean it’s not going to happen?  And I have to tell them...”  He accepted a kerchief from Surya and blew his nose. “Pardon me.  I have to tell them, it’s now the same for me as anyone else.  I... I can’t say for sure yet that it’s not going to happen, but I know it is not certain. So Tawaen... Fifth, I mean, that’s our family name for him, Tawaen... he just told me he’d let me off the oath in that case.  I can go back to Yeola-e to announce it and I don’t have to take him.  They’re both taking great hope from it.”

Krero said. “Second question, Minakas.”

“Nah more questions at present, sor.” That one was more than enough for one question.

Chevenga took control of the presser. “Intharas, you have two more, go ahead.”

“Thank you, Imperator.  Related to the last question:  how did your various paramours react when told?”

That startled a true laugh out of Chevenga. “Paramours?”  One of his eyebrows rose almost to his forelock.  “All right, tell me exactly who you are talking about.  With the understanding that I might tell you that this is too personal a question to ask.”

“Itrean, Trinisas, those girls you proposed to back home, you don’t have to exhaust the list, I hear it’s quite long, but, you know, the big ones.  The ones with responses that’ll bring in the readers, you know how it is.” Perhaps that’s the Silken Gloves he’s been imbibing?

A smothered snigger from somewhere in the crowd.

He laughed again. “Intharas, I thank you for your candor... it is very refreshing... first point, I haven’t told a long list of paramours.  I’ve only told... five.

“Both my girlfriends who I told when I was young... declined to marry me.  I don’t blame them and I hold no resentment.  I could entirely understand not wanting to live a life... waiting, if you know what I mean. Counting down.

“Niku said that... well, we have a saying between us.  ‘Always and forever, as long as we have.’  It’s why...”  He choked and coughed again, before continuing. “It’s why I wanted so badly to marry her.  Kallijas, and this won’t surprise you, was very brave about it.  Skorsas... he was lucky, because I held off telling him... I knew that he would prefer not to know, if given the choice.  So I didn’t tell him until I’d started that course of healing, so he didn’t hear the version that was, you know, certain.”

Krero: “All right, Kafiris again, go ahead.”

“Imperator, would the Imperatrix be available to do an interview with the Mouth about this, for our gentler readers?”

“We’d have to ask her that...”  He whispered to Krero... who signaled someone and they left. “You’ll have an answer back in a bit.”

“Thank you, You Whose Wisdom is the World’s Guidance.” Krero’s telling him he had two more questions stepped on the heels of his next… “Two more… sorry… go ahead…”

“Imperator, will you be returning to Haiu Menshir for treatment, after the election?”

“No my plan is to go back to Yeola-e, to Vae Arahi.  I have a healer who is not a Haian.”  He glanced at Surya but still did not introduce him. “He is Yeoli.”

“Imperator... why a Yeoli healer, instead of a Haian?”

“He was recommended to me by a Haian.  I think... at some level she recognized that his particular gift, which is seeing the aura, would be good for me.”  I waved my pen once more.

“Minakas... um... Akam, go ahead”

“For sech an apparently deep-seated belief, sor, how did the healer  actu’lly persuade yah to take the course o’ healin?’”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

390 - From the Mouth of God's Son

I was in full Minakas mode next day, spectacles, conservative robe and gloves.  As a boy I could have my shoulders bare but my kilt was full, rigid front panel and all. A rack of three pens strapped onto my bicep and a brand new notebook, so new I hadn’t even cracked the cover.

Akminchaer had let me remove the sling since all I would be doing was standing and taking notes.
Ili was with his class in the orrery.  No one had mentioned its existance to his teacher, Gian, until Ili had.  Then, when the young man had found me and politely requested permission to show the children he’d almost been stammering.  I’d had to tell him I could not give that permission but passed him up to Skorsas and the visit had been quickly arranged.
We were all in the Luminous Resplendent ballroom, one of the smaller ones, with a dais set up with a full table at one end. The bead clock was glass and gold chiming every bead.   Intharas stood in the good light of the window right at the front, a fessas --- woman??? – with her notebook in gloved hand, looking attentive.  Now everyone was going to hear the truth… when the rumours where tearing around the city on wings of fire.
The other writers, trying to pump each other for information about what this might be about, the murmur and mumble over water and juice glasses, I didn’t know by sight. By byline, certainly. To be honest I didn’t recognize anyone from before the sack when I haunted the Pages, either.
As the girl... the woman reporter... moved over to the table with the water glasses, I stepped up to Intharas and cleared my throat. “Ser Intharas?”
He turned, grumpily.  “What the fi-oh, excuse me.  What can I do for you, young man, and while you’re telling me that do you think you could point out the drinks steward?  I seem to have misplaced him.”
I could see him look me up and down and take in my bare shoulders.  I could almost hear him wonder where my nursemaid was.  “I wanted tah introduce mahself and thenk yah fer publishin’ me.  I’m Minakas Akam, sor.  An’ ah think t’ drinks steward fell inta the garderobe sor...”

“Ah, so you’re Akam.  I’d heard you were young, but it’s a pleasure to see it confirmed.  Shows promise, what?”  I held out my silver hip flask.
“Since ay can’t produce the drinks steward, sor… If the honour’d sor’d like ta taste?”
His eyes flickered from the flask to my face, a trace of a smile on his craggy face.  “Why, I’d be honored, ser Akam, don’t mind if I do—hrkk.” He blinked as he realized I had it filled with Silken Gloves.  That part of Yeola-e had certainly maintained their new distillate.  “This is excellent.  Where’d you buy it?”
Of course.  “A gift from a friend, sor, outa Yeola-e.  Please... keep it.”

“I believe I shall, thank you.  Kindness for a kindness:  I may, at some point during this, inform you of the termination of your employment with me.  I do not mean it, it is just my little joke.”  His habit of screaming that someone was fired.  I had to smile as I nodded at him.

“So I’ve heard, sor.  O’ course, sor.”  He was being scrupulously polite.  Very unlike him, but then I’d only seen him in the Marble Palace once before, when I’d had him to dinner.  He had a slight tic beside one eye. I was going to cling to my place near Intharas, even as the girl… the woman reporter came back and cast a jaundiced eye upon the hip flask in Intharas’s hand, then glancing up at me with a ‘who in hayel are you,’ look.
When the exact bead for this writer’s presser fell in the clock, Chevenga came in, with two others. I recognized Krero, in his full gear and Surya.  I tried to see him as if I didn’t know him.  He looked about thirty-five, with frizzy red-brown hair, slightly stocky, dressed pretty plain, calm-looking face.  No hint at all that he had the kind of gift that would turn most people’s guts to water.
Chevenga looked like the Summoner was at his shoulder… he was pale, shaky, moving like he was headed for the executioner’s block.  He didn’t meet anyone’s eyes, as we crowded to the line specified by Krero.  He didn’t smile or greet anyone which was so odd I was starting to wonder if he’d had some kind of drug-mindstorm like that which had affected Joras. Has he been knocked out for surgery too often?
He took the middle chair and Surya sat down close.  Krero stayed standing, he had a glass of water that he put in front of Chevenga, who took a swig from it as if he craved it.  It looks like water. Probably full of remedies.

Krero crossed his armoured arms over his chest and said, “We’re going to do this in an orderly manner; the semanakraseye-Imperator will make a statement without interruptions first, and then we will open it for questions, by turn; raise your hand and I will call on you in order.”  Which was kind of weird, because Chevenga usually spoke for himself, instead of having Krero run things. Surya was whispering in Chevenga’s ear, laid an arm around his shoulders.  Chevenga signed chalk once, twice.  He took another swig from the water glass as Krero sat down.  Then Chevenga stood up and clasped his crystal.

I’d never seen this before, never having attended at Marble Palace press conference before.  I was starting to realize why it was called a presser.  If that fellow behind me shoved any closer I’d have to marry him.
Chevenga had brought this practice from Yeola-e.  Or re-instated it from Arko’s distant past, I would argue… His oath before writers.  “In light of how far what I say will reach, in the human witness of the writers of the Press and the spiritual witness of All-Spirit and the Ten, I swear that I will speak and answer all questions with truth clear and complete and to the best of my understanding, second Fire come if I am forsworn.” He repeated it in Yeoli.

He rattled it off pretty fast, but his voice was weak and shaky and so quiet that the people at the back might not hear it.  Then he sat again, and the room, that had been very quiet before, grew so still it might have been a painting, all of us with our pens poised over noteboards.

“At this point in Arko’s history, I never meant the attention of the people of the press to be drawn to something personal of mine.  I would much prefer we were speaking of the election, the policies, the promises, the possibilities.  But something personal to me has become public in the form of a rumour and I feel I must address it, and I must address it honestly.” He clung to his water glass as though to a lifeline and sipped as though his throat was getting dry every other word.

“I hope you will bear with me… it’s a very difficult thing for me to talk about, I have only told very few people in my life.  I… ask for your patience if I’m seized by emotion, if I have to pause or pause too long, or if it chokes me up… I certainly never expected or intended to be speaking of it publicly, and wish I didn’t have to… but here we are.

“I’m sure most of you or all of you are aware that when I was seven, my father was assassinated… backstabbed by someone who wanted revenge for something he did in a war.  His corpse was brought back into the Hearthstone Dependent courtyard, and I saw it there… I didn’t understand at first that he was dead, I thought he was asleep and I went to him, to try to wake him.  I was pulled back, and my mother put her hand over my eyes… in that moment I saw… I had a vision… I saw a corpse again, but it was not his… it had black hair, and more scars, and was different in other ways, but about the same age… he was twenty-eight when he died.  When I was up in my parents’ room afterwards, I realized that that corpse had been my own.

“My mother… has the gift of prescience… (so that is where he got this seeing the future thing) she was very very nervous for several days before this, she knew something terrible was about to happen.  I have inherited it to some degree… it’s part of how I anticipate the movements of enemies and… other military or political things… so it didn’t occur to me to interpret this any other way than that it was a momentary view into the future.  I felt it with certainty… I knew, I didn’t doubt, that it would be for me as it had been for him… from then on I counted my years as no more than thirty.  And I planned my life, as much as I could plan it, accordingly.

“Though most people don’t know it, this is something that has always been there for me… it very much shaped my life… certainly shaped my schedule… for those who wonder why I am always in a hurry it’s, you know, trying to fit in as much as I can.  I wanted to do more… I wanted to love more… to make up for it.

“I told my mother when I was eight... I told two young women in Vae Arahi, each time I was in a relationship and we spoke of marriage, I felt obliged to tell them.  In Arko I told Kurkas and some number of high-level Mahid involuntarily under truth-drug… I told Alchaen on Haiu Menshir during my healing… I told Niku when we reunited on Niah-lur-ana, since we were planning to marry… I’ve told Kallijas and Skorsas since then, and judged that two of my children were mature enough to tell, Fifth and Vriah… and that is everyone I told up to… about the equinox.  I thought it was best to keep it secret.

“For those who don’t know: I’m twenty-eight, or twenty-eight and a half to be more exact.

“Um… just after New Year’s, the equinox, a friend of mine who is a Haian came to me saying that she’d had a vision, that I should go to a certain healer, who was here in Arko, and… that it was a matter of life and death.  I hesitated at first but I did go to him, and...”  He paused to breathe and sipped his water once more.  And Surya beat you into submission and made you promise to try and live…

“I’m sorry, bear with me, this is the hardest part to talk about.” He paused again. I had never seen him so… upset.  “What he got me to understand was that what I had in truth was not foreknowledge… but something else… that could be cured.  I decided that if he knew how to do that, and he was willing—which he was—I should undertake the course that he laid out.  He promised me that if I followed every step of the course he laid out… I should be able to live as long as anyone else. So I am doing that.  Thank the Ten.

“How this came out though I never intended it to, was that I was explaining to four people who needed to know, why I had the…” he touched his chest where the wound was healing… “Accident.  I, um… let’s just say that the part of me that is… that has death in it… is resisting being driven from me.  I know you are thinking, that puts me in danger.  I know it does and I have taken some precautions to protect myself. Anyway, I was explaining to four people when I was in the infirmary in the Marble Palace, and I forgot that it is not well-secured against eavesdropping.  
I trust everyone I have intentionally told implicitly.  I believe I was overheard, and someone then brought what I said to the Pages.  I apologize for not being careful enough so that a personal matter is distracting from the election.”   

Oh Gods, do I wish it had not come up now.  Gods why?  When I needed him to be strong and there for me?  Why?  I don’t know Kallijas well enough to lean on him… I might devour myself from the gut in before I can even start… and I cannot be upset because it means I will have my friend longer.

 I took a deep breath.

“Once I am done here I am going to set off for Vae Arahi, though I wasn’t planning to and have had to alter my schedule, because I need to speak directly to my people about this, and not have it reach them just as a rumour.  I am going to try not to be gone for more than five days, and when I come back I will go back to work completing the constitution and helping with the election.  

Five days… five days from now? But there is the planned gathering tonight that Chevenga knows nothing about.  Six days.  Add a third more just in case.  Nine days? Ten days? I swallowed hard and kept my head down, scribbling in my notebook as if my heart depended upon it.

"I... I guess that is all...”  He swallowed hard and took another swig of water, it was almost empty and Krero re-filled it for him, acting as taster and servant both. “Questions.”


Author's Note:

My grateful thanks to:

Karen for her part in role playing Chevenga, Krero and Surya.
Cat, Capriox, Blue, Greenglass and Toast for their parts as writers of the various presses of the Fifth Millenium.  You put the yellow in journalism!

Thanks again for your generous time and help.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

389 - This Fiery Ichor

I showed my note to the guard stationed at the door to the White Corridor.  “You coming to take a piece out of the snake too?  He’s in the third cell.”  I nodded.  “Just tap twice.  I’ll check and let you out when you’re done.”
The smell hadn’t changed. It hit me in the face, rolling out around me, mingling greasily with the new scents in the Mahid section.  I stepped in and I could feel the door close behind me… the air pushing at my back as it sealed.  It wasn’t kept as acidly bright as it used to be.  But it was still the White Corridor, full of the forzak… an antechamber to hayel. The only question here, as always, was ‘How long will it take to die?’
I looked down toward the antechamber where the Black Corridor started and felt absolutely no wish to go down to where the Haians had been kept. I swallowed hard.  The bland oats my grandfather had suggested were staying where they were supposed to, thankfully.
The third cell was one of the closed cells with a sealed glass panel in the door rather than bars.  It had been one of his own.  This wasn’t meant as irony.  It was one of the most secure, that had originally been set up to his specifications.  I did look through the panel to check and make sure he was still locked tight to the table and slid the flap shut once more.
I felt… I started to feel cold inside.  …I was honoured to serve your Divine Father when the Former Spark of the Sun’s Ray was executed… His dead stone voice echoed in my memory.  I suddenly wanted to put him in the Lock.  But I didn’t even know if the Lock still existed.  I’d inquire of Chevenga and oversee it’s dismantling myself if I could.
The numbers posted on the wall outside told me the current combination of the lock, I dropped the flap over those as well and thumbed the metal wheels into place with the sound like the click of the Summoners claws.  The door opened under my gloved hand with a sigh.

I could see his pale body locked in place.  Someone had left the table three quarters up rather than horizontal.  For a moment everything went flat and strange.  I could not see him in the cell as anything but a chalk drawing, shapes flattened against a marble wall.
I took a deep breath and stepped in.  Others had been in this room before me.  He had an open gag that allowed access to his mouth but did not allow speech.  He’d been shaved all over his body, apparently with a hot knife and livid on his skin the Yeolis symbols for 4th Che She Ara were burned in, from neck to groin.  Given that Chevenga had tried to argue me out of this visit it was unlikely he would have gone to the trouble to have himself carried down to do this to 2nd Amitzas himself.  It changes you, lad, he’d said.
Someone else who saw 2nd Amitzas’s handiwork on Chevenga’s skin must have meted out some direct justice as they saw it.  If I were to follow that tit for tat logic I had the right to lay stripes on his back, a scar from a corrector on my face… right across the mark of Father’s ring… a beating at the very least. I closed my eyes and then opened them again.  He looked at me and his dead-snake eyes were the same as they always had been.
I walked slowly all the way around him. There were many people angry with this man.  “Second Amitzas Mahid.”  I sat down on the raised stool and propped my chin on my useable hand.  “I just realized that if everyone did to you what you did to them, you wouldn’t survive long.”  I got up again and went to the cabinet.  “I know exactly what I need to do.”
The vial was one of the first in the box, in its correct space.  I took it out and popped the lid with my thumb.  “You were the one who taught me this.  In that, you were an excellent teacher. You may comfort yourself with that fact.  Buuuuut…” I drew out the correct dosage into a syringe without a needle.  “Knowing you, you do not require self comfort.”
I set the syringe down upon the tray and unbuckled the sling.  I would need both hands to do this.  My gut was knotted tight and I could only remember that stare of his, before he hurt me, after he killed Binshala, before he hurt Gannara.  Some part of me wanted to take him apart thread by thread. “This can be administered on any wet membrane in the body, you taught me.”
His head was restrained as much as the rest of him. I pulled his lower eyelid down and gently dropped three drops onto the wet, red crescent exposed.  The blue of his eye rolled down as if he could look at the syringe and tell what I had begun to dose him with.  I repeated the dose in his other eye and he could not stop himself from clenching his eyes shut against the sting.
“The interesting thing is that you taught me, on that unfortunate man in the chateau, that the best way to administer a drug without breaking the skin, is in the anus.”  I unlocked the gears and tipped the table all the way around so that I had access and I pulled his pale cheeks apart and did so.  I left him head down while I put the syringe in the bin to be cleaned and washed my hands.  Then I went back out to the guard. 
“I’m assuming he’s been force fed?”
“Ay ser.”
“I require a meal for the prisoner.  I am going to see he has enough strength to survive till his trial.”
“His trial.”  The guard thought it through.  “I’ll send for something.”
“Thank you.”
When I unlocked the cell door for the second time his eyes rolled around toward me, the drug already working in him.
I flipped him around once more and undid the strap holding the gag in place.
“When you listened, Failed Spark of the Sun’s Ray, you were an excellent student,” He said after he had worked some saliva into his mouth.  Just hearing his voice made me light headed.  I hid that behind the Mahid blankness he’d taught me. “What have you administered?”
“If I were like you 2nd Amitzas, I wouldn’t tell you.  Accedence.  I am going to see you feed yourself, clean yourself, look after yourself very carefully.  You are going to be required to let your emotions out freely during that time as we talk, and then you will lock yourself back onto your own table.”
His face twitched involuntarily.  He was already losing control of himself.  “Excellent.  You would have made a brilliant torturer.”
“Thank you.  I think.”  I poured myself a glass of water and waited.  “Why would you compliment me like that?”
“Self-pride.  Anything you do to me, I will have taught you.  I’m prepared to critique you, though.”  He was almost mushy mouthed now.  His eyes were unfocused.  I didn’t trust it.  I certainly wasn’t going to unlock him yet.  He was probably faking how fast he was falling under the influence.  That was all right.
How did he manage to keep breathing?  He was so twisted around his own thoughts I was amazed he could still remember the correct order of inhale and exhale, or eat and excrete. He could argue that the sun was the moon and Muunas was a warthog and still think he was correct.
The guard arrived with the prisoner’s next meal, which this time wasn’t going to be administered by 1st Amitzas by tube.  I had him set it down.
When we were private again I checked 2nd Amitzas’s vital signs.  He actually tried to watch me as I moved around him but his eyes kept drifting to the ceiling, or the wall in front of him.  “2nd Amitzas… do you hate me?”
“Yes. No. I…” his voice faded.
“Keep going.  Speak your mind.”
“I… love you.  I hate you.  I hated your father.  I hate myself.  I love my wife. I hate my wife.  I’m smarter than all of you and if I can talk you around to unlocking me too soon I’ll be able to talk you into thinking correctly once more.  You all think this is torture? This is nothing. I suffered something like this when I was a boy in training… You had it soft… I was easy on you, you insufferable, insubordinate brat… I had to make you do what was right.  God would not forgive me if I did less than my best, demanded.  Demanded. Never ever ever ever ever doing… I do not know if there is a real me.  Hate me. Hate all of you for destroying me.  Hate Aan…”
I sat, listening, realizing that he was so easy to hate because I had never seen him as a person.  No one ever had.  He was mad… and my father had made him so.  I broke into his rambling.  “You love the Gods?”
“Don’t know.  I don’t know. I’m afraid of the Gods the Gods are like my Seniors.  The Gods are the best.  Therefore the Gods are the best torturers.  Obey and obey and obey and know that it won’t matter.  The world is hayel there is no Selestialis there is only lesser degrees of pain…”
I walked around behind him where he couldn't see me and put my hands over my face.  This was more than I wished to know.  This was raw.  This was naked. He was talking, spewing, ranting, twitching in his urgency to pour out the words I had demanded.  “Rage… my life is rage and my pain I am allowed, commanded, commended to share, to spread it is my function. It is all I am. I am torture. I am correctness and when they kill me they will find they need me…. I am –“
“—Stop.”  I couldn’t bear any more.  His voice went silent.  I went around to where he could see me but he gazed at the ceiling. His face… not Mahid for once, but serene.  I put my sling back on and pulled the cord tight.  It changes you.
I tested him carefully, since he'd admitted he still held out hope to corrupt me.  All signs showed good so I unlocked him and he obeyed perfectly, silently.  He fed himself, he washed himself, all with the same silent, serene face.  I couldn’t make myself talk either.  He calmly locked his own ankles and one wrist back onto his table and laid his other wrist into the other shackle.  I felt his arm quiver as I locked him down.  I had judged the dosage well enough.
“Open your mouth for the gag.”  He did and I strapped it into place and restrained his head once more.  I didn’t want to touch him any more.  He wasn’t a monster, to haunt my dreams, and torture me to death or obedience.  He was a naked, helpless man. I never wanted to see him again. It changes you.
I sat down one more time and watched as his eyes went from serene and unfocused, the skin around them tightening. They went from mere eyes to the silent, controlled non-ravening maniac inside a few heartbeats, even as I recorded his words.  The words forced out of him, that were his legacy.  He had given me some understanding.  A belly full of understanding.  My gut was full of words.
He was only barely human.  He had never been allowed to learn what human was.  “2nd Amitzas. You may not understand me but I give you certain things.  Your line of Mahid, as you know, is three times removed from mine… to allow you to marry Inensa… but you are still part of the family that created me.  I will pray for you.  You will not be able to stop me.”
He made a single noise at that.  Somewhat as if I had punched him in the gut.  Then he was silent once more, but his mad eyes were locked on me rather than gazing past.  “I have not forgiven you.  I’m still too small a person to reach that. I hate you still.  But I understand and perhaps one day Muunas will witness my true forgiveness of what you did to me.”  I had to gulp in a deep breath.  Silence.  Mahid harmed with silence where there should be sound.  Even… or perhaps mostly… their own. 
“And when you die  We both know you will not swear to Ch'venga.  When you are executed...when at long last you will have out-lasted your captors and died the proper Mahid you are… know that I am going to attempt to achieve the Crystal Throne.  Your mandate will be finished.”
I got up and closed my notebook with this...fiery ichor glowing inside and let myself out.  I was not inclined to vomit, but I had to go pour those words onto a different page, so it would be finished.  For me, as the guard let me out, I felt as though the Marble Palace had somehow grown lighter.  Or brighter.  I… would also go to one of the chapels… the Mahid chapel would be most appropriate, and fulfil my promise, to pray for him.

It changes you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

388 - I Knew Where He Was

The afternoon sun sparkled through the roof slits and off the flat crystals in the roof of the Lesser Baths making the cavern go from deep underground to a desert oasis hidden under overhanging cliffs. I looked at it with new eyes, seeing the genius of the designer truly for the first time.
I had the sling on, so I had only my feet in the hot pool, my kilt pulled under me. I could feel the cool stone under me pointing out how thin the material was.  Especially since I no longer wrapped myself down tight.  It was unusual.  I had not even thought of my vile organs very much since my session with Surya.  But they hadn’t much stirred.  I paddled my toes in the roiling water.
This room… had seen so much of my life.  My unknowing, unthinking childhood.  I could see, in my mind, Binshala standing on the steps of the pool, her skirts sodden, waving a scrubbing brush at me.  And before… Disarsha… she had held me in the water, holding me floating in the warm water.  There were echoes of my singing to myself and my tantrum screams at the cavern ceiling.  The water lapped slightly, from my waving feet, stirring the clear water.  I had messed in the water when I was little, forcing it to be drained and scrubbed once.  And the blood tainting it, the time I’d stood soaked in blood, trapped in my clothing, drowning in Yeoli blood…  I shook my head.  A lifetime ago.
And now.  I was still alive.  And back in the Lesser Baths.  Chevenga spouting water and leaping into the deepest parts… when he was called Karas Raikas, by my command. He swam like the dayanal—hammer push into my gut to save me from the ocean… he was like that… when he came to the city.  He’d rapped me hard in my centre, to push me away from drowning in evil.
And now he was lying, struggling to recover from his fear… his fear of the world knowing what he truly was… the wound made manifest the struggle in him between his life and his death.  He would recover from this.  He had Surya.  He had all the people around him, now ready to reach out their hands to help, to catch him.  We all knew now and could add our voices to the scales inside him, though we could not save him.  Only he could save himself.  He must choose, perhaps the oddest position on the Earthsphere for him… the embodiment of semanakra forced to choose for himself alone.
Unsurprising, I did not wish him to choose to follow his vision to and through his untimely death.  My eyes went over to where I had knelt, and prayed like an ordinary, undivine boy, the plea to Muunas that I never harm someone like that ever again. 
Chevenga, I do not understand where you are. It is as if you’d suddenly revealed you’d been fighting a deadly illness your whole life, alone. But now that you have a chance to save your life you are telling us?  How could you have hidden this from us?  Your friends? Having my father scrape it out of you so your greatest enemy knew and none of your friends did? It was so backwards.  I’d want to be a little angry for letting me go on so casually, so ignorant of how precious your time was.  If you’d died, I would have been angry because I would have cherished my time with you more. I suppose he might be afraid of that anger from people closer to him than I.  Truly, I thought he had nothing to worry about.  People would be more glad to hear he was fighting it.
The Gods were here in the Bath with me.  There were little niches all around the walls with tiny images of the gods hidden in them, as if the Ten were there, over and over, spying on or watching over the bathers. A half buried sunburst rising out of the rock as if it were either burning out or hiding itself.  A tiny white mule peeking around a rough amethyst.  There were hundreds of images, all in different phases, and aspects.
Muunas… you commanded me to try to win the Crystal throne.  I will do my best… I was empty, hollow.  My guts were void, squeezed dry.  Surya’s words to me.  “You need to feed yourself.”  “You should not impair your function.  That is doing less than your best and you swore an oath.”  Where had that second piece of advice come from? I didn’t remember.
My feet were getting wrinkled and if I kept this up I would convincing myself that I didn’t deserve to eat, much less run for the Crystal Throne.
I heaved myself up and dried my feet.  I’d best go talk to Akminchaer… he’d be able to give me a list of what would be healthy for me to eat… that wouldn’t make me fat or tired, and might ease my aching guts if I had to vomit again.  All the echoes of bile in my throat burned a little.
His office… was two floors up from the Onyxine level and right against the cliff face.  There wasn’t anyone in his wait-room so I knocked.  “Akminchaer?”
“Enter.  Oh, hello.  No you may not take off the sling yet.  That will be tomorrow…”
“I understand.  I had another quick question if I may?”
“I hev time, come in, please.  Sit down.”
“I was hoping you could help me with my diet.”
He turned that ‘I am so listening to you,’ look on me.  “Are you gaining or losing weight unusually?”
How do I explain this?  “When I was a child I got stuffed overweight with enormous amounts of rich food laced with poisons and toxins, tended to vomit most of it back up again when my father tortured someone in front of me, had it sweated out of me with a brutal physical regimen…”
No… I could perhaps tell Surya this, but not Akminchaer… “Um… when I am nervous I tend to vomit… at one point my throat felt burned most of the time.”
“How much?”

“It varies, with stress.  I’ve lost three meals this eight day… three years ago… a number of meals every eight day. Last year, once or twice in the year.”
“Ah.  So it is entirely stress?  Let me give you remedies for that.  And perhaps some digestive ones.”
“Oh.  Thank you.  Should I worry?”
“No, no. You would have another source of stress.  You seem to be making up the nutrition you’ve lost… else you would be overly slender.  Do you weigh yourself?”
“Um.” I hadn’t thought of it.  “No.”
“Let us do that.  Use my scale here… I shall record your weight and we will keep track for a while to reassure you.”
He had a scale with marble weights.  As he placed his weights, I watched the pointer move to the centre… “There.  See?  A good weight for a young man of your height with some muscle.  Nothing to worry over.”  I stepped off the pad of his scale and he chose a brown bottle and used the pipette to pick and choose from his remedy box.
“I am going to be going into a very stressful time the next few moons.”  That is a bit of an understatement.
“Ah, I shall add…” and he did.  But of course… as Haian… he didn’t understand what I wanted.
I’d go to my grandfather and ask for a list of minimums I had to consume.  That way I would not short myself with ridiculous, hurtful emotions.  Perhaps he could recommend things that would not hurt me coming back up, since I knew I would lose them.  When I won the throne, I’d have to get some kind of healer who I could tell all of this shen.
My stomach rumbled and I considered.  Was I hungry just because I had emptied my gut?  Or because I should eat?  Or just because I needed the food?  Who knew.  Perhaps a small dish of iced milk or iced kaffir would help settle the situation.

And I had a relative in chains… that I needed to speak to. Second Amitzas was still captive.

I went down to the Mahid quarters.  The room assigned to my mother -- its door was open the requisite angle.  Mahid are not used to privacy.  It is one of the maxims.  There were women clustered in the training hall.  I heard the murmur of voices and a slow, halting recitation.  “The… loy…al… loyal men and wo…men… u n d er… under…” I peeked in to the hall and saw Joras attending on a group of readers.  They looked up and then my mother bent her head back to her book where they had apparently been learning to read.
Joras made to get up and I shook my head at him. He nodded and settled back down to continue his little reading class.  I withdrew.  I knew where 2nd Amitzas lay in the dungeons as truly as if I were a magnetic needle and his bound body a lodestone.  I didn’t want to.  I didn’t. But I knew where he was.

Friday, November 19, 2010

387 - I Vomited My Guts Out

He took me into the Malachite salon right next to the Lesser Office and sat down.  He was sweating and looked grim, not at all himself.
“Kallijas... are you all right?  What’s going on?”

“I’m fine,” he said.  “It’s just... well, maybe when I tell you, you’ll understand.  I’m just trying to find the words... he... something about him came out public that he never intended any but his very closest to ever know.  So... I guess... it’s hard for me to talk about it as well...”  He ran his hand through his hair… which was loose… a gesture that reminded me tremendously of Chevenga.
“So... should you be telling me?  I mean...”

“Yes, I just asked him.  Everyone is going to know the true version tomorrow anyway.  Minis, he... he had a vision when he was a child.  When his father was assassinated... he saw himself dead in his father’s place... “


“He had a vision of his own death... young...”

“But... but...young?  How young?”

“Thirty... or at least not older than thirty.” 
My father’s letter to me drifted into my head. Do not worry about Shefenkas, time will take care of him for you... blazed in letters of fire in my memory.
He was twenty-eight.  His twenty-ninth birthday would be this fall. Young. Young… a vision of my death… young. “He’s nearly twenty-nine now! Or...?  Excuse me... I’m sorry I’m interrupting you.”

“It’s all right, lad.  I’m not telling it well, I don’t think I can.  Yes... he turns twenty-nine in the fall.  But this is why he is seeing Surya... there was a Haian who recommended he go to him... and Surya.... well, Sheng has always thought it was inevitable, that there was no escaping it... Surya does not think so at all, and so Sheng doesn’t either, now.”

“But... he’s fighting it... why now?  What happened that he’s letting you tell me?  Now?  I don’t understand what’s going on...”

“He’s letting me tell you because it’s out public... Intharas came this morning and asked him if it was true.  Minis... he’s kept this secret his whole life.  He was seven when it happened... he only told his mother, people he was talking seriously about marriage with and... well, when he was truth-drug-scraped, of course.  Three of his parents didn’t even know until this past month or so.”

I pulled a lock of my hair forward and nibbled on it  It was a habit I had broken years ago and it just tasted weird and hair-oily.  “I guess he told you because of his relationship with you... oh thank the Gods for Surya...”

“Yes.  We are all saying the same.  He told me about a year ago.  Though he didn’t tell Skorsas until... well, it’s complicated.  But he told four people... that training accident, you know as well as I that he couldn’t possibly have an accident like that... it was to do with this.  So he felt required to tell the truth, especially to Idiesas, but he also told Tyirian, who was leading the session, Krero and Kaninjer.  That was yesterday.  We figure a Marble Palace servant must have overheard... it was in the infirmary... he forgot, it’s not truly secure.”

“Oh, Gods.  And this has... flattened him.  How far has this set him back?

“I don’t know, lad.  That’s a Haian question.  But... I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so upset.  He’s... yes, flattened is a good word for it.  He was in the office and he was planning to keep working after Intharas left, but he couldn’t.  He was so pale the trap-booth people got Kaninjer, Kaninjer took one look at him and said ‘Cancel everything else he’s got and get a litter,’ and now he’s in bed.  He’s just going to have to recover from it.”

“Everyone will understand.  I mean it’s only days after a major injury...but why? He’s going to conquer his vision... he’s going to beat it! Why would he not want us to know?”

“Minis, he kept it secret all his life.  Including from his people... from Assembly... from all the military people, everyone.  It’s personal... Besides, he didn’t want anyone to think he was crazy.  And it was not something he ever wanted the enemies of Yeola-e to know, either... I don’t have to explain why, do I?”

“No. I understand... my... sire wrote me something about it... very obliquely...That must have been when he was scraped...” The end of my hair was sodden.  I put it down and it slapped cold and slimy against my neck.  “My Gods...

“There’s a legal thing too... there’s some law in Yeola-e that says a semanakraseye has to reveal anything he knows that might make him unsuited for the position.  This... could fall under that, he is not sure, but he’s been worried about it, about whether he’s been choosing the right thing, since he was about thirteen.  Now that he has Surya, what he’s been hoping is that he could just go from... thinking that... to not thinking that... and live on, without anyone being the wiser.  I think that would have been best.  But...” He shook his head and put his hand over his face, hiding it.

I put my hand on his shoulder.  “I think... I think everyone will say something like ‘that explains so much’ -- like why he drives himself like a maniac or why he... well... does everything as if its the last thing he’s ever going to do... and forgive him for it... it’s not as if it’s something he would have wanted.”

“He’s not so sure his own people will forgive him... you know how at least some of them can be, throwing spears at him for stupid little things.  But of course he could be entirely wrong... you know how hard he is on himself too, it might just be that he expects the same from them because of it.”

“Sometimes... some Yeolis are idiots.  They don’t know what they’ve got in him.”

“I personally think most of them do.  I mean... how can they not?  Look what he’s done!  But he’s terrified.  And, I guess, embarrassed.”

I sighed.  “In a way we Arkans almost understand him better.  His sense of responsibility is almost Mahid-like in its intesity.”

“Yes.  You’re not the first to notice that.”

“So... he needs his recovery time. Intharas will put out a special edition... what then?”

“He’s doing a press conference to announce it tomorrow morning... and yes, it means postponing our announcement... he’s going to fly back to Yeola-e, too, because he wants to try to be the first with the news there.  But I can tell you, lad, he feels like shit for this happening when he should be announcing his endorsement of you.  He said so.  He said, ‘I can’t even look him in the face right now.’”
How long will my coming out be delayed? Ten days? Twelve? I will only have fifty-one days if that is true.  Oh Gods. You don’t want this to be easy, do You? I clamped down hard on my dismay and lurking despair.  It might be that the Gods wanted me to try and fail?  It didn’t matter, either way. I would have to do my best and leave the rest to the Ten.
I shrugged, Yeoli style.  “You can tell him it’s...” I swallowed hard.  My gut clenched tight enough that I could feel my breakfast surging up and burning. “…All right.  It just means I... we… have to campaign a bit harder in the time we have left when we can announce it... The Gods aren’t going to make it too easy.  I can either get upset for no reason or see it as a test.”

“Or we announce it without him.  He suggested that, if we were willing.”

“I... I don’t like that idea...  What do you think?”

“I’d hate to be taking questions from the writers without him there.  He is so much better at it than me.  Or, if you’ll forgive me, you.”

I eyed him sideways. He thought I needed telling the Chevenga was one of the best at handling rabid writers?  Thank you Commander Obvious. I remembered Karas Raikas plowing through the questioning, pen-wielding horde and suppressed a smile.

“Nobody's as good at dealing with writers as he is.  He has a lot more experience.” I said.  “Rather than pretending to be one.

I took a deep breath and returned to the problem.  We’ll still have more than a moon to campaign however long this takes and I don’t think it will actually take more than a few more days.  The value of having him with us versus the time lost I think is an acceptable risk.”  I was starting to sound more like Grandfather.

“Yes... it’s my preference too, but I’d have done it if you were willing.”

“Thank you for telling me, Kallijas.”

“You’re welcome... though I wish I hadn’t had to.”

“You need to go be with him -- Just to let you know... I will have the Liren family’s support -- at least through Kyriala -- she found out yesterday that I was here, and you should see what suggestions she...and everyone came up with last night.”

“I would like to know.  Don’t worry, lad, there are many people with him... what was suggested?”

“She was suggesting that she and her friends would attend our functions.  We should perhaps attend at least one of her salons, at least I should.  They are apparently quite popular.  Apparently the Fenjitzas and the Fenjitzas attend occasionally as well as a wide cross-section of the new Arko.”  I was blushing for some reason as I spoke.  I wasn’t entirely sure why.  

“She said she would bring her women’s reading group along.  There are a number of teacher’s groups that Farasha told me about and Gannara says that his parents’, though Yeolis, are reasonably well connected with Arkan merchant groups.”  I took a deep breath.  “Though we need to do the speeches to big groups... I want to focus on as personal an approach as I can.”

“It’s a trade-off, Chevenga was telling me.  But we should do some of both... the personal with those people who are most influential, who will convince the most Arkans to vote for us.  Aras... I mean, Muunas... I never thought I’d do so many speeches in my life, to people not wearing helmets.”

“Kallijas…” I recalled some life or death struggles I'd seen over kaf cups.  “Considering some of the aitzas armour I've seen and the bun fights... I figure it's a different battlefield with similar impulses.  Helmets or not... wouldn't you think it’s the same on some levels?”

“On some levels, sure -- they want to hear something that makes sense to them for one thing.  But... solas you know what they want.  At least I do; I was one.  Plain citizens... what they want is much more complicated.  They’ve only just learned this vodai thing anyway.  They can actually be quite nasty... when I think about it, you’ll get it less than I, traitor that I was.”

“Hmm.  I think people tend to forget that the Gods have pointed out you were not a traitor, but correct in seeing the New Son of the Sun before everyone else.  We’ll be prepared for that, and I think a lot of solas will vote for you as Regent, because they trust you.  They will be more distrustful of the Aan brat that I was.”

“If you don’t know it yet, Minis, you will find out.  People can be idiots.  And I am going to lose some solas now because I will not be permanent Imperator.”

“So we’ll address that.  Tell them I’m learning from you.  I am.  Not that I will ever be anywhere close to your skill.  Just you teaching me will be a point for those solas.”

“Maybe.  Unless they think it’s just for show.  They don’t respect warriors as warriors until they’re blooded anyway.”

“I don’t think they’d want to know how I’ve killed.  When we go together to speak to garrisons and solas... I need to train with them...  I wish there were a way of showing solas that I am training with you.”

“Well, I can just tell them that.  What do you mean, you don’t want them to know how you’ve killed?  I thought you backstabbed a Mahid or two to get out, which was totally understandable in those circumstances... what’s wrong with that?”

“It’s not like being blooded in battle.  And it was a backstab.”

“You were a kid, and vastly outnumbered, as well as trying to rescue a number of non-warriors with you.”

I sat down again.  “So I’ll just tell people that part...” My thoughts flitted back to Chevenga.  “He’ll really beat this with Surya’s help?”

“Well... we have to count on that, don’t we?  I know he is sworn to... do his utmost.”

“That’s a relief.  He’s his own best advocate... even as he’s his own worst enemy... You know I think I understand better why he had this accident... he’s fighting himself.”

“Yes.”  His jaw muscles bunched tight.

“Surya... is a force of nature, Kallijas.  I’m certain he can even out-stubborn, Ch’venga.”

“That’s not the question, from what I understand.  Surya’s already convinced him to undergo the course of healing.  It’s... well, it’s more about gaining understanding, from what he’s told me.  But Surya is very powerful, yes.  He is.” He glanced toward the Imperial Chambers, obviously wanting to be with Chevenga.

“He needs you, Kallijas.”  His gaze snapped around, eyes narrowing at me. I blinked.  I hadn’t meant to annoy him.  I’d been trying to be good and tell him he didn’t need to coddle me... umm... I had to think more like my dyer self... “I didn’t put that well... I’m sorry I’m taking your attention away from him.”

“Well, you asked what was going on.  I didn’t mind answering.  Nor did he.”

I took a deep breath.  “And now I know.”

I could tell that Surya had been with all of us.  Kallijas took a deep breath as well.  “You know what Surya says?  ‘Everything’s going as it should.’  He thinks this is all fine, really.  I wish I could be so sure.”

“Oh.  Yeah... he sort of said the same... Ch’venga arranged for me to talk to Surya... and he told me that, too.  Would you... please excuse me?”

“Are you all right, lad?  You’re pale.”

I nodded.  “I’m just going to go throw up.  Nothing I haven’t done before.”  I swallowed hard a couple of times.

“Do it like in training.”  Kallijas’ voice turned into the war teacher’s, appallingly firm.  “Do it and feel good about it.”

“Yes, Teacher. Thank you for telling me, again.”  I got up. “If it won’t tire him I’d like to visit later.” I didn’t hold much hope of that.

“Not a chance today, lad.  Tomorrow he does the presser, and you can see him then...  all you need to do is put on the fessas get-up.”

“I’ll do that.  Thanks.”


“Hmmm?”  I had to keep my mouth closed.
You're going to be Imperator,” he said just as firmly.  “No matter what happens, you must not lose your nerve.
He was not doubting my intent, I told myself.  He couldn’t know me that well yet.  I nodded.

Then I went out to the the garderobe and vomited my guts out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

386 - Mahid Have No Need of Humor

My grandson steeled himself under the gaze of my daughter and the once Mirror of the Radiant Light. The women – were very similar in spirit.  It would be intelligent of my grandson to realize this.  But given that he just had surgery, however minor, perhaps I should remind the women of this.
“Daughter.  Serina… Ilesias has made an excellent suggestion.”  I turned to my acquired Grandson.  “Young man, you may have one more cream cake.  Minis.  Take more remedies if you are feeling light headed enough to suggest bed.  It is barely past Dinner.”  Alchaen would smile when I wrote him about this tiny incident.  My grandson would be campaigning by the time I mailed my next letter to Haiu Menshir so I would be free to tell my friend about all of it. 
My hips ached fiercely, sending spikes of ice and obedience radiating up my back and down my legs.  I ignored it though I would not be moving quickly, to not betray the weakness that would show if I did.
If I had a sense of humor… which, as Mahid, I did not, since it was not required… I would have noted that it was almost funny the way they all scattered away from each other the instant the two females released their mutual struggle of wills.  My daughter moved to a chair out of the way where she might see and observe without being obtrusive.
“Yes, Grandfather.”  Minis reached to take the drops, percussing them properly, I was pleased to note.
“If I may be so bold  to comment upon the situation,” I said.  “My grandson – in my biased and certainly unacceptable opinion – would make an excellent Imperator.”
The Yeoli boy peered at me.  He was understandably nervous.  I blinked and looked away from him.  It was uncertain if he remembered, but I had been part of his transformation into an obedient slave at the Imperator’s command.  I would not threaten what stability he had attained since. “So… Amitzas…” he said, and froze.
“Yes?” I looked down at the handkerchief over my clasped gloves, turned slowly and settled down into an overstuffed chair, gently settling my sore bones.
He made a choking noise and coughed.  “You think Minis would make a good Imperator.”
“Yes.  I, however, given my history, would be a very bad advocate to most Arkans.”
The brown female… Farasha her name was… laughed.  “That is an understatement so dry I would suspect a sense of humour, if I didn’t know that Mahid have none.”
“You are quite correct, young serina.  I shall, however, assist this campaign in every way I am allowed, since I am concerned with the efficiency of the modern Mahid.  My direct descendents are the most efficient, in my entirely unbiased opinion, and their success and survival gains paramount importance to my function, second to the will of the Imperator, of course.”
“Of course,” Serina Liren said, taking up her cup, her eye skimming over Inensa without a flicker.  “This way one would never accuse a Mahid of having any kind of familial feeling.”
“The serina is quite correct.  A Mahid never admits such human failings.”
Minis was looking between the girl and me and his mother.  “I cannot begin planning a campaign until I am revealed,” he said.  “And that is entirely dependent upon the Imperator’s health and strength.”
“Yes,” Gannara said.  “And yours, bone-head. But planning the campaign can be started because we know you’re going to do it.”
“Kallijas needs to be here and he is with Ch’venga tonight.  He and I have a rough plan worked out but we were not expecting so much help.”
Kyriala rolled her eyes. “I suppose I should expect you to think you had to do it all by yourself.  Minis, you have to realize that the way you’ve been taught… that you are by yourself… is just your sire’s plan.”
My daughter spoke up.  “Serina, you are perfectly correct.  My husband had a specific plan intending to make the Spark cleave to him.  Unfortunately it required a less intelligent boy for it to have a hope of working.”
As Farasha had brought paper and pens and writing tools, Gannara cleared the vase full of domoctopus off the round table, and the young people chattered and began compiling their various notes, Ilesias came over and sat next to me.  I should not unbend.  The boy is quite comfortable sitting so close next to me. I choose to place my arm around him as he leans into me.
Next morning the reduction of soreness in my clavicle made me want to test the sling, but I did not.  Had I dreamed the night before?  My Grandfather, my mother, my Yeoli brother of the heart and his love and Kyriala all in the same room? 
I waited outside the Lesser Office, waiting for Ch’venga to be finished his latest interview.  There is a minor commotion and Kallijas opened the door and scanned all of us in the waiting room. Is he more agitated than he is showing?  “The Imperator has overdone his work time, I’m afraid.”  Binshala showed up at his elbow.
“Yes, Ser Itrean is correct.  If everyone will please come with me to re-schedule?”  And he led the group to his office.  Kallijas caught my eye and jerked his head at me to come.
“What happened?  He didn’t just overdo, like He always does?”  To most people Kallijas would look calm… I had a lot of practice reading blank Arkan faces.  He was upset.