Thursday, March 31, 2011

458 - A Red and Silver Dyed What?

The Folly in Extremis Manor was lit from top to bottom, with phoenix lights and red and silver banners in honour of the new Imperator Regent Elect and the new Imperator Elect.   Red and phoenix rose trees lined the carriageway.

“How in the earthsphere did he get all this set up so quickly?”  I said in a momentary lull in the noise of our escort. I was coasting beside Ky’s chair while the Dyers howled up and down around us.

“If it were I, I would have had a set of decorations for everyone... and the household primed to begin setting up the moment things were announced,” she said serenely.  The dog had finally stopped barking at the drums.

I reminded myself that she had managed my whole campaign.  “It seems to me, to be a bit like organizing a war.”

She grinned at me.  “I suppose.  I have never been called upon to do such a thing.”

“And I hope you never are called upon to do that.”  How do I get into such awkward conversations all the time with her?  Implying things could fall apart enough to make her do war logistics? Idiot.  Idiot.
“Ah, here we are!”  Obvious. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just keep my mouth shut.  Perhaps she would mistake my hiding of stupidity for being ‘grave’ and ‘reserved’. I hate it that I don’t know why she’s giggling like that.

Everyone who was anyone was arriving and our whooping crowd caused a certain amount of chaos as very proper elderly Sera’s laughed or screamed or waved their fans at the boys swooping around them as they disembarked from their chairs. While the Sers, who could afford to keep horses in the city, shouted at them for disrupting things.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!” One portly Aitzas man cried as his equally portly horse tossed its head.   

The whole gang neatly lined themselves up under his horse’s nose and, even Doob with Riala clinging to his back, did a skate version of the abject bow to a superior and cried... “WE ARE NOT WORTHY EVEN OF YOUR DISPARAGEMENT AND CENSURE!  FORGIVE US FOR WE ARE HORRIBLE, EVIL CHILDREN!” Then they scattered giggling as he tried to figure out whether to take the words at face value or realize that he was being mocked.

We were immediately behind and I handed Ky out of her chair and she set Socks down to follow her at heel, choosing to stroll the last of the way to the entry stairs rather than wait for the old fellow to get sorted out. Resh offered Riala an elbow off Doob’s back as if she were a great lady alighting from her chair.

The butler took one look at Ky and I and our outrageous entourage and bowed us in.  “Serins, Serinas, please be welcome at The Folly.”

“Thank you Ser.” Ky said sweetly and a servant led us through to the ballroom entrance, where Mil stood.

“Welcome!  Welcome!  Oh wait... look...”  Ser Itzan waved over the balcony and down in the middle of the crowd in a space cleared mostly by people getting far closer than was normal and in some cases climbing upon the furniture, Chevenga and Kallijas faced off with canapĂ© platters strapped onto their wrists and forearms with silk sashes, holding roses as if they were swords.  “They’re enacting parts of their most famous duel,” Mil whispered as they circled below.  “Quarter speed so we can see.”

“And so they don’t just smash those whippy roses they’re pretending are swords,” I whispered back.

It was elegant as a dance and only because they were good enough to slow down their moves could we even see what had happened.  Because they were moving slower, Kall had to give Che a boost half way through a move because he would have needed the speed to get him all the way around originally.

Someone out of the crowd said.  “That didn’t look that hard.”

Even as my jaw dropped, a clear voice answered.  “If you think that’s so easy, YOU try it.”

It was a girl’s voice and even as the crowd parted in front of her Ky caught my elbow and said, “That’s Laisa’s voice!” in my ear.  Her father stood like a stone-faced statue and other Sers around her laughed as she was revealed in the crowd, hand over her mouth.

“Please, forgive this one’s daughter for speaking out of turn, Exalteds,” Ser Si Rusa rumbled.  He was old school solas in every line of him.

“No, not at all,” Chevenga said, smiling at her as if she hadn’t just revealed that she knew more about fighting than she should.  “You’re right, Serina...”

“...Si Rusa,” her father supplied.

“The Serina is correct, Ser,” Kall said to the original heckler, his deep voice carrying up to us.   “If you should care to attempt this move with me at a later date...”

“Oh, no no no... Ser... I... ahem... no I believe you.”

“Serina Si Rusa,” Kallijas said, handing his rose and his platter shield off to a servant.  I could see him start to blush from all the way up here.  “Perhaps the Serina would like to... um... er... take a... um... walk... yes, a walk with me on the terrace?  We could discuss... well...”

“You two could talk about what we just demonstrated!” Chevenga cut in.  He threw his arm around Kallijas and offered his elbow to Laisa and practically force-marched them to the garden doors through the crowd.

“Heh.” Mil snorted.  “He’s not a bad matchmaker himself!”  He turned back to us.  “Lovely that you came as you promised!  Here, let me peace-bond your sword, Serin!  My butler has house shoes for you if you wish?”  He waved the Dyer messengers on, without trying to get the faib skates off their feet.  “Serinas, Serins... please feel free to add your particular spice to my little gathering, hmmm?  There are more buffet tables in the Cryselephantine ballroom!”


Gan and Farasha and her whole clan showed up after we did, bringing with them the caravan jugglers and acrobats, contortionists and magician/readers.  Magician/readers would read aloud passages from books and then illustrate them in the air with magic.  Fireballs and cascades of sparks flying from people’s fingertips.

Someone backed into a candelabra and the back of his hair melted but he was doused mercifully quickly.  I should give him Faben’s name for replacement extensions to hide the damage.

Kin Kazien proved that his horsemanship extended past the passive and demonstrated he had complete control of his animals by riding his favourite stallion into the house and down the marble stairs without the animal slipping or balking, and in the garden tore up one of the dancing lawns with a riding display that had me gawking.  He was certainly better than many trainers I had had.

It was an astonishing party that drew a great deal from Jitzmitthra traditions and even though the city would normally have been tired out from the six day celebrations this year... it was as though someone had added another day to vanish, another Diem Carnal Licentiousness, another Diem Epicurus.

Kyriala persuaded me to actually try the Oysters Itzan and the oyster fork was, indeed, necessary to pull the steaming hot cheese and garlic coated creature out of it’s shell neatly.  It was good.

I persuaded her to dance several falisas with me and even one or two of the wilder Gybir dances.  She could do it modestly because of her wonderful dress.

Gannara and a dozen of the Gybir, showed me how to do the drunken-line dance that their bachelors do.  I ended up with my one arm over Benthasas Monnen’s shoulders on one side and Gan’s on the other, stamping and hopping and howling at the girls with them... all in a safe line, until one girl... Sheeree I think... darted out and dragged her boy out of the line. Then a few more Gybir girls picked their favourite dancers out of the line.

Then Farasha pulled Gan out and it was just us Arkans and then an Arkan girl... giggling... edged up and put her fan on another boy’s arm and he went off with her.  Ky tapped me and I gladly let go the sweaty line and followed her to the bench under the rose arbour to get my breath back and have something else to drink.

It was a trifle quieter here and Ky leaned forward to see out at a burst of noise.  She froze and then sank right down on the floor of the arbour while Socks charged out barking to defend his mistress, then sank right down on his belly, whining. Oh. My. Goodness! Oh my Goddess... Oh... I never thought... ITS so BIG!”

I had to put my hand on her back to lean out far enough to see.  “Are you all right?  Oh. My. Great. God.  I was staggered by the true size of the thing.  It raised its nose-snake and the noise it made drowned the orchestra inside.  Where in the Earthsphere did he get a red and silver dyed mamoka?” The thing's head overtopped the upper balcony over the ballroom and the long teeth had been sawed shorter and capped with a band of some kind. It's fur or hair was indeed dyed in streaks of red and silver and it had a red painted riding platform on its back that would easily hold five people at once.

“It really is a mamoka?  They really are that big?  Oh.  Oh.  That is terrifying.

“I don't ever want to face one set against me, I said.  “He must have gotten one from the King of Laka.

 And a naked mahu?” Kyriala said quietly.

 “I've read that they come as a team.  Do you want to ride one?

She stared at me, appalled, I was sure.  Why on earth do I assume these things? Just because I do, I assume she would want to? “Yes, Minis, I do.  Come on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AN Still Not Well

I will try to post today.  I am still not well.  Things came up.  Just to let people know.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

AN: Continuing eye problems

Hey guys... my eyes are still not right and I spent the whole _&(*^*%%% day in the specialist's office.  I'm now dripping two kinds of eyedrops into my one eye, and am dilated all to hell, so seeing this is kind of chancey...

My apologies but I must beg off writing a post today.  I shall be returning to the Party of the Century in Arko tomorrow.


Monday, March 28, 2011

457 - Fashionably Late, Scandalously Attired

Kyriala turned to Riala and threw her arms around her friend.  “It’s amazing!  If I’m standing still you can’t even see that the skirt is split!”

She twirled again, the double braids that started just above her temples and down her back, swinging out.  It was a simple style, made elaborate by the double stripes of red dyed into it and a clip of silver netting and ribbons pinned over it.

“It’s not a dress but a dress, it’s not going to trip me up and if Minis does something wild like want to dance a falisas with me I won’t need to be careful of bone stays!”

Her outfit was outrageous.  The under shirt/skirt was silver and clung tight to her form from neck to hips, with long snug sleeves.  That was traditionally Arkan but instead of a full skirt and petticoats or bone supports in the dress, it was split into full trousers; something not noticeable if she stood still.  The fabric fell naturally full to brush the tops of her slippers.  The overtunic was a diagonal fall of dark red fabric with silver phoenixes woven into it, But it was sewn over one shoulder only and then swept down under the arm on the other side, the hem, starting at her hip, matched the upper sweep till it trailed in a point almost on the floor on the other side. Her shawl was translucent silver.

Her fan was shining silvered slats, pierced to show the same phoenix as in her over tunic when open, trimmed top and bottom with red feathers and the trailing feather tail was a mix of red and silver feathers.

“And no one would know that Laisa made your fan for you!”  Riala smiled.  “Unless some ruffian tried to hurt you.”

“She’s so bold,” Kyriala said quietly.  “But then she’s a sola with an unusually liberal father. Riala, there are no oversleeve pockets for Socks to cuddle in.”

“You can hold him on your lap, or he can walk with you on the jewelled lead.”

Socks had jewelled roses jingling on his collar but had been a palace dog so long he didn’t notice, lying on his back, snoring.

“Besides,” Riala continued. “An overdress like that is heavy and confining.”

“True.” Ky twirled again and raised her arms, danced a step or two in front of the mirror.  “I’m covered but it’s all so light I feel almost as if I’m not wearing anything.”

“Gasp.” Riala said dryly.  “Such a scandal.  You arriving at the party of the year, on the Imperator Elect’s comb, wearing only four layers of clothing and red streaks dyed into your braids.”

They both giggled.  “Do you think he’ll realize that he really should ask you now?” Riala said.  Ky stopped where she was looking at the back of the outfit and looked at her friend.

“The Imperator Regent should really do that,” she said.  “In lieu of his father.”

“Do you want to marry him?” Riala asked, tugging her boy’s tunic straight.  “You don’t have to, you know.”

Kyriala was quiet for a moment, then turned to the window and looked down into the garden.  None of the women’s quarters were on the ground floor or overlooking anything outside the walls.  She held onto the fine drapery.  “I... was thinking I didn’t want to marry anybody after he released me... I... have a nest egg to have an income...” she didn’t look over toward her bedroom where the Imperial loot lurked, hidden in her canopy.  “...but... It would make my mama very happy.”

“You like him?”


“You love him?”

“I think so.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I don’t think I know how to deal with... um... the more Yeoli idea of marrying more than one person.”

Riala looked intriqued.  “So he really is that close to both Gannara and Farasha?  I like her.  I don’t know him well enough to say.”

“But...” Ky bit her lip. “Maybe I’m too Arkan to do that... to be so... so... easy and open... Ri, sometimes it thrills me in ways I’m not sure about... and sometimes it scares me.  I like Gannara and Minis and Farasha very well as friends...”

Riala didn’t answer immediately.  “Well.  You’re comfortable with Farasha, aren’t you?”

“Yes.  She’s as easy to talk to as you are.”

“Ah.  I get it.  She can actually spit the word ‘bullshen’ out from between her delicate lips!”

Ky had to smile.  “Exactly.  And like Yeolis her people just... just spit things like that out all the time.  It still startles me.”

Riala was quiet for a moment, pulled her feet up under her to sit cross-legged on the bench. “You talk to her about Minis and Gannara?”

“I do.” Ky turned away from the window and sat down upon the slipper chair next to the mirror.  “Both boys need a healer.  More than her, she says.”

“So, you have an ally in a sense.  You wouldn’t be going into a marriage alone.”

“Like I was going to do before, when papa betrothed me – just two.”

“Yes.  I actually think it would be nice to have a girlfriend in a marriage with me if the men get odd.  I think my mama was very alone with him.”  She probably will never acknowledge the man as her father ever again, Ky thought.

She nodded.  “I’ll have to think about it... then I have to point out to Minis somehow, how to go about it.”

“Just tell Farasha and she’ll just spit it out.”

“Now there’s a ... what is that noise?”

Ky gathered up Socks and she and Riala went out to see what the hullabaloo was at the front of the house.


There was a whole group of Dyers outside the house door, swooping around the drive, drumming and singing and making a racket. Bilabas stood, the pillar of rectitude, a mildly disapproving expression on his face.

 An express chair waited, very properly, at the step and next to it, on his skates, stood Minis, looking more than a little wind-blown.  “Serinas.” He nodded very properly then ducked around one of the wild dyers thundering by and hopped up on the steps next to Ky and Riala and whipped around them, nearly touching.  “We won!  We won!”

“Oh, Minis!  Yes.”  She rapped Socks upon the nose to stop him yipping and howling with the Dyers.

Bilabas cleared his throat loudly but Min ignored him, grinning at the Serinas.  “Oh, Riala, I’m sorry... I didn’t get a chair for you...”

“I’ll walk after,” she said. But was cut off by a whoop from Doob.

“Nonsense... the Serina may ride upon her faithful donkey’s back!”

“Serin... Serin, no... that would be most improper for the Serina,” the butler tried to say, but Riala grinned and when Doob turned to offer her his back, scrambled up on it, clinging around his neck.  “I knew there was a reason I liked to dress this way!”

Minis handed Ky into the chair just as Doob brayed and took off.  He was big enough that she was tiny on his back and she started laughing as he led the pack down toward the gate.  Socks began howling again and dancing on Ky’s lap as her chair picked up speed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

456 - Imperator Moldy

A Marble Palace servant, as unflappable as always, actually had my skates in hand as I tore into the guest room where I'd moved some things from the Diamond, on Chevenga's invitation.  As I laced up in a wild hurry, I realized I’d need to find an express chair for Ky... or Ili’s old adjustable skates, if they were still in the Marble Palace.

I was just babbling out my request when the upper servant, his name was Nishel, smiled.  “We do know where the requested footwear is, Serin.  One moment.” Does Ky even know how to skate?

And then I had to wait for my escort... Joras wasn’t on duty but Ilesias Mahid still was and though he swore he didn’t know how to skate well, he did know how, so he fetched his skates. There were quite a few skates in the Mahid quarters, that no longer had owners, perhaps Ky would like a pair?

And then Ilesias was concerned for my safety with only my escort as it was.  “As Imperator Elect, Serin, your security should be much higher,” he said solemnly. “Kras Krero assigned me to you personally tonight.”

“Ilesias.  I understand.  But tonight... it’s almost the centre of the night now.  And a huge number of Arkans voted me in.  I don’t think I’m in that much danger.  I’m no great warrior but I could go armed... the Imperial sword... the real one, not that nose-picker downstairs... I should carry it. No, Kallijas should carry that.”

“There is no protocol for this,” he said unhappily.

“No, there actually is --” I was just saying and that was when I heard Resh howl/whistle.

“Found him!  He’s not gone off to be formal, normal yet!”

Ilesias wobbled on his skates as the party caught up to us.  “We changed our minds,  MinMas!  We’re going to see what all the Itzan, ritzan, ditzan fuss is about, about a Mil Tori Itzan party!”

“Ilesias... they’ll lose me in this mad crowd!  And they’d have to catch us first!”

“Wooooo Hoooooo! Wheeeeee AAAAAAAAAA!”

“Shut up you idiots, they’ll think we’re mad!”

“Hahahahaha, wonderful! Mad bad not sad, stinkin’ like a Masker’s pad! Herb and drink and herb and bump! Hump, lump...nice rump!  WheeeeeeHHHHooooooo!”

“Masker ask ‘er, no task master... maker shaker, not a taker, no sacred faker...”

“Sacred faker?  Aitzas, Hawkers, chainer taker!”  The rhymes were flowing around group whirling around us.

“Shhhh hahahaha shhhh... hahahahaha!”

“Mahid faker, not a taker, throw the bitch into the laker...”  Everyone stopped where they were.  That had been Ilesias.  He stopped himself, somewhat wobbly, and continued. “Breaking breakers, torture makers! Elders rigid, stone it shatters, city falls -- no longer matters.  Rigid crack, crumble back, to the lack...”

Then Ashi spoke up... “Lack back... Mahid crack?”

He answered her, with a little half smile on his face.  Not Joras’s fessas expression, but an obviously a Mahid one, built out of the rubble of Mahid training.  “Mahid black, Mahid crack. Tender feelings? Mahid attack!  No good, all should, never could never would.  Crack or die.”

“Die? Why?”

He shrugged. and Gili whooped again. “Rather dye!”

“Hahahahah... shhh.... hahahahaha.”

“What... is... this!?”  That was Chevenga’s voice. “My palace, infested with Dyers!  What is this world coming to!?”  He stepped out of the Rainbow Titanium door in the midst of a clutch of family, talking, laughing almost as loud as we were. Kallijas and Skorsas and Niku were all there and the children... He wore the wild scarlet and black kilt he’d worn fighting Riji, and gold leaves twinkled in his dark hair.  Skorsas’s outfit matched Chevenga’s just as when he’d been a Mezem pit-dog.

Ilesias, startled, went down in the prostration, but only two of the dyer kids, Fish and Gili, did.

“Chevenga... I’m sorry... I … um...”  What apology would be appropriate?  I was suddenly much more sober.

“Gehit,” he said.  “There is nothing to do about this really, except... bear with me...”  

“Jewel of the World, what are you going to do to that outfit???”  Chevenga didn’t bother answering Skorsas and dodged back into Imperial quarters.  He wasn’t gone long and his arrival was announced by the familiar sound of wheels on marble.  He glided back out on his skates doing a neat jump-step over the threshold.

“AIYIYIYIYIYIYYIYIY!  WOOOOOO!  Gold in hair gold in flair!”  Ashi yipped.

“Hey... you only dyed one one shade! Join the parade!”

The children giggled.

“I’ll be back in a bit,” he said to his laughing family. “Drumming painted drool-hair, can you catch a wool-hair?”  The last was flung over his shoulder as he whip-turned and flashed off down the corridor with the lot of us after him.

“Aiyayayayaiaiyiayiyiyiyiyiyiyi!  Who you callin’ drool-hair?”  We had to jump to keep up to catch up. Fish started a drumming counterbeat to our wheels as we went... how he managed I don’t know.

I pulled up.  “Ilesias, I need more security but I shouldn't be armed since I'm underage... and I need to go escort a Serina.” I glanced at the bead clock, almost jigging in place. “I have a tenth and a half tenth.”

“There will be more security for you.  We'll meet you at the Steel Gate in a half-tenth?  All skaters.”

“Thank you.” I could play a little.  Chevenga’d headed down the Cerulean Arches corridor so I cut across and down the staircase, sliding down the bannister rather than jar myself on the steps, around the open gallery there and then rather than take any flat surface, slide down a marble column, clinging like a monkey, just in time to catch the pack of dyers.

Chevenga knew the Palace almost as well as I did, but he was still recovering from the lung wound and already had Chirel and his wristlets on.  They’d caught up to him but of course only he knew where he was going, so he was still leading.

“Ayiyiyiyuiyiyiyiyiyiyiyyi!” I howled as I rounded the corner.  “Whose palace are we polluting, infesting?  Not yours any more!”

“I fly to the steeple,” he yelled breathlessly, “of the Palace of the people.”

I started laughing. “People, persons, never worse-sons! Just the voters, rulers, quoters!”

“Yeoli, solely, very holy!” Aisha sqealed as she missed a turn and sat down hard on her rear, got up and caught up inside ten strides.

“MinMAS!” Doob waved and ducked under the upraised arm of Charging Glory just before the arm could take him across the neck.  “You have my pipe!”

“I do?”  I patted the pipe pocket and sure enough.  I tossed it to him, he caught it neatly.

“Hey, Imperator Moldy, you too oldy?” Doob waved the pipe at Chevenga.

“He’s not oldy, ultra ultra ultraist!” Cream batted his pale eyes at Chevenga, even at speed. I had to hop a mat because of the lot of us jostling for the centre of the corridor. Fish was still drumming like a madman and Cream picked up the high tak on his glass. Atz started a trill with his tongue up and down and up and down.

“Not wrong type, pass the pipe,” Chevenga laughed.  “Tonight I party, very hearty.”


“I’m bein’ moldy, gotta foldy.  Time grows coldy.  Pass the pipe, yip yip yipe!” Atz passed me his and I skidded a circle and sat down in a ring of hassocks under the skeleton of a sea monster hung from the ceiling.  “I have a half-ten, or the woman’ll get ben --t!” It was a poor rhyme but all I could think of.

I struck a match and drew the smoke deep, watching the red glow. “Ch’venga, enga, ga... I should go armed, right? In case of a fight?  Even in poor light?”

People had scattered themselves all along the seats and sprawled on the priceless Tiyahran red carpet.  Resh’s hair clashed horribly with it.

“I’m going armed because it’s part of my costume,” he says, in that peculiar weak, scratchy voice people use when they’re holding in a lungful of smoke.  “It’ll get peace-bonded at Mil’s, I would think.  Up to you.”

“Thank you.  I suppose Kallijas should consider wearing the Imperial sword... I’m asking to use it tonight... since it’s been in my room the whole forzak time...”

“Asking who... me?  Kall should wear it, yes; you’re not of age.”

“Yes.  But Krero is worried about my security if I’m tearing around tonight outside with these riff-raff.”  

One of the sereniteers who joined us... kept up with us... waved a hand full of flask. “We’re here too.”

“Do what I do with Krero,” says Chevenga.  “Obey his every command.  It’s the only way that’s safe.”

I rolled right over and slid right off the satin hassock I was laughing so hard. “Of course... Obey his every... every... command!”

455 - Overthinking something so simple

“All right, Mas, not too tight ass,” Resh said, grinning.  “Show us this big old snore-echo you grew up in!” His hair was the same mass of flames standing up away from his head, streaked bright red, matching his earrings.  Both ears on either side were fringed in red glass flames, some fixed, some moving.  No ‘Imperator Elect’ shen from him.  He’d roll up and spit in any Aitzas's eye and then skate away like a fiend.

The others were a little unsure of how it would be.  After all, they’d known me as Sinimas, or Mas, since no Arkan would call another a sin. Ashi, tough girl, with eyes lined with black eyeliner like a pleasure boy and spiked jewellery all over, spikes woven into her Aitzas long green dyed hair, kicked him lightly in the back of his skate with hers, making him slide forward.  He didn’t wobble though, just kept grinning.

Was this allowable? How should I... what should I... The campaign was over but could I just let things go like this?  “Ilesias Aan, come along there are enough cream cakes and daities that Nuninibas won’t have eaten them all,” Ailadas broke in.  He had Sera Eren on his arm, guiding her, and held his antique old scholar’s comb toward Ili and whisked them both off to the party going on downstairs in the entry hall behind the Steel Gate.  Grandfather was over under the awning, sitting with and talking to mother.

I was over-thinking this. Especially if it seemed too easy.  If my Mahid grandfather could indulge in Arkanherb... what was I worried about? “Hand me your herb-pipe, Resh and I’ll tell you the best skate routes through the place!” I put my thumb over the side of the blue glass pipe then let the draft in.  This time I was going to enjoy this.  Doob handed me his flask and then, Dyers all, they started hugging and thumping on me, as if they were Yeolis or aNiah. 

Two of the youngest of my messenger friends, Fish and Cream, started whirling circles around us; Fish pounding on his un-drum... a drumhead on a stick handle and Cream-- as pale all over as if he’d never seen the sun, rapped on his glass drum.

Tonight.... who cared what I did?  I threw back my head and howled and yipped the messenger yell that cleared the way for us as good as any fancy whistle.

Security was going to hate us.


Resh and Doob hoisted me up and swooped me off on their shoulders but that was awkward, but Atz and Gili came up with a couple of poles and they put me on that instead and I balanced on them as if I were on a chair.  We were all laughing by then and I remember bits and pieces.

... "Criminal hooligans! Stop this travesty! Guard that young man ran over my toe..." Not likely with you stamping your foot like that, it would be broken if we hadn't just jumped over you...

...The Long Gallery... zooming under the disapproving noses of my ancestors... every spiral ramp that I ever chased Ailadas up or down.... they took me even down stairs... just enough to jolt my teeth together and giggling like maniacs we followed my companions and my route around the Hall of Serenity.  We sat on the desks and I stood up and made a mock-tearful confession of the ‘Great Key Heist and Sausage-dog Robbery’ to all and sundry, and swore most solemnly I’d never lead such a trail of barking destruction through their sacred and most revered precinct ever again.

... Some of the skateers... even those who had chased me... joined us... We peered into one of the kitchens but were chased off by the knife-waving chef... "Get out or this one'll cut you into dyer sandwiches!  Those one's scrotums would make very small drums..."

... Whirling around the Round Hall... we did pick up some overly wildly excited dogs chasing us... and laughed and laughed...

... we skated by the groaning food tables set up for the public in the main hall, zipped past a cheering Nuni and a snoozing Ili on Sera Eren’s lap on top of Ribbons...  we scooped up a share and fled with our ill-gotten gains to lie under the golden roses in the atrium below the Imperial section. 

All the gloves were off and people were dancing on their skates as well as drumming... the tingling skin of palm and fingers... catching fire and carrying the beat in heart and head and between the legs...  And Gili sang... he'd been one of the castrati Mezem boys choir and had an unearthly sweet voice.

Into the quiet after his voice faded, I looked around at the rainbow headed wreckage lying all around me and said.  “Thank you.  Thank you my friends... you were my friends even as I lied to you....”

Ashi interrupted me.  “Shut up Mas, don't be tight ass.  You’ll start being a good good man-boy tomorrow, covered in gold, dripping in gold... Empire’s gone piss gold... all over you!  You can stop vomiting words out your mouth tonight!” She pushed a gold-dusted orange delight into the mouth she was talking about, filling it up and gluing my teeth together.  “You need to go, flow, not slow, pick up your rosy posy chicky quicky...”

I glanced around wildly... had I missed my time for picking up Ky? There was no bead clock, I couldn’t be late.  I spun, slapped hands all around and ran... still swallowing the sticky confection, unable to say anything while they whooped and hollered me on. “Woo Hoo!  Run Mas! Fun Mas! Come back after the fancy, chancy formal! We'll party you, all the crew, to the Temple tomorrow!" -- The ceremony was noon tomorrow, where Kallijas would take up the seals... and I'd take my gloves off...  "Whoo!  Wheeeee ooooooo! SiniMas! MiniMas! Min Min Min!”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

454 - Doob and Resh

I finally managed to fight free of the clutch of writers to find that Mil was next to me.  “Former opponent!” was his greeting, with a big smile.  I had to giggle.  I felt like I was drunk and I had only had one cup of kaf a bead ago on top of a pastry.

“A weird campaign,” was all I managed to say.  “With flora and fauna abounding.”

“If you count Kallen as intelligent as flora and fauna being equine… yes.  Serin Aan…”

“Minis…” I interrupted him.  “Please.”

He blinked.  “Minis then, thank you. Will you come to my ‘It was a good run… thank you all party this night?”

“Of… of course.  Thank you!”

He threw his arms out wide.  “Wonderful!  It will be the hundred year party that everyone will be talking about!  Imperator, Imperator Regent Elect, and Imperator Elect as guests, all at the same time!”

I looked around for Chevenga and Kallijas but they had vanished already, perhaps to continue that kiss and to get ready for a party.  Mil offered me his comb, teeth side, grinning.  I clicked combs with him back. “I must be off then for last minute details… I trust I’ll see you later, Imperator Elect!”

“Just MINIS,” I started to say until I saw he was teasing.  “Of course.”

Gannara caught me from behind, his arms around mine, lifted me up, laughing, and whirled me around into Farasha’s grip.  She was almost as strong as he was and did the same but whirled me around to face Ky, and let me go.  I staggered one step and we were almost nose to nose.  We stood there for a very long moment and I knew… I just knew I was blushing. I looked into her face, into her eyes and I knew I should say something… but… I … my tongue locked up.

The longer we stood, staring into each other’s eyes, not touching, hardly breathing, the tension built and built. She was smiling and it just got wider and wider… I didn’t know what to say, what to do… Especially not with my mother and grandfather standing just on the edges of my sight.

And Socks lunged out of her sleeve yipping, to scramble into my arms. We stumbled backwards from each other, the dog doing its best to lick every inch of my face he could reach, she was laughing I was so stunned I couldn’t laugh.  Why do Ailadas, Grandfather and Sera Eren all have the same look on their faces? And why is my mother actually smiling like that?

“I… um… I… Serina… Kyriala would you care to accompany me to Mil Tori Itzan’s party later on this evening?”

“Oh…” She cast her eyes down and I could hardly see the rest of her face with the blasted fan and the dog in the way.  I clamped a hand on the silly thing's head before he licked my face off and he started gnawing on the edge of one of my gloves.  Would I be able to dispense with them again? I hate them. “I should love to, Serin. Will I be able to array myself in a party frock before we go?”

I looked down at the elaborate red and silver rose creation she was wearing and wondered out loud “.. what’s wrong with that one?” I heard a muffled snigger and was certain it was Fara but it could have been Gan too.

“Silly, this is what I’ve been wearing all day as your campaign manager.  Not something to wear to a celebration of your win!”

I shrugged… almost like a Yeoli.  “I shall fetch the Serina in a bead…” Ailadas cleared his throat and gave me a look. “…and two tenths.”

“Lovely.” I couldn’t quit looking at her as I gave her the wiggling dog back.

She left then and I turned to Gannara… “That’s weird. It’s mostly cats that like me.”  And he started howling with laughter and couldn’t explain.  Grandfather, of all people, was allowing himself a pipe of arkanherb and offered it to me.  Farasha had one.  So did Gan.

I pulled a lungful of sweet smoke into my lungs and held it, finally letting it out through my nose like a dragon.  Ili was pulling on my one hand.  “Hey, Min, there’s the guys on skates want to talk and say congrat-ulations.  I knew you could I knew you could… why were you making googly eyes at Ky? Here they are… I brought them up… they have really cool skates… they’re the messengers…”

And they’d followed him up here.  The boys and some girls on skates, disowned by family and making the skate world their family.  We were suddenly surrounded by Doob, and Atz, Gili and Resh and the rest of the messenger company.


My apologies for this short post.  I will not be posting tomorrow as I will be in Toronto at a friend's memorial service and wake.
In the last two weeks I've lost a cousin, a publisher and a friend.  This is not a good time.  Sorry.

Book 7: Minis Neverborn 453 - Release

Minis Neverborn

After the election:
My hand came up to touch the motherstone I was wearing openly, at my neck. The sound of the crowd washed all around me as if it were a solid thing.  Or water, and I a post made out of silence. It is a living thing, this will of the mob.  This time it was in my son’s favour.  And Itrean as well.  An excellent role model.

I watched as they proceeded to the front of the roof platform where they all spoke, losers first and then the winners.  Itrean was properly brief and sincere.  My son, more excited, more voluble about new possibilities, the new ways of thinking that had swept over Arko.  The chanting of our name ‘Arko’, the singing, the prayers.  Then they dragged Shefen-kas up because the crowd demanded him.

Then, shockingly, Itrean called a vote of the crowd that he actually assault the Yeoli in public with a kiss! This was Jitzmitthra leap year madness, Carnal Licentiousness, on Muunas First.

The three of them were upon the roof lit by every lamp that existed in the city it seemed, turning night into day.  My son, and Itrean’s colours flapped lazily in the heated breeze of the city, over their heads. The current Imperator’s speaking... a very emotional man.  I understand that Yeoli men are quite often so emotional.

My arms felt strange.  I had just been hugging my boy, less than a half-bead ago.  It felt... odd... too good for me.  Too easy. But he’d made it clear it was what he wished and...

What I wished. How is that possible that I might have wishes?  Wishes are like feathers curled up in a hiding place in a wall, not something to look at, parade about in daylight.  Wishes and wants are frills and filigree where there need be none.  Superfluous decoration, like a... motherstone on a Mahid.  My fingers came up to touch it again.  The noise died down for the speeches... even with the chanting and singing it wasn’t the hammer of noise it had been before.  It seemed to be diffusing somewhat into a city-wide party, more like a Jitzmitthra sound.  For Muunas First that was almost a blasphemous thought.

How strange this night was. The commander of the unit that guarded the vote boxes, Ilesias Mahid, came over to me.

“Sera.” He said, bowing exactly correctly Mahid to Mahid Senior female.  But there was more than a trace of fluidity in what he did.  Not the locked-rail rigid I was used to. He has been training with Yeolis and regular Arkans. He has a Yeoli wife I understand.

“First Ilesias.” I answered him, nodding back. There were no other Ilesias Mahids left, so perforce he was First.

“Perhaps the Sera would find swearing to the new Imperator, an imperative?  I find that it eases the mind.”

“Quite correct,” my father’s voice at my other elbow.  They had taken up the guard upon me.  The other two guards were still there, just somewhat further back. “Daughter, tell me, for whom did you intend the needle?”

“It was... for my safety.  My protection.”

“I see.  In the Marble Palace? Behind Marble Palace security?”

“As an unsworn Mahid, I was a threat to Minis and all his friends.  Should my life become unbearable... so that I might truly cease walking the edge of control and madness, the needle was there to end my life.  It gave me control, honoured father.”

“Understood.  Correction will not be required of you, for that.” He understood the maelstrom of thought behind a Mahid face... he undestood the messiness of this ‘free will’. I blinked. They both understood, of course, they'd passed through the test of change.  

At least with a needle at hand, one had control.  One might always seize control of one’s own death, if one’s life became too uncontrolled.  My glove pocket seemed to ache with emptiness; that hand lighter as if it could fly off the end of my arm, without the weight of death carried there.

“I hear.”

“Daughter. Recite your oath."

I turned to stare at him.  Then at Ilesias.  Two Mahid are usual in hearing a third’s oath.  I saw.  “But should this not be done under truth-drug?”

 “It was.  But Grandson has informed me that we shall be experimenting with the concept of ‘trust’, at least for immediate family.”

“That seems very lax.” First Ilesias actually smiled faintly at that.  He was not nearly so disturbing as Joras but still...

“Yes.  But he is young and will learn.”

I raised my hands to my head in the prayer gesture, and sank into the prostration.  “I, Inensa Mahid, Aitza, this miserable, debased worm surrenders life and blood and mind to the most Holy of Men. This abject Mahid, yields bone and will to the rightful Imperator by vote, Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, Aitzas, and until the day of His majority and Ascencion to the Crystal Throne itself, may my oath be held by the Regent Imperator, by vote, Kallijas Itrean, Aitzas. Impale this one and this one’s entire line, and Second Fire come, if this low and expendable one, under the heel of the One, is forsworn.”

“Excellent," he said as I rose.  "You are released from your confinement and your guard.”  First Ilesias accepted the salutes of the guard on me and I watched them go.  An odd day. “I shall record your oath properly in the archives, Daughter.”

I watched First Ilesias nod to my father and go, leaving me and him on the roof in the middle of a madly celebrating mob.  I still feel isolate. 

Father held out his comb to me. I raised the fan at my belt to touch the tip of fan to tail of comb and he escorted me across to stand next to Kyriala Liren, the Yeoli boy Gannara, and Farasha.  I had sat, quietly, listening long enough during the campaign, to hear that they would be those closest to my son.

He disengaged me with the formal flick of hair-ordering implement and nodded at everyone else.  Such children.  I found myself looking at all their innocent, wide open, readable faces.  “Well.” I said briskly.  “I’m sworn so now I am free to help rather more.  My son has a lot to learn in two years.”

Farasha started laughing and barbarian that she was, tucked her hand under my elbow.  I straightened, stiffening.  Minis was learning a lot of this touch and feel nonsense from them.  “We won! He won!”  She cried in my ear. I tried to let my lips move in the Jitzmitthra fashion and I thought I succeeded, at least in smiling somewhat.This would be my next test, my next challenge.  To change in the way that was required of me.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

452 - It's Official

“It looks as if you’ll be swearing to your son,” Chevenga yelled to mother over the racket, “rather than using that needle on yourself.” I heard Him clearly.  Needle?  What needle? She looked at the Imperator, my friend, her head tilted sideways like a bird bringing one eye to bear on possible prey. Chevenga touched his shield-hand palm. “Or were you planning to use it on someone else?”
Everyone had been speaking in Arkan.  The Yeoli guard did not understand.  The Arkan guard on her stared at Chevenga, then at mother, his hand falling to his sword hilt.  Chevenga said, “Stand down,” to him.

Of course.  She would not know he had weapon sense... or had missed it in her reading since her capture.  I drew myself up sharply and glared at her.  “Mother!”  It was almost a gasp.  Well. Yes, it was a gasp.

She looked up at the flags and then down at Chevenga once more.   

“You think it is certain, Shefen-kas?”

“Well, let’s see.” He turned to the counting desk, casually putting his back to her.  I found myself on that side, slightly ahead.  To do what? Grab my mother’s hand if she tried to use a poisoned needle on Chevenga?  Yes.  The Arkan guard was to her right; the Yeoli to the rear, reacting to everyone’s suddenly stiff postures, still not told what the trouble was.

“What’s the total counted so far?” He asked the confirming-clerk.

“Just shy of four million,” he said. “Looks like another half-million or so to go, so, only another half-bead, Imperator.”  I could see him calculate the numbers in his head lighting fast.  I had to think it through much more slowly and carefully, since I was not so used to thinking this way.

Eight million people in the empire, with only third thresholders and above allowed the vote, men, women, all castes. Four and a half million votes was a phenomenal turn out.  I should check the totals for the other two Empire-wide votes and see if we were truly becoming a voting nation.  From the look on Chevenga’s face it was good.

Then I knew for certain... "Four million!  Four million voting!  Nobody is going to steal this power away from Arko!"  He had both his arms in the air and let out an ear-splitting whoop. "Four MILLION voters!"  Then he looked around, suddenly abashed.  "Um..."  He even blushed, the two spots of red come up and he looked much younger, almost my age.  "I don't want people to think I'm that partisan, sorry.  It's the turn out... really."

"I understand, Ch'venga," I said.  I had to grin. He turned to mother, pulling formality over his face with an effort.

To her raised eyebrow, he said. “It is not quite certain, Inensa.  But Adamas would have to win an implausibly-large majority of the remaining votes to catch up. Arko knows it; listen to them.”

Mother flipped her one hand over and slid a needle out of the glove pocket and slowly, carefully, clearly not wielding it, tendered it to the Yeoli guard. “Tell him not even to scratch himself with it,” she said to Chevenga. “It has datura juice on it.”

A-e kras,” the guard said, wrapped it in a slip of paper and placed it into a hard leather tube in his pouch. “Chevenga. She doesn’t have anything else on her, does she?” The Imperator flipped his hand over, charcoal.

Perhaps I drew in a breath, perhaps I moved.  Either way her eyes flicked to me.  I don’t know what the look on my face was but it felt cold.  “I understand, precisely, why you had that,” I snapped. “But. Most Honoured and Lauded Sera Mother, I would prefer there be nothing more between us that is necessary to understand.”

“I hear,” she said, stolidly, dispassionately, but did not add, “I obey.”  We will have words, later, mother. I thought it very loudly, I’m sure.

“Whether you meant it for yourself or for me, either way,” Chevenga said as if he were sitting down at a kaf and pastry table.  “You’d be doing your son out of someone who means everything to him.” She stared at him unemotionally. “You know what he needs from you, yes?” I could not bear this and flung my hands over my face and walked away, blindly.  Gan caught me by the elbow before I could walk into the writer’s block of seats.

“Not what you need right now, even if they are empty,” he said.  ‘I couldn’t hear in the crowd noise, what was that all about?” He said all this in my ear so I could hear him.  I shook my head at him.  Farasha and Kyriala were standing by the doors to downstairs, it looked like they were holding hands, firmly covered by Ky’s sleeves.  Socks was sitting on her hem, panting.

I turned to look back just in time to see my mother flinch at something Chevenga said to her. Something important if he could make her actually flinch. She reached up to touch the motherstone, around her neck.

He spoke, she shook her head like a marble statue moving for the first time. She answered him.  He glanced over her head at me. They were still talking about me. She looked... unsettled. He spoke again and she turned away as if to find something else to distract the Imperator from what he said, then turned back to Him, answering.  I could see it, open as a dance, silent under the crowd din.

Chevenga waved his hands toward me, illustratively, speaking intently. She bowed her head, listening and nodded finally, after he finished. He looked up and waved me back to them.  I hugged Gan who hugged me back.  “We’re here, brother.”

“Inensa,” Chevenga said as I came close enough to lean my head into their conversation.  “I think Minis will be more solid on the Crystal throne this way than any other,” he was saying. “It might not seem that way, it might seem chaotic, unsafe, but I know what people feel when they’ve chosen someone by vote.” She nodded, once. 

“You really can feel it, can’t you?” I asked him. 

“The vote.” Now that I was able to pay attention to the voting and chanting and roaring and beginnings of celebration going on it was like a physical force pushing against my body.

“Yes, I can.”

“That’s what laid you all but flat, when they... when we held up those candles.” Now it was mother’s turn to listen.

“Minis—” We had to wait.  The flags had been moved again and the thunder of the crowd was so loud he had to wait for it to lull somewhat, and still had to yell in my ear.  “There’s nothing like it! You’re about to find out. Everyone who has thoughts of deposing or assassinating you can hear and feel what people want. He knows. There’s a force to that, a strength, a safety. It doesn’t stop everybody, but look at the difference between my two terms, assassination attempts dropped when Arko wanted me!”

“It’s like courting,” I shouted. “Will they like me? Will they want me? Will they love me? They love you; it’s obvious.”

“They love you too, at least enough to give you a chance. It’s the ultimate courting, in a way.”

“Not that I know much, or anything about courting… Chevenga, when the fear goes away… I don’t know what I’ll feel.”

“At that point, it won’t matter,” he shouted. “You just do the work. What’s more important than them loving you is you loving them. I know you plan not to forget that, but repeating never hurts. I still repeat it to myself.”

“Even when they piss you off?” I looked over at mother, then down at the waving lamps and torches, the people stamping out a smashed alcohol lamp fire. I was thankful that no one seemed to have set themselves on fire, yet.

“You want to come aside, I’ll let you in on something!”  He drew me away from the front of the roof and from mother and Kallijas and my family.  It was going to be private.  If no one got inside arm’s reach, they didn’t have a hope in Selestialis of hearing Him.

“A little more than an eight-day after we announced your candidacy... I talked with Surya about what my people have asked of me, in my life.”

“Too much, if you ask me,” I spat.

“The next day, thinking about it, I got so angry I decided, ‘I quit. Right here, right now. I’m not going to raise a finger for them, not for another moment.’ And I took off the signet and the seals.” I stared at him.  That would have been a disaster for Kall’s and my candidacy, for the vote in general, for the finishing up of the constitution, half a hundred disasters in the making.

“Kallijas knocked me senseless.” I could feel my brows trying to meet my hair.  I had heard not so much as a whisper of this.  “Seriously; when he saw the seals, bang. He apologized when I woke up, but told me it was to give him and others close to me a chance to talk sense into me. Which they did. If you heal from madness, madness can come up sometimes.”

“I’m very glad he was there!” It was all I could think to say.

“Yes, in the end, so am I. I had to thank him with my hand on my forelock. Point being, I had a lapse in my love for them, while I was still on duty, and that is wrong. You have to be careful, you have to watch for it in yourself, and, yes, have others around who are utterly trustworthy. The position demands perfection; but we are only human. The only way to correct our own flaws is to listen with open heart to others.”

“I wish perfection were possible!” I had to bellow, the noise had gone up again.

“Feh! That’d make it too easy.” I admit, I pouted at him. He drew me back toward the edge of the roof and into the surge of writers waiting. “Imperator Kallijas and Minis have won your thoughts how much do you credit your own recommendation why do you think they did how do you feel about it is it hard to give up the Crystal Throne what will this mean to Arko…” I found myself separated from Chevenga as neatly as a deer is separated from the herd by a pack of wolves.  Kallijas and I had our own wolf-pack waving their pens and pads at us, trying to get our attention.

Chevenga waved off the writers and followed an official to the confirmation desk. I was grateful enough to peel Kallijas out from under the avalanche of questions and he was thankful to be able to shake them off both of us. The count was done.

The counting chief signed the document with a flourish and a stamp of the Ministry seal and passed it to the Imperator.

The Scales people didn’t have far to go to fetch us candidates to the table.  I was just as happy to let Mil and Kin precede me.  Though Kallijas was right there and I wanted to be grown up as possible... my mother was also right there on my other side and I flung an arm around her, to hug.  To the pit of Hayel with propriety.

She stiffened and then I felt her arms go around me too.  They were strong.  Stronger than I thought, though that was silly.  I’d felt strong women’s arms around me before.  I took a deep breath, felt her brace herself, though Kall and my flag was above Kallen’s... this was it.  This was the official count. I hugged her once more, let go, and stepped up to my place next to Kall.

“You all witness this,” Chevenga said, once we were all there.

.  Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan upon Third Threshold with Kallijas Itrean Aitzas serving as Regent until that time:                  1,898,769

. Adamas Kallen Aitzas:

. Kin Immen Kazien Aitzas: 

. Mil Torii Itzan Aitzas:  

Total Votes:                            4,458,351

I couldn’t see Adamas’s face. “Do you all accept these totals as true and legal and to be enacted as the will of the people of Arko?” Chevenga looked around at all of us.

Mil Itzan was the first to sign to it, nodding. Kin Kazien signed under that and Kall and I third. Adamas Kallen signed as though the pen were red hot and he, gloveless.

Chevenga signed and sealed the document, the Imperial Seals chiming sweetly.  The crowd had hushed, waiting. He handed it to the Scales official and said “Sound the gong.”

With a thunderous boom that made the whole roof of the Marble Palace quiver, the fire-bursts of red and silver fire-stars announced the result into the night sky, reaching over the Rim as if to knock on Selestialis's front door. The Fenjitzas and Fenjitza-blessed rockets exploded in a fire-fountain that had whistles and cracklers blasting high over the heavy thump that launched it into the air.  People far out of the city would be able to see and hear that.  I flung my hands over my ears in the prayer to Mikas, Lord of Noise, and started laughing.


In the divine witness of the Ten Gods, by these presents, my final signed document as Imperator of Arko, I, Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e, acting both as Imperator and as semanakraseye of Yeola-e with the full voted approval of the Assembly of Yeola-e, relinquish all claim of legal power over the Empire of Arko on behalf of myself and on behalf of the nation of Yeola-e, and declare the Empire of Arko a nation sovereign and free; by these presents also, I also accept of the vote of the people of Arko, legally conducted on Anae 36, the final day of the 51st-to-last year of the Present Age, to choose a new Imperator, and relinquish the office, signs, seals, powers, privileges and obligations of the Imperator to the legally-chosen Imperator Elect, Kallijas Itrean, Aitzas, Regent Imperator till third threshold of Imperator Elect, Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, Aitzas, upon Diem Wards Back immediately before Muunas 1st, the 49th-to-last year of the Present Age. 


AN:  I have come to a natural breakpoint in the story and I will give myself a couple of days break.  Come back on Monday March 21st, when I start the section of the story "Minis Neverborn".

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

451 - Blusher and Sparky

There were runners from the counting desks to the flag posts and the lights shining on them were lit, as were all the lamps and torches upon the roof.  It made the long twilight into day again and the Square’s lamps, with additional lights, were lit early.  Every building all around the square was lit in almost every window, the Temple’s lights blazing bright, the University lit as if for Mikas and Risae’s holy festivals.

The flags began to move almost immediately.  And it was obvious that it would be a race between Kallijas and I, and Adamas Kallen, just as everyone had predicted.  I tried to be calm, but paced the roof.  Gan came over to walk with me, making me moderate my pace to match him, so I must have been moving a lot faster than I thought.  The crowd went more quiet, waiting, watching.  I did not want to be still.  It was as though I was part of the Press, but unhooked from any useful work, spinning, spinning.

I circled Kallijas who seemed to be meditating, calm as if he were a statue in the sweeping red velvet that made him look so tall. Chevenga went to the other candidates to touch combs... or rather like Yeolis, to shake hands.  He spent more time with Mil than with Kin and Mil seemed happier about the whole thing.

Kall smiled at me as I came around next time and I slowed and he said. “It’s already decided, lad.  You needn’t worry.  The battle is over. We’re just waiting till the dust settles and all the bodies are counted.  Take a breath... perhaps have some of the tea you drink to settle yourself?”

I looked over the edge of the roof and watched a couple of sets of Sereniteers break up a fight in the plaza below, between Adamas supporters and Kallijas and mine... Mostly banner pulling.  Chevenga came up just as I gritted “This is worse than the Mezem,” through my teeth.

“At least no one’s going to die,” he said and I blinked at him, gut clenching hard.  My life, and Ili’s life and my mother’s life all rested on this vote. Kallijas looked between the two of us, wondering quite what he meant.

“Minis, I’m sorry… I meant…”  He looked over at Kall, then back at me.  Of course he was probably thinking I would win. That had to be why he didn’t think anyone would die.  “In truth, no one need die, no matter who wins. Your mother might swear to Adamas, in the end.”As unlikely as the Empire unanimously voting Kin Immen Kazien onto the throne.  I looked down at the slate at my toes.  “It could be foreknowledge that made me say that. It sometimes expresses itself in clumsy ways.” It was nice of him to try and reassure me.  It must, because Chevenga is so seldom clumsy.  I can hope.

I said that. “I can hope so.” But the flags painted a picture already.  Kallen’s was higher than ours, though that could be the city vote, since that was how the votes were being tallied... first in, first counted.

“Lad, go for a swim. You don’t have to be here, and the count won’t go any differently depending on whether you are. They’re counting out of city now”— He knew.  Someone must have told him.  “It may be that when you come back from swimming off the fear, you’ll be ahead.”

“I… I… don’t know,” I wasn’t sure he heard me. “Ch’venga... might I bring my mother up to the roof?  So she may see?”

“Of course, lad –“ “Shefen-kas!” a writer interrupted us. “With Adamas winning, are you concerned about the implications of Imperial Compartment Verbal 14 Segment 8 with regard to those who have run whom you count as your friends?”

“I’ll go,” I said, and faded back before the writer could turn on me.  I could hear Chevenga telling the man how unconcerned he was fading behind me as Kyriala said that she and Farasha and Gannara would keep me company and we could send someone to inform my mother that she was allowed onto the roof to see the count.

I swam till I was dizzy and my head reeling in circles from my round of the pool.  Gannara and Farasha came in with me, naked and Kyriala, in her swimming costume, had Farasha show her more about swimming.  I kept being distracted by trying to see what the girls were practicing over in the tepid pool, while Gannara and I were in the cold one.  Perhaps that is what they intended.

My mother wanted to make herself presentable first, of course, so wasn’t yet escorted upstairs by the time we got back onto the roof, tired and more water-wrinkled.  Kallijas and my colours were gaining on Kallen’s when I emerged.

“Are you going to introduce me to your mother?” Chevenga said as I stepped over to him.  Skorsas, at his back, kneaded his shoulders and gave me a smile.  “Do you think she’d be comfortable being introduced to an Imperator—for a pair of beads -- to whom she hasn’t sworn?”

“My… mother?”  He wanted to meet my mother?  Now? “I… well, I’d love that. Her… I don’t know. Muunas… I feel completely wrung out, and we still have our speeches to do.”  I looked over at the flags and took a deep breath.

The green flag and the red and silver were exactly even when my mother came out, flanked by two guards.  I had a chance.  I’d always known that often the city led the Empire, but it wasn’t a perfect bellwether.  Arko had only had enough votes to have people speculate on things like country versus city and eastern empire versus western... Kallijas was loved in the west where he’d made his champion status but people would only be voting for two years of him and a lifetime of me. I actually had had more holdings in the east when I was the brat which might have been good or bad.

I stepped over to meet her.  “Mother.  I would like to introduce you to the current Imperator.”

She nodded and I escorted her over.  Chevenga rose up as she came.  “I’m pleased to meet you,” he said, and extended his hand in the Yeoli way.  

Mother nodded at him. “Fourth Shefen-kas,” she said flatly, and equal to equal. “I am not sure how to answer you. I cannot acknowledge you the way my son wishes.”

“You needn’t,” he said and tucked his hand away. “You, he and I have our agreement.”

“I am completely without direction and guide and am unsure what is correct,” she said with enough snap for her words to be clear over the noise of the crowd.  I stood watching them, looking at the two poles of my life. Him in the white and gold, with a short black, curly head.  Her dressed dark as a shadow with bright elaborate braids cascading in an ornate and intricate network, her hands perfectly folded. “I do know that I am able to acknowledge my own child and for that I have you to thank. Thank you.”

“You are more than welcome,” He looked away and we all ended up glancing at the flags.  Were Kall and I higher than Kallen now?  If so it was by one increment, not really visible from here.

“How can you bear this… uncertainty?” Mother said and pointed with her chin, to the flags. “Never knowing who will be in control?

“But I always know who is in control,” he answered her calmly. “The people.”

“A mob cannot pilot a ship or direct a horse. How can the mass of them direct a country?” How could she dare just to speak like this?  Argue with Chevenga?  “Mother I shall fetch you a cordial, shall I?”  I didn’t wait for her answer.

When I came back with a glass for her it was just in time to hear her say “... rst Amitzas confirms this thinking.” Whatever Grandfather had confirmed, had made Chevenga smile. He likes this.  He likes to argue with her? It seems to give him pleasure to do so. Yeolis.

“Many Yeolis wouldn’t like to admit the truth of that. Ultimate and unquestioning loyalty: exactly the same. The sacrifice of my life if I am asked to, that too; it’s woven into all the customs. There are very strict laws governing what I do, and thoughts considered correct and incorrect. We even have our forms of correction, albeit less torturous.” I formally sipped the glass in front of her and handed it to her.  She nodded at me and put her lips on the same spot on the glass.  I saw Chevenga catch the old formality.  He might ask me about it later.

“I’ve even heard that when you are not in the Imperial white-and-gold,” mother said after she’d sipped.  “That you have a taste for onyxine.” Was that an honest double-entendre? Chevenga did like a lot of Mahid, including Grandfather and Ilesias and I.

“I’ve been known to. Something I’ve always wanted to say to you, Inensa, and I hope the case is extreme enough that I may be forgiven for speaking ill of the dead: for having been married to 2nd Amitzas Mahid, you have my sympathy.”

“Rest he in Selestialis,” she said grimly, her mouth tightening as her jaw clenched in memory. Proper to the exact line, still.  “How far do you intend to take your vengeance against him?” Inensa asked, looking at Chevenga like he was an opponent in a snow-fight and she aiming between his eyes.

“I’m done. He’s dead. Why?”

“I carry his child in my body.”

I turned to stare at her full on.  Oh my Great God and Goddess. I could feel my face stiffen to hide what I felt.  “M-m-mother… you didn’t tell me that!” What on the earthsphere did she mean by telling him and me this, now? I took a deep breath.  Just because a father was a fool and a psychotic monster did not necessarily mean the child would be.  I should know.  

I... would have a half sibling?  Ummm.  Ili would have a little brother or sister, through me... um.  I had to win tonight.  I had to.  I was reeling and I didn’t notice the chant at first.

Blusher and Sparky! Champion and bright hope, Itrean and Aan, re-kindle us!  Kindle us anew! Heyah, Blusher and Sparky! The crowd roar from below carried our chant over everyone elses’, including that for Adamas.

“I have no intention of harming his, and your, child,” Chevenga said.  

Our flag had overtaken Kallen’s by a clear margin.  “I thank you, Shefen-kas,” my mother continued as calmly as if she were ordering embroidery thread.  “It will be my son’s decision whether this child will be the beginning of his own Mahid, if the lead he now has sustains until the end.” I will have another brother or sister.  A brother.  Or a sister.  Half brother... half sister... doesn’t matter.  More family.  “In the meantime, Minis: I recommend that you never acquire a taste for administering Mahid’s Obedience to your bed partners.”  Oh, my professional... my Great God.  I... um... ick... I didn’t think I had any blood left in my face, perhaps none in my head either.

Chevenga took a deep breath, his red patches coming up on his face. “It may not be only the Imperator who decides what the existing Mahid will do, or whether there will be a new line,” he said. “There’s Assembly, now, too. My thought is that the Mahid should be what has always been best about them, and leave behind what was worst.”  Thank you for changing the subject, Chevenga.

“What were we, other than a weapon of the Imperator’s terror? Our loyalty was always what was best about us, in my opinion.”

“I agree. Insofar as you are loyal to something that is good, it’s a virtue.” I don't think I could have said anything at this point even if a writer had stabbed me with a pen.

“So you, who believe so firmly in the freedom of the mob as exercised through the vote, do not think that people who make themselves a blank page for a ruler to write upon freely can be dangerous?” I had to stare at my mother.  This was more than she’d said to me in eight-days.  Arguing?  Where was this madness, this wild, free-speaking woman from and what had she done with my silent mother? Perhaps it was election madness.

“They are a reflection only of him. They give up their own choices. Insofar as he is dangerous, they are dangerous. As I was, Yeoli Mahid that I am; I was the sword in my own people’s hand, with as little choice, against Arko.”

“That’s not what I understand,” she said, as dry and acerbic as Grandfather. “Some say it was your choice, and Yeolis followed their Enactor for once.  However, if the Gods will that the Imperator becomes the Reflection of the People then the Mahid could become a much larger reflection along with Him.”

“May the Mahid become that,” Chevenga said, solemn as a prayer. He glanced sideways at me, standing with my hands fisted in the small of my back. “Another thing,” he contined.  “I have wanted to tell you: I am proud of your son.”

“Minis,” my mother said. “Has very little of the darkness seeded in him, and I appreciate the lightness he radiates. I am also pleased you have seen this in him.” My mother thought this? Thinks this?  My mother believed...believes this?  She... I... she... um...

“It was obvious to me when he was ten,” Chevenga said. I started to wonder if I should freshen my mother’s glass if they were going to keep talking in front of me like this.

Blusher and Sparky! Blusher and Sparky! Blusher and Sparky!  The chant had completely overwhelmed Kallen’s “Tradition and Family!  Our flag was a full flag-width above Kallen’s now.  I was starting to hear the rolling of hundreds of Dyer hand-drums.

My mother handed me her empty glass, looked at the flags above, and pulled a gold chain out of her skirt pocket.  It had her mother stone on it.  The one I had given her and she had accepted but never worn.  She raised her hands up to her high collar, under the network of hair.  “Assist me, my son.”

I caught my breath and blindly handed the goblet off to a servant as she held her hair out of the way so I might fasten the chain around her neck.  It settled, the thumb-sized yellow diamond, just under the square, silver, Mahid brooch.

Itrean and Aan, champion and bright hope, Blusher and Sparky! Blusher and Sparky!