Monday, March 7, 2011

445 - Jumble, Rubble and Ruin

I managed to keep myself stone until I got into the Marble Palace and found Kallijas already on the roof, doing that weird Yeoli exercise that looked like a dance and was sung with prayers.  I knelt there, watching, trying to let that peace sink into me but the claws in my guts wouldn’t quit.

When he stopped, face raised to the growing light as the sunlight slowly filled the sky, I had to clench my eyes shut against the joy and peacefulness there.  As he turned to me, I went forward onto my hands, touched my forehead to the sand.


“Forgive me for having deceived you, Ser Itrean.” I managed to make that smooth and clear.  “I did it by deceiving myself.”  I had the tract in my hand and pushed it out in front of me.  “This is not a lie.  When I was a boy, I did this.  Forgive me for having forgotten.  Forgive me for losing this election for you.  I beg your forgiveness for having linked our names—”

“—be quiet,” he said softly.  “Let me read this.  Wait.”

I couldn’t get up while he read the pamphlet.  My head was too heavy to lift off the sand.  All I could do was breathe.

“Get up and come with me,” was all he said.  It was enough that he was my training teacher so I could just manage. My head was a complete jumble, rubble, and ruin. It was all black and gray and it was as if nothing were going to be untainted or bright, ever again.  I was going to lose for something I did.  And it was just and right that I should.

He led me to the office in the Marble Palace that he was using as his, leading me past his staff who were already busy with the final day’s work of election.  I could feel their eyes on me like brands, and imagined how that would change shortly.  The whole Empire was about to find out.  It was being bellowed on every street corner in the city.  Kall closed the door behind us and I only stood still in the middle of the room.

“Is this true?” he said.

I nodded.  “I was thirteen.  Right after... right after...” I couldn’t finish.  I wrapped my arms around my guts.

“Shen.”  I’d never heard him swear before.  I didn’t know he could.

“My apologies for having done this to you, ser. I’m sorry. My abject apologies. I... I... was... am... so... vile a boy...”

“Minis, quit... Your heaping more shen on your own head isn’t going to help anything.”

I closed my mouth and dragged Mahid stillness over me, over my face, clenched my fists in the small of my back, and stood straight.  Kallijas walked around to sit at his desk.  After sitting there grim for a while, he said, “I have no idea what to do.  We’ve got to talk to Shevenga... he’s in with Surya right now.”

“I have to admit this... and see if I can speak to the okas man... if there is something to do to make it right...”

“Minis, do not make any decisions before we speak to Shevenga!  I know you well enough now to know you cannot think clearly in a situation like this.”

“We don’t know how long he could be in there.  It could be beads.  People are voting, right now.”

“Double-shen...  you’re right... I don’t know that admitting it... but we can’t lie either... Minis., why did this happen?  You can’t have been in your right mind!  I know you well enough now to know that too.”

It was madness in my head... shrieking, flailing darkness, I couldn’t even see well.  “I... don’t... remember that well... I... should... I knew I was forzak.  There was no escaping Hayel then for me.  I knew it.  I know it.”  I could hear the man’s cries of grief echoing up from the floor below me, in my head.  I thought I might be shaking but wasn't certain.

“Well, why weren’t you in your right mind?”

Was it right that I should say it to Kallijas?  He was Chevenga’s alesinas.  “Because of what I did.  To Ch’venga.”

“What you did to Shevenga?  What do you mean?”

I did not want him to know.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  “When...” I swallowed and stood straight as if confessing a sin to 2nd Amitzas, though this was more important.  If I where him I’d want to kill me.  I was light-headed.  “When I was twelve and Ch’venga was the mind-broken slave of my father... I was required to rape him as my first sexual experience.”  I swayed and pulled myself upright by main force.  That was as clear and simple as I could confess it.

“Oh,” he said.  “He told me about that.”

I went to my knees, but kept my face turned to him. “Or he was required to rape me... I’m not really sure. I’ve had healers -- Surya -- tell me it was both.”

“Minis, you were twelve.  This was not something you did to Shevenga.  This was something that your father did to you.  And him.”

“I still believed that the act damned me to Hayel... and for the half year afterward... I lived as if that were true.  I was a devil.  A monster.  This is when I did this.”

His one hand came up to cover his red face, just thinking about this made him blush.  His fingers spread across, fingertips in his hairline and under his cheekbones. “I have to call in the head orator, give him orders what to say, if we’re going to say something to this right now... shen, shen, shen...”

There was reason?  It was madness?  It was madness and I have been working with healers?  It will never happen again.  I must admit it… I was just a child, not even second threshold, and it was expected behaviour of me, required by my father… and that I will recompense the man.”

“Um... sure, that’s good.  Minis get up.”  He hadn’t come out from behind his hand and his tone of voice conveyed the sound of ‘I can’t think of anything else.’  He called in one of our people, sent him out with the message to our head orator.

“I... I’ll wait outside Surya’s healing room?”

“I guess so.  I’ll tell them that their orders might change... he’ll think of something we haven’t, I know.”

“Kallijas... I’m sorry...”

“Don’t apologize, lad.  This isn’t over yet.  I’ve been in battles that seemed lost, and then turned around.  It can happen.

“You... ser... don’t hate me for harming Ch’venga?

“Minis...!”  His voice was edged with exasperation.  “You have to get off this hating-yourself crap or you will fail as Imperator.  You heard what I said about it.”

“Yes, ser.”  I took up the pamphlet to show Chevenga.

Outside Surya’s room I tried to remember that he and Chevenga and a lot of other people didn’t think I was evil either.  I wept a silent tear or two for the two young okas men and took a deep breath.  I would do what I could.

In the sunlit early morning of Arko, the lines of voters would be forming.  This pamphlet... and the oration wouldn’t reach much outside the city. I could not despair.  And Kallijas still believed in me.  The door clicked and Chevenga came out, looking shaky.

I leapt to my feet, sorry to do this.  “Ch’venga.”  I swallowed hard and held out the pamphlet for him.  He smiled at me and took it but his face didn’t change a great deal even after he’d read it.  He even laughed a little.

“Shen,” he said.  “Where do they find the perverse enough minds to confabulate these things? I guess you’re going to have to get your people out speaking, right now… you don’t have time to print anything. And have yourself truth-drugged again, just on this, I suggest.”

“Kallijas and I have orators out,” I said, in a faint voice and swallowed hard.  “But, Ch’venga.  It... it’s true.  This... young man... I did that to them.”

His face didn’t change.  “Wonderful,” he sighed, heavily. “Another thing your father made you do. Better have your people saying that; are you?”

“No, we don’t. It would be a lie.” My stomach heaved. Chevenga was finally starting to understand that this disaster... this horror... was all my fault.

“Right... he gave you his so-typical do or be disowned, right?”

“No,” I said.  It was like cutting my own throat with the truth.  Perhaps now he would understand how perfidious I was. The word was like the executioner’s axe falling on my neck. “He just gave them to me. That is the truth, Shefen-kas. He required nothing.  He said it was a free gift and went off, leaving me with them.”

That was when his face changed, when he understood, when he realized he had sponsored a monster to sit upon the Crystal Throne.  I closed my eyes.  I didn’t have to die to be in Hayel.  Seeing that look on his face, I was already there.