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.
“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.