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.”
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!”