Surya saw me one more time before Chevenga and Kallijas finished the switch-over of power in only two eight-days. Of course it was fast. Everyone understood where Chevenga had gotten his habit of working fast. One tends to cram things into every hundredth of a bead when trying to stay ahead of the Summoner.
“I’m happy to hear you and the others have been following your instincts when it comes to sexuality,” he said, even as I hid my flaming face behind my hands.
“But isn’t it a sin?”
He looked at me compassionately. “I’m a psyche healer, Minis,” he said. “Not a priest and a Yeoli on top of that. We have love-feasts and our biggest worry is whether we are ready to be parents yet. We hold no Gods to rule over the fear in our hearts.”
“So I need to find an Arkan priestly advisor,” I said.
He signed chalk. “Preferably one who can work in concert with the healer you get to replace me. I recommend that you hire someone very soon after I leave to go home to Yeola-e.”
And help Chevenga complete his healing, trying to get him to avoid the death he’d expected. It worked out well for him. So after all the trauma of the war and the tearing open of the Empire, where was I to find an Arkan healer? No one would have trained on Haiu Menshir for years, I was certain, though they wouldn’t deliberately turn away anyone talented who sought it.
It seemed to me that if the Empire was closed enough, tight enough, rigid enough, we would have suppressed or driven out or killed off our sensitives. Especially if they happened to be lower caste. I shuddered to think of all the potential talent we had squandered by smashing it under the weight of birth position.
“I’ll have to write to Haiu Menshir and see if they can recommend someone to me.”
“Now what is that flash I see?” Surya had that look on him. No self-hating, self-destroying emotion got past him, unless he let it, because you couldn’t bear to deal with it yet.
“Um. I was just thinking that it was just, or right, that I lose you…”
“No. I do not see the world working like that. I am certain that All-Spirit, or the Gods as you would say, are arranging things for your best learning.”
“That’s kind of what I’m afraid of. Sometimes the best learning rises out of war, disaster, torture…”
He looked as though he wanted to pinch the bridge of his nose and was restraining himself. What a stubborn pair he had to deal with. Chevenga on one hand thinking he was bad enough to die to pay for being a warrior, and me who thought I was bad enough to die and go to hayel just for being born in the first place. “One can learn something out of anything that happens, or choose not to. In my experience and that of my teachers it just means the next time the lesson comes around it does so… hmmm… bigger, louder, heavier.”
“You mean…” It was an interesting idea. “My father could have learned from Chevenga and when he didn’t eventually he could have learned from the war?”
“The ultimate resistance to change… or learning… is death.” Well that was kind of obvious, I guessed. A way of saying yes without saying it.
“And then, according to us, the Gods teach you.”
“Who knows?” He did the expansive double shrug. “No one has ever come back to tell us what’s on the other side of death, other than dissolution of the body, which we can see. There is something there… but even the best seers can only see so far.”
“Something I need to talk to the priest or priests about, I suppose.” I wanted to find a priest about as much as I wanted to be raped by the risen corpse of 2nd Amitzas. I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Tobeas, the dekinas who must have been very relieved not to be sent into exile with me, but who knew where he’d been assigned. I didn’t see him being very heroic in the sack.
“I would suggest that.” He tapped his lips with his one hand. “In fact, I’ll write a list of suggestions that you may pass on to your next healer.”
The look he laid on me was stern. “You have been feeling better, working with me?”
“Uh huh.” I admit. It was an inarticulate grunt.
“And you understand that it is good?”
“Um.” I nodded, weakly.
“I suggest you find someone soon and not just put this list in a drawer and think you’re healed.”
He grinned. “Exactly so. First of all, you need to keep working on your sexual response and continue to leave it be, or encourage it, instead of attacking it.”
I managed another nod though it was hard.
“Second, you need to find a spiritual advisor who isn’t going to fight your psyche healer by telling you that natural impulses are sinful and bad and wrong.”
That one was going to be a lot harder.
“Third, you need to keep talking regularly to your potential mates. I realize that Gannara and Farasha are away but you can write them letters. If things in the letters get too personal then you can always hand them straight to them after they get back. It’s a good exercise. And your Arkan Serina, talk to her. Keep talking to her.”
I swallowed through a dry throat and nodded. What must she think of me? Giving myself to Gannara like that in front of her? I mean, she kissed me but… but… it was hardly manly and something that no decent man would show his betrothed or his wife… or… well she wasn’t either, so it was even worse…
I felt myself blushing just thinking about how awful that must have looked to her. Me just opening myself up to Gannara like that, like… a… well. Um. A boy. Or a woman. Oh I had messed things up something awful. I’d ruined everything. My image, how she saw me… Everything… ow ow ow. Oh Gods and… Goddess, help… I’d never get her to respect me after seeing THAT.
“Talk to her,” Surya repeated, relentlessly.
Then he waited until I managed to squeak a ‘yes’ out of my throat.
“That will be enough to start with. If you like, you may write me as well. I suspect if you send it to the Hearthstone Independent through Chevenga he’ll get it to me.”
“Thank you, Surya.” I was losing him too. I took a deep breath and focused on the list rather than wallow in what I wanted to feel.
Later, out from under Surya's eye, I could mourn that I was losing him too. I was losing my father in spirit, Chevenga. I was losing Kallijas to some girl he was busy falling in love with. I’d lost Gannara, my heart’s brother to the road for a while and Farasha, the girl who LIKED me kissing her… um… there. And I’d surely already lost Kyriala’s kind regard all in one evening, giving in to wild emotion.
In a way I was as alone as when I’d been a child under my father’s gold-weighted thumb. How had I managed this? How had I arranged this? I’d worked so hard to get here and now I really, really didn’t want this. How had it happened?
I didn’t want to be alone in my head, watching my father’s ghost drip onto the map of the Empire. That really wasn’t a good place to be. I’d… go talk to Grandfather about it. He… I had him. He wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was my mother, even though she… well, was she… but… I’d talk to her too.