I watched the amoyawa spiral up slowly on the sluggish morning branmoy. It was hard to think that because of that machine rather than being eight-days of travel to see someone again in Yeola-e it could be as little as three days if the wind and branmoy favoured. They spiraled up to become tiny dots against the odd clouds blowing in and then peeled away to slide down the wind toward Yeola-e.
Kall stood next to me and didn’t call me away to train. His eyes strained after the tiny dot that was Chevenga, flying himself home; he quivered with the need to follow but the tiny chime of the Imperial Seals... the Imperial chains... on his hands was enough to bring him back to Arko. I’m sorry I’m holding you here, Kall, but if I hadn’t been here it would have been forever, not just two years. And now you might have Chevenga for the rest of your lives, once I reach my majority.
A whift of cloud hid the last of the flyers from our sight and Kallijas shook himself. “Come along, Minis.”
He ran us both into the ground with his workout, and though Laisa kept up really well for a girl, she did have to sit down before I did. I suppose when you have to sneak all your training your wind suffers. I understood, he was trying to make the work normal and be too tired to think the wrong thoughts all at the same time.
“Serin, Serina, that should be sufficient,” he said at last. He had to be clean and ready to sit in the Assembly chamber in two tenths. He nodded to us as we bowed to him. “Serina, might your parents be free to join me for the evening meal?” He asked it so casually. Her family had been to the Marble Palace already for a number of meals. It would be casual except you’re the colour of a ripe-redfruit.
She went all flustery, for no reason. “Oh… certainly… I’ll inquire, Ser..”
“Kallijas, please, Serina Laisa.” They were being proper and sugary enough to rot my teeth.
“Ser,” I said, quietly. “Serina. Please excuse me.”
“Of course, Minis. I will see you in the office this afternoon.”
That was for me to be an observer. “Of course, Kallijas.” I nodded at her again. “Serina… until the evening meal.”
I let the water pound down on my head, closing my eyes, letting it wash the sweat off me. The new routine hadn’t yet been established. I didn’t know what my responsibilities were, but I had promised Surya to find another healer and a priest for myself. I’d get dry and speak to my grandfather and ask his advice. I threw a light linen robe over my shoulders and a towel over my head as I stepped out of the cascade.
“Thank you,” I said to the hand that gave me a dry towel, not able to see who it was.
“I’m pleased, ahem, to hear you are continuing your, ahem, politeness lessons.” It was Ailadas. I dragged the towel off my head and managed to cover my face with strands of half-dried hair.
“Ahem. Indeed. Now that things are, ahem, settling down, ahem, I realize that in all the excitement, ahem, of turning oneself in, re-arranging one’s course in life and running a successful vodai campaign , one might have forgotten an unfinished doctorate.” He had both eyebrows up in his most spectacular ‘am I correct?’ look.
“Oh, um, I thought… but… well… er… aren’t you busy with both your tenured position and Ili?” It was the first thing that fell out of my mouth.
“Ahem. The day I cannot handle classes for the mass of thoughtless undergraduates, one mildly disobedient Coronet Regal AND being a thesis advisor is the day I should, ahem, surely retire. Ahem.” I unfroze and managed to get my hair off my face. The servants, who had backed off, grinning, to let him ambush me, stepped in to help me get my own hair ordered. I shot Antras a look and he returned it completely blandly, with a twinkle in his eye.
It still gave me a moment to think as I sat down on the bench in front of the vanity shelves and mirror. “Of course, Ailadas. I had completely forgotten, thinking only of the next step. My apologies.”
But he didn’t continue, so I did. “I was thinking… my next paper toward that doctorate… I was wondering if anyone had written about… well… Arko becoming a more closed society around the time of Tatthanas Aan, possibly sparked by fears of that failed coup? It seems to me that anytime a culture does this it loses potential and crushes creativity.”
It was a thought that had followed along after my talk with Surya. How much had we lost through rigid imposition of our own caste system? A voice from my past – “… what happens if a person is born a genius but is okas?”
Ailadas, perhaps not expecting such a thing to fall out of my mouth, blinked. I could see him in the mirror as Antras tipped my head sideways to unknot the snarls on my head. “It, ahem, would certainly be a good and correct follow up to your paper on the ancient Yeoli/Arkan connection… and actually begin the formation of a doctoral argument. Ahem.”
“Thank you, Antras,” I said as he quietly returned my head upright once more. “Please, dismiss everyone else for the morning? I have an urge to dress myself.” I had to begin as I intended to continue. I already felt a bit too much like a bee surrounded by attendants, swarming. When I had first been Spark of the Sun’s Ray it had been an unnoticed pressure that I had intermittently ignored, indulged and expected and sometimes – rarely – fought against. In my years on my own I found I had lost the taste for it.
“Of course, Spark.”
“Ailadas… thank you for coming to tell me… when would be convenient to discuss this… for you? The Imperator Elect has first call upon my time, then you.” My days were filling up fast. I’d promised to write some pieces for Intharas… and I’d promised Surya to keep healing. From too empty, my days were suddenly too full. I’d have to get Atzana to start keeping a daybook for me again.