I almost remembered living in the Marble Palace from before. I remembered the swing. I’m sitting on the swing trying to make it go high enough to touch my toes to the gold and plaster swags on the ceiling. I can see scuffs so somebody did it more than once. I wonder if Minis did?
“Ilesias Aan. I should, ahem, like to speak to you, young man!”
“Awwww… Ailadas! I nearly have it! Wait one klick – all right?”
He’s standing at the door watching me swing, his arms crossed in a way that looks sterner than he really is. “So you may, ahem, add to the shameful abuse that gilded ceiling has endured?”
I wasn’t going to make it now, I was already distracted that I wasn’t going so high. I was still high enough that the ropes were kind of going slack at the top… enough to make things scary, even with Jia cheeping and he’s big enough now that he’s hanging on to both ropes with the tips of four of his tentacles and the other four are kind of wrapped around me… though not my neck. He’s scared of moving that fast and clings pretty hard.
I let the swing slow down but didn’t drag my toes on the floor. There’s been a swing here, in this set of rooms for long enough that there’s a kind of dip in the floor there. The stone’s been replaced a brace of times I bet.
“Ilesias, you were supposed to be in your class by now. I was waiting for you.”
I stared at him. “But Gian’s gone for the summer, I thought…”
“We spoke before he left and we agreed that I was certainly capable of taking your lessons in hand.”
“That’s not fair! The other boys… an’ girls too… they get the summer off. Why don’t I?”
“Because you’re Coronet Regal and have a lot more to learn than they do.”
Jia dropped onto the floor now that the swing was slow enough that he could hang from the seat and drag his other tentacles down, and he got sucked off as his suckers caught -- splat. Then he wobbled over to hide under the bed. There’s a couple of cats and fluffies under there from the noise as he squeezes between the stairs and the stiff bedskirt.
I pouted. I know. I didn’t want more lessons. “Minis isn’t taking any more lessons.”
“Yes, Ili, he is. He’s not only taking lessons, he’s doing some hard work with a healer…” He pauses, not wanting to speak badly of anybody dead, I guess.
“About stuff our father did to him. Yeah. I remember being scared… not why I was scared but he was a scary man.”
“Ahem. Indeed. Well put. Ahem.”
I pouted some more. “But that’s not lessons.”
“No, but he is ahem actually finishing his lessons with me. And doing his historical matriculation. If he is diligent, he might ahem be defending his doctorate before he does his Ten Tens when he ahem will have no time for study at all. Ahem and studying how to apply his training to not only be Imperator but to be a good Imperator. Ahem.”
“It’s still not fair.”
“No it is not. But if you are diligent, I will inquire about studying the science of baking later on this day. We may examine the alchemical properties of yeast and honey, hmmm?”
“And eat any experiments?”
“Ahem. Indeed. One must have a tidy laboratory, so no crumbs should be left behind.”
That was better. “All right.”
“And we will be ahem able to begin the study of biological functions by discussing how things are digested. At least you are not ahem equipped with the tongue of a fly and must vomit upon your food to digest it.”
Ailadas is sooooo gross sometimes which is really fun. “Ewwww. Flies really do that?”
“Flies really do that. There are some wonderful lenses in the school-rooms here and we shall have to gather a plentiful supply of them in glass bottles so we may examine them more closely. Perhaps you might do a detailed drawing for me?”
“Sure! I’ll draw you a whole book.” Nuni would be really grossed out if I could show him something like that. “Hey, what do flies feet look like?”
“Let us investigate.”
*How… are… you?* Gannara practiced his new fingertalking skills, as he and Farasha rode on top of the family caravan.
“Fine, silly.” She smiled at him.
He grinned at her. “I don’t want to be twitching and flailing about like a horse with a biting fly under its tail when talking like that.”
“You won’t be. You’re picking that up very very quickly. I told Papa you would.” She stretched her legs out on the caravan top. They were taking a break from riding. This early in the route they weren’t yet innured to hours in the saddle after overwintering. Their horses trailed the caravan quietly, tacked but head-tied.
Gannara tipped his face up to the sun, letting his broad-brimmed hat slide back. “Don’t burn that delicate white skin of yours,” she teased.
“I won’t.” They sat in silence for a while, as the pale white Arkan road unwound under the wheels of the caravan. “It’s an amazing green.” He swept a hand around them, taking in whole countryside, spikes of dark cypress arrowing up from the paler growth on either side of the road.
“I miss it,” she said. “But then I’m homesick for the city at the same time. Isn’t that odd?”
“I can be homesick for all kinds of places, even as I’m learning about new ones. Minis and Kyriala would love this.”
“Yes, they would. I miss them too. Ky’s gotten to be one of my very best friends.” Farasha stared off into the distance, clearly not seeing what her eyes were gazing over.
“We’ll be back soon. You said. It’s just for the summer. High summer at that.”
“And our family has a lot built up in the city. It’s so strange, to have a place to go back to over and over again. We never did that before.”
“So all you Gibyr gather together once a year… wasn’t it always in the same place?”
“No. It was always different. People passed on word when the elders chose the place.”
“The world has changed so much it feels like it’s been ripped apart and stitched together again in a new form.”
“Like a quilt, built out of old clothes that didn’t work anymore. Or that new cotton marya you’re working on. Not wool. Too hot. Cotton and delicate linens now.”
“I suppose. I’m going to use the design for Arko that my people have come up with to make maryas, one for Ky, one for Minis, before we get back.” He blinked at her and she leaned forward to kiss him, never letting on that she guessed he was working on one for her too.
“That’s a wonderful idea. It will make them seem closer to us. I tell you what… you show me your Arko city design and I’ll crochet Minis’s while you work on Ky’s.”
“I’d like that.”