I was sitting in the dog yard, the sun beating on my head, trying to work up the will to walk into the Marble Palace.
Tanifas had run me around with his pack and every time the dogs had started misbehaving he’d throw another question at me about what I was thinking or about something that would make me stop and stare at him wanting to ask how he knew. “The dogs are telling me,” he’d say. “You can’t hide from the forzak pack you know.”
So far he’d caught me ever time I started hammering on myself or telling myself things that hurt. He was uncanny like Surya but in his own way.
It was quiet on the steps of the dog yard. The wall of the Marble Palace loomed in front of me and it was unlikely that---
“—Hey! Min! MIIIIIIIInnnnnnIIIIIISSSSS!”
It was Ili leaning half over the Charoite balcony waving down at me. Ailadas had him by the back of the kilt and half lifted him back out of sight, even as I looked up.
“Hey, Ailadas! Stop I have to tell---- HEY MINIS DID YOU KNOW THAT AILADAS JUST OFFERED TO MARRY SERA EREN? AN’ RIBBONS IS GOING TO BE… AN’ JIAKLEM TOO… AN’—“
“Ilesias!” I managed to climb to my feet. Ailadas is getting married? But… but… he’s old… and… um… I… um… Ailadas is getting married. “That’s wonderful news… but don’t you think that Ailadas would want to---“
“--- he said I could an’ I came right out here… I knew you’d be with Tanifas… an’---“
“Ahem.” It was certainly amazing that Ailadas could project so well, even a cough. “Perhaps my impending nuptials might be discussed with a trifle more discretion and a soupcon less volume?”
My little brother was doing well for a seven, nearly eight year old. Really he wouldn’t be eight until later this year. I had to smile.
“Ili… why don’t you meet me in the Bath and we can all talk about it there?”
“Oh, sure… hey Min are you going to be Ailadas’s bemas? I mean I’m really too little… but maybe he wants one of those stuffy old guys from the University but they’re so –“
“—Ilesias Aan!” that was both Ailadas and I speaking together. All of a sudden I wasn’t nearly as tired as I had been just a moment before. I only know the barest minimum of weddings. My father wasn’t interested in weddings and in all the knuckle suckers they say ‘they got married’, with no mention of who really does anything… other than the bride and groom and the priest.
“Ili was quite correct, Minis. I would be very pleased if you would be my bemas. I have three gentlemen from the University I shall be asking as well as you, to stand witness and sign the papers.” Which papers where those? The fat guy betrothed me to Kyriala and I'd never thought about it, just thinking I'd show up on the day of our wedding and do what I was told... We sat in the bubbling tub in the Lesser Bath. Ailadas wore swimming costume and Ili was playing hurl the domoctopus into the big pool. Jia was cheeping happily and fetching himself back to be hurled again, though he occasionally, randomly, changed the game to ‘Seize-the-boy-by-the-head-with-all-eight-arms’.
“I’m honoured, Ailadas. Have you set a date? Or Anything else? I need to get into the etiquette books immediately. I don’t even know what to ask!
“Since it is a second marriage for both of us, we are resolved to keep it a small affair.” He smiled a little. “To be honest most of our long term friends are dead of old age.”
I was tempted to splash him. “You have quite a few friends, I’m sure.”
“It won’t be a large affair so we should be able to celebrate it in the fall, or even earlier, though Aras is an inauspicious moon to marry. She would prefer the first of Dimae.”
“Hmmm.” I wasn’t sure what to say. “Perhaps it would be a good idea to defer to her wish? After all, isn’t marriage really more the women’s… um… purview?” Was it really the women’s purview? Who am I going to ask, my mother? She must know about Mahid weddings, not normal ones.
He grinned at me, for all the world like a boy considering his first bride. “Heh, ahem. Yes – DUCK!”
I went under but it wasn’t fast enough, or it just didn’t matter anyway. Jia landed just over my head with a splash as I sank and latched onto me, so I came up with his squishy mass cheeping on my forehead, tentacles wrapped around my chin. “Excuse me, Ailadas. I believe a certain little brother needs hurling into deep water.”
“Of course.” Ili saw me coming and squealed before leaping into the deep pool himself, his knees up around his chest, clasped in his arms, to drench me with an enormous splash before I could reach him. I put my hands up to keep Jia from draping his tentacles over my eyes.
“I’m going to get you, you little squirt!” It was funny. I wasn’t the slightest bit tired any longer.