Wednesday, June 1, 2011

494 - Did I Mention, I Miss You?

This kind of court dinner I not only could bear, but was actually enjoying.  Kallijas had Laisa and her parents again, and his boy, I had invited Sera Liren and casually asked if she minded bringing her daughter to ‘fill out the table’.

Ky was just down the table on the other side of her mother, which was very different from having father between the two of us.  And I didn’t have a whole tail of people flowing down the table; my so-called companions who, in theory would have been my court in training.

Half the Assembly were here and some of the Ministers, instead of Aitzas families jostling for places under father's eye. Now, as then, there were minstrels in the gallery above playing light music on glass instruments, but now they could barely be heard over the talk, rather than playing to cover tense silence.

There was laughter in the room as people joked, or just talked with one another as they ate, instead of hanging on every breath Kall took, watching without watching every bite of food from his plate to his mouth. It was as if it were an entirely different dining hall.

“I was just realizing that the way of the future with the wing might be for me to learn how to wing-relay,” Kallijas was just saying to Laisa, who smiled at that instead of breaking down in silly vapours about how dangerous it was.

“Even without the relay, winging is so much faster… when the air obliges, I understand,” she said softly.  “Is it really necessary?”

“Well, Shefenka thought that it could save a whole day between Vae Arahi and the City, without the necessity of landing, being strapped into a new wing and then having to take off again with a fresh pilot.  It is that, that really takes time.  And if you ask any flyer they’ll tell you that the most danger lies in landings and take-offs, not air-time.”

She smiled at him again.  “And getting handed off mid-air is less dangerous?”  She had obviously done her research.  For a moment I wondered if she had been taking lessons how to fly.

Kallijas smiled back and I held my breath and had to look away.  It was so obvious that he was blindingly in love with her.  That was the sweetest smile I had ever seen on his face, except when he smiled at Chevenga. Though when he smiled at Chevenga it was less sweet, really, and more intense.

I found Ky smiling at me, behind her mother’s back and I seized on it as though she’d thrown me a line when I was sinking.  “Didn’t the Imperator Emeritus devise the wing relay?” Ky asked Kall.

“Not exactly directly,” Kallijas answered and her eyes turned to him, leaving me feeling the aftermath of a warm glow, as if I’d just passed into the cool shade of a cloud after the direct blaze of sun.  “He and Niku talked and debated it in..." and here he blushed because he didn't want to say 'in bed,' I was sure.  "Um.  They talked it out and Chevenga suggested the fastest couriers tied their packets to lariats modeled after the Lakan ones and sling them to their next hand-off mid-air like passing the ribbon in that game of theirs… It was Sheng who mentioned wistfully to the aNiah artificers and that crew that it was too bad a person could not be passed the same way.  Niku nearly popped out of her skin with the idea that he wanted to try it.  And he didn't get to try it until they'd perfected it over water.”

“So it wasn't that crazy Diyadesai who came up with a way to hand off a person without dropping them,” Ky said.  “She is frighteningly smart that Sera.”

“No, the aNiah have some crazy builders all their own, and all about flying and fliers. Of course there’s some danger when the person is mid-transfer, though not in danger of being dropped… it’s the danger of tangling the two wings and the rig and everyone falling.”

"I should never be one to even go up in one of those things," Sera Liren said firmly, setting her spoon down, where it was whisked away by one of the everpresent servants.  "Much less be dandled like a drop spindle from the bottom of one."
"They are much safer now that they are more regularly used," Kallijas said and smiled around the table again.

Kyriala spoke up.  “I think it is something I shall learn how to do.”

I found myself staring at her, just as her mama was.  What?  What?  It’s not something that Arkan GIRLS should do… Then I caught Kall’s smile at her and blinked.  I’d never considered… what if he thinks he should marry the best woman in all Arko, while he is Regent?  My heart leaped up and, banging, tried to strangle me.  Stop that. Stop that. Stop that.  You’ve just got weddings on your mind.

Ky leaned over and twinkled at her solas friend.  “Don’t you think you and I would pick it up quickly, ‘Sa?”

She giggled and waved her oyster fork at Kyriala admonishingly.  “What a thing to propose out of the starry sky, Ky!  Of course it will be fun!”

Her mother was sputtering where she had almost spat out a sip of wine, holding her napkin to her mouth in horror, coughing.

And everything went back to normal as Kall nodded at Laisa and smiled… that way… at her again, and a servant offered Sera Liren a goblet of water for her choking.

Of course I was being silly.  I mean Kallijas could ask to marry any girl in the Empire and she and her parents would fall all over themselves to get her to the temple.  He was interested in Laisa and I was happy for him.  I told my stupid beast belowstairs to shut up and stop being stupid.  My heart slowed down, finally.  Thank goodness that kind of idiocy was just a flash and nothing more long term.

I pushed the summer greens around my plate.  I quite liked them usually, now that they didn’t crunch with grit, full of arsenic.

"Kyriala!" Sera Liren managed finally.

"I'm sure it will be quite safe, mama."

Perhaps I should… well, maybe I could… um… would it be… I had no fikken idea if Ky still wanted me as anything more than a friend, especially after that drunken, herbed, debauched send-off night.  I am so confused.


Selinae 29th 50 Y.P.E.
Marble Palace, Arko

My Dear Cheng,

I miss you terribly and I am concerned about the stories I’ve been hearing.  Niku has gone back to Ibresi?  Skorsas wrote to tell me that.  How are you?  What’s really going on?  I haven’t had a letter from you in quite some time.  All right, three days feels like quite some time.  Sorry.

Did I mention I missed you terribly?  Well, I do.

The Ten threw temptation squarely in my lap the other day, Minis said he wrote you about the Kallen incident so I won’t repeat it but I haven’t been so enraged since he read my reply letter to your challenge and edited it...  I feel so filthy that I still have that kind of petty vindictiveness in me, to frighten him like that before telling him to get out.  Not that I will shirk my duty.  Someone should have charged him, years ago.  It was petty of me to rub his face in my rage. 

Minis is doing well.  He’s taken up his studies again with a vengeance and is working his heart out to both be with me and finish this doctorate thing, even though he thinks that mean, paltry people will think it is just being awarded him as an honourary rather than as something hard-earned.  I told him it didn’t matter what people thought, it mattered what he thought.

Do you remember Serina Laisa Si Rusa?  The girl… of course you do, you invited her to train with us, what am I saying?  Sorry.  Cheng… I want to marry this girl.  Do you think she will fit in with the rest of the family?  I think she would… if she would even consider me, since everyone knows I’m coming back to Yeola-e to be with you.  She’s wonderful with Junior and I think the other children would like her.  But if you don’t think she’s good enough… she’s solas… aigh, what am I saying?  I know the look on your face love.  Of course she’s good enough and caste can go hang.  I want to introduce her to Sukala before the old goat dies!  And your mother.

Junior likes Laisa quite a bit and has stopped, finally, giving me updated reports on his mother and her new husband’s marriage.

My mother thinks she’s well suited to me -- and Da… well, it’s the oddest thing, he’s kind of shrugging and smiling and saying ‘just tell me when I’m to approach her father, Kallijas.  Si Rusa’s a good family and a good line, even if the girl was raised oddly.’

Aigh, I miss you.  I’m overthinking EVERYTHING and want to see you grin at me and tell me, ‘just breathe, Kall.  You’re doing fine…”

I miss you like I would miss air.

All my love,
Kallijas  (penned in gold not yellow, all right?  I did that just for you!)

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