“First Woman of the Mahid?” Inensa looked up from her book. It was one of the youngest of the surviving Mahid girls, Jorasa. “Is it permitted to speak to you?”
“Certainly.” She reminded herself that the stoicism was no longer the norm, deliberately twitched a tiny smile and nodded at the chair opposite. She sat in the library, in one of the quiet rooms, the skylight shining indirect light down, perfect for reading this time of day.
Jorasa settled, perfectly gracefully onto the edge of her chair. She wore dark burgundy and her hair was braided into an elegant coronet before cascading in a cluster of tiny braids down the exact centre of her back. Aside from the colour she wore, she would have been perfectly turned out as a Mahid.
Inensa herself did not feel well, or well turned out. She had cut the outer layer off this maternity dress so that she was not enveloped in spans and spans of cloth, but the snug inner layer showed off her increasing bulk. Her sinuses were full, she felt sluggish and as if her every joint was full of water. The Haian had given her a number of things to take and thank Selinae they had helped, but she looked down at herself and hated the way her body had changed. She sighed internally and shifted slightly, trying to ease her aching hip-bones. Bearing children is not comfortable, or pleasing. I was this big for my son.
“First Wife…” Technically I’m either First Widow, or Dowager Mother of the Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect. What a mouthful that is. “I have a confession to make.”
Inensa set her book down completely and sat up straighter in her comfortable chair. It was very hard to sit rigidly in one of these padded chairs designed to curl up in, to read. “I hear and shall judge.”
“I… taught myself to skate. I… found my brother’s skates in the storage room… He was Karunan Mahid… on the faibalitz team.”
Inensa blinked. Of all the possible confessions, this was one of the least likely she would have guessed. “That… would have been a confession a few years ago, granted,” she said finally. “But hardly now.”
“I’ve taught some of the other girls too.” Jorasa was pale but with two brilliant blushes on her high cheekbones. Inensa shifted and tried to adjust the cotton in her chest wrap. It was already moist and the leaking breasts disturbed her. It had not happened the first time.
“Has anyone seen you?”
“No, First Wife.”
“Good. Where do you practice?”
Jorasa looked confused. “In the faib bowl. We pretend we are a team. It is a fantasy. I confess it.”
To be honest… I am not sure what to think about this. It is definitely not something any proper Mahid girl would do. And yet here there are the younger ones -- enough to pretend they are a team – doing this. Is this something I should punish? My son and his Dyer friends… there are females in that group… and Kyriala is learning as well, since – she said – “I am going to keep up with Minis. Besides, it is fun.”
She sighed. “I am not certain how to proceed here. It is exercise approved of by my son. He would likely approve of you learning.”
Inensa raised one eyebrow. “Go on.”
“Is it not a tremendous shame that the Mahid do not have a faibalitz team? The family’s honour is faded because of that.” The girl was trembling with her own temerity, so intent on her hint that her control slipped. That is what comes of all this softness. Loss of control. Though I do admit I and everyone else are sleeping better of late. One thing no longer echoing around the midnight Mahid quarters are faint reverberations of nightmares. At least not so many.
“You… and the other girls think this?” Jorasa nodded, silently in answer, regaining her composure. “It is a great shame. It is too bad that there are no men to play the game.”
“There… are women beginning to play in the grass teams,” Jorasa whispered before pressing her lips together.
“Let me say this straight out into the air. You are requesting that your seniors seriously consider letting a group of half-trained girls carry the Mahid honour in the faib bowl?”
Jorasa bit her lip but nodded firmly. “Yes, First Wife. We could… if we trained right. If we trained openly. If we had a coach and approval. We could do it.”
The baby kicked and squirmed around inside making Inensa catch her breath as a heel or an elbow perhaps, pressed hard against her stomach from inside. Shen. What on the Ten’s blessed and cursed Earthsphere and Selinae’s tangled nest of hair, am I to do with this?