Friday, June 17, 2011

506 - Ever Faithful

We'd sat for two whole days, and probably would sit all the next as well, arguing about the relative merits of Grandfather’s proposal… alternating between rabid Assemblymen foaming about the very existence of one half of my family and others pointing out Amitzas’s picture of the new Mahid as very reasonable.

“The Honourable Assembly has been speaking of the Minister’s proposal only of the men.  Does the female side of the Imperial family not need protection as well?  We have seen, very effectively, how the other nations of the Earthsphere train their women.  I propose that should we accept the Imperial Pharmacist's vision of the Mahid that we add an addendum stating that part of the so called ‘working Mahid’ should not be limited to fifty men alone, but perhaps fifty women as well?  Or sixty?  Since it will be necessary for the female contingent to take leaves of absence so we do not require them to choose between their defense of the Imperatrix and being mothers.”

That argument caused an uproar but it certainly needed to be said.  It was also argued that there should be a ‘waiting list’ should the Imperial guard be injured out in the course of their duty.

It was sounding like the Assembly was willing to go with the idea and with the proposed limits on the family, but this type of governance in Arko had only been in place for a few years and who knew how the vote would go?  Kallijas said to me, quite honestly, that he had no idea if Grandfather's idea would fly.  Personally, he preferred his solas friends out of the elite being his protection outside the Marble Palace and I could see that.

I tapped on Ili’s doors and found he was off in the classrooms with Ailadas.  The servant let me into his outer sitting room.  I found myself running my fingers along the bookshelves… searching for something.  I wasn’t sure what until my finger stopped upon a worn little book that I had read and re-read when I was a young boy around Ili’s age.  “Faultless Coursers of the Sun”.

I picked it out of the row of books and flipped it open.  There was the Boras story.  And a gruesome kidnapping story that a lone surviving Mahid… 3rd Karunan made come out right.  The Mahid Imperatrix.  The Unknown Son. A full ten and a half more. They were all based on true stories in Arko.  The other books in the series were all fictional.

After hearing all the hatred of Mahid in the Assembly, I guessed I needed to re-read them.  This was the twentieth printing.  

I understood why people were going on at length about how awful the Mahid were.  I knew, down to my bones, both because I had hated them myself before the sack and treated them badly because I could and because my father had wanted them to be the tool of his fear.  I'd used them myself as my fists on the city.  I knew how helpless they were in Aan hands.  

I knew down to my blood and my own bruises.  I had killed a Mahid to gain my freedom; because of them I was a kin-killer already.  I'd had Obedience at their... at his command, their sickness and darkness tangled in and growing through my whole family like two plants with intertwined roots.  Or echoing back and forth like separate bars of wind-chimes hanging from a common point, each swing making the others sing out... or scream out.  I knew. 

I understood, not only because I had been in Second Amitzas's hands, but also knew that my mother was one.  That my grandfather was one.  And they had been my fists because they had no choice.  

For all my knowledge and understanding of the three heads of the Mahid dog guarding the Imperator, fear and torment and loyalty, no one was going to ask me my opinion, in the Assembly of Arko.  They would think it rude.

I wrote a note to Ili saying I had borrowed his book and went off to bespeak a bowl of apples and a carafe of juice from the kitchens.  I hadn’t had time to spend a whole evening indulging myself in just reading and I was going to take some little time to do just that.

There was a curtained niche with a lamp, for that kind of thing in the bedroom of my suite, next to my sacred space, which I thought was appropriate.  Perhaps someone had taken an ugly statue away and decided to fill the spot with pillows and a reading light.  Either way it suited my upset mood.


Ever Faithful

The man blinked.  At least he tried to.  Only one of his eyes would obey him and give him a look at the sky above.  And the cliff.  He lay on something almost soft but the stink all around him was raw and wild.  I’m… armoured… he managed to think.  Who am I?  Where am I? And perhaps most important of all -- I'm supposed to... What am I supposed to do?

He turned his head sideways and found himself staring into the dried foam and blood on a horse’s muzzle.  That’s what he was lying on, a dead horse. What had happened?

The boy.  There was a boy… screaming I think.  Yes.  In danger. Not yet dead.  I think.  I think I can think. Can I think?  Can I function?  I… must.  Yes.  It is my duty.  I don’t know why but it is my duty not to just lie here and die.

He tried to move, found himself on his side, the great flap of scalp that had made his head wound so mortal looking, stuck down enough, but it started to bleed again when he rolled.  When had his helm come off?  Had the strap broken?  What had happened?  A thought drifted up into his awareness, even as he found himself vaguely staring at his own gauntleted hand, wondering if it was his.  Mahid.  I think I am Mahid.  That feels right.  Or was the horse that I fell on named Mahid?  I can’t remember.  But the word is important.  Mahid…


I took a bite out of my apple without taking my eyes from the page, once more transported to that bloody cliff bottom in the mountains of East Aria with Karunan Mahid, sole survivor of 8th Amitzas’s guard, while the Spark was being carried away by a madman.  A madman who believed he was an Aan… an elder son cheated out of his inheritance.

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