Amitzas Mahid stood next to the Corrective Stall, hands tucked under a brightly embroidered kerchief, all flames of different hues. It was so odd to see on him. It was so odd to see him in blue robes or green ones, or burgundy and white, much less with the bright cloth. His thin white hair still cascaded as perfectly straight as a column down to the backs of his calves and there were no tremors in him. His eyes, behind the glass lenses that flashed reflections of the lamplight, showed the same calm blue they always had. Though now one might say they were less stone dead and more serene. “Jorasa, Amitza, Eforasa,” he said. “The three of you are certainly nowhere near capable of going up against the high teams in the Faibalitz league.”
Jorasa made herself not look down, or away. I didn’t say we were… but… she could feel the disappointment welling up inside. We could… it will be as he says. She could feel her mouth move slightly as she seized the inside of her bottom lip in her teeth.
“The three of you were tentative in your checks.”
Disappointment vanished under resentment. We were not. We hit him and hit her both hard.
She was very surprised when Joras spoke up. “Senior,” he said with a little smile on his face. “The girls were not holding back in their checks, however tentative it may have appeared.” He rubbed a spot on his torso. “They winded me at least twice.”
Amitzas stared at him, but only for a moment. No one was used to all this back and forth, yet. “Granted,” he said finally and turned his attention back to the three girls. “Your skating needs work and certainly your stamina. Not the least of which you are short two players for even a first string. To truly be a team one must have at least ten players… two strings.”
And no more Mahid other than us to ask. That’s it then. No five, no team. There was an echoing silence in the hall. Fairly typical of a Mahid gathering, no one speaking unless spoken to. No idle chatter.
Borasa spoke up, unbidden. “I would train with them… if it is allowed.” Four. That’s four. Jorasa found herself looking up at the other in the stands… would anyone else even consider…
“I would, also.” Jorasa nearly wobbled on her skates. It was the Second Wife, Tesha, who spoke. Amitzas actually turned to look at her.
“Would you then? Hmmm.” Another yawning silence, then…The Mahid shrug was a bare twitch of shoulder. “All of Mahid life seems to be in the middle of a permanent Jitzmitthra. So be it. You are not the ‘New Mahid Team’ yet. You are allowed to train… for now. Seek out a coach. You may even reduce the number of dance or etiquette, or embroidery classes for this – it is your choice. Since you have requested this, complaints of bruises or injury will not be heard. Dismiss.”
“… the prints of the horses… go on this way. I can’t see right. Things are swimming. Why am I doing this? I don’t know. I just keep thinking of the word ‘Mahid’ as if it meant something.
Am I mad? Am I insane? I don’t remember anything but a single word in my head is enough to have me climb up a bloody cliff with shreds of dead things still stuck to it where they hit on the way down… And I’m following hoofprints in the dust. Too many to stay on the road. If they’d stayed on the road I’d never have been able to follow them.
But they stripped the corpses and threw everything away… me too. They thought I was dead. I’ve got my armour, which they didn’t seem to need, and this Ten-awful headache and not a clear thought in my head but following this boy because of a word I don’t understand. Mahid. Am I crazy? I should be getting to a healer.
They turned off here. Made no effort to hide the fact. It might rain in a day or so, but they are still being careless. It could rain in the next tenth. I don’t know. Ow. Why am I doing this?
Of course, they are counting on the weather in the mountains to help cover their -- And that was the moment when the heavens opened. Mountain weather. Sun one instant. Rain the next. Pouring rain in this case.
The man stood for a long moment and wavered between gratitude for the water he could drink and the soothing of his aching head and insensate rage that the track he was following was being erased with every heartbeat of water falling out of the sky.
“Imperator. You bastard, though you think me one. I have your precious Spark, the one you named 8th Amitzas. I… I am the true 8th Amitzas. Your bastard son. I have the boy. I will send him back to you in pieces if you do not acknowledge me as your official Heir.
I, Amitzas, am the true Spark of the Son’s Ray. This boy is merely the Coronet Regal. As such, I will do my best to not disfigure my brother until this is resolved, but that is up to you…”
The man threw his hands toward the sky and wished he could scream his frustration but for
some reason there was good reason not to advertise where he was. The word was ‘Mahid’. What does that mean? In the sound of the wind in the trees all around him, in the sighing of wind against the rocks of the gorges… it all meant nothing but it was the word that drove him on, despite all hurt and pain and willingness to stop. Mahid."