Monday, August 22, 2011

541 - My Darling Lad

The Liren baths were cool and since the girls had snuffed half of the lamps, the only light was from the windows and the cool green reflections on the ceiling and against the statues.

“I am so upset with him I don’t know what to do!”  Skala splashed her hand flat against the water.  “He’s ready to marry me, he’s not spoken to my brother, he’s not spoken to my uncle... he said he was thinking of our future life together, but he has just has NOT actually ASKED me!  He hasn’t presented me with the split ring and the bow!  What am I going to do?”

Kyriala, soaking, floating in the cool pool, with her head pillowed on the lip of stone on the edge of the pool for just that purpose, gently ran a hand between her legs and winced slightly. They’d had their private time together to clean themselves and each other up, it was what girlfriends did after all, but the number of hairs that needed tweezing still made the skin tender.  “Skala,”  Riala, in the hot pool, sounded exasperated.  “Why do you need him?  Why do you need a husband at all?  You’re working still.  Minis likes your work as a welcomist and you’re in the Marble Palace!  You don’t need a marriage.”

“I’m sorry, you feel that way, Ri,” Skala answered.  “But Mal is a good boy... a man now... and... and... well... I like him.  I’m not sure but I think I like him a lot.  My mother likes him.  I want a marriage.  I want babies."

“Maybe he just got used to thinking that he was too young to ask,” Kyriala said, thinking of Minis and his waffling, though she had to be fair, he was still second threshold himself.  “Maybe it just needs to sink in that he’s a grown man.”

The new girl in their group, now that Laisa was off in Yeola-e, had been being very quiet but now she spoke up.  “Was his birthing day not less than an eight-day ago?”  Jorasa Mahid asked.

“You’re right.  I’m impatient I suppose.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be impatient myself, Ky thought. But I thought I made it pretty clear, the night that Gannara and Farasha left... that, well, I was flexible and... that I still wanted him... though Farasha was concentrating on me and Gannara on him.  But... we... I, at least, I’m still a little worried about that, though my talks with the Fenjitza are helping.  We had so much fun.  I miss them.  I miss him, even when he’s here because he’s so very proper, asking me to dinner only a little more often than is exactly expected.  He’s proper enough sometimes to make me absolutely scream with frustration.  Maybe next time I will... um... be more forward.


“Sukala!”  Kall reached the old woman and caught her up in a hug that took her right off her feet.  “I couldn’t do this at the school!”

“Whyever not?”  She patted him on the back as he set her down gently.  “Now let’s all get inside before you tropical sorts freeze solid.”

The wing-cat had transferred to Kall’s shoulder during the hug and the pig gave him a distrustful snort before tip-tapping off into the dark.  She led us all in through this tall narrow crack that lowered at one point so that Kall had to duck to not smack his forehead on it, and Reknarja as well.  I was still under it and probably always would be, Aan height notwithstanding. I was only a few fingerwidths taller than Klaimera.

“You know very well why ever not, I wouldn’t want to throw Sh- Firani-e off, you silly old woman.”

“My dear boy, if Virani-e could be thrown off by something as small as that, he would never have got to where he did today.  All high and mighty, now you’re Imperator; mind it’s not you I ask to instruct my guests when they need to use the privy.”

What was it about her garderobe that made grown warriors smirk like that?  I'd heard more things implied about it than anyone saying anything straight out; and from Chevenga and Kallijas both!

Kallijas laughed more freely than I’d ever seen him.  “I’d be willing to do that, not a problem!  I also took care to go before we came up here.”  He grinned at her as if he were a second thresholder.  “Sukala you saw my friend, the Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect, Minis?  This is the Tor Enchian Crown Prince Reknarja, we just met him really today, after Sheven—Firani-e’s ceremony, and this is the Priestess Klaimera, daughter of Astyardk, Princess of Laka.” Klaimera’s nod was that fantastically graceful Laka style that made them look sinuous and almost boneless.

“I am honoured and delighted to meet you all!  Come in, come in, make yourselves at home in my palace, and we shall have tea--or kaf, or a chocolate cup, or wine, or what you will; just name your preference!”

The cavern she led us into was warm and hung with shadowy things and the air was full of smells assaulting my nose. The bundles and net bags bulged with dried plants and roots, strings of bulbs, arrow-bundle like shapes of dried flowers and reeds.  A half-woven tapestry strand was hung from the shadow-lost ceiling, anchored down at the bottom end loosely knotted around a smoothed and painted piece of wood.

It was surprisingly warm for a cave.  Probably because there was at least one blanket over the door to block the draft from outside, and the humped bee-hive of a stove, covered in what looked like blue and red and silver tiles.  In the middle of the room a low bed or couch stood on one side and pillows, each brighter than the last in a loose ring around the low, green and cream and blue painted table.

Other cracks in the walls showed openings to other caverns, some with blankets hung over them, some with a blanket there, but pulled back.  Purple and red and black, cream and red stripes, red and green and black stripes, they were all thick wool and would block the cold as well as any tapestry.

“Shall I draw water for you, then, Sukala?” Kallijas opened the bundle he’d had over his shoulder.  “I brought you a few things I thought you might like, or could use.”  Part of his pack was a bag of astonishingly large oranges from the Marble Palace orchard, some eye-searingly bright rolls of silk and cotton and a box of fancy chocolate and gold truffle candies from the Marble Palace chef who did the most elegant ones.

“Oh, thank you, thank you my darling lad, that--oh, look at that.” She spread out a blue and gold silk shimmercloth and a purple and red peacocktail weave over it.  “That is beautiful.  And the oranges, thank you so much and... what is this?”  The chocolates were carefully packed in one of the gold silk boxes, for travel, and nestled in white silk nests. “Oh... very fancy-looking...” She popped one into her mouth and closed her eyes as it began to melt on her tongue. “Oh.  Oh.  Oh oh oh oh oh.”  It made me dreadfully uncomfortable because it reminded me of the sounds people made when they made love.  “Oh my All-Spirit.  Thank you, Kalicha.  I love you.”  Then she offered them around, first to Klaimera and Reknarja.  “I’m sure they have them coming out their ears in the Marble Palace... here.”