Friday, August 26, 2011

543 - The Forge of Sukala

“So you were not just dreaming that,” Reknarja said.  Klaimera looked at him as if she were a touch offended. “I’ll admit I saw nothing of the kind.  But I have the spirit-sense of a brick.  I could imagine it from the way Surya moved.”

“The best person to ask whether you were dreaming it is Virani-e himself,” said Sukala.  “When you get the chance.  He is the only person to whom it really matters, whether it was real.  But of course it was.”  As Sukala spoke, Rek spoke quietly, aside, to Klaimera, and she smiled at him, he got red again, almost to the roots of his hair and took off his fur collar to lay with his winter gloves.

“Sheng... ah, Firani-e will be on the island longer than we can stay,” Kallijas said.  “Minis and I will be heading back to Arko in the morning, since our Assembly won’t have us gone so long.  But I look forward now to years of asking him about this mystical Yeola-e stuff now.”

“There is only so much he will tell you,” Sukala said.  “There are things you have to be asa kraiya yourself to understand.  I suggest you have him demonstrate things.”

“Demonstrate things?” Reknarja protested.  “Non-warrior things?  How do you demonstrate non-warrior things? Wouldn’t that have to be more like a non-demonstration?”

“I guess you will have to ask him, too.”

I had to smile.  “Surya does those kinds of non-demonstrations.  If I every made him angry (oh Ten I nearly just blurted out ‘pissed him off’) I’m certain I’d learn something really rapidly about my behaviour.”

“Surya doesn’t get angry,” said Kall.  “Or so I’ve been told.”

“I can see that,” I said.

“Neither do I,” said Sukala.  Somehow it seemed utterly believable, coming from her.

“Watch out, Minis, the pig is checking out the ends of your hair.”  We were all sitting on cushions and I’d thought the snuffling behind me was the dog.  I jumped up, yelping. “Hey!”  Everyone roared with laughter, even me.

“Thanks, Kall.”  I settled down again on my cushion, with my hair brushed forward onto my chest rather than trailing down my back.  It was still mostly extensions and I had to continue to be careful of them.

“My animals love my guests,” Sukala said.  “Kalicha thought my wing-cat was a demon, the first night he was here.  Eventually they forgave each other.”

He looked chagrined, smiling and blushing at the same time. “I’d never seen one before.  I’d only read that they existed and the wood-cut print was really terrible,” he protested mildly.

“What did he do?” Reknarja asked.  The wing-cat in question was spread sloppily over Kallijas’s lap and his cushion, having his chin and wing-crevasses scratched.  And purring like a fiend.  In the lamplight I could see the delicate leather of his wings was as striped as his fur.  Not a common colouring in Arko.

“I nearly hurled my tea-cup at him.”

“Oh, Puki is something of a jokester.  He loves to buzz the guests.  Dived and flew close past his face, he did.”

“So what happens now, for J’vengka?” Klaimera said.  “On the island, what is he doing?  Is it like a hospital, and he is recovering?  Or more like a monastery?”

“A bit of monastery, a bit of House of Integrity,” Sukala says. “Asakraiyaseyel stay there after their ceremonies, sometimes a half-moon, sometimes a moon, sometimes longer.  And there are people who have decided to stay there for life, bringing counsel to the new ones; they’re more like monks.  The maesal asa kraiya, the beyond-the-sword houses, were most busy right after the war.”

“So mostly he will rest?” the Lakan princess said.  “Or go through a spiritual journey?”

“A bit of both.  If you think of a warrior as a caterpillar, and asa kraiya as butterfly, the maesa asa kraiya is the cocoon.”

Reknarja nodded but I’m not sure he understood.  Kallijas looked thoughtful.  “So it is the warrior that is the larval form then of being human?”  I had to ask.

“Feh, you are being too clever by half,” Sukala laughed.  “It’s just a metaphor, lad.”

“Too clever?” I had to sigh.  I was just trying to continue with the metaphor but she obviously didn’t want me to take it so seriously.  Priests made me feel like that sometimes, at least ones with wit, not like my old dekinas.

“Welcome to the Forge of Sukala,” Kallijas said laughing.  “I was too clever by at least three quarters, here, so many times I can’t remember.  You get used to it.”  What, get used to having your conversational sallies cut off like that?  Being laughed at for tendering an idea?

I tried hard not to feel upset by that.  I’d just wanted her to like me.  I decided it was just best I held my tongue rather than try so hard.  If I’m just to listen, then that is what I’ll do.

“So people in the in-between stage are delicate,” Klaimera said.  “And so need to be in a well-sheltered place... I guess that is why it is on an island?”

“Or some other isolated spot,” Sukala said.  “It actually used to be up here, many years ago, on Haranin, further up.”

Kallijas nodded as if that answered some question he’d long held in his head.

“Sievenka has always seemed pretty delicate, to me,” Reknarja said.  “For someone so tough.  I, ah, guess that sounds strange.”

Both Kall and Klaimera spoke up.  “It’s not strange.” And “Not at all.” Both at the same time.  Rek looked from one to the other.  It was an open secret that the Lakan princess and Chevenga had been lovers once, and Reknarja seemed to realize what he’d implied, and what they’d answered.  I wondered if it was what he meant exactly and risked asking.  Ha, the Crown Prince of Tor Ench is safer to ask a question than this common old woman living in a cave on a mountain.

“Crown Prince, might I ask what you mean?  I mean... I wondered about such things when I met him as a child but I put it down to what my sire was doing to him.”

“Well... I’m almost not sure what I mean,” Rek says after thinking for a while.  “I first knew him when we were kids and we both accompanied our respective heads of state on a diplomatic meeting.  We, em, didn’t quite hit it off… hah, according to some stories you nearly ended up rolling on the ground like a couple of street brats… “... it’s hard to put my finger on, but I saw it again when I joined with his army. It was as if there was something in him so... tenuous... and yet, you also feel he could kill you with a glance, if he wanted to.  You know what I mean?”

“It’s that he makes himself so open, right to the soul, to people,” said Klaimera.

“Well, there’s that too, but it’s also... there was always that other something about him, that was half in the dark.”

“Well, it used to be a mystery to all of us,” Sukala said.  “When he was a child, he was generally very cheerful and friendly and loving, as you’d expect from good parents and such good prospects.  But he seemed to be carrying a darkness, which would sometimes seize him.  Now the world knows why.”

We all murmured our various forms of ‘yes’, though I just nodded and signed chalk.  It was definitely safer not to say much.

“You think that’s it?” says Reknarja.  “It would make sense.  I knew the moment I heard, I thought, ‘That’s why he’s always in such a damned hurry.’  I would be, too.”

Kallijas’s head was down as he thought.  What was he thinking?  About when Chevenga told him? Or about when they all found out he might live longer?

1 comment:

  1. What Shirley wrote on my site ("I'm seeing Toras from Chevenga's eyes and that is something that you cannot see from role playing the character. You, like the character, can only infer what the other is thinking") goes both ways, with me playing Sukala here... though actually Shirley was sharing his thoughts with me, so I had to play Sukala in apparent blissful ignorance. Actually she knows, if not his thoughts, his feelings.