Tuesday, September 27, 2011

563 - A Salt Column of Tears Unwept

Kallijas was in the hall outside the Sun Jade Imperial Suite, hands clenched behind him as he stood;  Idiesas, fully geared, at his back.

As I came up the steps Kall took three steps forward, took me by the shoulders and gave me a searching look.  “Are you all right, Minis?”

I found myself searching his face just as closely.  His eyes were creased with concern, not only for my well-being, but for me.  As if I were his own son.  His son.  Young Kall was in the hallway as well, I realized.  Everything was disarranged.  One of Ili’s servants stood beside him, but there was no sign of Ili.  He was probably confined to his suite of rooms.  It was protocol.

“I’m fine, thank you for asking, Kallijas.”  He cared more than was necessary.  He cared as strongly as Chevenga did.  It was unsettling.  What had I done to earn this?  What had I done, to deserve this?  “All but one…” my voice choked up.  “Tirias will live.” 

I’d left Joras’s wife at the clinic, standing absolutely still, reverted completely to Mahid wife, turning as rigid as a salt column of tears unwept.  Akminchaer had just told her.

The one thing I did… the one thing I could do, was to say “Rest he in Selestialis.”  She’d looked at me with eyes that weren’t just Mahid empty, but eyes that seemed lost, perhaps for the first time in her life.

“Thank you, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect.  He did his duty.  He was good at his duty.  I…loved…”  That was when her voice had cracked and she’d gone still, clamping down on all her emotion.  In mercy I had to look away and one of the other Mahid – Borasa -- had led her away, guided her down the hall as if she were blind.

“I’m sorry, Minis.”  That brought me back to now.  Kallijas hadn’t let go of me, his grip solid as the cliff rocks, but not like my father’s.  His hands didn’t hurt me, they held onto me, helped me.  I was reminded of other hugs, other love and concern.  My eyes welled up with tears but I held them back.  “I’m sorry that you lost so many, that you lost a kinsman as well.”

“He… I… thank you, Ser…”  The respectful address just slipped out.  He was so much an Imperator… “Kallijas.  Rest he in Selestialis.  Rest they all in Selestialis.”

His  hands shifted and he kept hold of one shoulder, turned me to the Sun Jade Presentation room.  “Let’s sit.  It is very hard, for me, I keep wanting to gear up.”  He turned a lopsided smile at me, part amusement, part ironic.  “My reflexes don’t match with ‘the one who needs to be defended’ instead of ‘the one who defends’.”

“I’m glad you don’t give in to that impulse.  Purely for selfish reasons, of course. Thank you.”  I tried to make my tone dry.  “I’d hate to have some candidate for the House of Integrity commit suicide by thinking they could even come close to your skill.”

He looked at me, solemnly and I thought oh no, he’s so proper, I’ve offended him. Then I saw the smile in his eyes.  His hand squeezed my shoulder and he let me go as we sat down.

That was when Ili’s note came and I asked to let him come up so I could reassure him.  Shortly after that the girls all came pouring in, along with my Dyer friends. 

Ky came in with them all and completely startled me.  She absolutely threw propriety off the Rim and flung her arms around me.  Then Farasha was there… and Gan.  My family.  I had my arms around Ky and then shifted to loop one around Gan and Fara had us all in a knot and Gan was big enough to kind of envelop us.  He’d gotten tall and broad and filled out a lot.

I buried my face in her hair, felt Fara’s forehead against mine and Gan’s cheek.  Ky was saying something muffled against me and I realized… “If you ever, ever, ever frighten me like that again I am just going to… well… going to… probably never speak to you again!”

“I’ll try… I’ll do my best.  I promise… I won’t go all heroic and stick my chest out, all right?  I’ll run like a scared little donkey and hide behind my well-armoured and much more highly trained guards, if you'll still respect me?”

I thought I felt her sniffle, but there was no sign of it when we unknotted a little and she raised her head.  “You’d better.  Of course I'd respect you.  I'd respect you more for being sensible.  Or I’ll find some Srian guard who can cover you up entire if he sat on you.”

Behind us, I heard Doob say “Hide behind their well-armoured horses’ asses instead.”  I looked past my hug of family to all my friends.  They were enough to make the big room seem almost crowded and that was when I realized they all must have sworn… and been vetted by the Marble Palace security, or Joras, or my grandfather… a long time ago.  And I had never even thought of it.  

Will Arko respect me after this?  I mean, they voted me in.  What if they really want someone who can be the hero?  Or will they, like Ky, respect me more for protecting their choice?  They will probably be enraged at anyone who would steal their vote by trying to kill me.  I remembered the solas who came to our assistance of their own volition. I hope none of them were injured.  They were off duty and not required to do anything, but they did.

Mother and little Tesha came in after… and Ili and his friends and the room was completely full of noise now.  How did I… how did I make so many friends?  How did I aquire so many family?  I’m just… I was… just the Brat.  I didn’t know how to love.  How did this happen?

Kallijas stood up and everyone settled, even Ili.  For all that he didn’t think he had presence, Kall had the presence of a mammoka if he wanted to, if he didn’t think about it.  “I thank you for your support of my charge and my friend.  I have some information to tell you all, about this attack, but I can’t tell you everything, of course.  It is an unfinished investigation at this moment.”


  1. Waah... poor Joras... even more sorry for his poor wife, they were just learning to love