I had to laugh at the look on Virana-e’s face. He really hadn’t expected me to be here as well as Kallijas, who had a strong arm around his shoulders and kept kissing him on the back of the neck. I gave way to a dozen other people in the thick crowd outside the Assembly Hall.
I circled around to congratulate Niku on the births. Kyriala and Laisa were with the crowd around her and I didn’t understand what was going on. Every woman and a lot of the men were acting all glowy and gooey. Babies, I guess.
I took one… the girl or the boy I wasn’t sure and patted a well-wrapped bottom, got stared at by misty blue eyes in a mocha squished face and passed it on to a Yeoli friend, one of the family friends who I could never remember their name.
The noise was deafening by now and Virana-e kept getting pulled back down into his chair by Kaninjer pulling on the back of his shirt. Everyone had to come and say hello and Virana-e seized me by the elbow to introduce me to a spear-straight, fur-collared old woman with a dense shock of white hair.
“Shadow Grandmama! I’d like you to meet Minis Aan, Imperator Elect. Minis this is Krasila Mangu, my shadow grandmother."
His shadow grandmother. I could see the resemblance to Esora-e. "Kere Mangu. It's good to meet you." Everyone around was speaking Yeoli, so I was as well. I offered my hands, Yeoli style, though only one could be taken because she had one of the babies on her other arm.
“Imperator Elect,” she said, though her eyes were mostly for the baby. Ky and Laisa and Kaninjer all got pulled in to be introduced to her. Hadn’t she met Virana-e’s Haian already? Kall too. How had she not already known them? Then I overheard Virana-e saying that she’d been estranged for years and wasn’t it wonderful that she was now visiting?
Skorsas was glossy as silk as he was introduced, of course, and Kall blushed. When she and Niku were made known to each other, they sized each other up a little like strange cats, but they exchanged twins smoothly enough, the grandmother saying something about changing both of them. Esora-e, standing near, looked a bit like he had a treasure in his hands that could have a lightning snake hidden in the bottom of the box.
And there were bureaucrats and clerks and Assembly runners and judges and officials of every stripe. Che-Virana-e had his attention split between what was happening in the Assembly, where his sister had already called them all to order, and the greetings of everyone who had missed him while he'd been in isolation after going asa kraiya. Not one thing. Nor two things. Three major things going on at the same time... Virana-e, your life just must get a little easier, soon, surel
Scribes from all the major and many of the minor Presses hovered around, occasionally darting in to snap a question as if they were trout rising to snap mayflies.
Faintly from where I was, I could hear their adakri. “We convene so as to record and certify the national referendum on the matter of re-approving as semanakraseye First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e,” the adakri said, “in light of his conviction under the Statute semanakraseyeni sections 21-1 and 21-5-7 and the findings of the Chevengani Mental State Assessment Committee as stated in their final report.” I eased back out of the worst of the crush, watching.
One of my security, wearing the dark red livery that was being touted as the preferred uniform for the new Mahid, should they be approved, leaned to murmur in my ear, “Perhaps the Imperator Elect would care to be seated in the guest gallery?”
I looked around and Virana-e was finally letting himself pay attention to the reason he and everyone else in Yeola-e were here… or so it seemed with the intense crowding. “That would be a good notion,” I said. And the two husky young gentlemen, both of them overtopping me by a full head in height, began easing a way through the crowd for me.
I settled down and arranged my white and gold sleeves just as Virana-e was called in to take the visitor’s chair. On his heels the official in charge of the count was asked to enter. It was so odd, to see the differences between the Yeola-e and the Arkan Assemblies. One was much more open, much more in motion. The other so stiff and serious and solemn.
“As I hold both my own and the crystal of the Assembly of Yeola-e in my hands, in the worldly witness of the people of Yeola-e as represented by the Assembly of Yeola-e and the spiritual witness of All-Spirit,” said the Arch-Keeper, “this vote and count was completed entirely properly and legally, no procedure omitted and no precaution neglected, in the witness in every counting-room in Yeola-e of the Counting Senaheral, Second Fire come if I am forsworn,” the woman said, formally enough to suit even the most rigid of Arkan Assembly People.
“As you have so sworn, sib Arch-Keeper of the Counting Chamber, we ask that you reveal the count of the votes of the people on the question, that we fully reinstate as semanakraseye First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e in light of his conviction under the Statute semanakraseyeni sections 21-1 and 21-5-7 and the findings of the Chevengani Mental State Assessment Committee as stated in their final report.”
Cheven- Virana-e stood up, as if pulled by strings tied to his limbs, as if some unseen puppeteer controlled him. I held my breath.