Thursday, November 10, 2011

581 - I Was Struck by your Bracelet

I was chatting with a group of aides and assistants, outside the Assembly Hall, while the party for a reinstated Chevenga racketed all around us.  Kallijas had just taken Laisa up to show her something on the mountainside, and my thumb ran over the split ring I was carrying in my own glove pocket.  I was feeling very good.  One of these days I would find the courage to give Ky the bow she deserved.

Chevenga was off being paraded around the town on people’s shoulders and Niku and the babies surrounded pretty solidly by people wanting to see them.  I caught a glimpse of Skorsas, perfect in his blue-fox trimmed outfit, smiling fit to burst because Yeola-e had proved so sensible and voted Che-Virana-e in again.  That was just before he and Virana-e disappeared down to Terera; at least with Virana-e on people’s shoulders he only had to protect his legs from being pounded in a congratulatory way.

One of my guard handed me another glass of wine and dropped back to be less obtrusive and I was going to find my conversation again, when the bracelet on a young man’s arm as he gestured to a woman bureaucrat froze me where I stood far more completely than any freezing Yeoli weather.

It was a stone bangle with inset shells, something rare so far inland as Tinga-e.  Interlocking rings with a series of hand-carved miniature bells.  It was the sound as well as the sight that sent me back to a dark summer night in that city and the group of Yeoli boys who beat the Arkan scholar, before throwing him off a bridge.

The young man was my age... he would have been... if I remembered... he was one of the ones who never laid a hand on me, but stood back minding the young thugs’ flasks of liquor.  He was very elegantly, sharply dressed, his governmental robes tidy and well kept, his hair dressed in the classic non-warrior Yeoli cut.  He seemed very young for his position.  I was torn... should I let it go?  Should I say something?

I stepped closer and my mouth opened.  “Excuse me...” I cleared my throat.  Perhaps he purchased it.  Perhaps he inherited it from another family member.  He might not be that boy. “Have we been introduced?”

“I don’t believe we have, but no introduction is necessary for me to know you, Imperator Elect.”  He smiled at me.  He was very comfortable for someone so young to be in an aide’s position.  “My own name is Entera Shae-Sero, Fourth Aide to the Servant of Assembly for Tinga-e-Pekola.  I am honoured and delighted to meet you.”  He extended one hand at comb level, deftly.

I touched my comb to that finger, found myself noticing his pink finger dimpling as it pressed against the crystal. I swept my comb away from his hand and around to gesture at the bracelet.  “I was just noticing, Ser Shae-Sero... your piece of jewelry.  It is very distinctive.”

He held it out for my careful perusal, smiling in a gratified way. “Why, thank you very much, Imperator Elect.  I’ve had it most of my life, really; my great-uncle carved it for me.”

“Indeed?  It is one of a kind, then.”

“Oh, yes!  He’s never made another quite like this.”

My stomach knotted up.  He was.  There was a dark urge in me to yell out, to accuse him, to make an enormous fuss.  I stamped on that impulse.  There were far better ways to deal with this.  The best one would be not to say anything.  Muunas forgive me, I’m not that strong. “Well, I have just realized then, where I know you from.”

“Truly!” He expanded the smile. “To be honest, Imperator Elect, you seem familiar somehow to me also; I guess you are about to tell me how.”

“I am thinking of it... Let me ask you... do you still have your friends, Sal... Fil... and oh, what was it... Kam?  From Tinga-e?”

His smile faded as if it were a fire, fading out, replaced by a puzzled look.  “All my friends are from Tinga-e... well, all my old friends.  I still keep in touch... why?”  He shifted, just slightly, as if he were just noticing that something wasn’t perfectly correct… He looked a bit worried, as if wondering what that scratching sensation in his loincloth might be, and didn’t dare check because it would be impolite.

“I met you all... hmmm... a bit more than two years ago, then.”

“In Tinga-e?  You were there?  I can’t say I remember it, and yet you still look familiar.”  The worried look deepened.

“Well, shall we sit down and discuss this over a glass of wine?”  I was trying to keep my tone light, my demeanor calm, and expression of interest masked on my face.

“It was more than a passing meeting, then?  And I can’t remember it?  A glass of wine...”  He hesitated.  Thinking about checking what that stinging sensation is? “Certainly...”  He already had a glass of wine, partly empty.  He didn’t have it refilled and I looked down into mine, gratified that it didn’t show a tremble.  It was as though I had my temper locked inside a thick glass tank.  If I broke the glass it would come swarming out.  What exactly do I want from this fellow… Entera?  “Shall I fill yours?  And we can sit down... I think the only place we can sit down is back in the hall.”

“That sounds lovely.  Lead on...”  The Assembly hall was cooling now that the servants had all left, the brazier left to settle into the overnight glow.  Enteras and I sat down on chairs turned away from two desks and I set my glass of wine on the edge of the desk, looking down toward the table.  He waited politely for me to continue.

I picked up my glass and sipped “So.. what were you all drinking that night?”

His brows drew down, a very puzzled expression on his face. “Imperator Elect, perhaps you’d be kind enough to refresh my memory as to which night it was?”

“Early spring... just after the blue roses bloomed.  I was disguised as an Arkan scholar.  I am not planning on making a huge fuss, but I do believe that your friend Sal owes me a broken nose.”His face went through a gamut of emotions, mostly variations of alarmed and completely baffled.  He either didn’t remember or was a consummate liar.

“I... I am certain I don’t know what... incident you describe... Imperator Elect.”

I leaned back in the chair, extended one boot, showing myself as relaxed as I could, waving my hand in a partly Yeoli dismissive gesture. “Of course.  I was surely mistaken in the bracelet, then.  A group of Yeoli boys handed me a beating and hurled me off a bridge in Tinga-e.”

It was as though I had speared him through the chest, nailing him to his chair.  His eyes went white all around and he gasped before he flung both hands over his mouth, staring at me as though I had transformed into a rabid fang-lion before his eyes.


  1. "he was struck by his bracelet"
    but I thought he said he didn't hit him? (ba-dum-bump)
    good thing too, sounds like it would have left a mark

  2. Hah! I thought I'd have a little fun with the title!

  3. Way to go Minis!!! Not only are you building up to popping the question to your lady love; but you had the courage to Talk to and put the fear of the Arkan Ten into the guy who did nothing to stop his friends from beating you up.

    I am impressed.

  4. Thanks Kliklikitty! A little fear of the Ten is good for the soul!