The rain poured down outside but here below, in the Mahid quarters under all the great, piled up mountain of stone that was the Marble Palace, it was impossible to tell.
The stream of kaf from the spout into the white cup, hiding delicate translucency, was enough to concentrate one’s proper attention on.
“Sera… Fenjitza…” Inensa said quietly and paused, unsure how to proceed.
“Narilla, please. May I address you by your first name as well?”
“Of course, Fen… Narilla.” She felt very incorrect addressing the highest priestess as if they were co-learners, or part of the same puppy pack. I am lightheaded without the weight of ‘you must’ pressing me down into my proper shape. This child… this butterfly inside me… is raising as many odd images in my head as my son did, in his turn. “When I requested to speak to a priest or… priestess… I did not anticipate that you and I would even meet, much less speak. I thought I should be sent… a lesser being.”
I am speaking so much… I am no longer being spoken for, by the men, by my father… by my female Seniors… I am afraid my tongue shall weaken, wearing out like overstressed metal, and snap off mid-word.
As Narilla’s lips curved in a smile under the still, silver mask, Inensa offered the two cups to her guest for her choice, and apologized as she only sipped hers before setting it aside to pour a grassy, healthy, mildly disgusting infusion from her father, for herself.
Narilla shook her head. “Not at all. I thought it would be nice to speak to you, since you are the Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect’s mother. And most women I speak to, don’t have the luxury of being able to offer two cups for politeness’ sake.”
“And it would be unlikely in the extreme that even a madly breeding Mahid would attempt to poison the most honoured Fenjitza.” Is it allowed? I think so. Inensa let herself smile, a thin curl of lip.
Very little had changed, in her room in the Mahid quarters. A narrow bed with a gray silk coverlet. A bare floor with no rugs or carpets or mats of any kind. A bureau that was mostly clear, but on top lay a stone, a feather. More than one feather now. An open box showing the space for a mother stone to rest overnight, against black velvet. In the centre of the bed was another difference. A single unnecessary cushion lay there, a deep, intense blue/green. It was one fleck of colour echoing some of the feathers as if they were fingernail sized splashes of colour flung from the cushion somehow.
The other change was the over-stacked bookshelf, the pile of books on the night table and the table where they sat. The books were moved over, carefully out of the way of the tray and cups and plates and kaf pot.
“Of course.” The Fenjitza smiled back. “I have a wonderful group of dekinases and priestesses, so I may minister to certain people. Those close to the Crystal Throne are not relegated to ‘lesser beings’, though I do understand. A lot of women find it difficult to think of themselves as important in any way. I have years of experience in countering that kind of thinking. And ‘madly’ breeding? How so?”
Inensa sipped her herb concoction. “I… tend to wild emotional surges when carrying a child. It feels like madness.”
“Yes. You are not alone in those feelings. Quite a few women feel things more intensely during this time.”
Inensa sat back and tucked her gloves behind the fall of cloth that was an Arkan maternity dress. Most Aitza, and Mahid, would simply have stayed indoors, in their own quarters for the thirty-five eight days of pregnancy, rather than don the hoop-collar dresses that were reminiscent of the Hyerne veil, at least from the shoulders down. Hers was the traditional blue with cream lace trim and she felt uncomfortable in the bright colour. “Truly? I believed it a failing in myself.”
“No no. When your body shifts itself into a cup to hold the child, other things change and shift as well. Women tend to stretch in mind to prepare to stretch in other ways, to put it genteelly.”
Inensa pressed her lips together. “I might no longer be the perfect Mahid of the previous generation, but some things are just not spoken of.”
Narilla merely sipped her kaf, apparently neither offended or upset. “Of course. Might I ask who you hope to have with you when the time comes?”
Silence fell in the tiny room, and through the fractionally open door came the muffled trit-trot of house donkey. Inensa rose and paced, the blue overdress rippling. She turned and the hooped collar extending out past her shoulder clipped the edge of one of the books on the shelf and it fell. Inensa lunged to catch the book and the overdress ripped as she extended her hands to save the whole stack of books from plummeting to the stone floor.
She froze and then gently made sure that nothing would shift when she took her hands away. She let go, stepped back one careful, measured pace and with absolutely careful violence tore the over dress off, snapping the rigid hoop and ripped it straight forward rather than try and pull it over her hair. Inensa dropped the ruins of it, panting then froze and raised her eyes to where Narilla sat, calmly watching.
Inensa stepped over the blue-puddled wreckage, settled back into her chair as if nothing had happened, folded her hands over her middle. “I didn’t like that object,” she said, still somewhat breathlessly. “I’ve been knocking into things all day.”
Narilla nodded. “There is no reason to wear it… the blue doesn’t really change the sex of the baby, or all Arko would be birthing boys…” she set her cup down. “Mothers truly need to be comfortable and the traditional dress… well…” she gestured with one finger at the snug fitting blue dress that covered Inensa still, from neck to ankle, the knitted silk so closely fitted it delineating every muscle of her torso, her women’s beads falling in a ‘v’ over her hips, outlining her abdomen. “That is the part of the dress most women find very comfortable.”
Inensa turned away from the remnants on the floor. “I… yes. It is most comfortable. And I am not feeling clumsy and horribly awkward, knocking most of the world to the floor. Are you… as the Fenjitza… advising Arkan women not to wear the breeding shield?”
Narilla poured herself another cup and refilled Inensa’s tea-cup from the infusion pot. “I am.”
“Then, perhaps, we might be compatible to speak before the birth… and if we are -- friends -- ” How odd, to think of having a friend. “-- during that time?”
“I believe so. There are a number of dances sacred to Selina… that a birthing mother was encouraged to cultivate once.”
Inensa allowed herself another small smile. “You sound like my son. ‘…Arko used to do this… we stopped… we should start again…” She held out a plate of tiny feather-cakes for Narilla. “I will consider how best to learn these dances to the Lady of Silver.”
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I stared at him a moment, then buried my nose in my tea. It was Haian tea. Same as if Zinchaer’d set it in my hands. What kind of help?
I… he… well, Surya had said… um. Any thought of what I truly needed went clean out of my head.
“I will read your healer’s notes –“ an okas speaking about reading something, so casually. I had to blink and smile a little. How quickly Arko was changing. “—but mostly people know right well enough what te need and what te’ll take.” He smiled and stroked a dog’s head with one hand, sipped his tea with the other, then set the cup down and folded both hands in his lap.
I still hesitated, not sure what to say. It seemed rude to just sit, trying to think. “Sorry, Tanifas… I just… I don’t… I’m… well…”
He reached over and grabbed up a towel… his towels for the dogs weren’t rags but good pieces. It was the Marble Palace. “Come on over here, lad, your hair is still dripping. Let me get you dry so you don’ catch cold.”
He had the towel spread over his lap and almost without considering that I shouldn’t, I moved over and laid my head on his knees. He took up the edges of the towel and gently, thoroughly, began working the water out of my hair and the extensions. I closed my eyes and almost purred as he worked the tips of his fingers down to the nape of my neck, driving cold and damp away in front of it.
Tanifas’s hands were almost hot on my scalp and I found myself relaxing as I sat, almost as much as if he’d laid me flat on his table.
“I grew up in the murderous, bloody, gilded turd that the Marble Palace was then,” I found myself telling him. “My sire did not see me as separate from himself and was a child in the body of a man. A child with no restraints. No constraints. Like a babe with razor knives and scalpels.”
“It sounds dangerous an’ ugly.”
I made a vague nodding motion that worked my temple against the towel. It felt so good, so safe. “It was. And you would have seen… you were with one of the Pasen households? The Governor of Haiu Menshir?”
“Tis so. Terrible place for any Arkan te be.” That was an understatement. My hair was dry as it could get from toweling and I felt no inclination to move. His hands lay on my head, not covering my ears at all but still holding me steady. Steadier than I had been since Gan and Fara left.
“So you know from that end…” I paused, swallowed. Great waves of emotion I couldn’t name shuddered through me and Tanifas didn’t interrupt, but held me steady. “I… have sexual problems and a tendency to punish myself for any sign that I’m heading toward my sire’s tastes. For the longest time I considered myself forzak because of something my father did to me… did to Chevenga and me both at the same time.”
I could feel his careful attention, it seemed, through those miraculous hands. The fingertips moved in small circles, his gloves fine enough that it was like he wore a second skin. An Arkan healer whose speciality is touch? How odd is that?
His fingers shifted slightly and it sent a shock through me, like the startlement that a sudden breaking wave sends through you as it slams into a stone pier at your feet. “So ye’re trying not to bounce back and forth ‘tween your father’s servin’ nobody -- makin’ a gross slob of himself, and not getting’ te be a dried up harsh old stick. Lookin’ for the middle way.”
It wasn’t a question. “Well, yes.”
“’S good. First step is seein’ it. Te Haians taught me it… an’ it’s really not much different then followin’ a version… a part of the holy teachin’ we were taught as pups. All te Gods seem te want is fer people te be calm ‘n happy, not grievin’ an miserable. I’d say it’s like healin’ an if a priest tries te tell yeh that yeh should punish more… either yerself or others, then that priest in’t a good one.”
“I…” I paused. “It sounds like you’re saying a good priest… is someone not out to use or control you…” I still needed to find a priest to talk to. Someone who, I realized, could work with Tanifas.
“I could be sayin’ it. M’ own priest here… he’s good. An’ he and I talk. But nobody should be alone… we’re too much part o’ te pack, ye see.”
I had to laugh. Here I was, like the two puppies, in his lap, being dried off and cleaned up after rolling in the mud. I didn’t have to look at anyone… I didn’t have to sit up straight and be respectable and presentable and ‘good enough’. I was good enough, just half lying here with my eyes closed, being petted into calmness. That must be part of his gift, to get people to trust him enough to put hands on. I just had to say that out loud.
His laugh was good and shook me all at the same time. “Ye’d be surprised. M’ teachers on Haiu Menshir taught thet most people like being tended to some… Most healers specializin’ in healin’ like this are heavy hands on…”
“Is that why you wear such thin gloves?” I didn’t have to open my eyes. I knew he was smiling.
“Yeh caught me. An' enough of you tryin’ te divert me from yerself, Minis. How much is it hurtin’ ye direct? Te gross shen yer sire did?”
Posted by Vryka at 11:59 PM
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I found myself with dogs on leashes, ten in each hand… the ones that had come over to sniff me, the two puppies Tanifas had been drying and their mother, along with another five.
Tanifas had the other leashes in hand but no dogs linked to any of them… they seemed to be more a symbol of his authority than restraints. None of the dogs even stepped out in front of him as he went to open the rain-drenched door and took us out.
Mine… half of them… seemed to want to run off in the direction of the stables, several more wanted to sit. Others seemed to think that Tor Ench was our proper destination. By the time I got everything untangled, Tanifas’s pack were all out and pouring up the bowl of the steps.
The outside steps were a bowl cut in half and the water poured down the stone in waterfalls, disappearing in various stone drains cut into them all the way to the bottom so things didn’t just fill up with water and hold a pond against the kennel door.
I gasped with the shock of rain but followed up after Tanifas who trotted out, at the head of his dogs, out along the paved path to the Wolves Garden. “Come on, dogs,” I said. I had a few who seemed to be more on my side… the Mahid dogs looked to me, and the rat-catchers. The others, including the puppies, kept my run interesting by darting between my legs or running ahead, pulling, choking and coughing as they tried to tow the rest of us along bodily. Considering that it was the little dogs that were doing this it might have been funny if I hadn’t been so annoyed.
At one point the lion dogs stopped and humped up their backs to shen on the path, their sheer bulk stopping the rest of us in our tracks, almost. Our momentum dragging them forward a shuffling step or two, trailing clots of shen. The fluffy, thwarted in his forward movement circled around ducked under and over three other leashes and around my feet, barking. I almost fell over, almost lost my temper, managed to hold onto it, barely and got everyone moving in the same direction. I couldn’t tell if Tanifas even saw my difficulty. We were on the Alpha walk which ran in a single wide loop all the way around the perimeter of the garden so I could see Tanifas and his thirty or so dogs between the shade trees, all loping smoothly along. All I could hear was the sound of the rain on the pavement and the broad leaves of the trees, a steady, sheeting patter.
It was almost as bad as a workout in the snow. We were all soaked through and I was winded long before Tanifas lead us around the furthest gazebo where we could have stopped to rest without being rained upon, and headed back to the kennels. I found myself whining inwardly. Surely we could have stopped just for a klick or two? Surely? I opened my mouth to ask and realized he was just too far ahead. I’d have to shout to ask and he… they… were already past the rain darkened structure, heading back to the kennel and inside.
A little more discomfort now would lead to more comfort faster. I shut my mouth and we managed to pick up the pace to try and catch up. It was easier somehow when I quit thinking of other things and focused on just the running and trying to catch up. My little pack settled down and we ran back to the steps, down and into the dry, warm kennel.
Of course we were then showered again as every dog braced and shook itself. “All right, ye lot,” Tanifas said. “Thet’s enough.” All the longer haired dogs trotted over to the grooming bench and hopped up, waiting.
“If ye like, lad, ye kin wipe down the short hairs… there’s a robe for yeh afterwards an’ ye kin get yerself dry.” I’m not a dog boy. I’m a Spark of the Sun’s Ray, by vote. I recognized that internal whine inside, for the Brat, and could almost hear Gannara’s or Farasha’s voice… ‘…don’t be an idiot, Minis. He’s doing this his own way. Like any good teacher.”
Chevenga had surprised me. Misahis had surprised me. Ailadas had repeatedly surprised me, and still did. Zinchaer had surprised me. Surya had surprised me. I’d give Tanifas his chance to surprise me. I already trusted him, which was startling in and of itself. Was it his voice? His manner? His acceptance of me instead of bowing and scraping? That had always gotten me interested, right from when I was young.
I wiped dogs down and it was a river of slick, wiggly bodies from goofy panting head all the way down the squirming bottom and waving tail as they half danced under my hands. You could feel every moment, every grain of bead, every klick of the clock, how the dogs felt. They hid nothing. They liked you. Or they did not. They were happy. Or they were not. Nothing complex here. Like Ky’s dog Socks. You always knew exactly what he felt about you.
The robe was actually one of a number, hung on hooks behind the door in a neat line next to a garderobe and dressing cubicle. I supposed he’d get wet or dirty and need to change his clothes on a fairly regular basis. Either that or go naked, and while Yeolis might do that without a thought, even okas never would.
Tanifas was done long before I was, squeezed the water out of his sleek hair and donned a robe. All of a sudden he looked much more like a healer and less like a dog-man, expecially with his tan. I came out of the cubicle where I’d hung my wet things and found him just pouring tea. “Please. Sit. Which one would yeh like?” Either his accent had shifted when he put the robe on, or I wasn’t noticing it as much. He sounded a lot more Haian to me. “The left one, please.”
I accepted the hot cup and wrapped my hands around it, letting the steam warm my face, and looked between the cushion on the floor and the healer’s chair and though I hesitated I settled back down on the floor.
I immediately had one of the Mahid blacks settle next to me. He was an older dog, with gray on his muzzle and over his eyes and looked so much like Ailadas about to make a point I almost expected him to cough. He lay down and I put my hand on him.
“That’s good.” Tanifas said. “He didn’t push your space and accepts you as dominant.”
“Really?” I pushed the fluffy away for the third time. “Lie DOWN!” The dog looked hurt but I was in no mood to indulge him and stared at him as he hesitated. Very slowly, his hind end sank down. Then he hesitated again. “Down,” I repeated. He took that as an invitation to stand but Tanifas hissed at him and he immediately sank all the way to his belly.
“Yes, and this one, Floo-Floo—“ He nudged the fluffy lying between us with a bare toe. “—does not.”
“Oh.” As I spoke the fluffy started to get up again and I hissed at him the same way Tanifas had. He stopped, looked confused, then sank down again.
“Excellent.” Tanifas smiled and sipped his tea. “If you are calm in yourself and sure then controlling a dog is easy.”
I drank my own tea slowly, looking at the the dogs around me. “They… are all so calm.”
“Because I am. Minis, your Grandsire spoke to me and asked me all sorts of questions. What kind of help did you need me for?”
Posted by Vryka at 5:47 PM
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I could not image an okas healer that my grandfather would actually recommend to me. That was as strange as if we’d all woken up with wings growing out of our backs. And to tell me to see him in the kennels… that just confused me. But I couldn’t discern any kind of joke or jest, at least that he would admit to.
“I have already spoken to the man and he is prepared to speak to you, Grandson, at your convenience.” Grandfather was Mahid stone and stern by this point because I had tried, over the last few days, to ask in a number of ways to figure out what the joke was. “Since my Haian friends introduced me to him and since they speak quite highly of him, I suggest you follow up on this suggestion. It will assist your progression towards a calm and sensible reign after your majority.” And that was the end of it. I went over to the wing of the Palace that held both the kennels and the stables and rather than go up to the stables, headed across and down to the kennels.
The Marble Palace kennels were a creamy shade of marble with a brownish-gold stone for floors and up walls to waist high where a coppery band separated one colour from the other. I’d not been in the kennels much, since my experience was mostly with sleeve dogs and other dogs allowed the run of the main halls. The kennels were for coursing hounds, lion and tiger hunting dogs, the palace rat-catchers during the day and the Mahid manhunter dogs that they had used to break their children of emotional attachment.
I had not much cared to see dogs lunging at cage doors threatening to kill me, or lying too still, suffering from whatever training had been inflicted on them. It was not something that had ever caught my fancy as a child, even less than the stables.
It was also a place to keep odd tribute or gifts from out Empire, things like the gigantic pony-sized Great Hounds from far north and east of Brahvniki. At least for the few years that they lived.
As one of the servants opened the door for me I heard the kennels down the wide stairs, but it wasn’t random yipping howling or barking. It was an odd almost unified howl, as if the whole section of the building were singing.
I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and listened. I could hear puppy yips under the adult dogs and there were basso rumblings and high, sliding yowls. I had to start laughing it was so much like the Temple choir practicing.
“Hello?” My voice cut the dog’s noise off and it devolved into the quiet, random sounds a large pack of dogs makes, when kept inside. It was actually cold today in the city, with rain. The odd weather had blown in overnight on the shoulders of a strong wind out of the hills north of the city.
“Heya,” I was answered. The voice was smooth, soothing.
“I’m looking for, um, Tanifas Kainkuras?”
“S’me. I’s in te open space down this end. Follow te corridor down, would yah?”
Curious, I followed the instructions, walking past the floor cages, their stone-barred doors revealing single dogs isolated for one reason or another, or a mother dog with new pups. The cages gave way to a hall at the end, full of dogs… there was no other word for it… hanging around.
I was reminded of a pack of dyer messengers lounging at ease, waiting for the call to deliver the next package. There were stone benches along the two walls, a stack of clean feeding bowls marking one out as a feeding bench. A trough with a stream running through it kept the water fresh and there were actually two pools set into the floor, the first one shallow so even the littlest dogs could splash in it. That spilled over into a deeper pool that was apparently for the larger ones. On the other side of outside door, a sheet of glass that showed the rain beating against it, another bench had a series of nozzles and water-works. For dog grooming perhaps?
There was patient’s chair in the middle of the room as if it had been lifted straight off Haiu Menshir, and a table off to one side. Both were empty of dogs. This is his office?
The man in the middle of the room, surrounded by lounging, wandering dogs, had two tiny puppies on his lap that he was drying with toweling. He had a hard-brocaded bench to sit on and scattered around the floor were various mats and cushions for the animals. It smelled of stewed meat? Yellowfruit? But not of dirty dog. I could not imagine a dirty animal in this space.
The man drying puppies was okas short, stocky and broad. His skin was tanned as dark as any Arkan I’d ever seen and he had his hair clipped as short as if the hair-laws still applied. His smile was very white against his skin. His pale gray eyes stood out vivid under his blond/gray fringe.
“Come in, have a seat. You must be Minis Aan.” His eyes were steady on me in a way I found both uncomfortable and reassuring all at the same time. Even though they were gray instead of green, like Surya’s they somehow reminded me of him. “These twa got out when a servant came in from the garden,” he continued calmly. “… they decided that rolling in te mud t’was a grand game.” His okas accent was barely there, overlaid with Haian overtones which accounted, in part, I thought, for why I found it soothing. He spoke equal to equal. On the one hand it had me unsettled, hearing an okas accent so bold. On the other hand it was oddly reassuring. Like hearing a slave refusing to suck up to me. Grandfather had said Tanifas would see me if I could bear an absence of caste, in his office.
This is his office.
I looked at the padded chair standing to one side and for some reason didn’t want to settle into it yet. I used my chin to gesture.
“Do you mind if I sit on the floor?”
He blinked and smiled. “Nay. Ye’ll get licked though.”
“I think I can bear that.”
Aside from one or two dogs that had come to greet me initially, and sniff me all over, the pack had mostly ignored me. Now I had a dozen animals come to examine me as I settled onto a conveniently empty dog cushion. Four parti-coloured rat catchers, a palace fluffy with a shaved backside and a bandage, two pale gold deer hounds, three blocky-headed Mahid blacks, and a brace of lion-dogs, one brindle, one white with brown patches.
It took a moment to tell them I did not wish to have my ears and face either sniffed or licked but that I allowed a brief inspection of my hair and back and arms and legs, and not to bang their heads straight into my crotch.
“Ya like dogs then,” he said as he set his now-dry puppies upon the floor where they staggered over to a bitch lying snoozing on her side and tucked themselves under her forelegs.
“I suppose. I really like cats more.”
“Ah. Didjer Gran’pa tell yeh ‘bout me?”
“A Haian… Diriminelan mentioned he’d met you on Haiu Menshir… He said to say his greetings to you.”
“Diri! Good! Good to know. I din’t even know he was in te city! I’ll look him up!”
“He told me that you’d studied under Zinchaer. And Shilenen as well, but I just met him a few days ago. Zinchaer I knew… he was my healer on Haiu Menshir.”
Tanifas just nodded and rose to his feet. “Come on. We’re gonna take te dogs for a run.”
“What? It’s pouring rain!”
The dogs had leaped to their feet when Tanifas had said the word ‘run’ but didn’t begin either jumping or barking or running about. “So? Yeh won’t melt.” He snapped his fingers and they ran over to one bench and up on it, sitting, waiting, panting. I don’t really want to. I don’t want to get wet. But he’s very like a teacher. Even as I protested I found myself on my feet. He smiled at me and I supposed I could be nice and help him, even as part of me wondered why.
“Come on. You put the leashes on the double ten at that end. They’re all on hooks under where they’re sittin’. Jump lad. If you’re looking after half a hundred dogs you can’t dawdle.” So much like a training session.
Posted by Vryka at 1:07 AM
Thursday, April 21, 2011
“… your honoured grandfather is in the solar with the ladies and the Haians, Serin.”
I had gone down to look for grandfather and was surprised to find the Mahid quarters all but empty and the servant having to re-direct me. Haians? I know that Akminchaer is still here but there is more than one Haian here?
There were actually three other Haians, apparently visiting Akminchaer… and my grandfather, looking very odd in his white and pale pale blue over-robe sat with them. Theyd seemed very comfortable, sitting in the dappled sun.
The solar’s upper windows were all open, making the highest trees shiver and wave their leaves, making the place a sunny, pleasant one instead of the sun-scorched oven under glass that it could have been.
The Mahid women, with my mother in their midst sat at the other end of the room where the light was somewhat less flickering and embroidered or sewed or did something else archane with fabric and thread. They looked up at me and nodded though no one smiled. That was something that would take considerable time. That must be the reason for the extra Haians. Grandfather is probably inquiring how to re-make the Mahid from them. Perhaps one of them would be a good healer for me?
After I’d made my courtesies to mother and excused myself, I headed over to the shadier side of the room.
“Good afternoon, Grandfather, Akminchaer, gentle healers…” I made my voice light, inviting introduction the way my etiquette master had torn his hair out over so many years ago.
“Diriminelan…” one younger man said, nodding as if he were Arkan. A fairly new graduate it seemed, he still had Haiu Menshir all over him, bright and shiny.
“Somenochaen…” the young woman said. But she looked as if she’d come to Arko from somewhere else. A tiny blue diamond was tattooed next to her one ear. I could not think of a country where that was ritual, but it would have to be to get a Haian healer to accept a tattoo at all.
I nodded at both of them. “We met once, Spark Elect,” the last Haian said. He was an old man but in the Haian way it was nearly impossible to tell exactly how old he really was. “You may have been too young to remember. I am Shilenen.”
“I’m pleased to meet you all, Diriminelan, Somenoshaen, -“ the best my tongue really could manage. For all I prided myself in how well I said Chevenga’s name the way Gannara did, it still had the softness on the first syllable. “…and Shilenen. I actually do not remember but I am pleased to be able to greet you again.”
It was not surprising, truly, that the broken Mahid should gather here, in one of the brightest rooms in the Palace. After all, how does one fix a shadow if there is no light at all? Of course, perhaps, they were finding out that living life as a shadow of someone else’s wishes didn’t meet the promises made and implied to them?
Polite murmurs… I decided… I’d been going to ask just my grandfather but I had inadvertently found a panel of healers to inquire about another emotional healer for me. “Haians, Grandfather, perhaps you would have a moment to give me some advice?”
The Haians just nodded. Perhaps they were just used to being besieged with questions whenever they came to the mainland. Probably more questions in the more ill countries of the mainland when I thought about it. Grandfather settled his hands more firmly under the handkerchief covering. “Go ahead, grandson. I have the wit and ability to tell you if you are asking incorrectly.” Of course.
“I had access to a Haian trained Yeoli healer by the name of Surya, who has currently reduced his practice to attend the semanakraseye of Yeola-e. He asked me to search out another healer since he was leaving Arko.”
“A specific kind of healing?” Akminchaer said. “I can continue to do physical help, should you require it.”
“Ummm. Healing emotions... traumas.” I cringed inside as I said it, thankful that no servants were in earshot or the Pages would be full of stories of my ‘instability’ in the next issue.
“Ah,” Shilenen said, hand on his chin. They all looked thoughtful. “Very sensible. My specialty is heart and blood-flow though, not emotional.” Heart? Whose heart is giving out? I put that question aside for later.
They were all physical healers, except Somenochaen, who was still studying because – as she said – she was shifting fields of study and was not yet finished her courses for emotional support.
“Shilenen… who was that student of yours on Haiu Menshir?” Grandfather asked quietly. “The one also studying under Zinchaer?”
Zinchaer? My Zinchaer? Oh, it would just be too much of a coinc—“
“He is an Arkan, Amitzas,” Shilenen said. “But he is of a low caste as you see it…”
“Hmmm.” Grandfather looked down at his knotted hands then let his eyes take in the whole room as he thought. “It… seemed to me… that he was a very proper young man when I met him.” Anyone under the age of sixty would be a 'young man' to my grandsire. “Might he be considered good enough to assist my grandson here?”
His turn of phrase had them smiling and there was a burble of Haian that I didn’t understand, as flowing as the sea, sometimes hitting the reefs protecting the islands.
“Yes, Amitzas. We consider him good,” Shilenen said, in Arkan, finally and Grandfather snapped a nod.
“Yes, Ser?” I’d almost jumped as he turned his attention to me with the same precision as always.
“Could you bear a caste-less space within the space of a healer’s office?”
Could I? That would almost be like having Chevenga back when he was in the Mezem… blind to caste and class. “I think that would be tolerable, honoured Grandfather.”
“Good. I actually spoke to Alchaen and Surya before they both left…” Alchaen had left a long time ago. Had he really been thinking so far ahead? “The man’s name is Tanifas Kainkuras, okas.”
Okas? Okas? That is craziness. How would an okas, even in the new Arko get Haian training? And be considered good enough for the White Lightning Snake to recommend? “Yes, Ser. Where?”
“Here in the Marble Palace. Go down to the kennels and inquire.”
What? The kennels? What? I don’t understand. I nodded and said, “Thank you for your recommendation, Grandfather.”
Diriminelan smiled at me. “Tanifas was actually in a class with me. He was part of the once Arkan Governor’s entourage. He was his hound keeper and it was noticed that he had the touch, the gift for healing with his hands. He studied as long as the Governor was there… and asked for and received permission to stay on afterwards to complete his study.”
After the Sack. A dog-man? And… my Grandfather actually saw him? Enough to recommend him? Surely the world is backwards, upsided down and inside out. A dog-man? Kaina – kuras, a dog-keeper? That’s what the name means. A dog boy to heal me? Some part of me wanted desperately to be offended.
Then it caught my fancy. The Mahid had always been referred to as the Black Dogs of the Imperator. He was probably joking with me… somehow. He couldn’t be serious.
“I suggest you inquire after him, grandson.”
“Of course, Grandsire.” Surely he is joking… but how? And why?
Hope everyone has a good Easter Weekend. (Or Oestara.) And after this, I'll be back on Tuesday. Ciao!
My sincere thanks to Cat Fitzgerald for helping me create Tanifas Kainkuras, and for role playing him to bring him to life for me!
My sincere thanks to Cat Fitzgerald for helping me create Tanifas Kainkuras, and for role playing him to bring him to life for me!
Posted by Vryka at 11:39 PM
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I watched the amoyawa spiral up slowly on the sluggish morning branmoy. It was hard to think that because of that machine rather than being eight-days of travel to see someone again in Yeola-e it could be as little as three days if the wind and branmoy favoured. They spiraled up to become tiny dots against the odd clouds blowing in and then peeled away to slide down the wind toward Yeola-e.
Kall stood next to me and didn’t call me away to train. His eyes strained after the tiny dot that was Chevenga, flying himself home; he quivered with the need to follow but the tiny chime of the Imperial Seals... the Imperial chains... on his hands was enough to bring him back to Arko. I’m sorry I’m holding you here, Kall, but if I hadn’t been here it would have been forever, not just two years. And now you might have Chevenga for the rest of your lives, once I reach my majority.
A whift of cloud hid the last of the flyers from our sight and Kallijas shook himself. “Come along, Minis.”
He ran us both into the ground with his workout, and though Laisa kept up really well for a girl, she did have to sit down before I did. I suppose when you have to sneak all your training your wind suffers. I understood, he was trying to make the work normal and be too tired to think the wrong thoughts all at the same time.
“Serin, Serina, that should be sufficient,” he said at last. He had to be clean and ready to sit in the Assembly chamber in two tenths. He nodded to us as we bowed to him. “Serina, might your parents be free to join me for the evening meal?” He asked it so casually. Her family had been to the Marble Palace already for a number of meals. It would be casual except you’re the colour of a ripe-redfruit.
She went all flustery, for no reason. “Oh… certainly… I’ll inquire, Ser..”
“Kallijas, please, Serina Laisa.” They were being proper and sugary enough to rot my teeth.
“Ser,” I said, quietly. “Serina. Please excuse me.”
“Of course, Minis. I will see you in the office this afternoon.”
That was for me to be an observer. “Of course, Kallijas.” I nodded at her again. “Serina… until the evening meal.”
I let the water pound down on my head, closing my eyes, letting it wash the sweat off me. The new routine hadn’t yet been established. I didn’t know what my responsibilities were, but I had promised Surya to find another healer and a priest for myself. I’d get dry and speak to my grandfather and ask his advice. I threw a light linen robe over my shoulders and a towel over my head as I stepped out of the cascade.
“Thank you,” I said to the hand that gave me a dry towel, not able to see who it was.
“I’m pleased, ahem, to hear you are continuing your, ahem, politeness lessons.” It was Ailadas. I dragged the towel off my head and managed to cover my face with strands of half-dried hair.
“Ahem. Indeed. Now that things are, ahem, settling down, ahem, I realize that in all the excitement, ahem, of turning oneself in, re-arranging one’s course in life and running a successful vodai campaign , one might have forgotten an unfinished doctorate.” He had both eyebrows up in his most spectacular ‘am I correct?’ look.
“Oh, um, I thought… but… well… er… aren’t you busy with both your tenured position and Ili?” It was the first thing that fell out of my mouth.
“Ahem. The day I cannot handle classes for the mass of thoughtless undergraduates, one mildly disobedient Coronet Regal AND being a thesis advisor is the day I should, ahem, surely retire. Ahem.” I unfroze and managed to get my hair off my face. The servants, who had backed off, grinning, to let him ambush me, stepped in to help me get my own hair ordered. I shot Antras a look and he returned it completely blandly, with a twinkle in his eye.
It still gave me a moment to think as I sat down on the bench in front of the vanity shelves and mirror. “Of course, Ailadas. I had completely forgotten, thinking only of the next step. My apologies.”
But he didn’t continue, so I did. “I was thinking… my next paper toward that doctorate… I was wondering if anyone had written about… well… Arko becoming a more closed society around the time of Tatthanas Aan, possibly sparked by fears of that failed coup? It seems to me that anytime a culture does this it loses potential and crushes creativity.”
It was a thought that had followed along after my talk with Surya. How much had we lost through rigid imposition of our own caste system? A voice from my past – “… what happens if a person is born a genius but is okas?”
Ailadas, perhaps not expecting such a thing to fall out of my mouth, blinked. I could see him in the mirror as Antras tipped my head sideways to unknot the snarls on my head. “It, ahem, would certainly be a good and correct follow up to your paper on the ancient Yeoli/Arkan connection… and actually begin the formation of a doctoral argument. Ahem.”
“Thank you, Antras,” I said as he quietly returned my head upright once more. “Please, dismiss everyone else for the morning? I have an urge to dress myself.” I had to begin as I intended to continue. I already felt a bit too much like a bee surrounded by attendants, swarming. When I had first been Spark of the Sun’s Ray it had been an unnoticed pressure that I had intermittently ignored, indulged and expected and sometimes – rarely – fought against. In my years on my own I found I had lost the taste for it.
“Of course, Spark.”
“Ailadas… thank you for coming to tell me… when would be convenient to discuss this… for you? The Imperator Elect has first call upon my time, then you.” My days were filling up fast. I’d promised to write some pieces for Intharas… and I’d promised Surya to keep healing. From too empty, my days were suddenly too full. I’d have to get Atzana to start keeping a daybook for me again.
Posted by Vryka at 6:25 PM
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
My apologies for the late post... right after I announced I'd do this my internet went down and has just been restored today. Almost everybody in the house is sick so this is going to be it for today. Hope you like it.
I’m a Masker. You might say I was born one. My mom was a Masker and I was born in the House of Masks in Arko sixteen years before the Sack. That’s how people talked about it now, with the capital ‘S’. My mom and the Mother of the House talked me out of ‘joining’ the greater society, saying that if I stayed a Masker, outside of caste and normal laws and protections, I could maybe do more for people than if I joined the fight against the conquerors. Besides I was just second threshold and a child.
I’m a Masker. You might say I was born one. My mom was a Masker and I was born in the House of Masks in Arko sixteen years before the Sack. That’s how people talked about it now, with the capital ‘S’. My mom and the Mother of the House talked me out of ‘joining’ the greater society, saying that if I stayed a Masker, outside of caste and normal laws and protections, I could maybe do more for people than if I joined the fight against the conquerors. Besides I was just second threshold and a child.
They were right. Now according to most people my parents... that was the Mother of the House and my mom again, since I don’t have a father like normal kids... had ‘held me back’. As a boy normal society figured I would be in my prime around age ten or eleven, so at age sixteen I’d be seen as ‘aged’, at least for a lover.
Mother (as opposed to mom) said that that wasn’t sex but a power difference and she didn’t deal in that. The House of Red Leaves was the oldest House of Masks in the Empire, she said and for all that we sold sex, providing a service as old as the Empire itself or older and she, for one, was not going to pander to older men who wanted to hurt little boys.
I was nervous and excited about the night I would lose my virginity. It would mean I would be a full working member of the staff and paid that way instead of having to hang around with the babies and go to the attic school and do all kinds of maintenance chores, though mom said she did them because it was healthy and made for a ‘more rounded person’.
My mom fled normal caste in Arko after her husband beat her when she was pregnant with me. He was crazy and convinced I was a girl and nearly beat her to death. That was my dad and I was just as glad I’ve never met him. She ran... or crawled... to the House and managed to stay conscious long enough to answer the questions to set her free of her caste and her husband. She’s said, ever since, that she was a lot happier.
The House of Red Leaves wasn’t your normal whore house, or crib. Mother always said there were quite enough of those without her having to add to that particular tide of misery. Most whore houses didn’t run schools, orphanages and groups of midwives. But the House had always been a refuge for those willing to wear the silver mask.
Left side face... you were a lover of your own sex. Right side face, opposite sex. Full-face to the nose both sides, both. I was pretty sure I was a full-facer because girls were nice... They smelled good and made me tingly... a little. But it was the boys who would make me break out in a sweat and have orgasm dreams at night. So Mother said I should start with a man for sure.
Along with my reading lessons and history and numbers we learned about sex and sensuality. Singing and dancing and massage. At sixteen my voice had settled into a proper deep voice for an Arkan man, not a soloist but was good for choruses, my dancing was competent though I was not a star. Where I excelled was massage. I was a big boy and when I fill out I would be muscular. Mom was an Aitzas before she gave up her caste and I had the spun -blond hair almost to my ankles.
Learning massage on each other meant that we got to know a lot of bare bodies and it was interesting when I got old enough to start growing hair on my testicles and could feel the excitement in me come up... if I let myself think that way. My teacher always said that a massage could either be innocent as babies or sensual and sexual as a client wanted. It depended on what you thought.
Tonight was my big night and instead of ‘auctioning off’ my virginity, the way some Arkan pimps would, I’d put on my first real mask and go down to the main floor with the other Maskers. I’d get to pick who my first client was instead of having him picked for me. Mother trusted me to do that.
Of course I’d have a whole room full of my aunties and uncles... the other Maskers... who would be there to steer me right if I accidentally picked someone they thought might turn violent, or even just make my first time uglier than it needed to be. It wasn’t like I was going to be alone. And Ordas, the doorman, would be right there if someone needed ejecting.
I went downstairs and nodded at Ordas in his seat at the door and Rosalie kneeling in the centre of the floor to be the greeter, who welcomed every guest, client or not, and had them lock their weapons in the cubby wall. No weapons allowed in the House. She winked at me through the eyeholes of the mask and I grinned back.
The Main Hall was full already, even though it was early. Since the straight-haired Yeoli from their elite guard had found the place we usually had a lot of them in, though lots of them didn’t yet realize they could buy sex here, but came for the music, the foot rubs and other massage – the innocent kind -- and the food and drink. Yeolis.
I avoided the Enchians. They were as violently against sex between men as the Hyrene were. An Enchian willing to sleep with me would have to be drooling drunk to let those urges out and likely to be violent, nasty or both.
Did I like any of the Arkans? Hmm. They were mostly regulars and they already had their favourite maskers. I didn’t want to cut in on Nuninibas or Banurasas. I took up a cup of kaf from Lilliam and she smiled and tilted her head toward a group of men clustered around the music box as Mother set up its delicate machinery. All Yeolis. All young. All new. Young enough to be new warriors sent from Yeoli. Probably not old enough to have fought and sacked.
Mother said that Yeolis felt guilty for having conquered the Empire and sacked the city. It depended on what they did with that guilt. If they turned it to blame and were ashamed, it was all likely to go bad. Especially if they were drunk. But if they understood they felt guilty it was all right and then you’d just have to explain about the buying sex part.
A really pretty young man watched Mother place the enormous paper thin metal disc in its slot and set the clips to make sure it wouldn’t quiver and put wavers in the music as it turned. He was one of the newbie Yeolis. Dark blond hair cut warrior short. Big, loose curls. I think I’d like to run my hands through them and see what they feel like.
It’s like he felt me looking and looked up at me. Nice eyes too. I liked the curve of his upper lip, almost as defined as a girl’s. Lovely warrior muscles. Someone talked him into wearing an almost see-through shirt and its warm enough in the city that they usually don’t wear those sleeveless, over the head blanket-shirts of theirs inside.
I stood next to him and smiled and he smiled back. “This is a beautiful machine! I’ve heard that it plays music as beautiful as it looks.”
“It’s special all right. I hear there’s one in the Marble Palace and perhaps two more in the whole world, though I don’t know where.” -- “Mother,” I said. “Let me wind it for you?”
I handed my cup to the nice young Yeoli who’d just put his hand out to hold it, and stepped up to the ornate handle. I knew from years of winding that it wasn’t brute strength needed, but a more delicate touch. The spring was one of the most fragile parts and most expensive to replace. If one didn’t wind it enough the music would not be played through to the end and having someone run up and re-wind the spring half way through the piece though tolerable, was less than elegant. My bending and turning would show me off to the Yeoli man nicely.
“My name’s Chavicha,” the Yeoli said, handing me my cup back as Mother waited for us to all be seated to listen.
“Oh dear. I’m afraid I’ll mangle it.” I tried my best. “Shafisha? My apologies for that, but I’m Promithas.”
“That’s not bad for an Arkan tongue. Oh, she’s going to start it.”
The piece was Tisiminas’s Selestialis, written for the unearthly high tones of the music box and Chavicha listened raptly. I looked at his profile while he did. I’d heard the piece before and it wasn’t as if I couldn’t listen and look at the same time. He had a scattering of freckles across his cheeks and a dimple to one side of his mouth when he smiled. Hyasintha re-filled my cup and nodded at me, knowingly at him, behind his head.
He’d been here before so maybe I wouldn’t have to explain everything. But who knew if he liked boys as much as girls? I mean, everyone knew that Yeolis were pretty easy about that kind of thing but some were more one way than the other.
When the piece was done he drew in a deep breath and wiped a tear. Yeolis. So emotional. I loved it.
“So, Promithas,” he said to me as people began stirring and talking again. “Do you have a specialty?”
“I do all kinds of massage,” I took a deep breath, suddenly shy where I thought I’d just be all right. “Would you like to see my massage room?” Not as subtle as I’d hoped but right now, just thinking about putting my hands on his body was making it a little difficult to sit, gracefully, without twitching around to ease my erection.
He grinned at me and I was happy to see he had all his teeth, bright white against his tan. “Are you having some problem, Promithas?” Oh, he was teasing me. “I’d love to see your room. Unless you… um…” His grin grew wider. “Are going to have difficulty walking there?”
“You are a wicked young man,” I said with as much dignity as I could. After all, I was the professional here. “I’ll be fine, thank you.” I liked his laugh and he offered me his hand to help me up. I liked that bare hand. He touched really well. I left my cup on the occasional table, though he took his wine glass.
My massage room wasn’t far anyway, it was just down the hall. Like everything in the house it was the best quality Mother could afford and I actually shared the space with the others. There were eight such rooms along this corridor, four on each side. It had a dark cream silk on the walls, with kaf coloured accents and the table itself was lush green and floral with gold accents. I lit the lamps with one of our scented tapers.
“If you’d like I could give you a massage,” I said. “An innocent massage is much cheaper than a full one.” He was right behind me and I could feel him standing there, though my hair was loose and I couldn’t feel his breath on my neck. He was taller than I was. I turned around and found I was right, he was very close. His eyes had interesting bright green flecks in them.
“Ah. So you are one of those who sells…” he paused, probably looking for a polite way of putting it.
“Not so innocent massages, yes.” I said. I smiled at him. Now he was blushing and had to clear his throat when he tried to answer me.
“I… I’m not sure I can afford you… Promithas…”
“I am.” Mother said I didn’t have to limit my choices. If a young man struck my fancy I shouldn’t have to worry if he were too impoverished to pay.
“Promithas… I…” he had sounded so… worldly in the Hall. Now he sounded like my age. “Um…”
“Do you want me?” I finally asked him straight out. Yeolis. No use being indirect. Fritilaria had flirted with one all evening and was sure he didn’t want her before she whispered that straight question in his ear.
“Oh. Yes,” he said, sounding flustered. I smiled then, and licked my bottom lip.
“Then maybe the mask and the gloves should come off before I get to work?” He laughed again, as much at himself as at what I said and one finger came up to trace the bottom edge of the mask. His fingertip was gentle, and then he cupped my face.
“I’d like that.” His voice was husky. I pulled my gloves off slowly, even though it wasn’t the same way I would with an Arkan. Laid my bare hand on the thin shirt over his muscular chest. He was very warm. He watched me, fascinated as I raised the mask off my face with my bare hands and he smiled again. “Such… mystery.”
“And behind it, we’re just people,” I hung the mask on the hook on my door that would tell everyone the room was occupied. “Why don’t you just hang your clothes on the hook there and hop onto my table?” Yeolis. They like things straightforward.
“Oh, um. Sure.”
“Have you had many… lovers?” I asked him as he stripped off his shirt and kilt as though they were on fire, trying not to smile, so excited I thought I would burst right there, but I had more training than that.
“I’ve... um… a few.” he said, trying to sound worldly. His erection stood proud in his nest of curls, quite slender, much like the rest of him. Then he had to go hide it, lying face down on my table. Oh this is going to be such fun.
“My goodness.” I wasn’t about to tell him he was going to be my first. And I was starting to wonder about him. Weren’t Yeolis sexually active early? I pulled off my own shirt, but left my kilt on for now. I coiled and clipped my hair up out of my way so I could start with the deep massage.
The oil on the candle burner was part of what scented the space and was lovely and warm on my hands and on his back. His skin was smooth under my palms and his muscles taut.
I enjoyed his groan and looked forward to making him make a lot more noises. “So what is the Yeoli word for ‘penis’? I know the Arkan ones and they’re either technical, rude or crude.”
He turned his head sideways and I could just see his smile as I kneaded my way down his smooth back. Does he shave? No. His hair is fine gold thread against his tan. I can barely see it in this light. “Oh, that feels so good. I didn’t know I was that tightly wound.... um... ‘paena’ is the Yeoli word. But most people say ‘virya’... oohhmmmm.”
“Firia. I like the sound of that.” The big muscles of his rear were tight and had that lovely dip in the sides that I loved running my fingers over. I made my strokes deep and slow, thanking the Ten that I didn’t have to walk anywhere more than a step or two. My own ‘firia’ was aching again and I had to use all my restraint to finish the work first before indulging him and me both.
Nice thighs. Hard calves. “Turn over please. And if you’re more comfortable being covered I can give you a towel.” Sometimes people would tighten up without any covering, feeling too vulnerable.
“I’mmm, all right.” His words were muffled and he was so relaxed he was almost drooling into the pillow.
I was careful with his feet. The callus needed a lot of oil and I took my time. Around then I unsnapped my kilt buckle and let it slide down onto the floor. I went up around to his head and pulled the seat out from under the table with my foot and worked on his head and neck and then leaned all the way forward to run my hands over his chest, my palms flat and firm over his nubbins of nipples.
He twitched hard and gasped, I could feel his breath against my torso. “Please...” he said. “Oh, kahara.” As I stepped around to the side of the table again his eyes opened, blurred and vague with the sensations I was giving him. He’d softened during the massage as I thought, and hardened again as I worked back up his body.
I oiled my hands fresh and slid them, warm and slick over his whole groin. His hips rose up involuntarily as he thrust into my hands and he made a wordless noise, almost a scream. I took my fingers away, just cupping his tight-clenched sack in one hand and let him sink down again. I leaned forward and whispered in his ear... “just one question...” I kissed the spot under his ear before I continued. “... do you prefer to take? Or be taken?”
He panted, lips parted. “I... I...”
I licked his neck and he quivered all over. “... or both?”
“Yes.... oh yes...I think.”
Oh Ten gods, a virgin too? Oh Ten. I was taught that men would lie about how experienced they were, but I’d never seen it before. Well, let us put my book learning to the best use.
I kissed him deep and his arms came up around me, covering me with the oil I’d used on him. Oh I liked that enclosed sensation as he learned to kiss me back. I played with his nipples and his firia until he was almost writhing with it. I showed him all the ways he could be kissed. Mouth, nipples, firia. I was careful with licking and sucking him because he’d come far too quickly. I decided I liked the Yeoli word. “You... you’re teasing me!” he cried. I smiled up his body at him.
“Yes.” I was so ready to take him in, open and willing. He’ll feel so good inside me. I reached to pull him upright just as he undid my hairclip, sending my hair tumbling down to the floor. “Teasing you till you’re just about crazy.”
“Don’t... oh... please don’t.” His eyes were wild, full of the first sexual fires, and he was so beautiful. “I need... oh...” I took his hand and put my wrist in it.
“So... you may take what you need.”
For a moment he sat frozen then, pulled me close. “I’m here for you,” I whispered as his hand holding my wrist and the other on my back grew more urgent. “The table has handholds.” He kissed me this time rather than me kissing him and I opened up to his wonderful, delicious urgency. This time... this time, I wouldn’t cool him.
I slid onto the table face down, the cushioning warm from him on my chest as he kissed my skin wherever he could reach. His warm, bare, oil-slick hands pulled me close as he found the table spots for his knees and I reached for the loops for my hands, aching to push back...
His firia was hot against me and I nearly cried out in frustration when he managed to hold back. “I won’t hurt you?” His lovely hot weight was on me and I nearly cried. I could feel the head of him against my anus, and he quivering hard, wasn’t giving me what I wanted.
“NO! Oh, now you’re teasing me!” I panted. “Shafisha, please!” I’d opened myself well before tonight so a full grown man wouldn’t hurt me. “Don’t stop for the love of the Ten!”
Shafisha laughed and pushed and I was filled with the lovely hot length of him. Professional or not I cried out it felt so good. “yes! Yes!” He was beyond stopping now and I pushed back, bucked back against him, feeling my own firia hard against the bench and he only had four or five strokes in him, I could feel it. His orgasm started in his heels, a tightening rising and rising till he arched back, his hands tangled in my hair, arms at full stretch, head thrown back, a howl of joy soaking into my silk walls.
I was so close I could feel it quiver around the broken edges of my thinking, and then it washed over me too. Oh Ten Gods ten gods ten gods...I see white and cling to the couch as he pours into me and I pour myself out like water on sacred ground.
Shafisha nearly fainted I think and his weight came down much heavier on me. Lovely weight, both of us panting as if we’d run a race. “Oh Ten,” I said faintly as he put his hands on either side of me, gently lifting himself off. “That is very different with a partner.”
He froze. “What?” I pulled myself forward and flipped over, tugging my hair out from under me. He looked down at me confused.
“I’ve never done it with a client before,” I said and reached up to brush his hair off his face. “Especially on who’s not sure if he likes taking or being taken.” I smiled up and him and he almost collapsed next to me on the bench, half on me but his weight on his elbow, one arm still across me.
“You knew I never had... and you never had either...?” He started laughing and I had to laugh with him.
“Well if you don’t mind being my first client, I won’t mind being your first sex partner.”
“I thought... you seemed... but...”
He stroked my hair out of my face and wound a whole long lock around his fingers, looking at that rather than at me. “So if you don’t mind,” I said. His emerald and topaz eyes flickered up to mine and he smiled. “I get to explore a lot of things tonight. Would you care to help me? On the House.”
Posted by Vryka at 4:34 PM
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Surya saw me one more time before Chevenga and Kallijas finished the switch-over of power in only two eight-days. Of course it was fast. Everyone understood where Chevenga had gotten his habit of working fast. One tends to cram things into every hundredth of a bead when trying to stay ahead of the Summoner.
“I’m happy to hear you and the others have been following your instincts when it comes to sexuality,” he said, even as I hid my flaming face behind my hands.
“But isn’t it a sin?”
He looked at me compassionately. “I’m a psyche healer, Minis,” he said. “Not a priest and a Yeoli on top of that. We have love-feasts and our biggest worry is whether we are ready to be parents yet. We hold no Gods to rule over the fear in our hearts.”
“So I need to find an Arkan priestly advisor,” I said.
He signed chalk. “Preferably one who can work in concert with the healer you get to replace me. I recommend that you hire someone very soon after I leave to go home to Yeola-e.”
And help Chevenga complete his healing, trying to get him to avoid the death he’d expected. It worked out well for him. So after all the trauma of the war and the tearing open of the Empire, where was I to find an Arkan healer? No one would have trained on Haiu Menshir for years, I was certain, though they wouldn’t deliberately turn away anyone talented who sought it.
It seemed to me that if the Empire was closed enough, tight enough, rigid enough, we would have suppressed or driven out or killed off our sensitives. Especially if they happened to be lower caste. I shuddered to think of all the potential talent we had squandered by smashing it under the weight of birth position.
“I’ll have to write to Haiu Menshir and see if they can recommend someone to me.”
“Now what is that flash I see?” Surya had that look on him. No self-hating, self-destroying emotion got past him, unless he let it, because you couldn’t bear to deal with it yet.
“Um. I was just thinking that it was just, or right, that I lose you…”
“No. I do not see the world working like that. I am certain that All-Spirit, or the Gods as you would say, are arranging things for your best learning.”
“That’s kind of what I’m afraid of. Sometimes the best learning rises out of war, disaster, torture…”
He looked as though he wanted to pinch the bridge of his nose and was restraining himself. What a stubborn pair he had to deal with. Chevenga on one hand thinking he was bad enough to die to pay for being a warrior, and me who thought I was bad enough to die and go to hayel just for being born in the first place. “One can learn something out of anything that happens, or choose not to. In my experience and that of my teachers it just means the next time the lesson comes around it does so… hmmm… bigger, louder, heavier.”
“You mean…” It was an interesting idea. “My father could have learned from Chevenga and when he didn’t eventually he could have learned from the war?”
“The ultimate resistance to change… or learning… is death.” Well that was kind of obvious, I guessed. A way of saying yes without saying it.
“And then, according to us, the Gods teach you.”
“Who knows?” He did the expansive double shrug. “No one has ever come back to tell us what’s on the other side of death, other than dissolution of the body, which we can see. There is something there… but even the best seers can only see so far.”
“Something I need to talk to the priest or priests about, I suppose.” I wanted to find a priest about as much as I wanted to be raped by the risen corpse of 2nd Amitzas. I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Tobeas, the dekinas who must have been very relieved not to be sent into exile with me, but who knew where he’d been assigned. I didn’t see him being very heroic in the sack.
“I would suggest that.” He tapped his lips with his one hand. “In fact, I’ll write a list of suggestions that you may pass on to your next healer.”
The look he laid on me was stern. “You have been feeling better, working with me?”
“Uh huh.” I admit. It was an inarticulate grunt.
“And you understand that it is good?”
“Um.” I nodded, weakly.
“I suggest you find someone soon and not just put this list in a drawer and think you’re healed.”
He grinned. “Exactly so. First of all, you need to keep working on your sexual response and continue to leave it be, or encourage it, instead of attacking it.”
I managed another nod though it was hard.
“Second, you need to find a spiritual advisor who isn’t going to fight your psyche healer by telling you that natural impulses are sinful and bad and wrong.”
That one was going to be a lot harder.
“Third, you need to keep talking regularly to your potential mates. I realize that Gannara and Farasha are away but you can write them letters. If things in the letters get too personal then you can always hand them straight to them after they get back. It’s a good exercise. And your Arkan Serina, talk to her. Keep talking to her.”
I swallowed through a dry throat and nodded. What must she think of me? Giving myself to Gannara like that in front of her? I mean, she kissed me but… but… it was hardly manly and something that no decent man would show his betrothed or his wife… or… well she wasn’t either, so it was even worse…
I felt myself blushing just thinking about how awful that must have looked to her. Me just opening myself up to Gannara like that, like… a… well. Um. A boy. Or a woman. Oh I had messed things up something awful. I’d ruined everything. My image, how she saw me… Everything… ow ow ow. Oh Gods and… Goddess, help… I’d never get her to respect me after seeing THAT.
“Talk to her,” Surya repeated, relentlessly.
Then he waited until I managed to squeak a ‘yes’ out of my throat.
“That will be enough to start with. If you like, you may write me as well. I suspect if you send it to the Hearthstone Independent through Chevenga he’ll get it to me.”
“Thank you, Surya.” I was losing him too. I took a deep breath and focused on the list rather than wallow in what I wanted to feel.
Later, out from under Surya's eye, I could mourn that I was losing him too. I was losing my father in spirit, Chevenga. I was losing Kallijas to some girl he was busy falling in love with. I’d lost Gannara, my heart’s brother to the road for a while and Farasha, the girl who LIKED me kissing her… um… there. And I’d surely already lost Kyriala’s kind regard all in one evening, giving in to wild emotion.
In a way I was as alone as when I’d been a child under my father’s gold-weighted thumb. How had I managed this? How had I arranged this? I’d worked so hard to get here and now I really, really didn’t want this. How had it happened?
I didn’t want to be alone in my head, watching my father’s ghost drip onto the map of the Empire. That really wasn’t a good place to be. I’d… go talk to Grandfather about it. He… I had him. He wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was my mother, even though she… well, was she… but… I’d talk to her too.
Posted by Vryka at 11:38 PM