Thursday, June 30, 2011

515 - You Thunder-Mugging Morons!

I sat and stared at Bagofas and then, to keep from laughing out loud, I bent my head to my board and began to take notes, concentrating on the perfect formation of the ‘o’s’ and the ‘e’s’, just to give myself something else to think about.

But a dozen Assembly People sprang up with their comments.

Assemblyman Gollas – “... Minis has no official status. His papers are forged - he has admitted this. Thus, he can hold no official position in Arko..."  Every birth during Jitzmitthra is traditionally given the birthday of Muunas 1, no matter which Diem they were born on.  Most people tended to celebrate twice if they could.

Assemblyman Mil Rias -- “Minis is a figment of the popular imagination.  All the official inquiries clearly showed that all those stories... the Prince under the Mountain, the Wild Hunt, the glowing seven-foot tall man with wings and his Mahid turned into black hunting dogs, were nothing more than pipedreams and fancy. This is no different.”  Perhaps someone should suggest he get his thinking tested by the Haian in his district?

Assemblywoman Fidelia – “How can we even know he is really Kurkas Aan’s blood?  We have no proof of that other than the same falsified papers stating his birth day!”  Kallijas called for pages to bring the Imperial books for the year of my birth... the Mahid books as well... and to summon First Amitzas, my mother and Ailadas.

Assemblyman Ufanen – “The stars have aligned this way just to show us that Minis should be banned from the Imperatorship! The infallible masters of Astrology tell us that ANYONE born on Diem Wards back is just as unreal and unreliable as the day itself.”  I made a note to suggest that Ufanen be likewise referred to the Haian House of Integrity.

“We, as an Empire, have never even seen his official – however falsified – birth certificate with the witnesses’ signatures and the Imperial seals!”  I noted that my entry in the official birth book just before Ilesias’s should be sufficient proof.

Assemblyman Konoen – “ do we know that THIS is the real Minis, and not some pretender? Is that really gold ink or just ground lead in yellow?  Everyone knew that Minis Aan was a fat kid, who does this twig think he's fooling!”

Assemblyman Arzten – “What is this perfidy, this absurdity, this parody, that makes mockery of all else we do here, by the fact of our even considering it with any measure of seriousness?  Of such a ridiculous excuse for trying to deny a rightful Imperator or other official his earned position, I've never heard the like!”  At last, a sensible man.  I was scribbling hard now to keep up with the flood of comments, people jumping up in their seats to be heard.  “Asspeeps glfl o’r ‘mounting evidence’... A: Dineo, A: Festen, A: Murminien...”

Assemblyman Fegen - “... this boy... this imposter who claims to be Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan is actually...”  He paused for dramatic effect.  “The notorious Minakas Akam!  The trash-writing, fluff journalist who writes Imperial FICTION!  And children’s books.  Fantasies of talking donkeys and so forth!”  He seemed quite disappointed that his great revelation didn’t draw more of a response.  I was transcribing this nonsense as fast as they were spewing it.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried!  I kept having to take refuge in my handkerchief, pretending to snort or sniffle, so I not guffaw right out loud.

“House Security?  Would one of the House Sereniteers please send a Page to ask the editor of the High Pages to attend for his testimony? At his convenience, of course.

Assemblyman Ruar – “The central question here, gentlemen, is whether this person, Minis Aan, actually exists.”  He paused and every eye in the chamber turned to me.  The women had snapped their fans open to hide their laughter and a number of men happened to have their presentation combs out in front of their mouths, but I could still see their eyes.  “Must we strike a committee to determine the reality of his existence?”  A wave of laughter.  “Must we have scholars research it by finding mentions in books and publications?”  He waved his comb at the stack of books; the gold and the blackened silver spread open to the appropriate pages on the table before the Voice of the House.  I wanted to put my two chains in and say a point of order... I'm sitting right here. But I kept my mouth shut.  “Must we somehow test the reality of his existence, using substances or processes?”

He looked around at his colleagues.  “The fact is, that by consensus reality, arrived at by the collective action of all our senses -- sight when we see him, hearing when he speaks, feeling if we should happen to touch him,  -- that whatever his birthday happens to be, Minis Aan does indeed exist.  Does anyone here care to deny that?”

“I also think there has been no precedent for the denying the existence of a person born during Jitzmitthra. They exist in the numbers to be expected, in the city and throughout the Empire.”

My grandfather, after his testimony that I was indeed the same boy who had been born from his daughter Inensa, as witnessed by the Mahid midwives, had stayed and asked to be put on the speaking list.  He was sitting, calmly in the guest chair next to mine, his head tilted occasionally to listen to a whispered commentary from Ailadas on his other side. My mother, in the full column of maternity wear, sat on the other side of my tutor, her face still as marble.

Intharas Terren – “This august Assembly of People wish me to identify Minakas Akam?  He’s sitting right over there... the Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect, Minis Aan and Minakas Akam are the same person.  He took a number of aliases when he was in hiding and has... under truth drug and in front of a ballroom full of (I could hear the swearing sprinkled liberally through here, though none passed his lips.  You could see it in his look as the various Assembly people asked him their questions.) ... a ballroom full of Writers... scribblers every one and revealed every one of the hidden names.  There’s a transcript as well as this one’s personal account in the Pages of Arko.”  I could feel him wanting to say you thunder-mugging morons!

Assemblyman Sakit – “... but if he’s lied about who he is before how can we trust him to be who he says he is now?  He was a Dyer messenger boy perfectly enough to hide as one... who is to say this is not some fessas boy... Sinimas Akam... who took the real Minis’s place?  Who is to say that this lying boy is the real Minis Aan?”

I could feel Grandfather stiffen at the more egregious stupidities, though he of course didn’t show any such thing to anyone not immediately next to him with chair-arms touching.  When his turn came to speak he slowly rose to his full height and waited for silence to come into the chamber.


Since tomorrow is Canada Day, I shall be taking the day off.  The next installment will be Monday, July 4th.  Have a good weekend everyone.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

514 - To My Face?

A comment came to Assembly a few days afterwards, to be added to the Mahid debate.  It was a letter from Ilesias Mahid, from Yeola-e.  It was very short, no more than two lines.  “After the Sack, when Clan Mahid seemed to be ended, I thanked my Great Noble God that no child would ever again be raised as I was.  To the Assembly’s consideration… please let that remain so.”

It looked like it was going to be a short debate today, with mostly public commentary being added to the Mahid debate, which looked like it would be adopted, with modifications to Rafas’s original proposal, to assuage people’s fears and concerns, and to improve upon the idea of Mahid as far as the Empire was concerned.

The last item up on the list that I had read the night before while I dried out in the Heir’s library and tried not to smirk at Ilesias’s complaints of how the Mahid girls had thrown him into the Grand Allee fountain.  It said simply ‘Presentation of Petition.  Request for validation of papers.”

Everyone was stirring a bit when Assemblyman Bagofas, from Shika District began his presentation.  He seemed a little embarrassed by what he was presenting though nothing he’d said yet was anything special.

“… the petition I bring before my fellow Assemblymen and women… because there are sufficient signatures… I must.

“We, the undersigned, do not believe that Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan is legitimately a candidate for Imperator, because his birth certificate, for Muunas the First, is a fake and admittedly faked.  There is no legitimate day that exists in the Arkan calendar that is a valid birthday for the aformentioned Minis Aan.  We contend that the official date of this person is a day that officially does not exist, therefore anyone born upon such a day cannot officially exist, at least not in any governmental or official capacity.”  The Assemblyman kept his composure well while he read this argument, but there was a blush creeping up the back of his neck that I could see all the way over to my chair.

There was a moment of silence and then a wave of laughter rose up in the Assembly, but mixed in I could hear a few voices calling for real debate…  a ten or so of the most conservative Assemblymen were on their feet, raising their hands for attention and speaking turns, the looks on their faces as if someone had just handed them a gem or a treat of some kind.  Did they honestly think they could use this petition?

The question had to be debated because it was a valid petition, correctly presented, but truly? Honestly?  They were going to try and argue – to my face?—that I did not exist in a governmental capacity?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

513 - Not Much Roe in Me

The river was a great deal warmer than the one I’d been flung into in Yeola-e, but the shock was much harder.  It felt like my whole behind and back stung and then there were the bubbles.  I spread my arms out and paddled for the surface and the boat that was standing by.  Shen.  Shen.  Shen. Shen.  It was all bubbles and foam and the fikken harness that I couldn’t strip out of.  A twitch, a jerk.  Someone had caught one of the cables still attached to me and they hauled me out of the Arkan river like some outsized and flopping fish.

I coughed for a moment then managed, “I don’t have much roe in me.  You’ll have to throw me back.”  The solas who had just pulled me out mostly laughed, there hadn’t been good roe-fish in the Arkan for five hundred years.  I knew the men from the elite, from training on the roof.  Of course they would be on the boat if there was any danger of me going in.  There weren’t enough Mahid to have them there.  I hadn’t thought to arrange any of this security, so Joras must have.

I glanced up just in time to see him and his hurler launch.  As I was rowed back to the bank and to the waiting horse to ride back up to the Rim, I watched as they spiraled up.  One of the solas offered me a bath towel to begin drying off.

“Not to be worried about the Exalted’s performance,” he said with just this amiable look on his face.  Not laughing at me, just being with me.  “He’ll land in the water a time or two.  Just watch.”

And even the diligent and perfect Joras missed his first two attempts and then did end up falling.  “Did I grab at the cable like that?”  I asked my new solas friend.

“With just the one hand, Exalted.  Not waving at it like that.”

“Oh.  And it’s just Minis, please.  I get uncomfortable with titles now, and you and I have trained together on the roof.”  His name was Linfias if I recalled.  Linfias Nefas.  “Linfias, is it?”

Now he did smile as he stepped out of the boat to escort me up to try again.  “Yes… M… inis.”

I was so glad to find that Ky wasn’t on the Rim when I got up to the launch site again.  Maybe she didn’t see me go into the river at all.  I could hope.  Strapping into the wing again, with wet leathers wasn’t very comfortable but until I got this, I wasn’t going to stop and change my clothes every time I went in.  I took a deep breath.  “Would anyone like to bet I go in with a belly hurtle this time?”

There was a heartbeat of silence before someone snorted.  “I’ll take you up on that,” a solas whose name I didn’t know said.  The chuckle that ran around the group was, thank the Ten, unforced.  A pack leader can be silly without losing his status, Tanifas said.  As long as he chooses to be silly actively.  You are not helpless in the face of someone else’s laughter.


I think I ingested half of the river that afternoon.  By the time we rode around to the Marble Palace laefetas, I was sodden inside and out, my lungs felt like they were hollow somehow.  I wondered if I had damaged myself somehow and resolved to go to get checked out if it wasn’t better in the morning.

“Thank you for your careful escort,” I said to my guard and handed Linfias and Rohad their copper chains.  I’d lost a couple of silly bets.  “I’ll know better than to bet anything with you all in the future.  I’ll see you all tomorrow morning in training.”

I went into the lift building and sank down onto the padded bench.  My whole back was tender.  Not sore exactly.  Not bruised, just… sensitive.  My front wasn’t as bad since I’d only landed on it twice.  But I did know how to relay now.  Ky got it before I did.  And she doesn’t have hands and arms as strong as I do.  It’s a timing thing.  But she didn’t see anything but maybe the first time I’d gone in.

The lift clicked to a stop at the bottom and I levered my way back up to my feet.  I felt as if I were an old man, wheezing and gurgling.

As the door was opened by the guard outside a howling parade went shrieking by.  Ilesias must have gotten a long head start on those chasing him, since they were gaining so quickly. “… GIVE US THAT DISC BACK!  WE ARE ALLOWED!  EVEN IF THAT ONE IS THE CORONET REGAL, WE ARE ALLOWED!”

His face was both gleeful and a little nervous. “I got it, Ailadas’s gone home and I got it!  You can’t play faib  if you can’t catch me—eep!” He flung a look over his shoulder and scrambled away even harder on his skates.

I blinked and looked at the guard who looked at me blandly as three girls on white Mahid faib skates, one with a bloody shirt and face, went tearing past chasing Ili who had a faib disc clutched in his hands.

“Did I just see and hear what I think I saw and heard?”  I asked him.

“This one most assuredly saw and heard absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect.”

I nodded and turned to go off to my rooms.  “Oh, good.  I was certain I’d seen exactly the same, thank you.”

“You are most welcome, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

512 - The Plinth is Replaceable

“HEY AILADASSSSSS!!!!!”  Ili careened into the schoolroom on his skates, bouncing off the doorframe.  “Ow.  AILAD—“


Since Ili had caromed right into Ailadas’s middle as he rose to answer Ilesias’s shout, they both sat down rather abruptly, Ailadas back into his wheeled chair that squeaked backwards a fraction, Ilesias landing on the floor.

“OW!” –“Ouch, young man… you might have broken me in half with such precipitous action!”  Ailadas climbed to his feet slowly, testing his joints carefully along the way.

“I’m sorry, Ailadas, I was just so excited…” Ili tried to help him up but only managed to sit down again as his skates flew out from under him.  “Ow.”

“Ahem.  Take your time and get your wheels under you.  Then sit down over there and tell me what requires such abrupt and rapid action on your part?”  Ili rose up on his knees and picked up a number of pages that had hit the floor along with both of them and sat down in the chair indicated, rather than on the floor.

“Ranuras… one of my day servants just told me… he saw… he was peeking… well, he shouldn’t have but he was… the Mahid girls are going to have a team a faib team… they’re allowed to practice an’ he says they’re gooder than—“

“There is no such word as ‘gooder’, Ilesias!” Ailadas looked at him over his spectacles as he adjusted their fit on his nose.  But his words barely deflected Ili who continued right on with hardly a breath.

“—better ‘n all the servants thought… an’ they only have one string not two but they are allowed to train, First Amitzas said so an’ they don’t have a coach yet an’ I thought you could be their coach an’…”

He finally came to a verbal stop when he saw Ailadas shaking his head.  “No?  Why not, ‘ladas?  You’d be an EXCELLENT coach—“

“Ilesias Aan!  Take a breath and stop and listen for a click.”

Ili took a deep breath, puffing his cheeks out ostentatiously and stared cross-eye’d at Ailadas who coughed and then waited.  One long moment, then two…until he let his air out with a wheeze.  “Ahem.  Excellent.  Now, what were you saying?  First Amitzas has permitted the Mahid women to form a faibalitz team?”

“Yes, Ranuras said he saw… he wasn’t supposed to, but he did.  He said one girl took a bloody nose from Joras Mahid but scored a goal after.” 

“Did she, indeed?  Hmmm.  With a bit more decorum, my student, we shall pay a visit to my good friend Amitzas Mahid, ahem.”

“Why did you shake your head, no, Ailadas when I said you should be coach?”  Ili asked, skating backwards, talking once more as they headed down to the Mahid quarters.

“Ahem.  I have rather a lot to do, Ilesias.  You interrupted me in the middle of grading my latest papers and then I was going to begin reviewing your brother’s latest section of his doctoral argument.  I was also going to read your latest offering on the design and maintenance of the city’s water systems.  Your adventure this spring gave you a unique perspective on the drainage aspect, I must say.”

Ili refused to be diverted.  “But who will they be able to get as a coach?  They’re GIRLS.  No one would… um…”

“Be so soft-headed as to coach them?” Ailadas hid his grin behind a cough.  “Ahem.  There’s a friend of mine… or two who might be that crack-brained.”

“Ailadas!  I didn’t say anything so rude!  You did!”

“I did indeed.  Ah, Ser!”  He hailed one of the servants who had just stepped out of Ili’s way before the backwards coasting boy could hit him.

“Yes, Ser?  How may I help?”

“The Imperial Pharmacist.  Is he about?”

“The Mahid, Ser, is in the Great Aviary, feeding the birds.”

“Oh?  Of course.  Thank you.  Ili I suggest you watch out where you are –“

The servant snatched the vase off the plinth just as it went over with Ili on top of it.  “—going.”

“Ow.  Yes, Ser.”

“All right?  Well, brush yourself off and let us talk to your honourary grandfather about whether we should approach any of my friends as coaches.”

“Oh, good!  I want to see the girls practice!”  Ili turned to the servant hurrying up with a broom and a dustpan.  “Sorry.  I wasn’t looking where I was going.  I’m glad you caught that vase… even if it is ugly.”

“Ili!  Ahem. I’m glad you apologized, but that so called ‘ugly’ vase is a priceless example of Piinian era craftsmanship.”

“And you’re going to make me write a paper about it all, right?”

“Exactly right.  My apologies as well, Sers.”

“Oh, no problem, Ser Tutor.  The plinth is replaceable.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

511 - I Couldn't Help It

Of course I had to be the first one to congratulate her when they landed.  It was only right.  And I was so proud of her accomplishment I could almost burst.  Of course she could do it!

“Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!  I was so afraid I’d never learn!  I was so scared I’d never get it right!”

Really?  My cool, serene, unruffled best female friend in the world was being that hard on herself and not letting it show in the slightest?  “I never doubted you for an instant, not even a fraction of a click.”  My fears were not the same as my doubts.  I had fearful imaginings but they weren’t doubts exactly.  They were just fears.

They helped Ky out of the harness, checking it all the way, which I appreciated since I’d be wearing it next.  I couldn’t help but notice that she was not the slender, tiny column of Aitza that was so popular the last few generations.  The damp, soft leathers clung to her every curve and I remembered them from her bathing costume.

I’d promised both Surya and Tanifas to not castigate myself if I saw a beautiful person that lifted my heart and my genitals at the same time.  It was hard to not feel ashamed, though.  Her curves made me catch my breath and think back to our goodbye night.

I… perhaps… well, perhaps she would like to have dinner with just me rather than the whole court?  With a proper chaperon of course but just the two of us?  I knew I was blushing madly and grinning fit to split my face both at the same time.

She smiled back and it was the same as when we were on the road… or planning my campaign… or at too many boring parties.  She made everything more fun.

“I’m glad you believed in me so,” she said, as her attendant whisked a light cloak over her… I could only call her curves luscious.  Aitza’s clothing is designed to be beautiful and completely concealing and neutral.  I’d not noticed the dressing tent off to one side, pinned down hard against the wind up here. Ky wasn’t letting herself be spirited away to be properly and decorously re-dressed.

I don’t want her to watch in case… when… I make a fool of myself.  I want her to watch because having her there makes me happy.  I don’t want her to watch because I become a fumble-fingered moron in front of her.  I want her to watch because she’d cheer me on whatever I did.  I guess I’m thinking about it too much.

Since I’d not had a lot of time to keep up my practice in flying that I’d begun to learn on Haiu Menshir I ran through my launch checklist out loud, and added the relay checklist to that.

“Ah, Minis… You just forgot.  ‘Seat grappling glove’, Eminaias said, quietly.

“Oh?  Oh yes.  Thank you.”  I tightened the wrist tie of the special glove for grasping the cable so it wouldn’t get yanked off my hand somehow.  I drew my attention away from thoughts of Ky in wet bathing garments and damp flying leathers and paid better heed to what I was supposed to be doing.

The river below the Rim was a deep blue, the foam thundering down out of the rock face below a clear, filtered blue/green.  It's a matter of pride to the city that the water coming out of the city is as clean, or cleaner than the water flowing in.  It must be free of debris as well, since the thousands of bore-holes it comes out of, through the wall, are all less than my hand-width in size.

The outer Rim walls on either side of that cataract were lush green all year, even when the sun was hottest, like this late in the day, in high summer.  The heat made the water haze shimmer blue, blurring the edge between water and sky, misting the distances, the roads on either side of the river, down to Fispur shining white between the shadows of traffic moving to and from the port. It was hot enough that I was glad of the shade of the moyawa.

“Remember,” Sawas said after we’ve done our enshachik. “Let the cable come to you.  If you grab, you’ll probably yank and make it harder for Emin to keep his height.  If you unhook too soon, you’ll end up swimming.  And try not to bounce around down there.  The cables could get tangled and throw the three of us into the water and that’s more dangerous because someone could get caught underwater.”

“Let it come to me, don’t grab, don’t yank, don’t overbalance.  Nice and smooth and don’t unhook too soon.  Nice and smooth, don’t bounce or jerk,” I repeated.  My heart pounded in my chest like I was beginning Obedience.  He gave me an encouraging thump on the shoulder and we walked to the launch platform.

“And you know already, Minis, I’ll just repeat.  This isn’t a beach start.  There’s one hayel of a roshaushau off this cliff sometimes.  Once we are committed to go… don’t stop, don’t balk, or you could kill us both.  Got it?”

I nodded.  “Once we start, we go.”

The wood of the launch shelf boomed underfoot, showing how hollow it was underneath.  The cliff was already behind us.  “Ready?”  Sawas checked to see where Eminaias was, above.  We were close enough I could feel his nod.  “One, Two, Go!”

Four running steps, the edge of the platform flashed under my left toe as the upwind snatched us into the air and we were rising, as if all the governors were taken off one of the new laefetas, the whole crowd below dwindling to doll-size in only a few heartbeats.  The circling, pummelling wind beat ineffectually at us before the rising one lifted us over the danger.

The first time I missed the cable catch entire and we had to work our way back up to height.  Let it come to you… don’t grab. I thought as Sawas set to hurl me a second time.  I thumbed the ratchet and began lowering myself.  The crank had a slight give to it that was enough to put your heart in your throat every turn, just part of the mechanism.  I dangled down far enough to feel as though I was detached entirely from the world, like a thistle seed hanging from its spreading tuft.

The winds buffeted me up, dropped me on my cord, I spread my arms out to not get spun around as I waited for the cable to appear and Sawas to tip us so the catch hook on the front of his wing would direct it straight to me.  If it all went perfectly the weight would carry it back straight into my grappling glove.

To relay one had to lie on one’s back and lower one’s self, since you couldn’t switch cables on the back of your own harness.  It was unnerving to turn and lower yourself on a cable that felt as thin as if it were woven of hair.

There.  The cable smacked right into my hand and I remembered not to yank it toward me, let the wind blow it into me so I could snap the hook onto my harness at my chest.

He’s going low and slow so if I blow it it’ll be all right… however dangerous it feels.  They said I’d yell if I went in… that everybody does…

Click, clack.  I snapped the hook on and spun the lock wheel, or tried to.  It hadn’t seated and the snap opened.  I was still locked tight to Sawas’s cable.  I wasn’t going to… Wha---  Somehow I’d managed to unsnap the other hook as well while I tried to fix the first, the cable jerked in my hand, whipped up and away from reaching fingertips and I fell.

I couldn’t help it. As I watched Sawas’s wing seem to drop away from me as I dropped away from him, my gut clenched and my lungs as well and I yelled.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

510 - I'll be Hurling

Sawas grinned, if anything, wider. “I’ll be hurling, Minis and Eminaias will be catching. Sorry, we’re running a little late today. We’ve had such good, strong rising air we wanted to take advantage of them today.” I’d asked him to just use my name instead of any titles the night before. “Once we finish with our other student.” Other stu…oh. Yes.

“Of course. Please, don’t let me interrupt.” My stomach was somewhere around my bootsoles. I was going to have to sit and watch Ky do this. I pasted a pleasant smile on my face and my backside to a chair offered me by one of the school apprentices.

Ky’s attendants finished wringing out her hair and braided it up tight once more… apparently for the second time that day. My… friend… my female best friend…was nothing if not persistent. Eminaias did his checks and launched to gain height. She strapped herself into the special relay harness, checking each buckle and every clip. She tested the ratchet that would lower her till it settled her on the ground and then using both hands cranked herself up right under where Sawas waited, patiently, after his enshachik… where others checked his harness while he hung from it.

“All good. All clear,” she said clearly. “All clear,” she repeated. My heart was in my throat. I really cared that they had a good launch.

I could hear Sawas as well as I could hear her. “You nearly had it last time. This time if you don’t hear that heavy click… and if the locking mechanism does not spin shut… don’t trust it.”

“I understand. I was too eager,” she answered him. I couldn’t see any more of her face than her cheek behind the heavy goggles and under the edge of the leather helmet over her damp hair.

“Exactly. Calm… and remember your timing.”

She nodded and off the edge of the Rim they went. I made a conscious effort to unclench my jaw and hands both. Joras, behind me, leaned forward and whispered in my ear. “She’s in excellent hands.” My answering nod was jerky as I watched them spiral up and up and up, chasing Eminaias who was already a dot against the blue metal sky.

They hit the height they wanted and began the swoop over the river, Kyriala in her harness separating from Sawas’s wing and seeming to float downwards as she cranked. It was necessary to give the two wings room to pass her between them, swinging like a spider on the end of a line, to keep the swept and rigid wings from fouling each other.

She signaled that she was ready and Eminaias dropped his weighted line, from above and ahead of Sawas. It fluttered down, the weight barely able to keep it steady in the winds. The open guide loop on the front of Sawa’s wing caught it, kept it slightly steadier until it dropped to where she waited for it. I couldn’t see the special glove that made it easier to snag the cable but I knew she had to be wearing it. I hadn’t looked for it before.

A loop of cable grew as Eminaias continued his forward swoop, both wings losing air steadily. She was clipping herself in. I could see the jerk she gave the second cable, testing its security. I held my breath. If it wasn’t correct she’d fall into the river for the third time today. And even if it was a lot less dangerous than doing this over land… if she hit wrongly she could be injured. Even killed. One cable is loose… the slack is being taken up…Sawas’s wing is dropping back. She’s attached to the other wing now…

I found myself dizzy, slightly, and took a breath as she began rising slowly up the correct cable as Eminaias began to circle to gain height once more. She did it! Oh, wonderful. That was really smoothly done. She did it. Before I did. Oh, fik.

One Reason

One reason I'm going to be a little slower writing for a while.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

509 - What Was So Funny?

“… as Arkans we have had a long, long tradition of maintaining Mahid.  They have been the reflection of the Imperial line as long as we have been Imperium… from before we fell from the stars!  One must remember we cannot judge on the last few generations, since the Mahid have no choice but to be what the Imperator wills.  In this case… and in this proposal, it seems that Minister Rafas is suggesting that the Mahid be a true reflection of Empire, rather than an image of a single man, or his family.”

We were finally getting to those who were more moderate in their opinion of Mahid, it seemed.  This was going to probably go on the whole cycle since it had been brought up and that part of Rafas’s suggestion was voted in.  Let the public weigh in on it.  The Pages would publish the whole of the proposal and then we would be hearing from everyone.

So we would be bringing up the debate periodically through the whole session.

A different Assemblyman… Rialas, from Horaman District… “No one seems to be commenting on the fact that some of our greatest Imperators have had some of the greatest Mahid.  Heroes. Extensions of a benevolent and protective ruler.  We call them ‘Black Dogs’ but if the dog is vicious it is the owner who is responsible.  The Former Imperator put the vicious owner down and the rehabilitation of the ‘Black Dogs’ is already underway.  We have a poet thoroughly hidden inside a Mahid mask.  Perhaps we should also look to the past for other examples.  I personally recall a historical account from my own family about the Imperatrix Riala.  The Imperator chose one of his Mahid concubines as his Imperatrix and she is counted as ‘Riala the Good’ and ‘Riala the Fecund’.

“My own great-grandmother told me of the mourning that happened when she died… when my own ancestress was but a tiny girl.  The Imperator was correct in His choice.  And he chose a Mahid as worthy.”

I hadn’t thought of that Imperatrix much at all.  I knew every Imperator back perhaps fifteen hundred years.  But the ones popularly titled ‘Good’ had seemed pretty boring to me when I was a boy, and the Imperatrices even less.  I hadn’t even realized she’d been born and trained as a Mahid.  Of course that would have been buried very deep in any history of her, if it was mentioned at all.  I’d have to look her up and find out what I had missed.  I almost put my head in my hands.  Perhaps in my copious amounts of spare time.


My head was buzzing with flying theory and relay theory when I and my entourage... including Joras Mahid who was going to learn how to relay, to keep up with me, showed up on the Rim overlooking the river below but my head wasn’t so full that I didn’t notice Kyriala sitting by the launch yard wearing flying leathers.  That were soaking wet and her attendants were busy wringing her hair out, in sections fanned out behind her, handing down over the edge of the platform where she sat.

Her entourage was spread out the other direction.  We managed to cross eighteen districts of the Empire with no more than six people... why do we really need a ten or so apiece just to move from the bottom of the crater to the rim?

“Ky… um… Serina Kyriala.”  My tongue locked tight on the ‘what are YOU doing here’ demand.  I knew fikken exactly what she was doing here.  She’d announced it at dinner not so long ago.  Apparently her mother hadn’t managed to talk her out of trying to learn how to relay.  Oh my Great and Most High Noble God what in Hayel are you DOING, woman?  You could be KILLED, or MAIMED, or…  I locked my teeth on all of that as well.  If I could risk myself I certainly must offer her the same courtesy.  “How is it?” I said finally.

She smiled at me.  “I’m so glad I learned to swim!  It means these lessons are much safer.”  She pursed her mouth in frustration and some thought.  “I almost had the timing perfectly on the last one…  I spent most of the time swinging around and missing the other cable.  Tomorrow I’ll have it I believe.”

Sawas, and his partner Eminaias, both looked up from where they were checking their amoyawa, both with enormous grins on their faces.  “You’ll have it down soon, Serina,” Eminaias said.  “And you’ll be safe practicing it over solid ground.”

“The water felt almost solid when I hit.”

“It does that,” I said shortly.  I didn’t even want to think about that.  “So, Sawas, do I start with you, or with Eminaias?”  She giggled, behind me.  I didn’t think it was that funny so I tried to ignore it, but I could feel the embarrassed red creeping up the back of my neck and into my ears.  Why couldn’t things just have stayed like they did when Gannara and Farasha where here?  I missed them dreadfully and I kind of, sort of wanted them to translate Ky for me.  I understood her better when they were there.  What was so flipping funny that she’d laugh at me?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

508 - I'm Really Into the Story

…the boy.  I don’t remember his name either.  No more than I remember my own.  The word comes back when I think that.  I ignore it and concentrate on finding signs of their travel.  A large enough group to have killed all of us… who is us?  We… we… were… protecting!  Yes.  Protecting the boy!

It felt so good to have a memory, something to pull out of this fog in my head.  Fog. More like mud.  Like the grit in my teeth during training to be… what?  Wearing this armour is an honour?  How do I know that?

The boy.  Focus on finding them… they… however many but a great many, I have the sense.  They who have the boy are enemies.  They tried to kill me.  I have good evidence in the flap of scalp that I had to tie back with my own torn inner sleeve.  I am glad it is black… onyxine my mind insists.

It covers my head and a bright head when sneaking up on a large group of killers is not a good idea.  It is night.  I can smell people on the wind.  Most people don’t realize that outside the city…. What city?  I don’t remember. I quit trying to pin down the memories as they flit like butterflies across the vacancy of my mind and just let them come.

Away from daily bathing and without good discipline… even with good discipline, people give off smells.  Their horses smell.  Their fires smell of burning on the wind.  After the rain the air was clear and scoured of smells so when the breeze came up, full of the odour of an encampment I turned to follow.

Enemies.  Who have the boy.  Who I was wearing armour to protect.  I have no sword, no knife, no kit… what kit?  My hand goes to my belt where this thing is supposed to sit.  None of the bodies… a spasm of rage and suppressed grief surges through me, I don’t know why.  None of the bodies had anything that looked like a weapon.

I have no back up… does anyone know we were ambushed?  Ambushed.  Yes.  I know that word.  Ambush.  Overwhelming force.  Someone who could command enough men to have an overwhelming force.

My head hurts.  I try and ignore it.  Over that hill is where I would post my first sentry if I were smart.  I crawl through a boulder field, trying to be quiet.  Quiet as… a Mahid.  A Mahid?  I don’t shake my head.  It hurts when I do that.

Ahead there is a horrific scream.  The boy.  I restrain myself.  Getting killed will not save him.  My job.  Save him.  Protect him.  I am enraged but my control is good.  I have not twitched.  You enemies, whoever have hurt him, I will kill you.  If not in the course of rescuing him, then later.  You will pay for every hair upon his head that you injured.  He is the Divine… and my shattered brain refuses to give me a title.

No matter –


“Serin?  Serin Aan?”  I blink myself awake and find I’ve fallen asleep reading, the open book upon my chest. “Serin,” Antras repeats.  “You have an appointment to begin learning flying relay.  The Niah teacher is here.”

Oh, yes.  I had thought I would just go up to the Rim school and start that way, but Sawas… the teacher… wanted me to learn the theory first.  “I’ll be presentable directly.  Please give him my apologies.”

“Of course, Serin.”

I closed my book and gathered up the last apples where I’d knocked over the bowl after I’d fallen asleep, and rolled my head to get the crick out of my neck where I’d lain strangely.  I gave the book a pat and left it in the niche and went off to learn how to dangle from the bottom of a double-moyawa and have my cord hooked by another, like a spider floating away and snatched out of the air to be carried a different direction.

I would probably have my first in air lesson tomorrow afternoon when the up-airs were strongest, so I’d only be able to sit in on the morning session of Assembly.  The lake was really too small to do such maneuvers over… even if such things could be done in the pit, but the river beyond the city between Arko and Fispur was wide and deep enough to provide us some safety net until I knew what I was doing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

507 - So Be It

Amitzas Mahid stood next to the Corrective Stall, hands tucked under a brightly embroidered kerchief, all flames of different hues.  It was so odd to see on him.  It was so odd to see him in blue robes or green ones, or burgundy and white, much less with the bright cloth.  His thin white hair still cascaded as perfectly straight as a column down to the backs of his calves and there were no tremors in him.  His eyes, behind the glass lenses that flashed reflections of the lamplight, showed the same calm blue they always had.  Though now one might say they were less stone dead and more serene. “Jorasa, Amitza, Eforasa,” he said.  “The three of you are certainly nowhere near capable of going up against the high teams in the Faibalitz league.”

Jorasa made herself not look down, or away.  I didn’t say we were… but… she could feel the disappointment welling up inside.  We could… it will be as he says.  She could feel her mouth move slightly as she seized the inside of her bottom lip in her teeth.

“The three of you were tentative in your checks.”

Disappointment vanished under resentment.  We were not.  We hit him and hit her both hard.

She was very surprised when Joras spoke up.  “Senior,” he said with a little smile on his face.  “The girls were not holding back in their checks, however tentative it may have appeared.”  He rubbed a spot on his torso.  “They winded me at least twice.”

Amitzas stared at him, but only for a moment.  No one was used to all this back and forth, yet.  “Granted,” he said finally and turned his attention back to the three girls. “Your skating needs work and certainly your stamina.  Not the least of which you are short two players for even a first string.  To truly be a team one must have at least ten players… two strings.”

And no more Mahid other than us to ask.  That’s it then.  No five, no team. There was an echoing silence in the hall.  Fairly typical of a Mahid gathering, no one speaking unless spoken to.  No idle chatter.

Borasa spoke up, unbidden.  “I would train with them… if it is allowed.”  Four.  That’s four.  Jorasa found herself looking up at the other in the stands… would anyone else even consider…

“I would, also.”  Jorasa nearly wobbled on her skates.  It was the Second Wife, Tesha, who spoke.  Amitzas actually turned to look at her.

“Would you then?  Hmmm.”  Another yawning silence, then…The Mahid shrug was a bare twitch of shoulder.  “All of Mahid life seems to be in the middle of a permanent Jitzmitthra. So be it.  You are not the ‘New Mahid Team’ yet.  You are allowed to train… for now.  Seek out a coach.  You may even reduce the number of dance or etiquette, or embroidery classes for this – it is your choice.  Since you have requested this, complaints of bruises or injury will not be heard. Dismiss.”


“… the prints of the horses… go on this way.  I can’t see right.  Things are swimming.  Why am I doing this?  I don’t know.  I just keep thinking of the word ‘Mahid’ as if it meant something.

Am I mad?  Am I insane?  I don’t remember anything but a single word in my head is enough to have me climb up a bloody cliff with shreds of dead things still stuck to it where they hit on the way down…  And I’m following hoofprints in the dust.  Too many to stay on the road.  If they’d stayed on the road I’d never have been able to follow them.

But they stripped the corpses and threw everything away… me too.  They thought I was dead.  I’ve got my armour, which they didn’t seem to need, and this Ten-awful headache and not a clear thought in my head but following this boy because of a word I don’t understand.  Mahid.  Am I crazy?  I should be getting to a healer.

They turned off here.  Made no effort to hide the fact.  It might rain in a day or so, but they are still being careless.  It could rain in the next tenth.  I don’t know.  Ow.  Why am I doing this?

Of course, they are counting on the weather in the mountains to help cover their --  And that was the moment when the heavens opened.  Mountain weather.  Sun one instant.  Rain the next.  Pouring rain in this case.

The man stood for a long moment and wavered between gratitude for the water he could drink and the soothing of his aching head and insensate rage that the track he was following was being erased with every heartbeat of water falling out of the sky.

“Imperator.  You bastard, though you think me one.  I have your precious Spark, the one you named 8th Amitzas.  I… I am the true 8th Amitzas.  Your bastard son.  I have the boy.  I will send him back to you in pieces if you do not acknowledge me as your official Heir.

I, Amitzas, am the true Spark of the Son’s Ray.  This boy is merely the Coronet Regal.  As such, I will do my best to not disfigure my brother until this is resolved, but that is up to you…”


The man threw his hands toward the sky and wished he could scream his frustration but for
some reason there was good reason not to advertise where he was.  The word was ‘Mahid’. What does that mean? In the sound of the wind in the trees all around him, in the sighing of wind against the rocks of the gorges… it all meant nothing but it was the word that drove him on, despite all hurt and pain and willingness to stop.  Mahid."


Friday, June 17, 2011

506 - Ever Faithful

We'd sat for two whole days, and probably would sit all the next as well, arguing about the relative merits of Grandfather’s proposal… alternating between rabid Assemblymen foaming about the very existence of one half of my family and others pointing out Amitzas’s picture of the new Mahid as very reasonable.

“The Honourable Assembly has been speaking of the Minister’s proposal only of the men.  Does the female side of the Imperial family not need protection as well?  We have seen, very effectively, how the other nations of the Earthsphere train their women.  I propose that should we accept the Imperial Pharmacist's vision of the Mahid that we add an addendum stating that part of the so called ‘working Mahid’ should not be limited to fifty men alone, but perhaps fifty women as well?  Or sixty?  Since it will be necessary for the female contingent to take leaves of absence so we do not require them to choose between their defense of the Imperatrix and being mothers.”

That argument caused an uproar but it certainly needed to be said.  It was also argued that there should be a ‘waiting list’ should the Imperial guard be injured out in the course of their duty.

It was sounding like the Assembly was willing to go with the idea and with the proposed limits on the family, but this type of governance in Arko had only been in place for a few years and who knew how the vote would go?  Kallijas said to me, quite honestly, that he had no idea if Grandfather's idea would fly.  Personally, he preferred his solas friends out of the elite being his protection outside the Marble Palace and I could see that.

I tapped on Ili’s doors and found he was off in the classrooms with Ailadas.  The servant let me into his outer sitting room.  I found myself running my fingers along the bookshelves… searching for something.  I wasn’t sure what until my finger stopped upon a worn little book that I had read and re-read when I was a young boy around Ili’s age.  “Faultless Coursers of the Sun”.

I picked it out of the row of books and flipped it open.  There was the Boras story.  And a gruesome kidnapping story that a lone surviving Mahid… 3rd Karunan made come out right.  The Mahid Imperatrix.  The Unknown Son. A full ten and a half more. They were all based on true stories in Arko.  The other books in the series were all fictional.

After hearing all the hatred of Mahid in the Assembly, I guessed I needed to re-read them.  This was the twentieth printing.  

I understood why people were going on at length about how awful the Mahid were.  I knew, down to my bones, both because I had hated them myself before the sack and treated them badly because I could and because my father had wanted them to be the tool of his fear.  I'd used them myself as my fists on the city.  I knew how helpless they were in Aan hands.  

I knew down to my blood and my own bruises.  I had killed a Mahid to gain my freedom; because of them I was a kin-killer already.  I'd had Obedience at their... at his command, their sickness and darkness tangled in and growing through my whole family like two plants with intertwined roots.  Or echoing back and forth like separate bars of wind-chimes hanging from a common point, each swing making the others sing out... or scream out.  I knew. 

I understood, not only because I had been in Second Amitzas's hands, but also knew that my mother was one.  That my grandfather was one.  And they had been my fists because they had no choice.  

For all my knowledge and understanding of the three heads of the Mahid dog guarding the Imperator, fear and torment and loyalty, no one was going to ask me my opinion, in the Assembly of Arko.  They would think it rude.

I wrote a note to Ili saying I had borrowed his book and went off to bespeak a bowl of apples and a carafe of juice from the kitchens.  I hadn’t had time to spend a whole evening indulging myself in just reading and I was going to take some little time to do just that.

There was a curtained niche with a lamp, for that kind of thing in the bedroom of my suite, next to my sacred space, which I thought was appropriate.  Perhaps someone had taken an ugly statue away and decided to fill the spot with pillows and a reading light.  Either way it suited my upset mood.


Ever Faithful

The man blinked.  At least he tried to.  Only one of his eyes would obey him and give him a look at the sky above.  And the cliff.  He lay on something almost soft but the stink all around him was raw and wild.  I’m… armoured… he managed to think.  Who am I?  Where am I? And perhaps most important of all -- I'm supposed to... What am I supposed to do?

He turned his head sideways and found himself staring into the dried foam and blood on a horse’s muzzle.  That’s what he was lying on, a dead horse. What had happened?

The boy.  There was a boy… screaming I think.  Yes.  In danger. Not yet dead.  I think.  I think I can think. Can I think?  Can I function?  I… must.  Yes.  It is my duty.  I don’t know why but it is my duty not to just lie here and die.

He tried to move, found himself on his side, the great flap of scalp that had made his head wound so mortal looking, stuck down enough, but it started to bleed again when he rolled.  When had his helm come off?  Had the strap broken?  What had happened?  A thought drifted up into his awareness, even as he found himself vaguely staring at his own gauntleted hand, wondering if it was his.  Mahid.  I think I am Mahid.  That feels right.  Or was the horse that I fell on named Mahid?  I can’t remember.  But the word is important.  Mahid…


I took a bite out of my apple without taking my eyes from the page, once more transported to that bloody cliff bottom in the mountains of East Aria with Karunan Mahid, sole survivor of 8th Amitzas’s guard, while the Spark was being carried away by a madman.  A madman who believed he was an Aan… an elder son cheated out of his inheritance.