Friday, July 29, 2011

527 - The Line in Your Soul


It was late tonight that Tanifas and I had a meeting.  I was tired and even though I had a new baby sister I felt a bit cranky because… well… because she was 2nd Amitzas’s.  I did realize the emotion, the sensation was hardly fair, because she would likely not grow up to be like her father, without his baleful influence on her, but part of me was still nervous, still wary.  And that was just crazy because she was just a baby. Just a blob, the way Ili had been.  Just the same way I’d been.  Just a baby.  And I grew up to be not like my sire much.  So she could too.

I remembered Binshala, as she taught me how to hold a baby, how to cuddle a baby; recognizing almost every move that I showed Ili.  I sent a prayer for her up in Selestialis and hoped that she’d laugh at me teaching Ili what she taught me.  Selinae be gentle to a gentle soul.

The dogs gathered around me as I settled down on the floor cushion, the one-eye’d bitch laying her head on my lap.  When Tanifas came in, the white cat, my Altras, lay draped across the back of his neck, looking regal.

“Tanifas, is that a good idea to bring a cat to a dog party?”

He smiled his serenity at me like he always did and draped Altras across my lap and the bitch’s nose.  She sneezed and he growled at her but didn’t move, and then she put her sloppy black nose across him.  He put his nose in the air. “I’m the one in charge here,” Tanifas said.  “The Marble Palace dogs and cats have always been raised together.  It’s when the badly behaved moppets are brought in with the Aitzas families and various foreign guests that there is trouble usually.”

“I see.”

He settled down on his bench and began grooming a tiny fluffy that was new to the pack and needed some attention.  “The last thing you said in our session last time was that you wished your father had seen you as a separate person.  We’ve talked about this before.  Even the very first time.”

“Yes.  He never understood that I wasn’t just a kind of ‘free-running’ part of his body.  He had these ideas about who and what I was that just… well…”  I shrugged.

“That were not true?”

I couldn’t answer.  It choked me up and closed my throat.  I managed a nod.  He looked down at the dog in his lap instead of at me.  It was easier for me to say things when he wasn’t looking straight at me.  We tended to look at animals instead, while we talked.  “There is a Haian word for the pattern your sire showed.  It translates into Arkan as ‘self-alone’ or ‘self-lover’.”

It was so appropriate that I had to snort.  “That fits.  There was no one but him.  No other person existed but him.  Except when he needed someone to fill a space, a role, that he planned.”

“So what did ‘e do when someone didn’t fulfil his schema of things?”  I barely noticed his accent any longer. Tanifas put the dogling, fully brushed, down on the floor where it trotted over to have a drink.  I looked down at Altras in my lap, and my hands stroking along his fur.

“Well.  He forced them into what he thought they should be.  If they didn’t go easily he’d torture them until they fit.  Or kill them, saying they were liars or false.  Because what he said was real.  Not what they were.”

“Like you?”

“Eh.  He didn’t torture me.”

“No?  Did he respect your body’s needs?”

“What do you mean?  Like touching me too roughly? Or making me do things I didn’t want to?”  Like coming against my will… I cut that thought off.

“Yes.  That and forcing you to ignore your stomach’s limits.  To eat when he decided instead of when you decided.  And how much you should eat.”

“But that is every parent’s job, to rule the child till the child can become a responsible adult.”  I set Altras down and got up to pace through the pack.  The cat jumped into the warm spot I’d left and curled up.  The bitch decided that she should follow me.

“No.  That’s the extreme.  You were told what to eat and what to wear and even how to react emotionally, no matter what you felt.  No matter that you were full, no matter that the scene presented you called for tears, or screams, or laughter.  You were forced to cut yourself off from what was real.”

My gut clenched.  “That’s just him trying to make me more like himself.”

Tanifas nodded, calmly.  “It is what a self-lover does.  He decides who and what you are and if you deviate from his image he attacks you with all the power he has.”

That was a frightening thought.  “All the power he has?  Oh. But I’m not like him and that’s good.”

“Well, yes it is.  You had enough other people around you that you didn’t succumb to that.”  I took another turn around the kennel hall and the bitch at my heels began to whine.  She nudged me behind the knees with her cold nose.

“So why is it that you are more uncomfortable when I tell you something so positive?”  I stopped and pushed her away from me.  She was trying to herd me back into the centre of the room, where I’d been calm. “Stop.  Minis.  If you shove her around like that she will be driven to bite you.  You are in a weak position and using only fear.  She’s reacting to your fear.”

“How should I not be afraid?”  The dog was just standing, her nose at my legs.  She wasn’t growling but I could feel the tension all through her.  She was shaking with it. Her head was down, her ears flattened.   She backed up and pawed the ground and made huffing, almost barking noises.  “I’m not a sheep, bitch.”

She looked miserable, even as she showed the edges of her teeth.  She was frightened, just as I was.  I took a deep breath and sat down with her.  She whimpered, backed up, shook her head.  I sat down and breathed deep, until she sat down, head cocked to one side.  Then she sighed and walked up to put her forehead against my chest and just leaned.  I buried my hands in her ruff.  Someone, probably a Mahid, had tried to command every breath she took once.  “It’s all right, dog.  It’s fine.”  Without looking up I addressed Tanifas.  “My father didn’t beat me if I didn’t act like him.” Like they probably beat her.

She and I breathed together, both of us panting as if we’d been running.

“No, he did not,” Tanifas said.  “He didn’t need to.  He just had to hurt you, make these other people disappear.  You knew inside that they disappeared to no good fate.  You learned to hide your differences in his presence.  You learned to placate the monster before it bit you or clawed you again.”  Offer a tiny bit of praise, offer some kind of reassurance, then threaten to take it away.  Or take it away anyway because you’ve done something to offend them.  Make the dog, or the child, live in fear, waking or sleeping that something they do is not perfect enough and hurt them when they do not already know what they’ve done wrong.  Zinchaer said something like that.  Impossible standards that only the parent knows, that the parent decides are real despite all evidence to the contrary, and a pattern of attacking anything that does not match that standard. 

I was shaking as hard as the bitch was.  Zinchaer had explained that before and I had forgotten.  It seemed too easy, too blameful, as if I were somehow betraying my father by even hearing that, much less applying it to him.  My head dropped lower and as I did that the dog matched me.  I could feel her sudden relaxing under my hands.

The bitch collapsed onto me and I couldn’t look up.  I felt sick.  I felt weak.  I felt small all over again.  “I…” I took another deep breath.  “Yes.  I did.  I knew I wasn’t like him.  I knew myself separate from him.”

“You drew the line in your soul where you were your own.”  I dug my hands into her chest fur and she sighed.

“I… suppose.”  My nose was plugged.  When had I started weeping?  I hadn’t noticed.

“Yes, you did.  You were even luckier that you weren’t forced into close proximity with him all the time.  You had your nurse and your tutor and your servants… even your dekinas.”

“But I treated them all badly.  That doesn’t make sense.”

“Yes, you treated them badly because you were supposed to.  It was a way of hiding what you really felt from your sire, and he would pay less attention to the self you were hiding.”

“It wasn’t good.”

“But it wasn’t evil, either.  We all have a shadow side and you can go there and pull it out and fling it around, but it is not all of you.”

“A shadow side?  Oh, I know that one.  It’s the muck at the bottom.”  When I had forced the one young man to kill his brother.  I have left enough time, perhaps I will write him again and see if he will speak to me.

“But I can’t just say ‘oh that’s just the bad part of me that my father gave me.’  That’s not responsible.”

“You’re right.  The truth is that all the shadow things can be made right if you have the courage to face up to all their consequences.”

“All of them?  That would take years!”  A child’s cry.  It’s not fair!

“Yes, it will.  But with years and courage it can be done.  Most people struggle through to some kind of understanding and it’s not just age or exhaustion.”  I had to snort at that. Altras came over and started washing the bitch’s ears, for all the world as if she were a kitten with a dirty head. 

The dog was showing me that I had somehow touched her in an understanding way.  She and I were together.  She trusted me enough to relax in my hands.  I suppose it is because deep down my nurses taught me to trust myself. Chevenga taught me it was safe to trust myself and him.  Gannara trusted me.  Arko trusted me enough to take a chance and vote me into office.  Somewhere I had learned enough, to trust.

“Sounds like wisdom.” I said.

He grinned at me and tossed me the glossing comb.  “Could be.”

526 - Pseudo Mama


Minis is all googly eye’d over the new baby.  I wonder if he was that mushy over me?  She is all red and squashed looking, not really pretty at all and she made squeaking noises like a kitten.  And then, even all wrapped up, she peed on him but all he did was laugh and look at me.  Why did he look at me?  I’m a big boy and never peed on him.  Not at all. Never ever ever ever ever!

“Ew! Is she gonna poop too?”

“No, no, Ili, it’s just baby pee.  And see, she’ll have a clean napkin wrapped around.”

“That’s disgusting!  She’s going to pee and poop in a napkin like a dinner napkin?”

The servant is there with a basin of water, a towel and a clean shirt for Minis and he takes his shirt off. 

“Minis!”  That’s Inensa.  “Is that entirely appropriate?”  She’s lying all clean and wrapped up in white sheets and stuff and looks tired but still wanting him… wanting me to be proper.

“I’m sorry, mother.”  He looked a bit shame face and went behind a screen.  His voice comes over the screen with the sounds of him splashing a little.  “Ili. Binshala, may she rest in Selestialis, taught me that baby pee was just a little bit of water.  Not really odorous.  She said ‘you won’t melt’.”

“Oh good.  Or I wouldn’t ever ever ever hold her.”

“I’m glad we’ve cleared up that problem, then,” he said and came out again.  The servant had cleaned up the baby and gave it back to him.

“Shall we have an extra thick towel for Ili’s protection from toxic baby fluids?”  He’s grinning at me.

“Minis!  You’re silly!”  I said that and sat down in a big chair with lots of cushions and they put Tesha on my lap. 

She’s got her eyes closed and she’s bald but she smells a lot better than I thought, like the face powder full of lavender.  I pick up one of her teeny, tiny hands.  “May I?”  I look at Inensa.  She’s the closest thing to a mom I’ll have.  She nods permission and I take the baby-glove off.   It’s really a mitten since most babies fingers are so tiny and squished into fists.  Kaita says that getting born is a kind of fight, like a fight to live, so babies hold their hands tight like that.

I think it’s because they get squished as they grow that they don’t know there’s more space out here yet. Her fingers at tiny and wrinkled and the nails on the ends are soft and pink. She blinks her eyes open and I’m glad they don’t look like Fish-eyes Poopy Head, her dad. Jia crawls through the cat-tunnel in the wall and lollups over, cheeping.

“Is it safe with that thing?” Inensa is sipping the tea Akminchaer gave her, and looks a little like she’s going to throw the hot stuff on Jia if he’s bad with the baby.

“He’s fine! He’s all right!  He wouldn’t hurt a baby!” I put my one hand in front of Jia and Tesha both.

“I won’t hurt that thing.  If it doesn’t threaten the child.” She lays her head back against the pillow and sets the cup down.  “As long as you have control over it young Coronet Regal.”

I sigh.  “Yes, pseudo-mama.”  She looks at me and raises both her eyebrows.

“Did I hear you correctly?”

“Um… Yes?”  Maybe she doesn’t like that name.

“That would make me your P.M. I suppose.”  She almost has a smile on her face.  With her and my almost grandfather you really have to look for the smile.  “Yes.  I am a real mother twice over now, and a pseudo-mother once.  You shall have to buy me a pseudo-motherstone one day.”

I laugh.  “That’s a good idea.”  The baby kicks and squirms on my lap and screws up her face and Jia pats her head with his tentacle ends.

Minis who has this funny look on his face reaches for the baby and picks her up, which is good because she’s kind of damp and squishy, even with the extra towel.  “She probably wants her mama, again.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

525 - Foreign Relations


The last of the sun shone slantwise through the open caravan windows and the scent of dinner cooking wafted across the Gybir’s traditional clearing.  The surf murmur of the sea barely audible over the ridge. Gannara slapped the Pages down on the caravan bed, smacking his hand flat on the paper.  “Are these idiots real?”

Farasha looked up from where she was measuring out a hank of thread.  “Which ones?  The Yeoli ones for flogging Chevenga, or the Arkan ones for trying to argue that Minis doesn’t exist?”

“Both of them!  Assholes. Morons! What is it with this summer?  Has everyone gone crazier than usual?”

“The mad moons explains it well enough,” she said calmly.  “The Arkans are new to this idea of being able to argue things out, instead of having it all imposed on them. So they’ll do mad things like trying to declare someone ‘unborn’.”  She grinned.  “A little like a semanakraseye newly retired and allowed to spend money.”

“I’d throw a pillow at you but I’d mess up your threads.”  He grinned back.  She was completely surrounded by a rainbow of spools that she was winding onto smaller spools to sell.  A pillow in the middle of that would have made a right mess of it all.  The small spools of the incredibly bright thread would likely sell well in the city.  At least they hoped they would.  Gannara also thought his parents might be interested.  They’d found the dye artist a hundred milas away and had been winding small spools on the road ever since.

“Oh, poo on you,” she said amiably.  “You wouldn’t.  What I don’t understand is why the Yeolis are going so mad over Chevenga right now.  It’s as if his trying to heal… trying to live longer is scaring them into hammering him completely flat.”

Gannara flipped both his hands over, not in the chalk sign but in confusion.  “I don’t know.  It is like the whole country is threatened by him trying to change.”

Farasha set her tiny spool onto its peg and slid out of the middle of the spoolracks that they had sacrificed one bed in the caravan for and laid herself down with Gannara on the remaining bed, snuggling in.  His arms slid up to hug her as they laid their heads together.  “I don’t understand it,” Gannara said.  “Maybe because I was out of Yeola-e so long.”

“That could be.  I’ll have to say I’ve never seen a political system that treats their own so much as an abused child, trying to appease their abuser.”

Gannara let go and went up onto one elbow.  “Farasha, that’s not fair. That’s calling the whole country names.”

“Well, it seems to me as though a ruler or a leader of however many, is seen as a potential abuser and so has to be hammered on in case he or she goes power crazy.  Kurkas was an abuser and abused his whole country.  But then Seggidis isn’t known for her lunacy, nor Astalaz.  They have their quirks like anybody, but they aren’t seen as dangerous poisonous snakes that might bite at any time.”

“Kranaj isn’t as tightly wound as some,” Gannara said.  “Yeola-e has one of the most reasonable systems where there’s a lot of power.”

“Yes, but you can say that of any system that is balanced.”  Farasha tucked her arms under her head and looked up at Gannara.  “It’s when things get out of kilter that ugly things like your semanakraseye’s getting his ass flogged for something he did when he was a kid.”

“I suppose.  I mean even Arko… when you had a good man on the Crystal Throne, you had a good system.  Minis and I talked about that.  It’s a little like parenting, you get good and bad parents, you get good and bad bureaucrats, you get good and bad anything.  But in Yeola-e the power is in the people’s hands and that can smooth out the more scared people’s reactions.”

“It’s still open to abuse, either direction. Nara, it does look to me like in Yeola-e you have to try a whole lot harder to actually do crazy things like unjust floggings, and no mercy for the person they are afraid of.  It’s a system that’s harder to abuse than most.”

“We’re just going to have to keep talking about things like that,” Gannara said.  He gently laid one hand on her breast.  “You want to keep talking about it?  Or do you want to reassure me that our foreign relations are just fine?”

She grinned up at him.  “Oh, I’m certainly glad to have relations with you, you foreigner.”  He bobbed down to kiss her just as she raised her head and they mashed noses.  “OW.  Ooo, are you all right?”—“Yowch, is your nose…”  They burst out laughing.

“All right,” Farasha said.  “I’ll open trade negotiations, deal?”  He signed chalk and held still as she reached up to pull his head down to kiss him.

524 - Odd, Weird or Disgusting?


“Breathe, Sera Mahid, breathe.”

“I am going to scream at the top of my lungs if you tell me to breathe one more time, Akminchaer!”

“Sera… Inensa… it is all right.  Your baby is coming.  It is all right.”

Inensa began panting and he just wouldn’t stop bothering her.  “Sera, I suggest you walk a bit more.” For all that Akminchaer meant well, he was sincerely annoying her.  

"Let me offer you my arm, Inensa," Kyriala said.  She and Riala and Skala... they are Arko's future.  Part of Minis's future.  She straightened slowly and braced herself on the proffered support.  Kyriala smiled at her and slowly they paced the room.

 She wanted to concentrate.  It was more intense somehow, this time, her second labour.  Of course there had been so many more witnesses for Minis’s birth.  She took a deep breath and that devolved into a heavy pant.  She could feel the urge to push coming.  Something she hadn’t known to expect before.

This time Kurkas wasn’t going to come barging in.

“The… Mahid…midwife didn’t have me promenading around so much.”  She could say what she wished.  She could say what was on her mind, she could say anything, and no one would take exception.  It was peculiar.  The Mahid midwife was not there.  Instead there was a Masker and a Haian and the girls.  “Is Minis outside?  He is not to come in.  A son should not see his mother in this state.”

“Sera Inensa,” the Masker was on her other side, one hand held, hovering over her abdomen.  Inensa straightened against the next contraction, fighting the urge to hold her breath.  I will not bend before this pain.  It is merely pain.  Her hand tightened on Kyriala's arm and the Masker, named Tesha, looped an arm around her back.

It was a warmth across her back and she leaned into it and suddenly it was all right that she was being supported.  “Your son knows you are doing well, Inensa.  I did tell him.”

“Good.”

**

I paced up and down the men’s hallway, with my hands clasped behind my back.  Ailadas would release Ili to stand birthguard with me.

This was my mother, not Ili’s but there were so few Mahid left, mother was his nominal mama.  She was the closest related woman to him left alive.  And Amitzas was his nominal grandfather, who was standing watch at the first door.

I was standing in what should be 2nd Amitzas’s place.  So many in Arko would be shuffling the birthguards and doing without.  Aitzas had the luxury of different hallways before the birthing room; most Solas as well.  Fessas, okas and now free daifikas made due with chalk marks delineating the separate males’ watcher positions.  I’d blithely skated around groups of birthguarding men in the street without even taking note of them when I’d been a messenger.

I paced.  I couldn’t hear anything.  There were musicians playing and the fountains splashing and chiming and ringing in this whole set of rooms.  Ili skidded to a stop in the spot that would have been immediately behind me, just as I turned around so I ended up with Jiaklem reaching up to smack two of his tentacles on my chest.

“Is the baby here yet?  Can we see?  Is it a boy or a girl?  Are we going to do the rejoicing thing or the almost but not quite rejoicing thing? Or do we have to do something odd, weird or disgusting because we’re Aans or Mahids?”

I couldn’t help but smile while I stood still and waited for Jia to remove his damp suckers off my tunic, and counting up his questions off my knuckles, answered him. “No the baby is not here yet. No we cannot see.  I don’t know.  We will be rejoicing in having another family member whether male or female and no, nothing odd, weird or disgusting.”  He looked both relieved and a little disappointed.

“Oh.  Well that’s good.” He was getting very good on his skates and skated circles around me as I paced back.  “How long will it take?”

“It’s up to the mother and the baby.”

**

Inensa was in the undignified position.  She raised her head and looked from the floor between her hands up into Akminchaer’s calm face.  It didn’t hurt quite so much as when she’d been cut to let Minis out, but the convulsions were different, rolling over her like waves in the sea instead of clenching her body like a fist.

“That’s good, Inensa.”  The Masker’s voice was soothing, encouraging.  What was her name again? But the thought was overwhelmed by the next spasm.  “Perhaps two more good pushes and the baby will be here.”

Tesha… that’s her name. Oh butterfly you have turned into an enormous caterpillar. Come out… Come out… it has only been nine beads and I have strength to spare.  Come out, child, relieve us both.  Her flesh and skin and scars burned as they struggled to stretch, to give way, to open. The girls were a silent presence, out of the way. The baby crowned, she pushed and it was as though she birthed fire.

She set her teeth and pushed, even without the help of the spasm.  “SELINAE!”  It was less a scream and more a long, sustained groan of effort. And the caterpillar became a fish floundering into Tesha’s hands, flapping.

Akminchaer slid a firm pillow under her front, so she could sink from her hands and knees without pressuring her newly emptied self.  Was that the afterbirth?  I should see it safely buried.  It was strangely gentle now, them touching her with hands that knew exactly how to cradle.  Drops on the tongue.  Rolling over to settle against the other cushions.  Thankfully in a bed, not on a floor or in the woods like an animal.

The Fenjitza came in to help Tesha with the ritual examination and cleansing and there was a squall as the cool water hit its head.  “You are to be congratulated, Inensa,” the Fenjitza said. “You have a healthy baby girl.” Inensa gazed down at the baby placed in her arms.

“Birth Mother of Arko be praised.  Bless the life made in Thy image, able to birth.”  Inensa intoned the words with no irony. “It is an enormous blessing that she is a girl.  A male I would see the father in too much.”

No one answered her, except to say ‘Take the drops, under the tongue,” and “You did not tear, your easement helped considerably, but I will still need to stitch you.”  

Akminchaer was actually using something that made her able to ignore him doing just that.

I went from completely focused on my body from the waist down.  Now it might as well not be there for the attention I am paying to it.  My new daughter.  Bald.  Red. Squashed looking with the misty blue gaze of eyes first open to outside me. She is lipping my nipple, puzzled, curious, driven by the instant need.  She is not quite perfect.  I have been running my bare hands over her body.  She has all fingers and all toes, but two of her toes, on the left foot, are fused together.  She has the crane-bill bite-mark in a slender arrowhead down her forehead.  That will go.  There.  She has discovered that she can suck. My beautiful daughter.

Her name is already chosen. Tesha Riala Filira Skala Mahid.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Still on the Novel Marathon!

Karen and I are working hard on Fool on the Mountain and done somewhere between 24,000 and 30,000 words.  We are going until eight o'clock tonight, so you are still free to donate to a good cause and watch us crank out the words down to the deadline!

I will not be writing EC today and probably not tomorrow either.  I'll be absolutely written out!

Friday, July 15, 2011

523 - No Mercy for Shefenka

No Mercy for Shefenka
By Tennen Mil Nurenas
Aras 22, 50 Y.P.A.

- Terera Square, Vae Arahi

Today, as will have been reported, Ifaen Shefenka Sha-Arano-e has been convicted of a crime he committed when he was still a child, and flogged to falling for it.  This crime was not informing the people of Yeola-e that he had a certain foreknowledge, as we all know, that of his own early death.

Given that the Government and Court and Yeola-e general public work regularly with the famed augurer, Jinai Oru, this writer would have thought that someone would have argued that there is a general understanding that foreknowledge, whether granted by the Gods or by All-Spirit, is granted so that different choices may be made and that Shefenkas, when a first threshold child, could not see that this foreknowledge was not immutable, unchangeable.

Shefenka’s crime then, was not ‘lying’ to the people of Yeola-e but rather labouring under a delusion; a delusion that all foreknowledge was changeable, with the sole exception of this one, at least until his twenty-eighth year, when he was convinced otherwise by the healer Surya.  So Shefenka is convicted of ‘lying’ to the people of Yeola-e, when truly he was laboring under a childish delusion and so has been punished less for having this delusion, but for the timing of his choosing to change it.

This strikes as justice at its most harsh and unforgiving.  The Yeolis systematic embracing of the principles of the athyel seemingly insist on justice over mercy.  People with access to Gods as the ultimate judges of fallible humanity appear to allow mercy more readily. There is more tolerance for mistakes and delusions, since the ultimate Judges are infallible in Their judgments, whereas athyel, dependent on the limited and often flawed views of their fellow men, and knowing men to be flawed, seem driven to insist on the fulfillment of the absolute letter of the law, with no mitigating circumstances allowed, no mercy.

Shefenka, living under the belief that his foreknowledge, that his own early death was an immutable fact, only now seems to realize that it is, as all other foreknowledge, changeable. Who knows the reason that he considered himself worthy of such cruelty?  This seems also to be part of the Yeoli fear of anyone in power, who shows a gift for it.  Even in Arko we say ‘The best die young, for the Gods are lonely for them’, however in Yeola-e people take it as a given they must restrain, punish, and rigidly control their brightest souls, if they are in a position that some might say has some power.

One must grant, however, that the principles of Divine mercy are seldom practiced, especially in an unbalanced system of power as was more than amply demonstrated in Kurkas’s Empire, yet an Imperator called to Ordeal, could also be released of it.  A sane Imperator could grant clemency when circumstances called for forgiveness and a higher justice than that of men; of the spirit of the law, the grace in the law, rather than the punitive letter thereof.

The Arkan system is less flawed than it used to be, but perhaps the Yeolis could consider allowing a gracious Arkan idea to influence their judgments?  Not only justice, but a kind of grace, and perhaps a rather more forgiving face to present to their only servant of the people?

Shefenka was flogged to falling, and spoke beforehand to ease people’s outrage at something that many Yeolis saw as an injustice done.  Apparently the current semanakraseye has rather more grace in him than his own court.  He received the pinched-soul demands of justice and bore the consequences of a system with space for very little mercy.  Justice was done. Not mercy.

**

[excerpt from a much longer letter] I will be going asa kraiya on atakina 71 or Mikas 19, and you are of course invited, as is Minis. (I’ve included a letter to him in this packet, please pass it on to him. I can’t describe how much I miss you, Kall, though I keep trying. In the back of my mind I am counting the days to Muunas 1 48 YPA, when we’ll be able to be together permanently. All-Spirit… I’ll be 31 then. It’s so strange to write that…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today's Post Will Be Tomorrow!

Lots of work today, but no writing work yet... I won't have time to write until about an hour from now and then I will have no internet... sorry everybody.  I will post tomorrow, before the Novel Marathon starts...  I will be online then.

Cheers!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

522 - The Fifth Wife



“…the fifth wife.  He has told me that if my first child is male and dies in the first hours of life or is born dead, I will follow both the child and the wives gone before.  He has killed them more and more brutally as His heirs die.  He threatens to impale me through the womb that failed him, if His Spark dies. 

I am afraid.  I write, because I can, because I must. It is the highest of honours to have been married to the Imperator and my family is wildly happy that He chose me, that father presented me properly.  I am frightened, but I have a plan to save my life.  The boy plague has been fading among the fessas, at last, but the firmakas tell me the lesser illness is still raging through the solas and Aitzas.  I cannot be sure I do not have it in its virulent form.  My Haian has been treating me and I hope that later children I have will live.  But the first one.  That first child must be male and he must live.

Someday… you who are reading this the first time, must be enough in sympathy… first of all to have care to find my words, and secondly to think enough like me to decode them.  Are you a woman? Are you a sympathetic man?  I imagine you in the future, sitting under the library sky windows or the bright reading lamps, yet you must, perforce remain a shadow to me, faceless, though not without eyes to read, not without ink-stained gloves to turn these wraith-pages.

Some will condemn me out of hand.  The Highest Goddess and her Divine Husband will judge me, before you do, so your condemnation means nothing to me.

I am in my isolation of pregnancy, blessing the dress.  I am not pregnant, I bear a weighted cushion bound around my middle with silk. My attendants - aside from my mother, who knows my desperate ploy and has sworn her silence – are all pregnant Mahid, some from their own husbands, some concubines to my husband.  Dafida has born at least one healthy boy.  Tesha Mahid is within an eight-day of Dafida.  If both of them bear girls or dead or dying boys, I might have one more chance with Pala Mahid, who is almost a moon behind.  The Mahid, with their ferocious isolation of the women when the plague broke out, had fewer dead.

I am risking my life.  But I will not be lying to my husband.  All three of those Mahid women are His concubines.  All three of these children will be born to Third Daiarilas… just not from my body.

I will be in secret attendance upon each of their birthings. They know.  They obey, though technically they should obey my husband before they obey me.  We are in accord that the Imperial line not be compromised.  They are my friends, as well as my keepers and attendants.  When the men cannot see, they are – we are – happy.  Dafida’s husband wants more boys to go into the more brutal training devised by Daiarilas, and she is just as happy to give her child up to another life.  Perhaps a grinder in its own way but different.

**

Dafida’s son has been born… in my rooms…  He seems healthy and shows no sign of his breathing stopping, none of the ominous blue tinge to the extremities. He is past the dangerous first hours and I am about to ‘go into labour.’ Dafida showed her husband one of the dead children from the city as hers.  I did not ask where she got it.  Possibly a fessas child.  My son is born.  I believe that Daiarilas will name him Ninth Feliras, but I could be wrong.  I cradle him in my arms and he looks up at me with the bleary, unfocused look of all newborns.  His wet nurse will be Dafida, whose milk has come in.

So now my life is saved and I will try to bear out of my own body.  Because of my friend and co-conspirator, Dafida Mahid, all honour to her, the Imperial line is secure.  All other children I might have will have the same risks of life and death as all children and my life does not hang in the balance.  I will not go into the Wall of the Lost.

May the Ten lift this curse from us. Save us from this grievous punishment.  Our children die.  If it be Your wills that Arko dies for my actions then punish me first. I offer my sin in my bare and cupped hands.  I was afraid, Mother.  I did not want to die that way.

Goddess see and judge my actions.  Mercy on us, Mother of All, You who bear all creation.

**

I sat back.  This, I judged, had to be told.  It did not compromise the Aan succession in the slightest, but I rather thought that Arko should know about the sacrifices the Mahid women gave to the Empire as well as the men.  My mother would like to read this also, I think.

There apparently was a long, underground history of women reading and writing when they shouldn’t.  And an equally long line of subversive men to teach them, or allow them to learn.  The difference in the ancient Mahid was obvious. It also spoke volumes about how close the Aans and the Mahid were, even before my sire picked me out of the lot.  The two families were as thoroughly tangled together as a kitten-pounced ball of yarn.

I glanced over at the artworks.  They were a better illustration for the text they were hiding rather than the open text before or after them.  The artist’s opinion, and approval, was fairly obvious now that the Imperatrix’s text was made clear.

The funerals depicted were of murdered Imperatrice as well as the thousands of babies lost. 

521 - Hidden Pages


I sat back and tapped the end of my glass pen against my teeth, staring at the dusty fragment in front of me in the Conservancy.  The women were four stacks over, just discussing some tricky bit of rebinding without damaging the fragile paper, so yellowed it was brown and inclined to disintegrate, their voices now a fixture in the library so much that I could not imagine the space without it.

For all that the male scholars sputtered and blew like cranky dayanal complaining that the ship they wished to play with was moving too quickly for them, they had come to admit – or rather demand -- that the trickiest work of conserving the ancient records must be done by the women, with their delicacy of nature and smaller eyes to discern finer detail and other such nonsense.  Now that they could read, certainly shouldn’t they be made useful before their lady parts fell out and their brains exploded from the unnatural learning?  I’d heard more than one crusty old scholar say… “Well, of course they’re good at the work!  It’s cleaning after all!”  Which conveniently ignored the fact that aitza didn’t clean anyway… they hired fessas women to clean for them.

The book in front of me, ‘Imperial Family Re-Examined’ had a whole section hidden by carefully gluing pages together, something almost tissue thin on either side, with a kind of dense black and white art work illustration that almost illustrated the text.  It nearly escaped my notice since art paper is normally thicker than print pages and the glued sheets seemed only fractionally heavier.  What had caught my attention was a brittle corner where the glue had come apart, exposing the hidden text.

I had a dozen sheets of the illustrations now carefully laid out under glass and the ancient text, which had been protected clear before me.  The first page was an elaborately illuminated genealogy of the Aans five hundred years ago and I was on the point of just closing the book before I realized that it was almost identical to the one I knew of my own family.

I pulled the magnifier over the bottom of the tree and read, in the sunburst that signified Reigning Imperator, the name of Daiarilas Aan.  That was the same.  But instead of the single Imperatrix shown there were five.

Each of the first four one showed a single child beneath her name and it seemed that every one of his wives died in childbirth.  All four of the children listed were male.  I checked the dates and it was the time of the boy plague. The Empire was decimated by an enormous number of boy babies dying or being stillborn.  It did not affect the mothers’ health in any other way.  And it was a plague that came and apparently went without Haiu Menshir being able to do more than mitigate its effect, though they discovered that it was a water-borne illness and eventually developed a test for it.  Until the test, one never knew if the woman had the illness until the first dead child was born.

The artworks in the book were illustrations of the funerals, the horror of the Empire and the massive trauma we had all suffered.  The final two pieces showed Mikas cleansing the waters, with some of the filters and disinfecting protocols used to this day, and Risae in Her full aspect of Chiurgeon, holding Her hand over the weeping multitude.

All of the hidden pages were in some kind of code except for the first line.  “To She Who Creates All 7416.

The first unhidden page after the coded and concealed ones, was the genealogy I was familiar with, with Daiarilas married to only Marlifia, who bore him Feliras… who I knew as ‘the Devoted’.  He was EnRobed and did his Ten Tens and reigned for one of the longer times… nearly seventy years.

If this was a substitution code, common in Arko because we had printed books, so people would be able to have the same copy of the same book, I’d never figure it out because I would need to know which book and which pattern was the basis of the code.  I chewed on the end of my pen, thinking.

If it was a man trying to hide something I would check the smutty parts of the Holy Book… well, what people would consider smutty.  I went into the stacks and fetched the print edition from that time.  Most likely the one used by the Imperator’s dekinas but perhaps by the Imperator and Imperatrix of the time, themselves.  It was a very ornate and the book itself was quite large.  I was puffing before I got back to my desk.

I checked Muunas’s Song to Selinae, Mikas’s Ode to Risae, and a few others.  It was gibberish and I told myself I should stop.  How was I to guess the code from what could be thousands of pages in thousands of surviving books from that time?  I rubbed my eyes and then realized… even though women were not supposed to read… perhaps there was a secret writer?  A woman?  Hmmm. Considering the opening prayer it would seem to be.

I flipped to the Goddess parts of the Book and wondered for a moment if I were a boy who, as part of his duty to his mother, read her scripture to her every day, how different would I have been?  I tried Selinae’s Song of Creation, and then The Prophet of Kir.  Neither of those unlocked this code.  The numbers at the end of the prayer were not chapter and verse numbers unless someone had left out the ‘:’, but someone just reading it would probably think it was Selinae’s seventh book, chapter four, verse sixteen.  But that didn’t work either. 7416.  Page seven was in the men’s part, page seventy four was the end of Triskiniton.  Seven hundred forty one was Mothers of Arko.  I tried the sixth line, then the sixth verse and suddenly sensible words began appearing on my page.  “I am Marlifia…”

______________

My apologies for the late posts:  This is Monday's and today's will go up right after I finish writing this.  I will be away from internet, working/staying at a friend's cottage with no access so things will be a little off this week.

This weekend is the infamous Muskoka Novel Marathon, where for a ten dollar donation you can watch Karen and I do our thing (writing! writing!) in public.

Friday, July 8, 2011

520 - The One-Boy Horde


The Scandalous One
By Minis Aan

Eight hundred and nineteen years ago, the Empire was rocked by scandal caused by Ninth Amitzas Aan.  Rather than choose a nice Aitza from amongst the Fortunate Fifty for his official wife, he chose one of his Mahid concubines, 8th Tesha Mahid.

The scandal was so intense that 9th Amitzas was called out to Ordeal.  What was even more scandalous was the fact that Tesha entered the Temple and shaded him, by standing over him, then kneeling.  The dekinae removed her at that point, and the mob was apparently moved by his determined intent to marry her and her resolute attempt to shield him.  His Ordeal was ended and they were married.

Her reign name became Tesha Iliria Antikana Aan, and all mention of her origins while not actively erased, were allowed to fade in the popular memory.  She bore eight children, Tenth Amitzas, his brothers Joras, Sinimas, Fidelis, Karunan (the first time the name was included in the Imperial line) and three girls, Fidelia, Inensa, and Kyriala.

It was her grandchild 12th Kurkas, who apparently had all record of his grandmother’s Mahid origins almost completely written out of the history, and had the accounts of his grandfather’s Ordeal shifted to having it be about a contested rise in a certain hated linen tax.

**

I hadn’t been writing much for Intharas as I had promised and as an apology, I sent along a dinner invitation for him, for sometime in the next eight-day, at his convenience. I had been focusing most of writing time finishing my thesis for Ailadas.

**

Kyriala sent along a note to say that she and her family would be pleased to come to dinner.  I really hoped we could get at least some time to talk to each other, even if surrounded by the one-boy horde of her brother.  Not that I should talk. 

Ili had just decided to climb up the fa├žade of the Marble Palace to draw an ink moustache, beard and darkened the mane on Serunerias’s Lion of Muunas over the Heir’s Balcony.  I just had to get Kaita some help because she just could NOT keep up with Ili.  Or persuaded her to wear some of Riala’s shocking women’s clothing so her legs would be free to climb after him if she needed to.

I actually thought the dark mane looked good.  A little like Chevenga.  But the staff had him up there now on a safely belted cleaning swing with a brush and the marble cleaning compound.  He’d gone from chagrined to waving at the crowd gathered to watch him.  Of course he kept dumping his bucket of water if people yelled loud enough for him to do so.  A sausage vendor and a flavoured-ice seller had set up to take advantage of the situation.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

519 - To the Assembly of Yeola-e


“Kallijas?” I found him in the Eagle’s Aerie, a room designed to be mostly windows that still showed sky and edge of cliff instead of city and lake and woods.

He spun around so fast from his pacing I couldn’t stop my reflexive duck.  “Yes?” It was odd, he sounded almost calm.  It just didn’t fit with him pacing the room like a fang-tiger on a chain.

I came in and stood, hands clasped behind my back, the Pages crinkled under my arm.  “You’ve heard about what the Yeolis are doing?”

“I did.”  He whirled around again and started pacing again, looking up at the sky as if he could just go up, get in a moyawa and be straight off to Yeola-e.  As if he could or would do anything there to change what was going to happen.  “This is a travesty, shocking.  It’s so wrong. He’s done nothing but give and give and give of himself and they’re going to do this?  I’m surprised the Ten didn’t blight them for hurting him so.”

“You would understand the Yeolis best of all, Ser,” I said.  “It’s not as if they would truly hurt him.  This is some kind of procedural stuff that Ch’venga got wrong when he was a kid and they’re smacking him for it, it looks like.”
                                                                                                             
“It still doesn’t make it right,” Kall said, his voice soft.  “I know.  I know that he’s doing this because of Semanakra but it doesn’t make it any more palatable to me or any honourable person.  He’s bled and sweated and agonized over his own people, brought them back from all but conquered to their first ever conquest, had his heart practically ripped in half because he came to see us as his people too.  And what happens?  The Yeolis feel they need to control him harder.  They are more afraid of him, which means he’ll try to submit even more to them until they manage to smash him flat.  This is the same kind of thing that convinced him he had to die young in the first place!”

“Yes, Kallijas.  I… would like to write a letter to the Yeola-e Assembly.  I realize that we will not actually DO anything, but I’d like to express my personal displeasure with their treatment of their Semanakraseye but I didn’t want to do any such thing without consulting you first.  This is foreign relations now, not yelling at at our own, so I thought I should ask.”
                                                                                                                        
He stood, both hands on the back of a chair, head down, thinking.  “Yes, we could do that.”  He said it very quietly.  “We’ll be very careful how to word this, but I don’t like it either.”  He pulled the chair out and sat down.  “In fact, I will delay my dinner somewhat for this.”

That wasn’t like him at all.  He was very meticulous about his meals.  “Or, we could eat and talk about it at the same time?” I said.

“An excellent suggestion, Minis.  I was going to tell you to remember not to skip your dinner.”

Do as I say, instead of as I do? “Is everyone concerned about my weight?”  I couldn’t help but snap at him.  He raised his head and actually smiled at me.

“Not your weight, Minis; your health.  Laisa made me promise to not skip any meals, even if I was upset by something happening in the Office. We are both very bad at maintaining ourselves, so I’m watching for it in you, and sent a note around to your staff about it as well.”  Laisa made him?  Oh.  Hah. I see.
        
Now why was I blushing?  “Oh.  Thank you, Kallijas.”

“Not a problem, Minis.  Have a seat.  We have a stiff letter to write.”

**
       
TO: The Assembly of Yeola-e
Copy to: Ivaen Chevenga Shae-Arano-e, Semanakraseye d’Yeola-e
FROM:  Kallijas Itrean, Imperator Regent of Arko and Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect
Marble Palace, Arko,
Aras 20, Y.P.A. 50

(“I’m not sure that I shouldn’t recuse myself from this, lad.  I’m so angry at them I might make a diplomatic mistake.”

“They know you’re his alesinas.  We’ll be careful.”

“All right.”)

“We, the Imperator Regent and the Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect, must speak out against this travesty of justice.  We, as Arkans, barely understand how the whole People of Yeola-e can allow this.  Ivaen Chevenga Shae-Arano-e has done nothing, nothing without specific will to the betterment of his people’s lives.”

“He has spent himself, as the position and his people demand, giving everything of himself to Yeola-e, his physical health and well being, his skill as a warrior, his political acumen, even his sanity for the necessary salvation of the country.”

“Even though this will be justice in the letter of the law, it violates the spirit in so many ways that we are truly upset by this merciless punishment of someone who has done nothing to deserve such a thing.”

“Outside of the savage violence of war, outside of the heart-wrenching evils of combat, what could a people hope to gain by the further punishment of a man innocent of wrongdoing?  This is severe in the extreme, even as Arkans – whom the world consider immoderate in our barbarity.  This is zealousness to the point of disrespect.  And we, Chevenga’s alesinas and his friend, are indignant on his behalf, because he no doubt, will not be.”

“He has shown not one sign of ambition to power, indeed he has willingly surrendered the control of Empire not once, but twice.  The electorate, we have been taught and understand, absolutely need to control the power-mad and the ambitious. Ivaen Chevenga Shae-Arano-e is not one of these ruthless people.”

Removed from the text: “The two of us are speaking to you from our hearts, as private citizens outside of the Office of the Crystal Throne, that should have us considering how to take advantage of the situation for the betterment of our own people….” –“I think we shouldn’t say that, Minis.  It is too raw.” – “Oh, sorry.”

“The two of us are speaking to you from our hearts, as private citizens, not as Imperator Regent nor Spark Elect.  This is our reaction to an action in another country, something happening to our friend, our family.”

“We are extremely disappointed with this decision… this attack on a good man and do not like to think less of Yeola-e.”

Scribed and signed:

Kallijas Itrean, Imperator Regent of Arko (his personal seal)
Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect (his personal seal)