The bureaucrat’s eyes had flickered over me, as he beat his retreat and I thought I saw him blanche even further. Somehow that decided me that I didn’t just want to listen. After all, he was my former under-minister of roads. I eased around the door and took in the scene.
Eosenas was at the side of his desk, lying on his face before Chevenga, who was regarding him with the deliberateness of someone deciding which slice to make first.
I set my shoulder against the inner doorframe, crossing my arms. “I was curious so I thought I'd come down and see. I could punish him for you, Cheng. Legally.” The smell in the room was much stronger. His diet obviously had a lot of rich food in it.
“Punish him legally?” Chevenga looked up at me. “What did you have in mind?”
“A lot of convicted criminals have been taking the place of slaves for public works...It sounds like our friend here is a war criminal you've discovered...”
“Well, yes,” Chevenga both nodded and signed chalk.
“Though I didn't think Arkan law at the time forbade purifying and raping captured women... did it? I know it does now.”
“Hmm.” Technically what Eosenas had done was not illegal for an Arkan to do, at the time. I wouldn’t be able to punish him for that. “How long was she enslaved?”
“Eosenas?” Chevenga turned to the shivering, pee-soaked man on the floor, asking for legal clarification. “How long exactly?”
“Eeeeeight mmmm mmmm mmmoonssss,--”
“That’s all I need to know, shut up, Eosenas,” I said, cutting off his stuttering. “Do you think he'd last that long in an official Rejin brothel?” Those brothels were entirely reformed under the new laws but they still had fearsome reputations, from before. “Some solas are pretty rough on the employees... should Kallijas demote him to work there.”
“Hmmm. Too long at a desk job makes a man stale.”
“I know that there is a society of women in Yeola-e who had it done to them... and they are considering legal action of some nature. I think they'd have to make a notitias damnas an awareness of harm argument to the court to convict Arkans who did that,” Chevenga said.
“It would be notitias damnas dissimulas... or dissimulas malas consciencias to the judges,” I said, hauling the archaic Arkan legal terms out of my memory. “Both are variations on ‘willfully ignoring evidence of harm’.”
“Eosenas did you know you were hurting her?” The man’s tremors froze as Chevenga quit speaking legalese with me and pinned him flat once more with his look.
Over his wheezing gathering of his answer I said, as casually as I could, “You know. Kyriala is very much against purification of any kind. As is the Fenjitza, of course.”
“Sshhsshe... “ Eosenas gulped and swallowed, hesitating as Chevenga answered me, over his shoulder, not taking his eyes off him.
“Anyone in their right mind is against it.”
Another diffident cough from outside, “Der Dusakis, the deputation from Malikia is here to.... oh.... um.....” The second bureaucrat must not have heard that Eosenas was busy. He vanished as quickly as the first. I could imagine his apology... very sorry, Sers, I realize your appointment was for this bead but an emergency has come up that is occupying Ser Dusakis’s time.
“Yyess.sss... I I I.. she was hurt.”
“Why'd you do it then?”
“It it it... she she she was almosssst... perfect...” oh, Eosenas you are suddenly good at digging holes with your mouth.
“No,” Chevenga said softly. “No ALMOST.” Eosenas was silent, not daring to answer. “I should know. We were serious enough that we talked marriage. Before we decided not to.” Shen. The woman was close enough to being Imperatrix that her fan slapped it and Eosenas is just realizing how dear she was and is to Chevenga. He is so fikket. “We both have some very very beautiful memories. Of times together... Joyful times.”
All he could manage were some whimpering noises.
“I'm serious about his demotion.” I said. “Would that be good?”
“I don't know. I'm inclined to ask Komona.”
That was when Eosenas found his voice. “Imperator... Imperator Emeritus... whatever you require. I I am at your service... I I... Please spare my family.” Of course he would think that his whole family was at risk. My father would have just smashed them all like bugs or sent them to the mines or quinqueremes to row the rest of their lives away.
“Your family? Your family has nothing to do with it. They probably are victims too. You have kids you're being a good example for?”
“I have three sons and two daughters, ser... one purified one not.”
I broke in again. “There is there sufficient suspicion in this case, legally, to warrant a truth-drug scraping. He was the aide to Governor Madutas. I think there is enough evidence.”
Chevenga signed chalk. “I think it might be best to leave this in the hands of the Ministry, seeing that there are no more Mahid, though you could call Ilesias back from Yeola-e for a special assignment. You haven’t changed the law such that you can confine someone without charges, have you?”
“No. But I’ll advise Kallijas to put this man's books under investigation and you tell me he might be a war criminal.”
“Well, no...” Chevenga said, and Eosenas started wheezing again from where he’d been holding his breath it seemed.
“Not might be... All depending on how the law looks at it but he most certainly committed bodily harm and torture on a person.”
“Ah... then that is covered under the current law that you wrote. Definitely a state investigation... and requiring Mahid. I still have my grandfather on active duty.”
Chevenga nudged Eosenas with his toe... then slipped his sandal off with a scrape of his foot and put that toe on his neck, just as he began to quiver enough to rattle his jewelry against the floor. “But you can't charge someone except under the laws as they were at the time of the alleged crime. I think scraping him might turn up some interesting things.... might that be so Eosenas?”
“Hmmm. I can wish for some of the old autonomy sometimes.”
“Yeah,” Chevenga said. “But go back to it and you're becoming your father.” As if I didn't know. But of course he'd have to warn me.
“I... I... don't know Imperator Emeritus,” Eosenas managed.
“You don't know? That's a lie right there. Graft? Embezzlement? Influence peddling? Illegal economic activities?”
“Wwwwhatever you will, Imperator Emeritus.”
“Bestiality? Hmm. You tensed up when I said economic activities, interesting. Tax evasion? Consorting with persons of inappropriate caste?”
“That's not illegal any more,” I said.
A gulp from the floor. “I evaded appropriate taxes, Imperator Emeritus.”
“I think evading appropriate taxes would be inappropriate,” Chevenga answered him. “Well, Minis, if you didn't have enough evidence before, you do now.” He drew his sandal back and put it on once more.
“I certainly do.” I turned to beckon the guard down. “Fetch the Imperial Pharmacist and a dungeon guard, to incarcerate this man, until investigations can be done..”
“Now Eosenas, while we're waiting for Amitzas, I recall I asked you a question -- whether you though Komona would want your apology.”
That was when Eosenas lost his bowel control. “I... don't know... would it be offensive if I offered her one, Imperitor Emeritus?” The stink rolled around me and out into the corridor as if it were trying to flee the scene.
“I don't know whether it would be offensive, Eosenas. You're asking these questions of the wrong person.”
“If you dont' think an apology would be offensive, I'd offer her one, Imperator Emeritus.” His voice was as high as a first thresholder boy’s.
“But Eosenas. Would you mean it? Or is just because we've intimidated you? What is she to you? She thinks you don't see her as a thinking creature... is that true?”
“Yes... I... I... didn't think... I didn't think... I... she... she listened to me, Imperator Emeritus... I didn't know she spoke much Arkan, Impertor but she listened.” The man was babbling now.
“Well, I know that. What she heard she passed onto the resistance.” That shut him up again. “Very accurately as I understand it. And it was very useful. But you keep asking me what should you do, what would be offensive, blah blah blah, as if I know.”
“Yes...I am certain of it now Imperator Emeritus. Imperator Emeritus, as you've showed me... you still have regard for her... she...she... I could ask her but if I was so evil to her would that not be more evil?”
“Kahara, what do you eat? Smells like cadavers. More evil to ask her what she wishes?
“Yes, Imperator Emeritus. I don't know what would be appropriate.” The man was broken now. He had no idea but to give Chevenga or I what we wanted.
“How do you propose to find out?”
“Would you allow me to ask?”
“How would I stop you from asking?
“From the dungeon, Imperator Emeritus. Or from where-ever you send me.”
“Prisoners are forbidden pens and paper?” Ah, yes, Chevenga was used to the much gentler idea of Yeola-e incarceration, where the rights of the individual are protected first.
“It depends on the state’s mercy, Ch’venga,” I said. “He may have pen and paper.”
“Send it to the Hearthstone Independent. I'll get it to her.”
I dug at the man one more time. “Unless he has unbroken fingers... Amitzas or Ilesias can be overzealous.”
“Tell him just to stick to the left hand,” Chevenga said, rising. “Now I have to begone before I throw up.”
“I I I will write her, if you please Imperator Emeritus.”
Amitzas in his formal whites, with Marble Palace guard, came to take the quivering mess of a man down to the state cells, since the White corridor was no longer kept in a perfect state of readiness, since there were no Mahid to guard them, and no Mahid prisoners to hold there.
They hauled him away, since he could not stand on his own legs, and we turned away the other direction to go upstairs.
Chevenga said as we mounted the Urpalantian stairs, “I need a really long shower and a really hot bath.”
“And to rinse your mouth out with alcohol.”
“Oh yes, and that too.”