I knelt in the Imperial chapel again this last day before my Ten Tens. It had been a day of answering correspondence mostly, and sitting for the Assembly. There was a wrangle going on about a new proposal for the Empire Road Sereniteers and who exactly was going to fund it and how much, but it did not have to be resolved on this day, so they had adjourned with a recall to the debate in three days. After I, or someone else, Ascends.
Kallijas had actually clapped me on the back when the chamber had emptied, and gone off to be with Virani-e, who was back again to see my Ritual of Ascension. Since it was the fasting days before, there was no Imperial chime and when other people sat to eat during the day, I went to chapel.
By now I could slide fairly easily into the clear and almost empty hum of openness, when the loudest think in one’s mind was the soft sea roar of breath and blood. It was like sitting on the beach on Haiu Menshir, or on a dock at the Tor, or below the Rock in Hyerne, listening to the waves talk. Watching the Presence flame would remind me of the motion of the dayanal in the bow-wave of a ship, or the glittering flash of flying fish hurling themselves into the air as if they could catch the sun and pull it down into the dark blue water with them.
I was starting to feel the meditation and the prayers like flying. Not like being flown. That was different. Children are carried into the Selestial Realm. Adults fling themselves into the blue around the Sun, or the black dusted with stars. The motes of dust suddenly became endlessly fascinating in their dance of heat over the Presence light and I could see, could realize more than see, that the walls and the floors, so solid to the focussed eye, were really as insubstantial as the dust. It was a strange, drifting feeling, as if my edges were as insubstantial as the walls.
Was this how the Ten saw us? Whirling bits of glorious star dust momentarily held together by a thought?
The door below opened and I could feel the air pressure change before the blundering bit of noisy dust that happened to be Doof was carted in, wings flailing, clinging to Bella’s black and earthy back as she galluped up the stairs.
“Minis!” the bird shouted, and I blinked. “Come come come now! Fikken! Kyashin’ Fak n’ kakr come down! SHEN! Dinner dinner, Doof wants some dinner... dinner dinner. Doof wants a manolo! Doof wants a fikken manolo!”
Bella sat down next to me, sending the bird tumbling down to catch herself, the tips of one flailing wing snapping across my temple as she stopped her fall and flapped up to settle on my head. “Well.” I coughed and managed. “I’m certainly not meditating now. Dinner, Doof? Dinner, Bella?”
Sending the animals up to get me was a creative way of safely getting me out of the Chapel, though people could come to the hall outside without harm. It was only people who had to worry about being Imperial line, or God-touched, to be safe in the room. Animals didn’t care. I reached up to scratch Doof’s chest and she nibbled my fingers. From the feeling of my gut and centre, it was probably after dark and someone wanted me to get a meal into me and a good sleep before tomorrow. “TE AMO!” Doof yelled.
“Come on, you two,” I said, getting up. “Let’s go downstairs.”
“DINNER!” Doof shrieked as I reached up and offered her my forearm since she tended to slip and rake people’s scalps while scrambling to catch herself. Tonight it was Fara waiting for me downstairs.
I smiled at her and she kissed me, her lips snapping my attention to how real and solid they truly were. “Doof is right... without all the swearing –“ “KAINA MARUGH MENIREN!” she interjected.
“And a good sleep tonight.” She didn’t know the danger I would truly be in. She hadn’t been in Arko when Chevenga had done the ritual, and had only seen the Regent’s Five Tens which wasn’t deadly. I mean, she knew because she'd asked and knew because Ky and Gan were worried, but she didn't have the gut knowledge of it that they did.
“Dinner,” I agreed. “And then one more ritual practice... as a prayer. And a good sleep.”
“We’re set to cuddle you into submission.”
“You don’t need to fuss over me so. You know... even though I’m worried it’s not hitting me in the stomach the same way.” It didn’t feel so visceral. It was as though the meditation put a sheet of glass between me and the more painful of my physical symptoms.
“We like fussing over you,” she said, threading her arm through mine as we went to the Topaz dining room. I tested the thought. If I succeed, good. If I don’t... that’s good too. I’d be sorry for one thing... There was the twinge of pain. I’d be sorry for everyone’s grief, after all the love they’ve given me.
I’m feeling strange and detached from the earth. Light, as if I’m preparing to fly off into the Stars ahead of everyone else. I shouldn’t do that. It would be a waste if I were to die now. Kallijas would have to be Regent for Ili if I did... unless Ky... um... unless Ky were to be a mother already, unlikely as that was. Then he’d be Regent for the unborn baby, if it were a boy.
Silly. Unlikely that the Gods would want me home so soon. Home, what a nice thought. Home instead of Hayel. Have I lived a good enough life these past few years to escape damnation? Selinae and Muunas alone know. I will certainly find out tomorrow.
Whatever happens, will be the absolute best for Arko.