Tuesday, January 31, 2012

621 - Into the Onslaught

Muunas, High God, make those shenning girls stop!   

“Kyriala!”  I was almost wheezing.  I wasn’t drunk at all any more, chasing those... those... I had a choice.  I could get angry or just give up and laugh.  The dawn was just over the Rim and the light had gone from dim to the absolute crystal clear of what people call a ‘throne morning’.  Thank you Ten.  Jitzmitthra seldom had rain but it could have been miserable.

I was gaining on them fast, leaving a trail of my friends behind.  Where they holding back?  Good of them if they were.  It was about time.  A joke was a joke but it could be taken too far!

The women were giggling I could hear that.  All of them.  Even my mother was in the whole swirling group of girls hiding Kyriala from me.  The whole lot of white-clad girls hopped the very same wash I’d fled Sereniteers and I didn’t pause going over after them.  Someone whistled as I did the same hand-flip at speed to land in the middle of them.

“Ky?  Ky?” Farasha was there too.  And... Gan?  Now I’d caught up to them and there she was only one... “Forzak it!” Our friends were all around us... the men and the women... all of them getting in the shennen way!

“Minis!  Over here!  I’m here!”  That was her.  The whole lot of them were working to keep us two or three people apart.  I grabbed onto Resh and stretched between him and Fish and she reached toward me from between Borasa and Amitza.

“Ky!  I’m coming, these... these... people are getting in my way!  We need to get married!”

“Minis!  I’m here!  We need to get married!  Oh, look out for the—“ I saw the black-strap missile flinger and the children who have mounted this on their fence manage to hit Gan with a bag full of pudding, spattering me and Cream and Jorasa?  Yes, Jorasa.

I wipe the pudding off my neck and jump over the spatter.  “Hey!  Hey, it’s the backwards Imperator!” The children squealed and aim another of their food missiles even as Ky and I were wheeled away from the incoming leaking bolus.

“Save it for the Regent!” I yelled back over my shoulder.  "He’ll be out soon!  I bellowed.  It was true.  I caught Ky’s eye over Aisha’s shoulder she smiled and I tipped my head behind us and she nodded.

“You... you shen eaters!” I yelled, but braked and she did too, sliding out of the girl’s grip and I left my vest in Gan’s hands. We reached and caught hands, turned on our common point and wheeled away from the whole raucous pack.

We held our stretched out grip around the broken splashes of pudding on the pavement,  the children struggling to re-load and we fled together toward Ten Angels, before the whole street began flinging more food.

“Tanifas said he’d be there with everyone else!” Ky shouted, even as I bellowed “I missed you!”

“I missed you too and they’re gaining!”

“Salver’s Alley?”  I nodded and we slid sideways into the narrow slot between Rose and Laurel’s and Conflagration Peak Goldsmiths over to Fortunate Milliner’s Row, bursting out between the empty hat-racks.  Not done, to display fine things when food would be flung randomly.

“We’re getting married!”  We said simultaneously, to each other, laughing.   

She had a purplish stain on her one shoulder and crumbs in her hair. A thrown cream-cake caught me on the chin and I had to trust Ky to guide me for a moment while I clawed cream off my face.

“I love you, you madwoman!  I love you, do you know that?”  I could say it out loud and very loud in Jitz.

“Oh good.  Then I can say I love you wildly, crazily, breathle--- duck!”

We managed to avoid more than a shower of what turned out to be vegetable broth so we were both dripping when we skidded around the corner to Presentation Square... and saw our wedding party waiting for us.Everyone held fruit or cakes and huge grins on their faces.

We clasped both of our hands and pulled us closer together, put our heads down and skated into the onslaught.

Monday, January 30, 2012

620 - Just Keep Serving!

Dad is beaming.  The money is pouring in this year.  Not only for Jitz but for the whole men’s party for the... well I guess he’s the Imperator now, technically since it’s after his third threshold birthday.  I’m not holding my breath until after the Ten Tens.  I mean I get about all this voting shen.  I saw more ways of governing in my travels than I have fingers and toes.

I wave the old man off to go out and have a good yell at some self proclaimed and more often than not drunken pundit screaming from the speaker’s step.

Minis’s crowd came pouring through fairly early and they spent good chains too.  The Gourmand made enough amuse-the-mouth spoons that they bought another case just to be sure there were enough to sell if the pot-boy fell behind washing.

My dazzling wife is there behind the wine-safe counter, on her chair, with my little Ilienas tethered to the chairleg so he doesn’t get stepped on.  She shouldn't really chase after him, I think, in her condition though she assures me the exercises she still does every morning make her strong.

She can still kick my delicate pink ass if I really piss her off, even in her condition so I suppose she's good to chase after a toddler. My mother would have five kinds of fit if she ever saw Helfig bent into a naked knot in the privacy of our bedroom.  She looks fine in her silks, pregnant with our second.  You’d think Dad was going to burst with pride... as if the kid were his instead of his second grandchild. 

Jan is asking me if Helfig’s family would be willing to put him up for a while.  I told him that with those wing things, he might have a chance to actually see her country before his next birthday, instead of slogging over half the earthsphere.  I should send him.  If he learns enough of her language we might send him.  He and the old man could stand to get away from each other, though Dad is a lot mellowed since he and I last had words. 

I raise the tray of full glasses over my head to let Riji zip past me on his skates, hop the stairs down into the Gourmand without spilling a drop on his own tray, and I head outside to serve the terrace.  It might be that we should fix up the roofs of our places for more space.  It could be a garden, Helfig says.  With hanging plants and shaded spaces.  I’ll have to throw the idea at Ma.  Dad listens to her now, way more than he used to. 

The whole place is full of costumed partiers some of the Imperator’s party came back.  “Ailadas!  Your wife is holding court on the edge of the terrace and her cat is keeping everyone in his sights.” The scholar is heading inside and I come in with him.

“Ahem, excellent, Ienas.  I shall order the mustard greens platter for us, then!” 

“How’s our most honoured young man doing then?"

“He’s as drunk as he should be, and full fed. They’ve taken him on until it’s time to dump him in the fountain at his young bride’s feet, as backwards as everything is, ahem.  My word... your wife... should she be out in her condition? Ahem?”

“Of course, Ser.  We can use every pair of hands around Jitzmitthra... and the soon-to-be Imperator's wedding.  Nice to hear about the young man.  I’ve heard scandalous rumours about his Yeoli tendencies.” 

“Ahem.  Thank you for the wine young Ienas. Ahem.  I am certainly not going to pass along any kind of scurrilous stories about my most honourable patron.  He and Gannara are as good friends as the most honourable Serina Kyriala and the Serina Farasha. Ahem.” 

“Of course, most honourable tutor.  No gossip here.  No politics.” 

“Ienas!  Discussing politics inside?” Dad’s meaty hand smacks into my back. 

“Nope, just talking – and I’d like to see you toss me in the trough without help if I were!” 

“You’re letting business go idle you young pup!” 

“Everyone's table is covered and happy, old man.  Keep smacking me around and I’ll show you what I can do with my meat skewers!” 

“Feh.  You don’t have to prove anything, my oh-so-tough son.  Just keep serving.  Good Jitz, to you Ser Koren.  I can see that most discretely hidden smile, Ser.  Your Sera is asking for you.” 

“Ahem, of course, of course.  Later, gentlemen!”

Friday, January 27, 2012

For Monday

I may do another Fig Post.  We'll see.

619 - In the Temple

They told me to sit and meditate.  I wasn’t sure I could.  I was too drunk and too full.  I’m drunk, did I say that out loud?  But I was in the Temple, sitting right at Muunas and Selinae’s feet.  That’s not right.  I got up and genuflected to the High Gods and staggered over to sit with Mikas.  That was better.

I was really drunk.  I checked to see if I needed to throw up.  No.  “Hi Gannara... hi Ili... hi Resh...”  They’d come back with water.  They’d said I needed water.  It really tasted good.   

“Heya, Professional God.”  I tipped my head back all the way up to look backwards up at the God where he sat with that mischievous look on His face, His chin on His hand, the one finger pointing up his cheek. I wondered if that was a joke on the part of the Temple or the God.  He pointed a bare finger at the next God... No wonder perfect Aras thought He was rude.

The bells were ringing again somewhere in the city.  Nothing to do with proper time.  But that always happened during Jitz.

Risae is watching our drunken asses you know, God.  She’s not amused.  But she gets drunk too, I mean that’s the story.  I mean... it’s how you courted Her, isn’t that right?

“Oh, hello, Virani-e.  You’re going to come visit next Jitzmitthra aren’t you?  I mean... of course you’re invited.  If I survive my Ten Tens... oh stop... it has to be left open to allow the God’s justice to be played out.  If it’s not corrupted like Dad and Grandad did.  I’m not really frightened of it.  It is just not a certain outcome.  It must not be.  Oh.  Hi, Radas... Yes I’m up for some tile scrubbing.  You know I’m getting married tomorrow?  You should be there... of course I’m being silly.  Silly is allowed.”

We were all scrubbing the Temple tiles together.  I was less drunk now.  Not too full and my stomach was just fine.  I watched the soapy scrub-brush under my hands and then the clean water and then my damp gloves holding the polishing, drying cloth working in smooth circles. The tiles really didn’t need to be cleaned this close to the Cleansing.  That was going to happen on Muunas the first when I officially began the Ascension fasting.  Kall would give me the seals on the steps of the Temple before I began the Ten Tens.  Scrubbing.  Should be thinking of my wedding, really.  All about food tomorrow.

I was still worried about... not the wedding, but the wedding night.  I wasn't sure  I... well... Gan and Farasha were going to be there.  After the public wedding the four of us would be going to go do the alesinae ritual in the Imperial bedchamber.  Kallijas said he’d be happy to leave it to the four of us.  It was too opulent for his taste.  He’d never gotten used to being Regent even, though he was good at doing the rituals.

Like tomorrow.  Kall was going to look really funny dressed in food.  “Hey!  Hey!  That’s not fair!  You Mahid girls just dirtied that tile and knocked over my bucket!  Ky?  I’m not supposed to see you... wait... wait!”

The Mahid girls, all in their whites for Faib with Ky in their midst on her own skates came skating through the Temple making a mess.  I leapt to my feet.  “Ky?  Kyriala Liren, you stop that!”

"Why?  You're not my husband yet!  Why are you ordering me around?" She answered,skating around the base of Selinae’s statue and I ran toward her.  

“You shouldn’t be out here...” Jorasa caught me by one elbow and my mother? They whirled me around and surrounded Ky and they went skating off toward the door.   

“No, you shouldn’t and you couldn’t catch her anyway!” Someone yelled back as I stood flat on my bare feet.

Ili thrust my skates into my hands.  “Here.  Sure you can catch her.” Rohad helped me tighten my skates and the girls were inexplicably circling around just outside instead of hiding in the streets around the Presentation square.

“Kyriala!”  I sprang up.  I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I’d been a few beads ago.  It might be my wedding day already and I had just lost track, especially since the bells in the city were ringing randomly.  “Don’t run away... skate away from me!”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

618 - With Bare Hands

“Grandmama!  He didn’t!”

Kyriala’s grandmother leaned over the ceremonial cloth spread on the carpet, waving her glass for emphasis.  “He did!  He did indeed!  I hid him behind my pillows, wrapped in a sheet, disguised as a bolster, while my papa tore my room apart, certain that someone was threatening my virtue!  I sat in bed leaning against my pillows, my sheets pulled up around my ears, my nightgown rucked up enough to show my knees... but safely hidden under the bedclothes.  I nearly smothered the poor boy pushing him flat with my back.”

In deference to her age she sat, her chairlegs on the cloth while the younger women lounged on cushions all around, all of them dressed in the peculiar white gowns of the sequeretiras.  Platters of cakes and chocolates and red-fruits as big as a baby’s fist were scattered between the cushions, crumbs and flakes of icing and kaf droplets spread like comet tails.  Tall spiralled clear glasses, some still standing partly full of foamed wine, stood amongst the kaf pots and the cream pots and the sugar bowls.  A silver mask lay, like an inside-out face, tipped to one side, the ribbons to hold it on trailing in the cream. Some glasses lay empty, dregs dripping onto the marble, like forgotten wounded on the edges of the rug.

Ky put her head down.  “Oh, if I knew what really happened the last night of wedding seclusion I’d have run screaming!  Grandmama that is scandalous!”  The other women half lying around the circle smiled.  Trathila's mask lay discarded by her body-sized pillow.

"If there's any time to say such things, this would be it." The elderly woman smiled beautifically.  "And that poor, half-smothered boy... wasn't your Grandpapa, either!"  She hiccupped and put her fingers over her smile.

Daurama refilled her glass and leaned back with half-lidded eyes.  The unmasked masker, Trathila, smiled and drew in a full lung of Arkan herb and held it before wafting her words out with the cloud of smoke.   

“You have a scandalous story, Daurama.  I can tell.  Let your about to be married daughter know the worst.”

Sera Liren laughed. “Oh I can’t... my darling daughter will think I’m talking about her beloved father, rest he in Selestialis...” She paused.  “But then what is a mother to do?  I will tell you Ky... in general... this is from older women before I was married.  My grandmother told me to lie still, let my husband do whatever he wanted and stare at the ceiling... endure for the Empire." She sighed. "An auntie took me aside later... but another auntie told me...” she put one bare hand over her mouth for a moment as if to pull the words out.  “Some men... um... like to be boys... even with their wives.”

“How is that possible?  Mama you’re teasing me!”

“No, no,” Trathila said and bit into a piece of chocolate cake and licked her fingers.  “There are... certain appliances... things... that a woman can use.”


Skala’s mother snorted.  “Or the most manly, manly, manly man will want you to spank him in the privacy of the bedchamber.”

Ky nearly choked, sputtering into her glass, trying not to snuff wine through her nose. "Oh.  Oh. Oh, dear.”

“With your bare hands.”

“Not all men of course.” Trathila, as their expert and a midwife friend of grandmama, picked up the thread.  She offered Ky a redfruit dipped in chocolate, floating in the foamed wine.   

“From what you’ve let slip you probably won’t be asked to paddle the shen out of your groom but some men...”  She continued over rising, slightly drunken giggles, “... some men absolutely adore it.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

617 - Best Beef

I spent some time in the baths with Kallijas, who knew he was going to get very drunk in procession, even if he just wet his lips with every drink he shared with the crowd.  He’d followed Virani-e’s example even if he was a tremendously easy drunk for Diem Inebriants Multifarious.

I had a glass of ginger wine myself and wonder of wonders my stomach didn’t just toss it straight back up at me.  It was really obvious that this whole day should be considered my pre-wedding party. Ili told me to be ready before dinner and I just assumed that he’d planned something.

I admitted to myself that I was terrified.  Ecstatic, but terrified.  Gan and Fara... even though my night before party was supposed to be only men, there were too many women Dyers who I wanted there... they were both waiting for me when I came back to my rooms to dress and they told me not to eat.

“You want to get me even more drunk?”  I was incredulous. Gan threw his arm around my shoulders.

“Take your Haian drops to settle your stomach.  Ili’s done an amazing job.  Oh and you should put your skates on.”

Fara glided in on her skates. She and Ky and the Mahid girls had been practising together.  “Plain cotton for you, Min.   
Nothing fancy for the groom in Jitz.”  It took only a moment to tighten the kilt buckle. Having my arms covered like a man, even with gossamer cotton still felt odd.

“Oh, good.”

Idiesas tapped on my door. “Minis?”


He came in, lightly armoured, fully armed.  And on skates.  I didn’t even know he skated at all. Behind him Ili came skittering in on his own faibwear. “Heya big brother!  You aren’t ready yet! Your skates aren’t laced yet!  Come on, come on come on!”

Then the room was full of dyers swooping around.   

“Remember your own pipe,” Fish said swooping around us.  There was enough space around the carpets for them to treat my suite of rooms like a faib course.  Cream and Aisha and Resh and a dozen others were there.  “We haven’t had a good party since last Jitz!”

“You corrupters of morals!  You –aigh!”  They’d swooped behind me and swept me up in their crossed hands.

“Grab his skates, Ili, he’ll just stand there and talk at us all day!”

Laughing uproariously they carried me out the door and down the hall, Idiesas and others of the elite in the pack.  There was no sign of the gir...um  women, other than my dyer friends.  It was like the night of the election.

The sweet herb finally settled my stomach and my nerves down and I was actually able to eat.  They knew what I liked... they took me to Feliras’s Renewed Glory and he had a dish specifically made, the rainbow fish crisp on rice, tiny bites, and since it was Diem Inebriants Multifareous a wine to go with every bite.  I just couldn’t do more than taste.

When they bundled me out the door unexpectedly... I was just saying ‘Isn’t this where the party is?  Hey, wait.  Where are we going?”... Kallijas’s Drunken carriage just happened to be outside as we emerged onto the pavement.  Kall, in the robe and flaming head-dress, offered me a swig of the long glass tubular goblet he was obliged to carry and drink from.  Fafiras, Idiesas’s second in command and Virani-e both stood by with hidden buckets should he move too quickly and catch his hair on fire.  He was very drunk.  Merrily drunk.  But not wobbly drunk. 

The carriage didn’t have any extra place for anyone else, all taken up by the enormous vat of wine, and slow moving because of the same vat. I actually drank a good mouthful of the offered Imperial wine, burying my face in the wonderful Ro, while my friends cheered.  Even him.  Virani-e just grinned at me.  I hopped down and we all skated around the carriage for a while in it’s progression until Fish hooked me by one elbow.  “This way now!”


“HAVE FUN!" That was Virani-e.  "We’ll see you later Minis!” That was both of them from behind as I got tugged down Sandin’s Alley.  It was already unreal.  Kallijas with the blue flame on his crown, kissing Virani-e in public, holding the drinking vessel steady with one hand.  The roaring, drinking, dancing, skating crowd.  I was herbed—a bit... and maybe I was a bit drunk too.  The ginger wine before and the Ro 73 if I was right.  The whiff of perfectly cooked beef feathered under my nose.

Idis and Linfias and Rohad were all on skates and they darted ahead.  “Hey we need to catch up before they eat it all!”  That was Resh and we leaped to follow even though we didn't push that hard, they were my security, after all.

“You aren’t... The Greasy Barbarian?  Really?”  I managed to make the corner without tripping over the curb there.  Ili, who was fast as a water bug, giggled.

“Best beef in the city!  They told me!”

Biggest beef in the city as well.  I hoped they wouldn’t try to make me eat the cut of meat that was half the size of the table. At least not all by myself.

Friday, January 20, 2012

616 - All the Many Ways

I wasn’t sleeping well, which was giving the world an unreal quality.  Tanifas was threatening to have Akminchaer dose me if things didn’t improve after the wedding. Gan and Fara slept with me every night now and I mostly lay awake between them or on one side and the questions fled through my mind over and over and over.  What if I wasn’t ready?  What if I hadn’t learned enough? What if I was too severe on myself? What if I wasn’t severe enough on myself? What if I was too much my father’s son?  What if I slipped and made mistakes? What if, what if, what if? The Gods weren’t speaking to me except in increasingly bizarre dreams.

What if I weren’t a good enough husband for Kyriala? What if I still was too damaged? What if I were too nervous in bed? What if I couldn’t engender children? I’d have to confess to Assembly and step down as Imperator... and she’d be in her right to divorce me, with the new laws.  My life would be ruined.  Her life might be hurt.  Ili... would he be voted in?

What if all this was just too good?  What if I was supposed to suffer to pay for my sins?  What if the Gods decided I just wasn’t good enough?  The Ten Tens could be a disaster.  I knew all the ways I could just be erased.  Smashed flat, melted, eviscerated, bled to death, burned, skewered, poisoned, vapourized by liquid glass, rape-impaled... well.  Ky would be a proper widow then.  Even with the new laws people still tended to treat widows better than divorcees. My sleep wasn’t good.

Sukala was having a marvelous time.  Everything was beautiful even if overdone and she loved speaking with everyone, the elite warriors and the Fenjitzae and Klaimera.  There was a lot of religious talk that just went over my head.  Kallijas just smiled and told me I might understand it one day.  Mud at a wall, he said.  Sometimes things would stick, I shouldn’t worry about it.  Of course.  I shouldn’t worry about it.  I shouldn’t worry about anything!  Easy for him to say.

My guts were in knots and I was spitting blood quietly into handkerchiefs.  Ky looked serene as always and had encouraging smiles for me in all the formal pre-wedding dinners and fetes where the most I could touch her was my comb to her fan, in public. Then she went into the eight-day seclusion before our wedding and I couldn't see her at all.

The winds were good and Che-- Virani-e and his Yeolis  arrived on Anae 33.  He hugged me solid and I thought my grin would split my head all the way around.  I was suddenly eleven again and wrapped by the first hug from a man who wasn’t afraid of me. The whole world was reduced to being enfolded by the one person I could always count on.  Throughout everything I’ve lived through, the one person I could trust implicitly.

Jitzmitthra this year started with singing tension hidden under everyone’s drab cloak and when Kallijas turned the cup upside down, extravagantly poured red wine all over everything and flung off his own cloak to reveal his magnificent fire-dragon costume, wings unfurling as they were set to be pulled open by his action, the crowd went mad.  Red and gold and blued silver scales glittered as his tail unrolled with his wings.  He set the crystal-fanged head-dress on his head and a jet of fire... the same kind of flame that burned white in the fire-fountains jetted out of the snout into the sky as he looked up.  He’d had to practice to make sure he didn’t accidentally set anything or anyone around him on fire.  He could make it jet three times before there wasn’t any more fuel.

The crowd flung their cloaks into the air, filling the square with noise and cloth.  It was one of the most exuberant roars for the start of Jitz I’d ever heard.  My own costume was a mythical metal bird from the ancients with bulbous glass eyes.  I’d had to learn to walk on stilts to show off the glass and bone legs. Idiesas liked it because it raised me up out of arm’s reach, made it easy for him to keep track of where I was, and armoured me well enough against darts or even arrow fire.  He was worried about such things as he must be with the Unomas still uncaught.

Skorsas had brought costumes for Chevenga that showed off his physique for every day, he’d confided.  “The more naked I get him, the more spectacular he is.”  Such a surprise.  The first day was a crystal dragon with blue and green colouring along with the clear to match Kallijas’s fire-dragon, but the head-dress shot blue wine instead of fire.  He had to be naked inside it and the glass scales made him a bit ripply and somewhat covered but only somewhat.

I had to just gape in awe at the duel -- with costume swords shaped like claws -- that they staged in Presentation Square and the Fire Fountains.  Dragons fighting in the city.  It was dreamlike glowing through the fog, Kallijas’s fire glowing and Virani-e dousing him with wine.  Virani-e hit one of Kallijas’s wings and he struck upwards as he sprawled on his back, they mimed a simultaneous kill, flaring fire and wine as they collapsed to the stone; before rising to an enormous roar of applause and acclaim and retiring to have costumes repaired and replenished.

I was tired enough to sleep part of the night before my birthday.  My third threshold.  But I had a nightmare that woke me early.  I crept quietly into a cascade cabinet to wash myself clean and sat down for my backwards birthday dinner for breakfast.  I took part in the food fight, and managed to eat something... but I was very glad of the most simple of cottons to wear. I wore a sash to support my middle and managed to keep a little food and some ginger water in my stomach.

Ili’s birthday present was amazing. The flying piglets were so funny. And they did poop while flying so at one point things got pretty messy.  I lay back in my chair with him grinning at me, and I just howled with laughter, keeping one eye open to make sure none of them were straight overhead while my mouth was open. He’d bought a boar and two sows... the big pigs couldn’t fly any more.  They were too big.  The boar was ridiculous with his enormous bulk of meat and tiny... in proportion... wings... they had two sets of shoulders and the big pigs loved having those shoulders scratched as the shoats flew in the gilded rafters of the Cerulean Presentation Hall, which fortunately was not carpeted.

The next day I hid all day in my rooms, trying to settle my head for my wedding. Breakfast was a bowl of cool porridge, that was all I could manage.

I did go out to The Most Circuitous of Paths fountain in the middle of the day, needing to cool off.  One always got damp, since the walls of water misted everything.  They were too thick to see through inside two turns, and the sound of the splashing drowned out any conversation beyond arm's reach.  The centre was designed to be blurred and hard to see from the high guard posts.  Enough to protect but still keep the State's secrets.

As I rounded the last turn I was confronted with a pair of Marble Palace servants... at least I assumed that the naked, fikking pair in the middle were servants, from the scattered livery.  They froze and all I saw were their round faces.  It was Jitzmitthra.  But the boys yelped all the same, startled into more normal behaviour, scrambled apart, grabbed their clothing and fled through the fountain.  They scattered water and apologies in their bare-assed wake, wet hair flapping against their fleeing buttocks.

I had to laugh and sat down on the one dry bench in the middle of the rushing water.  I wanted to tell them it was all right but they were long gone.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

615 - The Deflinas and the Slobas

Kallijas and I were both on the Presentation Balcony watching the end of the Kofabilgan ritual dances on Anae 20.  Kall was in the full Regent's regalia and sat on the throne while I stood.  It had been two years that I had been standing next to him but to some part of me it was always the first time. I kept having to shake myself mentally, look to what was different, because of the sheer number of times I’d been forced to stand calmly next to the fat guy while we watched something.  Sometimes it had been horrific but sometimes it had just been ritual like this.

I watched the two groups of men, each wearing the elaborate costumes for the dance, with a different eye now.  It was a symbolic struggle danced on green painted cloths laid out on the white marble, broken into five separate dances.  A sacred ‘half-ten’ I supposed.

I glanced sideways at Kall who leaned on one elbow his chin on his hand.  It was his war-training look.  He'd never analysed this particular ritual before, but merely watched it.  Very different from the boredom the fat guy had always showed at this dance.  “It's very different watched from above.  When I was home on leave I only saw it from the ground and it was never so clear.  You can see that it must have originally been some kind of war-game or training.  The two sides the way they face each other.  That one on both sides...”  He indicated with his chin.  “Is obviously the Imperator/general and each of the dancers plays out his part in the war.”

I could see it once it was pointed out and nodded.  The dancer’s bells and the long straight horns that droned from the characters dancing around the edges drowned out any chance of either of us saying any more for a short while.  I indicated a lithe dancer sliding patterns through the deflinas, the larger dancers with sweeping wing-sleeves representing foot solas.  “The slobas dancer carries the icon through the opposing dancers, then they switch.  A formalized war.”

“Interesting that the dances are performed in certain moons through the year.”

“I wonder who came up with it? Has the Fenjitzas mentioned anything?”  Since it was always male dancers I was assuming it was him who would have any idea.

“No, but it could be—“ he cast his eye back to the underchamberlain.  “Minis, the first of your wedding guests is arriving.  They are about a bead out.  It’s Sukala.  I shall be staying to see the end of this dance, as is proper, though I’m covered in far too much ego to greet her.”  He grinned.  “To be honest, you’re fine as you are too.  It’s not as if we have to match our guests in status.”

I grinned back at him.  Also very very different from any kind of state reception my father held.  A huge relief.  “To match Sukala I’d have to give my servants bleeding eyes from the clashing colours and styles.”

“She’ll out-do you in heartbeat lad, just by being herself.  So do you need to go get yourself set?”

“No.  This next dance is the last and is the last tenth.  I should give it my careful attention.”

“Good.”  He’d been testing me, even now.  I suppressed a minor twinge of irritation.  If he was good at tweaking my tendency to any kind of puffed up self-importance, I reminded myself that his teacher at ego-tweaking was just arriving. And the most of my emotion was a glow of gratitude that I’d learned enough to do the right thing that he hadn’t tripped me up with his test.  His ‘good’ was worth an entire book of Tobeas’s fruity ‘Excellent, Spark of the Sun’s Rays!’.

I straightened up and picked up the bell sitting on the table to hand so I could add my part to the sound of the dance, since the last one of the five always had everyone making some kind of noise; shouting, should they not be able to afford even wooden bells or rattles, at the appropriate moments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

614 - The Perfect Present

Ailadas tells me I have to talk to Minis and my financial manager because I’ve been spending so much money trying to find the best present for my brother.  I’ve spent a lot of money already and there’s only so much I can spend... especially the way it got set up after Virana-e conquered and changed things.  I can tell it’s going to be a whole section of lessons on economics, based on the wedding stuff.

That’s all right since there’s these writers who are making like Minis is spending the treasury dry when his wedding is going to cost less than formal weddings, just because it’s in Jitzmitthra.  Formal parties are way more expensive than informal ones and there’s a lot more people donating because they see it as more fun instead of a tax.

Minis really has a problem with that because of the way he grew up.  He’s either the prince with all the money or the fessas guy who has to pretend he doesn’t have any at all.  The funny thing is, I think the account he set up to get paid for his writing work is still there under Minakas Akam’s name.  I think he’s not sure what to do with it.  He’ll have to talk to Trefaias.  That’s our financial manager.  Trefaias Nuren.

I guess I’ve probably spent what Ailadas calls ‘The Heir’s Quarterly Budget’ on this stuff for the wedding but I don’t spend that much usually.  I mean this is special.  Doesn’t the extra get put back?  I’ll have to find out.  That could be fun.

But I finally, finally found the best birthday present for Minis.  The best of all.  I got a message from Mumiras... who was the guy I got my butler, Iridinas, to hire to look for me.  That’s good, hiring someone, isn’t it?  Anyway.

Mumiras sent me a note and said he had the perfect thing for my brother but it was at the hog market.  So I got my security and we all trooped down.  Idiesas was so careful since that crazy letter was sent to the Pages, he’d given me more guards so there were lots around me that I could see and probably more that I couldn’t. 

The place was the big brick hog market that was pretty stinky even if it was on a cross roads that got washed twice a week.  Maybe hogs going to market pooped more or something.

“Here we are, Coronet.” Mumiras was there and my guard made sure he wasn’t under any kind of influence before they let him open the door and then they send a pair of men in first.  I heard someone laugh and then stop it.  That was a good sign.

They opened the door for me and I walked in to see a big sow, standing in the breeding cage, grunting at me.  But the first thing I saw was the wings.  My clothes and hair floofed out behind me, fell flat then floofed again as she beat her wings at me.  “She’s hoping to be fed, Coronet.”

“Of course... oh, Ilesias, please.”  I liked following Minis’s example with the using the name.  People who used Coronet too much tended to be trying too hard.  It was amazing.  The sow had front legs and back legs like a normal pig, but her back and chest were funny because she had another funny bit where her wings sat.  She looked like she had two sets of shoulders.  And she was pink with black spots and her wings were black and white and... blue? And pink?  Mumiras signalled to the man to one side and he poured some pink tinted stuff into her trough and she stared at us suspiciously before folding her wings up... yes there were pink feathers in her wings.

“The colouring comes from what they are fed, Coronet.”

“That’s... interesting.”  A pig with wings was interesting but they were obviously not big enough to lift her chubby pink body off the ground.  She had big cones of nipples on her belly... and that was when something shot past my ear making me duck, but nobody got upset or pulled their swords and I ended up hanging onto the bars of the farrowing cage watching one... two... three... four... five... six shoats soar down from the rafters and settle in with their mother.  She smacked her lips, lifted her head out of her cleaned trough and eased down with another hoggy grunt to let them latch onto her belly, sucking hard. 

“The shoats can fly,” Mumiras said.  I didn’t look at him like ‘no -- you’re joking’ the way Minis would have if someone told him something that obvious.  I was too busy watching the piglets.  “They fledge an eight day after they are born, Ilesias.  And then they can fly just for a few moons until they get too heavy.”

The farrow pigs where a mass of white feathers and pink piggyness against the sow’s belly, grunting and squealing and rooting, their wings flapping and getting in their way. One of my guards... Boras Puriren I think... handed me a stick and I put it in to scratch the sow’s back.  “My brother’s tutor used to say ‘pigs might fly’ for something impossible -- and ‘don’t buy any manure proof umbrellas yet, ahem.’ These are perfect.  Just perfect.  They’ll still be flying for Jitzmithra?”

“Oh yes.  There is another sow not yet farrowed.  I bought both just in case.”

“Oh, these are perfect.  Mumiras... thank you.”  He was one of my household but surely Iridinas would know what a good thank you reward would be for him.  More than just money.  Maybe he needs something or someone else needs a job... for him he did good.  Minis showed me that.  Sometimes its what you can give that is more important than money.

I scratch between the sow’s wings, raise up the tiny pinfeathers between her wings and she wiggles and grunts a happy noise.  Who would have thought.  Piglets that fly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

613 - Morally Rotten

I’d been looking at lots and lots of weird animals and I hadn’t found the right one yet. I mean... a two-headed snake, or one of those weird things from the Dragon city up north that they said were dragons... really from the desert south of Sria. It wasn’t truly a dragon, but a big constrictor snake with tiny stumps of wings that didn’t do anything and stubby front legs. It moved fast as a crocodile and smelled like a drain. It was way stupider than Nuninibas’s Flapper even. 

I liked the bright blue spider that stood up and shot tiny sparks between its front feet, but not for Minis’a birthday present. I sent it to Grandfather. The blobfish was funny, in its tank, it had a goopy, frowny face that looked like a grumpy old man. It went to a pedestal in the city’s old menagerie.

I had the Ri skin with the fancy mane and tail still attached hung on the wall in the Hexaginarian public gallery. I wanted to keep the big armoured rolly bug for myself. It was a big red and gray, long centipede like thing but rolled up in a ball that came up to my knees, but Jia didn’t like it, and the Ocean’s Anus was just gross... and it blew up into weird goo anyway.

People were already sending wedding presents, if they weren’t bringing them themselves, but I was still looking for the best birthday present for Minis’s third threshold. It was important. I mean I’d give him a theatre or a library or something for his wedding but that was kind of not personal. 

I had a lot of presents to buy for the wedding anyway. Not just for Minis but for Kyriala. And Gan and Farasha. I knew they weren’t really my uncle and aunt but they sort of would be. Or a little like parents, after Minis and Ky got married. I wasn’t sure exactly how that worked but it would. Ailadas had harrumphed and not explained, saying I was too young to understand, but I’m old enough to know that it’s not about the sex things but the promises you make. 

The promises you make, to who, and how you keep them. Like the Fenjitzas and I talked about when we talked ethics. A marriage was kind of like being an Imperator or an Imperatrix. You swore oaths. Then you worked to keep them, every day, for as long as you lived. Then you’d get to explain to the Ten how you did and how hard you tried. Even if Ten are ‘omniscient’people will still have that last test. It’s the hardest thing after you die; facing the Gods.

I cuddled Jia and he wrapped all eight of his arms around my arm, and I could feel his beak against me, touching me gently even as he hugged hard. I was so glad he chose me on Haiu Menshir. He’s my best not-human friend. 

Fiscally Irresponsible and Morally Rotten 
By Filotas Hinheras, True News of Arko

- The Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect is showing his upbringing with these fiscally irresponsible wedding preparations. The invitations to lesser countries all around Arko as if the people of Arko had nothing better than to host the scions of other Kings, public feasting money vanishing into celebrations that will officially not happen? 

Jitzmitthra celebrations are inherently shocking, appalling and outrageous! This waste of taxpayer’s hard-earned chains, show that the scion of the Aan line is a perfect reflection of his failed father! Not only are these ‘hidden from the Gods and the world’ celebrations economically heinous but their timing makes them suspect and corrupt! 

How can these revels... this unrestrained carousing... in the most morally bankrupt time of year have any kind of ethical restraint whatsoever? How can anyone see these bogus, illegitimate and spurious entertainments as any kind of official ascension or official assumption of an office of the sacred and sacrosanct position of Imperator as anything but a farce? It is a bastardization of our holy customs and eternal traditions. The pure and incorruptible ballot box should be brought to bear on this vile young man who exhibits his moral turpitude every time he dons his faibalitz skates. 

Arko has found the power of the voice of the people and that power is perfectly poised to remove this perverted and spendthrift young man from the Crystal Throne before he taints the revered and untouchable power of the office of Imperator! Stop him before the everlasting and pure Imperatorship becomes as tainted, polluted and infected as his failed father.

Check out Lorelei on Kickstarter!

Friday, January 13, 2012

612 - Correspondence

Dear Minis:

We made it home timely enough.  Yes, the sky is more chaotic in the changing seasons, but the more experience you get, the easier it is to deal with.

See the enclosed Official Reply which you thoughtfully provided, filled out by myself on behalf of your invitees.  [It was an official invitation to the whole family basically and they were all going to be attending, and would be arriving on Anae 35, winds allowing.]  I would be honoured to stand up for you, of course.  Work of Banaksias on a wedding invitation, I never thought I’d see.  Her idiom… it is so sharply and all-encompassingly irreverent, and yet utterly Arkan at the same time.  Please ask Kyriala to pass on to her that I have always admired her work, even the waggish depictions of me.

I doubt you will mess up your Ten Tens.

Warmest wishes-in-advance for a long and beautiful marriage,



[Official Entourage size: One hundred and eight attending the Lady Klaimera, eight musicians, sixteen dancers, and four mamokal, plus their grooms and mahu.]

Dear Minis,

I shall be most pleased to attend your wedding, in my brother the King’s place.  He sends his regrets and encloses a letter.  I believe he wishes to arrange a somewhat quieter first State visit to Arko from Laka.

We also thought it would be more appropriate that I come, since you and I have also some personal acquaintance.

You mentioned that Sukala was invited so if she attends I look forward to seeing her again as well.  [I had offered to send flyers to fetch Sukala, should she wish to come down off her mountain.  I had to stop suddenly and think of all the priestly types who might witness my wedding, not sure if I entirely felt safe with the idea. I shook my head to myself and went back to the letter.]

I look forward to seeing you and Kyriala again and am very intriqued with the idea of seeing a ‘Jitzmitthra’ first hand since all the Divine rites and Ones are of interest to me.  The idea of pretending that some days just never happened seems like a very handy way of keeping the year-count steady.  I suspect that my entourage will fit right into the general atmosphere, from my reading about the festival.

Until your Anae 30, sea travel permitting, I shall see you then.

With Blessings from the Hundred Gods and Parshahask specifically,

I sign this letter, Klaimera, High Priestess of Laka


Dear Minis,

The lot of us should be arriving around Anae 30 if all goes well.  My chamberlain Trajarnak, shall be contacting Skorsas about all the official things.

I’m sure you’re too busy to scratch right now, my father will be sending along a wedding gift in lieu of his not attending.  I guess he figures I and the wife are enough representation from the Tor.
I’m looking forward to seeing you and I’ll bring some of the horse-line back to Arko with us.  They’re a pretty lot, as I said, with a lovely action.  You’ll see.



Dear Minis,

Yes I’ll come to your wedding.  Send your flyers.  I’ve found someone to tend my goats while I’m gone.  I’ve written to my darling Scourge [what Sukala called Kallijas] and will see you soon.



Dear Minis,

I will be pleased to come to your wedding, and am looking forward to meeting your current healer.

Thank you for the invitation, it was very fancy.

In heartfelt healing,



Now I have TWO reader challenges!

First of all Ili is looking for a weirdass gengineered animal for Minis's birthday.  The last time this happened, Toast dreamed up the absolutely fabulous domestic octopus!  Please send along your feathered, furred, scaled or chitinous creations!

The second challenge is for writers for the Pages and other broadsheets, criticizing the 'Camelot' Minis and Kyriala are presenting to the citizens of Arko.  Muck, people!  I want Faux News quality MUCK!  Oh and better than Faux News.

Even better than CNN, I want the best yellow journalism you can dredge!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

611 - That's a Relief

Antras was just smiling at me now as he'd poured more wine and withdrawn.  I'd asked him to arrange dinners with Ky and Gannara and Fara many times in the past few moons, but this night it was just Kyriala because Gannara was so busy with his own wedding preparations for Farasha.  He was going so far as to hand-build most of a wedding caravan… though I kept sending him carpenters and inlayers. 

For myself I’d promised horses to Farasha and her family as my bridal presentation… even if she wasn’t my bride she was cuddling me with Gan and she was certainly familiarly intimate with my person.  I just couldn’t make more time in the day to actually make anything with my own hands.  I wished I could but I just never had time.  I was living in a world of words and ideas and enduring and encouraging the bombardment of other people’s ideas and arguments.

My whole household seemed to brighten up when they realized my marriage was truly going to be some exotically wild combination of the four of us.  My servants had gone from merely friendly to actively… very actively helpful.  It was more than a little startling sometimes.  How could such… well, conservative… servants be so – supportive? I actually asked Ky about it and she smiled at me.

“The servants put lip service onto perfect propriety, Minis,” she said.  “But anything that makes the people they work for easier to deal with, they will support with their whole hearts.”

When she put it that way it made perfect sense.  It was just the two of us, in another private dinner on my balcony.  Not the Heir’s Balcony, that was Ili’s now.  I quite liked this set of rooms, they were somehow not as overwhelming as the Heir’s rooms.  They were older, simpler and their ostentation was more subtle.

A city minstrel stopped on the woodland walkway… the public one further away from the Marble Palace, to sing in the hopes I or a guest would hear him.  Ky paused and turned to listen.  He was good.

I sat back and sipped my wine and listened to ‘Kyriala’s Progress’ a song that had been inspired by  ‘Ky’s Ride’. People knew I didn’t really like heroic songs about me.  That didn’t stop them from writing them, but the street players didn’t try to get close enough to the Marble Palace to sing where I might hear them, though they did with others. People knew that I liked the satirical and rude songs about me, and tended to tip if they were particularly funny.

I signaled Antras and whispered to him to send someone out to pay the man, watching Ky’s rapt face, and to get his name should I want him to play or sing for her some other time.  “I hadn’t heard that one before,” she said when he’d finished.

“I had and I thought it was good.”

She smiled at me and turned back to the table.  “You didn’t have him come to sing that just for me, did you Minis?”

“Me? No, no no. It was entirely spontaneous.  Even if I protest you aren’t going to believe me are you?  So, yes I’ll say I was that devious.  I take complete credit for arranging that!”

She giggled.  I had to keep a completely straight face as she did and I managed it, but only barely.  I had to laugh with her.  “I have to remember that,” I said.  “Pay someone to ‘randomly’ show up and sing.  Especially songs about how incredible you were during our flight back to the city!”

“Oh, stop.”  She took up a pink beef-curl on her fork.  I had finished eating and was sipping my wine.  Antras would come with kaf soon and I wasn’t going to tell Ky that I’d probably go back to my desk to do more work after I’d wished her good night.  The evenings where Gan went with Farasha I’d take advantage of, to try and get caught up with what Kallijas had left for me, along with the notes from Assembly and all the things coming from Skorsas and Sal Faren’s desks.

I couldn’t think of another time that might be better to ask her.  I held my breath and then let it out a little.  “Kyriala?  Ky?”

She looked up, perhaps hearing the concern in my voice.  “Minis?”

“I… um… er… well… there’s something terribly traditional that I wanted to talk to you about.  Um. Well.  I didn’t want to but I… um… have to… you know?”

She set her fork down.  “No, actually, I don’t know, Minis.  I am listening.”

My gut knotted itself into a single ball.  I hadn’t thought I was going to ask her this, or talk about it at all, but my mouth had just opened itself and this had fallen out.  When was I going to learn?  “Um.  It’s traditional… as I said.  Um… er… ahh… um.”  I ran out of air.  I took another deep breath.  “It’s about the groom’s knife.”

She sat back, abruptly.  “Yes?”

“I don’t… I um er um… I don’t want to have your little brother give me one.  I don’t want to use it.  I’m sorry if that seems very untraditional but after all the things I’ve learned… I … um… I’m sorry but…”

She cut me off.  “Minis.”

I stopped and looked down at the dregs of wine in my glass.  There were no servants in evidence at all and I was surprisingly grateful.  There were very interesting patterns of reddish sauce on my plate and droplets in my glass that I found amazingly fascinating.  I was so hot I wasn’t sure that the temperature hadn’t gone up in the past few moments.

“Minis.”  Her voice was soft and I couldn’t help looking up at her.  Her eyes were incredibly gentle.  “You don’t have to worry about that. I... It was her turn to get red and look away. “I already saw a Haian about it... and the Fenjitza and I talked about it quite a lot.   I’m glad you don’t want to receive a groom’s knife from Nuni.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

610 - I've Drooled on the Top Letter

I picked up my pen to finish signing the latest stack of invitations and letters. It was late enough that Doof sat on the rail of my pen-rack with her head tucked between her hunched wings, fluffed almost into a ball.  She rocked gently back and forth as she breathed.

Altras lay on my desk, his chin on the forearm of my writing hand, his purr made me take good care of my signing and he’d shift and yawn at me as I shifted pages out from underneath.

Bella lay on my feet, releasing the occasional sigh, or fart, though her diet was good enough that she never quite drove me away with the stench.

Kyriala’s writing board lay at my elbow written from the top of the page to the bottom with things that had to be either signed or approved, including a specific list from her grandmother and Laisa’s.  Laisa was her bema and the two of them not only were creating these lists with Skorsas, the grandmothers and the Marble Palace staff, they were always sitting with their heads together giggling.  There was nothing funny about any of this.

Farasha would just laugh when I complained to her and tell me “Don’t worry Minis, it’s just the typical wedding fever that your country requires of the women.  It will pass.”

“So what kind of wedding fever do your people require?”

She quit smiling and looked a little worried.  “There’s riding and sailing rituals...but you and Gan can do both so it should be all right.”

So she wasn’t immune.  What was going to happen is that Kyriala and I would marry, and Farasha and Gannara would marry as a couple as well.  Then Gan and I would do the alesinafiet. Farasha said she had no problem with being the Most Illustrious and Honourable First Concubine as long as I never ever tried to treat her like one.  I’d blushed as hard as Kallijas it felt like, at the thought, and the three of them had teased me relentlessly ever since.

“We’ll all help,” I’d said and she hugged me, since it was in my private rooms, and Ky had tapped my arm approvingly with her fan.  Ky was leaving me messages in my rooms, with little posies of flowers and I was sending others back to her.

... I’m doing my Ten Tens... but... I’m not naked... I’m coated in ... my father’s skin.  It’s as if I’m trying to hide from the Gods.  My father did some form of the Ten Tens.  But.  I stop and strip off the rotting skin and Risae burns it to join the rest of him where ever he is.

“Lady.  If there is any taint in me, will you burn it away too?”

She raises a perfect knife-slash eyebrow at me.  “You are beginning to use the brain you were given, boy.”

I want to move, to bow, but I can’t.  I am naked before her. My soul is bare before her.  She takes her razor nail and parts my chest to get a close look at my heart.  I look down and see that somehow I am opened but am not bleeding all over her pristine floor.  My heart beats steadily, my blood stays neatly where it is supposed to.  It doesn’t hurt at all.  It is less as if she opened me and more as if she made me clear as glass.

There is a pattering noise and a large white rat, on its hind legs, comes in from the whiteness all around and gives the Goddess a black glass piece that is like a mirror.  She holds it up next to me and compares my insides with something she sees on the front of the glass that I cannot see.

“Better. But there is more to do.”

I cannot speak.  “We will speak again, boy,” She says. “Minis.” Why call me? I’m right before her.  She begins to fade even as my name comes again, still looking at me, critically.  “Minis.”

I wake up with a snap, my face on my desk.  It is Antras calling me awake.  “Perhaps a bed would be more appropriate?”  He has a cup of herb tea in his hands, and my sleep shirt slung over his arm.  I’ve drooled on the top letter.

“Oh, thank you... Um... thank you, Antras.  I’m... I was dreaming.”

“Hopefully a comforting or useful dream, Ser.  Have a sip while I unhook your hair from where it has gotten tangled, shall I?”  My hair had gotten wound around several buttons.

“Not comforting.  It... was... interesting.”  I sipped and he had me loose in a moment.  “Thank you, Antras.  Sorry, I meant to go to bed earlier.”

“Not at all, Minis.  Gannara and Farasha sent a note back that they are staying with his parents overnight.  They will be home tomorrow.”  It felt good to hear that Antras considered Gan and Fara’s home to be the Marble Palace.  It felt like I hadn’t peeled all of the heavy paper off my face, even though there was no sign as I swiped a hand over it.

“Thank you for passing that along.” I levered myself up to my feet, taking a quick glance down to check and see that the Goddess had closed me up properly, shaking my head at myself at the silly thought.  “I’m coming.”