Thursday, May 23, 2013

665 - You Have Reconsidered?

“Is this not for the First of the Mahid to deal with?” Inensa’s voice was calm.

“The honourable Sera’s father has been called to the Highest Office and has been there for more than a bead.”  That was alarming.  Her son needed to speak to his grandfather for that long?  There was something not right going on.

“Then I shall certainly see what I can do to resolve this Mahid problem.  Bring them to Risae’s Garden room, if you would.  I’ll receive them there.”  She rose and Dau, who had Tesha on her lap at the moment said. “I’ll keep her, she’ll be fine with us.”

“Thank you, Daurama,” she ran gloved fingers over her daughter’s head, making her squirm.


“Be good for Auntie Dau, all right?”

“Yes, Mama. I’m always good!”

“That is sometimes debatable but I agree with you right now.” It was hard, sometimes, to not just smile at her little girl’s nonsense and her lips twitched with amusement as she turned to follow Erlas.

Risae’s Garden room was a tiny space on the Honorakia level, where the Imperial women’s quarters met the Serulean stairs up from the Mahid level.  Inensa paused to let her servants remove her skates and replace them with soft blue kidskin shoes.  It was still hard to look down at herself and see colour in her clothing.  Her gown -- really a split trouser gown, that shockingly daring fabrication by the Imperatrix’s designer -- was mostly black lace, a dusty black, almost a charcoal colour rather than true onyxine, the lace over a shockingly bright blue. Blue shoes. She accepted her blue and black feather fan as she rose to climb up the enormous pink marble staircase, to her meeting.

It would be in one of the five Goddess garden rooms in the women’s halls, full of the sun-loving plants cherished by Risae in Her aspect of surgeon and vivisectionist.

Just as her father tended his menagerie of flamboyantly coloured toxic flowers and insects and animals, she had taken up tending the sun-loving poisonous plants.  The enormous datura with its white flowers as large across as her hand, the tiny blood-red berries of the boringly named Flat-leaf, the various Arkanherb trees, trained to a ‘weeping’ form so that the frosted buds swayed in the breeze from the open windows, filling the garden with their musky green scent.

She settled into her favourite woven chair, and waited.  She had an idea who these women might be and when the four were shown in, with chairs for them, and followed by a servant with the afternoon kaf service on it, she was only mildly surprised.

The four women were dressed in black, though no one made onyxine any longer, black and formal Mahid as she used to be.  For a moment she felt a pang of loss for that uniform anonymity.   

The eldest sank into a credible curtsy and the other three followed suit, despite all of them carrying toddlers. They were some of the young women who had been married into the Mahid... right at the end of their running loose, by Second Amitzas in anticipation of regaining control of Minis.  Anticipation that the Eclipse Court would need to breed more Mahid.

“Sofonisba,” Inensa said.  “Alaria. Melforasha. And young Sulatesha.  Alaria, as I recall you attacked me last time we saw one another, for making you be a Mahid.  It seems that your freedom is something you four have reconsidered, perhaps?”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

664 - Did They Give Their Names?

Inensa Mahid sat in her chair overlooking the Mahid training hall, next to her friend, the Imperatrix’s mother, Daurama Liren. She held her place in her book with her gloves in the nearly shut volume, watching the Onyxine Razor Fans practice all around the babies who, even if some were female, did not seem frightened of the rumble of the faibalizitskai wheels as the girls passed silk handkerchiefs to each other, trying to keep the whole lot in the air at the same time and yet not missing a catch or a throw.

The handkerchiefs were weighted and the team had found that their ‘Graces’ training crossed over well into faib. Tesha Riala jumped and bounced in the midst of the floating kerchiefs with Elsha’s boy.  There were not enough children born of the last eleven Mahid women, to have the crèche opened, and everyone seemed more comfortable in the training hall, where the girls still did their dance training, and now some faib.

“Inensa,” Daurama set down her embroidery.  Even in the bright lights of the hall it would be hard for her to see her stitches, they were so fine.  “Aren’t you afraid that they’ll run into or knock over the babies?”

She asked it, every time.  “No, Dau.  I’m sure of it.”  Inensa set her book down on the table and rose up to her own skates.  She had taken it up, since Minis loved it so much... and Jorasa and her faib team were so thrilled with it.  She had to admit it was exciting when she got good enough to move fast in the Marble Palace.  She bent her front knee and pushed off, low, timing her glide in-between the darting, laughing Mahid girls.  Laughter.  So strange in the Mahid corridors.

Tesha turned around, reaching for a blue kerchief, saw her coming and raised her arms for Inensa to catch her up, hold her close as she turned and scooted back the way she came, this time between Elsha and Borasa instead of Eforasa and Amitza.

She could feel her daughter’s giggling against her and despite herself, she smiled as she straightened.  “Now is that proper for a well-brought up Mahid girl?” She asked Tesha, sternly.

“Yeha, mama.”

“Hm.  You’re right.”

She sat down with Tesha on her lap and they watched the others swap out the sticks and hoops of Graces, for the silk handkerchiefs.  They never mentioned that this was part of their heavy training, for the exhibition matches they were still doing, since they didn’t have a full second string that a real team needed... and they were only now touching on the truly professional, as their fathers and brothers and uncles had been.  Their coach, when asked for his secrets, training up a Mahid girls team so incredibly fast only smiled and said ‘They’re Mahid.  Put it down to that.”

“Mama, I want skates.”  Tesha wiggled on her lap and bounced.

“To ask properly you would say “Mama, I would like my own skates, please.”, Inensa said.

“MamaI’dlikemyownskatesplease!” Tesha said in a single breath.

“I will look into it.”  Daurama picked up her embroidery and smiled to herself. This child picks things up, but I’m not used to being a mother.  I truly don’t know if the next thing I say to her will ruin her or not.  We don’t know what Mahid is, or should be.  I could be doing this all wrong.

Itasas sat down in the middle of the floor, suddenly howling that the toys he wanted had been put away and Elsha scooped him up, plunked him into the barbarian sling on her shoulder and went right back to her training as he, tears still wet on his face, began to crow and thump on her side with his little legs.

“Dowager Imperatrix?” It was Erl, one of her son’s household servants.


“Sera... there are four women asking to speak to you, personally.”

“To me?”  As Dowager Inensa supported Kyriala, and Farasha.  She did not hold office hours officially of any kind.  That kind of thing was for her son to do.  “Did they give their names?”

“Yes, Sera.  They say they are Mahid.”