After the Fenjitzas, the Fenjitza and First Amitzas left and he politely put Intheras off a follow up question or two – as if he didn’t know what the old news hound would be sniffing around -- Atzana had a dozen letters for him to approve and sign, and after that four audiences that could not be set aside, delegations who had travelled moons to speak to him. Even after the Sack, still fresh and clear in every city Arkan’s mind, and the establishment of the new form of government, people still needed to speak to the Imperator. Perhaps they needed to speak to the Imperator even more than before all the changes.
The new Nellan Ambassador had arrived, with full black robes, heavily beaded with coloured crystals, his wife and his entourage in matching garb, and courtesy absolutely required that Minis meet him personally. He received them in the Highest Office since nothing less would do and he didn’t particularly want or need to offend the man.
He sat and drank kaf with them, said the right words, welcomed them to their new posting. The man and his wife left, hopefully feeling soothed and valued in their new position. It was likely that either he or someone in his entourage was a new spy, but then that was to be expected. Irefas would keep an eye on them as they settled in.
The door had barely closed on them when he sprang up and out to Atzana’s desk. “Could you hold everything after dinner until I let you know?”
“Of course, Minis. Don’t forget to eat!” Is everyone in the Marble Palace conspiring to feed me? “Gannara sent word that everyone was in the bedchamber, not the archery range any longer.”
“Of course. Thank you, Atzana.”
He could hear their voices down the hallway since the great doors were open. They didn’t sound tearful, or upset, more thoughtful and the relief he felt was enough that it stopped him where he stood, just listening to them. He put out a hand and just leaned against the marble railing, setting his forehead against the cool stone. I was so frightened that everyone would still be grieving. Well, we are, but it’s not quite like losing a child. It’s more like losing the latest hope of a child and that is much less of a grief.
But everyone’s tone was subdued. The women laughed at something, their laughter only a little forced. Gan’s deep voice chiming in, like music. The voices of my family. They support me and they don’t even know I’m here. Muunas, Selinae… Ten Gods… thank you. Thank you for this joy, even if we don’t have children yet. Their voices faded and they must have gone deeper into the suite.
He straightened, took a deep breath, and went in, and through the room, to the balcony where he could see his wife and alesinae next to the Crystal Fountain of Life. “Hey, shouldn’t you all be badgering me to have dinner? You are all too skinny and should eat!”
It wasn’t a good joke, but it got them to smile at him as he crossed to gather Farasha in his arms, as if his hug and the rushing of the water could enfold her and hold her safe from hurt. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
He could feel her twitch as she caught her breath. “Next time. There’s always next month.”
Minis shook his head, no, but his eyes were open and he stood back, taking her hand on one side and Kyriala’s on the other, Gannara reaching to complete the circle. He gripped their hands firmly, managed to say it quietly enough that the fountain covered what he said. “Loves…just between the four of us. It might not just be us. There’s a problem in Arko. It looks like no one is having children in the city now. Not for the past six moons. I have to try and talk to the Ten and see if the Gods have any answers for us.”
They all stared at him. Then Kyriala said, quietly, “That makes me feel better and worse at the same time.”