“Thank you, Atzana,” Minis said and handed her the last letters he had just added personal notes to, notifying every head of state around Arko, and the letter to Haiu Menshir giving his notification of the medical problem… all without used the words ‘plague’ or ‘emergency’. He didn’t want to cause a panic, and he trusted Intharas’s good sense and years of experience to put out his special edition, notifying the Empire that there was an illness stalking the streets, without causing riots or people mobbing Haians or Maskers.
“I’ve put your speech to Assembly here,” Atzana said, taping the top sheet, looking incredibly tired. It was so late that all the city chimes but the one were silent.
“I’ll go over it, why don’t you get some rest? This will hit the streets and Assembly and everyone tomorrow, but you should sleep in.”
“I’m fine, thank you, Minis. Good night.” If he knew her she’d be at her desk next morning at the usual time. His eyes felt gritty. He’d arranged to have the city water cleaning department heads come into a meeting next morning, just after his intended address to Assembly, something that the Imperator couldn’t just do anymore… he’d had to wake the House Speaker and request an emergency point of information time to be officially read out and voted on, so his speech could jump the queue.
Everyone would be wild with curiosity of why he needed to make a speech, and it was unlikely that they’d deny him time. They’d just begun sitting this session and hadn’t yet gotten into the really long, drawn out wrangles that tended to wait until the middle of the sitting.
He needed to find out if the water protocols had changed somehow in the past year, or if anything was different about the Risaen commands in the city that might have caused this. The weather had been so hot and wet. He put both hands flat on the desk and levered himself to his feet like a much older man. Doof didn’t pull her head out from under her wing at all, though Bella sighed up and clattered out at his heels.
He told her firmly ‘sit’ at the door to the Imperial chapel. Then he hesitated at the threshold. He turned away from the door and leaned against the wall to pull off his slippers, then all the rest of his clothes. He did fold them so his master of intimate apparel wouldn’t have fits about wrinkles and having things ruined. Bella lay down, with her muzzle on the neatly folded clothes and watched him as he opened the door.
Minis prostrated himself before the presence light, his fears and his prayers a jumble in his head, that the cool wooden floor failed to calm.
Gods, I come before you and am most humbly begging You for help, or for answers, or something. There are no children being born in the city of Arko, and haven’t been for moons. Women are bleeding more heavily and the Haians say they were possibly pregnant, but could not carry it. Goddesses, your Fenjitza tells me this.
Your Fenjitzae tell me that You would not punish us this way, certainly not without enormous fanfare of how and why it is being done. I feel You would not do this. This must be a natural disaster of some kind… though if I am wrong, oh Ten, then I trust You to make it clear how I err.
Please help us. This looks like the boy plague in a different form. Help us, for I fear this will spread and all human kind will go down to the Summoner.