Monday, September 30, 2013

678 - A Fan-Slapped Man

Did this mean that the Temple could cleanse people? Now that It was more active? But they still had no source of contagion.
He looked over at the Imperial bed and saw Ky sitting up, rubbing sleep out of her eyes before she padded across to sit down on his lap, as he pushed his chair back to give her space. “You had a dream?” She said, her trailing toe on the dog's back as she laid her head on his shoulder.

“I did, my dear, my darling, my astonishing wife,” he said quietly into her hair. “The Gods said we... all four of us... have to sleep in he Temple if we want children.”

She raised her head and looked into his eyes. “Oh. That means we have to be healed by the Temple then... and that this illness must be continuously being either brought in, or somehow passed around so people are re-exposed.”

“I can't have the whole Empire come through the Temple, but I have to consult with the Fenjitzae,” Minis said tiredly. “Perhaps we can slow the spread of this, by calling for a renewal of some kind... get everyone of child-bearing age into the Temple inside the next few weeks.”

“Did the Gods tell you how long someone had to be in the building to be helped?”

He shrugged, felt her slide up and down him slightly as he did. “No. Muunas told me that the four of us needed to sleep there. I don't know if it would help anyone else but we should try.”

She yawned and nodded, getting up. “Make a note to yourself for the morning, then come back to bed. You will help no one by jittering yourself into illness.”

His lips twisted into a relucant smile. “Now you sound like Mikas,” he said as he scribbled a note, swiped the nib clean on the blotter.

She smiled down at him. “Thank you, love. Now come back to bed.”

“Yes, dear.” He leaned forward and kissed her stomach through the nightgown. “I am terribly fan-slapped.” She laughed.


Idiesas had one of the elite guard outside this tiny little room, that had a bed made up on the floor for the four of them, even though everyone in the Empire knew that the Temple would defend Minis. Him certainly, but his loves? Who knew? I truly appreciate his diligence. I am requesting Ilesias Mahid come back from Yeola-e to be part of the upcoming Mahid Trials.

It was odd how his relationship with the Mahid had changed over the years. From indifference to virulent hatred to a curious kind of homesickness, since he'd lost Joras. It wasn't Mahid as a concept that he missed it was individuals. Like Joras. It was time he went up to the gravesite again. He'd take Amitza and Jorasa as his guard. People were still going on about his Mahid being women, but he felt just as safe with them as his guard, as with the men, and Idiesas was keeping them in his roughest training. They were good enough as far as he was concerned.

The Temple wasn't the most restful place to sleep in but the hum of the night choir heard distantly through the heavy closed door, and the incense, was soothing. Somehow the sound of his love's breathing and the singing began to meld together.

Monday, September 9, 2013

677 - This One Invents Stuff

Amitzas nodded at the young man he'd brought. “This is Ubifeksas Ilo, fessas. He is one of the interesting group of inventors who were gathered to work together under Shefenkas, inspired by Sera Diadesia.” The fellow bobbed his head and scrambled his notebook open, paper rustling wildly. “I have brought him into this discussion to take notes and to offer his mechanical and inventive expertise. He has a number of sketches for additional water purification works, should our problem be arising out of the water.” He turned back toward Minis.

“Akminchaer and I have noted that the information we've been going through has shown a small clue, a trend that we believe might help. This illness, in its current form, seems to manifest only under certain conditions, those of excessive heat and moisture, as this spring and summer have been.”

He nodded to the Haian, who rose as Amitzas settled back into his chair. Akminchaer nodded a bit as he spoke, hands clasped together. “All of us in the city Itself are treating symptoms as they manifest in the city but we have not been able to ascertain the possible source of the disease. We are still searching.”

Minis nodded. “I've called for the renewal of every water cleansing protocol we've ever had, beginning with the water out of the city. Even if we don't know that this is waterborne, it is a good place to start. The ancient codes of conduct are being applied even as we speak. It seemed a good idea to me to start with the water exiting the city. If it is, indeed, waterborne then we can hopefully stop it spreading.”

Ackminchaer looked relieved. “If it were spread by air, the incidence might not so closely follow the river, which leads us to suspect it is waterborne as the Boy Plague was. There are Haians coming from Haiu Menshir whose specialty is disease vectors, airborne, insect and water.”

Could it be foodborne?” That was Ubifeksas. “In feces? Is is sexually transmitted? How about through personal touch?” The young man looked around the circle and cringed slightly as he realized he'd just spoken up, and in such company.

Ackminchaer blinked. “I have been researching those. Those are excellent questions.”

Yes, indeed,” Inensa said. “Young man, what do you invent?”

Um, er, Dowager Imperatrix. This one invents things. Stuff. The last thing was the system for water purification that his honour spoke of. Lenses, things that burn, weights and magnets. This one's honourable father once built automata for the late, unlamented Imperator.”

Ah. Excellent.”

If I may see your sketches?” Minis put out his hand and Ubifeksas hurried to thrust his open notebook into it.


Later that night Minis lay, staring up into the darkness above them, listening to his love's soft breathing. Or not so soft. Kyriala rolled over and started snoring and Gannara began a whistling snort through his nose.

Minis grinned briefly. It wasn't as if he were trying to sleep anyway. Then he frowned and shifted slightly in his love's grip, the whole bed rolling slightly under them all. They hadn't come to any kind of conclusion but the young fessas man had presented them with new ideas for water cleansing, but it was too small scale for the whole city...

...the white mule brays in my face and I fall backwards onto my rear. “What? Lord, that's not funny. Please help us. Not just for me--”

I don't see the God anywhere. I'm running around, scrambling from window to window, from door to door. “Gods! I'm here!”

There was a moment, a long moment when I stood, poised, trembling on the edge between two choices, running wildly into the white mist, calling, or stopping. I quiver and hear Dimae's hounds baying in the distance. “I cannot find You chasing with no direction.” It is as if he could hear Tanifas advising him “Be calm and be secure in yourself. That way very little becomes an emergency. If you are calm then you have more strength to react and you have more will to act in the first place.”

I'm sitting in a white space, breathing deeply, my hands open on my thighs. “Better, boy.” I blink and gaze up into Muunas's vast face. I am afraid but I am also filled with love and awe. “I acknowledge my terror, Father of All, and accept.” He smiles and my sight whites out with the light of it.

Mikas and Risae will both help you. For now, you and your alesinas and your wives must all sleep in the Temple. It is our tool, as you well know in your bones and blood.” I quiver and lay a hand on the star-splayed scar on my chest. A vision of Hayel and burning alive as poison was blasted out of my body flickers through my memory. But the greater memory of my Ten Tens glows stronger.

Thank you, Father of All. I will pray with gratitude and remember. No more begging.”

His face becomes a foxes' mask next to my shoulder and I hear Mikas laugh in my ear. “Good. Begging rises out of fear. Don't snivel, boy.”

I must look mulish as I think 'I WASN'T SNIVELLING', because the donkey begins braying again and I get kicked in back and... Minis woke up to find Gannara having a dream, with both feet pushing against his rear. He rolled up slowly and over Farasha, without putting his weight on her, to pull on his robe and sit down at the desk. The Gods had finally answered. 
Not a solution for the whole Empire, certainly. There wasn't room for the whole Empire to sleep in the Temple.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

676 - Dead Rodents

The Whip and the Cudgel both ceremoniously put down their jeweled instruments and the Speaker rose for the closing of this session of Assembly. Minis sat, thoughtfully, nodding to the various Assembly men and women who were chatting as their clerks and secretaries secured their papers and pens, closed up lap desks.

He had another inspection tour of the city's waterworks scheduled for this evening, this time upstream. Since the Yeoli conquest things had shifted and some of the cleansing rituals had been mandated as redundant or useless, but if this illness was waterborne then every ritual had to be reinstated to try and stop it.

Kyriala and Gannara were at the annual street fair for the glassworkers of Arko and Farasha was at a small festival of booksellers and library caravaneers. Bella and Doof were both waiting for him at the end of the glass bridge.

The parrot fluttered off the stand and landed on his outstretched arm. He'd learned to block the head landing. Minis smiled and let her nibble on his fingers around the seal. He turned and found his way blocked by both his grandfather and Akminchaer. “Um, gentlemen?”

They didn't even glance at each other. How weird is it that my grandfather and a Haian are working together so well? “Grandson.”

“Yes, Grandsire?”

Akminchaer took over as if they'd rehearsed it. “You may be fit and only in your twenties, Imperator...” Why do I hear the 'but'? “But in a crisis you need to be more careful of yourself, rather than less.”

His stomach growled right then and even Amitzas smiled slightly. “I will be more careful, Akminchaer, Grandsire.”

“May I suggest that we report to you over luncheon?”

All right.” He had changed things in the Marble Palace routines about meals just so his chamberlain didn't tear all the rest of his hair out, trying to schedule court meals around him. I'd insisted that the court sit to eat three meals a day, not six and that they didn't have to wait for me to show up to eat. But the private kitchen for the Imperator always seemed ready to feed me. I should commend their diligence.

He turned to Atzana who, as always, seemed to materialize at his elbow the moment he stepped out of the Assembly chamber. “A note, please, Atzana. A commendation to the private kitchen, for diligence and excellence.”

“Yes, Minis.”

They all trouped over to the Imperial Chambers and through, out to the balcony, where a wheeled cart with covered dishes was just being delivered, along with the food taster, Amas.

As he sat down to wait for his taster's go ahead the room filled up with the family coming in. Ili and his friends blasted through on their skates, Bella lumbering up to chase after the young rowdies, but only for a step or two and a bark more like a burp than anything else.

Doof fluttered over to hang upside down from the perch and poke the hook of her beak into a pinkfruit and dribble juice into the sandbox below.

Amitzas summoned in a young man that Minis didn't know, who dropped the sketchbook he had clutched to his chest as he did the prostration. “Gehit.”

Inensa came in, accompanied by another Mahid girl who was apparently acting as her welcomist and secretary. Minis thought he knew all the Mahid left but didn't recognize this one.

Amas, who had inherited his position after his father died in the infamous poison oysters attack on Shefenkas, nodded to him and smiled a bit, before he withdrew. So Minis loaded a plate for himself as everyone settled in chairs around the sitting area. The chef had outdone himself. There was a variation of beef skewers normally sold as street food in Arko, but with a garlic, rosemary and oil dipping sauce that made the water run together in his mouth. There was fresh Hyerne flatbread and a fillet of bluefish, tail curled crisp, divided into individual mouthfuls so each could be lifted and eaten without getting a single drop of sauce on the hands.

There was a rice dish with apricots and threads of saffron, with bite sized pieces of perfectly cooked lamb, and puff pastry stuffed with greens and cheese before being slathered with butter and baked. And to finish there was a sweetened yellowfruit ice set in an ornamental ice bowl, melting slowly, even in the heat.

Everyone took their time settling down, getting kaf from the service table, mostly to give him time to eat something. Minis let his eye settle on the young man he didn't know, then looked to his grandfather who was, as usual, not letting anything slip. He shrugged to himself and assumed he'd find out in the course of this meeting.

“I am hoping that everyone has good news for me that I will be able to implement, or pass on to Assembly when everyone comes back, or both. This... thing... cannot spread out of Arko.”

“Yes, Grandson.” Amitzas stood up slowly and everyone turned to him. “I must report, I regret to say, I have no creature in any of my very specialized menageries that can produce an effect like this. I have gone back into the records of the Imperial Pharmacists since before the Boy Plague and I have no evidence of anything like this, in any of them. Daughter?”

“I have similar unfortunate results to report, for every garden that I have charge of. I began testing combinations of all our toxins but so far everything I have attempted has resulted in merely lethal compounds.”

Minis raised an eyebrow. “You mean you are testing every one of your poisonous compounds in combination now?”

She nodded. “I am beginning with combinations of two. So far I have a lot of dead rodents, rather than ones incapable of breeding.”