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.”
“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.