Saturday, March 22, 2014

684 - Don't Rush that Vintage

Good night, Kaj. I'll lock up.”
Night, Ienas. Junior said he'd head off straight home after he dropped off the deposit. He said not to wait up for him.” I nodded. The family house was so crowded now, even with the boy and Helfig buying a little place just up the street. We wanted the grandbabies over so much it made for a bit of lost sleep, though at my age there's precious little sleeping going on anyway, after I close up so late.  I had to smile, my Iennie hated being called 'Junior' but took it in stride, at least from Kaj.
I drew the wooden bars over my windows and locked them down, listening to the late-night whistles of the Sereniteers. For people's sleeping sakes they keep it down at night, no bellowing the time, or blasting those screech toys for more than a chirp on their rounds. It's like spring froglets or crickets more than anything else.
After the last heat I raise my nose and sniff, just before I bolt the front door. Smells like rain. The smoke-niche is doing well, and we've just paid to have a single pane of clear glass put into the door, though it hasn't been installed yet. The girls' Kaf and cake shop across the street didn't do so well, so they moved back to a corner of the roof terrace and business for the sweet cakes is picking up now that their overhead is gone. A separate place might be in the cards if they get a lot of customers, next year.
I can hear the rumble of the sewer cleaners' carts in the distance. Our street gets washed tomorrow. I truly cannot imagine a finer place than Arko tonight. How on the Earth-sphere could even the Selestial City of Plenty be better?
I've always loved this time of night, when everything is quiet. I polish my mirror, though I'm certain the smudges I wipe are more in my imagination than real. The stripey red kitten that adopted Dorn's storage area as his own does his usual best to kill me, trip me up as I tuck my cloth and glass polish into their box under the bar.
There should be another letter from my youngest idiot, soon. Him, like his big brother, off gallivanting around the world. At least he's still writing, asking about the nice girl whose da happens to own the Greasy Barbarian, rather than talking about bringing another foreign wife home, though I won't hear a word against our Helfig.
The stone grills from the Gourmand are still ticking slightly as they cool. Rasas swears by the stone stoves rather than the fancy iron grills which would cool off so much faster, and the fading ghosts of dinner drift past my nose. I don't have any strongly scented flowers or perfumed candles in my Fig. No sense having strong smells on to conflict with the bouquet of good wine.
I pull my last bottle of Tat 153, set the cat on the stool next to me so I can pet him more easily. The Imperator's Chamberlain ordered my last case and a certain young journalist sneaked in to have a single glass, so this bottle is open. I'll have to see if the rumours of a few bottles coming on the market through Hyerne are true, or just set Kaj to sniffing out if there are any more to be had. I certainly can't let the open bottle go to waste and a wine this old goes off quickly. It should be drunk today.
I pour the ancient old vintage carefully, then for no reason I can tell, two more. There is just enough to fill the glasses perfectly. “It's a good time of night,” my guest's voice rumbles.
I set his glass in front of him and the second glass for his attendant, and scratch the white mule's ears. The attendant reaches to touch his glass, in thanks, but does not drink, bone and claw clicking against the glass.
My guest is dressed the same way I am, like a solid fessas publican. “I really wasn't ready. I wanted to see the babies more grown.”
I understand, Ienas, but it's time.”
So what am I going to be pouring there?” I sit down and sip. No sense wasting it.
Only the best, my friend.”
Any chance I can talk You out of it? Trade a story, a joke, a game, in exchange for a few more years?
I'm afraid not.”
Well. I suppose I knew. I'd like to finish this first though.”
I wouldn't rush a vintage like that. Take your time.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back in Translation

Hey! The German publisher is getting me to do another edit of the manuscript so I'm going to leave this post as the latest, until the end of March.  Sorry but paying work comes first!

Other than that... did anybody see this coming... who the Unique was?  Did I make it too obvious?


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

683 - I Am Mahid. I Am Mad.

He was tired and confused. The Temple must somehow be corrupted. It had to be. The okas man sat in the square and watched the now daily ritual of procession from the Temple back to the Marble Palace on a raised walkway that people were saying should be built permanently, so that the Imperator never need set foot on the ground to get to the Temple again.
The girl didn't succeed.
The young man nearly trotted across, his wife and the two alesinae behind them. Not one of them seemed different. Not even discommoded. He'd been in the square last night. The Pages was mentioning quite casually how often the young Imperator woke in the night, though he, like the Imperator by conquest and his Regent, had mercifully not had the Imperial chimes wake people in the dark hours of the day. So it was likely that he'd catch the forzak, coating the insides of the kaf pot and the tea pots. He'd been hoping that he could get that Hayel whore who called herself 'Fenjitza'. Perhaps that was the reason the Temple was corrupt?
There had been a commotion late in the night, but nothing he could see through the open doors. They all appeared unharmed, undisturbed. He'd apparently gotten no one. He hadn't been in the Temple for years, and certainly not after the forzak boy's Ten Tens. He thought he'd succeeded and prayed again for the man he'd subverted and sacrificed. He should have done it himself. He knew that now.
He ran a glove over his head. He had the usual okas stripe down the middle, either side of his head grown out almost to his shoulders, a bit past classic fessas length. It had been happening more these years of no hair laws, even though people tended to have at least part of their heads the correct length, and growing the rest out as long as it would go. It was currently the fashion for okas men to have the exact centre of the head short and he slavishly followed the fashion.
It was easier to pretend to be okas. He'd been pretending to be that caste so long he was starting to wonder if his memories of being Aitzas were herb-dreams. He rose and stretched as if he'd been waiting for the morning procession, something that people were starting to do. They were worried about this no-children thing, starting to be frightened. The word 'plague' was starting to be whispered.
Some people were starting to wonder if the Ten were unhappy with their chosen. Some people were saying it was a Yeola-e plot to decimate Arko for this so called 'Federation' that black-haired, curly-haired monster was trying to put together. He was trying to call for people to not have as many children as the Gods would give them. The Aan boy was considering it, everyone knew. Personally he didn't think it was the Yeolis. He thought it was the Gods' word about this.
He'd failed again.
A kidnap attempt, two attempts at murder. The boy was showing as much resilience and protection as the bastard who'd, in effect, put him on the Crystal Throne.
Matthas Mahid put his hands behind him and strolled back down to his home in the okas quarter. It was now the most vibrant in the city, with all these okas and former daifikas not limited in how much they could be paid for their work, Dyers looking for cheap lodging, artists who were appearing where there had been none allowed before, since only fessas had been allowed to be artists.
People were no longer renting single rooms, but buying the ownership of them, one by one. Some okas families were buying their tenements in common and owning them outright. Over on Diligence Road two tenements had actually gone together and re-built their buildings, together, arched over the street itself, with a new eating place in the shade below on one side, and a beer garden on the other side, people re-apportioning their shares of rooms so that every family had windows, every family had running water in their rooms.
They also had ledges running all along under the windows where stone troughs grew food and flowers.
He lived over on Travail St., and he owned his rooms. It would have been out of character for him to continue renting. He had a boy who lived in with him, and kept house for him and provided the relief that was proper. He was having nightmares of waking up and being Mahid. He didn't understand why he was so terrified of his proper station.
The world was right, the world was wrong, he was mad. Mad. He knew he was mad. He was perfectly okas whose foreman was saying he should go for the lessons to become a Journeyman stonemason. He was Mahid only in his dreams. He'd lost his following with the failed kidnap attempt. He'd been working alone ever since and was okas waking and sleeping from then on.
I am Mahid. There is nothing I should think but that... but he had to plan. He had to adapt to his pretence. Dishi would have his breakfast all ready for him when he got home. Home. It smelled right. He'd eat and then go to work, carrying stone for the new buildings, doing the work the foreman indicated, even if he didn't have the status. The buildings would go up under his hands and the hands of his fellow stone workers. The raucous, wild, growing quarter, burgeoning up into the fessas filled with music and poetry declaimed on the street, chalk artists, buildings painted wild colours, foreigners everywhere renting the cheapest rooms in Arko.
Some nights, he'd find himself wrapped around Dishi, sweat cooling between them, the boy's head on his arm, nestled into his chest, wanting to push him away, wanting to run and scream and tear his hair. I'm not Mahid. Not any more. Muunas I am confused. Help me, save me. Should I continue? Should I cling to my disintegrating memories of being Mahid? Oas, Diligent Labouring God, hear my prayers. Should I continue? Am I the sole hand of the Gods here? Why is that? It makes no sense that I should save Arko by myself. But Arko is being punished by the Gods. Oh. Gods. Perhaps I am not perfect enough. Perfect okas would be married. I do not wish to be married. I do not wish to procreate. Gods. Gods, Oas hear me.