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.