Monday, February 24, 2014

682 - Once Upon a Time There was a Poor Boy Named Ili...

Ilesias handed his papers in to Gian, with a proud smile on his face. This time he was early and had actually written more than the minimum. Didi, one of the girls that had come into Gian's class just after Minis had done his Ten Tens, and was hanging out with him and Nuninibas, had talked to him while they were out in the dog yard running around on the field with Tanifas's main pack. She'd been interested in the history part and he'd had so much fun explaining it to her that the papers had been easy to write, afterwards.
Gian leafed through the pages, eyebrows rising. “Very well done, Ili. Whatever has brought about this sea-change I approve of!”
“Teacher, I don't like sitting still and writing stuff down or reading stuff. I like acting it out... Nuni and I acted most of that out for Didi the other day.”
“Interesting. Yes, I've noticed that you are happier moving. So we shall have to do a great deal more theatre in class to improve your academics.”
“I'd like that a lot, but I'm not sure Ailadas will like it.”
“Leave that to me,” Gian stood up. “Gentlemen and Ladies, you are dismissed for the day.”
Ili had been the last student to hand in his work and there was enough of a rush for the door that the Companion's Chamberlain had to clear his throat and call everyone to order. “Is learning so onerous that one must flee?” Five other boys and girls were still clustered around Gian's desk, asking him questions.
“No, ser,” Ili said. “I really want to get a lot of time outside though.”
“Spark of the Sun's Ray, you have an example to set!” He called after them as they ran down to the Heir's rooms.
“He's right,” Ili said. “I've been being a bad example.”
“How is that?” Didi asked, looking confused.
“I've been neglecting my family,” Ili said, grabbing up the sugar cone from the kaf tray and stuffing it into his pocket. She still looked confused as Nuni laughed at the way the sugar bulge sat in Ili's riding trousers.
“Come on,” Ili trotted downstairs, Didi hanging back a bit when it was obvious he was going down to the Mahid section of the Marble Palace. Nuni said he was used to it but the two of them poked each other and hissed behind Ili's back because it was still a spooky part.
But Ili went straight past his grandfather's door and both light and dark venomous menageries, and even past his pseudo-mother's door. All of them were closed and locked anyway. "They're all over at the Temple trying to figure out who 'The Unique' is and stop him trying to assassinate Minis and Ky," Ili said absently.
“Excuse me, Amitza...” he hailed one of the Mahid girls who was skating toward the training hall with her arms full equipment. She braked and wheeled to face them. “Spark,” she said.
“Is Elsha training? Who do I talk to about the kids?”
“That's one of the new ones, Sula I think... they're up in the Imperatrix's solar.”
“Thank you.”
That meant they had to traipse all the way around, to go up, and over to the women's halls, since Ili had promised Antras not to startle people by going through the servant's corridors as short cuts.
“Why are we going to see the Mahid children?” Nuninibas asked. “They're just babies.”
“Minis taught me that good big brothers do stuff with little brothers... an' Ky says that it's good for little sisters too... so I have a little sister... and a sort of little brother who're big enough to play with.”
“But that's what girls are supposed to do!” Nuni stared at both Ili and Didi who were staring at him. “Arkan girls!” he said.
“My brother the Imperator was a good parent! My pseudo mama sniffs at all the stuff he did, saying that some girl should have looked after me, he should have hired a nurse but we were on the run and couldn't.”
“Your brother the Imperator is weird.”
Didi sniffed at him and moved over to walk next to Ili, who just said, “He's Imperator so whatever he does is right, as long as nobody gets up a petition to say he's wrong!”
Nuni grumbled but followed along.
The solar had glass doors and spilled light all down the hallway so their eyes had some time to adjust.
There were servants to help so if the youngest babies cried, the Mahid watching wouldn't be overwhelmed. There were only five babies anyway, besides Tesha and Joras, who were the oldest.
“Hi, Sula!” Ili came in and slid to his stomach between Tesha and Joras who were apparently squaring up to squabble over possession of a carved wooden block.
“Hello, Spark of the Sun's Ray!”
“Just Ili, please,” he said. “We're family sort of, kind of.”
“As you say, Spark.”
“Hey, I played with these blocks!” The wooden blocks were scattered around enough to build a small city, each block small enough for little hands, each block elaborately carved and fit together perfectly. Every fourth block had a locking pin that could be pushed out to secure a wall or an archway.
“What are you building?”
“A house! - A WALL!” the toddlers glared at each other, both clinging to a single block, identical to a hundred scattered around them.
“I see,” Ili wanted to laugh. “You don't need that block to build a house with a wall.” Nuni and Didi both went around the other side of the scattered pile and began looking through them at all the different varieties. There were ceramic ones like brick and marble, and hardwood ones of all kinds. Each colour had a different theme, animals or plants or fish. There were even tile shapes to build roofs with, all painted red as if they were terracotta, but the finish on some were worn on the edges.
“Those worn ones were Minis's,” Ili said, glancing over. “Look, Joras... if you lock your wall to Tesha's house like this, then we could build a tower as tall as I am...”
“I don't wanna!” Nuni sighed loudly from the other side of the blocks.
“All right. But if you behave like that you won't be able to go riding with me when we're done.” Sula twitched at this but didn't say anything.
“Riding?” That caught Joras's attention. “On a pony? Myself?”
“Not yet. The riding master will teach you. Just with me on my horse and if you're really good I'll take him over the ankle-jumps.”
“Let's go NOW!”
Tesha had set her brick carefully on her half-finished house and was listening. “I get to ride too!” she asserted.
“Yes, of course.” He took their hands and got up. “I have sugar for treats for horses, and the riding ring is all set up. Did you know that there's such a thing as a magic house donkey? Yeah, once upon a time...”

New Post Coming Later Today!

Post 682 is going to be posted later today!

Friday, February 14, 2014

681 - I'm Not Crazy, Sula

The Mahid storage chambers were dark, mostly unlit this time of night. Sofonisba lit the lamp by the correct door with her candle and unlocked it.
“Why do we have to learn how to skate too, Sofonisba?”
“Because it will help you get on the team or place you really well when the Competitions for Imperial Guard start.”
“They're going to call them the Mahid Challenges anyway, even if the winners won't be able to call themselves Mahid.”
“Fine, the Mahid Challenges. We already know that skating is going to be part of them, and if that Monster thought I was good material for his precious Mahid then I'm going to compete! We agreed that we were going to be the best forzak Mahid we could be, didn't we?”
Alaria looked over at Sulatesha and Melforasha standing with their own candles in their hands, lighting this dim corridor. Only because of the diligence of the Marble Palace servants kept it clean and free of dust. Then she looked back at Sofonisba. “Yes, we did.”
“We're going to learn how to skate.” Sofonisba was fierce. “If I can't be one of the Imperatrix's guards then maybe I can learn to play faib.” The lock clicked open harshly. It hadn't been oiled in a while, probably since the Razor Fans had raided it for their skates and padding and practice disks, years ago.
“It takes years of practice to learn faibalitz. They'll never take you.” They followed her in and looked around at the cubby doors.
Sofonisba held up the ring of keys, ignoring Alaria's comment. “Check the boy's cubbies first. The men's skates will all be too big.”
A dozen cubbies already stood empty, unlocked. “My husband was trained,” Sofonisba said. “Surely his training skates will be here.”
“Passed on to other boys, once he grew out of them,” Melforasha said. “Let us just start opening and see.”
It took four cupboards opened before Alaria found a pair that fit her. The wheels didn't spin quite smoothly. “They'll need lubrication, I suppose.” Sofonisba passed the key ring to Sulatesha as she found a pair for herself.
She sat down to lace them onto her feet, alien and heavy, noisy and even a little frightening. She wobbled upright, clinging to the door of the cupboard she'd found them in, astonishingly tall all of a sudden. Then one foot flew out from under her and the other, she lost her grip and sat back down hard on the bench. “Forzak!”
“First Sera would find you terribly emotional, Sofi.”
“Laria... you try it before you...” She stopped and stared as Alaria carefully wobbled down the space between the cupboards and the bench. “Let me guess, your brother.”
“No, my father thought it was funny to show me, on my brother's skates. Our secret. And it was only a few nights.”
“Well, see how well you remember!”
Alaria lost her balance, scrambled to get her feet under her and skidded into the table at the end of the row, clinging to it, half over it. “Not really.”
“Well, I'm glad that our dresses will hide all the bruising!” Sofonisba stood up again after she'd run her feet back and forth a few times under the bench. This time she kept her feet. A smile spread across her face and she slid one foot forward. She bent almost into a lunge as her feet spread, a look of alarm on her face. This time she fell forward and tore a hole in her split dress at the knee. “Ow. I'm not giving up until I can skate all the way around this room!”
Mel and Sula just sat and watched the other two at first. “We should put on the padding so we don't hurt ourselves,” Sula said.
“Good... let's do that and then we can lock up and skate back to our rooms...”
“Sofonisba, you are crazy! There's ramps between here and there!”
When she smiled at Sula there was blood on her teeth where she'd bitten her lip as she fell. “I'm not crazy, Sula. Just Mahid.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

680 - Who Would Use This Poison?

Amitzas was awake when one of the girls came hammering at his door. He was an old man and he and sleep would often spar in the depths of the night.  He would lie down every evening wondering if this night he'd be able to lose both quickly and gracefully. This evening, unfortunately, he'd defeated sleep and was sitting up rubbing the cream into his hands that helped with the pain.

“Pharmacist! First!” It was Jorasa. When he flung the door open, pulling his gloves straight, he saw his daughter coming up behind. “Someone tried to poison Minis and the Fenjitza in the Temple!”

“I'm coming.”

His kit was right at the door and he threw a cloak over his sleeping robe. “Daughter?”

“I have my test kit as well, Father.”

“Excellent. Did the Temple defend our charge?” That was asked of Jorasa.

“I don't know, First. The girl who carried the tea collapsed, not breathing, after she'd delivered it.”

“Hmm.” The guards from the Marble Palace were clattering up behind them, Idiesas unarmoured but his sword in his fist. “I believe that the need for swords might be past, Centurion.”

“Perhaps, but I want to be sure.”

In the Temple up behind the Goddess Anae, upstairs, behind her head, the cleansing flood poured down, around and over the statue, but Minis and the Fenjitza stood under the cascading water that foamed down around them, into the basin behind the Goddess's statue.

Amitzas nodded at his daughter, indicating where she should investigate, while he slowly eased down to examine the acolyte. They had stopped trying to revive her and her eyes stared fixedly up into space. There was a bluish tinge to the whites of her eyes, the ends of her fingers and a trace of foam at her mouth. “Hmmm.” He nodded at Jorasa and she pulled back the corpses lip. “Don't drip on me,” he said absently as Minis leaned over his shoulder, wrapped in towels. “You're all right, Imperator?”

“The tea she was carrying only touched us outside, before Socks began barking. I think I have to get a few new trained puppies.”


The Fenjitza raised her head from the towel where she'd dried her face, slipped her silver mask back over her face. “The acolyte... she was new... from Mirianama on the coast.”

“She is rather young for heart failure, but it is not impossible,” Amitzas said and sniffed. “A sweet smell.” He actually allowed himself to frown.

Inensa came out with test strips laid out on the tile. The varying shades of colour showed up clearly against the white ceramic. “First,” she said formally. “The poison in the tea... is a Mahid poison.” Her normally pale face was even paler than usual. “It is present in concentrations standard with the old Imperium's field kit, pre-conquest.”

Kyriala, now standing next to Minis, with her arm around him, exclaimed, “Mahid? You mean there's still old-style Mahid out there?”

Gan and Fara both had their hands on their shoulders. Minis put his own hand up to cover Fara's without taking his other hand away from his wife. His face didn't change but Kyriala could feel his muscles tighten up. “It's not like it's 2nd Amitzas back from the dead,” Gan said, roughly. “We got the others. We'll get these.”

Kyriala nodded then suddenly her hand flew up to her mouth, suddenly looking very ill. “I... didn't have any... why...”

One of the priestesses thrust a basin before her, to spew. “Let my daughter check you, Imperatrix,” Amitzas said calmly, turning Kyriala away from his corpse.

Monday, February 3, 2014

679 - Here? Truly...Here?

...R.I.S. 1101100101 A.E. ### ### ### [error code] ### error error reboot error overwrite error... emergency over ride... error error.
###tocol 1010110 CEO request biological over ride...### error ### error... reboot to core. Isolate damaged files error code 01001111111011101 eroor. Plague vector, over ride request CEO over ride error 201001001
... you can hear me boy... It's ... hayel no... let's just fix this part you need genetic diversity 10100101... etc. Damn boy.
I see Mikas sitting in a room full of images all around him dancing in the air. People working people making... he pulls them in and they sink into him and he becomes bigger... I see... he absorbs what comes from the Temple. One source.
I cannot touch. My reach is limited. Risae cannot command, only listen. Listen boy. Argos is deteriorating. Self repair protocols need to be regularly and correctly run. Muunas wills. You realize that only you can go in and repair, correct and extend Our reach.
Mikas sits in his room bombarded with images, His divine hands tied.
Minis woke up, sitting bolt upright. “Farasha... Minis...” Gannara sat up as well, eyes bleary, knife in hand. What was life like when the alesinas of the Imperator needed to sleep with a sheathed knife under his pillow, in the Temple itself?
“No emergency...” Minis's voice was still slurred as he woke, slowly. “I had a nightmare about the God's Hands being tied... it scared me awake.” He crawled out of the bed, away from them all, to pace, bare feet slapping on the marble floor.
There came a tap on the door. “Imperator? Imperatrix?” The Fenjitza 's voice called through the door.
Kyriala was already up, her sleeves fallen down over her hands. Farasha just tucked her short dart thrower back under her pillow. Ah, Gods may there come a time when everyone's life isn't seen to be in danger. “Enter.”
She came in, with an acolyte right behind her with a tea tray. The girl set the stone tray down and bowed herself out, gracefully but a trifle nervously. Perhaps she was a new apprentice?
The Fenjitza settled next to the tray and began pouring cups for everyone. “I had a nightmare,” she said. “And when I woke up here, I thought I should come here with tea.”
Minis sank down opposite her, on his knees and pulled a cup randomly. “I had a nightmare as well,” he said. “It is horrific when you dream of the Gods enslaved somehow.”
She looked startled and was raising her cup to sip when Bella, great ass that she was, shouldered through the whole tea set to bury her head in his lap, jostling the Fenjitza's elbow, making him drop his own tea cup. Cups shattered. Hot water splashed. “Bad dog!” He cried. The big black bitch whined but didn't move and then Kyriala's little yap dog began howling and barking at the spilled tea.
The Fenjitza stared at the mess, and then at Socks who was beside himself. He was so old a sleeve dog that he could barely stagger in circles as he snarled at the shattered dishes.
“Get that acolyte,” Farasha snapped. “That's a poison reaction.”
Gannara wrenched the door open to find the acolyte's body stretched on the floor, the Mahid girls working on reviving her. “She just fell over, Alesinas.” Jorasa said. “We were about to call you.”
Minis had fought free of Bella and the shattered crockery,  leaned against the doorframe. “Call Idiesas. And my grandfather.” She looked up at him sharply and then realized that Kyriala's sleeve dog was still snarling and barking.
“Poison?” She said. Then nodded. The Fenjitza stood, looking at the hand that had held the cup. Her glove was soaked. His nightrobe, where the tea had soaked was starting to burn.
“Rinse!” He snapped. “Strip it off and rinse! This isn't Hayel rain but...” He began frantically pulling off his own soaked night shirt.