Gannara leaned back against the wheelhub, arms folded and watched his mother-by-marriage sooth her daughter’s discomfort.
“Lovey,” she said. “You’re going to feel upset all the time. We know." Farasha didn’t sniffle. She’d cried herself out a bead ago.
“This is horrid, mama. I don’t like it.”
“It will pass. Let us coddle you and the baby.”
“Mama I feel lazy if I need to lie down all the time.” She wasn’t showing yet. Neither was Kyriala and her mother wrapped her arms around her daughter.
“You’re not lazy. Why don’t we send this young lout of yours off to fetch something special from the market for you, to tempt your appetite?”
“I don’t want anything. I can get anything I want at home, I just have to open my mouth and the Marble Palace servants are all there with platters and cups and sometimes it’s all too much.”
Gannara caught his mother-in-law’s eye and tilted his head away. She nodded. “Why don’t I head back—“ There was a roar from the square audible even down in this neighbourhood. “—the city is having a great deal of fun with these competitions – I’ll be able to go in by way of the Dog Yard Gate.”
“Go on,” she said, shortly. “I might stay here with mama tonight.”
“Love you, my beautiful wife.”
“I love you too. Go away.”
He managed to hide his smile as Farasha turned her attention to the cup of tea in her hands.
The Dog Gate was at the end of the Marble Palace wall that looked like a giant had dropped an enormous chain of marble links past the trees, with every nook and cranny that looked as though it would be perfect for climbing made to look like broken-open geodes with razor sharp shards of coloured glass as the crystals lining them.
The colours, chips of razor glass, flowed out of the hollows and came together, all their wild colours, to become the picture of a waterfall apparently pouring over the top of the wall. The artist had matched the lake's colours, making the wall that crossed the lake very hard to see. Not that Gannara was going that far, into the public forest.
The wall cutting across this end of the lake wasn’t reachable from the road leading into the wood. The Temple had various tiny retreats hidden away along the rim, the okas playing fields lay just past the trees and a good part of it was left to go nearly wild. City Arkans regarded it as their precious treasure, second only to the river and the lake itself.
Gannara stepped onto the path from the Boardwalk to the Dog Gate, the noise from Presentation Square so seamless it could have been one monstrous creature. The teams of four had given way to team of three, then pairs. Tomorrow it would be singles.
He stopped under the enormous chestnut tree before the open space before the walls, set his back to it and sat down for a moment, his guards discretely taking up watchful positions at a little distance. Nobody associated with the Imperator went walking through the city alone and it still bothered him and Farasha somewhat.
He pulled up a handful of grass and began chewing on one long strand. This stolen moment settled him down. There were a lot of demands on his time, both as his shadow-parent’s factor, for dealing with Arkans, and as Minis’s alesinas.
Maybe now that we’re expecting children and that Mahid has been caught, it would be a good idea for the women to go out to the Winter Palace for a while. The air is better outside the Rim. And they won’t be getting annoyed with us every time we twitch. Minis needs to get dragged into the Bath for an afternoon with nobody around but me. We can get our ‘hormonally driven anxieties’, as Akminchaer calls them, settled.
The challengers are turning out to be a fun group. The ones who would not draw names from a helm to run in fours, because of having to work with either women, or men, they’re well gone. There’s four that have sweating fits at First Amitzas’s creepy crawlies, though they are still in the running.
There’s a dozen who I don’t like, just because of their ‘I am so superior attitude’, but that could just be me. The Srian, Trurishta, stands out like a mountain surrounded by sunlight bright heads, and she’s constantly making jokes about smacking her forehead on door lintels. But she wears that lion skin like it’s her own second skin and has eeled through some amazingly tight spaces in the maze. She’s the best archer I’ve ever seen and her dart-work is catching up fast.
There’s only two hundred fourteen left now. I’m glad that the Yeolis trying are still in the running. All those who became Arkan citizens. Silly of me to feel so much pride in my birth country.
Ah. Tanifas must be out. I think I’ll go talk to him about the idea of being a father. That’s part of the problem. I’m going to be a dad and a shadow dad in a few months and the pit of my stomach is full of woolly pigs and eels it feels like. Minis is starting to have nightmares about him being a dad, full of ‘being like the fat guy’ dreams.
By the sound over the glittering wall Tanifas had the whole pack out in the yard, as the stable-hands brought the “Most Glorious Left Hand Side” stalls out for their exercise. It was a learning experience for the puppies and the yearlings both.
He got up and dusted off the back of his kilt, nodded at his guard and they crossed the open grass to the gate. Being a father. Kahara.