The roar of the crowd was muffled as the great doors closed behind Inensa, who had Tesha on her arm and Joras by the ear. Tesha had her new bug safe in the jar, with the holes now safely covered until it could be placed in its own locked tank.
“Ow ow ow ow, leggo I’m comin’ ow ow ow, ouch! Senior Mahid Mama stop! I’m coming! I did a good Mahid thing! Ouch ouch ouch!”
She ignored his yells and took them straight through to the Mahid training hall and stood him in the middle of the floor, setting Tesha beside him, lifting the jar away though she grabbed after it. “Stay right there or I will beat you,” she warned, and Joras wrenched his lips shut in a furious pucker. Tesha looked after her precious jar and sat down on the stone.
The jar went to one side with a click and Inensa settled gracefully onto the wooden floor, hands folded, and stared at them. Try to outstubborn me child. You know nothing of endurance.
Joras set his jaw and put his hands behind his back in a loose approximation of a Mahid making a report. They all sat, or stood, in silence.
“Senior Mama!” Joras burst out finally. “Why are you so mad?”
Inensa glanced at Tesha who sat, looking at them now instead of the scorpion. “First Joras Mahid,” she said calmly. “You are nearly five years old, correct?”
“You tell me why I would be angy with you, for something that was just a silly joke?”
His brows drew together and then his face crumpled. “It was just a joke!” He looked down. “Um. I caused a lot of trouble?”
“That is the least part of it.” The scorpion scrambled in its prison, pulling at the stuffing in the airholes, prying at the lid. His eyes went to it and then over to Tesha who was now pulling her stockings off.
“Um... Tesha might have gotten hurt?”
“That is the majority – the most of it.” She sighed. “If Mahid had been what we were, you would have been under a Senior male for most of this year and well on the way to your place in life. You would have been flogged for such disobedience. But there are no teaching Seniors, except me.”
“But she didn’t get hurt!” He sat down.
“Through your actions?”
“She’s fine! Don’t bully me!”
“As your Senior, correction is not ‘bullying’.” He leaped to his feet and tried to drown her out by yelling how angry he was and how horrid she was being and how he hated her and how he wanted his mama in Selestialis. When he’d run down Tesha had her hands over her ears. Inensa continued. “Bullying is the false attempt to control someone precieved as weaker or more vulnerable. You are weaker than I, just as Tesha is weaker than you. That is the truth and there is no need for violence to prove it. You feel enraged. Good. You’ll be able to use that, later in your training. Swallow it, boy. There is more justice to come.”
“I won’t obey!”
“It was your disobedience this afternoon that brought all this on, do you realize?”
He turned and ran, waving his fists in the air, ran all around the edges of the training hall. She and Tesha sat quietly until he ran down like an automaton winding down. “Mama, I sorry.” Tesha sniffled. “You mad mad?”
“I am not VERY mad, because you were not injured. Not hurt,” she said to her daughter’s confused look. “I accept your apology. I want you to give the jar to the servant at the door and have him carry it for you. Take it to First Amitzas.”
Joras stood, back turned to her and didn’t move as Tesha and her servant left.
“It’s not my fault!” He yelled at the wall.
“Then why do you feel so guilty?”
He spun around and ran, flung himself into her lap. “Senior Mama I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I was scared when I saw that thing and she might have died and it WOULD have been my fault just for a joke—“
For a long moment she held her hands up and away from him, then gingerly put them on his back. “Joras. That is what I wanted. An understanding of why. You don’t need to feel guilty, because nothing happened, but something bad could have happened because you disobeyed and talked Tesha into joining you.”
“I shouldn’t have dinner either! An’ stay in my room a whole moon, a whole YEAR!”
A twitch of a smile and she patted his back. “I understand you feel strongly about such things. It seems to be an unrestrained Mahid trait. You are forgiven. But you must still stay in your room for the rest of the day, and miss the end of the trials.”
That was when he started weeping instead of yelling. She patted him on the back, helped him up to his feet. “Straighten up, now!” She admonished. “Your tears are allowed in these lax modern times. Take a deep breath and carry on, Mahid!”
He scraped tears and snot off onto his sleeve and she offered him a handkerchief distastefully. “Just remember.”
He didn’t answer, just sniffed. She offered him her hand and rose, letting him 'help her up'. “I shall escort you to your confinement, Mahid.”