My Dear Journal,
I’m tucked into an Imperial coach, with Step-Papin in the seat on the other side. Mamin and Papin, having just arrived are buried -- oh dear, I shouldn't say it like that... I mean they're setting up their research facilities in the Mahid ossuaries and dissection museum and are very busy. They declined the Coronet Regal’s invitation to the Winter Palace for the family Solstice gathering. Step-Papin used to work here, before all this happened and he said that he liked First Amitzas even though he’d been his gaoler before. It wasn’t by his will, so Step-Papin says it’s all alright now. But that... demonstration... he's turned herbivores into predators! That frightens me. I'm not usually scared of blood, after all animals need surgery too, but that -- ferociousness -- was scary.
The Imperial Pharmacist scares me. The Coronet Regal scares me. He’s such a wild boy and he had those vicious, dangerous horses chasing him and dragging him all around. Tanifas kept saying, “Look at that! That’s more dog-like than horse-like!” I’m almost afraid of what kind of animals I’ll find here.
Sofialop just smacked me with her tentacles. She’s been trying to make me look at the Coronet’s pet, JiaKlem. He’s over in the other corner next to Step-Papin. The Coronet I mean, not the domoctopus. He doesn’t really remember Step-Papin but they’re talking about when he was a baby in the Marble Palace.
His friend, Didi, is riding her horse, just outside and I like her. Gybr aren’t nearly as loud and –well—brash as the Arkans. Step-Papin said that one thing he learned under the bad old Imperator was that every Arkan acts like they’re gilded… and Spirit of Life help you if you ever point out the ones using cheap brass instead of gold.
I cuddle Sofialop and try to keep my writing smooth, though the road is good enough that I can write. I’m doing it so I don’t have to talk to the Coronet. His name is Ilesias and he’s, well, this is going to be silly but it’s like he shines almost too bright to look at. If he’s like that and he’s the little brother, what will the Imperator be like?
Step-Papin said that Kurkas shone dark as night, dark as the inside of a cat, and that the Voted-In Imperator shone bright right from the start. If he shines like his little brother I’m not going to be able to look at either of them. But Tanifas isn’t nervous of the Coronet, or the Pharmacist or the First Mahid or anybody and he’s going to be at the celebration because the Imperator says he’s family, just like Step-Papin, and because of Step-Papin, me.
Ilesias just glanced up to see if I were still writing and I made a show of erasing something so he wouldn’t talk to me but he did anyway. “Serina Tirchaer—“
“Just Tirchaer, please, Coronet Regal,” I answered. His grin flashed like a lightning bolt, though I didn’t jump. Why am I so startled by it when it’s turned on me? I mean he smiles almost all the time. And it’s real, or Papin wouldn’t be talking to him like that.
“Tirchaer, then, I was just going to say you should call me Ili. My friends do.” He frowned to himself for a second and then smiled and said, in very careful Haian. “Be welcome to our home. Be free of my things and my good will. Be whole under our roofs and our hands!”
“I didn’t know you spoke Haian, Cor--- um, lli! Wherever did you learn it?” His domoctopus climbed up from under his hair ontop of his head and blushed pink at me. “And what’s your domoctopus’s name?”
“I learned it when my brother and Gan and I were on Haiu Menshir for a while. My friend Didi… you met her at the riding ring… she speaks a lot of languages, even for a Gybr. Eight! In my friends, I’m the dummy who rides and trains horses and hunts and learns… um… well… to fight.” He clears his throat. “You know domoctopi?
“That’s not dumb! You’re really good with animals though the other stuff sounds… well… scary. There. I’ve said it. You do a lot of scary things. Um… yes, I have one,” I pulled Sofi out on my hands and she’s bright pink with white spots. “See? Her name is Sofialop… like the Haian formal name for the species. I want to be an animal healer when I finish my training.” Why am I babbling about myself so much? And to this scary, scary, bright boy? He’s got freckles scattered across his nose… but they’re pale and he’s almost the colour of the paper in my notebook. He’s got the white blond hair braided up, with wisps all around his face making it look a little fluffy, as though he rips a comb through his hair and breaks it. I bet his servants hate that when they keep trying to make him look neat, but he’s obviously not a sulphur because he doesn’t have the generally crumpled look that that constitutional type has.
“JiaKlem is my friend from Haiu Menshir,” he says and the little domoctopus comes down to his hands… bare hands which is strange but then he’s the Coronet Regal… and we’re in the carriage knee to knee holding our pets out to each other, our knees and hands almost touching. “And I get that you might find us Arkans scary. All of us because we’re so –“
“Fosfor,” Papin says quietly. “Burns hot.”
“Thanks, Misahis! Is that why you’ve come back to Arko? You’re attracted to all us roaring fires?”
“Because that and because my wife and my husband both are Researchers and are thrilled with First Amitzas opening those collections to Haiu Menshir.”
Sofi’s got all her tentacles curled up, except the very tippy ends, like a Fringed Shroom, that she’s waving at JiaKlem. I’ve never seen a domoctopus bounce before. He’s very strong to do that out of water. They’re both pale pink with white coral spots on them though the little male is pulsing a darker red every little bit. I lean back and JiaKlem collapses in a suddenly blue-grey puddle on his boy’s hands, tentacles limp. “No, she’s not going away, JiaKlem,” I say. “You can play in the pools at the Winter Palace my step-Papin says.”
“There’s a new swimming bath that my brother had built last year,” The Coronet Regal… Ili says, leaning back, lifting up his pet to check him, though he’s reviving.
“See? You and Sofi can spend time then.” He’s pulsing blue and almost gold now, silly thing, showing off for Sofi. Oh dear. That means I’m going to have to spend time with this terrifying warlike boy. I look down and stop my hands from shaking.
Him, he’s not that bad if a domoctopus picked him. He’s gentle enough. His grandfather is that old Mahid man and his Pseudo-mama, as he calls her. And he plays with thos wild, wild skate-girls, the team, and… I’m just going to die, they all scare me so.
I draw right back and pick up my notebook to hide my trembling fingers. Why did I think I could do this Arkan Empire thing with Step-Papin and Papin and Mamin? Why didn’t I stay home with Uncle Orpininchaer?