“THIS IS AN ACT OF REBELLION AND HERESY! IT’S WAR AND WE NEED TO DEFEND ARKO WITH EVERYTHING WE’VE GOT, ASSEMBLY, LISTEN TO ME!” Assemblyman Konoen bellowed with considerable authority, robes flapping as he thundered Minis shifted slightly on the Crystal Throne and looked across to the Great Bead Clock. He’d been going on for a full bead and showed no sign of slowing anytime soon. The emergency session of Assembly had begun badly and devolved into a screaming match between the more conservative factions and the two more liberal factions on what the Government was to do.
Minis nodded down to the Speaker who knew that he had to leave early to prepare for the Solstice but his leaving wouldn’t stop the debate, which would likely go on all night. The interrupt chime rang through Konoen’s rolling tones and Minis rose, carefully leaving the Robe behind on the Throne as a place holder for him. He drew in a deep breath as everyone turned to him.
“My profound apologies to the Honourable Assembly Members,” he said. “I am called away by my religious duty and must say that I shall not skimp there. Especially since we are dealing with a threat to Arko’s constitution. If I might remind the Assembly that these people are still our people under coercion and threat of violence.” I shouldn’t have sneaked that in there, he thought. The moderates have only had a pair of speakers and haven’t really had a chance to make their points yet. Ili should have landed by now and we need to get robed up. Hayel how do we do the sunwalk with the new part of the Temple?
He crossed his hands over his heart and bowed his head until the Speaker let him go. “With Our Good will, Imperator.” As the door closed behind him he could hear Konoen start up again.
“Minis! Minis! HEY, Minis! The Fenjitzas says we have to wear the armour for the rite because there’s been blood spilled in the land!” Ili trotted up, already in the gilded armour of the new Sun, helmet tucked under his arm.
“Shush, please Ilesisas.” Minis frowned at him. “We have a situation but we truly don’t have all the information we need. I’ll explain it once we’ve done the rite... Ky! You came down!”
She tilted her head at him and tapped him on the shoulder with her fan. “Yes, it was only a short hop with a wing.” She wore Selinae’s silver today, the red streak in her hair matched with silver ribbons on the other side.
“The Sun rite in armour,” Minis muttered and then nodded at the priests carrying it all. “It’s almost time.”
The armour of the Old Sun was a darkened gold with black slashes, worn over black silk, identical to Ili’s armour but his was bright gold over white. “Go on, Ili... you need to be carried over and tucked away behind your black curtain...”
“That’s in the new part, Min! And you and I will touch swords on a rondel right at the back... and...”
“Go... I’ll let Itasas explain.” Ili flung his arms around his big brother, clashing their breastplates together before running down to where his curtained palanquin waited.
“Imperator, the sunwalk is laid out in the Temple for you, for you to follow and each hymn is marked. It goes in behind Muunas’s image now and the Coronet will follow it out the other side so the whole wheel of the year covers the whole Temple.”
“I’ll have to walk faster then,” Minis said, nervousness rising to catch him by the throat. This is the first time I’ve ever done this rite in armour. My father never acknowledged war on Arkan soil this way. I’m about to have Intharas ask me what in Hayel is going on.
Waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs was one of the Imperial Dulis. A fiery tempered stallion named Jakinkas, who was full enough of himself to prance all the way across the square as if he were on parade, carefully stomping and dancing along the red carpet leading up to the Temple steps.
“I keep wanting to tell you ‘Equus, stand down,’” Minis hissed at him from behind the helmet’s golden face. But Jakinkas just snorted and lashed his tail hard enough that the glittery armour spikes in it smashed against his barding.
“HAIL THE SUN! HAIL THE SUN!” People chanted and flung marigolds and other golden flowers in front of him. But he was the old sun, so the flowers were dried and broke into dust under Jakinkas’s iron shod hooves.
It nearly made him sneeze as he alighted on the Temple stairs and acolytes held the horse’s bridle but he managed to sniff and stop it. There’s nothing quite so disgusting as sneezing inside a close-face helmet, he thought, then sternly called himself to order. Calm. Breathe deep. Let the Ten in.
And he began the turn of the year, pretending to grow older and slower and more bent as he followed the sunwalk cloth up inside, to the swelling of the first hymn sung by the whole crowd along with the choir.