Minis rose and paced, his hands behind his back. Not a good idea in a room trap-darted but he didn’t think it was likely that Matthas would go rogue on him and dart him, or Vitlak would suddenly try to kill him. He stopped at the cart and poured himself a cup of kaf, grabbed another couple of beef rolls and the bottle of black sauce. “Megan,” he said thoughtfully. “It sounds to me like the Fehinnan God-King is a slaver to his bones, since he steals other people’s bodies, not just their freedoms.”
“Dah. Shkai’ra said he was a nice kid, though very innocent, before Rik… the God-King… moved in. She would have been here to translate Fehinnan for you except that she’s about to give birth and is recovering from our last trading trip. She actually spoke it for years, as a mercenary.”
“Hmm. Megan, I don’t know if there’s Fehinnan fingers in my political cake, but if I can get you placed into the new Fehinnan ambassador’s household… not as a bed-slave, let me assure you… but –“
“—as an entertainer. I do acrobatics, though I’m getting a bit old for that, doing,” she said. “Dah. I could listen. I have just an act, for such, a slack-rope walking.” She leaned back, pinching her chin thoughtfully. “Throw a dinner party, you could, for new ambassador, let me play and you reward me by letting me sit and eat with you all, hmmm?”
“That’s a good idea—“ Atzana’s tap sounded on the door just as it opened, to reveal the Temple’s newest taken-up, and his acolyte standing there. Megan was on her feet, Minis noted, not knowing his welcomists signal. “Yes? What do you require, Matthas?” This could get confusing with all the Matthas’s around.
“I’m sorry, Imperator, he came up and just wandered around my office, um, sniffing,” Atzana said, just as Atzathratzas chimed in with “He was in his bed in the Temple and just sat up suddenly. I got him to put some robes on before he wandered over here naked. He, um, went to the Imperial Chapel first and sat there for a while.”
Matthas Mahid was at the window, hands and nose pressed hard against the glass, turned toward the Temple, eyes closed. Then he turned as though sleep walking, sniffing like a dog.
“Excuse me, Megan, this is… or was, one of my Mahid. He’s not really Mahid any longer… he’s sort of possessed by the Temple.”
“A kind of magic? My people would call it manrauq. I wouldn’t think that Arkans had any kind of magic at all.”
“Just from the Gods, look out there –“ Atzathratzas pulled the cart out of Matthas’s way since he would have just walked right over it, turning towards Megan when she spoke. She slid sideways as he moved to where she’d been standing.
“Matthas Mahid, what are you doing?” Atzathratzas, with his notebook, slid into his grip, and still with his eyes closed his hands darted out to touch over the acolytes’ face.
“Not right,” he muttered. “Where is it?”
“What are you looking for, Matthas?”
“Power. Not you, Imperator,” he muttered. “Power. Risae commands. Mikas commands. Biolgical power source.”
“Power?” Megan said and he turned toward her voice, questing.
“You can’t just touch people without permission, Matthas,” Minis said. “I should have the guards take you back to the Temple.”
“No. Mikas commands,” he responded. “May I touch power?” Megan had moved all the way around the room to the door.
“Matthas are you asking permission to touch Megan Vitlak?”
His outstretched hand swung to follow her as she moved, glove tips quivering. He said, “please?”
She hesitated for a long moment before she said ‘Yes, you may.’ He stepped forward slowly and his fingertips gently brushed her cheek, her nose, her eyebrow, stopped at her temple and down to where her heartbeat pulsed under her ear. She tensed and he stepped back, his hand dropping slowly.
“There. Is that sufficient, Matthas? Will you go back to the Temple now?”
He hesitated, swaying where he stood. Then he straightened suddenly, snapping to Mahid attention and everyone recoiled. “Imperator. I have been partly released by the Temple to explain. There is a power source the making Gods have never seen before and they require me to find it.” His eyes closed again and his stance changed, an echoing woman’s voice, the divine tones of Risae, came out of his mouth. “Vitlak. Rus descent? Ah. Deteriorating genes. We can fix that little problem without you becoming a wampir. Will you come to the Temple to speak to Us?”