Minis and Gannara’s heads snapped around as the Fenjitzas beckoned them from the hall to the rooms behind, and they scrambled to their feet almost as one, clinging to each other.
The blood on Minis’s whites had crusted brown even on the gold trim, dried hard into a crackle on his hands. “Gannara… come sit with your wife,” Radas said, softly. “She’s still unconscious but you both should sit with her.” He turned to Minis. “Why don’t you send for some other clothes, Minis? You can get cleaned up while they’re fetching them, then you can sit with Farasha and Kyriala.”
“What? Oh. I suppose.” He didn’t want to let go of Gannara but he couldn’t keep wearing this. Gan hugged him hard.
“Hey, you need to have servants clean you up, you woolgatherer?” He teased, weakly. It was hardly funny but he was trying.
“No, thank you.” Minis tried to find strength in him somewhere to tease back and found that there was nothing there. “Sorry, Gan. I’ll be in to sit with you in a moment.”
This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. There’s supposed to be a happy ending to all the disasters and troubles. This isn’t fair. Don’t be stupid, you bonehead. Shen happens. Mahid own you. Cities get sacked. People die. People get hurt. I don’t deserve better because I suffered. It just happens. Especially when its an illness. Mother said it was passed on by the males. If that’s the same in people then I did this by not insisting we sleep in the Temple until the babies are born. It’s in my body.
The monster that is attacking my children came from me, and it is threatening Ky. Oh, beloved. Oh, Ten, oh Ten, don’t take her from me. I love her. I need her. I’m… I’m bereft without you. I always have been. I love you. I love you. I love you. Don’t die beloveds. Farasha… oh Ten.
His mind ran in circles as the water poured down over his head, icy because he’d just turned on the water and watched it slowly scour her precious blood off his hands, before stepping into the priests’ cascade.
The water felt unreal and he stared at his hands on the stone wall, unseeing. Come on, boy. Move. Do what you can. Keep breathing. Help Gan. Keep praying. That’s all you can do.
Outside he found an acolyte… one he didn’t recognize... with towels and a plain priest’s robe. “This humble one thought it would be quicker, since the Exulted’s clothing hasn’t come over yet,” he said faintly.
Minis took the towel blindly and pressed his face into it. “Thank you,” he said, through it. “Here, I’ll just throw this on and you can take me to my family.” He managed a tremulous smile for the boy. “I’m certain the Ten will hold their hands over us all,” he said.
Is this how good priests learn their unearthly calm? Carrying on in the face of pain and fear? Holding fast to hope? Somehow, hope.
As he stepped out into the hall there was a wild squawking and Doof landed clumsily on his shoulder, slid down into his arms, cuddling him. “Sad. Sad. Sad!” She exclaimed and pushed her head up under his chin. “This isn’t a disaster,” she said in Yeoli, in Chevenga’s voice. He lost a child in the stream. He nearly lost his marriage in that stream.
He cuddled the parrot in his arms as she made weeping noises and nodded his thanks to the acolyte who opened the door for him. “Thank you,” he said. “Is she awake, Gan?”
“Yes, I am, my dear,” Farasha said from the bed, raising her hand to him. “The baby and I are fine.” Gan had her other hand in both of his. Akminchaer looked up from the table next to the bed.
“I don’t know what the Temple did, but it stopped the miscarriage,” he said. “And fixed the problem. She should be fine. Excuse me, I’m going back to Kyriala.”
“Is she all right, should I come with you?” Minis had dumped the bird on Farasha’s bed and taken her hand and made to get up from where he’d sunk down.
“No, no… she’s still comatose and…I need to go. The Fenjitza is fighting to save this baby too.”
“Go, go on, do all you can.” Minis settled back, his eyes locked on the door as it closed behind Akminchaer. Doof crawled up to Farasha’s head and rubbed her beak on her cheek, cooing.
“Politicians,” she said. “Like cockroaches. Can’t get rid of them with a hammer. Tehammo,” she purred. Farasha and Gan snorted a laugh that fell off them and sank into the floor as Minis tried to smile.
“I need to be more careful what I say around you, bird,” he said softly, cupping Gan’s hand over Farasha’s hair. Hope and family. I need to be strong, somehow.