Ilesias groaned and waved a vague hand out of the tumble of quilts at whomever had just shaken him, clamping his pillows tighter over his head with his other arm. “Go ‘way, it’s too early.”
“Ilesias Aan, your brother needs you.”
He stilled in the bedclothes, then emerged, wisps of hair pulled out of his sleeping braid wild around his head and face, to stare at Inensa who stood, fully clothed, the wings of her hair dyed black on either side of her face.
“What? Who died, it can’t be my brother… What?” Jia swung down from the canopy where he’d been, perfectly placed to drop on anyone annoying his boy. Inensa gave the octopod a look and he retreated to Ili’s shoulder as if he would never dream of pouncing on her.
“Your brother and Kyriala have just lost a baby. He was stillborn and will be interred as if he had been born, as Spark of the Sun’s Ray. We are all the family Minis has, you, and I, and Amitzas and Tesha. Kyriala is commanded to bed rest in the Temple and may not leave, that she save the baby she carries still.”
“Oh. Wow. The Temple could only save one?”
“It appears so. Ilesias, please do not be so cavalier before your older brother. Even though the baby was prematurely and still born, he deserves proper respect.”
“Oh. Yes, pseudo-mama.”
“I have mourning dye for you once you have cascaded and suitably somber clothing for the internment ritual.”
“Thank you.” He paused, sliding out of the bed, dragging the whole lot of feather quilts and silk sheets after himself. “I can be happy there’s still a live baby and cry for the dead boy? I don’t know if I can do that at the same time.” He went behind the screen and flung his nightshirt over it, to hang like a discarded skin, and left the door of the baths open so she could continue to speak to him.
“Place your joy for the survivor away for now. Let what grief you have come forward. Your elder brother must stay with his wife in the Temple. They mourned all last night. You and I and Amitzas; Tesha and Kyriala’s family will carry the baby to the Hall of Imperators and we will see him laid to rest, with the Fenjitzas.”
“So I will lay him in the tomb.” It wasn’t a question. He’d been taught all the rites, as Spark of the Sun’s Ray.
“Yes, Ilesias.” She beckoned the servants forward as he came out, but stayed behind his modesty screen. “That is why we are doing this so early and why there is no breakfast waiting for you. You should eat after but formal court breakfasts are suspended.”
“For the mourning time yes. How long is it for an unborn baby? It’s not as long as for a born one.”
“All of this moon.” She settled down on a stiff brocade chair by the door and ignored JiaKlem who had crawled into her arms. Mostly. One black and white brocade glove slowly stroked over the little domestic octopus’s head, leaving a trail of brocade pattern over his skin as he matched patterns. The servants efficiently whisked the wet towels, used brushes, dye pot and everything else quietly out of the room.
“Pseudo-mama.” Ili stepped out from behind the screen, somberly dressed, hair immaculately smooth almost sweeping the floor, mourning dye combed into his forelock. “Will you need to grieve? Will you need my help or witness?”
She caught her breath and her hands on JiaKlem stopped. One hand came up to touch the mother stone at her neck. “Thank you for asking, Ilesias. Thank you for thinking of it. I… should show nothing. I admit that I have wept for my grandson who will never breathe. I will likely weep again, in private, where no one can see my disarray.”
“All right.” He went to one knee as a son to a mother. “Inensa Mahid, you have been my mother since the Sack of Arko and my brother has always said that any family we have left, after that fire, is precious. I shall be very grown up and offer you my arm for this grievous act that we do for your son-- my brother-- and his wife.”
He held out his elbow to her and her hand dropped from the mother stone to rest lightly on it as they both rose. He didn’t even come up to her shoulder yet, but she nodded solemnly and without taking her hand from his arm swept a grand curtsey. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray, for now, Coronet Regal in truth. Let us bury our own.”