On the dinner cart, next to the covered dishes, lay an intricately woven ribbon, bright with silver threads. Lixand picked it up and the servant said “Should the gentleser wish to stay out late in his forays into the city, Ser. This is the key that allows the Ser back into his suite without disturbance by the guards.”
“I see. These must be incredibly valuable.”
The servant shrugged. “A courtesy, to our guests. The patterns change over time so an old one cannot be used indefinitely.”
The food was unsettling. He had to drink a glass of water before he could consider eating any of it, though some chef had included a tasting plate of what he thought Brahvnikian foods were. His stomach settled as he found that some were comforting. He’d not thought that there would be any Arkan delicacies that he still missed. “I’m… glad I came,” he muttered to himself and wished his over-the-nose filter away.
For a moment he regretted it, clenching his teeth against the sudden surge of nausea. But it subsided and all of the food he’d just eaten ceased trying to exit at high speed. Shaking, he clung to the edge of the table and then managed to hang onto his calm.
It was already past Rim sunset when he stepped out of the Black Gate, with his ribbon key slung around his neck, paused and looked around the square. There were booths being set up between the lake Boardwalk and the main square, likely the food-sellers for the Imbas Festival. In an open space a pair of fire-jugglers displayed their artform early, batons trailing red and gold tails of flame.
Lixand tucked a thumb into his belt and sauntered over to the Temple, trying for a dangerous slink rather than a nervous shuffle, and swallowed hard as he walked up the steps and into the open doors.
He had to stop, and just stare. This hall alone was double the size of Koru’s Temple in Brahvniki and the amount of money displayed under the soaring roof just made his merchant’s soul gibber. The choir’s voices soared up and he couldn’t help gazing up into the eyes of the great statues of the Gods. If I had known, I would have come here for comfort when I was a dancing boy/sex slave. But his owners hadn’t cared to even let his slaves have that comfort. He’d not thought they needed anything but feeding and tending and training, like his horses or his dogs. I’m not sorry you’re dead, he thought.
He took a breath and stepped in, beginning to look for a priest or acolyte to direct him to his mother when his eyes locked on her. In his head he just had to whine, Maataaaa. How could you?
She was sitting, eyes closed, cross-legged, on Mikas’s shoulder, her long, pitch-black hair coiling down, loose over the God’s stone chest and arm.
Note to Intharas, from the Imperator’s Desk: As I said, I will try to write about this…
“My first child is now a full eight day in his tomb and I am beginning to understand Ilesias the Great’s disintegration after the death of Sinimas – His only child.
In my dreams I dandle the babe on my knee and he speaks to me like a much older child, like an adult in a child’s body. My wife and I find that in our dreams we ask “Did we fail you?” and the answer, blessedly, has been “No.”
Ilesias wrote how He could not give up His rage at the Gods for taking his only child, and thus locked himself out of the Selestial Realms. He acknowledges that He ruined Himself as an Imperator doing so. He is unapologetic in His fury ad I finally understand that frustrated rage on a visceral level, though I find comfort in my prayers.
I must give up this grief, for the sake of his sibling, still alive, still moving. I can lay my ear upon my Radiant wife’s belly and have him kick me in the cheek while I search for a heartbeat. I admit I laughed and then felt guilt for my mirth in a time of mourning.
I feel both at the same time. Joy anticipated and whenever I take a breath, a pause, when I stop to think I find myself overwhelmed with sadness. Once the Arkan Assembly begins again – they are debating sitting in the Temple itself, in the new part, as a courtesy to my wife and I, since neither of us shall leave until our child is born.
Kyriala is so strong. She can smile and say that the boy is safe away from all harm in Risae’s hands, even as she weeps… I must put down my pen for a moment… I shall write more later.