“Ilesias Tathanas Kurkas Joras Aan.” Minis wasn’t sure he could keep a straight face as Ili set his hands behind his back and stood at attention. His ‘heroic suffering’ face would have been more effective if he hadn’t had two black eyes and a tuft of hair pulled out of one side of his head.
The Fenjitzas’s office was in the corridor up near the roof, between Aras and Muunas and full of books. There was a lapdesk propped against one of the bookshelves and other than that, sitting cushions on the plain, black marble floor.
“Are you trying to cultivate a reputation as a worse rakehayel than I?” He did’t pause to let Ili answer but lifted up the papers before him. “Fluffy cracked a dozen lenses in the Firefountains, your companions, attempting to keep up suffered a dozen small injuries, not the least of which were being scratched and pecked as they attempted to assist the fowlers in catching their stock after Fluffy didn’t make that turn!”
“It was only the one stack of cages and the turkeys were mostly not hurt! I even caught the ones clinging to Fluffy and gave them back after!” But his protest was half-hearted and he stared down at his toes.
“That is not the point, young man!” Minis cast his eyes back down to the papers in his hands, trying hard not to laugh at the image in his mind of Fluffy romping down the Avenue of Statuary, with turkeys both two and four-legged clinging frantically to her fur, gobbling their heads off. He was nearly as annoyed with Ili as he was amused.
“It was funny!” Ili looked up and then down again as Minis frowned at him.
“Oh? And taking Fluffy to the Fig, getting the beast drunk so that she broke the Exchequer building staggering into it, then stealing random casks and drinking them, looking for more liquor until she hit the hot pepper oil?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her! And the Exchequer building… it was only a corner and if it broke that easily then the mortar was bad and we need to investigate that builder and…”
Minis flung his hand up to stop the flood of explanation. “You managed to guide her out the tunnel and then let her run off the chili oil, even after she smacked you in the face with her mahu’s goad, then brought everyone back safe with you. Which is good, but Ilesias…” He stared hard at Ili who glared back at him, as best he could with two black eyes. “It’s about your nephew, isn’t it?”
Ili looked away. “Ye…um… n… I…”
“I understand that. But I’m sorry you couldn’t see how your acting up would hurt me and Ky and Gan and Fara. Inensa and Amitzas are terribly disappointed…”
“IT’S NOT FAIR! YOU GOT FAMILY AND YOU ACTED OUT AND YOU WERE A LITTLE SHEN AND I’M NOT ALLOWED!” Ili stood, shaking, his arms wrapped around his middle. “I’ve got nobody!”
“Ili.” Minis held his breath against the tears and rage roaring through his chest. How dare you, you little monster…no. no. no. “You have a lot more than ‘nobody’,” he managed to say. He coughed and struggled to calm himself down, realizing that his rage would do nothing but harm. And he could understand where his little brother was coming from. He shook his head and opened his arms to him. “You have me. Come here, Blob.”
It was the silly nickname that broke through Ili’s tantrum. He stared at Minis, sitting there, arms open to hug him and flung himself into his older brother’s lap, wailing like a much younger boy.
Thank you, Ten Gods, and all my healers, Minis thought. He’s not a bad boy and we’ve not mourned together, though we’re family.
“Ilesias,” he said, when Ili finally sniffled into silence. “You did wrong and you hurt Fluffy. She’s recovering from a hangover and chili oil pain at the same time. Half the horses with you are bruised and lamed, including the ones Centurion Frenaria and her rag-tag escort grabbed to try and stop you. You are not going to just be able to pay these people and forget it happened.”
He sat up and ran a sleeve under his nose. “Yeha, Shithead.”
Minis nodded solemnly. “As well as extra research essays, and paying for the Fowler’s market and Fig damages, you and your companions… except for Tirchaer who, I understand, was enticed along with you, by you… she will be cataloguing specimens with her parents in the Pharmacists’ Museum… The rest of you will be living like fessas stone-mason’s apprentices, working on fixing the Exchequer Building, under Master Arnen Kilkulas.”
Ili thought about it. “That’s not fair, either,” he said. “Serina Tirchaer was brought along because I persuaded her, under protest.”
“And my companions are required to be with me,” he plowed on, resolutely. “So they shouldn’t have to do hard labour, either.”
“So what you’re saying is ‘it’s all your fault?’” Minis asked, gently.
“Yes. They shouldn’t suffer because of me. You taught me that, Minis!”
“So I did. Let us begin with my pronouncement then, Blob. After a few eight-days, we’ll review your sentences.” He felt like there was an entire cask of tears in his chest and no way to relieve them.
He wasn’t going to weep on his little brother. I’m in the position of his father and reversing who cares for whom is just wrong. I… can go to my loves, or to the Fenjitzae, or even to the Ten for surcease from my pain.
He leaned forward and hugged Ili, hard. “Well, I won’t have you flogged up and down the Avenue of Statuary, anyway. It wasn’t THAT bad.”
“Were Assemblypeeps asking for you to do that to me?” Ili’s eyes were round. Bella, lying to one side, barked and twitched in her sleep.
“Some of them. They’re the older ones who think that Mahid training should be brought back.”
“Ooooh. Hey, you didn’t even spank me!”
Minis raised one eyebrow and held up an illustrative hand, heavy with the Seals. “That would be like flogging you.”
“Right.” Ili touched his face, gingerly. “This is going to be a funny story one day, isn’t it? Since nobody died?”
“One day,” Minis said. “Go on with you, you scamp. It’s not that day and won’t be for a long time.”