Minis was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming. It was his old nightmare of being caught in his father’s body, in his father’s sensibilities. I am not that. I do not make sexual toys of my enemies. I do not relish the taste of blood. Screaming makes me want to rush to the one in pain and help them.
*You are too Haian, boy.*
*No. I refuse to be you. I refuse to enjoy myself the way you did. Besides, you’re dead and honourably buried. How are you here talking to me?*
*Being presented in the Temple put part of me in here. I am become as a God. But it’s boring. Muunas and Aras and Mikas… even the two dirt Gods have more control than I do.*
*Good. You were a bad Imperator and a bad man.*
*I did what I wanted. When I wanted. I was feared, my little skin tag. Stop trying to fix this broken God Mechanism and let Ergas absorb you. There are no more emotions to drive you, once that happens. I am here. I dream. Dream with me. Dream with all of us.*
*Eww. Even dead and dispassionate you are vile. But what do you mean, all of you?*
I am falling into Muunas’s Eyes and there is a hall of Crystal Thrones, each with a different man… a different person… on it. I am sitting on my own Crystal Throne.There is even an image of Shefenkas waving. The blond woman… his sister… beside him, on her own throne, is a faded outline, a pale ghost. A place holder, with only the faintest connection with the Temple.
In fact the various Imperators and… yes… Imperatrixes… are varying degrees of transparent. Some are faint, some are as solid as if they were bodily present. Kallijas is next to me. He never did the Ten Tens as my regent, but he is more real than some of the Imperators. He leans over and gives me what I called ‘his encouraging look’.
Then someone else leans out of the crowd. I know him. His eyes are full of sadness. *Descendant. You call on my memory all the time, lad. These are copies of the humans who have done the Ten Tens. Or any sketchy ritual, wearing the seals. The Ten Tens ensures we are ‘taken up’ by the Temple.* It is Illesias the Great, leaning forward, gazing at me intently.
*If you continue this ordeal, you will be taken up completely, lad. You will die and your Heir will be Imperator, with your Imperatrix as regent.*
*But the Temple is broken, Ancestor.* I bow respectfully. *There is a solution without me sacrificing myself, isn’t there?* I suddenly realize why Imperators cultivate the ‘paunch’. It gives them more energy here. More time inside the Temple’s mind. I am hopeful that one of these men has an answer for me.
*One person alone does not have the strength to sort through this mess, my distant son.* He waves at Chevenga, who smiles. *He was one of those who taught you that. Look there for your answer for you. In fact you have most of it in place already. Argos is fighting to fix itself with your assistance. Risae sent Mella to find your solution in the foundations of our civilization. She Herself is being amended, even as we speak. Brutal Goddess that She is, She is finding out that fixing Herself doesn’t involve more cutting, rather more healing.*
*Then I will endure. It is reassuring to know that You are all here. Even him.* I point at my father, a pale and transparent blob, sitting on the throne, playing with his fingers, waving them before his face like a little baby.
*You have enough strength for one more day before you dissolve completely and come here, Minis Kurkas Joras Amitzas Aan. Figure it out before then.*