Friday, July 31, 2015

174 - What Are You DOING?

It was whiskers in my ear that woke me.  I was still in Muunas’s hand and the sun was risen by the light, but not yet high enough to burn down on me.  My skin didn’t hurt anymore and my eyes were all right and not seeing afterimages of the sun-disk over everything.

The whiskers.  I was warm and had what felt like a fur blanket over me.  I opened my eyes to look straight up into the breast-feathers of one of the white Temple eagles perched on Muunas’s fingertips over my head. Its crest was up and it mantled a bit and shifted, finger-long silvery claws scratching the marble.

I tried to turn my head but my hair was held. I managed to raise my head a trifle and realized that my hair was full of Risae’s rats, and mice, and I could hear her kittens purring, around my feet. It had been a mouse or… one of Anae’s ferrets who had sniffled in my ear.

I had one of Aras’s hounds across my feet and a pair of Dimae’s white and gold dogs across my chest and stomach.  Selinae’s marble hair wove across the Temple space and made a halo for Muunas and in the strands above me, Doof sat, a scarlet patch in the middle of all the white. I was lucky none of the birds had chalked on me.

I was able to move before the sun rose and I would have to take my place again, for the Gods had only begun to answer.  I shifted and the kittens complained and set tiny claws against my calves and toes and I tried not to swear or giggle and finally said. “I thank you all, for keeping me safe and warm here, creatures of the Ten, but I need to get up.”

I had one mouse that wouldn’t leave, clinging to my hair, tail curled around my ear, while the wave of fur and feathers slowly evaporated, clicking or flying or skittering away to their priests and dekinae keepers, enough to let me up.

I hadn’t drunk anything the day before, and didn’t need to empty my bladder. I sat up in Muunas’s palm and checked myself over.

My skin was tan as a solas on campaign, but I wasn’t burned raw the way I’d thought. I felt… all right.  The choir, whose members changed slowly over the day and the night, were still singing and the sound reverberated through me. I gazed out over the sanctuary at all the people sitting in the pews, singing with the choir, or merely bearing silent witness.  Lain’s water cart sat at Muunas’s feet, the donkey no longer in its traces.

I shook my head at them all and resolutely lay down once more, as the first rays of the sun touched my head.


Where are You? The fields and barns are empty. The mill stands idle, the water sluices closed. The stable doors hang open and herds wander unsupervised. Where is Imbas? Where is Oas?

The tack-room door is open and a murmur of Voices calls me.  Imbas and Oas sit on white blankets thrown over bales of straw. They’re drinking beer and have been for a while from the evidence of empty amphorae scattered around Their divine feet.  The two of them ignore the scattered Sha pieces on the brick, the inlaid board for playing ‘Mill’ at Oas’s elbow.

They’re giggling with one another, playing ‘Comb, Fan, Glove’ bare handed, and Oas slaps Imbas’s winning comb away, thumps his elbow on the table demanding “Thumb-wrestle!”

“What on the Earthsphere are You both DOING?!” I exclaim and then clap my hands over my mouth. What was I doing, demanding anything of the Gods? They turn bright and burning eyes on me.

“Playing,” Imbas says and waves an expansive hand. “The women are cleaning again.”

“So…” I shake my head.  “It’s not right that I ask such questions.” I get down on the stable floor, on my knees and begin picking up scattered game pieces from the floor.  It’s not just Sha. There’s Mrik pieces, Steeplechase horses from Tor Ench, People-Building figurines from Haiu Menshir, Word Tiles from Yeola-e, Niah balancing Nikus.

“The cases for them are here,” I see a wall of games standing empty. And I look at the mess all around my feet. The pieces aren’t whole, some have been stepped on, driven into the dirt floor; some nearly crushed. I  carefully begin putting the damaged pieces aside, sorting them into their slots in their cases. There is a whole ‘Empire Builder’ game with a miniature of Arko and  a sand table where one can make a landscape before pouring water into it from one end.

There’s a miniature Temple and though it has shiny new parts there’s big parts of it broken off and I can see the winding mechanism is jammed. I pick up the jeweller’s tools and gently take the cover off, and begin taking the mechanism apart.

I did that with one of my machines when I was young, and cried when I couldn’t get it back together.  Father had just ordered it fixed, but I had sat at the maker’s elbow and watched as he’d put things right.

“Am I helping?” I ask, laying out screws the thickness of eyelashes. “Or am I just making things worse?  I don’t know how this works, but I can see where it’s not meshing. This… here… is broken into a hundred pieces.”

“You are helping.  We shall clean these parts. You’ll take them to Mikas when it’s all apart.”

“All right.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

173 - Work Session

Cool water.  Anae… Thank you Goddess for sending your own… bio repair cleanse sub-routine back-up enabled. Cleansed. Cleanse and break down toxins. Error. Block sections 45BV@@ribonucleotides to… Revery. Sleep.

… “I swear, you children are just so messy!” The voice is indulgent, a little breathless?  How can a Goddess be breathless? “I deplore mold. It is a shame that Ru…Ruu..Risae… needs it so consistently.” Scrubbing and scouring noises.  “Mel… Mel… Mel…Mella and Ot..Ot…Oas and Imbas are always bringing their dirt in here.  Mud, fertilizer, compost teas, asteroids.” She clucked reprovingly to herself.  “So hard to keep sterile. So hard to keep pristine. Oxytank seepage grows algae where I need tom… tomatoes…”

“Goddess?” I call and I am suddenly sitting in an Arkan kitchen.  It has an alcohol stove, but it seems to be burning with no fuel bottle or lines. The kitchen is cool despite the light that gives off no fumes at all.  The table is white and pristine. The floor is tiled in pale clay, white and blue.  The towels hanging over the sink were incredible blue, next to the water spigot open and pouring water endlessly into the basin.  The door to the kitchen garden stood open and the white chickens pecked in glisteningly clean quartz crystal gravel.

“There you are.” The Goddess is there.  I didn’t see her come in. She has her hair short, though no longer shaved so close, the waves of hair sweetly curling over the browband with a green and glowing stone in the centre and at the temples.  She sets a cutting board before me; hands me a knife that is long as my hand and like a razor.  On the board are a pile of onions. Rotting onions. I try and lean back to avoid getting that stink up my nose and stop. She’s watching.

“Is it beneath you to cut onions?”

“No, of course not. I just don’t know if there’s any good in this pile.”  My hands like the feel of this knife. It's white and I don't think it is steel at all.  A ferret runs in and climbs up her apron, into the big pocket just under her belt.

“Try.” She sets out a set of metal bowls before me and a hole opens in the table.  “That’s the disposal.” She drops a scrap of leaf into the hole and there’s a flare of light and it’s gone.  “Broken down for re-use. This bowl is for good onion. This bowl is for Risae’s muck… this green, here.” Her finger taps a moldy spot. “This hue.” The finger moved and tapped another. “This colour blue.”  Her hand waved over the rest. “This bowl for this colour. That bowl for that. Sort out the rest to be broken down. Then We can fix this part.”

“Thank you, Goddess.  Thank you, for your scrubber, your washer man who threw water on me.”

“Lain's a good one.” She sniffed. “We couldn’t have you damaged while We fix things. Argos is terribly damaged and limping along as best he can, poor dear.  You were sweaty and if you got any more sunburned you’d be bloody and that frightens people.”

“Thank you for not letting me get that deteriorated.” I was mucky to the elbows in onion bits, rot, brown juice. But there were bits going into all the bowls as She turned to the stove. “You may have iced kaf, after you work.  The bits to go to Risae should help you fix the internal environmentals in the city.”

“I don’t understand, Goddess.”

“That’s all right. You need to work on fixing things till Mur…Mu…unas and Selina can gather up the threads and re-weave.”

“Am I dreaming?”

“No. You’re working.”

There are no more ruined onions to sort, but I’m dirty and tears are running out of my eyes.

“Dip the knife into the hole.” I do and it flashes clean.  “Now your hands.”

For only an instant, a shiver of hesitation, I waver, and her smile at me fades, a bit. But I trust the Gods and I’ve put my hands in molten metal and glass at the Ten’s will. I thrust my hands, one at a time into the hole, but clench my eyes shut. She chuckles at me as there’s a warm flash that tingles and I pull my hand out of the hole clean. The second hand goes in without me dithering about it.

“Should this be so informal?” I ask.  My hands are perfectly clean and dry. The seals are blindingly clean and glittering.

“This is a work session, boy,” She says, putting the bowls away and setting a frosted glass of ice kaf with ice milk in front of me. “Not a test.”

“Thank you, Goddess,” I take up the glass and the icy liquid slides down my throat, sending tendrils of coolness through my body. She nods and – when did She start sweeping?—touches the top of my head with the broomhandle.

“Sleep.” She says.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

172 - One of the Populous

The first tenth is the hardest. Minis told himself. Then he found out how hard the second tenth was.  He had an idea of how long he’d been lying in the light by the songs.  The hymns helped him keep track… at least at first.

Then he started getting gaps in his memory as his thoughts wound around and around how badly he hurt, how much he felt like he was frying in Muunas’s palm.  Surely the Temple wouldn’t let him be damaged, but the Temple didn’t care, as long as there was an Heir and a Coronet.

burning. Help me, oh Ten… Help me… help us… I lay myself in destruction’s way to beseech you.  Assembly has commanded.  My people will that I come before you.  Let me humbly beg your attention.

…CLICK… Healing protocols engaged… Argos sub-section #456656BZEEE %%%%%%%% ##### error… repair codes?? IMPERIAL OVERIDE.  M#####s Aan authorized…


…do you need fixing?...


You have anything you need from me, Ergas… let me speak to the Gods…


Temple. Repair yourself.

…attempting… error… repair code A a N 1… working… Operator: repair protocols active in sections 1a through 10zazz, 4,555,230,000 inactive 1,974,135,556,345 Isolate damage?

Ergas. I am First Minis Kurkas Amitzas Aan. Repair all the damage…


His frustration grew and as he got angry and fearful, the pain in his body came up sharply. He forced himself to relax and as he relaxed the horrific pain faded.

How long has it been? The crowd were still singing, following the choir’s lead.  “Exalt Us, Oh Ten!”

He could feel a pair of tears roll out under his clenched closed eyes, roll down his temples, evaporating and leaving a stinging, itchy trail into his hair.  If they hit the stone will they sizzle as they evaporate?

He took a deep breath and tried hard to relax.  He let his eyes relax, and his jaw, and his neck. He managed to open his eyes a slit and then opened them with relief.  The sun was shining through the slit almost sideways as it sank toward the Rim and was only barely on him.

That was when the commotion started on the floor the the Temple.  "I DON' CARE IF THE TEN KILL ME! GET BACK! GEROFF ME!"

Minis couldn’t take his attention from this but he could hear that people were crying out to someone else.  An okas name.

People cried out in horror, or held their breaths. The choir continued on, resolutely as the crowd gasped in wonder this time.  

A cool splash of water startled Minis and he twitched, turned his head to see.  The okas stood, empty bucket in his hands, in a belligerent stance as he dropped his bucket down to his water cart, complete with white temple house-donkey, drew up a second that he hurled onto Minis where he lay. Priests all around stood, hands raised as the okas not only touched the High God but stood on His lap.

“YEAH, WELL Y’ SAID HE WEREN’T TO TAKE WATER! HE AIN’T.  NOTHIN’ SAY I CAIN’T GIVE IT!” The man shouted and flung a third bucket over Minis where he lay, delightfully cool.  “I’M ONE WHO VOTED FER THIS ‘UN AND SOME POLITICIANS GOT A BUG UP THEIR ARSE AN’ ARE TRYIN’ TE GET RID O’ MY VOTE!”  Another bucket of blessedly cool water, poured over Minis and dripped onto the Temple floor, forming a pool under Muunas’s hand.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

171 - Is General Mud Dead?

“Mah good Gad!” Kaylebuh couldn’t help the exclamation, as the Hound rounded the outer island of Haiu Menshir.  First of all the islands were green, covered with jungle-lush vegetation, with wide swaths of beaches, pink and white and black sand, draped with seaweed mounds raked aside here and there to give invalids easier access to the water. Naked children ran along the beaches, waving, people lay in the shaded verges, some waving, some not, depending on how healed they were, he supposed.

Flyers soared above, mostly for pleasure as near as he could tell, people inside the lagoons paddling canoes of all shapes and sizes, crazy people outside the reefs on boards with sails on them, making like flying fish in the little waves in this land-locked ocean.

Flocks of bright birds and clouds of insects so bright he would have thought they were made instead of hatched, except that they moved.  Nothing like the dark and mosquito buzzing mangroves and bayous that he knew.

But the thing that made him exclaim was the floating land they’d built in Haiu Roru’s lee.  He couldn’t see how many hulls they’d used, but they were all the Arkan big ‘uns.  Buildings were built on the central platform, he could see that, and then there were sloping angles, floating on smaller hulls, until they became artificial beaches, letting people into the water.  There were trees waving their hairy leaves over the buildings as if they’d been planted years ago, green edges everywhere, where Haians had placed pots and raised planters so the vines could trail down to the sea.

The highest towers, on the outside edges, were watch towers, and anchor points for wide, white triangles to give much needed shade.  The whole thing moved, slowly, as the water moved under it, but the Arkan soldiers… the solas, seemed perfectly comfortable at their watch posts.

“Rather than have a ferry, Haiu Menshir decided they would build a bridge, around the other side, closest to Sailortown.  It’s been letting ships dock all along the length of it.”

“An’ all of it, Haian, no weapons?” Kaylebuh just couldn’t wrap his head around that.

Alfalaria, leaning on the rail next to him, nodded.  “Utterly pacifist.  It’s up to us to protect them.  They’ve forgiven us Arkans for conquering them in the last war, and say it was because the old Imperator was crazy, but a lot of Arkans still feel guilty and are doing a lot of work for Haians for free.”

Kaylebuh just looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “They wouldn’t have stopped healing y’all?”

“They knew it was Kurkas, the Crazed Baby, not us.”

“But y’alls trust is back?”

“Mostly.  We’re working hard on getting it back.  The new Imperator has been doing a lot of donation to the University.”

“An buildin’ this?”

“Part of it.  The rest of the signed Alliance Nations have been helping too.  It seems that we Arkans can add to the coalition.”

She stared out to where a floating gangway poked out of the island where the Hound could safely tie up.  “Looks like a good winter storm ‘d twist ‘er up and blow ‘er apart,” Kaylebuh said quietly.

“That’s why it’s all built to come apart,” she sniffed.  “Even the ‘beaches’ and docks.  Unlash them and float them into the harbour.”

“An’ t’ General Mud?”

“I don’t know,” she said quietly.  “That shot didn’t kill him and they actually flew him here after field surgery."

"Ah, wish Aesh had acted just a bit sooner, but she still din't blow his head off like she could'u.”

She nodded.  "Captain might send me to find out."

Kaylebuh nodded back and they watched the ship tie up.  “Ah hope y’all don’t mind, Missy Alfalaria, if I stick with y’all fer a bit?  Until I git m’legs under me?”

She looked at him and looked away, didn’t correct him when he gave her the title ‘Missy’.  “I might stay with the Hound, if t’Captain’ll have me.  If you don't want that, you’ll find a lot of work here on Haiu Menshir if you don’t want to go to your embassy in Arko.”

“Yas, Missy Alfalaria.”