760 - The tears of fear
“How long before the blackness releases its grip on me?” I asked Perahin. In truth, I wanted to go back into the numbness; it had a dreamlike quality that was not full of nightmares, that was dull like mist instead of searing like fire.
“That depends, more than anything else, on your choices,” he said. As always, you choose, I thought wretchedly. Yet I cannot choose my mood… or if I can, I’ve forgotten how. I couldn’t even imagine a time in which I’d been capable of that.
“Whether, and how soon, you decide to cast with life,” he said. “How willing you are to credit what I say to you in talk-healing, how soon you open yourself again to accepting the love of family who are here, how whole-heartedly you take on the work of healing.” Part of me heard him; part of me flinched back from it all, disbelieving. Always there are these untenable contradictions, in madness, that the mind somehow finds a way to maintain. Perhaps that’s the definition of madness—or half-madness, since at least half the mind can still see truth.
“The best thing you could do now is swear the oath and move to the House of Integrity,” he said. I have to, I thought, and fell apart with tears. As always, he was there with his touch and his calming words and the tender command, “Let it all out, however long it takes,” until my eyes had run dry and my heart felt like a desert, too.
“Are these the tears of fear?” he said. “Of letting go the hope of relief through death, and giving yourself to pain that seems like it will be forever?” I didn’t like admitting such cowardice, but I signed chalk. “Chivinga, you know that if you could not heal from that by your own strength—which you can, which you are—that we your healers, and your spouses, would never let that happen? Even if we had to drug you the rest of your life?” It tells you something, doesn’t it, that I hadn’t thought of that.
“But you are also afraid you are doing wrong by living, aren’t you? The imperative that’s in your blood and breeding.” I signed chalk, feeling it in me like bone-pain. “Those other semanakraseyel had a majority of Yeolis voting against them, yes? Do you really think you have a moral requirement to die, when eight in ten chalk voted for you?”
“The eight in ten wouldn’t think so, I know,” I said.
“Semana kra? The people wills?”
“But there was Arko, too. Also my people.”
“Resenting the result of the war; yet Kurkas started it, and your people directed you to cross the border. Their argument is really with all Yeola-e; they struck at you because you gave them the chance to.”
“The Sack was no one’s fault but mine.”
“You did it single-handed? Yes, you could have stopped it single-handed, I know; but that does not make each warrior who was part of it free of responsibility for his part. Besides, I thought you were over sentencing yourself to death for that; do I have to send Kellijes in here with a cup of water?”
That undid me again, and I felt like a fool and a child, spewing tears because I couldn’t find words. Of course he did not judge me so. Haians have a way of comforting that almost forbids you to be ashamed of freeing emotion. “So,” he said. “Swear the oath?”
“I… I am not ready,” I said. Coward, coward, coward, part of myself screamed at the rest. Whichever way is right and whichever is wrong, either way, those are the words of a coward, the war-cry of half-action!
“That sounds as if you know you will choose to in time,” he said. “In that case, you’ve already agreed it’s the best thing to do, so you might as well do it now.”
Kyashin fikken fahkad healers… I found myself straining against the bonds, just to strain against something. There was a tap on the door, though there never was when Perahin was doing talk-healing with me. I saw a flash of annoyance on his face, something I’d never seen before; I knew what he was thinking, I’ve almost got him, a disruption and I might lose the moment!
“Perahin?” Kall said outside the door. “Sheng? Forgive me for interrupting, but I thought I should tell you, because you will feel it, love; we’re going to be guarded now. They’re here.”
“Feel it? There are going to be weapons on Haiu Menshir because of me again!?” I said it in Arkan so Perahin wouldn’t understand. Sure enough, I weapon-sensed them, all shortswords and daggers, moving in such a way that I knew they were hidden under cloaks and kilts, the group splitting just outside the door to take their posts; I heard Idiesas giving orders.
In Enchian; as they separated I sensed one with shortsword on his hip and dagger on his shoulder. Kunarda? I thought they were all going to be Arkans… There were other habitual weapon-placings and ways of moving I knew, from the darya semanakraseyeni elite. What did they do, desert? Kevyalin kyash, as soon as Perahin’s done with me, they’re going to want to see me, and they’ll see me like this…
I curled up my arms to grab my crystal with one hand, moved to wrap the other around the signet until I remembered, and hissed, “All-Spirit be my spiritual witness and you Perahin of Kibir be my earthly witness I Fourth I mean I Chevenga Aicheresa swear I will do nothing to harm myself and will take food and drink by mouth from here on in second Fire come if I am forsworn now untie me and take out the cursed invaders!” As the most luxuriant flowers grow out of the most putrescent kyash, we will at least sometimes do the sanest things, for the most foolish reasons.