780 - The father of my spirit
Haiu Menshir was the lowest-hanging fruit, it turned out. I spoke at a single meeting of the Elders, they discussed it for perhaps a bead, and agreed in principle. Haians not only are used to keeping their number steady, but trusting the rest of the world not to harm them. Even after what Arko had done; but the rest of the rest of the world had saved them.
Back to Niah-lur-ana, where they had not yet finished discussing, so I spent a few days training in sky acrobatics and planning in my mind how to present it to the Praetanu of Brahvniki. I cursed again that Ivahn was dead, since I’d never got to know Stevahn so well; at least Mikhail, Annike, Vyasiv and the others who’d backed my war and so knew to trust me to be a good bet were still there. These sorts of people, who mostly viewed war as a hindrance to trade—I remembered Megan, telling me the story of building her merchant house, cursing one war on the Brezhan for being in her way—would see the benefit right away; it was just a question of whether they thought they could manage the cost.
My Niah answer came: yes, they would agree in principle, and in fact they’d sweeten the pot, waiving their no-flying-teaching rule for any nation that signed on. (They’d already waived it for Haians.)
I signed back the papers coolly, while inside I was jumping up and down like a child. This wouldn’t make agreement more likely in Yeola-e, but it would in Arko, where people in the City who yearned to fly had had to suffer every day watching first Niku and now Sawas and Iminae teaching Yeolis how to fly right off their own Rim. It would everywhere else, too. Which would make it more likely in Yeola-e. I flew to Brahvniki through a sweet blue sky like a weightless sea of peace, almost without a wing.
The way to do things there is private discussions first; you go from lavish office to lavish office gaining the Benaiat’s nod and then the Praetanu votes one by one until you have enough. In the scented-mortar office with the mandala that Ivahn had painted—I felt a pang of missing him again—Stevahn told me that past Benaiats had dreamt of such arrangements before, mostly up the Brezhan, but none had ever got far; still, she agreed in principle and was willing to say so.
In his tiny glass-doored sanctum, once we’d shared the salt, Mikhail said, “I am not sure whether this is mad brilliance, or brilliant madness. You are like lightning, or fire, Schevenga; there is no place you have ever been in your life that you didn’t leave permanently changed. I will vote for it, only because you are leading it; I am not sure you can pull it off, but I am sure that no one else on the Earthsphere could.”
In the next three days I gained six more votes, which Mikhail calculated was close enough to a majority (there had been no Arkan on the Praetanu since the Sack, incidentally) that it should be presented openly. So I spoke before them, in the chamber in which I’d once considered assassinating a former one of their number. I liked this life better.
It went chalk narrowly, but they warned me that very likely, when it came time to render the final agreement, they would likely ask for some concessions, such as a ten-year delay on the child-bearing clause. I agreed to that, thinking, thank you, my friends: another way to bring Arko, and others who will balk at that, around. They also laid a condition on me personally; that I travel outside Yeola-e only with a good escort. I agreed to that too; of course there’d be people who’d kill me to stop it if they could, and Brahvniki now had its own Great Press. That evening, after a long talk with one of their writers, I celebrated with Megan, who supported it, and Shkai’ra, who thought it was preposterous, at an elegant place called The Silver Cup, and took off for Yeola-e the next morning before the News of Brahvniki came out, so I wouldn’t have to quickly hire twenty mercenaries at less elegant places such as the Knotted Worm.
At home it had come up on the queue and they’d deferred it to my return. We landed in the afternoon though, too late to start, so I had a long soak and sat down in my office to start my stack of mail. It was the strangest thing, to come back home to a place I actually owned; it gave me a strange sense of self-importance that I didn’t like and was afraid of becoming used to, in case I went too much the way of the Yeoli hawks. The letters were all the usual, except one.
I am just leaving Haiu Menshir. My healer here has been telling me that if I am to get to the heart of what troubles me, I must deal with the worst thing I ever did.
I realize that I was forced, and should not condemn myself for it… but I find it very difficult not to.
When I was twelve years old and you were the mind-broken slave of my father… he forced me to use you sexually. I’m sorry to even write this. It makes me sick. It convinced me that I was what my father had wanted all along, another like himself—another twisted pervert to grace the Crystal Throne. In that sense, I am very glad you have freed me of that.
For my part in this—for what I found myself wanting out of that incident—I am truly sorry. I regret having come close enough to you, my friend, to hurt you that badly, even though it was he who was hurting you, through me. My hatred for him knows no bounds at the moment. But I repeat, for my part, I am truly, abjectly sorry. You never gave me anything but good, every moment you could.
I have not written you before because I clung to a child’s idea that if you did not remember this, I could still imagine you my friend. But I am convinced now that this is dishonest. I am sorry to lose that. It hurts. But I must, or live this lie, that you could still be, on most levels, the father of my spirit, after I have done this to you. I cannot imagine it possible for you not to let your despite of my father fall on me, too, now. A harsh judgment, perhaps, but just.
Now you know. And I have told you. Why this no doubt mutually-painful letter is necessary, I do not understand, and I am bewildered because Haians never ask that which causes pain. I am sorry I did not have the courage to tell you to your face.
My sincere best wishes to you in your life, and I hope my father was wrong when he told me that time would deal with you for me. The only thing I can think of what he meant is an illness of some kind. You, of all people that I know, deserve to live long.
The room began turning end over end on the third paragraph, the flames began licking at my soul after another two, the sensation of being dragged helpless toward the pit started up a little later, the letter began tearing itself into shreds in my sight, pieces floating away from my hands, at the signature, though I already knew who the writer was. This could be my last sensible thought—I am alone here—calming essence where is it my hands scrabbling through the drawers All-Spirit, sacred Saint Mother, save me, help me, I can’t fall apart now I can’t be tongueless for days I have to talk Assembly into the federation tomorrow…
Hat tip to Shirley for Minis's letter.