193 - All is well with the whole world
Workfast Literary in Terera
atakina 67, 1556
To: First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e
Thank you for your letter of explanation dated atakina 29. We realize that you couldn’t possibly fulfill your promise to finish the manuscript “within a few days, when the Circle School Annual Games are over,” as you wrote, as you were wounded the final evening.
We understand that the time that has passed since then—more than a moon—has been very busy for you, and you have had many distractions.
We also understand that even though you wrote to us in the spring, while you were still in Arko, “I will have plenty of time once I’m at home and no longer Imperator,” that this isn’t how things turned out at all, despite your being on medical leave from the semanakraseyesin.
Now we are concerned that you might not get the work done before your asa kraiya ceremony on atakina 71, which worries us on two counts. First, we understand that people who go asa kraiya often sequester themselves afterwards on the island in Lake Terera, and have little or no communication with the outside, so we would have no hope of seeing the completed manuscript until after that is over, and it could be a moon or more.
Second, and perhaps you can inform us on this: is it even acceptable in the asa kraiya community for one of its members to write instruction manuals on combat? If not… we despair of ever seeing the manuscript, if it is not completed beforehand. Please inform as soon as possible.
As you know—and we appreciate the abject apologies you have already repeatedly offered—we have already had to revise our publishing schedule twice because we do not yet have the manuscript. I hope that somehow you can find time and attention to give to this matter. We wish you the very best for the ceremony and your health and happiness far into the future.
Thank you in advance,
Excerpt from the personal journal of Intharas Terren, High Editor of the Pages of Arko, for the eight-day following Mikas 18, 50th-to-last Y.P.A.
Shemeias fikken wool-haired Shaeasilas is so shennen fired. Work-slow Dissectisory can scrape up the moist pink remains of him when I am done chewing him out, see if they can squeeze out any words then throw some of that pubic-head anchor-yell money into the blob and see if it sinks.
“Boss!” he writes. “I did it—just as you assigned—I managed to get into the private ceremony!” Then… the most vivid etched-in-fire-across-your-mind searing-down-to-the-iota description of the most visceral, bone-shaking, central-to-the-soul-like-a-once-in-a-millennium-play ceremony that anyone, let alone me with my age-ossified Arkan imagination, could imagine. Holy shen, Shefenkas, once my Imperator… the Ten Tens twice and then this, is there any ultimate experience short of death you have not had? How does your mind and body hold up? Hauled off flattened to an island refuge, can you prove to us you’re still alive? And ARE YOU REALLY SURE THIS IS THE RIGHT FIKKEN THING NOT THAT THERE’S ANY POINT IN ASKING BECAUSE IT’S NOW DONE DONE DONE!!?
Front page! I am thinking. Ultimate Pages scoop! I am thinking. What are the chances those other scrap-hounds of newshounds have matched my darlingest of wool-hairs, my precious treasure, my genius Shem?
But, he goes on to write: “But, you might notice… I have attributed none of the quotes properly, nor provided accurate details of who did what as Pages style requires”—well, you fik, I think, actually I didn’t notice, so riveting your writing was, but now that you mention it… it’s fikken unpublishable! And not a lapse into inexperience brought on by your own ceremony-induced fervour!?—“I felt after witnessing it that in all conscience we cannot reveal what happened within those walls, as it is in truth a sacred mystery, not for those uninitiated or not close to him who undergoes it to be privy to. And so in all conscience I cannot report it, and hence this unusable version, purely for your personal perusal—even if that must mean the cessation of my employment with the Pages. I’m sorry.”
CESSATION OF YOUR EMPLOYMENT WITH THE PAGES! I muse collectedly. HOW ABOUT THE CESSATION OF YOUR REEKING BREATH, YOU SHEN-GULPING, PHLEGM-BATHING, EXPENSE-ACCOUNT-EXPENDING TRAVEL-FUND-CHEATING CURLY PUSTULE OF A SOUL! I’LL… I’LL… I’LL… [here a jagged black streak trails off from the end of the writing to the edge of the page, and several spattered drops of purple-red liquid bedew the paper.]
It’s done. He did it. Mi omores is formally asa kraiya, officially no longer a warrior.
We weren’t sure he was going to be able to do it—because part-way through he was having doubts. (It doesn’t sound like him, does it?) Surya told us all beforehand what he was going to do—you are Haian-trained, you probably know that people can have spirit-weapons inside them, ruling their lives. The longer you do war, the bigger and more solid it grows inside you until it kills you, Surya told us. If it’s solid enough it can even follow you into your next life and rule that one, too.
I wonder what I have in me? Double axes? A spirit-moyawa, flying inside my ribs? I wonder if the edges or the forewire are cutting me inside and that’s why I feel the darknesses I do sometimes, the eel of fear? I am thinking that now we have peace, whatever it is will not kill me. Of course war could come again… what would that be like without Chevenga?
Part of the ceremony is having it pulled out of you by someone who knows how to do that. Surya did it for him. But no matter how great a healer it is, they can’t do it unless you let it go. You have to choose right down to your bones. Of course it was hard for my love… look at what his life has been.
He knelt there sweating, crying, shaking all over, saying “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how,” with Skorsas and Kaninjer holding his arms to help keep him steady through it, and Surya and Azaila were starting to wonder whether he really was ready, when Esora-e came stomping up like a storm, grabbed his face between his hands and said, “I put this shit in you! I did this to you! Let it go, I give you permission, I love you!”
Right then Surya ripped it out. Chevenga jolted, arching back, as if it was his spine that had been yanked, while Surya yelled at him to look at it, see it. I didn’t and neither did Skorsas or Kallijas, but I know from talking after that Minis and Klaimera both did, and so did Karani. It was made of light, they said, and then burned out and wisped away like a candle-flame blown out. You have to have those spiritual eyes. I know Chevenga saw it by the way he looked.
It was Esora-e who made him able to let it go.
I will never speak a single ill word of the man again.
30 Navim | Vae Arahi
Chevenga’s—or should I say Virani-e’s, because he is truly Virani-e now—asa kraiya ceremony is done.
The Pages must have got to you with the public part first, so I’ll just say that his speech about going asa kraiya put me and what must have been half the rest of the audience in tears. Then he went up to the School of the Sword, where the private part was conducted, but I and the other necessary people went up first.
I had no idea that I was going to be part of the ceremony until the day before. Surya made an evening appointment with me. “Part of it is drawing out the spirit-sword from in him,” he told me. “It is going to be extremely hard for him to allow us to do that, and to keep still. He needs two people who have been healers to him, who he trusts with his life, to hold his arms. The other one I’m asking is Skorsas.” Of course I said yes. I was thinking, I have got him through much worse than that.
Mamin… the whole thing was so hard for him. The private part of the ceremony that we witnesses saw starts with him taking off his armour, piece by piece, then handing off his sword for the last time. For a warrior, that feels like giving up all protection, all hope of life; when they’re in the field, death is all around, not just in the hands of the enemy, but in the air as arrows and javelins, in the ground as dung-sticks, in the water as poison—as random as the wind, and often it’s only a breastplate or helmet that saves them. His sword, Chirel, was his power on the battlefield. So letting it all go for good feels at some level like letting go life. I think it was the hardest thing he’s ever done, and he’s done some very hard things.
The part we did… I’m still putting arnika cream on the place where he gripped my arm, on the one thumb- and four finger-shaped bruises. He never really struggled to get free from my grip else I’m sure he’d have succeeded, but my part of holding him steady for the removal still took all my strength. It didn’t help that he sweated so much he became slippery as an eel.
Mamin… he almost didn’t. He almost couldn’t. Surya kept talking to him, reminding him to do every meditational fear-calming trick he knew, and I intended him all the healing energy I could while Skorsas did the same, and I know he was trying his best, but he couldn’t let the spirit-sword go enough for Surya to move it first, then even touch it, and he started whimpering—and I have never heard that man whimper before, I didn’t think it was possible—that he didn’t know what to do, that he was lost, that he didn’t think he could, while his arm trembled spasmodically in mine.
Can you imagine? Here’s someone who had no fear at all walking onto fields where tens of thousands of enemy warriors would almost have killed each other to get a chance to kill him, where if he’d been captured he’d have been tortured to insanity the second time, and then probably the most unimaginably agonizing death, where he took the most incredible risks to gain victory… but at the prospect of never having to do it again, he was completely undone. Chevenga—Virani-e—stopped being a warrior before I did what I set out to do, hoping for his help more than anyone’s: understand warriors. I think I’ve lost hope that I ever will.
So then we were wondering what to do—call the whole thing off, send all the dignitaries home and start over later after he did more work with Surya?—when his shadow-father, the one the Committee has been all over for being overly harsh to him, came running up in tears, grabbed Virani-e’s face between his hands and said to him “I put this in you; I give you leave to let it go,” and that he loved him and so forth. I felt his arm in mine go still with shock, and his energy change, and Surya saw in his aura that the moment was now, so he grabbed and yanked it out.
Virani-e’s fingers clenched so hard on my arm for a moment I thought he might break the humerus, then he went into convulsions, voided his bowels and then fell unconscious so we had to keep his head from hitting the floor. I was so afraid for him I put my finger on his pulse and readied myself to do heart resuscitation if I had to. It was emotional resuscitation he needed, though, by the extreme juxtaposition, which Surya did. I wasn’t going to let him stand once he woke up, but he barely tried to move or speak as we got him bathed and onto a litter, bundled up for outdoors in the cold thin Yeoli air. They took him straight down and onto the boat to the island in Lake Terera where the maesa asa kraiya is.
I’m not with him. I can’t be; only people who are asa kraiya are allowed on the island, and if you’ve never wielded a sword you can never go beyond it. So Haians may only go there in case of medical emergency. But Surya told me there’s a Haian-trained Yeoli healer there who’s good. If I have to because something comes up, I’ll send Chevenga’s file down. It’s hard not to be with him. I’ve gotten so much in the habit, and after seeing him have such a reaction, of course I want to do the after-care. Surya keeps telling me not to worry, that by his aura, he’ll be fine. He went down shortly afterwards, as he is asa kraiya himself, so at least Virani-e will have one healer he knows. Surya thinks Virani-e will be on the island for at least a month, maybe two.
It’s strange to be up here in his house with just Kilalulana, knowing he is not here. He wasn’t even up to saying “Thank you, Kaninjer,” and I feel like I should be celebrating with him. I want to grab him in my arms and tell him how much I love and admire him, say, “This is your cure, your salvation, and you’ve attained it! This is your greatest victory—get completely impaired through self-induced alcohol poisoning or something!” (I can just see him laughing at that. Maybe when he’s back off the island.) I guess I want to see him in his new incarnation also; he is going to feel so much better, so much happier, so much lighter with the weight of warriorhood off his shoulders.
Maybe I am just selfish, wanting the pleasure of seeing that, after all the suffering I watched him go through. I’m expecting you’ll say I earned it. But he does pay me very well to take care of him. Maybe… he’ll decide he doesn’t need me any more as his personal physician… though I think he does, and will all his life. Because he’s taken so many traumas, especially to the brain, where the insults are cumulative and can turn out permanent. They’ve left enough damage that in my opinion he’s at risk for worsening aftereffects as he gets older, especially if he takes more head-blows, which being asa kraiya is no guarantee against. If he wants to fire me, I’ll argue all this.
Still, I can’t tell you how happy I am that he’s done the one thing that will heal him more than anything else. I thought I loved him before. Mamin, I just have that wonderful feeling, bone-deep as if I were a child again, that despite everything that happens on the mainland, all is well with the whole world. Even the mainland. There is no one I can credit that to in the whole world but him.
And one more point of view of the ceremony: Minis’s.