009 - A thousand things you think about yourself
“We need to look into how you learned this,” said Surya. “Your shadow-father—he is key. Is he alive? Is he here?”
“He is in Vae Arahi,” I said, feeling a sudden queasiness in my guts. I could see it coming, Surya wanting me to write him, ask his opinion of my laying down the sword, as if I did not know it already. Forestall, I thought. “Surya—you don’t mean to suggest bringing him into this, do you? If he knew what you were saying, that... well, I have it right, don’t I, he in effect taught me I should die young?” I flinched even from imagining Esora-e hearing this. “He’d think I was out of my mind, that you were out of your mind... I think he would cut me out of his life entirely and forever. And I don’t think I could blame him.”
The shock and concern I expected on his face did not appear; my words didn’t even give him pause, as if every client said something like this. “Mm-hmm,” he said. “He’d be mortified at the suggestion, you mean? I should hope so. He doesn’t know of your foreknowledge, does he?”
“Is that in my aura?” I said, unable to think of anything else to say to play for time.
“Breathe,” he said. “He is in your aura, and everywhere he is, is edged with pain. And anger. You tried to grow up fast, understandably. He thought it was too fast, and tried to stop you. He demanded the utmost from you, was very severe... struck you nearly unconscious once. Yes, that is in your aura. Why did you never tell him, give him the knowledge which would make him understand?”
“I... I was afraid of what he would do.” I felt the points of my cheeks come up red.
“What were you afraid of him doing?”
“Limiting... Shortening my leash. I... I wanted to live my life my way, insofar as I could, do what I could in the time I had. I was afraid he’d lock me in a tower or some such thing, to try to keep me alive... and that would be no life at all.” The queasiness grew. I had never said this aloud in my life, even to my mother.
“You were afraid he would not leave you your choices.”
“He tended not to.”
“But it would have been to protect you.”
“His brand of protection would have been a living death!”
“I am not saying it wouldn’t have,” said Surya. Now anger was flowering all through my arms and legs, making them itch to leap up, move, find a fight somewhere.
“Kraiyaseye,” he said softly. “I see some of what you use on the field, what usually you can make come and go at will.” That brought me out of it some; I had always done it unthinking, never wondering about its source. “The one time I don’t have to tell you to breathe deep,” he said, with a trace of a smile; I was doing it, quite naturally, being set for a fight. “We aren’t on the field, though. Tell me when you are calm enough to hear sense.”
That came soon, but for good measure I got up and shook it out of my limbs. When I sat down again, he said, “Look beyond your fear into the core of what you expected from him. It was protection. He may not have been wise about how to go about it, but he did wish you long life. Like any parent.”
“Any reason not to think he still does, and would help in any way he could?”
I got up again to pace again. “But... I would have to tell him.”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s too late for him to lock you in a tower, isn’t it?”
I paced some more. This was all so strange. I realized why: whether it was because I was more often right, or more devious, or more firm in conviction, or the power of my position discouraged the opposition, I had gotten used to winning debates. “I don’t know why I’m trying to argue with you,” I said. “You’re not going to leave me any choice in this anyway, are you?”
Surya smiled, and said, “This is why I got you to swear that oath.”
“All right then. I will write him. Azaila and him both, tonight.”
“Ask him to get here as soon as possible.”
“G...get here?” I felt the blood drain out of my face.
“I can write him as well, if you like, to give it the healer’s stamp. You need him here, for the sake of your life. Do you think he would deny you that?”
This was strange too, wanting to say what I never wanted to say: Hold on, wait, slow down. “Why do I need him here?”
“So the two of you may settle your disputes, give each other truth. I mean, you weren’t going to tell your own shadow-father that you have always thought you were going to die young in a letter, were you?”
I ran both hands through my hair, catching them in the knots. That was exactly what I had been planning to do, of course. “Kahara help me, he won’t want to come here, he hates everything Arkan, he hates everything foreign. This can’t wait until I get back home, after the election and the transition?”
He just said, “What do you think?”
“Shit, Surya... I can’t... for the sake of my life... I don’t think I could bring myself to write that in a letter.”
“As I said, I can send my letter with yours, and word it as definitely as is true. And it will carry my credibility. Yes, it is asking a lot of him; but what he stands to gain is worth it a hundred times over: to not be mourning his shadow-son in a matter of months. Tell me, how much do you think he would grieve for you? Have you ever thought about it?”
I never had. It came to me in a flash, though. It would be like my father. I suddenly felt tears pressing behind my eyes, a knot in my throat. “He’d be devastated,” I said.
“But until now you were not going to tell him you knew it was coming. Would he have found out afterwards?” I signed chalk, thinking of the autobiography I had set to go to the Workfast Literary once my funeral was over, and threw my hands over my face almost before he said, “Mm-hmm. A good way to get even, I suppose.”
There are a thousand things you think about yourself which are not true. I felt them crashing down around my head now, like beams in a housefire. “You’re right, you’re right, Surya, I’ll tell him, you’re right. Kahara... I can’t know if he will even believe me. Why should he? It will all sound to him like madness.”
“How can he not believe you, when it will answer so many questions about you?”
There was no arguing with the child-raper, nothing to say but “A-e kras.” He took out pen and paper to write his letter, and since there was nothing else for me to do, he suggested that I write mine. He signed and handed his page to me while I was still struggling over my first few words.
We went on to other things, then, most of which I can’t remember, which probably means they were of great significance. In time he said, “Well, I think we’ve done enough for today,” and had me list back the orders: finish writing Esora-e, write my mother and Azaila, tell my closest. “Oh, while I’m thinking of it,” he added, “I have another order. You will consult with Jinai Oru, asking him to look specifically for your death.”
I guess fear must have lanced through my aura as it did through my body, for he said quickly, “Not tomorrow, though—you’re definitely not ready for that. Sometime in the future, we’ll know when the time is right. Don’t worry about it for now.”
I rose to go—no chair needed this time—and saw a troubled look on his face, an expression of which I hadn’t imagined him capable. He looked as if he were wondering how to ask something awkward. I stood there for a long moment like an idiot before I realized: he doesn’t know I am semanakraseye. I have to pay him.
For the last session, as well as this one; he’d been polite and trusting far beyond the usual, to not have mentioned it yet; of course he would know I was honest from my aura. But he’d just moved to Arko, he must not have many clients yet, probably, and it was Mella 26, ten days left before rent-time.
Needless to say, I had come carrying not so much as a single money-chain. A note that he could take to the treasury, then—no, I’d have to sign it. I realized I also had no idea what he charged, since I had never asked, and again, he had been too civil to bring it up.
I cast my mind back to my year of not being semanakraseye to remember how to word this. I, not we. “How much do I owe you?”
“Normally for someone such as yourself,” he said, relief easing his face, “three silver chains per visit, which would come to six for both—but seeing as the first was so short—”
“No, no,” I said, “it’s six, then, never mind the shortness; if it’s for significance to me I am paying you, then it should be three gold, or more, for that first visit.” Of course for all I knew of the going rate, he could be rooking me blind, or I him; the treasury had handled all my previous healing bills. But I could not imagine even a trace of either the cheat or the dupe in him.
“I am not carrying so much,” I said. “May I send it to you later today? I can leave you something for surety if you wish.” I was thinking of one of the pair of gold pins I was wearing on my shirt-collar, but he said, “No, no, I trust you. And yes, it’s in your aura. Come back in... three days.” I’d have to cancel something else. No matter.
I sent him six plus one extra silver by way of apology for the delay. I learned later that the messenger told him, “From the Imperator,” and he had been struck to find he had a client close enough to Imperium that it was paying his healer bills.
I also sent him, a day later, an anonymous donation of five gold, the kind of money an Imperator can scrape up by searching through his coat pockets, but which should do much to ease a healer’s mind about making the rent, and perhaps smooth matters with his better quarters.