010 - As if I had lied to them
I stayed in the office late that night to finish the letters—the one to Esora-e probably the most awkward, tentative thing I’ve ever written in my life, the one to my mother much easier but still very hard—and directed them to be sent them off with the early-morning semanakraseyeni wing-courier. Personal business, yes, but, when I thought about it, did the Yeoli and Arkan taxpayer not own me anyway?
Then I took Kallijas and Niku into one of the very private rooms in the Imperial chambers.
It was harder getting the words out than it had been telling either of them of my foreknowledge in the first place. I found myself swallowing tears, and my hands trembling; alarmed, they each wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I hadn’t even told them I’d gone to a healer. “It’s why Megidan was here, and left so soon; it was just to refer me,” I told them. “The man is incredible, beyond description... what he did to me... what he can see... I have to... aigh.” I did what I knew Surya would advise if he were here: took a deep breath.
“Is it about when you were tortured?” Niku said gently. I signed charcoal.
“The sack?” Kallijas whispered. I signed charcoal again.
“Farnias?” I left my hand out, signing charcoal.
“The impeachment?” I didn’t turn my hand over. They glanced at each other, stumped, having hit on all the points in my life when my mental health had been clearly questionable. “You’re sure it’s nothing to do with the torture?” Niku said. “Omores, I’ve never seen you so tongue-tied except when you were trying to talk about that.”
“It isn’t, I swear,” I said. “Kyash, I feel like an idiot. I’m sorry. I had no idea this would be so hard. When I do manage to spit it out, you’ll be astounded.” They held me closer, wishing me comfort, strength, telling me not to reproach myself, to take my time, that they understood it was something difficult.
“My foreknowledge,” I finally said. “I’m seeing him about that.” Their eyes fixed on me, growing graver, and my tongue locked again. “He has... he thinks he can... kyash, kevyala, loves, I’m sorry, if I could just tell you I would—! He thinks he has a way to...aigh.”
“Help you take it better?” Kall said, in a whisper. “Though I can’t see how you could.”
My hand stabbed out charcoal. I sprang up out of their arms, needing to move, to walk off the trembling, the nausea. “It’s not so simple as foreknowledge,” I said. “He made me see that. It’s something I am carrying in me. Obligation...” They glanced at each other, their confusion deepening tenfold. I was sweating now. “Something I am carrying... something I can... put down.”
They both froze, as if they’d been stabbed. I remember the stillness in his sky-blue and her earth-brown eyes, like yesterday. “Omores, you mean...” I watched Niku, ever daring, fight to say the words. “This healer thinks he can save you?”
I thrust both my hands out chalk, and buried my face in them.
There was a moment of silence like death; then Niku grabbed me by the hair on both sides of my face, Kall my shoulders. “Chevenga, this healer—do what he says, don’t buck him like you do Kaninjer, Sheng, we are with you, pehali, ask if there is anything we can do to help, we will do it, no matter what it is, but you have to do what he says...”
“I am,” I said. “I’ve relinquished my will to him, same as in war. I’m acting on one of his orders now; he told me to tell you two.”
The questions came thick and fast. I explained as best I could—now I’d got the main news out, it became easier—how Surya worked, how often I would see him, what he had done both visits. To the question of how long it would take, I had to say I did not know; nor did I know whether he was willing to come to Vae Arahi once I went back there, though if his theory was true that he had been called to Arko to save my life, then presumably he would.
Then Niku asked, “Omores, how is this… possible?” and my tongue stuck again. The true question was, of course, the more incriminating one of why, if it were possible now, I had always thought it impossible. Though there seemed no sensible reason to be more ashamed of having an urge to death due to things I had been taught than foreknowledge, I felt more ashamed of it somehow, as if it were somehow more my own choice. No, I thought. It’s more that I feel I have lied to them, though I believed it with all my heart. Thinking that brought tears, and tears brought arms around me, but I still had to the answer the question.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I think Surya would say I’m too early on to understand it yet. Though I’m sure he does; maybe if you asked him, he’d tell you.” I learned later they did.
Then when we were about to go back to the bedchamber, where Skorsas would be, it came to me that it was hardly fair to tell two of my loves why I’d been so rattled for the last three days, and not the third. Now that my death was not certain, I realized, his forbiddance need no longer apply.
If I foreknew my death—say I had a dream—would you want me to tell you? It had been four years ago now, early in the summer after the Sack; I’d thrown this question, as casually and hypothetically as I could, at both Skorsas and Kallijas. “No!” Skorsas had answered. “No no no no no—I wouldn’t want to know that. How could I live with any joy?” So of course I’d honoured it. Kall, on the other hand, had asked me whether it really was hypothetical, which had led to me telling him.
Now, I took Skorsas off to another eavesdrop-proof place, the fountain in the Imperial bedchamber atrium. In a way it was easier than with Niku and Kall, since they’d already known and made their peace with the first part; in a way it was harder, for exactly the same reason.
“My little professional—I mean my great noble God,” he whispered. When he was really thrown, he could forget he’d been elevated. “It was real. You asked because it was real.” That casually-worded question had stuck in his mind, it seemed. “You never cease to amaze me, Jewel of the World. Muunas…” He looked at me as he was seeing me for the first time again, as people often do when I tell them. “That makes so much about you make sense.” Then when I told him the second part, that I’d learned now it was not foreknowledge, but obligation, he said, “That makes everything else about you make sense.” A bit of a chill went up my spine. Was I so transparent?
“So now—you’re fighting it. Ha!” he said, triumphantly. “No fear! Any time you fight anyone or anything. I’m in the gate behind you, Living Greatest, as always, with perfect confidence.”
On retrospect, we’d both done right, I to ask hypothetically, he to answer honestly. He went straight from blissful ignorance to hope and confidence that I would overcome it, never living in the darkness of the certain thing hanging over his head, as Niku and Kallijas had. Skorsas has a gift for somehow escaping the worst, and coming out with a smile on his perfect face, his clothes unwrinkled and his panache untouched. I wish I had it.