011 - The armour of your name
25 Merjin 4980 | City of Arko
This afternoon Kilalulana and I went to see the Marsae Circus at the Mezem. Oh, Mamin, so amazing what these people and animals can do! The magic tricks, the acrobatics, the juggling… it was wonderful. Something like that reminds you of how wondrous a thing the human body and the human mind is, how limitless our possibilities really are. You go away with an expanded feeling in your heart—well, I know, I know. You don’t want to hear about all this. You want to hear that I told Kilalulana that she is pregnant.
Mamin… I didn’t. I know it’s unethical. I know it’s wrong. Of course if I know she should know. But I just couldn’t bring myself… I was afraid of the conversation that would ensue. I… don’t think she’d be upset… I think she’d probably be ecstatic. I don’t think she’d be angry at me; why would she? But… I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what I am afraid of. Maybe it’s because we’re not married, not even definitely planned to stay in the same place. So I’m afraid of us talking about that, in case the result is something I really don’t want.
Maybe I’m afraid she’ll tell me it’s another man’s… though how could she know for sure? Well, it’s scary enough that she might tell me it might be another man’s. What would we do then? What would I say? What if she wants to marry him… he’s probably someone who wants to stay in Arko. I wonder if he’s another Haian? I wonder if they talk like we do… maybe he’s more into shows than I am. Maybe he’s more sophisticated. Or better in bed. Maybe he’s more accepting of Hy—oh, Mamin, I am imagining all these things and I don’t even know he exists! I remember Chevenga saying once, “My heart is an anthill stirred with a stick.” Now I know exactly what he meant.
Or maybe I’m really afraid of being a father… it’s such a huge thing.
Mamin… how did you feel, about bringing a child into this world? Is it easier, if you are on Haiu Menshir and you know the child is going to be pure Haian, so that you know that the person you are bringing into this world is going to be a healer, or will be one of those who helps send healers out into the world? Is it easier when you know that they will always have Haiu Menshir to come back to? The mainland is such a violent, dark place sometimes; sometimes I wonder why mainlanders keep having children, when the children will grow up to become more violent mainlanders.
And yet, that seems a strange and wrong thing to think when I look into the face of, say, Chevenga’s daughter Vriah.
And yet… he was a cute-faced toddler himself, once, wasn’t he? Who was destined to become who he is.
Mamin, I promise, by your witness, and by the witness of the Spirit of Life, I will tell her tomorrow.
With all the love of a son who might be a father,
26 Merjin 4980 | City of Arko
So when I went to Porphyry Wing Suite 27 to meet her to go out to dinner, I said, “Before we go, Kilalulana, there’s something I have to tell you.”
“Before we go?” she said. “I’m hungry.” Of course she is. Her body is building up its stores to nourish a fetus. “And you remember tonight’s the fourth day of the eight-day, when I go out carousing with my heart’s sisters?”
“Spirit of Life!” I said. “You mean severe self-induced alcohol poisoning—no! You can’t do that!”
She whipped around angrily from closing the door and stared down at me. “What do you mean I can’t do that? Are you turning into an Arkan husband when you’re not even my husband?”
“No, no, not at all, I’m speaking as a healer, your healer—”
“You never made to order me off wine before.” She stood taller, crossing her arms in front of her as if to build a wall of muscle between us. “Kaneeja… what’s up with you? You have seemed different for the last few days… more annoying, for some reason.”
“Kil, you have to stay away from alcohol for the reason of the thing I have to tell you,” I said. “I can tell from your pulses. You’re pregnant.”
She froze in that crossed-arms position, her eyes widening, then her hands going up to either side of her face. “O Theen,” she whispered. “Oh, my Mother… are you sure?”
“I learned how to tell in Differential Diagnosis class,” I said. “With real women in the first tri—early stages who didn’t tell us whether they were. In the practical exam I scored 100 per cent. I’m sure. But another Haian could confirm.”
“O Theen,” and then a string of Hyerne words that I think were a mix of “mother” and various obscenities, she said. Then she seemed to rise on her feet, with a look like she’d just had cold water dumped on her. “Well…! That’s… that’s…” A huge grin lit up her face. “Fantastic! To Hayel with Bretnas’s, we’re going to Eagle’s Abode. We’re going to celebrate.”
“Um…” How to put this? “I just want to ask something… first… if you don’t mind…”
“Anything you want, my love.” All the irritability was gone as if it had never been, replaced by that glow of happiness that mothers-to-be emanate from all over their bodies.
“The father… do you… em…”
“Know who he is? Of course!” She threw her arms around me. “He is you, Kaneeja, my precious Haian. Without a doubt.”
We didn’t talk about anything like planning, Mamin. It was all, “What will she look like?” (Hyerne always think a child will be a girl, same as Arkans think it’ll be a boy) and “What should we name her?” and “I can’t wait to hold her!” It seemed like the time wasn’t right to talk about planning, we were both so happy. Neither of wanted to risk ruining it, I guess.
So, you are going to be a grandmother, Mamin. But I don’t know how it’s going to go.
An eight-day after Surya and I sent our letters to my mother and shadow-father, I got a pigeon-message saying they were both coming, by wing. That was the same day as my third session with Surya. As I closed the door behind myself, he said, “You’ll be sad to hear this, but it couldn’t be helped. I know who you are.”
“I’m sorry?” I said. “How do you mean, Surya? You know exactly who I am, and did right from the start; I could hide nothing from you…?”
“Oh.” I froze, feeling my cheeks go red and sudden tears behind my eyes. Well, why not? What feeling of mine had I ever hidden from him? And yet the tears stayed behind my eyes, locked there by my knowing he knew my name. It would never be the same between us. It felt like being flung back into being doomed. It was a nice dream, while it lasted. I took a long casual breath and said, “Call me Chevenga. You know me well enough.”
“You’ve never been able to take off the armour of your name, except here with me, have you?” Of course he’d known that, from my aura. He was just making me notice it. I signed chalk, unable to speak. “Once you’ve got all the weapons off, just sit down and let it out.” Chevenga or not, I hadn’t lost the habit of obeying him. Blinded with tears, I had to grope for the hooks to hang my swords. Once I’d sat down, he put his arms around me, and I wept on his shoulder.
“Things will remain the same between us,” he said. “You have lost nothing; I’ll make sure of that. You know how first impressions stick anyway, and define a person no matter what else we learn; to me, you are still the person who came in through my door, aura full of death, wanting so dearly to live. Do you think your aura has changed?” I signed charcoal, beginning to feel more hopeful.
“I knew the size of your burden before; now I understand its nature, and that will be help, not hindrance. On retrospect, I think it was best that I didn’t know your name before I got you to relinquish your will to me; I don’t know that I’d have had the nerve. That makes me think I was blinding myself to it, actually; I knew in my deeper mind that it was best I didn’t know, so my deeper mind kept me from it. I’ve had things like that happen before. Don’t worry. Everything is going as it should.”
“In a sense my will has always been relinquished to you,” I said, as he handed me one of his goodly stock of kerchiefs. “Semana kra.” We shared a little laugh. “How did you find out?”
“I received a visit from the Captain of the darya semanakraseyeni, Krero Saranyera.”
I cringed inside, imagining. He spared me further imagining, if not further cringing, by telling me the full story. Later that same day I got Krero’s version of it, too.
Surya had gathered that I was high enough in the ranks that he’d probably know my name if he heard it, both from what he saw in my aura and the fact that the Imperator was paying my healer bills. He’d thought no further than that. When I think about it, he had to be blinding himself.
A day after the second session, as he was working with his healing-room door slightly open (he’d leave it that way if the client wasn’t yelling, so as to hear taps), a very authoritative knock came on his door. At first he ignored it, thinking that the visitor, having read on his sign that he was a healer, would realize he was working. They usually did. Krero knocked again.
“I must work as uninterrupted with this patient as I will with you, if you’d be so good as to come in and wait!” Surya called pleasantly on the third knock, in Enchian.
“I’m here on business of national import!” Krero barked unpleasantly, in Yeoli.
“My patient is Arkan, thus in effect Yeoli, thus, semana kra, so business of national import can wait, kere,” Surya answered in Yeoli. “You are welcome; please, come in!”
With four of his escort, Krero did, and sat fuming for half a bead.
The poor Arkan patient scurried out through the gauntlet of full-geared Yeolis, Surya offered them all ezethra, and Krero introduced himself and began grilling him. “Where are you from? Who are your parents? Where did you get your healer training? Are you war-trained? Why did you move to Arko? Did you ever live in Arko before?” and so on.
Having nothing to hide, Surya answered it all willingly and thoroughly. When Krero ran out of questions, he asked, “May I know why I have been asked these things, especially in person by someone as highly placed as you?”
Krero stared at him. “You don't know, when you have who you have as a patient?”
The healer, Krero would tell me later, looked baffled. “Who I have as a patient? What do you mean?”
Long delays never improved Krero’s mood. “Surya,” he snapped, “I’ve tried to be patient. All through waiting, I tried, and I am still trying now, and I don’t know how long I will be able to succeed. You pose as professional enough to have some knowledge of your patients; would that be enough to know their names?” (“Are you sure you should be trusting this fellow?” Krero asked me as he told me the story. “I know sometimes healers’ heads are in the clouds, but this is ridiculous.”)
“Well, come to think of it,” said Surya, “there is one whose name I don’t know. It didn’t matter to me for the healing, and I guess it doesn’t matter to him either because he hasn’t told me, so it’s never come up. I’ve always had the impression he has some sort of high position, actually; maybe he’s why you’re here? Warrior, medium height, black hair, a nasty cut-scar down his right cheek and a square of brand-lines on his left, wears two very fancy Arkan-looking gold bracelets chained to rings on both hands, which he won’t take off even when I make him strip...”
One or two of the escort snickered, but Krero was in no mood. “How could you not know his name? How could you not know his face?”
“I drew him in and onto the table before he had a chance to introduce himself, and then we were too deep in the session… I’ve never thought about whether he looked familiar.” Now he did, searching back through his memory, just as it was occurring to Krero that I might have purposely gone incognito and forgot to tell him. Like every warrior who’d fought for me, Surya had seen me speak, albeit from a distance.
“Blessed All-spirit,” Krero told me in his account. “Nothing in my life has ever prepared me for a healer even knowing words like that. Of course he’d been in the army, that’d be how.” Surya apparently blushed right down to his hands, as well. I’ll rue as long as I live, however long that is, that I didn’t get to see it. The escort all burst out laughing.
“He’s Chevenga,” Surya spluttered. “That explains… a lot.” But he said no more, mindful of confidentiality; and telling Krero he now understood entirely why he’d been questioned, and for the sake of the nation, two nations, he was appreciative of his diligence, he sent them on their way.
“So I must pay you back this,” he said, handing me the seven silver chains I’d paid him last time. “We may be in Arko, but I am Yeoli and have not abandoned our ways. I do not charge the semanakraseye.” He was polite enough not to ask how I’d had them. I took them, and stifled my happiness that I’d also slipped him the five gold in the hope he would not see it in my aura; with any luck, it would be another instance of this wise self-blinding he’d mentioned. Apparently it was, for he said nothing and we went on.