Friday, August 31, 2012

99 - I Swore

His whole entourage closed around him when Diryish emerged from behind his private door.  Both of the elder Basserus’s, Bilip’s three older boys, each with their affianced, veiled and ornamental, three Generals each with two zardukar, his vizier and his apprentice and his apprentice.  Fifteen secretaries and clerks, his four next appointments, the Ambassador to Naduman newly back from his fruitless journey, the odd trio from Hipafrey who resisted any title but were, to all intents and purposes, ambassadors.  They tended to reek of that odd smoke they all breathed that was like neo-hemp but was rumoured to be hallucinogenic, as well as merely mildly narcotic.

I never wanted to be the most High. His bones ached and his head where the renewed sting told him that Dukir, so far away, urgently needed to speak to him and his voice, when he addressed the horde was waspish.  “Go away, the lot of you.  I’ll call you in.  If you can fix your problems without my input I will be much more charitably inclined toward you and your families.  Go away.”

There were offended, scandalized looks all around.  He caught secret smiles from the zardukar, who leaned to whisper to their charges, veils puffing gently to stir against ears and cheeks, driven by soft words.  The Hipafrey joined hands and bowed as if they were one person and mercifully took their beaded, clattering, glittering selves away.
The Hive lords went more slowly, more elegantly langorous, casting longing looks back as if they were jilted lovers. The clerks, secretaries and hangers on at least vanished with efficient alacrity, not wanting to annoy the most high, shiny assed one.

Diryish brushed off his servants and the physiker, who came to his feet as the Emperor appeared at his bedroom suite doors.

“I need to nap.  I need to be alone and not do anything.  I’m tired.  You may, of course, sit outside if you wish and listen to an old man talk to himself in his sleep about the nonsense of a lifetime.” Unless some enterprising younger soul had drilled holes in the door – and they hadn’t, since the bees would have sealed them up and told him about them – they’d hear nothing but a mutter of sound as meaningless as the drone of the Great Hive.  Meaningless to them.

He sank down into his bed after he was certain of his privacy, the bees coming down in a veil over the inside of the doors, enclosing him in hum.  He clicked his teeth together twice and as he leaned back against his pillows, closed his eyes.   

“Dukir.  You need me?  I’m listening.”

“Diryish.” The strain in his spymaster’s voice was audible, at least to the Emperor, even in the single word. Then there was a long, uncharacteristic silence.

“Dukir, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re at a loss for words, and I’ve kept you waiting at least an hour.” He checked internally.  “No, two and a half.  That’s plenty of time for you to have polished every word you’d want to say to me, even if they were turds to begin with.  Spit it out.”

“Um.  Radiance, you have not one heir, but two.  You have an adult Kraganzh who will be one of the finest Crown Heirs you could wish for, and a teenaged siwion.

It was Diryish’s turn to be silent.  “That’s impossible.  You were looking for a fourteen year old boy.”

“The Milari surdeniliarch didn’t kill the boy’s father ten years ago.  Kyrus Talain, our much mourned champion of all that is moral and good in Lainz, has been in hiding on their village mountain and just recently came out of his presumed death to marry Ilax in front of half the country.  The boy Kyrus is in love with Ilax’s oldest girl.  They will all be doing a ‘state visit’ to Lainz.  All of them.”

Diryish’s eyes popped open during this extraordinary recitation. He blinked slowly as his hands came up as if to cup something falling from the sky and the bees burst into a roar at the surge of adrenaline in his blood.  He flung back his head and began to laugh.  He laughed so hard he nearly rolled off the bed.  He laughed so long that he was forced to stop, running out of every wheeze of breath he could squeeze out of his bony torso. Then he did it again.

When, at last he’d run out of every last erg of breath and hilarity, gulping gasps of air shaking him intermittently, Dukir set him off all over again by asking “Are you quite finished?”

“Oh... oh... Dark and Light and little cliners... oh wait... wait old friend... sorry.  I’m sorry.  Wait!” He gasped and seized control of himself with main force learned over decades.   

“Ahem.  Well, the universe is nothing if not ironic.”
He could see... behind his closed eyes, that Dukir was nodding.  The image of the room around Dukir came out strongly with his eyes shut.  “I didn’t laugh, for your information, your Radiance.  I swore.  So did  Ragnall.”

“You can put away the sarcastic title for now, my friend.”

“Of course.  You did need to hear it though.”
Diryish just nodded, knowing that it would be precieved on the other end.  “You’re mad, you realize, Dukir.”  Diryish said.  “There are going to be more Bushies and Pitters and Crawlers and Sand Sheets after your caravan than a train of baby moas being led by horse. You’ve outdone yourself, my friend.”

“Diryish, I had nothing to do with this.  The man took himself safely out of that biological cess pit we call home years ago.  The worst our mysterious assassin has been able to afflict him with is the occasional nosebleed or headache.  Their surdeniliarch is no mean mander himself and seems to have been healing the damage, quite unconsciously it seems.”

“Does he have protection at all on this level?”

“His protections are kludged together out of every warrior program I’ve ever seen, liberally mixed with the mental shenanigans that the Milar do with data.  It’s one dark of a mess.”

“But it functions.” Diryish put his head back on his pillows.  .  His father had been more than ham-fisted creating audio and video connections in the first place, so proud of his ability that Diryish had never said anything, and quietly re-routed some of the biological circuits so they no longer caused him whanging headaches.  What did it matter if your father was the owner of the best data handling mandery on the planet, something that could be used with the delicacy of a carbon-hair brush, if he used everything as if it were an eight kilo forging hammer?

“I called it a mess, Dir, but wait till you see it.  It’s beautiful.  He’s got himself armoured tight right now.  His data is armoured like it’s behind enamelled steel-plate.”

The Emperor sighed, for the first time in days it was a happy sound instead of a worried one.  “Get him... them... him and the boy.  A bonus!  I have an adult who could be my heir who is capable of defending himself!  Oh, Light and Dark.  I’ve been reviewing the man’s career.  I’m not sure a paladin champion, would be the best pick for the Sun Throne.  He might not be ruthless and callous enough.”

Dukir snorted.  “Yes.  And you are such a hard-nosed son of bush dragon.” He sent a mental ‘smack along the head’ at Diryish.  “You’re still mourning your family, old man.  I can see that.”

“But Mariush has been delivered.  I have a new baby.”

“Congratulations!  Tell Shashi to give her the protective programs she’s been working on, hmmm?”

“Thank you, you old oyuk sucker.  I don’t give a damn that the world thinks it’s Raghnall’s.  Their opinions can go screw.  Deenay will show that if it ever becomes necessary.  So how many will be coming along? How many do we have to keep safe?”

“No one that you can reach from there.  Ilax is coming along for sure.  It sounds like he’s going to be bringing every single teacher at their odd war school, the one full of manders and cliners that make me look like an Ahy student.”

“Good.  There will be a way of contacting me regularly, once you cross into Lainz.  There will be news boxes at every stop... once we get the initial chaos worked out.  You’ll see.  I’ll send along an escort that you can rendezvous with once you’re over the border.  It won’t be in that one bird town that is supposed to be our border connection, but further along.  I’ll send along Emir Paulus and his cohort.  Maneuvers you know.  You have one more emergency stinger should you need more help?

“We’ll be able to work with Paulus. He at least does not insist that reality change to match his opinions.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

98 - I Was Going to Beg You

“Hara! Hara! You aren’t going to believe this!” Kyrus came blasting in the door to find that Haraklez wasn’t there.  He stopped, panting, looking around wildly.  His whole world was being flung into the air in eight directions and he was now free to tell Hara at least... and Werfas.  Oh Dark.  Will it be safe enough to ask that Werfas - my wingbrother, he should he'd want to, maybe, but...would he - come along to Lainz? I’ll be able to show my wingbrother the city I grew up in without having to show him the Basin sludge I knew.

The door behind him flew open, hitting him in the back.  “Hey!”

“Kyrus! Oh.  Kyrus you’ll never believe it one of those Lainzers’ war birds got loose and Faraman and Orma said they saw the old Amir guy get down on the street on his knees to you... and everybody’s talking about it and...” Kyrus had recovered from his stumble forward, wheeled on his front foot and he and Hara had somehow ended up in each other’s arms.  “Amarnon’s little boy was playing in his sandbox and this bird draped with Lishan’s clean bedding crashed through and shat on him and the trailing laundry, including everyone’s underclouts...”

She stopped and stared at him. “Kyrus... why was that Lainz on his knees to you, offering up his sword, in the street?”

Kyrus closed his eyes.  “I’m never going to get used to this.  My grandma... though she was married to Raghnall Talain, apparently was pregnant by His Radiance... so they say I’m a siwion of Lainz and my dad might be the Kraganzh. Depending on what His Radiance decides.  If he thinks it’s a good idea.” He was beating his head softly against her shoulder.

She caught his hair in her hands and stopped him, pulling his face up so when he opened his eyes he was nose to nose with her.  “Stop that.” He found himself staring into her eyes. “So, of course you have to travel to Lainz to be vetted by his Golden Stare himself.  My pa won't let his new inamour go so far away alone... or unescorted or any such stupid thing, especially if he's suddenly gone from dead to prince and heir in one breath. Especially since its only a few days into their post wedding honey month." She grinned at that.  "Lainz would certainly be supportive of that. We are all going to be going, I'd bet my best beaded shoes.

He stared at her silently as she worked it out, out loud for herself.

“I’m just your first lover so I’m hardly going to swear undying love or anything stupid like that, despite things I feel.  My elders tell me first loves aren’t usually long term.” He gasped in dismay but she let go the side of his head to lay fingers over his mouth.  “I’m not saying I’m going to drop you like a horse turd in my hand, silly. I still want to be part of this whole ridiculous caravan and I am of age, though still living in my parent’s house. So nobody’s going to stop me coming along.”

He exhaled sharply.  “Oh good.  I was going to beg you to come.”

“You don’t need to beg.” She smiled at him, mischief in her eyes.  “Werfas is going to need to get permission from his parents.  He’s a few months under age.”

“Um.  Would it help if I asked or just make it worse?”

“Probaby help.  His parents understand that being ‘shiny’ means something in Lainz.”

“This is a magnificent disaster, Hara.”

“Of course it is.  Let’s start packing.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

97 - Are You Little Boys Quite Finished?

The konsiliarch listened to the whole story quietly, her hands flat on her desk. Kyrus glanced sideways at his deovar then brought his eyes back to her, trying not to feel like a boy called up in front of a teacher.  Ilax put the best possible face on it of course.  It had seemed perfectly sensible to him as an overwrought, overwhelmed warrior fished out of the snow and desperately in love with his worst enemy.  It had seemed perfectly logical to hide for all these years.

This had all been thoroughly thrashed out by the Unity before the wedding but suddenly finding out that he wasn’t disposable, exposable trash but a siwion, a prince of Lainz just put the icing or gilding on this whole turd of a situation.

The konsiliarch rose after thinking about this and crooked a finger at them both as if she were going to whisper a confidence, and they both leaned in.  Her bellow was as shocking as a Unity one-stone call to order and Kyrus felt himself rock back on his heels.  If he could have pinned his own ears back he would have.

Are you little boys quite finished messing in politics?  How on the blessed landing site and our ancestor’s blood and work did you two manage to find SUCH a tangled mess to drop in my lap?  Warriors with unfermented beer mash for brains trying to do diplomacy?  You just want to drop everything here and go haring off to Lainz... to the city of the old monster, Prime-like, sitting there wanting to take over everything like an OWNER.  You want to run there because you’re following your penis after the new potential PRIME OF LAINZ? Who happens to be your inamour, married in front of half the country?” She paused for breath.

“It’s hardly his fault, Vidarna.  We couldn’t know any of this because neither he nor his son knew any of this.”

She sat down abruptly.  “Of course.  I’m not blaming you.  It just seems so... needlessly complex.”

“People are complex, Vid.  Look.  In the long run it will work out well.  All we need to do is get Ky and Kyrus safe to Lainz and under the old man’s protection and then we can work toward a joint policy.  He and I aren’t likely to go to war anytime soon.  Look at me as the unwitting marriage card.  I’ve married into their problems and we’re suddenly marriage allies.”

“That will go over with the Hive Lords like finding a mess of oyuks infesting their beds.  Anyone of them strong enough to make a play to overthrow the old man and try to own the place?”

“No.  He’s kept them fractured enough, though they squawk like castrated Bakons.  There aren’t a lot of Lainz Hive Lords I could work with, but the old man is... well, he could be a friend.”

“This opinion rises out of one extended negotiation at the end of the last war, when you and that nasty Lainz general defended him?”  She put up her hands and massaged her temples.  “All right.  You are going to go to a visit to Lainz.  We can easily say it is to fend off another war or war-like action, based on your marriage to this –“ she jerked a thumb at Kyrus “—warrior idiot who just came out of the land of the dead.  I’ll appoint a secundus to your position.”

“I’d suggest Xsmeetath.  She’s got enough warrior reputation to keep warlike nations from thinking we’d be a push-over when I’m gone, and she’s got the ova of a three ton war bird.”

“Without the ravening monster temperament to match, yes.  Go get things organized.  Are you taking the children?”

“I think young Kyrus would explode if I didn’t take Hara with.  She’s old enough.  But the youngsters I’ll leave here.”

“I’ll let everyone know.  They’ll either be thrilled to be seen as independent enough to stay at home ‘by themselves’ or chagrined to be left behind and not part of this so called grand adventure.”

“I’ll be cleaning the school out of our senior zon.”

“Good.  Lainzers will have a fit, presented with an entourage entirely made up of Manders and Cliners. I’ll put out a call for juniors to come up to the capitol.  We could use some new teachers in the school.”