665 - The whole *kevyalin* pile
Mamin, they did search the room. I took Chevenga’s head between my hands. “Relax,” I said. “Deep breath… another.” He hadn’t gone pale exactly, but I could tell, as my teachers told me I’d learn how to tell, that he’d overdone it. “Close your eyes.”
“You’re kidding, right?” he whispered, staring at me.
“You are setting yourself back,” I said. “You have to let it all go, Chevenga. Either that or I sedate you.”
“I think I’ve been too sedate.” I let go of him and got up to go to the counter where the medicines are, to fill a needle. “Kanincha.” Something in the way he said it made me whirl around, without even planning to. He was looking at me the way he must look at enemy warriors on the field.
Mamin… I don’t know how they bear it… I could not move. I could not speak. I could barely breathe. It was as if my whole body turned to ice, and then my skin flashed hot and cold again, with instant sweat. My larynx was suddenly banded around with pain, so I knew that I would not be able to speak if I tried. Everything went grey and stopped being visible, except his eyes. Mamin, you wouldn’t think it was possible… he was so weak that he couldn’t have done anything to me if the Earthsphere depended on it, I could have held him down with one hand, but I still froze in absolute terror.
“I do not consent to that,” he said, so softly it was no more than a whisper.
“I step out for an eyeblink to take a leak,” said Kallijas, “and come back to find the room being turned upside down, my Imperator fight-staring his healer, his healer just about pissing himself…” It’s true, I was only barely holding it in. “Anyone like to tell me what’s going on?”
“Kalicha, did you see Kunarda?” one of the guards said to him in Enchian.
“Kunarda? No. Why? Sheng, quit that, that’s no way to look at a Haian, what did he do, tell you to take it easy?” I think he must have said it in Enchian for my benefit, to let me know he was with me.
“Kall… listen to me. I… no, I should only have to make this argument once. Get Hurai and Krero in here.”
“But you’re still off-duty.”
“All right then, I guess you’re making me make it twice! Kallijas, I do not stop being Imperator when I am off-duty! Meaning, as soon as I’m back on, everything that happened while I was off will be, if not blamed on me, brought to me. There is no escape from that, short of abdicating. I may be tired or depressed or suicidal or whatever-the-fik Alchaen says it is, but my mind is sound enough to know this, and to worry therefore about what is being hidden from me. Because it’s all going to land on me in the end anyway…do you get that?”
“Yes, love, but you don’t have to think—”
“How possible do you think that is, not to think about it? I’d have to be dead, or living dead with drugs all day and night! This is what I’m getting at—you’re holding back things from me so as not to put strain on me, but I’m finding out enough anyway that not knowing is putting more strain on me than knowing! Who in the fikken Garden Orbicular thinks they can hold back anything when so many people know, anyway!?—Kaina marugh miniren, do you all think I’m an idiot? Do you all think I’m so brain-addled I can’t smell that much kyash when it’s all around me barely an arm’s length away, and I know it’s me who’s going to have to answer for and solve and clean up the whole kevyalin pile as soon as I have my strength?”
“But Sheng… think back.” I have to say, I admire Kallijas for keeping his calm in the face of that. Chevenga was looking at him the same way he’d been looking at me. I confess sending a prayer of thanks to Spirit of Life that it was directed elsewhere. But of course Kallijas fought a duel against him. “What Hurai said… showing that much weakness, do you want that?”
“Kall, some time soon—I know I’m putting it back with every fikken word I have to say because you won’t shennen-well listen to me—but sometime soon, we’re going to let Intharas Terren of the Pages come in to speak with me. Because I must be here, do you remember that!? No one wants me to tell him that Farnias flattened me with words, fine. But what am I telling him now when he asks what is going on? ‘I don’t know, because my underlings are keeping it from me.’ How does that sound? Does that sound strong? Does that sound like a competent Imperator? ‘They’re keeping it from me and I’m letting them.’ How does that sound? ‘They’re keeping it from me and I can’t do a thing about it.’ How about that!? Or how about the fact that I’ll be completely unprepared for questions he has, because they are about things that his people have ferreted out but I’m in the dark about because you will not let me read all the papers!? How will that look!? Unless you’re all planning to hide me away from the Press people for moons, go get kyashin Hurai and fikken Krero I don’t care if I’m supposedly incompetent THAT’S AN ORDER ENACT!!”
Kallijas was still keeping his calm, but his expression was conceding. “Yesser,” he said, Arkan-style. “I’ll get them.” He went out, walking stiffly.
Not being in the blaze of that dark glare, I’d unfrozen and gained back my wits. I sat down at the bedside quick and took his head in my hands again. He was pale. His eyes turned to me again, but this time it was… Mamin, I have never seen a look like that from him, not when he collapsed in exhaustion, not when he lay with his life-blood pouring out, never. The ultimate yearning, the most desperate need you could imagine from a patient, ‘please help me, please save me, please for the love of all that is sacred to you…’
“It’s all right, Chevenga,” I said, tightening my grip a little to make sure he felt and so truly knew I was there. “You’ll be all right.” It went on a bit longer, and then his eyes closed, and his head sagged in my hands.