Black Sun – Taklarsaza 3

April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

I admit, I could not believe it. I don’t think any of us did. It happened so fast.

I was called back to Throneworld to report on the incidents on several of our least important colonies. These were worlds with sparse populations of Naratsilath, ones that didn’t particularly support agriculture in any form. Not even heavily modified plants in most cases. Hrad had barely even been capable of supporting organic life without assistance. Naratsilath could not walk unaided on its surface. It was not surprising that Kotash barely paid the world any attention, even though it was of course his duty to do so. Kotash has been a fixture in my life growing up, and although I admit I find his behavior in this case lacking, he was always amusing when I was a child. Father’s slightly scandalous friend, he cut through the rules.

Growing up there were always so many rules. For the youngest child, especially. I grew up with Malan and Tatris already long since adults, unreachable, essentially strangers I would see when they came home to report to our parents. Kyrian and Arktiesh were closer to me in age, but Kyrian was like the spiny plants that they try and use in every room of the shining mountains to pretend life could possibly endure there without our constant toil. Kyrian was simultaneously always there and yet revealing nothing, as carefully cultivated and as inaccessible as those jagged fronds. Arktiesh was easier to get to know, since were were barely a few decades apart, but Arktiesh is as transparent as Kyrian is opaque. Arktiesh dislikes dealing with people, but loves tactics, strategies, loves watching others and trying to understand how to move them to his desired outcome. Tatris and Malan want to rule, but Arktiesh wants to be the means.

And as for me, Rythe, the daughter born last? I joined the Kandrakoleth as soon as I could, not because it was expected of me. I joined to escape. In the end, I ended up finding comfort in my service. Tatris used it to find a voice, Malan used it to find a mate, and Arktiesh found it suitable for his overall goals. None of us understood why Kyrian would not serve. I gave my report dispassionately. Honestly, I felt dispassionate. I did not care about the fate of a few hundred Naratsilath, or even a few dozen of the lesser gifted who’d died trying to save them. The Qualsilath straddle that necessary borderland between the ten thousand and the people, but I won’t pretend to any emotional connection to them. My world has been the Tsilath and the Kandrakoleth, the blood and its arm. I gave the report and waited for the lords and ladies of the ten thousand to begin their squabbling again, play out their rivalries. They’d spent more than a year trying to assassinate each other over Tatris’ choice in a wife, after all.

I saw old Katari Dolor fluctuate slightly as he concentrated and his tight grasp on his body shimmered, and expected him to speak next. He did not get a chance. From a chamber along the round wall of the room another voice thought across us all. It was one I knew, but had not expected to feel this day.

“Father, mother.” My middle brother’s thoughts were surprisingly clear and crisp, with a directness I had not come to associate with him. I noted that he had recently removed all of his facial hair as he floated out to be more centrally visible. “Before Katari and Kotash continue looking for someone to blame, I would submit you and the Dytariexen would be better served by action. Someone must go to Klarakshton and investigate the loss of troops, much less several of the Qualsilath.”

The Dytariex, our father, did not think a response we could hear, although he inclined his head ever so slightly to our mother Siharra. For a moment I again felt the old jealousy of my mother’s grace, her beauty, characteristics Malan had inherited and I had not. It also occurred to me in that moment that Kyrian had also inherited her delicate features, sharp bones of the cheek and jawline, and behind my metal sister I scowled at my own thick features. They worked on father’s face but not on mine. Even Tatris and Arktiesh looked acceptable with the darker skin and coarse hair. I stifled my reaction, again, always ashamed of it. What do looks matter to the Tsilath? Floating there next to each other my father and mother looked perfectly matched, and yet I felt like somehow I had gained their most incompatible aspects. Lost in this state I nearly missed mother speaking aloud.

“Yes, mother.” Kyrian’s tone had not changed. “I am aware of my failure in that regard. Therefore, let me propose a solution to two issues at once. Let me take up my service to the Kandrakoleth, as is custom, and prevent a disruption to Tatris’ celebration by diverting as few of the ten thousand as possible… no more than a handful… to assisting me in investigating Klarakshton. If I cannot discover what is amiss, then my failure will have proved my unfitness and you will have lost little.”

This time it was mother, her face framed by that peculiarly reflective red hair so rare among our people (only Malan and Kyrian have it among her children) who would incline to father. Fools and the ignorant assume that because father holds the title, mother is not important. The truth is, mother helped put him on that throne and has helped keep him on it, and while others may forget it he has never done so, for he is neither ignorant nor a fool. I do not presume to understand their feelings for one another, but something has kept them together for a thousand years. I do not believe mere desire for power could have managed that. Nor could it have somehow convinced my mother to give live birth twice, when the metal wombs are so much more convenient and can monitor the offspring so much more readily.

Father, his black beard glinting in the gauzy blue light that radiated from the walls, now looked fully upon Kyrian. I was impressed that my brother showed no sign of discomfiture. I know that look, and I do not like it. Father can weigh you like a Lokari merchant with a single stare, and let you know exactly how much he’s estimating you for without letting a single thought past shields.

“Very well, Kyrian. Solve our problem for us. See Tatris before you leave, as he has the power to invest you in the Kandrakoleth, and by all means, choose your handful. I expect success.”

Kyrian didn’t speak, simply nodded his acquiescence and waited until father closed the session to depart. I did not follow him, as I had no idea what, exactly, had just happened. I simply watched the room empty, each lord and lady off to his or her own purposes, my parents to their private chambers (which I could of course access but saw no need to) and the two old bulls Katari and Kotash glaring hate until they finally broke and departed as well. I half thought they resented Kyrian for interrupting them.

It was half a day later that Tatris sent one of our cousins, a young child I did not recognize who had fallen into his personal service as a sort of page, to find me. I was semi-relaxing at a high vantage point above the largest of the shining mountains, away from the thoughts of others. Since he was of higher rank in the Kandrakoleth than I was, Tatris could have phrased his request that I come see him as an order. I felt a slight gratitude that he had not. Tatris was distantly likable. I did not know him well, but neither had I any particular animus against him, and unlike Malan I did not feel especially drab or inferior in his presence. I did find his eagerness offputting, but that might well also be due to envy.

After the child flew up to me and delivered Tatris’ request, I spent another few moments watching the city below me swarm and glow and buzz with those that called it home. Thousands of the Tsilath, each his or her own world, self-importance magnified until it bordered on solipsism. If we didn’t so love to wallow in each other’s flesh would we ever talk to each other?

I could well have taken a lover or several. My appearance wasn’t that unattractive, and my birth and rank would well compensate. There were many women or men would would take me or allow me to take them, as I chose. In the end I always ended up drifting where the stifling air was thinnest, watching them move in the great distance below me, glittering. I did not know the dance well enough to feel comfortable with the steps. I was not hard, glorious Malan, nor affable Tatris, nor amenable Arktiesh to find his lovers in conversation and debate. As for Kyrian, I knew little of his tastes or habits in that regard. If he had lovers, he kept them as well concealed as this sudden desire to serve had been.

Perhaps it was because we were both live births, or perhaps I simply wished to believe I shared something, anything, with any of those of my blood.

Scowling again, I descended to see what Tatris wanted with me.

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