KAMI SHOOK HER head and closed her eyes. Avestine watched as she drifted to sleep, and it seemed only minutes before Kami startled her awake with a question. “Why haven’t you asked about your brother?”
Avestine opened her eyes.
“Don’t you want to know?”
Avestine rolled over, turning her back to Kami. “Don’t care.”
“All that time I was there, and you don’t care what happened?”
Avestine grunted. “Go to sleep.”
“It’s not like he kept me in chains.”
Avestine crawled out of bed and went looking for a bottle. When she found one, it was empty, so she shouted for a servant who scurried away in search of more.
“What are you afraid of?” pressed Kami.
“Have you ever known me to be afraid of anything?” Avestine put on her blue robe.
“Ounce-for-ounce,” Kami said, “I like the way you taste better.”
Avestine caught her breath, trying not to be sick. The whiskey arrived, and she snatched it from the girl. She poured a cup, losing almost as much to the splashing as filling, and then she drank it down. She let some dribble across her face, where it stung the cuts on her lip and jaw. She wiped the blood and whiskey away with her robe.
Kami wandered from the bed with a blanket wrapped around herself and joined Avestine at the table. “I’m telling you this because there’s something you need to know.”
“I don’t need to know this.”
“He’s not capable of fathering a child. The two children his wives have aren’t his.”
“That’s the rumor. So what?”
“No. Not rumor. He’s not capable,” she said again with emphasis.
Avestine gazed back through the years.
“Weren’t there always other men?” asked Kami. “Do you really think you’d remember all of them?”
“I remember my brother.”
Kami took a drink from Avestine’s cup. “You’ve never told me about that.”
“I never will.”
“Your brother loved you. He kept your portrait above his bed.”
“You speak as if he’s dead.”
“Scouts tell us Sahrdon is under martial law, and Avestar hasn’t been seen in awhile. Some of the villages near Agate Bay claim to have seen him. He might have been on one of those ships.”
“My daughter,” muttered Avestine, realizing the implications of a dead Avestar. But he couldn’t be dead. She would know if he were. “She’d have many enemies.”
“He said you tried to kill her.”
Avestine’s cool eyes flashed. “Why would you believe anything that shit says?” Avestine shook off the feeling that her body was being crushed. “He took her from me when she was a baby. I probably wouldn’t even recognize her. And I’m sure she hates me, hearing his lies.”
“He didn’t talk about her. The slaves I asked didn’t know anything about her. I don’t even know her name.”
“Avesha.” As soon as Avestine said the name she leaned forward across the table, hiding her face.
“Are you all right?” Kami rested her arm on Avestine’s shoulder. “Avesha,” repeated Kami with a smile. “We can go to Sahrdon. Find her.”
“Not without a war.”
“He’s already dead if he was on one of those ships.”
“Rumors.” Avestine sat up. “That shit isn’t dead.”
“Didn’t you think I was dead? You were wrong.”
“This is different. If he were dead, Arujan would be here.”
Kami’s head tilted as if she weren’t sure what she had heard.
Holding back Kami’s curiosity was like trying to dam the ocean, but Avestine had a way to distract her. “I gave permission to the royal cartographer to draw up the chart you sketched for him.” She left the table and pulled a parchment from a drawer. As she walked back, she unrolled it and spent a moment gathering it in.
She had not seen Pah Gol since she was last in Sahrdon. The cartographer had done a fine job with the clarity and inking. She handed the chart to Kami. “Next time, ask me before you bother him. He has work enough from me.”
Kami took the chart as if she had a prize and dashed to the bed. She propped herself on a pillow and stretched the parchment out before her.
Avestine wandered over and sat next to her, peering over her shoulder. “You have a good memory. I don’t think you forgot a thing, but why did you have him write this: ‘Revelations of the First World’?”
“I studied this chart every day for weeks. There are layers to it. Subtleties. And it’s interesting how Demid and the Architect changed it. I wrote that because what this chart shows is a world that no longer exists, a world of peace, of Pah Gol. Divine Waters. Godsea.”
Kami’s wrist strayed across the section that listed the god Bala and then streaked across the chart to the section opposite that revealed the realm of the god Arujan. “Why would you believe these two are the Mother of Demons and the Father of
Gods? The ancients located them as rulers of two of the six realms.”
“Maybe it was nothing sinister, like you imagine. Maybe it was just the truth.”
“Does a tyrant ever serve truth?”
“Rook told me what you think. Your discussion disturbed him tremendously. If you want to blaspheme, save it for me, not a man so devoted to the gods that he’s spent thirty years suffering my abuses. You said my father lied, changed the ancient religion to suit his purpose.”
“And Demid before him.”
“You should be careful about making light of the gods.”
“It’s not the gods I’m criticizing. The ancient religion described a world where the blood of life flowed from mother to child, but men who wanted to control other men changed all that. We’re not meant to worship the blood of war or honor those who spill it.”
“I know,” said Avestine.
Kami regarded her with surprise. “You know?”
“I know the ancient religion.” Avestine tapped the chart near Arujan’s name. “Have you ever wondered why you’re so suspicious of him? Why you hate him and all he stands for?” As she spoke, she trailed her finger from one section to its opposite. “Arujan, God of Kings, Lord of Order. Bala, God of the Wild, Lord of Chaos.”
“What are you saying?”
“I hope you’re right, Kami. That’s what I’m saying. I hope this chart is true, because Essanti of the Wild isn’t the worst thing you could be. But if what centuries of Essanti and emperors have lived and died for is true, then Bala is Mother of Demons, and saving you was the worst mistake of my life.”
Kami laughed. “You mean, you think I’m a demon?”
Published in Darklaw |
Copyright © 2017 Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved. |