Archive for July, 2012
I am exhausted. Doctor Onan has poked and prodded me all day. The news is grim. I had hoped that I just needed a stronger medicine instead of the sickly sweet one he gave me last week, but it isn’t a simple chest infection as the Doctor has thought. It’s in my lungs, and, to be honest, they aren’t doing so well. I have scylla. Onan should have caught it, but apparently I wasn’t presenting any other symptoms. As it is, I don’t feel overly warm, much less feverish, although I admit I have been feeling rather faint lately. I thought it was a side effect of the medicine he’s been giving me, but apparently not.
Onan was ready to admit me but I wouldn’t let him. I know how serious scylla is, especially to someone who has lived as many cycles as I have. Yet I refuse to stay in a hospital ward for weeks in the hope it can be cured. Isaur died in a hospital bed. Chran, my boy, died on his way to a hospital. I don’t know if the scylla will take me, but I won’t let myself be strapped to a hospital bed.
I want, I need, to spend what time I have left with my family. That is where Onan and I disagree. He believes that the best treatment plan is having me in a hospital, monitored day and night, fluids dripping in through my veins while my family watch me, not knowing if I shall live or die. I won’t do that to them. Besides, I am Isaur’s widow. Surely, given my position in the palace, I can still receive the best treatment while being surrounded by those I love. So we have reached a compromise. I am on bed rest and remain under constant medical watch. And, although I am allowed to watch the children, I am not supposed to tax myself. I must be good.
In truth, I know the diagnosis is grim. My chest aches from all the coughing. The only reason I am able to do this recording now is because of the stronger medication Onan prescribed. Whatever happens, I have lived a long time. I had hoped to see my grandchildren grow up, but I know that I am lucky. At least I got to know them, unlike Isaur. Or Chran. I’m trying to be a good patient. Being an active, independent Boentu female, I don’t respond well to bed rest, but I will do my best. Yasana and Marvena, old gods bless them, have fussed over me all evening since receiving the news. I am so grateful for my family.
The cousins gaped open-mouthed at their Mehar. This was highly irregular. Mehar Renecke was paid generously for services to the Boentu palace. Not to mention that there was no higher calling in the system than training the future leaders of Boentu. So what, precisely, did Mehar Renecke mean by “payment”?
Renecke gazed at his charges, amused at their expressions. “Do you realise that I have known you all for over ten cycles, and yet you have never once asked me how an Arthemian might end up as Mehar of the Boentu Palace?”
Arronanto squirmed uncomfortably. He had always wondered how Mehar Renecke had ended up in the Boentu system, but feared him too much to ask the question. Before he could address Renecke, Dennethom spoke, “Personally I have always felt that if my uncle appointed you the Mehar-At-Arms, then you must be as good a warrior as any Boentu. To question your past would be to question your skills as a warrior.”
Renecke suppressed a smile. From any of his other charges it would have seemed as though they were trying to suck up to him. Dennethom, he knew, spoke honestly. “I understand. However, now I believe it is time to speak with you of my past.” He eyed his charges once more, and then sat down on a mat in front of them. “As you know, Arthemians are not a warrior people. We tend to produce more scholars and healers. Although I have always enjoyed challenging my body, I was no different in that regard, though I wasn’t a healer or a scholar. Instead I worked for the government on a small planet called Liono.”
This time Renecke smiled, ever-so-slightly, as he noticed the raised eyebrows on the faces of his students. He could see them trying to picture him as a stiff, government official.
“I was the minister of trade. I reported directly to the First Minister of Liono. It’s also how I met the last leader of Boentu.”
Arjuna looked surprised.
“That’s right. I once worked with Chran. I even met your Grand Sire, Isaur.” He paused a moment, allowing the young warriors to take in that last bit of news. He had only met Isaur once, shortly before he died, but he knew this news would be enough to stir the hearts of his warriors.
“As you already know,” he continued, “the Arthemian government is very different to the Boentu System. They do not have just one ruler. Instead, Arthema has 14 elected ministers, representing the 14 system planets. Each minister is allowed to govern his planet according to his own conscience. Each minister has a vote in the Assembly on the space station Chi-Tra. The First Minister of Liono, when I lived there, was a person named Orvan Rono.”
As he spoke, the cousins observed a change in Renecke. No more was he the grouchy weapons mehar. The Boentu demeanour he had long ago adopted, seemed to fade away. Suddenly they could easily imagine him as an Arthemian scholar.
I had to separate Lossepharr and Arronanto this afternoon. They were fighting again. Apparently Lossepharr and Andor had conspired to lock Dennethom in the training dojo after practice today. Arronanto was furious when he found out and attacked his cousin. I’m just glad Arjuna didn’t hear about it, or things might really have gotten nasty. She’s very protective of her older brothers.
Renecke tells me that when he found Dennethom locked in the dojo, he was just seated on a mat, meditating, waiting for someone to let him out. I’m grateful to see that Dennethom is not as impetuous as his father might have been in such a situation. He will certainly make a different kind of leader. He is not a coward, that is for certain. He almost got into a fight with Lossepharr himself, that time Lossepharr was teasing Arjuna about being too small to play with them. He is more of a thinker. Maybe those Arthemian geneticists put a little of their own nature in the mix when they helped Yasana and Chran have children.
Lossepharr and Arronanto were made to stay in and meditate on their wrongdoing, during recess. They were not happy about it. I thought to speak to Katha, Marvena and Yasana about the situation tonight at dinner. However, the moment I brought it up, Lossepharr interrupted me. I would have rebuked him right then, but I was too shocked at his words: “My father has led the Boentu people for four cycles. Why should Dennethom be the next leader?”
I don’t think I have ever heard a silence more profound. Well, aside from my coughing. I shall have to get that looked at soon. I remember glancing at Katha, waiting for him to respond but he said nothing. He just shrugged it off. Marvena eventually had to fill the void, and explain that Katha was not leader of Boentu. That he is merely a Steward. I think Lossy was going to argue the point, and apparently so did Marvena, because she excused him from dinner.
During the whole exchange, Katha just smiled amiably. I asked him what he thought of Lossepharr’s questions and he shrugged. Said “he’s just a boy. Of course he doesn’t understand how it works.” Perhaps Katha’s right. Yet I cannot help noticing the way Lossy has been acting around Chran’s children. And now he’s getting his brothers involved. I just worry that there could be bad blood between the cousins.
Once Lossepharr was freshly changed, the cousins assembled in the training house. They sat quietly together, alert and expectant, their bodies erect as they knelt on the traditional woven grass mats used in meditation. Lossepharr smirked at his cousin Dennethom, and strolled to a spot next to Andor.
Moments later, Mehar Renecke strode into the room. He was dressed in his off-duty civilian garb, a casual tunic and pants, rather than the traditional robes of the Mehar that he typically wore in training. Arjuna blinked back surprise at his attire. Despite his clothing, Renecke appeared unusually stiff. He looked as though he were carrying a great deal of tension in his shoulders, and his hands were clenched. Boentu warriors were trained to study where their opponent carried tension and use it against them. They were also trained to release their own tension, so it was disconcerting for the young cousins to see their Mehar so tightly wound.
Renecke studied his audience. This was the first time he had all of his charges willingly in one spot. When was the last time they had actually trained together? Five cycles ago?
“Since this is the first time I have been able to speak with you all at once, let me first say this: You did well at the tourney,” he said, eyeing each one of them in turn.
Dennethom smiled uncertainly. Mehar Renecke had already congratulated them once, and he was never one to heap on praises when there was still work to be done. Glancing about, he noticed that both his siblings and his cousins had also noted Renecke’s unusual action.
“Do you know why the Boentu leader throws such tournaments?” Renecke asked.
Lossepharr was the first to answer. “A show of force by the Boentu System. It is a way to show the other systems the kinds of fighters we produce, and warn the other systems to stay in line.”
Renecke nodded his head, approvingly. “That is, for the most part, true. It is also a way to show the Boentu people that the leader’s offspring,” he glanced at Dennethom as he spoke, “are ready to protect the system and lead their people to victory. As such, I would not have had you take part in the tourney if I did not believe you were ready for battle.”
All around him, Dennethom could feel his cousins and his siblings sit just a little straighter, taking pride in the notion that they were now battle-ready. Dennethom did not respond however. Something about Mehar Renecke’s wording seemed off.
“Because of me, you are all fine Boentu warriors,” Renecke continued. “I have taught you how to fight. I have taught you how to read your opponent, both on and off the battlefield. I have taught you all I know of the warrior code, and how to use it.” He paused and once again studied each and every one of his pupils. “And now I believe that it is time for my payment.”
We just received word from Doctor Onan. The Boentu Atten has arrived at Mandos. However, it was too late. The infection spread too quickly for the Doctor to contain it. My son is dead.
We haven’t released the news yet. We need a few hours to regroup and handle the situation. Yasana…. poor Yasana is devastated. She says she ought to have been with him. The medic on board had to give a her a sedative. We’ll be arriving back on Anhur soon. I hope Yasana is okay to be seen in public. I’d be glad to do as much as I can for her, but really, the system will want to see her, the wife of the Boentu leader.
Katha is handling things as well as can be. I have been in constant contact with him. And Draddo, thank goodness for my brother-in-law. He took charge. He will be handling the announcement just as soon as we sort out succession. Chran’s children are just cubs. The system needs a Steward. It makes sense that it should be Katha. Draddo agrees. Yet Katha seems so reluctant. Hopefully Draddo can make him understand the necessity of his role.
As for myself…. I feel…. numb. When Isaur passed, I didn’t think life could hurt like that. But Chran… he is my child. So young. So why do I feel so numb? I suppose it is because everyone else is falling apart. I tend to feel calmer when others need me. I am sure my grieving time will come.
Despite my numbness, there is still a part of me that wants to rail at the universe, the old gods, all of them. Why Chran? Why like this? He was a warrior. He went to Hadad twice, and returned triumphant. Why did we have to go through all of that, only for this to occur? Why my boy?
I should probably go and check on Yasana. Perhaps the medic has something to calm my nerves. It seems I am not quite as numb as I originally thought. I just want to be home right now holding my grandchildren. They are all I have left of Chran.
Sweat poured from Karna’s smooth dark skin. Her heart raced, even as she agreed to go yet another round with the wooden arbo. Despite feeling sore and tired, she was determined to keep going. Besides, she was good with the arbo, as evidenced by Lossepharr’s repeated demands for another round.
As she danced about with the arbo, allowing Lossepharr to get in a few simple blows, drawing him in, and making him feel sure of a win, she glanced about her, and noticed the audience. The children of Chran had come to watch Karna’s practice. They seemed to be making it a regular event, coming to watch Karna fight. At first Karna thought it was to keep an eye on her, but she quickly realised it was simply for their own entertainment. They enjoyed watching a Boentu half-breed take down the Steward of Boentu’s son.
Not Arjuna though, she seemed to want to study Karna’s technique. Her eyes were like two lasers, watching Karna’s moves intently. Karna didn’t mind. Let Arjuna see what a round with her would be like. Lossepharr had commented that Arjuna, who already practised a lot, had taken to staying even later in the training dojo since Karna had arrived at Boentu Palace. So she made Arjuna nervous. Good.
Karna hadn’t really spoken with the other children of Chran. The big one, Arronanto, had tried to chat with her one day while she strolled the palace gardens, but Karna had deliberately turned away, leaving him speechless. She didn’t need the children of Chran on her side, and she certainly didn’t want their support. Lossepharr’s support was plenty enough for her. Yes, his eyes tended to linger on her just a little too much, and, on occasion, after a round of training he would take it upon himself to wipe the dust from her, but she could handle him.
As if to prove to herself that she indeed could handle the clumsy advances of a self-involved, rich little boy, she decided to take that moment to bring her arbo down quickly and hard, easily disarming him. A round of applause came from the sidelines. The children of Chran weren’t the only ones that liked to watch the training of a half-breed. All of Lossepharr’s siblings also stood by, as well as several off-duty Boentu Guardians. Karna hated them for seeking their entertainment through her, believing themselves better than her. But at least she was providing a good show and pretty soon, they would realise just how formidable she really was.
Thankfully, Lossepharr, whose knuckles were now bleeding, decided to stop the training session. Karna quickly evaded his smarmy touch, and grabbed a cup of water. As she sipped the ice cold beverage, and wiped the sweat away from her eyes, she strolled across the dojo until she was within hearing shot of the children of Chran.
“She’s good,” Dennethom quietly acquiesced.
Arronanto reluctantly nodded his head. “But we’re all agreed here, right? Lossepharr’s only keeping her around so she can fight his battles for him.”
“Unfortunately,” Dennethom replied. “He wants her to be such a regular presence here, that no one questions her the next time she wants to duel.”
Arjuna’s expression hardened and Karna was glad. She should be worried.
“It sure is funny to see Lossepharr on his royal posterior all the time!” Arronanto exclaimed with a grin, obviously trying to get his sister to lighten up.
“I suspected I would find you all here,” said Mehar Renecke, appearing in the doorway. “Lossepharr, get cleaned up. I need to speak with all of my trainees immediately.”
Puzzled looks filled the faces of the Boentu in the dojo, and the off-duty guardians hurried out. Lossepharr too left to get cleaned up. Karna followed but the Mehar stopped her with a smooth white arm.
“Your presence is not needed just now. This is business for the line of Chran and Katha.”
Karna glared back defiantly at him, bit back a retort, and stalked out of the training dojo.
I spent the afternoon taking care of the children. Chran is off to Adonis in the morning to look at a new mining operation. I let Yasana and Chran have the afternoon alone together before he leaves. I always hated when Isaur went away. As a young female, I resented having to share Isaur with the rest of the system.
Marvena was looking rather tired today. This pregnancy seems to be more draining for her than the others. So it ended up being me, the nanny, and six miniature Boentu warriors, determined to outwit their old grandmother.
They tried to sneak off into the dojo at one point. I have to admit, they work well together as a team. Little Arjuna, sitting on my lap, pretending that she wants me to brush her thick mane, while the others stealthily moved towards the door. I don’t know what Arjuna would have done when the others left. She hates feeling left out because she’s a girl and the youngest. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to no longer be the youngest.
Personal Journal: 1282.0702.0900
We just received a message that the Boentu Atten is being re-routed to Mandos. Chran has caught some kind of infection while he was on Adonis. They told him not to go down there, but he insisted. Even though he was only planet-side for a few hours, he apparently caught it. Thank goodness Doctor Onan is with him. Chran’s been confined to his quarters because they don’t know how contagious he is.
Mandos is closer to Adonis and has the best hospital facilities outside the Arthema System. Or so Doctor Onan tells me. In truth, I am a little beside myself. It must be serious if they’re routing to Mandos. He must need hospitalization. If that’s so…. I haven’t felt this worried about Chran since he snuck his way to Hadad.
I can’t let myself sit here and stew about it. I have to pack. I have to be strong for Yasana. She seemed fine while she was sitting with the children, but I know she was putting on a front for their sake.
At the doctor’s suggestion, we’re going to rendezvous with Chran on Mandos. Hopefully this is all just a silly scare, but, I don’t know, I can’t help feeling this sense of dread.
Arjuna surveyed the woman stalking towards her. She was certainly not Boentu, her eyes were a dead give away. Judging by her appearance, she was part Gaian. Gaian’s didn’t even have a warrior class. Well, if this girl was foolish enough to go up against Arjuna after the display she’d just seen, Arjuna certainly didn’t mind giving her a lashing.
“You can’t be serious,” Dennethom cried out. He stalked past his sister towards Renecke and the stranger.
“What is your name?” he asked, his voice brusque.
“Karna,” she replied, staring coolly back at him with her blue eyes.
“Well Karna, I’m afraid that you are not permitted to make a challenge.”
“I disagree,” she replied.
“Quani claims that this used to be accepted practice,” Mehar Renecke added, though he was obviously unhappy about the situation.
“Perhaps,” Dennethom muttered before turning to the royal box to address Quani himself. “But this stranger is not even full Boentu. Look at her clothing! She was raised in the Gaian System and knows nothing of fighting a Boentu warrior. It would be an unfair match.”
Arjuna touched her brother on his back. “I don’t mind fighting her. I can beat her, Denne.”
“But you shouldn’t have to. It would be dishonourable for a Boentu warrior to fight a Gaian like this. One who is untrained in our ways.”
“I can take care of myself,” Karna replied. “I do not need, nor do I desire, your pity. I know what kind of fight I’ve got myself into. Does she?” she asked, nodding her head towards Arjuna.
Arjuna hissed a warning at Karna, her eyes ablaze with anger. Dennethom held his sister back with a hand, just as Lossepharr approached.
“She is half-Boentu. She has followed tradition. She has every right to challenge Arjuna,” Lossepharr said, stopping next to Karna. “What are you afraid of Dennethom? That your little sister will lose against a Gaian and shame you and your family?”
“That wouldn’t happen because I would wipe the floor with her,” Arjuna replied, baring sharp canines at her cousin.
“No?” asked Karna. “I wouldn’t be so sure. I’ve been handling weapons ever since I was out of swaddling cloth.” Her tone was calm, but her claws were extended.
“Enough!” cried Renecke in dismay. “Dennethom is right. This may have been tradition in the past, but she is not Boentu-”
“Neither are you, and you’re our weapons Mehar,” Lossepharr coolly pointed out.
“Nor has she been trained in the ways of the Boentu,” Renecke continued, ignoring Lossepharr. “This challenge will not continue.”
Amidst protests from Karna, Lossepharr and Arjuna, who was now more than ready for a fight, Renecke added, “That is my final decision. This tournament is over!” Without another word, Renecke stalked away to prepare for the celebrations.
Arjuna stayed put, glaring at the half-Gaian, half-Boentu female. Realising that his sister had no intention of leaving the field, Dennethom roughly grabbed her by the elbow turning her towards the tent.
Reluctantly, Arjuna obeyed. Karna continued to coolly watch the brother and sister leave. As they disappeared behind a canvas flap, she turned to Lossepharr. “I appreciate your support.”
“Oh, I am not finished,” Lossepharr replied. “I will teach you the ways of the Boentu and you will have your fight with Arjuna and any of the Chran children you wish to challenge.”
“Why?” she asked, uncertainly.
“I admire your courage. You have the heart of a true Boentu.”
Karna eyed Lossepharr wearily as he held out a hand to her. She studied his face, trying to determine his motivations. A grab for power? Or something more? Unable to tell for sure, she took hold of his hand and allowed Lossepharr to lead her back to the Boentu Palace.
I am having trouble sleeping again. I cannot stop thinking about the funeral. I didn’t think I was strong enough to bear it, but I did. Although I could not have done it without the help of Katha and Chran, and their beautiful wives. Yasana and Marvena both looked so radiant today. It is odd seeing carrying females dressed in mourning. It has taken a long time, but Yasana is finally carrying Chran’s seed. And, I’ve realised, in the end, it is Chran’s seed. It’s his and Yasana’s blood that will run in that child’s veins. It doesn’t matter to me how that child was conceived. I only wish it had happened sooner, so that Isaur might have met his grandchildren.
I keep going back over it. If only I had sent him to Doctor Onan sooner. When he was Boentu Leader, he had weekly check-ups. But in these later days he fussed so much about going. Doctor Onan says it might not have made much difference. The tumour spread at such a rapid rate.
I should have known. I should have sensed something when he started cutting back on his training. But that man never was one to complain. Sometimes I hate him for that. I know what Doctor Onan said. I know what the specialist in the Arthemian System said. But am I wrong to think that if we’d just caught it in time, they could have operated?
Instead he was forced to take drugs that did more to hurt his body than help him. At least he is at peace now. I know he didn’t feel much like a Boentu warrior, while laying in a hospital bed.
And now he is gone, and there is just me. No. Not just me. There’s Katha, Chran, Yasana, Marvena, and my grandchildren. I wish the universe had let Isaur meet his grandchildren.
Chran’s doing a bit better. I wasn’t sure how well he’d be, with the entire star system focused on him in mourning. It’s not fair. It’s too much to ask of any Boentu warrior, but he took it in stride. Draddo has offered to stay on as an advisor. I know Chran appreciates it. Both he and Katha are rather preoccupied right now. And Draddo knows more about running the Boentu star system than anyone else on Anhur.
The balance has shifted and I am filled with despair. But soon it will shift back and we shall be okay. My family is strong. And yet, every time I think about Isaur being gone, I cannot seem to breathe. I miss him more with every day that passes. I feel weaker without him by my side.
Yasana took a long shaky breath as she waited for Zutival to be seated. “Long before I met Chran,” she began, “my family were living in the Gaian System. It was during the agricultural riots. My family were peacekeepers, helping to protect the goods being transported. I was just a young girl at the time, but I remember how tense it was there. My family were escorting the shipping runs on Agnesha. That’s their main port.” Yasana stared hard at her hands in her lap. “I saw the working conditions on Agnesha. It was appalling. They just wanted better conditions,” she looked up at Zutival, hoping that he didn’t think her the naïve fool that everyone else saw her as. “I and a couple of school friends decided to attend one of the protests. At least, that had been the plan. My friends backed out at the last minute. But I went anyway.”
“I imagine Boentu weren’t very well looked upon there,” Zutival said gently, when he realised that Yasana needed some prompting to continue.
“No. They weren’t. I wanted to show them that not all Boentu agreed with the way the Gaian government were treating their workers. That people like my parents were just doing their job. But I realised when I got there that I was just one tiny voice in this sea of hatred and I knew I had made a mistake by coming. I tried to leave. I did. But then this angry Gaian stopped me. He kept shoving me, telling me that I didn’t belong here. This was Gaian business.” Tears began to flow across Yasana’s downy cheeks. “And then he grabbed me and dragged away and…” She had to stop to take another shaky breath, and wipe at her tears.
“You don’t have to continue,” Zutival gently said.
She shrugged. “I don’t remember much anyway. He was beating me. I remember that much. Then I blacked out. The next thing I knew, I woke up in a Gaian hospital with my parents there. The doctors told me what happened. That someone had…. that it looked like I was carrying.
My parents would have taken me away right then, but we agreed, all of us, that it was best if I stayed long enough to have the child and give it up. I didn’t want it. Some half-breed child that would only serve to remind me of what happened, of my idiocy.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“That’s what they all kept telling me. But I could tell that they thought I should never have gone there.” She wiped away another tear. “I just wanted to put it all behind me. It was the first time I was carrying, and instead of feeling connected with my offspring I felt… like I was carrying this thing, this reminder of what happened. Of what I don’t even remember happening. I didn’t even bother finding out the sex of it. It wasn’t until I actually gave birth… that I found out it was a girl.” She looked up at Zutival, finally able to gaze into his slitted eyes. “That was the only time, the only moment when I wondered if I was doing the right thing. And then I handed her off, and went home. I made myself forget. And I have never told anyone this story, not since I left the Gaian System. I never even told Chran because I was always afraid of what he would think of me.”
She stopped. Zutival wasn’t sure if she was finished or just at a loss for words. He cleared his throat awkwardly. “You realise, my Lady, there’s no reason to believe that this challenger is the very child that you gave up.”
Yasana let out a sigh. “I wish I could believe that, Zutival. Truly I do. But she’s the right age. I even dare say she looks like me. It’s too much of a coincidence. And if she is my daughter…. Then my only two daughters are about to face off with each other.”