Sunday, January 31, 2010

[AN: asa kraiya is now up on the new site]

Whether you are a new reader or returning to dip into chapters you enjoy or do a full read-over, you'll like
asa kraiya : beyond the sword at my new website, currently here. (

I am still counting ak as in beta now, as I haven't fully checked over everything, so if you notice any errors large or small -- or indeed have any comments on the site or the reading experience as it is now or whatever -- please let me know.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

213 - It's very simple, what we want

In the hubbub, I learned later, Kaninjer signaled both the adakri and Darosera from the door, holding up one hand with all fingers extended. Darosera proposed a resolution that they allow me five days before I started again, and it went chalk unanimously. I was not hiding as well as I meant to that I was injured, I suspect.

Most of the rest of that evening I remember as a happy blur. When I requested painkiller, it was poured for me copiously. Linasika congratulated me, a little wanly, though he also leaned in a little close and whispered, “I bet you’re glad now I talked you out of resigning,” making wine burst out of my nose with horror or mirth, I’m not sure which.

I was swept up onto shoulders before I could change into the semanakraseyeni shirt, so I did it aloft. They carried me once around Vae Arahi, but then down to Terera too, and through every street. There wasn’t much Kaninjer could do about it, or I for that matter, but at least my weight was off the leg and my back out of reach of those who’d pound it. I’d wanted to introduce Krasila to every one of her kin, even the cousins twenty times removed, but had to leave that to my parents.

Between Kaninjer holding me to my promise I wouldn’t go too late, and Niku, who was genuinely tired, wanting me with her, they got me back into the sleigh at a decent hour. “Hot-tub, I treat you, then bed,” he ordered crisply. With everyone else having their hands full, I went down to the water-room alone.

Everyone had been too busy to light the lights, it seemed, so I took a lamp from a sconce in the corridor. The sky was still clear, and the just-waning moon shining on the snow on Haranin, suffusing everything with a silvery blueness through the windows, would probably have been enough to see my way anyway. I stripped and went in silently to savour the quiet, the peaceful trickle of the waterfall the only sound. Then from the hot-tub I heard a soft female sobbing, the voice one I didn’t recognize. I padded closer, dousing the light, and saw the grey-white spear. The sobbing cut off abruptly.

“It’s me, shadow-grandma,” I said. “Let me guess—not sadness, but the emotion that’s hard to name, of the hugeness of everything.”

“I know it’s you, Cheve—Virani-e. Congratulations, semanakraseye.”

“Or maybe you aren’t even sure what it is. The hot-tub relaxes—nothing like it for old achy wounds—and loosens internal knots… it can catch you off-guard.” I climbed in and sat across from her, leaned my head back and closed my eyes, and felt the heat deliciously erase the pain in my back and calf. I wouldn’t be long for the waking world, I felt right away. It had been a long day.

“I had no idea you liked babies so much,” I said.

“Of course I do,” she said. “They haven’t had time to turn rotten yet.” I let out my breath in a long sigh. I was too tired to come up with a good-enough answer to that.

“When I asked you tonight how you got hurt, shadow-grandson, you said, ‘kriffiyah accident,’ knowing full well that would tell me absolutely nothing,” she said. “Now you’re not coated with drooling drunken adorers, would you care to tell me what exactly a kriffiyah is, and how can you have an accident with one?”

“It’s a device for snatching up a person from the ground onto a double-wing, and you can have an accident with one through inexperience. But it’s not fair, shadow-grandma, that we should talk about what afflicts me and not what afflicts you.”

She pulled herself straight, fast enough that I heard it, and felt the ripples the movement threw off lap on my own skin. “Fourth Chevenga… I’m too old to change as much as you all want.”

How do you know how much we all want you to change?”

I’m not a fool, boy. You showed me what you wanted when the lot of you descended on me at my school.”

Oh did we? And that was? You say you know, so I’m testing you.”

“My son, quite rightly, called me a layer-forged bitch this evening.” I’d seen no sign of a quarrel, so perhaps he’d said it jokingly. I hoped so. “He knows me well. A layer-forged blade cannot be melted and recast. It just breaks.”

Now I straightened, and looked her in the eyes. Shadow-grandmother, it’s very simple, what we want,” I said. “You.”

She got up, waded to the steps and began climbing out. Unlike the front of her torso and limbs, which were seamed with old white scars, the back of all of her was wrinkled only, as unscarred as a Haian’s, the mark of a warrior who has never fled the field. “Good night, shadow-grandson. I’m tired.”

“For Esora-e and me, as kin. Tyiria, as a friend. That’s all.”

“Congratulations, semanakraseye, and good night.”

“You don’t believe me? Must I swear on my crystal to my own kinswoman?”

She stood for a moment, a towel wrapped around her, her face unreadable in the darkness. Finally she said, very quietly, “I believe you. Virani-e.”

“Thank you. Sleep well, shadow-grandma. I love you.”

“I… too.”

Krasila turned and strode away spear-straight, and I suddenly knew, as if I could see it in her aura though I was not seeing it, why she was fleeing me. It was not what I’d said, or that I had tried to touch her aura, since I had not. It was that my presence alone made the spear in her shift, ever so slightly.

Some day, I thought. In this life, or the next.

The faint whiteness of her body and the towel fading into darkness as she went suddenly blurred in my sight; just as I’d told her, the hot-tub can catch you off-guard. I let my own tears fall freely, full of the emotion that is hard to name, of the hugeness of everything.

vinya (the end)


[Author's note: what next for me?]

Well, before we get into that, a reminder: the next Character Chat happens 2 p.m. EST this Saturday, Jan. 30. The very chatty Chevenga -- or should I say, Virani-e -- will be there, with his reflections on asa kraiya.

My writing plans: I've got into a two-project per weekday habit and at least some of my readers have as well, but since that was putting me on the edge of burnout, what I plan to do is post The Philosopher in Arms alone, at least until I get the new site truly up to speed. I might also devote some serious weblit time to publicity and advertising, to grow my readership.

After some discussion with Shirley, I think my next project will be a collaboration with her. It's a book we conceived years ago and have partially written. Start date TBA... not to worry, we'll generate enough hoopla that you'll know. We will locate it on the new site. Here is the blurb.



A weblit novel by Karen Wehrstein and Shirley Meier

There’s only one way to get into the greatest school of generalship in the Fifth Millennium world…


Her blood-mother died by her own hand. At heart, she feels she has a brilliant strategic mind, but her shadow-mother and her two shadow-sibs laugh at her ambitions and say she’s only good for farm-work.

If she goes back home a loser, it’ll be the final proof that she has no talent, only pretensions.


He was working his way up the ranks of the Yeoli army quickly, until he got busted down as a result of his own obsessive envy. “A fine commander,” his military record reads, “as long as he doesn’t have Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e under his command.” As if that could ever happen.

Guess who decides, on a whim, to show up.


Forbidden by Arkan law to command more than a hundred fellow solas for most of his career due to his caste, he is capable of much more. Now he’s free to pursue his dream of becoming a general… but he’s alone among foreigners who hate his people for what they did as conquerors.

For political reasons, this year will be his only chance.

What do they have in common?

They’re all out to win…



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Monday, January 25, 2010

212 - The count of the votes of the people

My mind was suddenly full of the sight of her holding Esora-e that way as an infant. “Katanrani’s around somewhere, too,” I said. I wanted both of them to feel this touch as the first thing they knew of her.

“Keep naming children like that and we’ll have mouthfuls like the Enks… er, Enchians,” she said, rocking from one foot to the other unthinking as mothers do, while I introduced her to Servants, administrators, judges, writers and so forth, as well as Kaninjer, Minis, Kyriala and every other foreigner I could pull in. She barely took her eyes off the baby to greet any of them.

Then she was insisting on changing his diaper, and chuckling when I opened the wrong pouch, pulled out the semanakraseyeni shirt by mistake, and whipped it back in before anyone could see, I hoped. “Good strategy, bad tactics, lad… where can I do this?” I went with her, Kaninjer notwithstanding; gooey as she’d turned, some part of me worried she’d sneak out back with Tyiso and lay him in the stream.

As we came back, the bell started ringing. I saw Kuraila hastily kiss Surya and then scurry towards the Assembly chamber door. “Go on,” Krasila said. “I’ll get him back to his mother; it’s not as if she’s hard to spot.”

“I’m on leave, so I’m not actually required until they resolve to invite me to sit in the visitor’s chair,” I said. “So I’m going to lurk by the door.” I spotted Niku, mouthed to her, “You’ll never guess who’s here!” and, when she came over, introduced them. They swapped babies, and Krasila wanted to change Kat’s diaper. “Just born today... and you’re already in a political crowd,” Krasila cooed to her. “My poor kids can’t avoid it,” I said. “Though maybe I, and they, will be tossed out for good in a moment.”

Inside the chamber, Artira began calling Assembly to order; then Skorsas was at my elbow, so I introduced him to Krasila. He was, of course, in his finest, far outshining me or anyone else here, even Minis, and she looked him up and down without hiding it. “Enchanted, Sera,” he purred down his nose. “I’ve heard so much about you, all of it deeply impressive.”

“Mezem boy? You must have seen many fighters, then.” It was absent again, though, her eyes drawn back to Kat and her face softening again.

“Oh yes.” He laid his hand tenderly on my chest. “But really, only one. You have war-students here, as I understand, Serina; how many guest rooms will you and they need?”

Oh, I hadn’t thought to presume on my shadow-grandson’s hospitality... we’re in an inn in Terera.”

That struck Skorsas blessedly speechless. Shadow-grandma!” I said. “You’ve got so much family in this town that with this latest two I’ve lost count, and you’re paying for a room?”

“That is proper, given our years of estrangement, is it not?”

Shadow-grandma, I told you you have a standing invitation, that our doors and our arms are open to you! My house is yours!”

“I recuse myself from presiding and relinquish the speaker’s crystal to the angaseye daiga krisa,” Artira said, inside the chamber, in her official voice. There was but one item on tonight’s agenda.

“Well, I… thank you,” said Krasila. In between her making mush-eyes at Kat, she and Skorsas worked out how many rooms, just in time for my parents to show up insisting she stay at the Dependent with them. The compromise we worked out was that my parents would all stay up at the Independent tonight. Skorsas had started the hot-tub draining as soon as we’d got out; it would be filled again by the time we were back.

“We convene so as to record and certify the national referendum on the matter of re-approving as semanakraseye First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e,” the adakri said, “in light of his conviction under the Statute semanakraseyeni sections 21-1 and 21-5-7 and the findings of the Chevengani Mental State Assessment Committee as stated in their final report.”

I could no longer pretend to myself that my heart was not in my throat. Kaninjer probably had calming essence, but I didn’t want anyone to see me take any. I’d never imagined I’d be in Krasila’s presence while the results were read; somehow that made it more nerve-wracking.

Now, little girl... are you going to be big and strong too?” Whatever my people had decided for me, I reminded myself, I had twins, and I’d keep both of them.

“I propose that we invite Virani-e to the visitor’s chair as it would only be appropriate to this occasion.” Darosera, bless her.

“Strong, like your mama and papa both?” Something made me take a deep breath and still myself inside, then look at Krasila. My eyes must have taken on the aura-seeing gaze. Inside her, from the crown vortex to long past the base one, low as her knees, was a spear, sickly grey-white, like pus, with age.

Discussion... I see no hands requesting the crystal. That we invite First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e to the visitor’s chair as it would be appropriate to this occasion, all chalk, all charcoal, all abstentions, I have seen chalks only, carried unanimously. Runner, enact.” Barely behind me was the Arch-Keeper of the Counting Chamber, with the papers. She’d be called in next.

“Beautiful like your papa, even if in brown, hmm?” Krasila drew Kat in close, and I saw the spear in her curve away from the baby, and the blue around her arms strengthen, between it and her, as if to protect her from it. Krasila could not know she was doing this.

“Chevenga.” The runner touched my arm, and several more hands patted my shoulders as I went in. It was written afterwards that I sat forward in the visitor’s chair from tension; in truth I was keeping the cracked rib off the chair-back.

As I hold both my own and the crystal of the Assembly of Yeola-e in my hands, in the worldly witness of the people of Yeola-e as represented by the Assembly of Yeola-e and the spiritual witness of All-Spirit,” said the Arch-Keeper, “this vote and count was completed entirely properly and legally, no procedure omitted and no precaution neglected, in the witness in every counting-room in Yeola-e of the Counting Senaheral, Second Fire come if I am forsworn.” Deep breath. The spirit of Surya, I think, will be with me the rest of my life.

“As you have so sworn, sib Arch-Keeper of the Counting Chamber, we ask that you reveal the count of the votes of the people on the question, that we fully reinstate as semanakraseye First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e in light of his conviction under the Statute semanakraseyeni sections 21-1 and 21-5-7 and the findings of the Chevengani Mental State Assessment Committee as stated in their final report.” I stood up, feeling drops of sweat trickle down between my shoulder-blades, as she handed the packet of papers to the adakri, who opened them.

“Oh yes, and fly on one of those mad contraptions like your mama, yes!” When there was a baby in Krasila’s arms, the rest of the world didn’t exist for her. Several people around her said, “Shh!”

“The vote of the people of Yeola-e on the question, that we fully reinstate as semanakraseye of Yeola-e First Virani-e Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e in light of his conviction under the Statute semanakraseyeni sections 21-1 and 21-5-7 and the findings of the Chevengani Mental State Assessment Committee as stated in their final report, we have duly totaled as, of two thousand thousand, seven hundred and fifty three thousand, four hundred and twenty two proper and unspoiled votes: chalk, one thousand thousand, nine—”

I gasped—I couldn’t help it, and it rang out clear through the chamber. I threw my hands over my eyes.

“…hundred and seventy-one thousand, five hundred and seventy-three; charcoal, four hundred and eighty-seven thousand, nine-hundred and seventy-one; by our calculation a majority just shy of seven and one quarter in ten.”

Everything dimmed, and the room was spinning. I sat down fast, put my head on the table and buried it in my arms; it would be wrong to break my neck keeling over in a dead faint after a seven-and-a-quarter national chalk telling me to come in to work tomorrow morning. The result showed me what I had expected at heart, though I had hidden it from myself: either a slim win, or a slim loss.

The Servants were doing the somber applause that is proper from them; the crowd in the gallery and outside the door were madly cheering, some jumping up and down. A hand touched my shoulder; the adakri, asking, “Semanakraseye, are you all right?” I sat up hard and threw out a firm chalk, hurting my back; she still had to proclaim it and I to say, “The people wills.” But it was still all I could do to not bury my head in my arms again. She put her arm around my shoulders and said, “Take a little time, lad.” It was all too much.


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Saturday, January 23, 2010

[AN: end of book whine; Chevenga chat]

I have it planned out, and the last post of this book is going to be on Tuesday.

Of course I will go back and revise; I've spotted one plot string I never tied up and there's an opinion piece from the Terera Pages that needs inserting somewhere, and of course I will have more ideas. A weblit piece is a living thing.

But that's not the same as writing every day and knowing that people are out there waiting for me to click on "publish post," sweating over the Friday cliffhangers, feeling and thinking things because of what I have written. I should be relieved because it means an end to the killer schedule, but I'm not. I'm sad.

Of course I'll keep going with PA until its end joins up with the beginning of ak, and then I will present them both as one work. (It will be well over a million words long, I estimate, and I plan to divide it into seven books, titled separately, under one main title.) And of course I will write more: more Chevenga stuff, more Fifth Millennium stuff, more who knows what.

But none of it will be asa kraiya. For personal reasons, for emotional reasons, even for spiritual reasons, this book is very, very special to me. Chevenga's transformation is my own, or, at least, runs parallel to it. Because of that, much of ak plotted itself. I've never had so many surprises from a book that I myself was writing, and I've never been so inspired, or inspired in quite that way. I don't know whether I'll ever have that with any other work. I hope so... I imagine it's possible... but I don't know. That makes it tough to leave this one.

Shirley and I announced that our next character chat would be a solo Chevenga (though again, surprise entrances by other characters are not to be ruled out) and now we're thinking it should be about asa kraiya since the book is concluding. I also know that there are people interested in chatting with Surya.

So.... we'll tentatively set the date and time for next chat as: Saturday, Jan. 30, 2 p.m. until... whenever. Location, same as before, here. Hope to see lots of you there.


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Friday, January 22, 2010

211 - Guests I did not expect

We had decided that if we had two boys we’d call them Tyiria and Esora-e, if two girls, Karani and Tanra, and one of each, Tyirisora-e, the names of father and son merged to symbolize their rejoining, and Katanrani, the names of our respective blood-mothers merged formally, just as Roshten had informally merged the names of our blood-fathers.

So, though we had meant to name them as soon as they were born, as is also done in families that don’t stream-test, with the first one, we’d have to wait until the other came.

Kima wanted a sister, Tawaen a brother, saying, “I have enough little sisters,” to great outcry. “Daddy,” Kilalere asked me, “this isn’t something we can vote on, is it?” Meanwhile Niku had pushed out the first after-birth, and Baska taken it from the midwife’s hands and slipped away; I was too shy yet to tell my parents about the Niah custom of the mother frying and eating it, just as they eat the hearts of their dead. (I’d never had an argument with her eating my heart after I died, but I wasn’t sure it would be so with any other Yeoli; now it was good not to have to worry about that happening so soon.)

“No, loves, this is a no-choice,” I said to my squabbling spawn. “You’ll love him or her, and she or he will love you, either way.” The second twin’s head crowned, and then on the next push (on which Niku and I were both seized with fits of giggling between pushing-yells), he was out. He was a boy, but his sex was suddenly the least of our troubles, as he did not breathe, and turned blue as the blood ceased flowing in the cord.

As third eldest, Vriah should have the knife, but she was almost too young anyway, and the midwife said sharply, “Cut it now,” so Etana did it, and Natandra passed the baby straight to Kaninjer, who sucked I know not what out of his mouth and nose with his own mouth, then worked points on his tiny chest.

We all went silent in terror. “He’s scared,” whispered Vriah. Niku buried her head in my neck; feigning calm for all I was worth, I told her, “He’ll be fine,” praying that it prove true.

It took time and work on Kaninjer’s part, but soon enough came a tiny coughing and gasping, and then he started mewling, and all the children cheered and danced, Vriah crowing, “He likes breathing!” When he’d turned to his true colour, Kaninjer brought him back to us.

They both took to the breast well, one apiece. “Welcome to the world which we will fill with love for you, Katanrani,” I said. “Welcome to the world which we will fill with love for you, Tyirisora-e.” Once the second after-birth was delivered and spirited away also, and it was clear that Niku was not bleeding, it was truly over. The four of us basked in the water, while the midwife and Kaninjer packed up their things.

“I suppose you’re going to wave it in everyone’s face that you’re not stream-testing them, by asking us to put up the flags now,” Esora-e said to me.

“Absolutely,” I said. “Red for your shadow-grandson, blue for your shadow-granddaughter, hop to it.” He went out without a word.

Kat—that would be her name from now on in the family—slipped off the breast with a tiny sucking pop, fast asleep; Tyiso hung on even in sleep, and so I carried her and Niku carried him when we finally climbed out, and she lay back in the bed. Kaninjer insisted on checking me before I joined her, then tenderly slathered my back and calf with whack-herb cream, gave me several remedies and ordered me to spend the whole rest of the day in bed. This was just as the vague memory was coming back to me that there was a referendum count happening today about whether I’d remain semanakraseye, and I was due down at Assembly Palace.

“How were you going to get the results on the island?” he asked me, when I stood back up again.

“I’m not there now, I’m here, and I can get to where I should be.”

“You have a good excuse not to, if being with your new children and wife who is recovering from bearing them isn’t enough: healer’s orders.”

“For two bruises?”

“The cracked rib was more what I was thinking of. This one, here.” He pressed his point with a hard enough finger-poke to draw a yelp out of me. “And what you have on your calf is not just a bruise but a hematoma. You’ll have to suffer the hardship of staying here with the new life you’ve made.”

“Cracked rib?” Niku said from the bed. “Hematoma?”

“Getting kriff’ed took two tries,” I said. Taking her demand to tell her everything as evidence that she was strong enough to hear it, I told her. She took several deep breaths.

It was she who came up with the compromise that settled it, that I rest here until the last flyers were in. Tawaen helped by offering to act as runner and accounting for them. Vriah patted my shoulder. “You don’t need to worry, Aba. You said, either way it would be good.” At least I’d hid my nervousness from everyone else.

We posted Tawaen on the terrace as lookout. Down at Assembly Palace, a crowd grew as dark fell; each time a wing came in, they’d send up a huge cheer, the last getting the hugest. “That’s my signal,” I said. “A bead or so, and all the summing-up will be done. Whoever’s coming, coats and boots on.” The kids raced out in a yelling clot.

“Take a horse-sleigh down and back, stay sitting the whole time and no late partying,” Kaninjer commanded.

“If I’m reinstated,” I begged him, “can I let them carry me around Vae Arahi on their shoulders once?” He decided his best bet for keeping me under his thumb was to come down with me. As Skorsas and Krero were setting up the sleigh and escort, I dressed properly: austerely, of course, but I folded the semanakraseyeni shirt into my pouch, just in case.

Then Niku decided she was up to coming, too, which meant everyone; my mother slung Kat and Niku slung Tyiso and they stepped up into the sleigh beside me, and we all went down, like a parade. No one could argue we did not already have reason to celebrate.

The counting-room has a public gallery, but I’d look too hungry if I sat there. Instead Kaninjer set Niku and me up in chairs on the dais of the stone-stove in the ante-room to the Assembly chamber. The place was jammed with people; Kaninjer kept dragging me back down into my chair by my shirt when I’d stand up to take their I-haven’t-seen-you-in-a-month hugs. There were a few I definitely did not expect.

“Surya?” I’d never seen him dressed formally, except as an asakraiyaseye, so I didn’t even know him until he was right beside me, Kuraila beside him in her Assembly kerchief. “How in Celestialis did you get off the island?”

“The only way, the same way you did. We decided we didn’t want to miss it so we sent one of your pigeons up to Sijurai.”

“You mad fool, do you have any idea how dangerous that is? Didn’t you see that when I did it?”

He slapped his hand over his eyes. “Just when I think you’re cured. Well, I tell you what…” He glanced around, spotted what he wanted, pointed. “Argue that with him.” My next question, “We?”, died on my lips. Next to my mother, caressing Tyiso’s tiny brown cheek, was Azaila.

Then a blond head and two white satin shoulders with gold that I knew but couldn’t believe appeared. “We thought we’d surprise you!” Minis said, throwing his arms open. “Kall sends his regrets, you know, Imperator… but I’ve brought Kyriala.”

His fiancée had the typical bred-for beauty of ancient Aitzas houses, like Liren, from which she’d come, with the silken, almost-silver hair, the fine skin, slim wrists and ankles and perfect features. It belied her strength, though; he and she both had relayed here, which made her the first woman who’d ever done it. So had his two shadows, both of the new Mahid, dressed in deep wine rather than black, with just a silver buckle as a nod to the tradition, and smiling freely. As I welcomed her, I mentioned I’d heard tales of her courage from her husband-to-be, which turned out to be a gaffe; I didn’t know they’d never been re-betrothed after he’d released her. She gave him the ‘we-must-talk’ look, and he blushed a colour not unlike the uniforms of his new Mahid. Just the fact that they were here together would be a scandal among some Arkans, so I don’t blame myself.

Then I caught sight of the girl from Krasila’s school who’d asked me if she was good enough to be in the School of the Sword, Merao Shae-Lishiyin. Esora-e’s mother had finally softened enough to let her try out, it seemed. I could introduce her to Azaila right here. She seemed surprised I remembered her. “Yes,” she confirmed when I asked. Kraiyasenseye brought us to apply, three of us.”

Brought you? You mean—she’s here?”

“Yes… somewhere in this room.”

“Tell him I told you what I did, that you’re good enough.” I waved over Azaila, introduced them and left them to speak, and headed back to the dais to search the crowd for my shadow-grandmother. She found me first.

Virani-e. I understand that is the current name you are going by. Integrity… not Rao?” She was still wearing a deep grey woolen coat with a thick fox-fur collar, and black gloves, though we were inside, and stood spear-straight as always, so the coat looked as if it were hung on an armour-stand.

“Shadow-grandma!” I threw my arms open and said what I was saying to everyone, “Around the shoulders, please!” She gave me a stiff short clench. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Neither did I. But here I am. New-child blessings to you, twice over... imagine it, twins. Your chocolate wife threw them? May I see the little brown blighters?”

“If we can find them; they’re getting passed around. Trust my luck they’d be born on the same day as the count.”

Her brows drew down hard. “Born? Today? Then they haven’t been stream-tested yet? The flags were up and Esora-e said they survived.”

So she’d spoken to him first; I wondered where I’d find the blubbering ruin of him. I could see just how it had gone; she’d said something about them both surviving though they were twins, and he’d said, “Yes, they did,” so as to avoid the subject, knowing he’d be able to say he’d thought she meant survived the birth.

He must have thought you meant survived the birth,” I said. “The boy almost didn’t. But we aren’t planning to stream-test them, that’s why the flags. Ah, here…” Ignoring her glare, I caught sight of my youngest son in Artira’s arms, introduced her and Krasila, and took him. “This is your shadow-great-grandson… Tyirisora-e.”

She stared at me hard again, but her hands, as if independent of her mind, reached for him, and as his tiny warm weight went from my arm to hers, she transformed. Her hands were suddenly tender as a new mother’s, she softened all over, and her face lit up with a smile, dropping twenty years in a moment, as she stared into his. “Well, young man! Aren’t you the little bruiser, hmm? Aren’t you something?” He smiled and burbled back; soon she’d pulled the gloves off with her teeth and unbuttoned her coat, to snuggle him inside it, cooing non-stop.

I stood blinking in amazement. Krasila Mangu, a sop for babies—who’d have imagined?


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