Ventus – Day 22 of 135

In wonder, Armiger realized he had sunk to his knees, was clutching himself, and crying in wrenching gusts. And now he knew the feeling of the human misery he had heard so much on this world.

“Calandria!” Jordan clutched at her shoulder.

“Shh!” She put a hand on his lips angrily.

He started to protest–he needed help, the visions were back–then noticed the silence.

Jordan turned his head. A few people were staring at him. The rest had their eyes on the head table, and only one voice in the whole hall was speaking. It was Yuri, who had risen and now stood with his arms crossed, staring at nothing while he spoke. Jordan had not heard him speak before; his voice was a high tenor, very mannered and hard to hear, even in this attentive silence.

“…Are aware of the Iapysian tragedy. The Boros clan has an obligation, as nobility in that state, to not stand aside and allow it to continue. We also have an obligation, as nobility in other states, to avoid any action that might seem to be foreign interference. That is the reason I have not acted before now. It is the reason you were called here. All three nations know the Boros’ are meeting, and that we are meeting at our ancestral home because it is our home, and for no other political reason.

“Now, there are many stories circulating about the nature of the catastrophe in Iapysia. It is popularly held to be a punishment by the Winds, who are popularly held to have installed Queen Galas to begin with. Firstly, though, she was the legal heir, so she would have inherited without their help. And second, she has been committing all manner of atrocities in the name of ‘reform’, many of which have struck at the very heart of our social order.”

Brendan Sheia glared at Yuri. “Is reform a bad word around here?” he boomed.

Yuri held up a hand, cocking his head, and said, “Not at all. But we have to face the prospect of a nation ruled only by the rabble, in the form of the Iapysian parliament. Regardless of Queen Galas’ crimes, no right-minded man or woman would want to see the state headless. We would all have to deal with the consequences and, I believe, the Winds would not look favorably upon Iapysia. And we, the Boros, are part of Iapysia.”

Calandria put her hand on Jordan’s sleeve. “Are you all right?” she asked in a whisper.

He wanted to tell her about the visions–but that would end the evening for sure. It wasn’t that Jordan was enjoying this assembly, but it was a very big thing to be here at all. He wanted to stay until the end.

He shook his head. “I’m fine.” But he was beginning to sweat.

Yuri continued: “The Queen earned the wrath of the parliament, and much of the nobility, by creating a number of ‘experimental villages’ in which the laws of the land were replaced by mock laws of her own devising. In one such, every citizen was entitled to both a husband and a wife–male and female.” Yuri nodded sagely at the shocked expressions of his audience. “In another she repealed law entirely, replacing it with crass public opinion. And in yet another, she inverted all the laws of the land, so that no one was punishable for any act–instead of being punished for acting unjustly, people were rewarded for acting justly. In short, she flung a challenge into the face of decency in all its forms. All in the name of some nebulous ‘reform’.” Yuri looked down his nose at Brendan Sheia. “We are all ashamed of the actions of this Queen, and no amount of condemnation would be sufficient.

“But she is Queen, and if she is to be dealt with, it should be by the land owners, not the rabble. So, my dear family, we find ourselves on the horns of a dilemma, for the army raised and ruled by parliament is winning the war against the Queen.”

Who cared? He had to get out of here. Jordan made to stand, only to feel Axel’s hand clamp onto his shoulder, forcing him down again. He turned to snap at the man, but a wave of dizziness overcame him.

Strange, how reassuring tears were. They were right for this body, a healing action. Armiger had never known that about tears before, had always taken them to be some reflex reaction of his men to pain. But they freed up sorrow, and this body of his, now his only one, thanked him for allowing them.

Now he stood, wiped his eyes, and gazed up and down the path. What else did this body need? It seemed he should take it into account now that his greater Self was gone. He required proper food, yes, and shelter, warmth and rest. Rest…

He had not known that his body was so weary. All the energy he had poured into it over the past day had poured right out again as he walked. He was healing despite his great expenditure of energy, not because of it. If he wasn’t careful, the body would give out again, this time permanently. He would have to find another, or exist only as the ghostly net of threads that had first come to this world. While he could survive that way, Armiger feared the loss of his human body–it was his anchor. Without it he would drift into the madness of his own sense of loss.

His body wanted the comfort of its own kind to heal it. He would see where this path led to.

Axel took his hand off Jordan’s shoulder. The kid had settled down. He now appeared to be concentrating on Yuri’s speech. Good; couldn’t have him running off to the latrine right now. Yuri was obviously about to announce which ship he was backing, the parliament or the Queen. It would not do to be conspicuous right now.

Jordan couldn’t move. His perceptions seemed doubled: he knew he was sitting at the table in the banquet hall, even felt Axel take his hand from his shoulder. But at the same time, he was far away, watching through another set of eyes. His other hand brushed leaves aside; he stumbled, and Jordan tried to put his right hand out to steady himself. It worked!–he grabbed a branch. But then the hand let go again, before he willed it. No, he was not controlling this body, only reacting in synchrony with it.

“So it is with reluctance and in full awareness that this decision will please no one, that I have to tell you the official position of the house of Boros.” Yuri frowned around at the assembled family members. “In the interest of eventually returning a true monarchy to Iapysia, we must support parliament at this time.”

The path wound down a hillside, and there on a shoulder of the hill, under tall trees, sat a cabin. Extensive gardens were carved out of the brambles at the bottom of the hill, where a small stream wound through this wooded ravine.

Armiger paused, breath heaving. He felt conflicting impulses–to avoid this place, since he was not strong and his body might not survive a hostile encounter–or to seek help for it now. He was desperately ill, tired and wounded.

He stood shifting from foot to foot, aware of jabs of pain every time he moved. Where else could he go? Would he walk to the edge of the world? Or until the Winds found him and wrapped him in their own unwanted embrace? That prospect was daunting.

A gasp from behind him caught Armiger by surprise, and he tried to turn, only to lose his footing. With a raw shout he tumbled down the slope, quite helpless. At the bottom he lay wondering at his weakness. Never, even in the tomb, had he felt this way. His energies were failing from the effort it took to restore his body to life. Coughing, he blinked at the pale leaves high above.

“Goddess!” The voice was a woman’s. “Are you all right?”

A shadow bent over him. He heard another intake of breath. “Goddess, you are not!”

Armiger tried to lift his hand. “Please,” he croaked. “Help me.” His black fingers closed in fine hair.

“No!” Jordan was barely aware that his plate was skittering across the table, and off to shatter on the floor. He had fallen forward, fighting to hold back Armiger’s distant body. “Run! Get away from him!”

No one was paying any attention to him. Brendan Sheia was on his feet, shaking his finger at Yuri. “This is a calumny!” he shouted. “We all know the real reason you’re supporting parliament, father. It’s to cut me out of my birthright!”

A gasp went around the room. Then everyone was shouting at once.

No one could hear Jordan–not those in the banquet hall, transfixed as they were by the drama unfolding here, nor the distant woman, too close to Armiger. Jordan felt her hands on him–or were they Calandria’s?

A torrent of outraged voices enveloped him–“Your anger does you no credit, Brendan!” “Quiet, Linden, you traitor.” Chairs toppled; ladies scurried for cover as the two Boros heirs confronted one another below the head table.

None of this mattered to Jordan. He tried with all his will to take control of Armiger’s body, but it was futile. That hand in her hair… He dimly knew that Axel had him in an armlock and together with Calandria, was marching him from the banquet hall.

He fought the wrong bodies, and even as they resisted, in that distant place the one who should resist, should flee, did not. Instead, her gentle arms gathered him up.

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