21 Orcharis to Frumentis 1138
I went directly to the library after a restorative cold bath. That was not my first sleepless night, nor would it be my last, and given sufficient fondal and not using my ingeniae, I’m good for a sleepless night or two. I worked through the cool early morning and into the afternoon, until well after the Conversatory started coming back to life.
A festival is leisurely or frenetic, depending on how one takes it. One could sleep, read, eat and fritter away the tenday, dance or otherwise occupy oneself until dawn, but invariably, summer festivals run through the night and people sleep through the heat of the day.
I dislike the sun; sunburns respond poorly to Healing. In the library, I slowly began assembling, not a list of facts, but a list of texts that might lead to those facts. This library, the largest and most complete north of Cimenarum, held most of the references I’d need — Galantieran census, geographical material, economic references. It lacked military history and strategic philosophy, but Archilians rarely wage war and I had my collection at the inn. Early in the afternoon, I did make use of Cel’s book, though not exactly as she intended. What flowed from my pen was closer to poem than diary entry, but when I was done, I liked what I read. My literature tutors probably wouldn’t, but I no longer had to please them. Then I returned to work, feeling a bit better, and was deep in the histories when someone approached.
Darav. We’d met a few times in the past quarter-year; he served on one of the publishing committees. He’d always been nice enough.
“Indoors, on a day like this?” he asked, glancing at the wax tablet I’d filled with scratches. “Planning a masterwork?”
“Something like that,” I said.
“Join me for the concert out on the green?” he suggested.
I’d spent several hours on this already and could use air lacking dust and time to consider the military side of my… I’m planning a civil war. Avah’s right. I need to live again, just not how she expects.
We left the vast stone library and companionably walked the school’s corridors, emptied for the holiday. Archilians always build from stone, even where stone is difficult, to prevent fire. Rather than joining the crowd on the green or among the row of stalls offering food and trinkets, we skirted the hospital wing and climbed the embankment surrounding the Conversatory, to sit in the shelter of the trees and hedges. From here, we could hear the musicians perfectly well, had shade and were alone.
We sat in disquieting silence. I didn’t know if he was trying to court me, and if he was, what I was supposed to do, or if I wanted him to try. I wasn’t a complete innocent; I’d seen the passions that stirred deep Curia currents, and long years back, had what Avah considered nearly a suitor, in Kelfan of Adelbahan, but for a Galantieran woman, I was hardly more than a child. I’ve never flirted so I didn’t embarrass myself.
When Darav spoke, he startled me. “What’s wrong with your ingeniae?”
I answered without thinking, too astonished and relieved. “I don’t know. Nobody does.”
“You’re aware that it’s off. That’s good.”
“How do you know?” I asked, realizing his interest lay only in what resided between my ears, or wherever ingeniae live.
“I’m a tutor,” he said, “and I can’t not see puissance flows. Sometimes I wish I could see the world like you do, without shadows and flares. But my Visia permanent, so at least I’m useful. You aren’t much of an Ingenia.”
I studied him for a long moment, not just his unruly, dark mop of hair and bright hazel eyes, not just his soft, ink-stained hands and slightly round frame, but the penetrating intelligence in his face and the stubborn set of his mouth. I liked what I’d seen of him in the meetings we’d shared, but I didn’t know how much I could trust him. “Enough to be an Advocate, little more.”
“Right, but your potential’s enormous. Standard metaphor, puissance is water in a system of locks and channels. No access to the water — the prosaic. Those with a little tap, to irrigate a garden, say, are the small ones, who need a year of training and no more. Then there’s people like Cel — Holy Wisdom, that woman’s like an ocean all by herself. You’ve got enormous channels, but when I look, there’s no puissance, like you’ve run dry or something. It doesn’t make sense. Ingeniae don’t build channels then not use them. Either you’re drought and flood, or somebody burned it out of you.”
I suppressed the shudder. Burn’s too close to the truth. Ingeniae children show it about five or six. We believe they’re present at birth, but children have so much else to learn — to walk, talk, eat, read, think — that ingeniae display late. Mine showed, on schedule, at six, in a spectacular near-disaster. I would have burned to death had Ragin not carried me from my room. I’d only destroyed my furniture, but the horror of that day never diminished. I shrugged. “It works how I need it.”
“Would you be my student?” he asked.
“Adults can’t be trained further,” I said.
“I flatter myself that I’m a better tutor. It’s experimental, but it can’t hurt. You’re an Advocate, so anything that improves Perceptio is useful, eh?”
True. Also, anything that let me know whom I can trust quickly.
That conversation began a very long eight days of tutoring in extending my ability as a Perceptive. Darav couldn’t teach me to read a mind without giving my subject a seizure, but I did learn two tricks that used what I already knew — Luminara and Odifera. By unfocusing my eyes and dripping puissance through a convoluted mental channel, I could see a sketch of what a person thought-felt at the moment, in general, in colors around him. Imperfect, unlike reading the mental map, but an indication. Someone playing a tosca game might be coral content, emerald delighted and deep blue with determination, while someone waiting in the infirmary to know if a loved one could be Healed would be amber with fear and brown with concern.
Then there was Odifera, to sense a person’s character. The first time I tried, I seem to have walked into a perfumer’s shop after a bull crashed the shelves. The overwhelming miasma flooding my nose staggered me. Darav caught me, then blocked off the channel himself. “That’s the key with Odifera,” he said. “Channeling it precisely and learning to break it apart.”
Just those were significantly useful that I found the time for Darav’s tutoring. The interesting bit, from his perspective, is that I’d always had inklings of both variations, but either nobody else had ever noticed, or hadn’t considered training them worth my time. According to him, Odifera is how I notice wards — the one in Prava House, and possibly a few others. The Luminara seems related to my Observing, since the colors are similar. He seemed fascinated with what he called a disproportionate preponderance of specialization, which I took to mean that I was too good with my Advocacy skills in proportion to the whole of my ingeniae. He did not accept my explanation — I have exactly the same number of hours as everyone else, so priorities were set for me. He found my Advocate’s memory especially troubling, given its size and complexity. But with Archilians, fascinating and wrong are like catnip for cats, so he was happy to make time for my lessons.
However, he was working with my naked mind, which meant trusting him with my identity. He proposed the minor ruse. If Avah was right and Mathes had set a watcher on me, working with my ingeniae might cue him that I was planning something devious. Darav wasn’t married, though he shared two delightful little girls with another priestess whose own research kept her traveling much of the time. Since he lacked a partner and I needed the appearance of a lover, he accompanied me on some outings — Archilian priests are sometimes ascetics, but it’s not required — and from time to time spent a night in our suite, chastely sharing my bed, though nobody save we three knew what didn’t happen. On the carnal side, I knew — via Odifera and Luminara — that he had no interest. Physically, I didn’t spark his interest — too tall, too bony, too bloodless; intellectually, he found my legalistic hair-splitting irritating and my profession arrogant; and I was a student, therefore entirely and perpetually out of bounds. Which was to the good, because I found him tactless, temperamental and not to my tastes. But he was a friend. And that made him more precious than waterstones.
Between my ingeniae work, my research and my time with Cel, I think I wore new ruts between the Belleview and the Conversatory. Cel’s version of mind Healing, besides my little poems, meant long vigorous walks and conversation. “What are they?” I finally asked. “Why does my body go mad?”
She sighed. “What do you know about wine?”
“Galantier annually produces forty gallons per person, which cost an average of twelve teanders a gallon, collects seventy million teanders in wine tax, and buys about fifteen percent of annual production. Also, don’t drink too much and avoid that which brings the average price down.”
She chuckled. “I know better than to ask you questions like that. Consider a frumentia. They’re expensive because they’re difficult. They must be aged in glass. Wood ruins the flavor. Glass tanks aren’t cheap. Then they’re bottled just before fermentation is finished, else they don’t sparkle. Bottle too early and your best hope is a blown cork. More likely, it explodes when you touch the bottle, and that’s just blood and broken glass everywhere.”
“I’m a bottle of frumentia?”
“No, but every time you use that twist on the Advocate’s mindset to freeze your feelings so you can think, you’re bottling oversweet wine. Now the bottles are breaking.”
“How do I… remove the corks?”
“You don’t,” she said. “You’ll eventually come to the end, if you stop adding to your cellar. Rien, you must let yourself be angry, grieve. Our meditations and writing doesn’t help enough.”
She would have had better luck telling the sun not to shine. Sometimes I didn’t even realize I was dripping puissance into that channel. It had become habit; for too many years, I needed to be impassive too often.
Darav liked my habit even less. “You use it like solemnium,” he snarled one evening when he caught me. “No wonder you’ve no puissance in your channels. It never has time to accumulate. I should block off that channel entirely.”
“I need that channel for my work,” I retorted.
“You’re not working now,” he said. “I’m the tutor, you’re the student. Do you know what happens when you overuse an ingenia? Especially a subtle one like Perceptio, where you can’t see or hear what it’s doing? You probably need more puissance today than you did when you first learned how to make that artificial calm. Eventually, you’ll need more puissance than you can gather or generate, and it’ll lash back on you. You’ll be damned lucky if you only burn out that channel. More likely, your brain will bleed. You could go blind, paralyze half your body, or lose every word you ever learned. What you’re doing can kill, Rien. I catch you using that channel again when you don’t need it, I’ll block it off.”
I’d left his laboratory rather than turn my temper on him — how dare he tell me — me — how to do my work! Avah hated me leaving Archilavast and riding the Celestan streets alone, but I could not be near anyone after that. I wasn’t due back at the Belleview until midnight, wasn’t fit for human companionship and I didn’t want to interrupt Avah and Jareth, so I went to my office. Those three small rooms had become my home.
As I sat there alone, I knew Darav and Cel were right. Da had been an amazing Razin, and he never hid his feelings from anyone. I’d been taught to do so because people — men — often view any feminine emotion as weakness, while men’s are strengths. It’s not fair, but so it is. Aunt Bella had been my example, the master of the hidden heart, all goal, no soul. I’d never questioned it. Da and Aunt Bella couldn’t have been wrong. Of course I need self-control to survive in a world where people like Mathes twist my actions.
He twisted them no matter what you did, my aunt’s voice whispered in the back of my mind. Show nothing and you’re cold, show grief and you’re weak. Righteous anger just proves you’re a termagant. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Rien, it doesn’t matter now. So why are you damning yourself?
That, I didn’t know, but I could block that channel myself, and unblock it only when needed. That’s just a variation on defense, the first thing any ingenia learns.
Hours later, one of the three people with a key to my office let herself in. “Are you working yourself to death,” Cel asked, “or planning to take your third vow?” She looked at the scattered books, notes and broadsheets that constituted my research regarding civil war. “You look about halfway finished with a masterwork anyway, so you might as well if you plan to live that long.”
“Darav sent you?” I asked.
She nodded. “You really shouldn’t be alone.”
I nodded and bent my head again over my second favorite habit, work. “I’ll apologize to Darav tomorrow.” My pocket-clock showed nearly midnight, and Avah would worry. I began tidying up after myself — one benefit of this work; I’d broken my habit of scattering paper everywhere. I daren’t leave anything where eyes not mine might see it.
Cel — Archilian to the core — was looking at the census and my maps. “Really, Rien, what is this? I’m only half-joking that you’re practically a novica already.”
I looked up, thinking. Temples protect their own, and a priest is subject to temple discipline before secular. No vow would protect me from treason should my work be exposed, but if I needed refuge, the Archilians might assist. A civil war would be difficult, possibly doomed, but a refuge might protect me long enough to make the difficult war winnable, and a vow would, in Mathes’ eyes, render me entirely impotent. After all, an Archilian priestess’ children are dedicated to the order. It was a perfect disguise. “What must I do?”
“You can’t,” she said seriously.