Fire day

Jan 13, 2009

Today was a quieter day, though I am run off my feet keeping up with the day to day business of the cookshop. The children were busy out and about, running their thieving business, and Meyni and I were worrying about the cost of food. Between the flooding along the river and the problems in Ojia, one third of the best farming provinces, the prices of rice and millet are up. We already cannot afford rice, it would be too bad to have to skimp on grain altogether.

At least there is always fish.

Moon day: Temple

Jan 12, 2009

The rain makes it easier to be lost. Any that seek to follow me to or fro will see only the sheets of rain. I am soaked to the skin, but surely the rain is a sign that the gods favor my subterfuge?

As the high priest pointed out today, I must beware of my mind seeking patterns where I want to find them. Such is the domain of a womanly mind, not of priestly intuition. Patterns I see are not patterns of the gods.

That said, I feel he likes me, despite his reservations about my purpose. My feminine intuition tells me so, though I am not sure feminine and intuition go together in one thought. It is something Sev’s mother would say as a joke.

I went to the temple, and was once again taken by a priest through back corridors to a quiet room with no decipherable markings. The high priest sat there, in plain robes, and we took tea as if we were perfectly normal strangers. There was incense of strong type, and it clouded my mind pleasantly. He asked gentle questions, and I answered them in gentle spirit. I think perhaps he thought me more affected than I was, for he offered to have someone see me home. I said yes, thank you, because that is what you say when you are a woman and he is a priest, and I led the young man to a waypoint of mine.

It is dark and the children are abed. I do not visit the temple again for a while, I think. I must think on the high priest. He is seeking guidance himself, and he says we must be patient while he seeks the signs.

He is a very dangerous man, of course. I should not like to tempt him to make an easy choice, instead of a correct and godly choice. That would be too cruel.

Sun day

Jan 11, 2009

The major excitement today was a hole in the roof, letting in a downpour of water that soaked our bag of millet. We are going to be eating a great deal of millet for the next few days. A better kind of excitement than tomorrow is likely to bring, for tomorrow I venture back to the temple.

I did successfully find and purchase the children’s birthday presents without them noticing.

Earth day

I look at my children today and I barely recognize them. Instead of my prim and proper young lord and lady, they are tanned and shaggy-haired. Both dress the same, for it is unwise for a girl child to advertise herself on the streets, and my twins have never looked more like twins. They wear finery, yes, but it is as if they are dressing up, not down. She wears a red silk top embroidered with dragons, high necked, two years out of fashion, with all the black piping frayed and faded, over a man’s brown robe. Pang wears a black robe and over it he has a blue silk sash embroidered with jet and lapis. Where did they get these things, I ask? We found them, they answer, casual in their disregard. They expect me not to ask further, out of discomfort.

I am tempted not to ask further, but I am very curious. Still, it gives me an idea for their birthday presents.

Gold day

Jan 9, 2009

Rumors collected yesterday and today. The emperor’s brother is leading an army to victory from a golden chariot. The emperor’s brother is dead. The emperor is dead. Ojia is burning. Ojia is in rebellion but completely peacefully so, linking arms and standing firm as soldiers mow them down. Three swans showed themselves to the princess. The nobles are hoarding all the food. They’re clearing the river for trade as fast as they can. Rebels have blocked the river.

There’s really no way to say what is happening, but prices are higher and people are nervous.

Tree day: Market

Jan 8, 2009

I went to market with Len. He hauled barrels of liquor, and I brought back sacks of grain and a net of fish. With rains making the roads raw and impassable, and bad news making people thrifty, we are buying less greens and ginger and more staples to feed our customers. At least chiles are always cheap, or we would truly be boring cooks.

Rain is the news of the day, and with it the children were inside and bored. Heiye watched the baby.

Water day

Jan 7, 2009

I have just finished a review of our small accounts for this errand of ours, this quiet passage of our lives, and I find myself embarrassed by riches. In my inattention, slight though that inattention has been, we have begun to make a profit. Between my work with Meyni and the children’s successful criminal enterprise, loathe am I to face that fact square on, we are no longer touching my jewelry in barter and we are even beginning to accumulate extra trinkets and occasional treats.

Today Heiye and I conspired about the twin’s birthday. He says he knows whence we may avail ourselves to honey, so I may make sweets for them.

Pen will turn eleven without a marriage contract or prospects aside from Jai’s brief interest in including her in their machinations. It maddens me, because this war of ours disrupts their lives more than it disrupts mine or Sev’s. Sev going to war and me staying home and waiting are not new. I have even begun to venture out into capital circles again, in my way, but the children are changed. They can switch into a lower cant, now, and sometimes seem to forget they lived anywhere else. Their friends are here, orphans and vagabonds though they be, and their loves. At least Pen does not seem to have a swain. I would keep her home, but where has that brought me except both of them sneaking out?

At least they seem to have won their small bout of gang warfare. Next time that happens I am advising them on the best policy for poisoning their enemies, before the children lose any teeth.

Fire day

Jan 6, 2009

Well, we have not been dragged from our beds by the imperial guard. I can only laugh that this is what it comes to, but is this not our reason for our actions? There are no limits on the imperial will, so necessarily there must be limits that spring naturally from within the emperor.

It is also laughable that for our salvation we turn to Jai Mithras, a boy of shallow wisdom and high opinion of himself. Still, any boy may grow into wisdom, and he does bear blood blessed by the divine. It must show somehow.

I talked to Heiye in a moment snatched between tasks. Sewing on my part, keeping an eye on the children on his. He’s good with the baby. I clarified with him whether or not Sev had discussed with him a plan for discovery and escape, and he told it to me. I agreed with its broad strokes, but made two suggestions.

“Why are you concerned?” he asked.

“I have had a discussion with a priest. I do not believe myself brought to ground, as in a hunt, but one does not assume victory when doing so may mean defeat.”

“Lady,” and his voice was low and confidential, “Would my lord be pleased?”

I had already considered this, of course.

“He would say it is right and just for us all to make our own decisions, as each raindrop chooses where to fall.”

“I did not realize.”

“He will also be furious with me. In the realm of our troubles, it does not merit consideration.”

I could have explained that a healthy fury is good for a man, but that is something Heiye will discover in the fullness of time, and it is not for a woman to explain. After so momentous a day as yesterday, it feels as if things should shift and the ground should begin to rush beneath my feet, but it was just another day, full of loud customers and sewing.

Moon day: Temple

Jan 5, 2009

I woke before the children this morning, and drank tea while I cooked simple pancakes with chives and fish. A simple pickle to go with it followed, and then I woke Heiye with my instructions of the day.

I hardly know where to begin. The high priest was inspiring of fear, and awe, and he seemed wise and perilous. I do not believe I have endangered our cause, but I fear my husband’s opinion on my impetuous confessions of the day. I simply see no recourse, and the high priest said he was grateful that I brought this to him, that it was appropriate and he would think on it.

That is not where my mind rests, though, when I think about today. It rests on me, garbed as an old woman, being ushered in chill silence through the white pillars of the outer temple, through the incense of the meditation hall, through the wood-paneled corridors of the inner temple, until I reached a small room without obvious adornment, where he sat waiting for me, garbed in ceremonial gold.

I knelt formally and bowed low, and he asked me for my business, in as kind a tone as you could please.

“I have come with a question about divine blessing, oh most holy.”

Something in my tone or my words gave him pause, for he considered me for a time.

“It is not usual for women to seek to act in the affairs of men.”

“Only when it is proper for women to receive guidance in those affairs, most holy. For do not women live in the world as well?”

“Our teachings say that women do not live in the world, they live in the bosom of their family’s guidance.”

“But if the mother of a son were to need to explain to that son the guidance of the most holy, surely that would be permissible? For women are teachers.”

“You speak quickly, but the gods do not guide your words.”

I bowed my head, because I was censured and knew it.

“Why come you speaking of divine blessings, your ladyship? Be plain.”

“I fear that the emperor has ceded the blessing of the gods to the next in line for his throne.”

“Prince Hinata will take the throne in the fullness of time.”

“His highness will never return from the northern jungles.”

And there I was committed, and the moment hung between us like a teacup that had fallen and might shatter or might be caught.

“Her highness would be the next, by blood,” he said. “And then the emperor’s brother.”

“Her highness is a woman. The emperor’s brother, may he live a thousand years, is missing in the chaos of Ojia.”

“From there, there are multiple arguments for imperial descent.”

“There is a theory that the divine blessing will make succession clear.”

“Is there.”

“Yes, most holy. There is.”

“You had better tell me about this theory.”

“Do you think it has any merit?”

“I have not been so informed by the Father, but even I must wait for his word. I am an old man, and have seen many things that are stranger than the gods deciding on a new heir.”

And if there were undercurrents to his words, are not our gods gods of water, deep and flowing, yielding only so that they may drown you? Let heretics worship the gods of sun and sky. Water is true, and necessary, and vital.

I explained.

Sun day

Jan 4, 2009

I was well enough again today to wander the markets, full of old, round faces and young, thin ones. I bought egg and chive dumplings and fish dumplings, and brought them back to feed the children. Tomorrow I plan to go to the temple and wait, hopeful that my absence last week has not been a problem.

I reread my journal of the past week and found I had been shockingly frank. I am pleased to be feeling better. I am doubly pleased because I have not taken ill before the twin’s birthday, which I still must plan. I think I should like to take them out of the city for a day, if I could, or perhaps have some word of their father.