Teénna stood at the door to her husband’s study, uncertain where to begin. For years it had been off-limits to her, her husband’s sanctum sanctorum where not even the servants were allowed in to clean. And indeed, the tall shelves filled with books and journals were covered with a thick layer of dust. The huge desk of dark wood that dominated the back of the room was comparatively clean, however, as was the chest-high wooden case filled with shallow drawers where he kept his maps.
She loved watching him with his maps. He would pore over as many as six different maps of an area before beginning to draft his own. Sometimes he would bring them down to the dining room and spread them out on the table, which was even bigger than his desk, in order to more easily examine different features. She smiled. Those were good times. He would call to her as she passed the arched entranceway and show her some detail he had just discovered on this map that was not on that one. She would lean against him and pretend to listen, enjoying the sound of his voice and the feel of his strong warm body against hers. If she were feeling especially mischievous, she might randomly select some landmark and exclaim over how it was depicted, drawing him into an argument on color or shading or whatever else struck her fancy, until he realized she was toying with him. He would give a long-suffering sigh, and then laugh and beg her pardon, and all would be well.
He collected maps like some jánah collect clothing, buying them by the armful when new specimens arrived on Market Days. He never let the servants carry them. She would see him coming down the street, laden with carefully-wrapped packages, trailed by two empty-handed servants who began apologizing as soon as they were within hailing distance. It never bothered her. On those days, she would bring him the evening meal in his study, as it was impossible to pry him away.
He knew the names of many cartographers and had favorites — Prakir of Gilárhi, with his fanciful islands, and Kunikst of Andhi, one of the few respected Sarpah cartographers of this age. Although he would have been scandalized, she secretly thought his own maps were equal or even superior to those of some of his heroes.
After days of study, he would spend weeks sketching and re-sketching his drafts on cheap parchment to get a feel for the overall layout. At last he would fasten a sheet of fine vellum to his desk and begin his final copy. Slowly the borders of the region would take shape, and then the outlines of larger features like major cities, mountains and rivers. Then he added the smaller villages and roads, and last of all, with a patience and dedication that made Teénna shake her head in wonder, he filled in the outlines of large wilderness areas with miniature trees and other terrain features. This mind-numbingly repetitive task took twice as long as any other phase of the drawing process, but he seemed to enjoy it. He had an unexpectedly delicate touch when it came to fine detail.
Of course, things had been different this past year. Although he would occasionally pull out his treasured maps and examine them, he no longer drew any of his own. The tremors in his hands, and his inability to focus on small details — it had been months since he had brought anything downstairs to show her. And when one of Krista’s companions had mentioned the ancient Sarpah map, he had shown only the slightest flicker of interest. Three years ago she would have had to put all of them up for the night, for her husband would have questioned them about it until after the 21st Chime.
And now he had left on an adventure, taking Mathur and Tushai with him. She was happy for him. She knew he had missed Ejihn, his captain of many years. But as the drugs had taken hold and he had fallen more and more under Dasahar’s sway, he had hidden himself away from everyone he had once associated with. He had also withdrawn from her and Mathur. It had made her sad and angry at the same time. His misplaced sense of honor had cost him dearly, and she wasn’t sure he would ever fully recover. But in the last week she had begun to hope.
One morning, after the worst of the withdrawal symptoms had passed, he had gone through his map-making supplies, throwing away all the dried-up inks and sending the servants out to buy new ones. He had begun drawing again, though his lines were pale and shaky. And yesterday, as she was walking past the doorway to the dining room, he had called to her to come and see his newest acquisition. One of the servants, a rather prim cardinal by the name of Pratima, had picked it up for him when she went to buy inks. He had asked the dealer to keep an eye out for it some months ago and it had only just now come in. She spent the next hour sitting next to him as he went over it with her in detail, encased in a fragile bubble of happiness that she was afraid might pop at any moment. It was a good omen, and she had resolved to make an offering at the Temple of Krilárah the next morning.
And then, just as they had been preparing for bed, Jita had arrived with the news of the impending arrests and a personal plea from Trahmsi. For an airship, of all things! Trahmsi might be small compared to most jánah, but she certainly thought big enough.
She hadn’t really known Jita well when she’d lived at House Rüktiv, but after she’d left she had missed his quiet efficiency. She’d never been able to find a servant that was his equal. She’d heard him out, then sent him to the kitchens for a plate of something while she spent a precious few minutes thinking it through. Mosár would find out one way or another, and if she kept this from him, he’d be angry with her. But she knew he would want to go, and she was afraid for him. He’d only just begun to recover… She sighed. No, she’d have to tell him. And since Sir’hibas Kailua was going along, she’d watch over him, wouldn’t she?
It was all very unexpected. Though he had a temper, Rüktiv was usually a jánah who put his business interests above all else, as she knew from painful experience. But she supposed that if anything was likely to send him over the edge, it was the idea that Krista might beat him at something. Rüktiv always had to win, and Krista’s indifference to this had constantly infuriated him. And ten years ago, when Krista had simply walked away from his endless scheming, Rüktiv had taken it out on everyone in the household for months afterwards, especially Takíza.
Since she’d left House Rüktiv (and Rüktiv himself, thank the Devah) she’d sometimes thought about Takíza and wondered how she fared. She’d seen her occasionally at parties, but there was never time to talk, and of course Rüktiv was always nearby. She had never worried about Trahmsi, of course — that was a frog who could handle herself. But then her own troubles had begun, and over the years she had let herself believe that Takíza’s silence had meant peace in the household. She had put them all out of her mind, as well as she could, though Rüktiv was always careful to remind her of who she had once been whenever their paths had crossed.
And then Krista had come to town, and she’d been desperate enough to ask for his help. That had turned out far better than she could have hoped. She owed him, self-absorbed prima donna that he was. Well, who was she to judge. She’d been wrong about so many things lately.
She was lost in her memories for so long that Mosár had come looking for her. She’d told him everything, and as soon as he’d understood what was happening, he’d sprung into action. He had headed for the main hall, his roars resounding through the house, and many of the servants had showed up still dressed in their bedclothes. Lomasa, a young lemur, was chosen to run to Yadhish Ejihn with Mosár’s request. He had made the boy repeat the message three times over before he left, and then, just as he’d reached the gate, her husband had called him back and told him to wait. Mosár had charged up the stairs to his office, and she and Lomasa, who was now hopping from foot to foot, eager to be off, could hear him opening drawers and shifting furniture. She’d been anxious when he came back down the stairs again, but his voice had been steady when he’d handed Lomasa a crystal ring with a curious black stone. “Give him this,” Mosár had said. “He’ll know it’s from me.” The boy, too excited to remember his manners, had managed only a quick “Yes, Aryah” before sprinting off again.
Then he’d turned to the rest of them. Teénna had felt a surge of pride as he’d given them their orders, managing to look imposing even in his dressing gown. Some had been directed to pack his things, while a contingent of guards was sent to follow Lomasa and give Yadhish Ejihn any help he required. Finally he had taken her hand and drawn her up next to him. “This is my Lady,” he’d said. “While I am gone, I expect you to obey her as you would me.” The others had bowed to her respectfully, and she had had to hold back tears.
When the others scattered, he had embraced her and then, almost as an afterthought, had asked, “What about Mathur? He will want to come, but if you think he should stay…” He had tried to keep his face neutral, but she knew him too well.
“Take him, of course! He will be insufferable if he’s left behind, and I’ll never hear the end of it.” This last was directed past him at Mathur and Tushai, who had just arrived in the great hall. Mathur looked bewildered, but Tushai, as always, was composed and appeared ready for anything.
Mosár picked her up and whirled her around, squeezing her until she couldn’t breathe. He steadied her as he put her down again, but she kissed him quickly and pushed ineffectually at his chest. “Go on, you haven’t got much time.” He took her face in his hands and kissed her back with a thoroughness that warmed her right down to her toes. “I’ll bring him home safely, don’t worry.”
She smiled at him, feeling another surge of happiness. “I know you will. May the Devah watch over you all. And take care not to have too much fun without me.” She looked at Tushai. “I am depending on you to make sure neither of them get into trouble.” Mathur started to protest, but Tushai nodded gravely. “I will do my best, Mistress.”
Mosár laughed and clapped his son on the shoulder. “You heard your Lady, go and pack! Tushai, find Vadish. He used to be a skyship sailor, he’ll know what to bring. Be back here in half a chime.”
Now they were gone, and she found it impossible to sleep. Before he’d left, her husband had given her the key to his study. “In case you need anything while I’m away…” The look on her face had made him stop, and he’d actually blushed. He had started again, speaking hesitantly, almost shyly. “Teénna, I know this hasn’t been easy for you. By the Devah I swear I’ll make it up to you —“
She put a hand to his lips. “No more promises,” she whispered. “I couldn’t bear it. Just come back.” He hugged her tightly, and this time she did cry, weeping silently into the heavy cloak he’d donned for the journey. But there was no time, and what lay between them was too difficult for words, however sincerely they were spoken.
She’d kissed Mathur when he came to say goodbye, something she almost never did, and he, startled, had stared at her open-mouthed until Tushai had nudged him. He’d stammered a farewell, Tushai had quietly added, “Thank you, Mistress,” and then they were off.
It had taken some time to get the household settled again. Another chime had passed before Lomasa had come running back to report that everyone had reached the ship safely, and that Yadhish Ejihn should be ready to sail in time. He was bursting with excitement, eager to tell her all about the ship and the Yadhish. At first she’d tried to listen, but she couldn’t concentrate, and it didn’t seem that he would ever stop. Finally Pratima stepped up and spoke sharply to him. “That’s enough of that, young man. Your Lady has better things to do than listen to you prattle on all night.” The boy stopped, abashed, and mumbled his apologies. Teénna had told him it was alright, and perhaps he could tell her all about it in the morning. He’d perked up at that, and went happily off to bed.
Jita had left soon afterwards, thanking Teénna in Trahmsi’s name and assuring her that he or one of his cousins would contact her if there were anything to report.
She scanned her husband’s study, feeling like an intruder. Perhaps the bookshelves. She could find something that might help her sleep. She frowned at the layer of dust, left the room briefly to find a cloth, and ran it along the shelves. It wasn’t enough, somehow. She took out a book at the end of one shelf, wiped it down, and replaced it. Then she moved on to the next, and the next. After a while she established a rhythm. It soothed her. She saw the titles of the books, but they left no impression on her conscious mind — Maps of the Visedhárah Principalities, The Art of Cartography, The Extraordinary Voyage of the Light of Edü — she enjoyed the different textures of the covers, the differences in size and weight.
She had to kneel to get to the bottom shelves. The books here were larger and heavier, with titles like Prithihára’s Almanac, and Navigational Tables for Land and Sea. She flipped idly through a few of these, taking pleasure in the detailed charts and tables that implied that everything could be precisely determined given enough time and a sufficient quantity of ink. In the almanac she found a table titled “The Moons of Dardünah” that traced the complicated dance of the three moons, a cycle that repeated itself once every 160 days. It went on for many pages, covering a span of fifty years. Each occurrence of Tamáystra, the night when all three moons were dark, was highlighted in red. With a little shiver, she put the book back on the shelf, remembering the eerie tales her mother had told her of the demons who came out on those nights.
She was about halfway through the shelf when she picked up a tall volume that was much slimmer than the others. It was bound in a dark red suthra leather, but there was no title. Curious, she opened it. On the first page was a dedication:
To my beloved Mosár —
May these memories of home comfort you when we are apart.
Teénna stared at the inscription. Of course she knew that Meera was Mosár’s first wife, who had died when Mathur was still very young, about fifteen years ago now. But she knew almost nothing about her. Mosár and Mathur never spoke of her, and neither did the servants. There were no paintings of her, nothing in the house that might hint at her presence. Teénna had assumed that the marriage had been one of convenience rather than love, but now…
On the next page, Mosár, sketched expertly in ink, smiled up at her. He was drawn from the waist up, his right hand resting on the rail of a skyship whose rigging could be seen in the background. He looked young, and strong, and so incredibly happy that it brought a lump to her throat. She quickly turned the page.
A young lioness, who had to be Meera, was sitting on a bench in the garden. She held a cub on her lap. At first Teénna thought this must be Mathur, but something struck her as odd, and she examined the finely-detailed sketch more closely. The clothes — they were for a girl. She sat back in surprise. Mosár and Meera had had a daughter? But where was she now?
She continued to leaf through the book. Here was Mosár at his desk, working on one of his maps; and here he sat in the dining room with his daughter on his knee. In another picture the little girl, somewhat older, was shown hugging her pet kelléndu while her mother kneeled beside her and stroked her hair. Near the very end of the book there was a family portrait. Mosár stood with his arm around Meera, who held another cub, a boy this time. The little girl stood next to her mother and gazed up adoringly at her baby brother, who must surely be Mathur.
Teénna closed the book slowly, lost in thought. She had a thousand questions, but there was no one she could ask at this time of night. It would have to wait until morning. She glanced at the study’s clock, and found, to her surprise, that she didn’t have long to wait. She had spent much more time here than she had realized.
Still holding the book, she got up rather stiffly and stood still for a moment as the circulation returned to her legs. She would start with Pratima, she decided. The cardinal had been here for years, and on the off-chance that she hadn’t been here when Meera was alive, she still would know whom Teénna should speak to.
Feeling suddenly tired, she went back to her bedroom and stored the sketchbook in one of her clothes chests. The room seemed very lonely now that Mosár had left. Even when he stayed up late to work on his maps she had known that he was somewhere in the House. She hoped he and Mathur were settling in well, and that they would come home soon.
She undressed without disturbing her personal servant, whom she could hear snoring on a bench in the dressing room next door. Before she dropped off to sleep, she remembered that she had resolved to make an offering at the Temple of Krilárah once both suns had risen. She decided to visit the Temple of Yatnariti as well. Yatnariti was known for his wisdom, and she felt she would need his guidance to find her way through this maze of secrets and back to her husband’s heart.
Ejihn — Table of Contents — Sri