A Story for an Age Distant and Past (Part 3)
Year 3 SC (1511 Stayatam), Sha-Mikat, capital of the Miktaban, New Year’s Day celebration
The Mikat were not a particularly rowdy sort of people. Tajani had found that, in her long years of working with OnKitabie of all kinds, Mikat, Bkhanif, Badhit, Ashabat, and many more, those who called the Miktaban home were in general more reserved than the average person. The scholarly culture and obsession with constantly scrutinizing everything one encountered did not foster a particularly rambunctious sort of people, she figured. Still, when it came time for New Year’s Day, the people of Sha-Mikat found something in themselves that rarely surfaced, and for that day the streets were nearly as wild as any Badhit harvest celebration.
Tajani did not take part in the parade herself. In the first few years of her office, she would make occasional appearances, but after forty years of politicking, she was just glad for a day where the city’s eyes weren’t trained on her, leaving her to sit alone in her cool office at the top of the Miktaban.
“Merry 1511,” called a raspy voice from the doorframe of her office. Tajani smiled as a tall, reed-thin man shuffled his way in and lifted an ancient face, full of papery wrinkles, in a humble smile.
“Merry 1511 to you too, Jitan,” Tajani said. “Are you enjoying the festivities?”
“I’m enjoying it being more chaotic out there than it is in here for once.” He jerked a skinny thumb towards the window. The Kjalit Bakalasit Jitan OnAtith was ninety-two years old, the oldest of the Mikat, and one of the few politicians Tajani could tolerate in an informal conversation. “All the rowdy ones have left for the streets. How rarely the library gets quiet enough for actual reading these days.”
Tajani laughed. “I’m surprised you haven’t gone deaf by now, old man. Though you’d take it as a blessing, I don’t doubt.”
Jitan took a seat, slowly easing down with his troubled knees. “Eh, you joke, but you’re what age now? Seventy?”
“Don’t remind me.”
“And forty years as Kjalit Miktabit. Not that many make it that far. It’s been, I don’t know, two hundred years since the last time that’s happened.”
“Not that many were elected at only thirty.”
Jitan nodded. “Youngest in a long while, that certainly is true. But you will go down in the history books, that’s no doubt. I don’t think any other person in this library could have maintained an alliance with the Bkhanifs as long as this.”
“To be fair, I didn’t think I could have done it either. Thank Jamitayyin for being so damn reasonable, despite all the odds.” She leaned back, allowing the mild desert winter breeze blowing through the window to ruffle her head wrappings. “Besides, I’m not convinced I want to be in the history books. I don’t know that I’d like what will be written about me.”
“You’re worried about what historians will have to say about the Kjalit Miktabit who oversaw the greatest war in the Miktaban’s history?”
“My deeds in the past don’t concern me nearly as much as what will happen in my future.” She looked past Jitan, out of her office and into the hallway, where sunlight slanted through dusty skylights. “My near future.”
Jitan tutted. “I’ve always hated your pessimism, Tajani.”
“I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.”
“That’s what every pessimist ever has said.” Jitan shifted forward. “But what concerns you?”
“I’ve never been sure about what has yet to pass, Jitan. How can anyone be? But what we have here, this delicate balance between us and the clans, is not to last. The Bkhanif, our only allies, are not our friends, and each day the threat of them withdrawing support grows. The Badhit and Iqashit to the north-east are conspiring, and I feel like I have so few people even within my own nation who I can confer with.”
Jitan’s papery face went through several emotions very quickly, too fast and subtle for Tajani to pick up, and he leaned forward slightly. “My friend. I am ninety-two years old. When I was born, the Miktaban was but a scattered handful of towns around Sha-Mikat, united in nothing but the vision of a future united people, free from the oppression of the clans and reveling in the boundless wisdom of Yongit. And I was born a Theyash, but the hope that the Miktaban brought drew me from my home and my family. I surrendered my surname and declared myself a Mikat, devoted myself to the study of all things, just as you or anyone else in this building has done. And you, my friend, recognized my abilities and appointed me Kjalit Bakalasit, steward of the people of this realm. I have lived for nearly a century, seen war and rebellion and prosperity, and eventually, seen so many people die, pass from here to the mysterious place beyond. And I know too that such a thing will happen to me.”
“Reminding me that everyone dies isn’t helping my mood, Jitan.”
“That is true. But another thing that is true is that nothing remains the same. This world is always shifting, like shadows throughout the day, for better or for worse. When I die, you will need to find another Kjalit Bakalasit, but such is the way of things. It feels like everything is hanging in the balance, yes? And one wrong step could doom not only yourself, but our entire people? Well I must remind you that all of life is the same way. We do not know whether any step forward will tip the scales and send us tumbling into darkness. But we take the step anyways, for we must, because standing still is impossible.”
“This is good wisdom, my friend,” Tajani said, and almost believed it.
A steward appeared in the doorway. “Kjalit Miktabit?” He said. “There are two messages for you. First, Jamitayyin Bkhanif has arrived in the city. He requests a place to meet with you, should you be free.”
Tajanis face relaxed a little bit. “I am free. What is the second message?”
“Another visitor, your scholarliness. She wears a desert cloak and gave her name simply as ‘qam’.”
“Ah, yes. Tell them both to meet me by Yongit’s Gate in one hour.”
The messenger nodded and darted back down the hallway.
Tajani turned back to Jitan. “Excuse me, my old friend. Thank you for your words, and even more so your wisdom, but there are some unfinished games I still have to play.” With that she stood, tightened the wrappings about her head, and left the room.