Unnday, Rallis went to pick up Miana’s medicine, since she was desperately in need of it.
He was late doing so. Miana’s supply had been running low for days because she was deep in the throes of an episode and because the sticky, wet summer air was terrible for her cough, but he had been resistant to go out. Another Jevite legionnaire had just been killed, and Jev was coming down on Adesa very hard: increased patrols, new regulations, a strict curfew. It was hard to take on the risk.
But Miana’s illness was getting worse, so he gritted his teeth and left the motherhouse for the physician’s shop and spent half an hour waiting for Physician Gerr to see him, listening to the hum of Jevite fliers overhead, hoping there would be no trouble on his journey home.
Physician Gerr—a younger daughter of House Gerr—was an older woman, narrow and spindly and brusque. She passed the bundle of Miana’s medicine to Rallis with no pleasantries. “It’s seven now.”
Rallis tucked the bundle into his bag. “Seven?”
“Seven.” Gerr’s gaze was sympathetic but uncompromising. She held out her hand. Rallis counted out seven coins and dropped them into her waiting palm.
“It’s more than it used to be,” he said, keeping his voice casual.
“Jevite law says ten percent to the Empire. My House needs to make a living same as yours.” Gerr deposited the coins into the metal lockbox she kept on her at all times. She hadn’t always been so cautious, but between the constant barrage of demands and rules from Jev and the desperation that was growing among the poorer Adesi, resources were becoming scarcer. It was no longer wise to be open about your money or your possessions. Miana, as Head of Rallis’s motherhouse, had recently ordered new bars installed on all the outside windows and the door to the main courtyard.
“I’m not complaining,” Rallis told her. “I’ll remember next time.”
“I know you weren’t. Tell your Head hello for me. If her cough grows worse, let me know.”
Medicine in hand, Rallis set out for home. It was a twenty-minute walk from the physician’s to the motherhouse through the market using side streets, which made him a little nervous. That hadn’t been dangerous before the war either, but now the alleyways seemed darker and stranger than they used to. And it wasn’t just Adesi cutthroats lurking in the shadows; if he encountered Jevite legionnaires, one wrong word might find him taken to the Red Square for imprisonment or torture or worse.
Jevite legionnaires. He was seeing more and more of those lately. After Treaty Day, the Jevite emissary to Kavck had assured them publicly that Jev didn’t mean—had never meant—to invade. Only to visit, supplement their resources with Adesa’s—for Adesa had so much and Jev so little, and surely there was no harm in sharing?—and then they would all return to where they had come from, the citadels in the sky.
Six months since Treaty Day now, and there were more Jevites in Adesa than ever. Legionnaires and their officers but civilians too. A sprawling temple to the Exalted was being constructed just north of the Yy motherhouse. When Rallis walked down the street, he often heard snippets of conversation in Jevite. They never intended to leave.
He looked up at the sky, squinting to make out the Jevite citadels. They were just visible against the pale blue, small dots floating among the clouds. He had never been up there. Very few Adesi had, even before the war, for Jev was proud and antisocial and looked down on other countries, when it wasn’t subjugating its neighbors for resources. Grimly, Rallis walked on and reached the motherhouse just in time to see a Jevite flier land before the front gate.
Sick alarm rose in his throat as a legionnaire dismounted and approached. Was he there for Naravi or Miana? Though Naravi was the likelier candidate, considering everything he had been doing lately, Miana was Head of House Yy, and Jev was still trying to break Adesi spirits. They had already butchered most of the House Heads during the All Council massacre seven months prior, including Rallis’s aunt, leaving Miana to take her place. He had thought that would be enough, but perhaps the legionnaire had come to finish the job. He would catch Miana ill and unguarded and unaware.
Rallis intercepted the legionnaire just as he reached for the bell beside the front gate. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Who are you looking for?”
The legionnaire inspected him. “What’s your name, citizen?” he asked in thickly accented Adesi.
“Rallis Yy.” He held out his hand, showing his House ring. The legionnaire didn’t appear to recognize it. “I’m a member of this House. What is this about?”
“Rallis Yy? Lieutenant Taarq has order me to bring you to the north garrison. Turn around.”
“Me?” said Rallis, disoriented. Expecting Naravi or Miana, the idea that he was the one in trouble threw him off. Had he done something in particular that would attract attention, or was it just bad luck? He didn’t even know which one was Lieutenant Taarq, though the legionnaire spoke the name as though it meant something. “Why?”
“Lieutenant Taarq has ordered it. Turn around.”
“Fine.” Rallis turned around and managed not to lash out on reflex when the legionnaire, without warning, yanked both arms behind his back and clapped a restraint into place. It probably was just his bad luck. He had looked at Lieutenant Taarq wrong in the street or said the wrong thing to the wrong person. Maybe Lieutenant Taarq just didn’t like his face.
“Am I under arrest?”
“This is procedure.” The legionnaire pushed him forward, and Rallis went obediently toward the little two-person flier waiting nearby.
There was hardly any room inside, and Rallis’s arms were already starting to ache. The legionnaire flew erratically, dipping very low and then arching into the sky. By the time they landed in front of the north garrison, a squat, dark building that had once been a merchants’ hall, Rallis was nauseated, dizzy, and nursing a pounding headache.
He stumbled out and nearly fell on his face; only the legionnaire’s firm grip on his upper arm keeping him upright. “This way,” said the legionnaire tonelessly, marching him toward the garrison. Inside, they passed more legionnaires, clerks and assistants, the occasional well-dressed Jevite civilian. Finally, the legionnaire stopped him in front of a small office. The nameplate on the door was written in Jevite script.