As the sound of the midnight bells faded into memory, Kip was wearing a hole into the floor of his apartment. He performed a subtle dance of stress and anxiety that only he might hesitate to call pacing. The rhythm of his feet matched that of his thoughts as he made an abrupt turn. What had she meant by that? He’d read Aurora —it was practically a rite of passage in the old empire—and through it came to understand that he was not all that different from Fitzroy Angursell. He had more than once dreamed of joining the Red Company on some grand adventure. Of course, Kip’s oboe was no match for Fitzroy’s harp, but that was all a flight of fancy. No one had heard from Fitzroy Angursell since well before the Fall. If he had survived, he was undoubtedly somewhere where he’d settled down and started living a more modest life. Perhaps he was composing songs for an audience of ducks on Alinor, or sharing poetry in one of the theatres on Ysthar. He latched onto the thought, feeling it take root in the part of him that still doubted if it was right to have returned. Quickly it turned to an obsession, echoing through his mind like the bells through the courtyard.
“If an era-defining vibrant revolutionary deserves to retire to a peaceful life, don’t I?”
He fruitlessly spoke the sentiment aloud to disrupt its ostinato through his thoughts. The gentle sound of each footfall by slow metamorphosis became a familiar rhythm, his pacing transfigured into dance steps. His dance had guided him before, he needed it again now. Cliopher Mdang danced the Aōteketētana, sweat and tears mixing to form a saline cocktail of exhaustion.
He fell into his bed, candlelight glistening on the sweat—or was it tears—that sat clinging to his face. An immediate restless and dehydrated sleep overtook him, the most burning question left unanswered, but his mind focused clearly on an answer he wasn’t seeking. He awoke what felt like a moment later to the sun and a letter underneath his door.
I inquired with your neighbours about your whereabouts this morning when you were not already in the office by the time I had arrived. Your downstairs neighbour rather bruskly indicated that you had been “stomping around” well past the midnight bell. Trusting your reasoning, I have made sure your duties are covered for today and secured permission from the Princess to advise you that you have been granted a day off. Please take the day to rest.
I do not wish to offend you in any way, sayo, when I say that I worry for you at times. You have an understanding of governance that is unparalleled, and I hope to work with you for as long as possible. My concern is that you do not allow yourself enough rest. When left unrested, the mind starts to lose efficacy and takes longer and longer to recover. The Empire has seen many talented members of the Service end their careers when their wick was burnt out too quickly. Yours is too precious a mind to risk those circumstances.
Hoping that this reads with the care intended,
Kip took the letter in breathlessly and set it down on his writing desk. Opening his window to the smell of fresh Solaaran air, he was struck by the olfactory realization that he was in dire need of some water and a bath, then he’d write.