====October 14, 2013
====After her meeting with Ladivos, Maryam discovers the downside of getting too big for her britches.

Who Maryam, Mama Steen
What After her meeting with Ladivos, Maryam discovers the downside of getting too big for her britches.
When There are 0 turns, 11 months and 27 days until the 12th pass.
Where Steen Quarters, Igen Weyr


Her brothers were waiting for her when Maryam left the guardhouse.

She had given a great deal of thought to her own cleverness in the past several days and very little thought to what her mother’s reaction would be, upon hearing of Ladivos being appointed head of the guards. It was an oversight that made her stomach churn as her brothers flanked her and, without saying a word, turned her in the direction of the family’s caverns.


He ignored her; that was a poor sign. Maryam resigned herself to silence.

In the warren of tunnels and caves where the Weyr’s residents made their home, the Steens had claimed several for their own use. It was the size of their clan as much as the prestige of their name that made it necessary and naturally the finest of these was reserved for their matriarch. Both the floors and the walls were covered in thick, lushly patterned carpets to keep out the cold desert nights, and when it grew warm a handful of children were stationed outside of the doorway with fans to push air through the water-soaked linen hung like a curtain over the opening. Seating was limited to large cushions scattered over the ground and Mama’s bed was piled high with more of them. The only proper chair, however, was hers and there she sat as Maryam was led into the room by her brothers.

To her great surprise, she saw that Mama looked concerned rather than angry. She gestured her daughter forward with fingers that had grown fat and swollen in the past months and once close enough, she seized Maryam’s face between her hands and studied her intently.

“Did that mute bastard hurt you?”

The question, pitched in an ominous growl, was an even greater shock. And then she realized- of course. Of course she would worry. All she knew was that Ladivos, the man she’d kept under her thumb for Turns, had summoned one of hers to the brig for examination. In Mama’s world, blood vengeance was alive and well. It was what had created Ladivos’ place in their family and now that he held rank…

“No, Mama.” Maryam folded her hands over her mother’s, feeling their roughness beneath her palms, against her cheek. This close, she could see the yellowed sclera of her mother’s eyes, smell the garlic and onions that she must have broken her fast on. But it was the concern that she drank most deeply. It was a rare and precious thing to see. “No, I am-”

But then the touch between them, the gaze they shared, was severed. Mama’s hands dropped and she waved her daughter off, fleshy face twisted in a scowl.

“If he thinks a fancy new knot is going to keep him safe, if he thinks he can come at us for what was right and just, he’d best think again. Arjun!”

Maryam looked over her shoulder and saw her brother still standing there, his expression stony.

“I want the boys. All of them. I’ll have that shit-eater’s hands before he’ll be allowed to lay a finger on one of mine again. Get them in here, and we’ll-”

“Mama, no.”

The matriarch and her son both stopped to stare at Maryam, as if they’d never seen her before.

“What did you say, girl?”

Maryam struggled up off of her knees, tugging and pulling at her hampering robes. “I said no, Mama. You have to leave him be.”

The older woman’s eyes narrowed until they seemed to all but disappear in the folds of her face. Her daughter had seen her look like this before. It never ended well for the subject of that look. But Maryam held her ground, even as her heart skipped and fluttered like a trapped thing in her breast.

“And why do I have to leave him be, Maryam?”

Her blood had turned to ice water. She had to school herself to not lock her knees, lest she faint, as Gritta had taught her so many Turns ago. “Because I put him there. He wears that knot because I wanted him to wear that knot.”

It all happened so quickly. Later, replaying that moment in her mind’s eye, Maryam would be surprised by how fast her mother could move at her age, in her health. In a blink, Mama Steen was out of her chair and again her hands framed her daughter’s face. But this time, rather than looking to hold her still for a concerned study, her hands were clamped to either side of Maryam’s head and she felt her brain rattle in her skull as her mother shook her.

What did you do? What did you do, girl? What were you thinking? Get out! Get out! All of you! Out!”

Maryam was distantly aware of Arjun leaving, of the rest of her brothers fleeing the room. There was no door to slam behind them, only a curtain, but the finality of their departure resonated in her senses just as loudly. She was alone.

And her mother wasn’t done shaking her yet.

It served its purpose. The words were rattled out of her, one after another, and even after Mama shifted hands from head to her shoulders, Maryam still felt the room stuttering around her. She poured it all out: W’rin coming to speak with her; his idea of placing someone within the guards to learn more about the raids; her idea to seize the opportunity and erase Segam’s influence from the Bazaar by presenting Corelle with information about his taking bribes; the cover story she’d secured for Ladivos before that, with papers supporting his claim to past guardwork. She spoke of We’bey, she spoke of Sara, she spoke of Peaston and all of the rest. Every single one of the steps she’d taken with such pride.

All set out before her mother like pearls on a string. Beautiful, simple, effective. It had worked.

Her reward for all of that precious, lovely truth was to feel her mother’s fist connect with her ear. The world spun on its axis, her stomach lurched, and Maryam found herself on the floor with her hand clapped to the side of her head, her veil askew.

She barely heard her mother spitting out, “You little idiot. I didn’t raise you to be so fucking stupid,” as she limped back to her chair and collapsed there. The wood groaned a protest but held steady beneath the woman’s weight.

“You invited the Weyr into our business. You may as well have painted a target on us, collaborating with riders. What’s wrong with you?”

“No one knows, Mama, the only ones who know are-”

“Shut up and let me think.” Mama lowered her head, pinching the bridge of her nose just as Maryam so often did. “W’rin. We’bey. Corelle too, if she’s smart enough to connect the dots and follow it back to us. And the guard at Igen River Hold as well. That’s three, at least, maybe four. That’s four too many, and not one of them ours. Plus anyone who decides to hold it against us, if the raids pick up again and one of my men is leading them.”

“But they-”

“I said SHUT UP.” The roar was deafening.

Maryam’s already queasy stomach lurched again, clenching in time to the pounding in her temples.

“We have a month. A month to put this right.”

She looked up and found her mother’s eyes on her, as cold and hard as the ice brought in from the Reaches. Beneath that gaze, Maryam felt like a child again. She shrunk down against the thick carpets but no amount of cringing could help her disappear, or hide from those eyes.

“You went behind my back. You schemed with the Weyr, without my knowledge, and put their wants before the well-being of your own blood. You promoted the man who killed your brother. You’ve lost your mind. I’ve given you too many freedoms, and you’ve taken a ripe shit on me for it.”

Maryam opened her mouth to mount a weak protest but the words curled and died in her throat. There was nothing to say to that. She’d lied, she’d schemed, she’d put her interests and those of others first; not one of those charges was untrue, no matter how many times she told herself it was to the benefit of the family to have the captain in their pocket. She’d done it for pride. For cleverness.

Slowly, painfully, she gathered herself to shift to her knees. Hands loose at her side, her ear on fire, Maryam bowed her head to await judgment.

But instead of dispensing justice, Mama turned her head and bellowed, “Arjun!”

Maryam felt, rather than saw, her brother come into the room again. His hands were heavy on her shoulders, dragging her to her feet.

“Get her out of here and call your brothers in.”


“No.” The word was a stronger blow than the cuff to her ear had been. It went through Maryam like a lance. “I don’t want to hear a thing you have to say right now, girl. Get out and stay out until I decide what to do with you.”

Arjun didn’t give her another chance to protest. Her brother lifted her bodily to drag her from the room. She saw her family’s faces flickering by before she was pushed from the caves, into the blinding winter sunlight of the desert.

It took everything she had to remain upright instead of sinking to the wind-washed stone beneath her feet.

Get out and stay out, Mama had said. That was freedom, of a sort. Another freedom granted.

Feeling a multitude of eyes on her back, she straightened her robes, set her veil to rights and walked slowly into the Bazaar.

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