fada [ fa DAH ], (noun) — guilt, improper; used only when a person feels guilt for a situation for which they are not responsible. Sometimes incorrectly translated "survivor's guilt", but is more broadly applicable to any instance where a person takes on guilt for something undeserving.
Her body first, wan and slack. Then the infant's, terrible and new. Finally her mate's, wasted away by an unworthy fever.
In my head, the whisper of my own voice: "You should have children." And I shouted it down and still it grew, insidious, until I couldn't stop screaming and everything outside myself dwindled to noise and light.
Touch on my hand. No one is allowed to do that. Except the Emperor. And Death. Let it be someone lesser, it's all I deserve. But even with my eyes open, I can't see... only feel. Two hands, hard, long-fingered. Peeling the robes of office from my skin until the cold pricks through the felt of fur.
I'm cold. I deserve the cold. I deserve it more than the dead.
The shape of the world now is hard: metal beneath each wrist. A point digging into the nape of my neck until my body describes an arch. Hands steady me, clasping my ribs. Broad hands. I did not give permission. Was I ever worthy to have it?
I drive my own to death. They would be alive—
That was what I was: masirkedi, a Noble charged with an entire city district. That is what I am: Noble enough to kill by suggestion, for my suggestions have the weight of law.
"I was sent for, and I am here. This is your Correction."
The words shock tears from my blinded eyes, lancing past the noise in my head, past the whispers.
"Your sin, masirkedi. Tell me."
"Dead, three dead—"
The grief of it pierces me, and blood runs down my side, hotter than my skin.
"They were just wed, they were just wed, and I told them, I said—"
no family is complete without children
"—I drove them to death!"
A sharp slap, hard enough to throw my face against my collarbone. I wobble; hands steady me, warm hands. There are rents on my cheek.
"You did no such thing," the voice says, implacable. "Or do you think you can ordain the living or dying of every Ai-Naidar?"
I gasp into the silence at the hubris of it. Something drips onto the stone. Sweat, blood, something hot. I sink with it, back into my flesh.
"Enough," the voice says. Gentler, "Enough. You have bled white guilt and red blood for them. Now weep, masirkedi. You are safe here."
"S-safe?" I repeat.
The hands drag me from the cold and the steel, into an embrace faced in silk but steady as the heart I hear beneath my ear.
"Weep," the voice murmurs into my ear. "And be expiated."
I turn my face into the breast of Shame and sob.
The Admonishments of Kherishdar.