The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 27: Advice on Etiquette
As we approach, the guards cross their pikes in front of us. One asks us a question in a language we don't recognize. The Captain shows our document, with its seal showing, and says in Quenya, "We seek permission to enter the city. We have a note from the harbormaster." The guard asks us a question in, probably, a different language. Finwë hands him the paper with a few more words of explanation. The guard studies the paper, returns it, raises his pike, and lets us in. We pass another pair of guards, dressed as classic harem guards, and come up to a richly-dressed man at a low desk. A second, dark-skinned man strides across the floor, and meets us at the desk. He takes our note. Finwë explains what we want again, and apologizes for our communications difficulty.
The standing gentleman makes a gesture, and a third man appears. Finwë addresses him.
He brightens. "Fay."
The captain shifts back into Quenya. "Would this language be more comfortable to you?"
"Ah, this more familiar is."
"Yes, the other is a common patois. This language you speak very well."
"The steward knew to send for me."
"We hope to get a pass to the Inner City. We have spoken with the gentleman who controls the comings and goings of the harbor."
"And you have a purpose in entering the city?"
"We are on a voyage of exploration and diplomacy. Lanthil, the land we come from, is a new land. We are hoping to arrange meetings of a diplomatic and economic nature."
"And, within the gate…?"
"Yes, we hope to meet with appropriate parties, and exchange…"
"Foreigners come to the harbor town."
"Well, yes. We hope to do more."
"Unusual, it is."
"Clearly, but we have never had a chance to make any other arrangements."
"An interesting approach. Among our peoples, it is usually given to the senior races to come within…"
"Races? You mean 'people'?"
"Yes. Senior people, to come within the city are. You are a young people…"
"Well, yes, but we were all young once. We hope for more meetings in the future, where knowledge is exchanged, and agreements are made."
"Yes. Often, the young are awkward."
"We don't wish to give offense."
The new man talks back and forth with the other two. There is clearly some cause for merriment in what they are discussing.
"The steward asked, what have you to offer?" He gestures largely. "What does it benefit Darkholme that you have?"
"Are you speaking of knowledge or material goods?"
"Anything that warrants the exception to tradition."
"As far as material goods… we won't know until we speak to the appropriate people. In the spiritual sense, we have brought a piece of ourselves. 'Lanthil' means the cascade of light that falls from the heavens, and we have brought a sample of it."
"Ah. LanTHIL, not LanTHIR."
"Yes. An understandable confusion."
He explains something to the others. The conversation is a bit more serious this time. He turns back to us.
"Here, in Darkholme, as in many places, it is polite to offer a present before asking for a favor or exception, rather than afterwards, when it takes on… certain… connotations. So I give you young people this advice. Give your present before asking for your favor. Since you have not yet spoken to the steward, the correct form can still be followed."
"Am I to take it that this gentleman is not the steward?"
"No, he is."
"Since we are unfamiliar with the customs and gestures of Darkholme, am I correct in thinking that a gift to the steward is appropriate before making a request?"
"Gifts are always welcome and appropriate. A gift offered after a problem is revealed is, perhaps, tainted in a way that one offered before is not."
"Ah, the term, not much used, is 'bribe.' It has an ugly connotation. What we need to know is the title of your leader. We know king, president, sachem, first, premier, and so forth. We have a present for your leader. What is your leader called?"
"Ah. He is the Serpent Prince."
Now we had come to a common rationale. Our translator happily accepts the conceit of a present to his prince, and discusses the process that will have to be undergone to present our gift. Finwë follows this closely, and makes suggestions along the way. Smooth timing is important throughout.
Finwë brings up the language problem. Why, yes, payment for the service of translation is acceptable. He discusses the money we brought with us, and the nature of the Lanthil economy, and the concept of ĥektar, which sounds like barter. Finwwë explains about gifts, and gratitude, and gifts without recompense. The two finally agree that Lanthil is a gift economy, a very mature system, and that it is not ĥektar. Darkholme has a Right of Prince, which means that the Serpent Prince receives goods by right, and not as gifts.
He then explains that we should be generous as we go along. They discuss the nature of our gift to the Prince. Finwë explains that we will have to return to our ship to pick out appropriate gifts. He asks if gold is appropriate, and what the exchange rate is between gold and the talon, their unit of currency. The talon, it turns out, is a large rectangular solid of gold, worth four to five gold coins. We explain that we don't have any Lanthilo money, which doesn't exist yet. (We're new.) We have used that money we got at Port Rouge. He is impressed that we left there with more money than we arrived with.
We will be paying him for three services: (1) translation, (2) introductions, and (3) advice. Finwë assures him that we will be paying him more than coins. He explains that this discussion is wrong. Any present given at the end must not be spoken of in advance, because then it might be considered a bribe.
"Ah. I have been remiss. I am Captain Finwë Ciryandil."
Our translator-to-be exclaims how honored he is to be given the name of an elf. "I am Khazhad." He explains when we should come back from our ship.
We part company. Finwë explains to us that we need to go back to the ship, and then return in a tenth of a day, and that we need uniforms. We need to have gifts for minor functionaries, such as the steward of the gate, captain of the gate, etc. Their ruler is called the Serpent Prince. Their merchants here probably thought we were pirates, because of our varied coinage and styles of dress.
We turn back, variously contemplating the items we've acquired along their way, and their suitability as presents.
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.