The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 44: Dinner and Food for Thought
As we walk towards the Tindomë again, Bavör tries on a possibility. "So. Mannie. Sarah is an elf-touched maid. I would not wed an elf-touched maid without her consent, or without the consent of her family. Would you?" Mandorak agrees. We mention this to Finwë. He remarks that he would not like to make a threat, but agrees that he would be willing to look enigmatic, and to smile in an interesting fashion.
Sam thinks that we are discussing making a threat rather than suggesting the possibility of a run of very bad luck. She remarks that she is a large, healthy young woman, who took up the martial arts because men would bother her. "You'd think people would not attack the biggest and strongest young woman around, yet they would . I don't think we should provoke anyone, mentally or otherwise." She remarks that Sarah has no such defenses, since she is not yet of an age or condition to need them, and then she denigrates her own abilities.
Finwë, as her father, urges her to keep up with her martial studies, because she is good at them. She modestly denies this.
At the Tindomë, Eïr checks on her patient (not much change), and we look through our various wardrobes again, trying to improve on the clothes we had worn that morning. We consider Sam's clothes somewhat dubiously. We decide to ask the Widow Fishilashi for her assistance. We bring the new bolt of sky blue cotton with us, just in case.
Once back, with the help of Khajad, we ask our landlady to keep us from offending our guests by means of an unfortunately clothing choice. Khajad says, "Madame Fishilashi reminds me of how unusual it is to have foreigners housed within the gates. I was brought up to believe that proper manners might more often involve the absence… involve refraining from speaking when it would give offense. Foreigners in the City of a Hundred Temples are inherently offensive."
Mannie tries to explain. "We know that our presence is offensive, but we would prefer to minimize our inadvertent offenses." He gives the example that some fey don't wear clothes. Khajad gives the counterexample of a wild animal in the city, and that the more it dressed like a human, the more amusing or upsetting it would be, depending on the clothes.
Bay then again tries to explain our worry. "We might wear something that resembles some object of clothing of this city and thus give offense." Khajad then assures us that what we have worn so far, and what he had seen other elves wear, would not be offensive.
Mandorak checks the compass once he is in his and Bay's room; nothing has changed.
Grandfather Doctor Rhajnahah arrives on time, and Lieutenant Jhejhaleen is only a few minutes behind him. Dinner is pleasant; there is no discussion of business. The dwarfs ask about the fountains, the stone urns, the wall carvings. The others ask about the history of the City of One Hundred and One Temples. Our guests inquire about the history of Lanthil.
The dinner draws to a close. Mandorak asks the lieutenant how his day has gone. "Just more of the same," he responds. Mannie says that Sarah has not been moved recently. "Were your men able to find anything out?"
"Not really. That… person kept trying to become involved. It was more time-consuming than I had hoped."
"Did you find out if Sarah has been promised to anyone?"
"No. We traced some rumors. There was talk of an outland-ish woman-child being brought into the building you pointed out. There are conflicting stories of who she is and where she came from. She might indeed have been found by pirates and brought here. Not much is being said, which is what you would expect. …" He speaks to Khajad.
Khajad says, "The Lieutenant is very aware of your foreign-ness. Your actions and desires re-enforce this."
We again re-iterate that we eagerly look forward to Sarah's return, and would be grateful for her return in any condition. Khajad explains that the lack of information about Sarah comes mostly from an indifference to her past, not a deliberate and secretive reticence.
The doctor interjects. "You are right in what you say. Justice should be applied. The difficulty of the lieutenant's profession is that the two parties have different ideas of what constitutes 'justice' and the value of the different compromises that could be offered."
Bavör gives the most alien example he can think of, and everything grinds to a halt as everyone else tries to encompass the relative values of a "gas-giant" and an "earth-world." They fail.
"So there are rumors in the city," prompts Mannie.
"So it would seem," agrees Jhejhaleen. "The people who are interested in… acquiring such a, ah, um, have their channels of information to which I am not privy. My channels are different."
"I would like to hear what is being said about us," the dwarf says almost wistfully. He then returns to the main point. "What can we do to improve our chances of getting Sarah? Or to decrease her value to others?"
"Ah. I had not been thinking in those terms. I am a soldier, and have been acting in a direct fashion. I cannot think of anything currently that would decrease her value or appeal."
Khajad confides in us that Jhejhaleen has been speaking somewhat circumspectly, and that Khajad had been urging him to speak more directly.
"If we can't get to her, is there a way to get something to her?"
"Not immediately, through my people. But I have a cousin…, whose wife has a sister… who occasionally makes deliveries there. It is not clear what resources my Prince has allowed me, but certainly my cousin's wife's sister is not a critical, royal resource. I will inquire whether she has any deliveries to make in the next day or two."
Mandorak, remembering Bavör's explanation of a small, round scar on his thigh, asks the doctor about childhood diseases of Darkholme. The doctor understands the implications of the question, and short-circuits the discussion. We do not want to imply that Sarah is dangerous, or potentially dangerous. Since she is only a foreigner, the easiest way to deal with this would be to kill her.
Bavör bursts out with his chief frustration. "I cannot deal with this cultural disconnect: Sarah is simultaneously valueless because she has been despoiled, and highly prized because she is untouched. She is a worthless foreigner, and a treasured exotic creature. I don't understand."
Mannie suggests that Sarah has different values in her roles as concubine and daughter. Bay still looks unconvinced.
Grandfather Doctor explains another difficulty. "The purchase price for such may be more than money, which maybe you could match. The purchase price could include political or social favors, which you can't match."
Mannie says, "Sarah is being kept in a temple, you say. Could we appeal to a priest of that temple? In the name of charity? Or somesuch?"
Grandfather the Doctor chuckles. Khajad explains, "Grandfather might very well know of a high priest who is devoted to good works and charity. But since he has devoted himself to such a life, he would not be in a position to intervene in this situation." With a few more comments by our translator, we come to realize that Grandfather Doctor Rhajnahah is such a priest, the high priest of the senior temple of a score of temples. Alas, these temples have very little political influence.
"Ah, yes, it is just as our good cleric – our translator, Khajad, has said, I am not high-born and cannot bring those traits to bear, nor do I live in the palace, so I cannot bring that sort of influence to bear."
We turn to our translator. Finwë says, apologetically, "We have know for some time, and have tried to ignore, that you are a person of importance. Are you in a position to help us?"
Khajad shakes his head. "I am Khajad of the Clerks, a servant of the Captain of the Gate, although I am of the High Street. Another man, with another name, existed before me."
"Will he exist again?" asks Bavör.
"Someday, my father's son will take his place, but we are of the High Street, not the Palace."
We pause, facing multiple dead ends of influence. Our Captain rouses first. "Lieutenant, this has been an excellent conversation. We must now consider possibilities. The Serpent Prince placed certain restrictions on the type and scope of people you could employ in this matter. If these restrictions did not bind you, whom should we contact next?"
"You should contact someone who has bonded with you in matters of commerce or friendship or the like," says Jhejhaleen.
Bay spells it out. "But, other than yourselves, the Captain of the Gate, and our hostess, the Widow Fishilashi, we know essentially nothing."
"Then you have only these few people to approach. The Captain of the Gate has no direct authority within the city, but you spoke earlier of a paper he had given you?"
We show him the packet, and explain how it was given to us.
Jhejhaleen explains about the Captain of the Gate. "He has no authority within the City, but he controls the Gate through which all people and commerce flow into and out of the City, so he has indirect power. For some reason, you have achieved his respect, and this paper could get you out of some trouble that you, as ignorant foreigners, could get yourselves into." So we can't use it to get us a positive something.
Grandfather Doctor notes that Mandorak had been saying something in particular, and urges Mannie to continue.
"Who, in this City, that we know, or who are acquainted with the people we know, has the power to help us in this matter?"
Khajad listens to the lieutenant, and explains his frustration. "What the good lieutenant wants is your real question. Not these hypothetical questions about a future possibility."
Mandorak grits his teeth and is blunt. "What will it take for us to get Sarah back, safely?"
"That is a simple question, if not quite the question we were expecting," notes Khajad.
The Doctor says, "You have asked for simple information about your goal. What you must do to get her back: You must ask the right person for help."
Mannie asks, "Who is the right person?"
"The person or group who has the influence or ability in the area where you need it," pronounces the doctor.
"Would that be the vizier?"
"That is a possibility, but it is a winding path. Everything you need is there, but I do not see how you could ask him for help. It is more likely that you ask those who have a bond with you of commerce, or friendship, or debt."
"Khajad, can you help us?"
"I might, but only with part."
"My father has no son, but once he did, and someday he would again. Since that is a possibility, it leads to the possibility of influence in the future."
The doctor might be able to help us with temple influence if we need it.
We turn to the soldier, and ask the same question of him.
"That's interesting. I am not sure. Foreigners make such outlandish requests, but now that you have asked me, I will help you. There would be a certain risk – but there is that document – but I have certain resources…
"Yes, I can help you. The vizier has many who can help him. There is the adjutant vizier, who has his creatures… I should not speak of him to any but a foreigner. He, the vizier, has motives that differ from… and he has other lieutenants, who I could ask to aid me. We might not even need the help of Khajad's father's son."
"Is there anything we can do to help?"
"You should be in a position to offer the vizier… something, perhaps conditionally."
"The favor of Lanthil might someday be of use here, and particularly that of Daëwen, our lady. Or perhaps some devices that we use there, that are not used here. We have also acquired some interesting maps…"
"Ah, yes, your Daëwen. She is the equivalent of the Serpent Prince, is she not?"
"She would say not, but she is just the same."
"Who is the equivalent of our vizier?"
We draw a blank; there is no equivalent. There is the Silver Council, and we have certainly engaged with them. And there is Captain Rilya Windiel, who is in charge of the New Dawn Shipyards. We mention both of them.
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.