The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 88: Signal to Noise Ratio
We look around our quarters, look out the windows, relax, and think.
Eïr slips over to the captain, and murmurs in his ear, "That guard out
there. Does he need to go away?"
Finwë broods. "I wonder what we've done to draw the attention of the palace guard. … No, I don't think it would help if he went away. We are going to eat soon. Perhaps we should send him out some food. Yes." Eïr slips away into her room, where she communes with her herbs and spells.
Madame Fishalashi is quite ready to provide us with a satisfying meal, and with an extra portion for the guard. Little Eïr takes the food out to the man. She repeats (she hopes) the phrase, "Madame Fishalashi sends this." He looks surprised and discomfited, but after some hesitation, accepts the bowl, and makes an incomprehensible response.
Sometime after our dinner, we look out the window, and notice that the guard is gone.
We ask our translator the best method to get in touch with our old friend and translator, Jeujaleen. He explains that first, we must get into the guardhouse of the temple guards, which is in the far side of the wall from the guardhouse of the palace guards. Hmmm.
We decide that we also must send a note to the Serpent Prince, announcing our return, with apologizes for our lateness, due to problems in translating between realms. (Well, it sounds good, and has the virtue of being true.) We must also send a note to Grandfather Healer at the Temple of Healing. And there's the note to the Fifth Temple, also explaining that we have returned, etc.
Tala-a'zahd opens his portable desk, and starts writing the notes. He speaks to M. Fishalashi, and she goes off. The translator produces rough drafts of the three notes, and then final versions of the letters to the Prince, and to the Head Priest. Captain Finwë signs them as they are placed before him. By then, three nervous lads have arrived at the door. They appear to be message runners. With doubtful glances behind him, one enters the boarding house. Tala-a'zahd asks Finwë if he has a seal to append. "Yes, but Mr. Wright must do it." He asks Mannie to have Eric come down.
On the way up to our rooms, Teller buttonholes the dwarf and excitedly informs him that there's been a disturbance in the street. The guards in blue [the palace guards] were dragging away something. Mannie says something polite, and passes on.
While waiting for Eric, Eïr happens to notice something interesting about the nervous young man. She leans over our translator, and asks Tala-a'zahd in a low voice, "Could you please translate, 'Give us the knife hidden behind your back,' to that young man?" Before he can react, she grabs the lad's hands. The translated command is given. Teller does the actual disarming. The Marginalis hands the large dagger to the Captain.
In a few seconds, the lad collapses in a faint. Eïr quickly and carefully searches the supine body. There, in a blue rag, is a pile of identical coins. Other than that, he does not look well-to-do. Eïr is of the opinion that he took the knife off an unconscious guard, and that he fainted in fear at being found out. She asks her pirate to carry him out into the garden for some fresh air, and the three of them depart.
Captain Finwë asks that another of the runners be summoned. The translator goes off, and returns with another young man, and explains that the third companion ran away when he called out to them. When Finwë asks him to explain that, the youth suggests that – unlike himself – his friend was afraid of foreigners. Finwë explains that he needs a reliable runner, unlike the first young man. The remaining youth seems very unreassured.
Eïr contacts Finwë over the telepathy net, and asks him to come out into the garden. The captain takes the translator, and heads out for the garden. As they pass the dining room table, Finwë notices a well-made, but plain pair of sandals half under the table. He notices but ignores them.
Teller addresses the bewildered youth, "Come with me." He leads him away. Mannie heads out after the captain, but notices the sandals. Yes, the runner had been barefoot. The dwarf picks up the sandals, and goes after the pair. He catches up with them at the front door.
"Here are your sandals," he says to the runner, holding up the pair. The lad turns pale and shakes his head. He even lifts his foot to show that he does not customarily wear shoes. Mannie steps closer, and Teller puts the lad to sleep. Mannie looks out a window, and notices a pair of palace guards knocking on a door down near the Boulevard.
Out in the garden, Eïr splashes water on the unconscious boy, so that he wakes up. Finwë leans over him and uses telepathy to ask, "And where did you get that very nice dagger?" He gets the full visualization of the runners stripping everything off an unconscious guard in an alley. The boy realizes that this foreigner leaning over him knows everything about his theft, and lets out a blood-curdling scream.
Out on the street, the palace guards here the scream, turn, and notice a very short foreigner looking at them, in the direction of the scream. Mannie pulls his head back in, and asks Teller to drag her runner to the back. Teller drags/teleports the lad to the garden. The screaming has stopped, because the first lad has fainted again. Teller has barely finished the thought that is would be unfortunate if Madame Fishalashi were to enter her own back garden before she steps out into her own back garden, and says "Oh my goodness!"
Finwë apologizes for the incident, but gets no further before they all hear a loud thumping at the front door.
The guard at the door says something that Mandorak does not understand. He leans out the window and says, "I do not understand you." Approximately the same statement is made again. Mannie asks, "Is the door locked?"
In the garden, Madame Fishalashi says something three times – possibly "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear." She darts off.
The voices from the other side of the door continue, loudly. Mannie explains in Dwarvish, "I'm sorry, but I'm a guest here at Madame Fishalashi's, and a guest does not open the door of a host's home." By now, the lady of the house has darted to the front door, and opened it. There is a cacophony of speech among the two officers and Madame Fishalashi. Mannie adds to it, greeting them and introducing himself very formally, in Dwarvish, going back nine generations.
The second guard announces, "The flower petals are in the kiln." Mannie wonders if this foreign language is a madman's idea of Dwarvish. He replies, "My favorite flower has always been the coral." They head, inevitably, for the back garden.
There the guards find a bunch of foreigners, and two unconscious young men, one with a guard's dagger, and one with a guard's sandals on his chest. The tableau is confusing, but soon, we are able to convey that these two young men were not yet in our employ. The guards claim that they must have ambushed and robbed a palace guard. We have no knowledge of this. We were composing a letter to His Majesty, the Serpent Prince.
With the assistance of the translator, we are able to coax the senior guard into volunteering to deliver the letters to the Serpent Prince and to the High Priest of the Fifth Temple. Eric places the appropriate seals on the letters.
More guards arrive to remove the two unconscious miscreants. Another, high-ranking guard arrives, and clearly asks, "What's going on here?" Naturally, he needs to be brought up to speed by the guards on the spot, and, also naturally, he has no intention of doing that. Instead, he directs his questions to Captain Finwë, attempting to entangle the foreigners in the wrongdoing. The attempt fails, as everyone hold firm to our story, and he turns on his heel and leaves.
The remaining guards are polite, and leave (with the letters) in good order. Captain Finwë brightly announces that everything has transpired most satisfactorily; the miscreants have been removed, and our letters will be delivered by a fine, reliable guard.
Tala-a'zahd reminds him that he should send a small thank-you gift to the Under-Officer, to be delivered after our departure. Finwë thanks him, and then seeks out Madame Fishalashi. He apologizes to her for the distress, and the damage to the substance and ambience of her garden.
She waves away his apology. "It's just like young Chuizadi to go stomping around Teajha's domain, as if it were his own, but do not fret yourselves over it." She returns to her kitchen domain.
Finwë mutters to Tala-a'zahd to remind him that we should also give our hostess a special gift after we leave. Teller suggests that we should bestow a nice plant or some such on her garden, as well as the traditional departing gift. This is greeted as an excellent idea.
Mannie cautiously looks out that front window again. There are no guards to be seen. However, he can see that the thumping on Madame Fishalashi's front door has left several dents. He has fetched out some carpentry tools, and is examining the door when he hears booted feet marching down the road. Again. He turns, and recognizes the City Guard uniform, and then the familiar features of Madame Fishalashi's nephew.
He calls into the house, "Captain Vizhal of the City Guard is coming this way." In a moment, Tala-a'zahd has joined him, trying to look helpful.
Captain Vizhal asks, in a loud, jovial voice, "Is my aunt making you pay for your lodging in kind?"
Since Tala-a'zahd has been murmuring a translation in his ear, Mannie can reply. "Oh, no. When the guards knocked on the door, it left some dents. I was just removing them."
"Oh, yes, I can see." His voice remains loud and carrying. "Those were not City Guards, I hope? I cannot imagine that any of my men being so uncouth as to produce such damage."
"They were Palace Guards, I believe."
The city captain proclaims his dissatisfaction with the uncouth behavior of Lt. Chuizadi in particular, and the unjustifiably intrusive behavior of Palace Guards in general. He then announces that he has been neglecting his aunt recently, and that he should spend more time with her and would we care to join him and her for dinner that evening? We even finish the evening out on Madame Fishalashi's front porch, listening to a lute concert by a niece of the good lady, shepherded by young Lt. Teajhal Vizhal.
Updated: Apr 11, 2008
©2002, 2007 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.