The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 90: I Shall Never Understand the Ways of Foreigners
Down in the sanctuary, the Dwarves turn around, and discover the Captain has been on the tour of the temple with them. Isn't he the stealthy elf?
Upstairs, Hanalia arrives in Grandfather Healer's chamber, walking several paces behind the Monk who was sent to fetch her, with her eyes downcast. Eir greets her and asks after her health. "I'm quite well, thank you."
"We have returned for a bit and heard that you are training here and almost done with your studies."
"Yes," She appears to find her feet very interesting. "I shall return to the Temple of the Gardens soon. I am very grateful for Grandfather's indulgence."
"I think it has been more than an indulgence. I think he is glad to teach someone who wants to learn. And now you hold the honor of two temples. And that is a good thing."
"Yes, it is." She inspects her toes again.
Eir tries again, "It will be a good cause for both your temple and the women of this city to find another to train as you have."
"It is as you say."
"The Grandfather wishes this too."
She nods. "I trust that is so."
"Is this something you would willingly engage in?"
"The whole of the past year has been most unusual."
"Among my people we are fairly plainly spoken when asking and answering questions. I would know if you are willing to help both the temples to seek out another to train as you have. Would you?" Tala-a'zahd translates the question. Hanalia answers with a brief phrase. Tala-a'zahd says, "She says again, 'It is as you say.' It indicates a degree of acquiescence and discomfort or avoidance of the impossible or unpleasant."
"So, is it that she has found her training unpleasant? She didn't say she enjoyed it."
"She says she has very much enjoyed this last year. Despite being an outsider and a woman of the Temple Gardens, she has been taught and befriended."
"So it has been a good thing. Do you know where her discomfort comes from?"
"I'm afraid I cannot find an Elvish word for it. What you ask would be very difficult. The situation is complex and intertwined, social actions being as complex as they are."
Eir pushes Tala-a'zahd a bit, and he starts responding, "It is as you say." She raises and eyebrow and says, "I shall never understand the ways of foreigners."
"Few that are foreign do. Our language and our ways are often considered complex beyond foreign understanding."
"Hanalia, here's what I have thought. What has happened has been a good thing. It promotes understanding between peoples of the city. If others have this experience, it will promote more peace. If you are asked to recommend someone, perhaps it will expand on this."
"My education here in the Temple of the Pale Orchid has been most useful, and I shall be happy to discharge the debt I have for it by giving assistance to others with what wisdom has been granted me."
"Then that is a fine thing. Thank you for your time."
Hanalia replies, "Thank you for my time here" and smiles genuinely, for the first time.
Remembering her time in the temple last time we were here, Eir touches the back of her hand and says "Be well." Hanalia turns her hand part way over and responds "Thank you" with a smile, then leaves with the monk who brought her.
Eir and Tala-a'zahd rejoin the rest of the party by the refractory, and from there the party returns to the street. We continue palace-ward to the Temple of the Scrolls, on a side street on the Sunward side, about half a block off of the Grand Boulevard. It's a less grand, but somehow more imposing building than the Temple of the Pale Orchid. Here there people, city folks and monks, relaxing on benches on the portico. A fellow dressed in green robes intercepts us as we climb the stairs. He bows and makes a casual hand gesture. "How may I help you visitors?"
The Captain responds "We are inquiring after someone we met last time we were here. His name was 'Khazahd.'"
A man in russet robes joins us. He addresses a few words to the gent in green, then turns to us. "May I be of assistenssss?" Even through Tala-a'zahd's translation we can hear the sibilance.
The Captain turns to Tala-a'zahd, "Didn't the first gentleman ask that question?" "Yes." "Is this one of higher rank?" "Yes." "Then I'll repeat my answer." And does. And Tala-a'zahd translates his words, again.
The man in russet replies, "You may very well be expected. If you will follow me?" and gestures up the stairs. We follow him into the darkness of the temple. We're led off to the side & up the stairs. These look like offices. The fellow in russet doesn't say much beyond directing. He leads us to a doorway with beaded curtains and reaches out a hand, jostling the doorway beads and making them chime. A voice calls "Come in." Entering, we find Khajad seated at the far end of the room. The russet clad fellow bows to Khajad and says, "Poet, you have guests." "Thank you, I was expecting them. I don't think we'll have any further need for you." "Then I shall be about me duties. Call if you do." With that, the man in the russet robes leaves.
Khajad gestures us to his table. "How have you been Captain?"
"It has been an interesting journey. It's taken less time than it might appear. Time moves differently on the Open Sea. I understand it's been a year since we were here last. Did I hear you addressed as 'Poet'?"
"Yes. How would you say that in your language? I would guess that you would address me as the Distinguished Poet."
"Is that a title of academic merit, or is it a civil position?"
"A civil position. Not quite the official poet of the city, but the Distinguished Poet, appointed for official purposes. Ah, Mr Wright. Do I recall that you speak this language?" Khajad then addresses Eric in Latin. Eric nods and replies. Before the rest of us can ask what was said, Khajad continues in Quenya, "I might be called The Laurelled Poet in that language."
"Undoubted reflecting your abilities," replies the Captain.
"One can only hope to live up to it."
"As you know we are here to conclude matters with the Serpent Prince."
"Yes. It's a shame that you weren't able to get here sooner."
"Do you have many other calls you're making today?"
"We are waiting for a response from the 5th temple. But I'm certain we have time now."
"If you have no other appointments, I should be happy to escort you back... are you staying with Madam Fishilashi? I would be happy to escort you back…"
"If you have no urgent business, we'd be honored."
"I'm in the process of writing a poem that's not urgent and stepping away from it for an hour or so might be a boon."
"Tala-a'zahd, if you'd rejoin us in the morning?"
"Certainly. If you need me before the, you can reach me through the gate house."
Khajad grins. "Do not worry cousin; if you are needed quickly, I have ways of finding a clerk. No doubt there is profitable business awaiting you."
"Well then, if you have no more need of me today, I shall leave you in The Poet's hands." Tala-a'zahd bows and goes out the door. Was "cousin" a statement of family relationship or simply a pleasant familiarity?
Khajad turns back to us. "You were asking about what has transpired in your absence. Politics in the city are quite subtle and complex. But the importance of various factions have shifted and changed a fair amount since you were here last. It may affect your business and visit. The Prince, having entered into certain arrangements with you, will of course fulfill them. The change of the political winds would not be allowed to affect His Highness' word. Though it may affect how they are carried out."
The Captain nods in understanding, "Yes. The 'gatekeepers' may be less willing to cooperate with us."
"As you know, the organizations in the city are numerous and complex. There is Harbor, Gate, City, Palace, Temple, etc. Each has its own hierarchy, etc. Those of the Palace and the Garden have shifted in ways that may not favor you."
Finwë frowns. "The ways of Darkholm is different from our ways. We have noticed an inordinate interest by a faction of guardsmen. I'm wondering if there are people who suspect our presence may be a danger to their faction's ascension. Of course, it could be the natural suspicion of guardsmen to anyone who appears different…"
"Last time you were here you made no great friend of Jr. Lt. Nijaldeen."
"Oh. Yes, him. He didn't seem entirely… cooperative."
"He is now the Captain of the Palace Guard. Lalimeen, who was no great friend of yours, but more willing to allow things to happen, has been pushed aside by Nijaldeen. Senior Lt. Jhejhaleen is now Captain of the Temples. This is both a promotion (Lieutenant to Captain) and a demotion, since it takes him out of the palace and limits his influence within the Garden wall. Also, the Vizier Najrahm tal'Karam, and the Grand Vizier's assistant have also risen in influence. The Grand Vizier's influence has lessened, and you'd probably have preferred his positions."
Thoughtfully, the Captain asks, "Is this just a matter of the course of things, or did our visit precipitate this reaction?"
"I have wondered if it didn't act as a ... what is the word … catalyst. To crystallize what was already afoot. "
"Well then, the major agreements we want to continue on were the agreements, possibly leading to an embassy. And of course trade agreements. And of course we'd agreed to bring a scholar to study at Lanthil."
"Yes, the agreement with Nashramadon, the High Priest of the 5th Temple. That you might help him gain information. Your delay has perhaps not helped here. However, gaining information about the way time moves on the Open Sea might be useful to Nashramadon. If the tides can be navigated to find faster routes through time, it would be of great assistance to commerce."
"These are complications. I have no hope of controlling the shifts the city's internal factions. I merely have the agreement of the Serpent Prince. It is to be hoped that his name alone would shield us from the factions. If we run into an insurmountable obstacle, we can simply return to Lanthil, conclude our arrangements with other parties, and return to Darkholm in 6 or 7 quatloos. Would you agree that's a prudent course of action?"
Khajad looks puzzled. "As I understand with my poor understanding of your language, the notion of "prudence" would require a substantial degree or caution or conservatism. While that is not a reckless course of action, I can think of more cautious approaches, if I were in your position."
Over the net, Eir suggests that the Captain tell Khajad about our potential allies. Finwe wonders if we should consider Khajad an ally. Is he working for himself, or one of these other parties? He's not in our employ, so he's not required to be looking out for our interests. Eir things back, I don't believe we lose anything by telling him.
No doubt Khajad remembers these moments of distraction. Aloud, the Captain says, "There are other parties who we have made contact with, who may be able to help us."
"Yes, in this I can envision a more cautious course, as I was saying. How best to say this… When I negotiated your agreements the last time you were here, you offered to take back to the heart of Lanthil members of different organizations, different temples. With the shift in influences, there are interesting alternatives for you. Your return, if things were going as previously negotiated, if you've returned to go forward with previous agreements, you might take back a scholar of the 5th temple. And you might have returned for someone that more directly serves the Prince. With the shifting of allegiances, this offers you two approaches. One concentrates on that faction with the most power, closest to the palace. The one with the most opportunity to do you the most good. Alternatively, you might go with the one who is the more likely friend, the scholar from the temple. Which you do, or both depends on which you expect to get the most help from, and which you trust with the information that they will gather. Concentrating on one or the other might be more cautious than attempting both."
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained. "
"As we speak more comfortably in your language, I often wonder if my understanding of foreign words is as accurate as it might be. For instance, what do you understand the meaning of the word 'Prince' to be?"
"The son of a King. Sometimes all of them, sometimes only the heir."
"Ah. A ruler by inherited right, instead of individual. Very good. I'm always curious whether I'm using the right term."
Mannie asks, "Is our term for the Serpent Prince incorrect?"
"Not at all, I was merely curious."
Mannie continues, "Who among those who serve the Prince might be interested in going to Lanthil?"
"While I'm holding an official position as Distinguished Poet, it's not a position that puts me within the Palace walls. I am if anything less privy to the desires of the Palace than I was before."
Captain Finwe grins, "Well then, there's nothing like finding out. We sent a letter last night to the Palace last night. I did mention that we'd made some contacts. One was with a priest of the 5th temple, and of course Grandfather Healer."
"Yes, I translated for you with him."
"He's quite interested in arranging for trade. He's interested in herbs from Lanthil, as well as some of the Dwarven and Elven metalwork. I would find it interesting to hear someone from an 'uncooperative' faction explain why trade in healer's goods should be delayed."
"In this you return to my point from a moment ago – the more friendly powers may not be the more powerful ones."
"When in a battle against a physically stronger opponent, it behooves one to look for hidden or unique flaws. I suggest making obvious the desires of the Healers here is one such unique flaw. Who could argue against it? It would be inconceivable. So one would win without landing a blow."
"It's certainly plausible to use such tactics. They are a little… direct. The ways of our folk tend to be complex and subtle. Somewhat less direct than such an approach."
Updated: Apr 25, 2008
©2002, 2007 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.