Week 2, Offering Assistance
We left the group about to go off to the Hierowesch Thing. Cantrel, Alag, and Jarid are left outside, and Marsina, Glorian, Ashleigh, Jake, and Hisradish go in.
We're walked in slowly behind our runner. The group of them all are assembling in a complex with a large room in the middle of it. The room is somewhat oval, being a bit rough-hewn. People dressed similarly congregate in the same places.
There's a large mound of pillows in one focus, where the Hierowesch females, the matriarchs, are lounging. In the center are a bunch of very large males (the Hierowesch are rather large beings, and the big males are somewhere around 500 lbs). Well, not a bunch, three to be precise, but they're impressive.
Most of the other people are gathered around the edges of the room. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a third power group, a bunch of other males. Hisradish knows nothing of them. This is not like what he's used to.
The women ask in general, "Who are you, and why do you come?" We're not sure on protocol, and are relieved when the hunter who escorted us introduces himself as Hunranl, and tells a brief story of finding us and our strange tale.
A certain amount of discussion ensues, and we're not sure what all it is, and neither in Hisradish, for certain. It seems to be, however, a discussion of how much time we're worth, and how much exchange of honor and debt and things are at stake. We suppose, how much honor Hunranl gets if we're interesting enough, and how much debt he owes if we're a bunch of jerks.
Finally, we're told to speak. Ashleigh does, introducing himself as the leader of our band, and he explains the basic story again. We know these other Hierowesch, see, and we're friends of theirs, and out people helped them out of a tight pinch like the one you're in. Your people helped Hisradish's people, and he wants to do something nice for you.
Hisradish then speaks, saying more of the same, trying to explain this silly story in a way that'll sound reasonable.
One male and one female talk among themselves, and the male asks us a bunch of good questions, like "Why us?" and "Why not the Faun?" Ashleigh answers, explaining them because this is where we landed, and not the Faun because they're not our sort of people.
The third group talk to us. We find that they're Hunoffil, and they're scholars or knowers or something. Henceforth, we'll call them the Knowers.
More discussion among the Hierowesch. More good questions like "How long can you protect us." Ashleigh explains that protection is really out of the question, what we're offering is escape. One male makes some gesture that indicates a reference to a previous discussion. Sort of an "I told you so." Our guess ultimately is that this fellow thinks that war with the Faun is ultimately a losing proposition, and makes the point again.
The want to know if we have Powers. They want to know if we walked to this planet. We have been using a metaphor of islands and seas and ships, and we continue on this line.
They ask if we're Makers of Objects. We hem and haw, and say yes and no. We know that the Faun are Makers of Objects, and they look down on the practice.
More discussing goes on, and a short break happens. The Knowers come back with extras. The oldest Knower wants to know if it would be bad for them. Ashleigh dances yes again, saying that it certainly is a change, it depends on how you view the change (these folks seem to be rather conservative), and it might be. But he also adds that the other Hierowesch live among humans and other peoples and do quite nicely.
The Chief Hunter wants to know about our Skills. Hierowesch are big on Skills, being not only skills, but traditions, and all that that entails. Y'know, doing the right things the right way. Hisradish then introduces himself formally as a Hierowesch, with names, titles, and so on. It's a bit tense for a moment, and it looks like he may be challenged to some sort of contest, but nothing quite happens.
Ultimately, it comes down to their wanting a demonstration. They're Missourians, and want to be shown that we're okay. We also discuss among them the point that what would be a nice demonstration for one group might not be a good demonstration to another. We say we'll go away and think of one.
Ashleigh negotiates what's to happen when we're done thinking, and negotiates that we're to come back to this very spot. Actual bits of protocol are discussed over how it's to be done, and then Ashleigh has Jeremy teleport us home. We hope that this leaves them wondering if that was part of the demonstration.
While on the ship, we wonder what to do. While we're wondering, Hisradish comes up with the interesting notion that the reason the Knowers are there in a position of power is perhaps that the town fled from the encroaching Faun, and moved onto the site of a monastery. Thus the monks who were there before have a power-position that one wouldn't find normally among them.
We decide that we're going to convince the Knowers by showing them the Cracker Jack, our ship. We decide we're going to try to convince the matriarchs by asking a lot of questions like, "Are you sure you want to do this? -- sometimes an honorable death is preferable to debased life, so make sure you think well about it." As for the hunters? Well, we think some about blowing them off altogether, but decide that we can always put up an archery contest or something. We don't have a lot of the sparring traditions that they do, and our skills thus might be hard to demonstrate. Perhaps a hunting demonstration would be good, too.
We go back down. This time, all of us but Alag and Jeremy. We find guards along the walls, and the others are summoned.
We outline our proposition. It goes pretty well, but the offer to test skills gets a good deal of hub-bub going. They still sneer at us a lot (to be expected, really, they're an old people, a noble people, and it really must be embarrassing to be in a position like what they're in), but seem amenable.
They ask more good questions, like what are they going to see. How do they know that we're good on our demo, they want to know if we have position back home, and more good questions. We answer as best as we can, but Ashleigh gets a little exasperated at their continuing wanting proof, and finally explains that ultimately there's no proof, tough.
Also, on the good question list is some probing about what their submitting to. We explain that the other Hierowesch live among us as friends and neighbors, and as equals. We're not asking for slaves, or karma, or indenture or something. They're of course a wee bit skeptical, but what do you expect?
They decide to take 4 hours (1/8 day their time) to decide who's to come on our demo. We offer to take up to 10. They don't like being rushed, they don't like devoting more effort to us than they have to, and grouse at us a bit. We grouse back a bit at them (Hey, you don't want our help? We can always leave), Ashleigh getting a bit testy after repeated insults from the head hunter. Cantrel tosses in a few dominance snarls too, and we leave to give them their time, except for Cantrel, who stays behind in case there are people who want to see us (so we're not quite so aloof) and Alag stays behind to back up Cantrel in case there's any trouble.
A young fellow comes up to Cantrel after a while and starts chatting. They've noticed that none of us are really alike, and this somewhat throws them. They want to know how work is divided among us. He also wants to know what Cantrel's role is.
Cantrel says that he's a hunter, a leader of hunters, and a leader of leaders of hunters. He also explains that among us, we choose what we do, and that we all choose what we're good at.
The young fellow says, "That might work. I would not judge." A pretty good comment, actually.
Cantrel finds out that he's a hunter and a leader of hunters, but not (yet?) a breeding male. Cantrel explains that he is a breeding male, "as often as possible, though often enough to my satisfaction."
More discussion occurs, and Cantrel offers the opinion that he wasn't really impressed with their head hunter and adds that if he "had been any more obnoxious, I would have made him swallow his own foot!" The reaction our friend gives is interesting. He does not take it as an insult, nor a joke. He doesn't take it especially seriously, but treats the comment with a certain respect.
Cantrel casually mentions that Alag is around hidden, and poses it as something of a test to notice him or find him. Our fellow mentions that they knew there was a hidden one when they met us, and smells that there's another here. But he wants to come back with some friends. Sure.
Twenty minutes later, he comes back with two friends. One is a Knower, actually introduced as a Feeler. This fellow seems to be able to sense Alag. Cloaking stops the feeling mostly. Block and Shields do not. This is what we'd expect from some sort of clairvoyance, so we're impressed, actually. A psilencer stops it even more. At this point, anything else could be mere smell, or even imagination, or the equivalent of that ringing sensation you get when someone turns off a high- pitched noise.
Cantrel asks if they go wandering afar. They do and we get a quick rundown of it. It sort of sounds like what you'd expect. Their wanderers are a bit like monks and a bit like knights-errant. Sometimes they take up real residence among other towns, sometimes they travel and come back, sometimes they fall afoul of the Faun, and get in fights. Sometimes the fights are fatal, sometimes not. Cantrel offers a trip with us for "someone who shows initiative," implying that our fellow could have the position if he wanted it.
Other discussion happens and our young fellows decide that Alag is a neat enough trick that the elders ought to be told about him. They go off. After a bit there's a noise that sounds a bit like a cat fight. Our friend eventually comes back, and explains that he finally convinced someone that the elders should know of this interesting new find.
Cantrel brings up the Opportunity again. Our friend has questions. This is nice. For a people like that, they're all full of good questions.
How long? Forever.
What position would one hold? Whatever position you made of it.
What sort of food is there to be? We're a bit flummoxed on this one, until we find out that their wanderers are vegetarians. Cantrel explains that we're pretty much wanderers who eat well. Our friend seems impressed.
Cantrel grins and says, "Have a beer!" He tosses the fellow a beer and shares one with him. The hunter is a bit taken aback, recognizes the beer as an intentionally-spoiled foodstuff, but drinks it nonetheless. We'll find out how these folks react to beer soon enough, we guess.
The Cantrel asks him for more information about Old Foot-Eater, the primary male, and gets some gossip. Of course, his opinions are colored by his station, and we all know how managers and politicians are. They're the same here. Eventually the young hunter leaves.
When the eighth-of-a-day passes, our young hunter friend comes back to us with Hunranl and Old Foot-Eater. Cantrel asks who the hunter's parents are. They're not entirely sure they understand, but tell Cantrel, who explains that the young hunter honors them greatly. They're not quite sure what to make of this comment, but they realize that it's a compliment, and a multi-generational one, so they try to be properly appreciative.
Cantrel is escorted back to the Thing-hall. Cantrel walks there abreast of Foot-Eater. They're not quite sure what to make of all of this. Cantrel does, though, drop into his own place as the group assembles and we wait for the rest of the group to teleport down.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.