For Dinner: Fried Mockatch in Idunlif sauce.
(Modified for human sensibilites.)
Mood: Herded. Not shepherded...herded.
Written in the Year of our Lord 3580, March 14th, Thursday night.
Location: Jotunheim, a moon of Thrym in the Frost Giant System.
The next morning, I got up...and basically frittered away my time. I knew the door was locked, so I composed my soul in patience and ate a few snacks I had with me. Around eight o'clock in the morning, a Lokiite came in. He was tall and thin, which meant he, like Misltu and the one who ran Jotunheim port, was of the Falhym, rather than the two short squart Norhym who helped me out of the shuttle.
"Hello," he said. His Fellowship Franca was excellent. "I am Glutheim, of the Fel Hierarchy. As an emmissary of Derheim, Survivor of the Fel Hierarchy, I'm here to prepare you for entry into Lokiite society."
Translation: I am Glutheim, a flunky for the Fel 'nation'...more like an extended Mafia family...an emmissary of Derheim, the leader of the Fels. Their leaders are called 'Survivors' because their terms usually end by assasination.
I would have to constantly remember that the Lokiites have no conception of altruism, of caring for another...that everything they do is out of enlightened self-interest. Always. Glutheim and through him, Derheim, is only being nice to me because he wants to be nice to the Cardinal.
"Good to be here. You know what my mission is?"
"Comparing religions? I'm a Fanist, but I'm not a priest, but I'm sure we can arrange for some suitable meetings with some Fanist priests, as well as some of the other religions that Loki has. I ....understand...you had an interview with Misltu before you came here?"
"Yes." The answer was guarded. Any Lokiite would earn a fabulous reward if Misltu the Traitor was asssinated.
"Does he look--well?"
"He seems pretty healthy."
Glutheim nodded. The faceted eyes were only a covering over eyes very similar to mine, or an octopus' eyes. Actually, they were more like glittering facets that could coverge to a point, like glitter in a tube of liquid. His grey skin was a little drawn...I judged him in his sixties or seventies, pretty old for a Lokiite. His prominate nose was reminescent more of a horse's than a man's, and his ears were smaller. There were painted tattoos on the side of his face. He wore long robes of crimson, and his childbond "links" extended from his wrist to his ankles were painted a light purple, an affectation, almost decadent. His red, featherlike hair had some darker "feathers" within, almost blood red against bright crimson. His six fingered hands clutched, as if to strangle Misltu's throat.
Glutheim turned to other matters. "I need to give you your badge of weregild. You will need to wear it at all times on Loki...it is your greatest protection. As a mark of how much Derheim values your Cardinal's wishes, the weregild will be set at twice my own, or just under Derheim's weregild itself."
"Let me make sure I understand your customs. I've read about them, but they were written by humans with limited understanding into the Lokiite mind. A weregild is literally a price on my head....if I am killed, it's the reward offered by the Fel hierarchy for my killers. Any of your freelance bounty hunters and assassins can claim the reward, if they kill someone who kills me."
"Exactly. Very few would try to kill me, save a high-priced assassin in the pay of, say, the Haki hierarchy, because they would be immediately hunted by other assassins to claim my weregild. Even fewer would try to do you, save some who would be interested in the techniques of killing a human---because your weregild is twice that of mine."
His weregild was a locked bracelet around his neck. He gave me two. "One is a spare. The markings on it indicate your 'price'. It will protect you practically anywhere in Loki."
I put it around my neck, and it automatically locked. "How do you unlock it?"
"I'm under orders for Derheim to reserve that. It was thought better not to give you the option to remove it, lest you to be tortured for that to happen."
"Then why the spare?"
"Someone else might figure out how to unlock them. It's not uncomfortable...especially to someone who's used to a clerical collar. Another thing...I know your language fairly well. Do you speak any of the Lokiite languages at all? I know you only have had a little over two weeks since you first found out you were assigned here..."
"Nar dri bubival," I answered. "As you can see I know a little.I learned a little in my usual xenological studies, and I've been refreshing and building my vocabulary since then. I need to work on my accent, though. I am half-way passible in Naviscan. I don't know New Merlan or Old Lorsen or any of the other languages."
"That should be okay. I don't know any other human languages except Fellowship Franca. I was trained during the War, so that I could dictate terms of surrender to humans. But Naviscan is a near-universal language on Loki, so that should suffice. There are a lot of words in Fellowship Franca that I know, intellectually, but are hard to grasp for the Lokiite mind...."
"I'm sure. That's part of the reason I'm here....to explore those words and if we have any common ground. Let me guess...they include 'trust', 'love'--as opposed to lust--'charity'--'martyr'--words like those?"
We spent the afternoon discussing various aspects of where I would go, what I would do. "The shuttle will leave tomorrow morning for Loki," Glutheim said. "I will be accompanying you for the forseeable future, as your guide on Loki."
"Like Virgil guiding Dante...."
"Nevermind." Trying to explain the concept of hell to a race that has no altruistic impulses would be a real pain. Or would it? They might understand Cotton Mather damning-them-to-hell much easier than they would St. John's preaching of love one another....
Now that I had a guide, we were free
to wander in Jotonheim port. "Hawkins and his crew have taken off," Glutheim
said. We were eating at a restaurant. I was trying to work
up an appetite despite the background stink of sulphur that was the usual
smell of Lokiite air, since its concentration of heavy metals and more
active vulcanism introduces it into the air.
Customers were openly staring at me, although they probably see more humans here than at Loki proper. I was the freak here, as poor Misltu was at Havlinn.
Behind us was a mural of Kiree the Voyager, discovering and colonizing new lands.
Glutheim was eating a meal of fried Mockach in Indunlif sauce, a fishlike animal of Loki's oceans that nevertheless gave live birth. I had a plate of the same in front of me, although it had been modified for human palates, since Lokiite biology uses more trace metals than Earthly biology does, being a more metal rich world. A sprinkling of arsenic to them is a spice, like salt or pepper. My version had been modified by the nanoprocessors to be within acceptible human limits. It tasted like a spicy cajun swordfish.
I was going to have to trust Glutheim for now. Even though I know if someone offered him a higher price than my weregild, he'd slit my throat without a second thought.
Return to Redwine at Dinner.