For Dinner: Filet of Thordeth, plus
assorted side dishes
Mood: Disgusted, appalled, and scared.
Written in the Year of our Lord 3580, March 17th, Sunday night.
Location: The Fel arcology on the city Vagnar on the continent of Laufey, near the Ran ocean, on Loki.
I woke up after a few hours, but I'm counting this as a new "day". It was the equivelent of ten o'clock in the morning. I scrambled me some eggs. The library was actually pretty well stocked....a lot of the classics were in there. Dante's INFERNO, among others...somehow fitting. So were some human translations of Lokiite works, and studies of Loki.
My communicator rang. I answered it, and the image of a human female appeared. "Good morning. Father Redwine?"
"Yes." It was so good to see a human being again!
"My name is Cynthia Bustilloz. There's a human "colony" here...scientists, traders, linguists....very small. I know today is not a good day, you're just getting here, but we were wondering if you would be interested in holding services for those of us who are religiously inclined next Sunday. We don't want to bind you too much, but we have several different faiths, so a more interdenominational service might be more appreciated. Would you...be interested?"
"Very much so. But right now my movements are restricted...."
"I'm sure details can be worked out. Derheim and Glutheim don't want to keep you in a cage, and they might think they can learn more about us if they find our about our religious services. Probably you will be too busy today, but call me in the next week, and if it's permitted, we'd love to have you. I'm sort of the spokesperson for the rest of the group."
"Thank you. Thank you very much."
"Bookmark my number so you can call me again. Nice to meet you, Father."
Then she was gone. It was good to know I wouldn't be totally alone.
By mid-afternoon, Glutheim showed up. "I understand Ms. Bustilloz contacted you."
Of course I was being monitored. "Yes. What did you think of her proposal? It's subject to your approval, of course. I don't want to transgress your ...hospitality...as your...guest."
"I'll have to get approval, but I see no reason not to. I'd probably accompany you, just to observe. It might be interesting. For now, though, we have to get ready for our meeting with Derheim, the Survivor of this entire hierarchy....and probably the most powerful single Lokiite alive. Imagine the Cardinal combined with the Empiress in Community terms, and you get some idea..."
"Okay. What do I have to do?"
"Well, let's put it this way. Don't. Resent. Anything. Survivors get deposed by assasination. His personal guard will die if he dies. They take any threats to him very, very, very seriously."
"I'll be a good boy."
Two hours later, I had been stripped, probed, x-rayed, given blood samples, cell samples, had my fingernails and toenails checked for poison, had my teeth examined. Even so there were four guards in the immense room where the Survivor was, weapons ready. Two have modern weapons, two are wielding odd-looking blades, a sword in one hand, a knife in the other.
Around me is an immense mural of the deeds of Fel, who occupies a position in Loki's history somewhat similar to Alexander the Great in human history....he was the first conqueror to unite most of Loki under his iron rule. It fragmented after his death, but the hierarchy of Fel claimed descent from his rule.
The Survivor, Derheim, was fat for a Falhym, and his six-fingered hands were calloused from years of being a sea captain on the Ran Ocean. He had two older Lokiites on either side.
Derheim said in an oily manner, speaking in Naviscan, the most-used Lokiite language, "We are pleased we can do a favor for the Cardinal, Redwine. We expect favors in return, of course....but that goes without saying. In return for those expected favors, we'll give you quite a bit of latitude here in Vagnar, and through most of Loki."
"I thank the Survivor."
"I understand you spoke the traitor, Misltu."
"He appeared well?"
"Insofar as I am a judge of Lokiites, yes, Survivor."
"I'm the one who put a price on his head." He nodded to the older man on his right. "This is my assassin, Eddavil. He is also, incidentally, Misltu's father."
"Oh! Yes, I can see the resemblence..."
"Yes. He is also my coordinator of plans to kill Misltu. We were wondering if you would be interested in aiding us? Your knowledge might be invaluable...and the reward would be mindboggling.."
I don't know what startled me more...the casual way the canniest man on Loki had no doubts that a father would carry through a plan to kill his own son, or the bribe to help me to participate in a murder.
"I'm sorry. One of my duties as a priest of my faith is that I may not--under any circumstances--kill another human, or any other sentient being. Or aid it."
"Unbelievable," muttered the one in priestly robes on the left of Derheim. Although one of the tall, thin Falhym, he had a beard, something I hadn't seen on a non-Norhym. In fact, he was taller and thinner than most.
I continued, "Anything else I can do that doesn't conflict with my duties as a priest, in appreciation of your generosity I will do. I just cannot kill."
"Well, that makes you a little different from our priests." Derheim left. "The charming specimen on my right is Nirut, a high official of the esteemed Haki hierarchy--" He spoke of the Haki hierarchy the way as if he were describing the dregs of the universe--"our guest, as the highest priest of Fane who could be spared, will meet with you tomorrow to discuss sprititual differences between his faith and ours. But he would gladly kill me if he could do so without being killed himself. He's here as a courtesy to the Haki hierarchy....whom the Cardinal also contacted."
"The same is true of you, Derheim," said Nirut. "You fear the consequences of the Hakis not being included. I, at least, am brave enough to come to your home grounds...:
"Your Survivor stays safe and secure in his own archology, also. But doubtless our squabbling is incomprehensible to this alien."
"Actually, it reminds me a lot of a human playwright called Shakespeare," I admitted.
"You like plays? Would you like to see a Lokiite play after the dinner?" Derheim asked.
We were shown a large banquet
laid out. I was given a seat between Nirut and Glutheim. Nirut
still sat on the left of Derheim. My dishes were specially prepared through
the nanoprocessors to be nonpoisonous.
We ate filet of thordeth, a sea animal not unlike an enormous eel, among other dishes. Again, it was good although very, very, spicy.
The play was based on a scene in the Elder Sagacycle, and contained lots of scheming and a swordfight with those oddly shaped blades. I didn't follow all the plot, but then, I'm sure the Old Testament would be hard for many Lokiites to understand if they're used to present-day humans.
The swordplay looked real, and earnest. They were good actors. There were several faked wounds....
And then a scream. One of the actors was looking at a stump where his arm was. And from the spectators....there was laughter and approval, as the actor's life was bleeding away in light orange blood.....cursing, he left the stage. There was no way...no way!-- it could be faked.
The assassin, Eddavil, said, "Well done. I couldn't tell who had the true sword until too late."
"Neither could he, evidently," said Derheim.
Glutheim looked at me, trying to read my expression. I asked, slowly, in Fellowship Franca, "Is this---usual?"
"The climax occurs because none of the actors know which of the weapons is real...and if none of them are, there is another trap planted. Most actors get knicked, no more. Some get killed, but we were not that lucky. He will probably live, although with a stump for a hand."
"But what would make a Lokiite take such a chance?"
"Money. Either that, or they took that chance rather than take a certain execution. The suspense makes the play exciting, and the uncertainty in the battle makes every actor look like his life might be in danger....which it is."
As I rode home, I thought about that play...and
how casually it emphasized the differences between the Lokiite and human
Return to Redwine at Dinner.