For Dinner: Barbecued ribs, baked beans
in barbecue sauce, corn on the cob.
Mood: Ashamed of what I did and boyishly proud of it at the same time.
Written in the Year of our Lord 3580, March 30th, Saturday night.
Location: The Fel arcology on the city Vagnar on the continent of Laufey, near the Ran ocean, on Loki.
Tiafen came with me to a Lokiite bazaar/shopping mall/madhouse. She kept my money. It was an experience. It was located right in the arcology, of course.
For one thing, all eyes turned immediately to me when I entered, since of course, I am an alien. Oddly enough, I wasn't the only alien there...I saw a small Ganeshan contingent at one end. of the immense room. There were thousands of Lokiites there, milling about in very close quarters. I was rather horrified---not surprised, mind you, just horrified--that all of them were armed, at least with knives, and most of them had their knives out in one hand. I thought I would look especially freakish for having a guard with me. Instead, that was the most normal thing about me, having someone armed to the teeth with me. I noticed the Ganeshans also had Lokiite guards around them, doubtless hired for the job.
"Why is everyone armed...and have their weapon out?"
"To keep from being jostled too badly...and to protect themselves against pickpockets and thieves."
"Oh. A bad problem?"
"The worst. Only the merchants are worse."
"How--" A young child--the equivelent of thirteen--came too close, and Tiafen glared at the child and raised her weapon, and the child shied off. Then I felt probing hands in my pocket, and grabbed it. I held onto an older female's wrist....possibly the mother....who had been exploring an empty pocket.
The Lokiite looked visibly scared, and yes, they did have a knife in their other hand, but she was looking at my weregild, and realizing if she killed me, she would have assassins on her tail for the rest of her--short--life.
She also was visibly shaken because I was an alien. She wasn't sure of my capabilities.
"Let me and the brat go, soldier," she said to Tiafen, not to me. "If you try to kill us, I have nothing to lose, and this freak of nature goes too."
"Redwine. Let go." Tiafen gestured at the mother-thief. "You. Back off and drop your weapon."
The mother-thief backed off, and brought the blade down low, and then threw it, with one easy motion, straight at Tiafen. She didn't look at me.
Nothing I could do about the blade, but I saw her reaching for something else. Grabbing one arm, I brought down a karate blow that made a sickening crack!---the one in which she had been reaching for a weapon. I then took the other one and brought it up around her back, where they couldn't reach me. She turned paler. Shock from her broken arm, probably.
Only then did I feel safe to look at Tiafen. The blade was sticking out of her helmet, where she had ducked on seeing the blade come. She wasn't hurt. The child was trying to escape, but Tiafen had a firm hold on the child. The female I was holding was struggling, and then there was another snap. I had not meant to break her arm.
I should have felt guilty about the violence. Yet I had no idea what the mother-thief was reaching for, and considering she had just tried to kill Tiafen, I suspected it was a weapon to help her finish the job. There was still enough of the little boy in me though, to be amazed and--stupidly--a little proud of quick action, and possibly saving Tiafen's life. It happened too quickly for me to feel fear, except in retrospect. Now I was feeling shaky and breathing raggedly, as the andrenelin was wearing off.
The spectators had cleared out a little circle watching us in action.
Tiafen got closer, and looked at the mother-thief's arms. "Both broken. Good job, Redwine." She smiled. "Now to make an example of..."
Speaking quickly. "If she dies the child will die too, right?"
"Without someone to watch the child? Doubtless."
"There's no..." I was stuck. I didn't know of a word for "police". I later found there wasn't one. Guards for particularly hierarchies, yes, soldiers, yes, but everyone protects themselves. I tried another tack:
"But she can't steal without any arms, right?"
"Can we...let her go? Her and the child?"
There was a silence. Both from Tiafen, and from the thief, and from the child, and finally, from the crowd.
"Or will they starve if you let them go?"
"Usually these thieves are part of a larger organization, which will support them for a while, in exchange for donating part of their booty to them. They'll be all right. Which is why I question your decision," said Tiafen. "They'll just rob again once she mends."
Then she paused, and said thoughfully, "Now, if we cut off their arms, they won't be able to steal, and the organization will disown them. They'll probably die of hunger in that case."
She looked like she was seriously considering it. "Tiafen. I know she tried to kill you. But I'm asking you to let her go. Her broken arms will keep her out of trouble for a while."
"The brat could still steal."
"I'm not breaking a kid's arm. Forget it."
Tiafen did a remarkably humanlike shrug. "Let her go, then. When she's far enough away from you, then I'll let the brat go. No sooner."
The thief walked into the crowd. When she was at least forty feet away, Tiafen let the child go. She ran to her mother.
Everybody was looking at me. Even Tiafen. No one paid attention to the thieves.
I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Finally I got my laughter under control. Tiafen said softly, "You're not having some kind of attack, are you, Redwine?"
"Only of irony. None of you have the faintest idea why I wanted to let the thieves go, do you, rather than have them killed. Do you?"
Tiafen said, "No." Several of the others in the crowd signalled their agreement with Tiafen.
There was really no way to explain. There
were no words for mercy, pity, or an equivelent of the phrase, feel
"I'm an alien. Let's leave it at that, shall we?"
I bought a few artifacts, with Tiafen helping me to haggle them down. It was very much like an old-fashioned Oriental Bazaar in that sense, or a 20th century automobile dealership, where you try to haggle the other party down. Tiafen also confided to me that the only reason the merchants are slightly more scrupulous than the thieves is that they stay in one place....usually...so we can find them easily if . But they would steal a customer blind in a heartbeat. It was very much a matter of "Let the buyer beware."
Glutheim stopped by tonight. "I got word of your little confrontation at the marketplace. I was surprised and a little gratified. Good job! Now word will get around that you broke a thief's arms who tried to rob you. It will help build up your reputation."
"Wonderful. Father Redwine, martial arts master of mayhem, and Man of God and priest. The fastest 'gun' in the west....west Loki, that is. I don't know what the Cardinal will say..."
Return to Redwine at Dinner.