Baron Days [1 Hivvem 4261]
Me:"You've been seeking harps for at least a week now."
Strenata:"More than that. Since sometime in mid-Oix."
We were sitting in her kitchen, making a simmered twelve-fish stew. With a quarter-pound of garlic and seven chili peppers so hot that I didn't really want to sit on them, even.
Me:"That's a very long time for you to keep the same name."
Strenata:"The longest since I was eight, I think."
Me:"Are the harps particularly elusive, then?"
Strenata:"No, they weren't ... I got them the first day."
Me:"It was real harps you were seeking, then, not some metaphor or other?"
Strenata:"Real harps. Light floating wood harps in bright colors with waterproofed strings for a pair of youngish cousins who had a birthday in mid-Oix."
Me:"And you haven't seeked at anything since then?"
Strenata:"Not worth changing my name over, no."
Me:"Are you well?"
Strenata:"I'm neither sick nor injured."
Me:"Which is to say, no, you're not well."
She smiled at me for that, a very ordinary sort of smile. Which is only worth remarking on because she hadn't been smiling very much, and I hadn't noticed she hadn't until she did it and it suddenly looked remarkable.
Strenata:"No, not well, not comfortable. Perhaps I'll join that Traff Students Association you were muttering about."
Me:"Who's the lucky non-Orren?"
Strenata:"Nobody. I don't do that. You know that, Sythyry." And, as a point of fact, I do know that, all too well.
Me:"You have perplexed me in several ways at once with one quick 'Perhaps'. Care to explain?"
Strenata:"If you were Orren, you'd understand."
Me:"And, most likely, I'd not be muttering about a Traff Students Association. Since I am lizard, though, could you explain?"
Strenata:"Why do you think I'd join a Traff Students Association?"
Me:"Well, most people would do it for being traff themselves, but it's not that. Others as a kindness to a traff friend, I suppose. Others because ... well, I don't know."
Strenata:"I might join if Nestrune does."
Me:"He's a Rassimel, still, isn't he?"
Strenata:"And one who thinks I am attracted to him, at that. Though he rather assumes everyone is."
Strenata:"I never was; I am not; the more time I spend with him the less attracted to him I grow."
Me:"Then why do you spend so much time with him?"
Strenata:"Why do you think I'm in Vheshrame Academy, anyways?"
Me:"Um ... to ... learn things and meet people, like everyone else?"
Strenata:"By 'no' I mean 'yes'."
The only socially-appropriate response to that was, naturally, to roll on my back while levitating in front of Seeks-Harps' face, wave my legs in the air, and tie my tailtip into a knot. I have no idea how non-Zi Ri could possibly make a socially-appropriate response.
Strenata:"I mean, I'm trying to learn things about Nestrune, and meet the future government of Daukrhame. So that Vheshrame knows as much as possible about our its-an-independent-city-state-really neighbor and friend's next government, starting as now as possible, or even sooner."
Me:"So you're not really a student?"
Strenata:"Don't be silly. Of course I'm really a student. But why do you think that the Duke would be paying for my schooling?"
Me:"The Duke is paying for your schooling?"
Strenata:"Yes. Oh, by the way, this is a Guard secret, but you're sort of in the Guard now, so I can tell you."
Me:"I am? I have neglected to visit the paymaster."
Strenata:"You don't get paid! Don't be silly."
Me:"I didn't know I was in the Guard at all?"
Strenata:"Well, the secret side of the Guard has lots of secrets."
Me:"From its members too, it seems!"
Strenata:"Whenever possible, yes."
I unknotted myself and stirred the soup, which was getting quite mighty.
Me:"I'm thoroughly lost, by the way. What were we talking about?"
Strenata:"What's wrong with me."
Me:"Right. What is wrong with you?"
Strenata:"I'm a baron, and I am philosophically opposed to nobility."
Me:"Of course. And the Traff Student Association?"
Strenata:"Not my actual plan. Still, I need some way of opposing nobility, or the other wickedness in the city."
Me:"Traff is wicked, then?" That stung.
Strenata:"Not at all! Simply distasteful. Sorry, Sythyry, but it is." That stung less, since I already knew it completely. "I don't feel at peace unless I'm defying some wicked philosophy, at least a little. It's hard to defy the concept of nobility now. Not without renouncing my title ... But giving that snub to the Duke would ... " She trailed off.
Me:"... cut off your head, or at least your scholarship?"
Strenata:"That sounds like enough of an epigraph for that thought."
Me:"So, you're sulking and stiff-named because you lost one fight with a philosophy, and now you're looking for another one?"
Strenata:"Oho!" She grinned a lot.
So I scribbled "Seeks-Philosophical-Battle" on a card and stuck it in her hat.
Strenata:"Much better. Much."
So we had fearsome fish soup, incendiary fish soup, devastating doomful overspiced fish soup, fish soup that tasted like it had been spiced with axacanthus. (I don't know that anyone uses axacanthus for spice -- if it's edible at all.) Seeks-Philosophical-Battle looked much the happier.