Travel Preparations [Vheshrame; 19 Trandary 4385]
When a mighty and influential wizard seeks to travel, there are many, many preparations to be made.
Actually, it's not so much the "mighty and influential wizard" bit as the
"travel" bit. Even if this trip turns out short -- two years, say -- I will
still need a fair bit of luggage and accompaniments and sundries and whatnots.
Also, I will end up bringing a fair number of impedimentia, memorabilia,
regalia, penetralia, dementia, catatonia,
gene and so on.
Jyondre points out that it is possible to do laundry in Srineia. I somehow do not find this encouraging for how much I will have to bring.
Actually, it's not so much about what to bring as who. If I were a mighty and unencumbered wizard, I would have a very simple who-to-bring:
|Me||Primary tourist, auxiliary pilot, spender of the great vat of money|
|Vae||Auxiliary tourist, terrifying ophidian defense grid|
However, I am a mighty and influential wizard. Or, to be more precise about it, an influential wizard. By my family's standards I am a credible beginner of a wizard. Which is pretty good -- my half-sibling Hezimikkinen isn't a wizard at all; I have far outstripped zir already in magic. On the other paw, zie more or less rules Vheshrame except when we've got a very strong duke, and I am patron to a mere fifty-odd people and lose popularity contests inside my guilds, so I won't claim very influential either.
But I am patron to fifty-odd people at Castle Wrong and environs, and some of them are quite odd indeed. Indeed, I really can't leave some of them behind for even a couple of years, not if I hope to see them again when I get back.
Case in point: my Khtsoyis friend Grinwipey Snudthanks-Elps. Grinwipey doesn't technically live at Castle Wrong, but he might as well. He is, in my technically sophisticated opinion, the best seamstress in Vheshrame. He has a gift with the needle. When he embroiders jellyfish on a tunic, passing Orren feel hungry; and when he embroiders daggers, they check to see if their fingers are bleeding. I have been studying needlework for a century and more; it is a substantial part of my stock in trade; but Grinwipey exceeds me considerably, after only a few years study. As a senior member of the Couturier's Guild, I was his sponsor. We had a terrible political struggle to get him in: he was excluded on three votes, and only by dint of substantial bribes did he manage to squeak in on the fourth.
No matter. Grinwipey's productions cannot be sold within the city. Anybody rich enough to buy them is sophisticated enough to know who made them, and, thus, sophisticated enough to refuse to buy anything made by a Khtsoyis.
He sells some garments abroad -- far abroad, like in Aradrueia. The merchants who transport them get a substantial share of the profit.
Mostly, he works for me. Of course clothing to be enchanted must start off as the best clothing that can be made (unless, of course, it needs to be something other). Honestly, most of the time that degree of perfection is unnecessary, but I do want people to think of my works as beautiful and stylish, as well as powerful and effective. And when a particular and insanely fussy design is necessary, who would I have do it but Grinwipey? There is nobody who can embroider a glove with a pitcher full of arrows, using thread of stinging nettles and brazinion, like Grinwipey. Besides, he can heal his tentacles as he sews the nettles, Khtsoyis-style.
So, last year, we had a conversation that went sort of like this:
Me:"I'm planning to go on vacation."
Grinwipey:"Yeah, you go to the pond and get fobrulated by all sorts of Orrens and stuff, I stay here and do all the work."
Me:"A bit further than the city pond."
Grinwipey:"How far do you need to go to find a whimmy-jimmy swimmy big enough for you?"
Me:"Small enough for me, maybe? Srineia."
Grinwipey:"Aww, what in the name of Mircannis' gobbleblossom is Srineia?" (He is generally rather cruder when trying to sell a dress to a count or something, but we are old friends, and he tones down his vulgarity considerably for me.)
Me:Explain, explain, explain.
Grinwipey:"So this ain't no little trip of you jump in Vae's yamabloonie and pop off there for an afternoon?"
Me:"No, probably a year or two." (Which was my thought at the time. I am now thinking of longer.)
Grinwipey:"Well, you have yourself a sparrow-doodle of a fun time, Sythyry, 'n don't worry yourself about me, 'k? Khtsoyis are tough, we don't get ground down."
If he were here and not under my protection ... Hezimikkinen would probably intercede for him the first time as a favor to me. The second time, maybe not. The third time, well, you can only call on half-sibling ties so much. I probably wouldn't be away for a week before he had gotten kicked out of the guild, if not exiled from the whole city.
Me:"Exactly. Want to come?"
Grinwipey:"Why in the name of Hressh-Huu's squooshy vortex do you want a shoggy with you? If this is some way to get into my pants, you lose, lizard girl. I ain't got no pants." (Grinwipey is not the least bit traff.)
Me:"Oh, I'm probably going to end up doing some business there too. I'm bringing my whole workshop. That includes you." He pretends to be polite to me. I pretend I can get him to do what I want.
Grinwipey:"I'll check with the missuz."
She said no. But that was some time ago. The missuz is no longer his missuz, and, indeed, now counts as one of the people who would encourage him to leave town, on any pretext, or no pretext at all.
Lithia is sort of the other side of the problem.
Lithia is really my fault. Not that I cast the spells myself -- not that I have the spells, and for a good reason. Targeenniss is a Rassimel woman; Pleensy is an Orren man. Like many of my friends and associates, their love transcended both species boundaries and common sense. Unlike many of my friends and associates, they decided to unite their flesh in a child, rather than, say, asking a male Rassimal friend to sire a child on Targeenniss on Pleensy's behalf.
I didn't know. They didn't discuss it with me.
They did discuss it with each other. Anyone with any education knows that The Ritual of the Fertile Union isn't very good for the child. But they decided that their Transcendent Love, probably augmented by my magic, would take care of any little problems that arose.
So they got an karcist from the Temple of the Dark Trinity in Oorah Thrassen to cast it for them. (Pleensy had borrowed two graces of Mircannis from my workshop to pay for it, too, though Targeenniss and I didn't find that out 'til much later.)
By the time that Lithia was born, Pleensy had done the traditional Orren trick of swimming off back to a riverbank fishing village somewhere. Targeenniss was no longer terribly confident in the powers of Transcendent Love to get her through to the birth, much less anything else. We had to invoke the powers of a Pretty Good Midwife for that. (I'm not a good midwife. I've had all the Healer's Guild classes in it, but I'm simply not big enough for the physical part, and, um, rather too liable to curl up in imagined pain at the thought of reproduction. Or at least wince at a bad time for encouraging the mother.)
And of course Targeenniss didn't mention who the father was to me until it was no longer concealable, after Lithia was born.
Lithia is a shifter hybrid. Lithia switchs back and forth between Orren and Rassimel, every hour or two. The transformation is painful; she says it feels like pinching her finger in a door, only all over, if she isn't using numbing spells. Staying in one shape for too long is even more uncomfortable, though. We don't numb that pain though, since staying in one shape for too too long can be fatal.
Some people say that it is a mercy that the constant transformations are rather bad for her body. Based on Healer's Guild books and some tests, I estimate that she will probably see her 40th birthday, but probably not her 45th. [25 - 30 Earth years.]
She's thirty now.
Targeenniss hasn't been the best mother to her. Targeenniss has confessed to me that she sees in Lithia her own stupidity and blindness; that she has condemned Lithia to a short and terrible incarnation for no better reason than her own obsession. Targeenniss has, in fact, contrived to spend nine of the last thirty years away from Castle Wrong, leaving Lithia to be tended by me and my other associates.
(Castle Wrong has, at any given time, two or three dozen people who cannot live in their proper place for more or less time. Mostly they are variations on doomed traff love stories. They come to me, for every traff cafe on the branch knows about Castle Wrong. I help them as best I can, which often is by providing them a safe and comfortable place to stay, with people who understand, and a job. Often the job is inside of Castle Wrong. I paid quite well to tend young Lithia. No baby is exactly easy all the time, but Lithia was the most miserable one I have ever dealt with, hurting so much so often.)
Targeenniss:"I hear you're going on vacation."
Me:"Sooner or later. Sooner, I hope."
Targeenniss:"A long vacation."
Targeenniss:"Do me a kindness ... or, if I don't deserve a kindness, do one for my daughter."
Me:"What, does she still want to go to Vheshrame Academy?"
Targeenniss:"Not that favor. That won't do her any good." (Since Lithia would die a few years after graduating (among other reasons), nor Targeenniss nor the Academy nor I are particularly eager for her to go there, though I have sent some other children from Castle Wrong.) Bring her with you. She'll get to see the world, and enjoy a great deal.
Me:"Before world and enjoyment are ripped away from her." I no longer glare at Targeenniss about Lithia, but I cannot be wholly kind to her any more.
Targeenniss:"And she can't stay here; it's not safe."
Which is also true. Most primes consider shifter hybrids to be perversions of the natural order and the divine plan. It is hard to argue with this, since, when the topic has been mentioned to them, the gods also consider shifter hybrids to be perversions of the natural order and the divine plan.
The main disagreement is about where the blame lies. My opinion is that it is Targeenniss and Pleensy's fault, plus the fault of the ritual mages of Oorah Thrassen. Theologians generally agree that it's Gnarn's fault, as the dominant goddess of the ritual and a major force for cruelness in the universe; the ritual needed to exist for consistency, but did not need to be so easy. The popular opinion is that it is somehow Lithia's fault: shifter hybrids are everyone's both-females, and deserve every punishment for what they are.
It's not really safe for Lithia to be seen too much in public. In particular, she shouldn't be seen shifting in public. When I'm around and active, she gets some protection as the ward of the nendrai-taming wizard. When I'm away, well, "ward of the wizard who will probably back in a couple years or so" isn't nearly as much protection.
Besides, I am more next of kin to Lithia than Targeenniss ever was.
Me:"I should be glad if Lithia travelled with me."
Targeenniss looked relieved. It is much more convenient for her this way.
Targeenniss:"I'll go tell her straightaway, then, that she'll be going away."
Targeenniss can't be wholly kind to Targeenniss any more, either.