Seducing the Orren [15 Hispis 4385]
I didn't get to talk very much with Bazamvey and Hark! (the exclamation point is part of her name, so don't blame me, please). The Rassimel were doing most of the talking. I had been eyeing them whenever I could, and they were quite pretty Orren indeed, all lovely sleek brown fur and quick eyes. And, after all the Rassimel were healed and sent to bed, they went sliding around on Doöaru's scales. They stayed in water-form all the time. This is odd, because they weren't generally in the water, but (a) some Orren can do it; (b) some Orren like to do it; and (c) it wasn't even close to the strangest thing going on on Doöaru's back.
So I invited them to breakfast aboard Strayway.
Which is not as inconvenient as it might seem at first. We had parked Strayway on Doöaru's back -- Strayway has a flat bottom, after all, and the antelopes don't mind being on the ground. (My not-good-friend Urgentia has made the last seven of his skyboats unable to land, despite having shapes that could reasonably be seen on the ground -- two of them were drawn by glass and ivory swans, but, for reasons best known to himself, Urgentia decided that they would be legless glass and ivory swans.)
I didn't have great actual hopes. Really, I didn't. They looked like husband and wife, though that's not always a limitation for Orren. We're not planning to stay on Doöaru very long: a day or two more at most. I've barely flirted with anyone in decades -- not a lot since Mynthë died, come to think of it, and that was about sixty years ago.
But that last is the reason. I need practice in flirting. Reading books and looking at pictures is only so helpful. Admittedly, some of the books and pictures may be interpreted as case studies and practica in flirting and related relationship issues ... though, in some cases, the flirting is cursory and the related activies are extensive and detailed and very, very enthusiastic. Pity real life isn't quite like that, or mine isn't, anyways. Umbers' used to be, until she escaped.
So, breakfast, with a bowl of scallops poached in shrieking wine (now soundproofed), a tray of egg and eel and elk and elm custard cut into little polygonal shapes (I'd asked for triangles, but got squares and hexagons too), and chalices of kathia with a few drops of perfume and brandy. Arfaen did quite a nice job. We were in a private parlor, with a low round teak table, no chairs, and three thin feather pillows on the table next to the plates. This is a comfortable luxury for small people.
Bazamvey:"This is quite pleasant!"
Hark!:"It's nice to get fresh fish! There's a pond or two on Doöaru!'s back! But we can't eat them all! Or we wouldn't have any left! "
Me:"Well, what do you eat there, ordinarily?"
Hark!:"We eat lots and lots of snails! They slither up and down Doöaru's scales!"
Bazamvey:"I like scale snail tails!"
Hark!:"I don't! Scale snail tail fail!"
So that was all very fine and giggly, and very Orren.
Me:(somewhat later) "Where are you from?"
Bazamvey:"We're from out along the branch!"
Hark!:"We're wandering wizards!"
Bazamvey:"We're sauntering sorcerers."
Hark!:"We're meandering mages!"
Bazamvey:"We're thravelling thaumaturges!"
Hark!:"We're eloping enchanters!"
Me:"Are you actually eloping?" Which was a question I had generally been wondering.
Hark!:"I think we're married!"
Bazamvey:"And I don't. Hark! didn't register the wedding properly."
Hark!:"I tried! I don't know how to write!"
Me:"You don't? You must have grown up in a riverbum village!" Which is a perfectly ordinary thing for Orren to do, and riverbums aren't always as determined to give their children a rigorous education.
Hark!:"I did! Sort of! Three of them!"
Me:"Oh? Why three of them?"
Hark!:"My parents kept getting kicked out! They used too much Mentador!"
Well, that's an unusual and a distressing thing to admit in public. I didn't really know how to respond, so I responded badly:
Me:"Oh, my! Bazamvey, what is your background?"
Bazamvey:"Much the same. Five villages."
Bazamvey:"Mentador isn't that popular."
Me:"So you're both the children of riverbum Mentador mages?" Which sounds quite odd to me. Riverbums aren't the sort of people that you'd really expect to learn enough Mentador to bother people -- much less to have enough money to by the requisite spells.
Hark!:"Oh, that! Yes! We're Mentador mages ourselves too!"
Which is not something that many people admit in polite company, much less like that. I was doing my best to look like an open-minded and friendly wizard. (Which I am, pretty much. Open-legged, too, though I hope it wasn't that obvious.)
Me:"What is your specialty?"
I will admit that I checked various protective and investigative devices, as surreptitiously as I could manage. Specialists in mind control had best be specialists in teleporting as well, or something else useful for escapes -- if not actual combat magic -- for there are fewer less popular magical disciplines.
Bazamvey:"Yes. Practical mind control. We help Orren domesticate deer and river-dolphins, by rendering the animals less fearful of people for a while. The Orren would feed the animals, and make friends with them. When the control spells wore off, the animals were still friends with the primes. That sort of thing."
Me:"Oh! Not controlling other primes."
Hark!:"We're not primes!"
Hark!:"We just look that way!"
Bazamvey:"But once in a while we'd control primes too. One of our customers had a terrible habit of ripping out her own fur. She hated it, but she couldn't break it. A control spell was good for that."
Hark!:"Or that man by three ponds! He was too fat! He wanted to eat less! We made him eat less! He was happy!"
Me:"Wait ... you're not prime?"
Me:"I didn't know there were any norren in Ketheria." By "Ketheria" I mean "Vheshrame Mene" here -- I have no idea about the rest of my native branch, much less the rest of Ketheria. I was a bit rattled though.
Hark!:"There might not be! We're not from Ketheria!"
Oh, right. We're not in Ketheria anymore.
Norren look like water-form Orren, which is to say, they look like animal
otters. They're smart and charming -- by all reports, and all my experience
with them too. They're pretty good at magic, especially Mentador and
Illusidor. They've got a poison bite, too, and they're very resistant to
magic, if I
read my reference books a long time later recall correctly.
They are monsters.
They are monsters of the most insidious and insinuative sort.
They're not specifically dangerous. They're not like a nendrai or nycathath, able to be a martial challenge to any prime hero in the world. They're not even like perdithorne, who hate Cani and fight them mercilessly.
They're just ... friendly.
They like Orren.
Orren seem to like norren, too. Except for the Mentador and the being stuck in
water-form, norren and Orren are two of a kind: charming, friendly,
unreasonably attractive to Zi Ri, and all like
that. So norren often live in Orren villages -- until they get kicked out for
using their best skills and powers, I suppose.
Oh, and norren kind of like sneaking into cities, by reputation at least. I don't know if that's a compulsion, or just a fun thing. I haven't heard that they've done anything worse than, oh, go swimming in the public pond and see a puppet show, or some such -- or, sometimes, to cast Mentador spells on people. Harmless enough spells, but still, they are Mentador. Still, norren in cities is doorwaying. There is no worse crime. And the Mentador just adds unpopularity-or-crime to unpopularity-or-crime.
I think Pararenenzu must have made them -- zie made the Orren, after all. The alternative is too horrible to think about.
Back to Breakfast
I did my very best to radiate aplomb, and, indeed, to appear as if I had always understood that Bazamvey and Hark! were not actually Orren, or might not be. I succeeded brilliantly, of course. I imagine I was able to close my mouth and stop gaping in a matter of mere ninths of an hour.
Me:"Ah! That's why you're travelling on Doöaru, with Kazrie and the other philosophers."
Hark!:"We want to live with primes!"
Bazamvey:"We like primes!"
Hark!:"Primes like us too!"
Bazamvey:"Except for the Mentador!"
Hark!:"We do jobs that real primes don't want to do!"
Me:"It certainly sounds that way. Mentador is not well-loved, but it is one of our twelve Nouns, and there are things that it can do that cannot be done nearly as well in any other way."
Bazamvey:"I'm glad you approve!"
Hark!:"I'm glad too!"
(I don't actually approve, but I have the diplomacy not to say that.)
I didn't rush the rest of the breakfast, I really didn't. I did my best to be polite and friendly, and, after I recovered from the surprise, I think I sort of managed it and had some more good conversation. But I didn't flirt any more either.
I'm going to count this one as "a narrow escape".