On the Use of Deviant Pornography in Low-Grade Socio-Sorcerous Conflicts [22 Hispis 4385]
Arfaen and Phaniet and families wandered around Eigrach for the rest of the morning, but returned to Strayway for lunch. Arfaen explained the blackmail to me. "I'm sorry about telling you about Inconnu that way ... I didn't want them to discover anything about Quendry's legal status."
"Quite all right," I said. "Inconnu is a bit of a ship-wide resource; if he's had fewer than half a dozen lovers since we set off, I shall eat all the feathers on my left wing. In any case I don't do more than admire my clients from afar."
"I'm sure he was hoping you were Sythyry's lover yourself," said Phaniet. "That would be much more helpful to him."
Arfaen whined, "But what will I tell Jempjinga when he asks?"
"You will tell him the truth about the conversations you overhear on topics of interest to them," I said. "If there's something I don't want them to know about, I won't discuss it around you."
"Arfaen, you need not worry so much," said Kantele. "This is not a war, or, at least, we are not at war. This is a contest to get the best of Sythyry's enchantments. Most likely, if Jempjinga discovers someone offering a hundred thousand lozens for some great working, he and his faction will offer two hundred thousand. Which may leave many people greatly upset, but will simply leave us rich. So of course he wants spies: but not to our disadvantage." Kantele is very smart... (Note to self: get Kantele an understudy. I want her eventual replacement trained in her cleverness.)
"For my part, I'm not worried. I'm upset that Eigrachters are mistreating my clients," I said. "I do not wish to permit this. But I do not know what I can do about it."
Kantele smiled. "Perhaps we can pass a few gentle words to a few people that, if Eigrach is not a sufficiently friendly and companionable sort of place, we will go elsewhere in a hurry. And bring our wizard and our mighty workings with us."
"I'd like to punish Jempjinga," I said.
"No, or not yet," said everyone else for several good reasons, like: contesting the greater nobility of a foreign city one is currently living in is a truly bad idea.
(And we explained to Arfaen how to use the insignia to write notes to each other secretly, too, so that we don't have to simply pet each others' heads -- or whatevers -- and hope the other understands. The notes, incidentally, are seen in a part of the visual field that is ordinarily not usable -- as if they were written behind your head, but you can somehow see them anyways. I will write them «like this».)
Our apporach to privacy
Phaniet:"That's not what bothers me. What bothers me is, is anyone scrying on us now?"
So we investigated, and, in fact, no fewer than five people were scrying on us. (Possibly more, if they were quite subtle about it.) Phaniet waved at them.
Me:"I'm certainly not going to put up with that."
I dragged Vae and Phaniet into my workshop, and sent Umbers to the section of the library which has been placed on a high shelf and the couch instructed to yell at the children if they ever try to go anywhere near it. (Not just the stuff that we keep on high shelves, of which we have more than actually fits on the high shelves, so we keep the more romantic or tedious ones on lower shelves and the more anatomical ones on higher shelves.)
Eighteen or nineteen hours later Vae and Phaniet and I trooped out of the workshop, and brought certain newly-constructed bits of equipment into one of the very unused parlors, and ... waited another while longer for Umbers, who had had only a little while for her chore. But she did come, with a basket of books and other supplies.
Umbers had selected the eighteen-volume collected works of a gentleRassimel pseudonymously known as "He Who Has Excavated And Flown". [Very loose translation. -bb. [I presume my translator has chosen that particularly bad translation as an euphemism for certain relevant activies. I neither understand nor approve of this choice. -sythyry]] In public, in Daukrhame some decades ago, he was a reasonably dignified and unremarkable baron, quite devoted to the proper ordering and prosperity of his town, and cultivating one or two side businesses -- making fine paper was one of them. In private, he skimmed the best paper from his business, and wrote and drew upon it. Extensively, and, after a few years, rather skillfully. And with a focus on certain specific themes. Some of them quite dear to me; Castle Wrong and Strayway are my, far less creative, expression of my devotion to those themes. Some of them were quite specifically anatomical: he was very fond of depicting partial and complete hypertrophies, and certain blurrings of species and gender boundaries, and certain activies not all of which are physically possible. In his old age, when tremors prevented him from writing much and drawing at all, and impending death rendered him more or less immune to caring much about popular opinion, he published at his own expense a chronological retrospective of his oeuvre.
I have two sets. (One because he was a friend of sorts and a notable, even beloved, member of the community, so I bought one rather quietly; and the other because I was so quiet about buying the first that Castle Wrong didn't know I had done, and bought me another for a birthday present.) I presume that my diligent and/or berserk clients who packed part of Castle Wrong's library into Strayway thought that, if I had two copies, it was an essential reference work and one copy should certainly accompany me to Srineia. It is not, by any means, the most extreme or exotic material in my collection -- and there are a few pictures that Mynthë and I found distinctly inspirational -- but it is certainly an excellent example of an obscure and specific Rassimel obsession in action, backed by plentiful money and time and even skill.
Oh, and most cisaffectionate people who even glance at a few pages, especially of the later volumes, request a large basin of water and coarse sand with which to scrub the memory from their psyche.
Umbers:"Here you are ... it's a bit ... well ... you remember what my job was before I came here? This is worse. You must never, ever let my former employer know that anyone likes anything like the contents of this book."
Me:"It's not that bad, really."
Phaniet:"Look at this." She opened the eighteenth volume at random.
Me:"Yes, I do know the general material ... Heavens, that's bigger than my entire body, though to be sure it is lovingly, even beautifully, portrayed. ... I hadn't actually read that far. Mynthë and I didn't get much past book five or six."
Phaniet:"And this...!" She flipped a page. "It's bigger than my entire body!"
Me:"So it is. Quite dramatic. Yes, this will do nicely, Umbers." Though I did later reserve the second book (less naive than the first, less devoutly exotic than the later ones) to read later on. I expect I will more be remembering reading it with Mynthë, and consequently mourning, than anything more fun. I do that once in a while.
Umbers:"Ooh. That's not half bad."
Phaniet:"No. It's 49% bad and 50% awful."
Umbers:"Well, I like it."
Me:"The artistic and erotic merits are not relevant. We are using it to provide a show to those who seek a show from us."
Conjuring in the Pink Tower
Then Vae and Phaniet and I did the last few things necessary. We produced a crowd of sentient illusions, and commanded them to read the seventeen volumes, and then to enact such scenes from them as could fit inside the parlor. And we arranged that scrying spells peering at Strayway would see the inside of the parlor, and nothing else, unless by an act of mighty sorcery and will the scryer were able to tear the focus away for a moment.
Phaniet:"And after watching that for a bit, even a mighty sorcerer might be rattled."
Umbers:"It's not that bad. Next time Inconnu wants to play, I'll bring him here for inspiration. Or intimidation. If he's inspired and not intimidated, he will deserve whatever use of my body he wants!"
Vae:"Not much of this day's labors shall I inscribe to Oixe."
Me:"Let's lock the parlor door. And leave the key next to it, for Umbers and anyone else who wants to watch. As long as nobody stumbles in on it without warning, I'm not too worried."