Action on the Ship! [10 Thory 4385; Eigrach, Srineia]
Yesterday, we got an apologetic letter from the head of the Shipwrights' Guild that an expert in the topic of skyboat repair would arrive today (the 10th) at the hour before noon, or not much later, to perform a preliminary inspection and investigation to determine what tools and workers and materials are needed.
Me:"I could imagine greater speeds on their part."
Kantele:"I could also imagine lesser speeds on their part. Indeed, I need not merely imagine them -- I have seen them!"
Me:"I suppose it would be rude to insist that the expert come this afternoon or some such."
Kantele:"I am beginning to wonder if we might not want to seem more rude and insistant, and less polite and accomodating ... but that may be at the next sign of inadequacy on their part."
Me:"Which I expect to come at the first hour after noon tomorrow."
And today started with a pair of surprises ... and not my usual sort of surprise, either.
The first surprise was at two hours past dawn, when Phaniet and I and Vae-the-serpent were sitting in (or near, for Phaniet) the fireplace in one or another of the parlors, discussing Locador things which had wandered very far afield from the practical ones we had meant to discuss. Blenny knocked on the door and called out, "Syffery? Ffere's a Rassy fromma guild look at ff'ship."
"Already? Well, show them in, and I'll be down in a moment," I said. I had Phaniet brush the ashes off of me. Vae took care of herself -- both the ash-removal, and the healing (she's not fireproof, but she insists on joining me in the fireplace anyhow).
The second surprise was waiting for me in the parlor near the front door, looking extremely nervous and tailtwitchy. Under his green leafy cloak with the silver walnut at the clasp, and with his thrysus leaning in the corner and his bicorne hat on quite straight. He was brown-furred with thin black rings here and there, distinctly chubby, thin-tailed.
And I knew things about him that were not visible to see. The fur around his waist is rather thin, for he wears his belts too tight. He tastes of cumin in certain ways. He finds power quite appealing.
And there were some important things I didn't know. Like, what the manners are for meeting someone in legitimate public circumstances for the first time, when one has met them disguised in illegitimate private circumstances.
So I sort of boggled and fluttered in mid-air for a bit, and let him take the initiative.
He made a deep and carefully formal curtsey. "Ah, good day. I take it you are the wizard Sythyry? I had not expected to have the pleasure of meeting you; I understood that enchanters are generally busy of a morning."
I smiled. "And a good day to yourself, O Rassimel tree-mage. My day's labors were finished early. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit -- for, indeed, I believe it shall be a pleasure to make the acquaintance of an illustrious mage of Eigrach?"
He looked about two-thirds relieved. "I am Thenel oa Iretario, tree-mage and carpenter, associate member of the Shipwrights' Guild. And it is a great pleasure to make the acquaintance of a mighty and subtle deep-mage and wizard of Ketheria. I have volunteered to execute the first steps in the repairs which you have requested."
Phaniet carefully avoided quite glancing at me inquisitively.
I stood on the air. "Allow me to introduce my assistant Phaniet, and the nendrai Vaisessasilmin. Their friends, among whom I hope you will come to number yourself, refer to them as Phaniet and Vae." Which is about as much of a "yes, it's him" as I could think of at the moment.
We spent several more minutes on formal etiquette -- slightly discordant formal etiquette, since the manners of Eigrach depart somewhat from those of Ketheria. I often think of such minutes as wasted minutes (and I am no more fond of wasting minutes than you are, even if I have a quite plentiful supply). This time I was quite glad to have the formalities. I knew just what to do, in a situation that could have been quite awkward and confusing if there had not been a proper script.
But all safe things must come to an end. Etiquitte required only so much. Vae departed, to go hunting with the chromodon I believe.
"I have never had the pleasure of having a skyboat repaired by the guild of Eigrach," I said. "How shall we proceed?"
"The first step, of course, is to assess the damages, and, knowing them, to plan in detail what sorts of efforts and materials will be needed. Then the materials and laborers will be accumulated, and the works performed, in a cheerful and eager manner. It is a straightforward enough procedure, and one which has been repeated innumerable times, with variations," said Thenel. I wished I knew if the echoes of double-entendres I heard were at all real.
"Simple in outline, to be sure. The details may be more complex, for the damage was extensive; I do not know that we have catalogued it all ourselves. May I have the honor of being your guide about Strayway, as I did much of the original construction myself, and, in all truth, should be glad of presenting much to a discerning and clever mage who, I suspect, is capable of appreciating certain fine points?" The best I could do at the time; I was rather nervous.
He looked, in Phaniet's estimation (which she told me afterwards), 37% happy and 19% nervous. (I just saw "happy and nervous.") "If you can spare the time and attention for such a minor matter, I should be quite glad to get the full benefit of your experience and skill." Perhaps a double message, perhaps not.
Well, there was no help for it. I was going to have to force an explicit conversation to clarify our position, even if that's very much not the Srineian style.
"Well, then," I said, "Let us start in the least likely of all places, saving perhaps my clothes-closet. In my workroom on board there are the original plans for the Strayway -- that is, all the available notes on the work I did. And, for that matter, a lace banner of illusions, suitable for showing you the forms of the ship before the pirates' efforts. Phaniet, in the library there is a folio of green leather containing the original original plans for the skyboat that was to become Strayway. Could you do me the kindness of hunting it down and bringing it to, let us say, my workroom, in a third of an hour?"
She knows as well as I do that the folio is ordinary brown leather. I was quite sure I didn't need to tell her to take the full third of an hour fetching it.