The plan for the evening with Arhoola Strenata was:
- A casual stroll along the bank of the ponds in the open ducal park.
- A spontaneous gift of ginger- and leek-fed snails, which are just in season today but I was pretty sure Strenata didn't know were in season yet.
- A swim, for which I borrowed Real-Eel's tooth amulet.
- A drying-off in the Glade of Five Winds. [A public art project consisting of five kinds of trees surrounded by five small perpetual whirlwinds, so that the trees are growing in spiral shapes. -bb]
- A dinner at Scalminatore's.
- A return to my apartment, in a choreographed dance of mutual avoidance with Tethezai and Dustweed. (They will start their evening with the physical affection, since they are on such terms already, and then go to dinner and an evening lecture.)
- And then we should see what we should see.
(Oh, and I have decided to do my term project in Enchantment to be some sort of device to help me swim. Water-breathing is a bit more challenging than I want to build just yet -- one does not necessarily wish to trust one's life to one's freshling project.)
The actual evolution of the evening with Seeks-Justice Strenata. (I wasn't there for that choice of name, and she didn't particularly explain it to me.)
- A casual stroll up to the open ducal park. Which, when we arrived, proved to be the closed ducal park. Ulmarn is evidently at war with Rusunder, and Vheshrame of course is host and referee.
- A quick whispered conversation in which Seeks-Justice demanded that I use my insidious noble's powers to get in so she can see the war -- she has a lover in Rusunder, and of course Yarwain is from Ulmarn. (Note to self for later: inquire further about this lover in Rusunder.)
- I quickly manufactured a spoken invitation from Hezimikkinen. Naturally Hezimikkinen is thoroughly involved in the war, setting up protections so that the battle doesn't hurt any military observers from other countries, or judges from Vheshrame, or dukes of Vheshrame. We were admitted. The ducal guards are used to Hezimikkinen's secrecies, whims, and vapors. They would not have been the least bit surprised to hear that Hezimikkinen wanted every tree in the part set ablaze, as a precaution (against ice attacks slipping off each other, I suppose), and two surprise guests hardly caused them to blink.
- The war was well underway when we got there. It was a very small duel-war, four champions on each side. We got there just in time for Pehestrum Seven-Handed of Rusunder to lose three precious internal organs to a very nasty three-headed spear tossed by Reul Yystiander.
- At which point, Hezimikkinen, boredom dusting zir wings, flew up
behind me and breathed fire on me -- in public! -- and teased me
thoroughly that zie did not know I was interested in regional
politics, but that zie would be sure to actually invite me to
further duel-wars and other tedious diplomatic necessities. Zie then
settled down and gave us a bit of commentary: Reul and Pehestrum hate
one another; Pehestrum has slain Reul five or six times, and
humiliated her in various ways that have nothing to do with duelling
or war; Reul hired herself to Ulmarn for a twelfth of her usual fee,
presumably so she could toss that spear at Pehestrum. There is even
speculation that she somehow engineered the war, though Hezimikkinen
is dubious, since zie advised the duke to arrange for it himself
before the border dispute between Rusunder and Ulmarn got any worse
and turned into a hate-war.
[Hate-war is something between raiding by small bands of extremely powerful heroes and terrestrial war; in particular few if any precautions are taken to ensure that the uninvolved are not hurt. Duel-wars, such as this one, are fairly stylized contests and displays of strength, indicating how dangerous each cities' heroes are and how much damage might come from a hate-war. Such contests are sensible in a world where a single person might be as dangerous as a hundred average city guards, or ten thousand. -bb]
- Reul's three-headed bitey spear to the contrary, Rusunder won the war. Rusunder's champions had arranged a trap for Reul with Pehestrum as bait, giving Pehestrum spells for enduring vast injuries with coma but without immediate death -- a sort of magic more often found in the halls of medicine or criminal justice than on the battlefield, for they interfere with more useful spells for staying active past physical death in the Gormoror style. Some nicely-crafted taunting provoked Reul into close combat, leading to quite an incendiary surprise. Pehestrum was not so badly slain that he could not be healed to life by routine methods. Reul's body, still easily healable, served as bait for the second mouth of the trap, in which Clyn Tyn Avaratica was transformed entirely into amber. Since Tyn Avaratica is mainly a warrior, and generally relies on devices and bound spells for magic, this left him in an unfortunate situation, with very few choices of what to do. The other two Ulmarn champions surrendered, as is customary when outnumbered two to one.
- Hezimikkinen mocked Ulmarn considerably; they had a significant advantage in skill and equipment at the beginning. Then zie flew off to help arrange the aftermath.
- Strenata was somewhat in her awe, and somewhat in her anger. She has of course heard of Hezimikkinen. She can no longer pretend that I have only minor political connections. (I have very potent but utterly useless political connections, save for the purpose of being admitted or sometimes commanded to a wide variety of events.) She seems uncertain about what to do with me. Though I am not entirely sure why she is obligated or even allowed to do anything with me.
- Dinner at Scalminatore's was suggested, and brusquely rejected. Strenata had by this time seen far too much of the mighty. She evidently prefers to pretend that the mighty do not exist.
- Dinner at The Sloop In Soup was suggested and accepted.
Seeks-Justice had damson-plum and mussel soup, a la sloop, which I was
not permitted to pay for. I had
scallop and leek soup, raw, and a quarter bowl. It was noisy and
crowded, and we shared a table with a pair of Herethroy women
stevedores who spent the whole evening arguing, loudly, about who had
carried the most of what when. Strenata and I argued, softly, about:
- The ethics of starting wars among neighboring city-states, given that occasionally such wars turn into hate-wars;
- The ethics of allowing one's sibling to start such wars;
- The difficulty of persuading one's sibling to any course of action, when one's sibling is so many centuries older than one;
- The necessity for one to argue and dispute with one's sibling -- for truth and justice do not vary with the age of the speaker!
- (And a variety of related ethical and practical matters.)
- Strenata would walk me back home, and would even say that she had a truly memorable evening and would in fact like to go swimming with me at some point, but perhaps in the river or some public place. Nothing happened to make the evening any more memorable, though.
Now I have to arrange further choreography with Dustweed and Tethezai, and return Real-Eel's tooth, and all for nothing much except soup and bickering.