Thenel and I, alone in my workrooms. Which are rather a place of power: three
dozen assorted significant enchantments, a guardian or two but never mind what
(but they’ve been given different instructions since the pirates), a variety
of oddments which might come in useful for enchanting this or that, a small
shrine to all 7+12 gods, a reference library … and a moderate apartment in
which I spend about two-thirds of my days, and Phaniet about a sixth of hers
(note to self: by working with me, Phaniet has shortened the number of years
of her life, though not the number of hours. I owe her a replacement for those
years, if not outright immortality. This is a common arrangement for wizard’s
assistants; Aiziju could not have made her own immortality talisman either.)
So various recreations and relaxations, too.
Thenel looked around, rather wide-eyed. “What … well, what did you mean by
bringing me here?”
“I wanted to discuss how matters stand between us,” I said. “There are
“We’ve got only nine minutes,” said Thenel. “Less whatever time we’ve used so
far getting here and all. And Phaniet might arrive early.”
“Phaniet knows better than to arrive early,” I said, and activated an engine
of considerable thaumaturgical power. “And that nine minutes will last us for
a significant fraction of an aeon, if we like.”
He gasped, which I was expecting. He does like powerful magic.
Then he scowled, which I wasn’t expecting. “So, what do you want? My power
“I beg your pardon?” I had to say.
“Well, if it’s not the power chimes … oh, is this going to be a public
I looked around the room. “I might not be the most canical and socially adept
of lizards, but getting you alone in a room to chat doesn’t sound like
the best approach to public humiliation to me.”
“Later. Exposing me to my guild and all.”
“I think we’re from different world-branches. Where I come from, we generally
try to be nice to people with whom we have spent an extremely pleasant
afternoon,” I said.
“I see,” he said in a flat voice. “You want to use me again.”
“Not if you feel that way about it. Look. You’re here in my place of
power, where the very space and time will do what I ask them. What do you
think I will do if you refuse to couple with me again, or even to discuss the
He looked around nervously. “I can’t guess.”
“I will have Phaniet and Windigar show you around the ship, and I will
probably sulk for the rest of the day. After which, I will be cordial to you
in public, and not see you in private,” I said.
“I am utterly confused,” said Thenel. “Do you want, well, more, or
do you not?”
I flicked my tail. “I enjoyed our afternoon together. If we can arrange a
mutually-tolerable arrangement, further such afternoons would not displease
me. But if I must enter you into the list of once-lovers, I shall do so. It is
a reasonably substantial list –” (as long as I don’t compare it with that of
a third of the crew, who are generally less cowardly about such matters than I
am) “– and sure to get longer still. Which is fine.”
Thenel looked quite perplexed. “Am I to blackmail you, then? How?”
I snapped, “You could tell Phaniet that I slept with the most confusing
Rassimel in the world!”
Thenel flung himself into an armchair. “I’m not trying to be confusing …
I … Is Bluelark anywhere on board?”
Which was, if anything, more confusing. “In a drawer … if you see her,
could you explain yourself a bit better to her?”
“I think so.”
So, from that drawer over there, I took out a short cloak that I had
originally made for Mynthë, but as her not-quite-legal family, I took
back when she died. And became my usual Orren self.
Thenel screwed his eyes tight closed. “I have another Orren lover. I think
she’s a chimneysweep. She threatened to reveal to … everyone … that I was
sleeping with her.”
I tried to be sympathetic, for (I thought) I have heard such stories often
enough. “A troublesome sort of lover. I try to be better than that.”
“You don’t understand. She’d reveal it only if I didn’t join with her again,
when she was swimming in Nupyup Pond and I was at one of the cafes,” he said,
panting in a near-panic.
I didn’t quite understand. “She blackmailed you into …”
“Into being her continuing lover. That’s how it’s done, sometimes, in
Eigrach. We don’t talk about it as if it was a proper, an ordinary
sort of affair.”
“That’s a bit ridiculous.” (It’s not. It’s a lot ridiculous.)
“It’s how it’s done,” he repeated.
(And, when I discussed it with Phaniet, long afterwards, it began to make a
bit of sense. If he’s being blackmailed into doing it, he’s not responsible
for it — it’s not his choice. Or so he can pretend.)
“Well, I’d rather do it the Vheshrame way, if I do it at all, and that means,
we decide what we want to do, and then we do it, rather as if we were pleasant
people who liked each other,” I said.
He flattened his ears, to go with his closed eyes. “How can you talk
“In Ketheria, we often talk so much about it that we never get to actually
doing it,” I said. “But simply saying ‘I’m traff’ doesn’t amount to an offer
of intimacies, for me. Just a basic statement of fact.”
“It does for me …” said Thenel. “It does in Srineia.”
“Then let us discuss the matter indirectly,” I said, because I am trying to be
a pleasant person who likes him, and such a one would probably not browbeat
him into submission. “Why did you come here this morning?”
“The Shipwrights’ Guild — I am an adjunct member — needed to send someone.
I volunteered. I was hoping to see you again, you understand,” said Thenel,
“But why come now, early in the morning, when you weren’t expecting to
see me?” I asked.
“I was hoping that you’d be busy enchanting, that I would not need to see you
again, you understand,” said Thenel, very quietly.
Well, that makes nonsense.
“Well, I am standing here, slightly to your left, as Bluelark. You can see
me if you like, or keep your eyes closed nine minutes more and I’ll break the
Thenel smiled a touch. “I suppose that you, who are my customer, may choose
whatever shape you like.” He opened his eyes, and looked at me with a
considerable hunger. “I never, ever have been able to resist the appeal of a
I wasn’t specifically trying to appeal to him exactly that way exactly then,
- He had, I believe, been working extremely hard to approach my Ketherian
manners and needs for clarity and honesty and such. He hadn’t gotten there
– but I hadn’t gotten all the way to Srineian manners and needs for
subterfuge and excuses, either.
- Anyone who manages to get through a difficult relationship conversation
deserves some reward.
- I generally liked Thenel before, and suspect he will make good company
again, once we have some sort of stable relationship.
- Thenel is skillful and pleasing when the situation matches one of his
A considerable time later, and with both of us in a rather better mood, he
asked, “What time is it in the outer world? For I perceive the mighty ramparts
of Creoc Tempador about us, but from the evidence of my body’s languor and my
sense of time, I have emperiled my mission and doubtless my reputation in
Eigrach by dallying far, far too long.”
“Nearly four minutes have passed since we sent Phaniet off. For almost two of
those we have been in private time. We have many hours left: or many more than
that if we want them.” I yawned too. “Tell me, if you will: have you ever
napped (qua napped) with an Orren, or is that simply not done in
“I have not done,” he said, his voice not entirely steady. “If I may confirm
that which you are hinting about, I generally meet certain sorts of
acquaintances for an hour or two in a lazy afternoon, only, and keeping all
possible secrecy about it. And not very often, though the threat of blackmail
has recently made it somewhat more frequent.”
“Well, I usually have a nap at this time of day, and you’re welcome to
join me.” He agreed. We discovered that my cot was not nearly big enough for
even one of us — reasonable enough, since it’s my cot — and spread blankets
on the floor, in the middle of the big Diagram of Tyr-Agruuniel painted in one
of the spellweaving chambers.
A considerable time later, we arose and finished off most of the bread and dry
fish, and folded up the blankets for a surprisingly needful later laundering,
and chatted about Tyr-Agruuniel and various other bits of magic theory and
such, but not another word about transaffection. I turned back into a Zi Ri,
and let time return to its usual languid pace.
Phaniet knocked on the workroom door at precisely the appointed time, and we
let her in, with her tail wagging and a big brown portfolio. She obviously
knew instantly what we had been up to — we had washed ourselves, but not the
laundry — and she just smiled. “Did you find your notes on the skyboat,
I blushed ’til my wings caught fire. “No, I was giving Thenel a bit of a tour
and got distracted.” And flew over to the right bookshelf and pulled forth
the right notebook, and brought it to the table. And then we got to actual work.