Rehit:“Pardon me, Sythyry. A matter of some small personal concern of mine and of yours has arisen. May I tie a bit of conversation to your tail, with privacy?”
Rehit:“I’m afraid I must insist. Might you have a private room? Preferably one that cannot be scried, for that matter?”
Me:“Nothing on Strayway can be scried.” Not a wise move, tactically, but I was in a bit of a panic. As is traditional when the fiancé of one’s clandestine lover insists on a private conversation about a matter of some small personal concern.
Rehit:“I remember some discussion about that point in town. Some attempts have been made, after all, and came up with the most alarming results.”
Me:“The reality is far less alarming than the appearances. Or, rather, sometimes it is rather more alarming, when the nendrai or I are about, but that is a matter of sorcerous power, not sexual prowess.” This was entirely tactical: hinting to Rehit that, although I might have offended his honor, I am a foe comparable to a nendrai in combat (the comparison would be ‘inferior’, actually) and not to be trifled with (probably true anyhow).
Rehit:“Very well … could we go somewhere private, please?”
So we went somewhere private. I noted to Phaniet that she should keep Vae occupied on the other side of the ship. That’s tactics for: “I’m expecting to more or less survive this encounter. If Vae were around she’d probably fight on my side, which would be a big disaster. I really don’t want to train her to fight primes.”
Phaniet nodded grimly, and wagged her tail. “I’ll check with Grinwipey to see if he’s done with that embroidery you wanted. And didn’t you swap Rheng and Yerenthax’s watches?” Which I guessed meant she’d have our three best fighters ready for me in case I needed them.
“I did, yes,” I said. (By which I meant, “Yes, please have them ready”, and I hoped that Phaniet got the point, but she was Cani so of course she did.) “I’ll be in the seventh parlor. See that I’m not disturbed.” (By which I meant, “I’ll be in the seventh parlor. Be ready to rush in if there’s any sound of a fight.”)
The Duel in the Seventh Parlor
I had picked the seventh parlor for straightforward tactical reasons. The main one is that it’s quite crowded: we moved a pile of extraneous furniture into it a few weeks ago, chairs and tables and a heavy pool table, and never got around to moving it out. So a nimble small flying person has many obstacles behind which zie may hide from an upset fiancé.
Rehit and Thenel came in behind me. Rehit closed the door tight, but didn’t lock it, because (minor tactical reason for choosing that room) it has no lock. The two Rassimel sat on the least obstructed couch. Rehit’s magic sword (which I had made for him) didn’t fit very well, so he set it, sheathed, across his lap. A bit quicker to draw, presumably.
I perched on top of the mantlepiece, some eight feet away, with a table between us. Probably Rehit could leap onto the table and stab me, but it might slow him down, and anyhow I’d be moving faster if I jumped off the mantlepiece than anywhere else in the room.
Rehit:“As I’m sure you’re aware, Thenel and I are engaged to be married.” He sounded very nervous and fidgeted with the pommel of his sword, as one who is planning to assault a wizard on his home territory might well be. Thenel squeezed Rehit’s knee: a signal? Of what?
Me:“Yes, I did know.” I decided I’d start off with Dancing in the Garden of Statues, and try to disarm him.
Rehit:“So we’ve both gotten some chance to know you and your crew first-hand.” First-hand, first-mouth, first-never-mind-what. Trying to be sarcastic and intimidating, I presumed, though he really doesn’t have the voice for it.
Me:“Yes, indeed, as when you come on a picnic with us.”
Rehit:“And I can’t honestly say that I approve of how everything is done on this ship.” Tactics: he is trying to irritate me, to provoke me into doing something unwise. He is a fool! Little does he know that I usually do something unwise without the need for provocation!
Me:“Nor can I. Discipline among my crew ranges from lax to entirely absent.” Tactics: I was trying to counter-rattle him, or at least perplex him slightly. Well, actually I was watching his hands to see if he was about to draw that sword.
Rehit:“My countrymen might call me a traitor for this, but I can’t stand it.” Was he trying to make me feel guilty for my affair with his fiancé instead of attacking me, or to justify his attack on me in advance?
Me:“… Yes? …” Tactics: if it’s merely a scolding, best not to attack preemptively. I can endure a scolding, and not spend cley or blood on it. If he’s trying to justify the attack, perhaps I would be better off guessing when it will come, and getting at least a defensive spell — or teleport — off beforehand?
Rehit:“Still, curse it, you’ve behaved entirely decently towards me and towards Eigrach as a whole.” Tactics: Another attempt to get me off balance? Or sarcasm?
Me:“I suppose so.” Tactics: I wasn’t sure where his verbal attack was going, so I said nothing meaningful. I was mostly wondering what Thenel was going to do. They looked very much together, so I guessed I’d be given some useful Herbador-based attack spell: pepper in my eyes, or being encased in wood. I should start with a good protection-from-plants sort of defense spell, I guess.
Rehit:“And I don’t one bit approve of anyone behaving dishonorably.” Tactics: Getting towards the guilt attack, finally, after the roundabout verbiage.
Me:“Of course not.” Tactics: Or would that be too obvious? I know I had stared at Thenel’s magerium not that long ago, but I couldn’t, in the panic of the moment, remember what he was good at. Aside from Herbador, which was his main stock in trade. Maybe I should just teleport out and bring in the warriors.
Rehit:“Not even if it is my mayor and my city, curse it!” Tactics: More roundabout verbiage.
Me:“Fair enough.” Tactics: Or should I bring in the warriors? Wipey and Rheng and Yerenthax weren’t responsible for my adultery: I was. Having them get injured protecting me from my own misdeeds was cowardly and and ignoble.
Rehit:“So I wanted to tell you what I know about the Mayor’s plans. It’s not everything, but I think you should hear of it.” Tactics: Distraction or something.
Me:“Very well.” Tactics: No, I would get help from the warriors if I am in serious trouble, but I would try to handle it on my own up to that point. In all truth, I did wrong Rehit, and if he’d be satisfied with stabbing me a few times and letting me go, it might save his marriage and perhaps even my local reputation. I can spare the blood, I can stand the pain. I deserve it, even.
Rehit:“They don’t think well of your morals either. But they’ve a saying: they’ll stuff ginger up their noses to block the stink of your deeds, and smile at you.” Tactics: Trying to enrage me.
Me:“We generally wash up after the stinkier sorts of body-play, same as the cisaffectionate.” Tactics: Now, “Handle it on my own” doesn’t mean “Handle it without help”. Probably start off with an elemental or two. The seven-winged burning thing is my usual choice, but not this time: they are still wearing the best fire protections around, to deal with the Zonsmi Oak. Also the seven-winged burning thing might burn up a lot of Strayway.
Rehit:“Well, I wouldn’t want to know about that, with all due respect. What I mean is, they’ve decided to encourage you to ask for asylum, and grant it. You’re too valuable a wizard to let slip through our fingers, and we can stuff ginger-root up our noses and endure your, well, transaffection.” Tactics: He’s really not very good at the enraging insults.
Me:“I suppose we should be grateful for your tolerance.” Tactics: Not a wood elemental either, that’s playing into Thenel’s strengths. Maybe an ice fairy?
Rehit:“I’m sorry, I’m really not trying to offend you, that’s just what the Mayor said.” Tactics: no clue.
Me:“The mayor asked you to attack me?” Tactics: Trying to rattle him. Maybe to enrage him, to suggest that he’s too insipid to be jealous for his own sake, enough of a lapdog to attack on the mayor’s command.
Rehit:“Yes, exactly. I was going to come to that.” Tactics: He is that insipid. Maybe he almost deserves the adultery. No, not really, but I can see where power-loving Thenel might find him not to his taste quite.
Me:“Well, go about it then, don’t be all day chattering and beating about the bush.” Tactics: I’m tired of thinking about tactics. It’s hopeless anyhow, no plan ever works.
Rehit:“I beg your pardon…? Oh, no, it’s nothing of the sort at all! He doesn’t even know I’m here … and, if you don’t mind, I’d rather keep it that way.”
Me:“Well, feel free to do it for your own motivations, then.”
Rehit:“I’ve already apologized for doing it, but I’ll apologize more if you want. It is sincere. And this whole conversation is somewhat of a concrete apology for it. We quite wronged you that day I stabbed you, and I think you should know all I do about it.”