Mirrored from Sythyry.
Extra post, and extra-long post, in thanks for extra donations!
I acquired invitations for certain students to visit with some actual Hanijans who had some actual tofyofs. The students:
- Vind: a graduate student, out to prove that, under certain social pressures (such as those present in Hanija), transaffection can be induced in most primes.
- Alzagonde: another graduate student, on the prowl for means to prevent transaffection.
- Invincible Fire Demon: a junior student out for adventure.
- Prince Rastomil: a prince, a student, a doom magnet.
- Jyondre: not technically a student, but interested. Yerenthax begged off for some reason.
- Heni: A Rassimel woman, the eldest daughter of the head of the local Healer’s Guild chapter (which is how I caused this encounter to encount)
- Zu-Sum: Heni’s wife.
- Atuta: Heni’s tofyof.
- Jong: Zu-Sum’s tofyof.
I first tried to have Heni’s family visit Strayway, but they would not hear of it. Heni is newly pregnant, and does not want to come into the presence of nendrai, Locador demons, foreign wizards, imposing Tempador spells, three-headed antelopes made of green glass and green copper and green emerald, or whatever else.
I tried as second to have Heni’s family meet the natives in their home. This was quietly but politely refused. A quiet chat with Zu-Sum revealed that the home was quite small — Hanijan homes often are — and quite crowded with bassinets, comforters, baskets full of diapers, soft blankets, stuffed guntries (the cloth kind), giant turnips, jugs of babywine, and all the assorted paraphernalia of impending parentry. Besides, inviting someone to one’s home is quite offensive; proper entertaining is done in an entertainment-hall. (I apologized for my initial invitation to Strayway; the apology was graciously accepted.)
So: Khi-Dini Entertainment Hall. An old and tall building, grown over with ivy and flowering myrtle. The central courtyard is a lovingly-groomed garden, centered on a pair of fountains in a precisely-irregular pond stocked with glowing golden eels. Aromatic pines and kethlef trees bent their heads over the pool, shadowing it so that the light of the eels was all the more visible. Planters around the walls poured forth still showers of winter-blooming flowers. The room that Heni had chosen had a large but screened window to the courtyard: easy to see out of, hard to see in. I presume that all the other rooms of Khi-Dini were similarly equipped.
Inside the room itself: eight huge embroidered cushions, big enough for a Rassimel to sprawl full-length if desired. Scrolls on the walls showing elegant roundletter calligraphy. (If anyone could read it, they must be quite educated, or perhaps the schools in Hanija teach it; that is the first sub-alphabet invented on the World Tree. I don’t know it myself.) A table against the wall, with a meal pre-arranged so that the entertainment could proceed uninterrupted. It was centered on a samovar of a thin aromatic broth. One could fill a bowl with fur-thin shrimp noodles, slivered herbs, slivered carrots, slivered frozen beef, slivered garlic, slivered anythings at all, and then pour boiling broth over it. And then — if one were feeling ovivorous — one could crack an egg into it, thereby cooling the broth and cooking the egg. (If one were feeling small and heat-resistant, one could skip this step.). Also, there were small spicy pancakes, and sweet dumplings, and tiny but very boring cookies, and sparkling wine, and bitter tea.
And, of course, social disasters.
Heni and her entourage were waiting in the room at noon when the students got there. This might have been politeness, or practicality, or because the students got a bit lost in the unfamiliar streets of Hanija. The Hanijans curtsied to the students, and offered them mango-berries and wine in greeting.
Prince Rastomil, highest-ranking of the Strayway contingent, performed the introductions on their side. He offered gifts of paper and perfume, as books of Hanijan etiquette suggested, and was in all ways polite and genteel, as if he had been trained in it from birth, which he had. Jyondre did not in the slightest discredit us, and Alzagonde and Invincible Fire Demon did their best to be charming and socially appropriate.
Vind all but burst into tears at the sight of Atuta. “You … you are Heni’s tofyof?”
Atuta smiled quite gently. “I do have that honor, respected foreign gentleman!”
Vind wailed, “But you — you are Rassimel!”
Atuta smiled quite gently. “I have that honor as well, respected foreign gentleman. As do you, if these unworthy eyes are correct.”
Vind moaned, “But … if you are someone’s tofyof, may you be the same species as the someone?”
Atuta nodded, “That is our custom, respected foreign gentleman. Is it different in the honored cities from which you come?”
Vind threw himself to the floor and wailed, “My thesis! My impressive, branch-shaking thesis!”
Invincible Fire Demon took Vind to the side, and administered sparkling wine and soft words until he was calmer. Jyondre attempted diplomacy, saying, “We were under the impression that a tofyof was a different-species lover, such as, if I am not mistaken, Jong is.”
Heni said, “No, no, I’m sure there’s nothing about species in the tofyof laws. Certainly they can be any species! Atuta is a proper and completely legal tofyof. So is Jong! We have been careful — we do everything nicely with the laws and the customs of Hanija. There is nothing wrong!”
Prince Rastomil curled his tail. “Oh, don’t give it a second thought! Of course there is nothing wrong — we are hardly trying to find a wrong thing here! We are students taking courses in the study of transaffection, of the love between different species. We had simply understood that that is what the word “tofyof” meant. Poor Vind had done a great deal of research based on the meaning we had, evidently, gotten quite wrong.”
Jong curtsied to Zu-Sum. “May I explain to the noble foreign prince?” Zu-Sum gave her assent with a quick smile. Jong said, “It is an honor and a privelege to be a tofyof to a good woman such as Zu-Sum or Heni. But not all tofyof-keepers are as kind and good as they are, and in more barbaric ages, they sometimes were not. So there are many laws about what can be done or cannot be done to a tofyof. I can be beaten for infidelity, but not for disobedience — I am tofyof, not a servant! I must be given gifts and monies on a specified rate for my future, and they must be placed in accounts which Zu-Sum has no commanding over. I can be divorced without my consent, as Heni cannot be, but if I am divorced I must be given certain payments as compensation. At the end of seven years I may divorce Zu-Sum if I wish…”
Zu-Sum petted Jong’s head fondly. “Actually, the divorce is automatic unless you choose to renew your tofitude. This is her second year with me, so it is too soon to think about that.”
Jong wagged her tail. “And that is what it means to be a tofyof in Hanija.”
Invincible Fire Demon curtsied. “Just to check that I understand: being a tofyof is somewhat like being a spouse? It is a relationship of love — spiritual and physical?”
Vind moaned, “Marriage is not about love in Hanija!”
Zu-Sum dipped her head. “I do not wish to disagree with the honored and learned foreign visitor, but marriage can be about love, even in Hanija. I love Hani, respectfully for any argument.”
“Do you at least love Jong too?” asked Vind in an ashen voice.
“Of course I do; she is quite a dear,” said Zu-Sum. (Back at home, these words were greatly debated. Does Zu-Sum love her tofyof the same way she loves her wife? Perhaps both are romantic love, but the different phrasing comes from the different status of the two women? Perhaps she loves her wife romantically, and her tofyof as a pleasing concubine? We are not sure, and we are not sure if we are even allowed to pose the question.)
“And, honored and learned foreign visitors, do not think that I love Atuta any less! My recent increase could hardly have been accomplished with simply my wife’s help alone — nor with the help of any Cani, no matter how beautiful and kind,” added Heni, patting her barely-swelling belly.
“Well, that sort of assistance is not unknown to us, though our customs of marriage and transaffection are rather different from yours, O honored and high-ranking Hanijans!” said Jyondre, and told about how Este has helped certain Rassimel women have children.
“But he was not their tofyof?” asked Heni. “In Hanija, only a husband or a male same-species tofyof should sire children upon one. Without that, they are adulterous and not legitimate.”
“Well, we don’t have all those options, since there’s nothing like a tofyof in central Ketheria. The children are not legitimate. We love them nonetheless!”
And the conversation moved to discuss the love, virtues, and care of (a) children, and (b) soup. The soup was quite good. The children most thoroughly in mind might be good too, but they have not been born yet, so it’s hard to tell.
Poor Vind tried his best to be good as well, but it is hard to be good when your grand thesis has just fallen to bits.