Mirrored from Sythyry.
Losing Prince Rastomil (a novella)
[The next story arc is a bit of a novella. I'm going to try to phrase it as a serialized novella. I'd like new readers to be able to start with it, or with any novella. So I'm going to give some background. ]
[I'm also going to repeat the first segment, so that it comes after the background section, and so that I don't delete replies to when I posted it the first time.]
- The skyboat Strayway, with many passengers from the city-state of Barency, is visiting the distant and exotic city-state Hanija.
- Sythyry, the nominal author, is a Zi Ri wizard: a small, long-lived, hermaphroditic feathered blue dragonet. Zie, and most of the crew of Strayway, is traff (or transaffectionate): romantically interested in members of other species, which is not well regarded on most of the World Tree (though more acceptable in Hanija than most places).
- Prince Rastomil (a Rassimel — raccoon-person) of Barency is one of the passengers. He is in disfavor with his royal parents, and most of Barency, for having been heroically rejected by a princess in an arranged dynastic marriage. He has been sent to Hanija to ruin his reputation, thereby making his rejection seem less stinging. Rastomil is unenthusiastic about this task.
- Jagraton (a Rassimel) is the prince’s bodyguard. Jagraton’s misison is twofold: to protect the prince, and to ensure the prince’s public debauchery. Jagraton has made himself quite unpopular on Strayway, though not (unlike his co-worker Wentalilla) been kicked off the ship.
- Phaniet (a Cani — dog-person) is Sythyry’s assistant: somewhere between a wizard’s apprentice and a technical secretary.
- Jyondre (an Orren man — otter-man) and Yerenthax (a Gormoror woman — bear-woman) are a couple — Jyondre is Yerenthax’s legal tofyof, or registered concubine, in Hanijan law. They are excitable and adventurous, and willing to take terrible risks for nearly any worthwhile purpose.
- Invincible Fire Demon is an Orren student from Hanija; despite his name, he is not invincible, not incendiary, and not demonic. Sythyry has a bit of a crush on him, but Invincible Fire Demon seems unaware of it.
- Grinwipey is a Khtsoyis (floating air-octopus) dressmaker and tailor. He is brutal and violent, and one of the mightiest warriors on Strayway. He has strong criminal connections. He is also one of the best embroiderers in the world. He is not transaffectionate.
- The Guard-Mage is a Rassimel member of the Hanijan city guard: moderately skillful at magic, but nowhere near Sythyry or even Phaniet. In a previous story, Sythyry was arrested and imprisoned, and the Guard-Mage was in charge of keeping Sythyry in jail. He is named Zineng, though Sythyry never actually gave his name in that story.
- Wingsa is a Zi Ri wizard of Hanija. In fact, zie is the only other Zi Ri in Hanija; Zi Ri are quite scarce. Zie has one grandparent in common with Sythyry.
The Prince [21 Nivvem 4385]
[OOC: This is the start of a new story arc, which I would probably name if I were awake. -bb]
Beware! I did not see much of this myself. I generally take great liberties with peoples’ words and descriptions, but I stay true to the spirit of the original. In this story, I will be less accurate than that. I heard various fragments of it from various of the principal — by some wondrous miracle, the fragments occasionally managed to be consistent with one another. The rest is guesswork or pure embroidery, except for the scenes where Phaniet or I are present, which measure up absolutely to the precision which you have come to expect from me.
“My lord prince Rastomil, why are you donning your most formal outfit, with its waistcoat of plum and burgundy with bright copper buttons? Were you not about to depart for an evening in the fleshpots of Hanija, drinking quantities of the local herb-infused distilled spirits, and winning dozens upon dozens of lozens from foolish locals at games of chance, thereby recouping those you lost yesterday and the day before?” Jagraton was nominally Prince Rastomil’s bodyguard, but was under orders to ensure that the Prince returned to Barency in a state unsuited for polite company. Rastomil had no great love for the project.
“No, my good man, I have other plans for the evening. I have been invited to a dinner at the home of some local noble or other. In the spirit of fostering good relationships between our cities, I imagine I should attend.”
“But, lord Rastomil! It will be a slow and tedious evening! The intoxicating liquors shall dribble forth, rather than being quaffed voluminously and energetically! The conversation shall be hedged in polite qualifications, rather than being bold and colorful! No songs shall be sung, that you may join in their lusty chorus! If there are dancing girls, they are certain to be old and withered society matrons wrapped in hideous corsets of antique fustian, not the comely and barely-dressed darlings you so dearly love to watch!”
“Forgive me, my good Jagraton. I have spent the last eight nights trying my very best to carouse. I have returned home well after midnight, too drunk to remember which way my own door opens, which can be rather awkward when I am returning home with company eager for activies which are remarkably illegal in Hanija. I have sung vulgar songs — so many of them that I know sixteen Hanijan words for ‘vulva’, despite not knowing even one for ‘manners’. I have made every effort be be depraved. Now, I need some time for recreation. I am a quiet sort of Rassimel anymore, and I fear I would rather stay home collecting ornamental teacups or something.”
“Collecting teacups, my lord?”
“Collecting teacups, or even collecting dust,” said Rastomil. “Should I wear a purple cockade, do you think? Or does that mean something I don’t intend in Hanijan, like Would you be my tofyof? or I am violent atheist?”
“I’m sure I don’t know such things, my lord. I assure you that they are not relevant in the taverns in the roll’gainst quarter, where you may go with the utmost assurance of being instantly well-liked upon paying for a round or two of beverages,” said Jagraton.
“Well, I shall wear the purple cockade, then, and if it carries some invidious meaning, then my dear parents’ orders shall be better-satisfied in a single evening than in a month in the saloons!”
Lady Noshi’s Parlor [21 Nivvem 4385]
The parlor was small, and panelled in old wood, and dignified with the dignity of old age. A nearly-circular sectioned couch took up much of the room, with a low dining-table in the middle of it, already set about with bowls of dry fruit, salt-basins, fingerbowls, bouquets of scallions, and all of the other requisite materials for a small and intimate high-class Hanijan dinner. And it was going to be small and intimate. There were only settings for three people at table.
“My goodness!” exclaimed Prince Rastomil. “Is this the dwelling of the Lady Noshi? Who is expecting one Prince Rastomil of Barency as a dinner-guest?”
“It is indeed that most quailient and prothraceous location. And which one of you is Prince Rastomil?” said the ancient and bitter-eyed Rassimel butler.
“That would be me,” said Prince Rastomil.
“And who is this other gentleman, both loritent and ulsome of appearance, who has accompanied you thus far on your inevitable journey to your fate?” said the butler, in a voice like frozen serpents.
“I am Jagraton, his bodyguard!”
“Well, Jagraton-his-bodyguard, there is no place set aside for you at table. You were Not Invited,” said the butler. Such was his contempt that he did not bother to make up adjectives.
“I do not leave the Prince’s side,” said Jagraton.
“Perhaps you do not, and perhaps you do, but the seat which we must prepare for you shall be both esperical and drail.”
“As long as it is near at hand to the Prince, I care very little,” said Jagraton.
“For my part, you can put him in the kitchen or even the seraglio. I haven’t gotten a moment’s peace from him these last several weeks,” said the prince.
A fourth place was set at the table for Jagraton, and the two from Barency took their seats.
# # #
A third of an hour later, which they passed in amused (Rastomil) or watchful (Jagraton) silence, the first of their hosts arrived. He was old and shaky and Rassimel, his fur stringy and ill-groomed, his dressing gown threadbare and stained with food and with less reputable substances. He stank. A servant — half waitress and half nurse — wheeled him in on a castered chair.
“The Lord Kethji!” announced the butler, who had returned as well. “A mighty tower of legislative power, a strallic pillar of mighty fervency, a gridfraceous and triumphal master of many honorous villages!
“Noshi,” said Lord Kethji.
“The Lady Noshi, polmerscient with beauty and renown, shall arrive shortly, Lord Kethji. In the meantime, Lord Kethji, this is our guest, the Prince Rastomil of Barency,” said the butler. “This other Rassimel is his manservant or some such tundrane thing.”
“I am quite pleased to meet you, Lord Kethji,” said Prince Rastomil with a courtly curtsey. As a courtier from birth, he was well-used to greeting nobles who were even more incoherent than Kethji, and who smelled worse.
“Noshi. Lady Noshi. Rastomil, Noshi. Noshi.” said Lord Kethji, incoherently and stinkily.
The Lady Noshi strode into the hall. She was a Rassimel of her middle years, with squirrel styling, and she wore ceremonial robes in a distinctly masculine style. Her chest and voice were plainly feminine, though. “Ah! My lord Prince Rastomil! I am so glad that you were able to attend this small but pleasant soirée on such short notice! It is a veritable pleasure — a true ecstasy — a veritable happiness to meet you at last!”
“Lady Noshi! I am, in turn, precisely delighted to meet you as well!” Rastomil was, too: he had dreaded the thought of an evening with Lord Kethji and an equally withered and insane wife. Lady Noshi was clearly nothing like that.
“And who is your elegant and amiable companion, Prince Rastomil?” asked Noshi.
“My bodyguard Jagraton,” he said, and explained.
“Ah! This is a wholly unexpected surprise — an unpredictable delight — an unexpected addition to our happiness! Please be so kind as to enjoy this evening and our welcome, good Jagraton!”
The first course was served: an appetizer of sliced prens in a sauce of ground groundnuts and chocolate. Lady Noshi chatted with Prince Rastomil, coaxing him to speak of his villages and possessions back in Barency. Lord Kethji burbled his wife’s name in an anxious confusion, until the nurse let him have a fuming nacreous purple beverage, after which he lapsed into a bewildered quietude.
“This doesn’t seem so bad after all,” Jagraton thought to himself, relaxing in his seat. The wine must have been quite strong; his head was already bubbling with drunkenness. He attempted to reach for another bite of sliced pren, and discovered that he was unable to move.