Mirrored from Sythyry.
“Where is this place that you have brought me?” asked Thefefy.
I pointed at the sign, but perhaps Thefefy cannot read Ketherian. “Tea-Sung’s Polyspecific Cafe. It’s one of the few places on the World Tree where primes and non-primes specifically come to socialize.” We pretend that that’s all that they come here for. In fact they come for (1) Tea-Sung’s friends’ potions, which are weaker than most taptet potions but much less risky, and (2) the occasional prime/nonprime romance. (1) is illegal by Vheshrame law, which does not understand the “much less risky” clause. (2) is illegal by Vheshrame law, and makes most of us — including me — quite uncomfortable. But we treat it the way that nicer cities treat transaffection: we tolerate it as long as it is not too blatant, and don’t actually punish people for it, though we do not grant them such common courtesies as letting them live together or hold hands in public. I try not to think logically about the topic very much; it is too depressing.
But the point of this visit was not to depress me. It was to depress Thefefy. So we entered, and made our way to the pit, and Squedge (a mherobump) and Luchitali (a taptet) made space for us.
“Who’s your friend, Sythyry?” asked Squedge.
“Call her Thef,” I said. Thef[efy], in Herethroy shape, grunted greetishly at everyone. “I’m trying to show her something about how non-primes are treated on the World Tree.”
“What, whole thing?” said Luchitali.
I pondered the question. It would certainly answer Flokin’s charge to me, to drag Thefefy on an endless sightseeing quest, but I am not that inclined to respect a god, or to annoy one, in that order. “I’m afraid we are merely starting with Kismirth, and, perhaps, ending without having left Kismirth.”
“What you want to know Thef?” said Luchitali.
“I want to know why Mircannis has reserved all goodness in life to herself, while leaving stranded in boredom and suffering!” proclaimed Thefefy loudly.
“What you all right Thef?” asked Luchitali, sympathetically. In Urdwinian (she comes from Urdwine Tausc, and has not quite learned Ketherian perfectly) she asked me, “Am I utterly confused, or is it not the case that Lenhirrik, not Mircannis, was the source and originator of the Herethroy?”
“The situation is complicated in the case of Thef, for whom all simplicities are complex,” I said. Thefefy stared at me, trying to work out if that was an insult. It was, I suppose, but she didn’t get it. I smiles at the nonprimes. “But, speaking of suffering, tell us of the fate of monsters on the World Tree!”
“It not so nice Thef!” said Luchitali. “We not get good-good!”
“Oh, speak Urdwinian!” Thefefy snapped in that tongue. “I’m not here to get babbled at!”
Luchitali got up and performed a ritual curtsey to the goddess. “You are acquainted with the tongue of poets and of thinkers, of scholars and great drinkers?”
“Yeah,” said Thefefy. “Now talk.”
“I saw my first massacre when I was five years old. My mother and I were out of our holes, gathering dascinoti roots to make a potion to cure the griddishaw…”
“What’s a griddishaw?” asked Thefefy.
“It’s not a thing a Herethroy would ever need to worry about. It’s a taptet disease. It makes our antlers sprout long spines or needles. Eventually the needles grow to touch the sufferer’s skull and impale her ears. They don’t grow into the brain, which would be fatal. Also they make one’s head dangerous to approach, depriving one of affectionate nuzzling and head-butting contests alike. But the spines are innervated, unlike our antlers, so snipping them off is terribly painful.”
“Idiot!” snorted Thefefy.
“I beg your pardon. If I have offended your noble primeship, I withdraw the description and shall remove my noxious monstrous self to another table,” said Luchitali. She glared at me, as if to say, leave your prejudiced assh*le friends at home when you come here. I know that look from bringing the wrong guests to traff cafés. I have even used it myself.
“Eh, not you. Creator god. Leaving a rough edge like that in the world,” said Thefefy. “Stupid mistake. Stupid god.”
“It was not a mistake. There are thousands upon thousands of illnesses like that,” I said. “Gnarn and Accanax, in particular, are a pair of quite inventive demiurges, and their tastes are cruel.”
“Huh,” said the goddess, evidently trying to think about that.
After a moment I said, “But the massacre?”
“Forty cyarr, veteran warriors of the cyarr wars, berserkers every one, stamping down the road where Herethory farmers travel. Four prime heroes of moderate reputation. The final result was never in doubt. The heroes were going to let one cyarr escape to tell the tale, but they saw us watching from a hilltop, so they killed him,” said Luchitali. “And the thing of it was — the cyarr weren’t even hunting primes. Sometimes they did, but not this time. They were going off to the next cyarr kingdom over, to raid a cyarr city and kill cyarr children.”
“Why?” grunted Thefefy.
“Revenge. The other kingdom had done the same to theirs a month before. Anyways, they thought they were being clever, cutting through prime lands. But they got cut instead.”
“And remember about death on the World Tree. It’s much more of a final end than you are used to,” I said. (I had given Thefefy a long discussion of the topic the previous night. (This scene is, in fact, on the third day of Thefefy’s visit, and (like the previous scenes) an excerpt which conveys the style of the tour.))
“Huh. I thought Mircannis said it was going to be primes vs. non-primes,” said Thefefy.
“It’s everyone vs. everyone,” said Luchitali, spontaneously, for which I later made her a gift of a very nice linen tablecloth.