Return of the Artist, or, Too Much Dustweed [23 Trandary 4261]
Middle of the Morning
I discovered Tethezai on the boardwalk by Sprowlween Hall in the middle of the morning, looking entirely pleased with herself. I saw no reason why she should continue to look entirely pleased with herself.
Me:"Hallo, O Rassimel. How was Heartwings? And have you seen Dustweed today?"
Tethezai:"Oh, hi there, O Zi Ri. Heartwings was a nice treat, and I will see Dustweed at lunch. You look concerned, though; is there something wrong?"
Me:"If there is, I'm sure you shall discover it soon enough."
Tethezai:"You are hale and healthy, O Zi Ri, for you are being traditionally mysterious. Hale and helpful, no..."
But the hour was about to start, and we fled to our various classrooms, where Prof. Oolsp proceeded to lecture me on, of all things, Sleeth innate Ruloc Corpador, which is distinctly better than I thought it was.
Jarmiet had prepared a soup of lentils and radishes, and bought from Floooooooosh a small loaf of heavy bread with duck-meat kneaded into it. I had not expected to see Tethezai or Dustweed there, but I did.
Tethezai:"Of course I'm here, dearest. Where else would I be?"
Havune:[loudly]"In honor of the springtime, I shall dine upon the boardwalk." He gathered the rest of us with his eyes. In fact it was chilly on the boardwalk, with a wind from rollwards heavy with fine rain, and in honor of the springtime we dined in Ghirbis' and Valeriant's apartment. They had had the forethought to hide their supply of mice in advance, no doubt expecting in their Evilness such a turn of events.
Me:[on flying into the bedroom]"Dustweed? Don't you have a class now?"
Dustweed:[tangled up on zir bed.]"It's a standing-in-a-stream in Aquador. I didn't feel like doing that again."
Me:"For a fact it is chilly enough without running water ... You don't look properly happy, even by your meagre standards, Dustweed. Did Tethezai do something bad?"
Dustweed:"Tethezai is a Rassimel, in case you somehow hadn't noticed."
Me:"I can hardly say that I had not begun to suspect as much... but how did you discover it today?"
Dustweed:"Two are her passions at the top of her heart. One of them is me. I suppose I should be grateful for that."
Me:"You don't sound as grateful as all that."
Dustweed:"She really was trying to be every part of nice and kind. She'd even run out just before lunch and bought me somewhat."
I looked at the somewhat, which was a brooch of a somewhat, made from a shining white glirry and a few curls of ivory. "Nice, that." I took a private measure of credit for it, as Tethezai must surely have suspected its need from what I said.
Dustweed:"And we talked a long time about what she had done, and what she would do, and how she would do it so that I don't need to be quite so worried or miserable. It all sounded very plausible when she said it."
Me:"I expect there's something that went wrong? You seem rather in your worry and misery."
Dustweed:"Well, two things, and I don't know which troubles me the more... Sythyry? This is a bit private. I haven't mentioned it much to anyone, and I'd rather it didn't make it to the Orren rumor currents."
Me:"I will be very, very mysterious about it."
Dustweed:"Thank you... Usually when Tethezai and I are being intimate, she is the master of ceremonies. She touches me first; she decides when the clothing is to be set aside; she inquires how I am best to be pleasured."
Me:"Fair enough. She is, as we had begun to suspect, the Rassimel."
Dustweed:"Yes."(The right response, by the way, is something even more vague, perhaps "She could possibly be one." Evidently Dustweed is not a courtier very much.)"Not this afternoon. I ... I somewhat took charge this time. I wanted to make her mine, you see, to scrub Heartwings out of her head with my passion and out of her ... never mind the rest."
Me:[with a certain biting back of envy.]"I see... that doesn't sound so bad really. Unless she was offended?"
Dustweed:"Oh, hardly offended. Delighted, even."
Me:"Forgive me, Dustweed, but ... why does that trouble you, then?"
Dustweed:"Well, we're different species. I'm really not comfortable acting transaffectionate ... being transaffectionate? It's one thing if she is always the one seducing me, but this time I was the one seducing her. Seven staring gods, I dragged her off into the bedroom! That's not like me one bit."
I mumbled various confused sympathies and expressions of good will.
Dustweed:"And then the other. Afterwards, she was all cuddled on top of me, and we were talking about this and that, whatever little things were touching our antennae -- or ears I guess. And she started talking about Herethroy male anatomy and how it's supposed to fit with mine."
Me:"Oh, Dustweed. She didn't..."
Dustweed:"Just two sentences or three. And she skipped a class of her own, and really tried very hard to help me feel better."
The blinds were still closed. I'm sure nobody saw me hug zir.
Me:"Where are things now?"
Dustweed:[shrugging, which is a complicated and expansive gesture for a Herethroy]"I thought a little minute about leaving her ... sorry, that's village talk for 'I didn't leave her.' I've got to be loving her, don't I, if a couple friendly well-meant wrong sentences can make me feel so bad? And she's all sorry and apologizey and wants to be as nice as she can to me, or nicer. And she's not going to couple with anyone else for some weeks, she promised. It's all awkward and difficult though."
Me:"I'm going to sleep on the stove tonight, and maybe tomorrow as well."
Dustweed:[beaming]"You would?"Zie produced a whole assortment of thankfulnesses, for the two of them have not been having such a plenty of privacy, and I imagine getting caught in a deeply intimate discussion of love and long-term plans would be even more embarrassing to Dustweed (and maybe even to Tethezai) than merely getting caught in a physical intimacy, which could be pretended to be casual.
But I think I understand zir well enough on zir first point. I'm perfectly allowed to be as transaffectionate as I want (or can arrange, which is the actual trouble). But I am not ignoring Dustweed nearly as well as by rights I ought to.
A theoretical discussion of Dustweed
Esory asks, "Interesting question. Why can't magic resolve Dustweed's gender "issues", anyway?"
There is, of course, a straightforward-enough Mutoc Corpador spell which changes sex temporarily, and a Mutoc Sustenoc Corpador one that changes it permanently (until the spell is broken). These will work for appearance, and for day-to-day physical functioning, and various other things.
But actually getting the new sex right is another matter. I am not a healer, and not from a multi-sexed species, and don't really know the difference between wrong and right in this matter, and my Corpador class didn't exactly cover this topic. But my vague memory is that any reasonable spell (or, I presume, any reasonable enchantment) risks some problems.
- The spell will be readily apparant to anyone who looks at zir with magic sense. Not that people will stare at zir on the street, but city guards will check zir when zie comes or goes from the city; the Duke's bodyguards will glance at zir routinely; any professional mage will inspect zir; anyone who has practiced magic for three hundred years will notice without even trying. In short, it would be obvious that zie were a transformed both-female -- or at least a transformed something. Actually the other choices people would think of for the transformed something are much worse. I don't know that Hezimikkinen could reliably tell the difference between a Herethroy-turned-Herethroy and a nendrai-turned-Herethroy. In any case, it could not be kept secret without further magic -- and one does not wear spells to conceal magic, not in polite society.
- Some spell-resexed people are not fertile at all. Others are fertile, but their children are often born broken -- sometimes quite badly broken.
- The transformation, while permanent, could be broken. It is not a real effect, one which changes fundamental nature. I must admit to being hazy on the details here.
- It could also interfere with other Corpador spells cast on her. Healing spells present a natural confluence of interference -- healing spells try to restore their subjects to their former state, which of course means an assault on the transformation. They are unlikely to wholly reverse the transformation, but (1) they will spend force doing that rather than healing, and (2) A 1/12-broken sex change spell is probably far, far worse than either a whole one or none at all.
(Incidentally, all of this applies, mutatis mutandis, to my feathers, especially the long-term ones. The long-term feather spell is a good ten complexity higher than it strictly needs to be, so that it behaves nicely. I turned off the short-term one when the healer was working on my paw.)
There is, presumably, ritual magic which changes sex properly. There's a similar ritual spell for breed, Purebreed Puppy; the sex one can't be more than ten or fifteen complexity higher. I don't know for sure that anyone in Vheshrame even has the ritual. In any case it will not be cheap.
(On second thought, there would need to be seven sex change rituals, one for each species that has several sexes, wouldn't there? But I'm pretty sure that roughly the same ritual would work for whichever changes you wanted to do.)
And, ultimately, Dustweed bears social traces of being a both-female. Everyone around here knows zie is -- and every Herethroy seems to be able to tell at a glance. I don't know how they do it; it's something about zir mannerisms.
Zie could change zir name, and get a permanent sex-change spell, and move to another city, and give up zir title and zir lands and all, and spend however long it takes learning to act like a proper co-lover. Then zie'd probably be treated about as well as any ugly commoner foreign co-lover would be -- except of course that everyone would be suspicious of zir (for having complex spells on all the time), and if zie got discovered, zie would likely be actively lynched and killed instead of just casually beaten up now and then. I certainly wouldn't do it if I were zir.
What I want to know is, why doesn't zie hire a vicious Khtsoyis bodyguard to float around after zir and beat up people who try to attack her? (Answer, alas, is that zir parents won't pay for it, and zie's not in charge of the family finances yet.)