Travel Broadens: Episode 1

Pistareen is only glad it wasn't any worse.

Pistareen reflects on how hard it is to substitute for another performer at the last moment -- announced right on the stage! His audience was not only not properly prepared to appreciate his piping, it was in fact expecting a shiltpron performance.

Janeen found it rather ~~ disappointing ~~, as she was looking forward to hearing what a real shiltpron sounds like.

Pistareen knows he can't compete with that, but The Show Must Go On -- at least he has an hour or so before the next set, and maybe the word-of-mouth will circulate and get him a more interested audience next time, even if it's smaller.

Fennik slowly relaxes his jaw muscles as that buffoon Pistareen stops his mechanical howling.

Janeen is unaware that she'd miss the most important aspect of a shiltpron performance, at least from the Sime point of view.

Farfel is glad to have had some real, reasonable music instead of some weird Sime instrument.

Fennik was looking forward to sampling the in-T performance arts, and was very disappointed that it was Pistareen, someone he's avoided listening to as much as possible back home in New Washington.

Janeen has lived next door to a band, so random cacophony doesn't faze her, and she's far more interested in the banquet food, which is satisfyingly exotic.

Janeen: Professor Fennik, could you pass me the bread basket, please?

Fennik: Hm?

Fennik looks around, picks up the basket and passes it.

Janeen: Thank you. I really like those pieces of roasted garlic in it, don't you?

Fennik: The food has been surprisingly good, better than at most conferences like this.

Janeen: Yeah. No rubber chicken.

Fennik doesn't eat garlic much. It's a working class food.

Farfel considers garlic something for private indulgence, not a social food.

Janeen cheerfully dips a piece of bread in the dish of oil sitting in front of her, as there doesn't seem to be any butter.

Farfel: I wouldn't have minded chicken, rubber or otherwise. I'm sick of all this vegetarian stuff.

Janeen shrugs.

Janeen: It's filling enough.

Fennik: Ah, well, when in Nome, do as the Nomen, so to speak.

Pistareen sees someone he knows, a thing never to be scorned in Simeland.

Pistareen: Ah, Fennik! I see you were enjoying my performance. And who's your ... friend?

Fennik: This is Professor Farfel, from Eastern, and the young lady is my student Janeen.

Janeen: Hello, Professor Farfel. Don't you have a paper tomorrow?

Farfel: Yes, as a matter of fact I do. "Violence as a Romantic Theme in Ancient Novels."

Pistareen ignores the old fart and addresses himself to the student.

Pistareen: So very glad to meet you, Janeen.

Pistareen executes a small bow.

Janeen smiles, ~~ charmed ~~

Janeen: And you. Although I admit, I'd have liked to hear the shiltpron player. I've never had the chance to hear one, you see.

Pistareen: Ah yes, the shiltpron. Not so much an instrument as a family of instruments, but we Gens can't be expected to appreciate it fully, can we?

Farfel: I can't see that we'd want to. Now some of the Ancient instruments, on the other hand, like saxophods and violins, would be worth hearing.

Janeen: Saxophods? Weren't they supposed to resemble the human voice, wailing?

Janeen thinks Pistareen's instrument of choice does that very well.

Pistareen: We have some descriptions to that effect, yes.

Farfel: They were supposedly quite mellow.

Pistareen: But the strumpet was supposed to sound most like the voice, or at least some voices. They say it had to be muted for that effect, but I've never understood that -- if it were muted, you'd not be able to hear it at all, now would you?

Pistareen smiles.

Fennik, unlike his wife and daughter, is not very musical. However, he knows what he doesn't like. Bagpipes, for example.

Farfel: I thought violins and chellophanes were supposed to be most voicelike.

Pistareen: No, the violin sounded like that old folk instrument, the fiddle, except different somehow. We don't know just how.

Janeen: Yes, there are a lot of books that talk about communication by chellophanes, although that was a very late fad. There are even bits about whether one should be allowed to play the chellophane while traveling.

Farfel: I did see a strumpet mute once, in a museum. Strangely, it looked a bit like a modern megaphone. As for the chellophane, it featured a lot in later romance novels.

Janeen: Well, maybe the strumpet mute really amplified the sound?

Fennik: Bagpipes are a sort of primitive Ancient instrument, aren't they, Pistareen?

Farfel belches.

Farfel: Sorry. Beans.

Pistareen bows again.

Pistareen: Perhaps so.

Fennik: Certainly not a Sime instrument, with the whole skin of a goat as the bag.

Janeen: Is that what it is?

Pistareen drags his attention away from Janeen to whatever Fennik is saying.

Janeen inspects the pipes with ~~ interest ~~

Pistareen: No, certainly not a Sime instrument. An Ancient instrument, yes; we have many drawings and explanations. However, it's certainly true that the traditions of performance haven't been live all that time -- we in the piping community have had to reconstruct them.

Farfel: I saw a picture of a bagpipe player once, on the cover of the Ancient romance, "A Highland Husband" -- but he held the pipes quite differently than you did.

Pistareen is glad the old bean-eater has finally said something interesting.

Pistareen: Ah. You see that's because it was probably a drawing of the marching pipes rather than the ulyan pipes that I have here.

Pistareen points out the details as he talks.

Pistareen: The ulyan pipes are pumped with the elbow, whereas the marching pipes are pumped by blowing into them. The theory is that "ulyan" is an old word for "elbow"; certainly it's not English or Simelan.

Fennik: Are there any Simes in this "piping community" of yours?

Pistareen: Certainly. Certainly.

Fennik has noticed that, as usual, most Simes are keeping their distance from the out-T Gen participants at the conference.

Fennik: Do they play any differently?

Farfel: I would have thought Simes might prefer the accorduroy. From the descriptions of it, I can't figure how an Ancient, or a Gen, would have enough hands to play one.

Fennik: Or a panno.

Farfel: The accorduroy was worse. It had a bellows, a panno keyboard, and corduroy buttons, and they all had to be played at once.

Fennik cannot visualize this. A whole panno keyboard? Is it played by a committee?

Farfel: And often the player would sing at the same time. They were often used for wedding dances, and similar romantic events.

Janeen: Well, I'd heard that the Ancients had traditions of giving a newly married couple ritual teasing and abuse.

Farfel smiles at Janeen.

Farfel: Indeed. Romance and violence were always intertwined in Ancient culture. Newly married couples would have handfuls of small stones thrown at them, and metal objects tied to the back of their carriages.

Fennik refrains from shaking his head in disgust. Farfel can pull anything back around to support his hobbyhorse theory, to mix metaphors.

Farfel: Often they would decorate one carriage for the wedding, then hide another undecorated one in which to make their escape.

Janeen: That sounds a bit excessive. I mean, if you know someone's going to give you a hard time at your own wedding, you just don't invite them.

Farfel: They had to escape, because it was traditional for the bride's mother to accompany them on their beeswaxmoon if she could.

Janeen laughs.

Farfel: But she had to be invited, or the groom would have to pay for the entire ceremony.

Janeen: You really had me going, Professor Farfel.

Farfel raises an eyebrow.

Farfel: It's all true, according to our best research.

Janeen: I'll believe a lot about the Ancients, but nobody invites her mother along when she's just married.

Farfel: Oh, no, dear, you misunderstand. She had to be invited to the ceremony, not the beeswaxmoon. But once she was there, she would stow away in the carriage if she could.

Janeen: Why? It just doesn't make sense. Are you sure it isn't a translation problem? Ancient languages are tricky.

Farfel: You could dismiss it that way if it were a single anecdote. But there are many different examples in the literature. Even today, have you ever known a mother who thinks her daughter is old enough to be alone with a man?

Janeen: I don't know. There are a lot of pretty exotic -- and fictional -- "traditions" in modern romance novels.

Farfel: I don't read modern romances. Could you give me an example?

Farfel thinks the fact that Janeen reads modern romances is a hopeful sign. She may be available.

Janeen: Well, there was one I read that was set in a Border town. The bride's family had a "tradition" that a prospective husband had to present his bride with a bottle of aged brandy stolen from a particular place across the border in Simeland. Of course, the villain happened to be a Genrunner, and the heroine's family was pressuring her to marry him.

Janeen: Now really, before Unity, wouldn't a family that required all prospective sons-in-law to make a raid in Simeland die out pretty quickly?

Farfel: If the family wanted her to marry a Genrunner, then they had a reason for such a deception.

Janeen: No, it was supposed to be a test of bravery, not a test of whether you were a Genrunner. The Genrunner cheated, of course, by getting his bottle through his illegal Sime contacts, rather than through his own courage.

Farfel: Did she marry the Genrunner? Or elope with her true love?

Janeen: Neither. When the Genrunner was unmasked, by her lover, her parents agreed to the marriage rather than be suspected of being accessories to their preferred candidate's crimes.

Farfel: Ah. And so the hero earned his victory by wit, not physical prowess.

Fennik thinks that if Janeen spends her time reading such junk instead of the classics she needs to study in detail, she's not going to pass her qualifying orals. And what true scholar could enjoy such pap when there are classics like Dolls' Valley and the few surviving works of King Steven to savor?

Farfel smiles as charmingly as he knows how.

Janeen: Well, he didn't have to travel into Simeland to win her, no. He wouldn't have had nearly the pleasant reception we've been given, back then.

Fennik: Indeed. I've certainly enjoyed my little adventure, coming here. Haven't you, Janeen?

Janeen: Yes! Those Ancient ruins are even more spectacular than I thought they'd be.

Farfel: Which sites have you visited so far?

Janeen: We took the tour to the restored section yesterday.

Fennik thinks the local ruins, mainly massive concrete hulks from the Degenerate Period, are only impressive if you like raw size.

Janeen: It's a shame that nothing like that is being done with the Ancient ruins on our side of the border.

Farfel: I hate to admit it, but the Simes are ahead of us in that regard. Young lady, I'm sure your thesis adviser...

Farfel nods politely at Fennik

Farfel: reluctant to travel more widely than he must in Sime Territory. I'd be glad to show you some of the newer sites tomorrow after the afternoon session.

Fennik feels no need to mention that he's heading further into Nivet to visit Fridda after the conference, while Janeen heads home alone.

Janeen: Umm...I'm going to be busy then.

Fennik: You'll be taking the evening train home then, won't you?

Janeen: Err...

Janeen is actually planning on spending some time with this really cute grad student she met the day before, but doesn't want to give Farfel ideas.

Farfel looks hopeful.

Janeen: I'll have to check my ticket for the exact time.

Janeen uses the patented "yes I do, but not with you" tone.

Waiter: Ladies and gentlemen, last call at the bar!

Janeen watches Pistareen hurry off to take advantage of the last free drink of the night.

Fennik: Janeen, you should try some of that pomegranate liqueur I had last night. I've never seen it elsewhere.

Janeen: You drank it straight? I usually only use it in cooking. There's this one dish--the sauce is chopped apricots, onion, and the liquor, and you serve it with chicken. Or you can use walnuts instead of the apricots.

Fennik: The Simes seem to like it straight, in tiny liqueur glasses. It is very sweet.

Waiter: Can I bring you a glass of it?

Waiter nods to Janeen.

Janeen shakes her head.

Janeen: No thanks.

Waiter: Or a trin liqueur if you'd like to try something truly exotic, young lady?

Janeen: Trin liqueur? That sounds interesting.

Waiter: Coming right up. And for you gentlemen?

Fennik: I believe I'll try the pilah liqueur this time.

Waiter glances at Farfel, who silently shakes his head.

Waiter: One trin liqueur and one pilah, coming right up.

Waiter scurries away, keeping his tentacles sheathed beneath the uncomfortable long sleeves of his uniform.

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