D'zoll and Shorsh are heading towards the saloon in Gumgeeville, still arguing.
D'zoll: I tell you, it's not that dangerous. The place has changed quite a bit since Hajene Whatsisface was here. Even through these ...
D'zoll flourishes his retainered arms, but carefully.
D'zoll: ... I can zlin that. And anyway, I can take care of myself.
D'zoll rethinks that.
D'zoll: You and I can take care of ourselves, I should say. And anyway, I'm half his age; I need my exercise, even if I'm not a Gen. Furthermore, if I don't learn to understand these people close up and personal, I won't be able to treat Gegg effectively. As effectively.
Shorsh lets D'zoll run on, ~~ unconvinced ~~. He figures he can shoot down any of those arguments, but that won't keep D'zoll from coming up with a steady stream of others.
D'zoll: [coaxingly] C'mon. It'll be fun.
Shorsh: I don't know about the saloon, D'zoll. Nattin told us that Simes were specifically unwelcome there.
D'zoll: That was then, this is now. They're even serving porstan now.
Shorsh: You just want to try the alleged porstan, right?
D'zoll: You betcha. After all, that's some kind of a good sign, isn't it?
Shorsh: As I understand it, Henree has been making it for years. He just doesn't call it porstan, and denies it has anything to do with Simes.
D'zoll: Huh. Well, he can just find out otherwise. After all, what can they do?
D'zoll flourishes his retainers again.
D'zoll: Shoot me?
Shorsh: Shoot you.
D'zoll sighs and wipes his forehead with the back of his hand.
Shorsh is getting ground down.
Shorsh: I could get some for both of us and bring it out, but I don't want to leave you out here alone. Maybe we can send someone else in for it?
D'zoll: No way. Besides, I want to check out the pub grub, too. No more Gen tricks with channel chow.
Shorsh is hot too, and tired of having his ear talked off. It is early afternoon. Most people will be out working. So maybe it will be okay, especially if Henree refuses them entrance.
D'zoll: Okay. I will be careful, I promise.
Shorsh: Well... ~~ unwilling to give in too easily ~~
D'zoll: Oath of Firsts.
Shorsh rolls his eyes physically and nagerically.
D'zoll: Okay, okay, Unto Sat'htine, you monster.
Shorsh sighs ostentatiously.
Shorsh: All right, but when I say we go, we go, right?
D'zoll: [pause] Right.
D'zoll and Shorsh have reached the door of the inn just in time.
Shorsh heads for the saloon steps, hoping he isn't making a disastrous mistake.
Henree is sweeping out the taproom, before the customers start arriving. He gets less afternoon business during the summer, but the work that keeps his customers away then gives them money to spend in the evening.
Shorsh opens the door and peers in.
Shorsh: Good afternoon.
Henree looks up.
Henree: Hello, stranger.
Henree runs over the inventory of strangers in town, which doesn't take long. It's a short list.
Shorsh steps in.
D'zoll decides, having made his point, to wait for an invitation.
Henree: Are you Gegg's guest?
Shorsh: Yes. I'm Shorsh ambrov Sat'htine. You must be Mr. Henree.
Henree: Yeah. ambrov. Doesn't that mean...
Henree did play host to Layna for part of the summer, after all, and she was never very good at shutting up.
Shorsh: My colleague and I would like to sample your famous "special".
D'zoll smiles to himself.
Henree: Your... colleague.
Henree's voice is flat, but his nager flares ~~ hostility ~~ and ~~ alarm ~~
Shorsh: Yes, this is D'zoll ambrov Sat'htine.
Shorsh gestures to his channel to enter.
Henree grips his broom more tightly.
D'zoll comes in, walking with exaggerated slowness for a Sime, and making sure his retainers are in full view.
Henree: I told the other one, I don't want Simes in my establishment.
Henree tries to speak firmly, but he is ~~ less sure ~~ than he'd like to appear.
Shorsh is tempted to shrug and leave, but he did agree to try it, and he's got as much stubbornness as any other Farris.
D'zoll: I understand that that's been your policy in the past, but I had hoped you might be willing to change your mind.
Shorsh waits with ~~ pleasure ~~ to see D'zoll use his "famous charm" to win Henree over.
Henree witnessed Layna break up a bar brawl during her stay, and heard her explain that everyone in her Householding could fight like that. He was left with the impression that all Householders can fight like that, and is therefore doubtful that he can enforce any order he gives for these unwelcome strangers to leave.
D'zoll: If there's any kind of trouble, I promise you we'll be straight out the door before anything can happen.
Henree: A lot of my customers don't like Simes, much.
Henree doesn't care for Simes, himself, especially after his granddaughter turned into one, and his daughter went crazy. He does not, however, have any of those customers present, at the moment.
D'zoll: We're both Farrises, too. Self-control is what we're especially good at.
Shorsh: And of course, a Farris Gen can easily control a Farris Sime. ~~ smug ~~
Henree hasn't the faintest idea what a Farris is, so this argument has less effect than intended.
D'zoll: Absolutely, Mr. Henree. And we have heard excellent reports about your porstan.
Henree looks at the Tecton uniforms, however, and reflects that he at least knows these two foreigners have gainful employment. Henree's regulars frequently don't, these days.
D'zoll smiles as convincingly as he can, which is pretty convincing.
Henree ~~ grudgingly ~~ moves behind the bar and reaches for two mugs. He draws two mugs of his "special" and sets them down in front of D'zoll and Shorsh.
Shorsh pulls out some money.
Henree names a price that is easily double what he would charge anyone for his finest beer. Which the "special" is not, in the minds of most of his customers.
D'zoll signals Shorsh "excessive".
Shorsh goes ahead and pays without argument.
Henree picks up a rag, and starts to polish the bar.
Henree: So, what are you folks doing visiting Gegg and his family, anyway?
Henree considers usable gossip to be part of his payment.
D'zoll: Well, we're here to assist Mr. Gegg with some of his difficulties.
Henree: Humpf. He's got trouble, all right. Though I wouldn't have thought he'd ask a Sime for help with it.
Henree is ~~ curious ~~
D'zoll smiles mysteriously.
Shorsh tastes his porstan. It's not bad, but only someone who had been stuck out-T for months would call it excellent.
Shorsh: Good brew, Mr. Henree.
Henree nods acknowledgment of the compliment.
Henree: Going to be staying long?
D'zoll: I can't say for sure yet. It depends on Mr. Gegg, really.
Henree has heard much speculation on how long this latest Sime is going to stay.
D'zoll: In any case, I can't talk about that part. I'm his doctor, in effect.
Henree: His doctor? He's not sick. And he couldn't afford a doctor if he was.
D'zoll: I really, really can't talk about that. This porstan really is every bit as good as I had heard, though.
D'zoll isn't a porstan snob like Shorsh; if it's wet, he'll drink it.
Shorsh: We'll be glad to help other people who need us, while we're here.
Henree thinks that over.
D'zoll: Absolutely. Anything from runny noses to broken legs.
Shorsh: And of course, if people want to know whether their children have turned Gen, or are beginning to change over.
Shorsh is glad to have the opportunity to advertise these services through Grapevine Central.
Mike stumbles towards Henree's, already as drunk as the dregs of his whiskey bottle can make him. He fondles his shotgun as he walks.
Henree: There might be a few interested in knowing if their kids are turning Sime, at that. At least if no one finds out about it.
Shorsh: As you've seen, we adhere to a policy of confidentiality.
Shorsh gives D'zoll a very light nageric kick in the shin.
Henree: But most folks here don't use doctors, much. And they go to Hannard's Ford when they do.
D'zoll: That's a long way by wagon, isn't it? And with only two trains a day ....
Henree has no idea what Simes charge for doctoring, but it's got to be plenty, or they wouldn't have such fancy uniforms.
Mike would not normally carry his shotgun to Henree's, but today is the eighth anniversary of the day he had to shoot Tomity. Today he carries his gun, as a reminder of guilt and grim responsibility, and he fondles it frequently.
Henree: We manage. Or we don't.
Shorsh: Well, while we're in town you might as well take advantage of our free services.
Mike opens Henree's door and enters.
Shorsh feels the responsibility to see that D'zoll gets as much work as can be managed.
Mike: I'll have one of your specials, Henree.
Mike pauses to let his eyes adjust to the dimness.
D'zoll turns and smiles at Mike.
Henree is assuming the "free services" are the things like finding out if your kid is turning Sime.
Shorsh notes the shotgun and the drunken state and becomes ~~ intensely alert ~~
Henree is also aware of potential trouble.
Henree: Good afternoon, Mike.
Mike: Nothing good about it, Henree. Not since Tomity. Eight years today.
Henree: I know, Mike.
Mike: ~~ guilt ~~ ~~ sorrow ~~
Henree places the porstan well down the bar, in hopes that Mike will be too interested in drinking to notice his other customers.
Henree: Here you are.
Shorsh shifts to put himself between Mike and D'zoll.
Mike's eyes are beginning to adjust to the dim light. He thinks he sees a Sime, but puts it down to the morbid imagining he's been doing all day.
Mike: Thanks, Henree.
Henree: You start on that, and I'll get you a bowl of stew to go with it.
Mike: Don't know if I could eat.
Henree: You give it a try. It'll help your head, tomorrow.
Mike: Eight years. He would have been twenty-three. Married. Grandkids.
Henree: I know, Mike.
D'zoll suddenly realizes the actual subject of Mike's monologue.
Shorsh feels sick hearing this, and extends his ~~ protection ~~ more firmly around his channel.
Henree sets a bowl, and a thick slab of bread, in front of Mike. He's very ~~ sympathetic ~~ towards Mike, and doesn't even insist on payment. Yet.
Mike: Thanks, Henree. You're a good man.
Henree figures he can present the tab when Mike's more sober, and under less distress.
Henree: You did what you had to, Mike. You can't blame yourself for that.
Mike tries a bite of the stew.
Mike: Why couldn't I have had your luck, Henree? ~~ guilt ~~ nausea ~~ bitterness ~~
Henree gives an ~~ ironic ~~ chuckle.
Mike: My Tomity was as good a kid as your Magit.
Henree: He was.
Mike: No justice, is there, Henree? Just misery and more misery. And other people's luck.
Henree: Yeah. Who'd've thought Jed Mullins would have the luck to have both his boys... Not that he's not losing his oldest, anyway.
Mike: Damn luck.
Mike glances at Shorsh.
Mike: You, stranger. Are you lucky?
Mike: You got kids?
Shorsh: They're grown up now.
Mike: All of them make it?
Mike: Lucky bastard. ~~ morose ~~
Mike tries another bite of stew.
Mike: This is good, Henree. Thanks.
Henree: You're welcome. Try the bread with it.
D'zoll decides to try it too.
Shorsh examines D'zoll to see how he's taking this. He hopes the channel will have enough sense to keep quiet.
D'zoll: Could I have some of that, Mr. Henree? Not too much.
Shorsh hopes that D'zoll can zlin anything toxic or revolting in the stew before he eats it. Like meat for example.
Mike takes a closer look at D'zoll.
Mike: Am I dreaming, or are you real?
Henree shrugs, and puts a three-quarters-full bowl of beef and vegetable stew in front of D'zoll, with a slab of bread that would feed a Sime for two days.
D'zoll tells himself firmly that he is a channel and a Farris, and if he doesn't actually eat the animal tissue, but just picks around it, everything will be fine. He picks up the fork that Henree supplies and spears a piece of potato. He's surprised by the taste of the sauce: better than he expected.
D'zoll: It's good.
Henree would be more complimented if D'zoll didn't sound so surprised.
Shorsh looks at D'zoll ~~ incredulously ~~. It's amazing to see a Sime lie. How could he possibly enjoy eating boiled carrion?
Shorsh: I'd like a piece of the bread, Mr. Henree, please.
Henree figures Shorsh for a cheapskate. He nevertheless puts a slab of bread in front of Shorsh.
Mike: ~~ belligerent ~~ Too good to talk to me, stranger?
D'zoll looks over at Mike.
D'zoll: Isn't this stew great? And the, umm, special, too.
D'zoll takes a bite of the bread as well and smiles again.
Mike, ~~ mollified ~~ , relaxes and takes another bite.
Mike: It is. Where you guys from?
D'zoll: Quite a long ways away. We don't have anything like this stuff there.
Mike looks -- really looks, for the first time -- at D'zoll.
Mike: ~~ shock ~~ You're a Sime! You're that Sime from Gegg's barn!
Shorsh intensifies his ~~ support ~~ and ~~ protection ~~
Henree watches closely, braced for trouble.
D'zoll: That's true. But I'm harmless, Mister ...?
D'zoll holds his retainers so that the light flashes off them.
Mike: Mike. Mike Henshaw. So are the stories true?
D'zoll: Well, I'd have to say some are, some aren't. Which stories did you have in mind, Mr. Henshaw?
Mike: ~~ grim amusement ~~ Well, they couldn't all be true. Either you're here to take payment from Gegg for taking care of his boy...
D'zoll: Well, I can definitely spike that one. In Simeland, the Simes pay the Gens, mostly.
Mike: Or you're here to thank him for giving the kid to you, and you're going to give him some sort of mysterious powers...
D'zoll: N-no, no mysterious powers involved.
Mike: Or you've made some sort of alliance with him, and you're here to do things in the town here. What kinds of things, nobody's sure.
D'zoll: My business is strictly with Mr. Gegg, it's strictly business, and it's strictly private, for Mr. Gegg's sake. But as I was saying to Mr. Henree here, we'll also be providing doctoring for anyone who needs it -- no charge.
Henree has heard such offers before, from various snake oil salesmen who have passed through.
Mike: You take care of kids who go Sime? I mean really take care of them, not... you know. ~~ guilt ~~
D'zoll: [sympathetically] Yes, absolutely. There just aren't enough of us yet to take care of everybody.
Mike: Where were you eight years ago? ~~ anger ~~ Where were you?
D'zoll sighs and remains sympathetic.
D'zoll: I'm very sorry you lost your son, Mr. Henshaw. Things are changing, but not fast enough.
Henree: Take it easy, Mike.
Mike: I'll give you easy, Henree. You've still got your Magit.
Mike raises his shotgun, and points it at Henree.
D'zoll forces down his Sime instinct to save a Gen, any Gen, from physical violence.
D'zoll: [calmly] Mr. Henshaw. It wasn't Mr. Henree's fault either.
Mike: Then whose bloody fault was it? God's? ~~ bitter ~~ Is there a God? Or is he another word for plain dumb luck?
Henree: Come on, Mike. Sit down. Have another special.
Henree is standing very still, watching Mike closely, hoping that he can drop behind the bar fast enough.
Mike drops the gun.
Shorsh is ~~ relieved ~~ that the gun is no longer in Mike's hands.
Mike: Dumb luck, Henree. Just dumb luck. No God at all. ~~ empty ~~ bitter ~~
D'zoll agrees, but doesn't think it would be wise to say so.
Henree: Wait long enough, and your luck changes, right?
Henree puts the promised special in front of Mike.
D'zoll: Mr. Henshaw, would you like to know why you were so angry?
Mike: ~~ startlement ~~ What?
D'zoll: [calming] I can't read your mind, but your emotions are easy to figure out. You were angry because you feel more in control when you're angry then when you're feeling sad.
Mike: ~~ anger ~~ Says who?
D'zoll: [softly] I do, Mr. Henshaw. Sadness is no shame, and nobody likes to feel out of control.
Shorsh hopes D'zoll doesn't talk the Wild Gen into shooting him.
Mike: And who in hell are you, to know who feels what?
D'zoll: Any Sime could tell how you're feeling, but it's my job to figure out what people's feelings actually mean.
Mike: You one of them touchy-feely guys? ~~ contempt ~~ fear ~~
D'zoll: Actually I'm one of those listen-and-talk guys. More listening than talking, most of the time.
Mike: Good. Keep it that way. I don't want you talking about the inside of my head.
Mike bends and picks up his gun, holding it by the barrel.
D'zoll: Okay, Mr. Henshaw.
Mike: What does Gegg need a listen-and-talk guy for? He didn't have to shoot his kid.
D'zoll: My rules say I can't tell anybody that.
Mike: ~~ suspicious ~~ Whose rules? The Sime government?
D'zoll: The rules of the listen-and-talk racket.
Mike mulls that over for a few minutes.
Mike: You're a channel, right? You can tell if a kid's Gen already, like that Seruffin could?
D'zoll: Yes. I was born with that ability; listening is something I learned to do.
Mike: ~~ fear ~~ My Bekka's thirteen. If you promise not to listen to me, I'd like you to come over and have a look at her. Tell me if she's safe.
D'zoll: No problem. I won't have to touch her or come near her, just be in the same room.
D'zoll could actually zlin Bekka's larity from outside the house if he had to.
D'zoll: Or outside together, either way.
Mike: Good. I'll see you some time in the next few days, then.
Mike stands and places his gun on the counter in front of Henree.
Mike: Keep this, Henree. I'm never gonna use it again, anyway. No matter which way Bekka goes.
Mike counts out some coins onto the bar.
Henree looks at Mike ~~ soberly ~~, as this is a serious breach of security, then nods, and takes the gun.
D'zoll: Don't you need it to protect yourself from, umm, other berserkers, Mr. Henshaw?
Mike: Better to die than to kill again, mister.
D'zoll smiles and nods.
D'zoll: That's one of the rules of the Sime racket, too.
Mike: ~~ grief and guilt ~~ They can have me, if it comes to that.
D'zoll: We all hope it won't.
Mike moves heavily towards the door.
Henree looks after Mike, ~~ troubled ~~.
Mike: Wouldn't be much of a loss. ~~ heavy emptiness ~~.
D'zoll: [firmly] Yes, it would be, Mike. We need everybody, Simes and Gens alike.
Mike: Go tell that to the Simes.
D'zoll chuckles again.
D'zoll: I am a Sime, or had you forgotten?
Mike does a double-take, with a burst of ~~ irony ~~ .
Mike: So you are.
Mike turns towards the door again and leaves.
Shorsh slowly ~~ relaxes ~~.
D'zoll: Well, Mr. Henree.
D'zoll eats some more potatoes and carrots from the stew. It isn't so bad, shen it.
Henree turns to D'zoll.
D'zoll nibbles on the bread, too.
Henree: He's a good man, but he stopped caring when he shot his eldest.
D'zoll: It happens so often that way, doesn't it.
Henree: He's not as bad as Ralf, but yeah.
D'zoll files away this name to get the story later. He adds some money for the stew and bread.
D'zoll: Thanks. I think we should be going.
Henree: Yeah. The regulars will be coming in, soon.
D'zoll looks at Shorsh smugly.
Shorsh puts the piece of bread he ordered in his pocket and finishes his porstan.
D'zoll does the same.
Shorsh: [Simelan, sotto voce] Well done, naztehr. No bullet holes in either of us.
D'zoll signals "approval".
D'zoll: Another day, then?
Henree considers for a moment, then nods.