Stalking the Wild Gen: Episode 10

Fennik sits in his study, too restless to read. He's anticipating the arrival of Seruffin, whom he's invited over for an evening's conversation.

Fennik's emotions are very mixed. On the one hand, he's irritated that he's doing Ruthven's dirty work for him, on the other he's very unsettled about his own feelings about Seruffin. He's embarrassed that he finds himself wanting to make a close friend of Seruffin, someone he can confide in, when he's sure the desire isn't mutual. He's worried that he'll come out of this conversation feeling worse than he did after the previous one.

Fennik gets up and surveys the array of bottles on the antique sideboard. He hopes there is something there that Seruffin will enjoy, or at least find acceptable. There's also a tray with a variety of cheese, crackers and ornamentally cut pieces of fruit and vegetables on the table fronting the sofa. He doesn't suppose Seruffin will eat them, but his Donor may. Besides, offering food is such a basic part of out-T hospitality that Fennik feels compelled to do so.

Fennik looks at his watch. His guests should be here soon.

Seruffin looks out of the window as the embassy carriage turns through an elaborate gate set in a stone wall, and approaches a large, three-story house.

Seruffin: Gerrhonot, I believe Professor Fennik's house is larger than Bibi's Sime Center. What do you think?

Gerrhonot examines what he can see in the dim light.

Gerrhonot: It looks pretty big. Fancier too.

Gerrhonot thinks the Hannard's Ford Sime Center is big in a farmhouse sort of way -- multiple additions to an originally small structure. Professor Fennik's house looks like it was built big from the start.

Seruffin: It must be lonely for him, rattling around in such a big place, since Fridda is gone.

Gerrhonot: Yeah. Poor guy.

Fennik hears hoofbeats, and goes towards the front door. He passes the large living and dining rooms that haven't been used much since his wife died and they stopped hosting large formal parties.

Seruffin zlinned enough loneliness in Fennik the last time they spoke that he can guess why the Gen extended his hospitality to them. He's much less certain what justification Fennik will have settled on, however.

Seruffin waits until the carriage comes to a stop, then gets out and pauses to assist Gerrhonot.

Gerrhonot doesn't need help getting out of the carriage, but knows that Seruffin feels it's polite to assist him.

Seruffin tells the driver to make the horses comfortable and wait, then leads the way up the formal steps.

Fennik opens the door just as the carriage stops and his guests disembark.

Fennik: Welcome.

Seruffin: Professor Fennik, it is good to see you again.

Fennik finds himself ~~ nervous ~~ and tries to smooth his nager by examining the carriage.

Fennik: And I, you. Please, come in.

Seruffin: Thank you. You have a lovely home.

Seruffin looks around the entryway in ~~ appreciation ~~.

Fennik: It's been in the family for five generations.

Seruffin shakes his head in ~~ wonder ~~

Fennik feels a ~~ pang ~~ at the thought that it will end with him. He had hoped that Fridda would live in it with her children and grandchildren.

Seruffin: That's something that's very rare, in Sime Territory, aside from the Householding compounds.

Fennik: Well, our family hasn't done very well lately -- both Fridda and I are only children. I had always hoped that perhaps the next generation....

Fennik makes a gesture of resignation.

Fennik: But come in. I thought we'd sit in my study. The other rooms aren't used much any more.

Seruffin: Certainly.

Seruffin follows Fennik into the house.

Fennik leads the way to his study, where a fire adds life and warmth to the ambiance.

Seruffin: You know, Fridda is a such a personable young lady that you might have grandchildren to visit here, yet.

Fennik: Visits, perhaps, but not for a long time, even so.

Fennik realizes that he must be radiating ~~ melancholy ~~ and checks that the fire is burning well to distract himself.

Seruffin: Perhaps sooner than you think, if you are willing to post the property as Sime Territory while Fridda is here.

Fennik: Yes, I would. But as much as I'd like to have her visit here again, I think it would be quite stressful for her out-T, don't you think?

Seruffin looks around.

Fennik: Oh! Please feel free to remove your retainers. I have no objection.

Gerrhonot smiles.

Gerrhonot: Uh, I brought a sign and some tape?

Seruffin: Trust you to anticipate, Gerrhonot. You are very considerate, Professor Fennik, and I accept with thanks.

Gerrhonot quickly tapes the sign to the study door and returns to help his channel remove the retainers.

Seruffin does so slowly and carefully, zlinning Fennik's reaction closely for any signs of stress or reluctance.

Fennik looks at the sign with ~~ interest ~~, since he thinks it would be impolite to watch the channel and Donor in what seems to him like a somewhat intimate act.

Seruffin follows Fennik's gaze as he finally frees his tentacles.

Seruffin: It's a formality, perhaps, but an important one, if a lasting trust is to be built between our Territories. It's in keeping small promises that we can show we intend to keep the larger ones, as well.

Fennik: I understand the retainers are very uncomfortable. I apologize for my countrymen that a trustworthy person such as yourself is required to wear them.

Fennik smiles.

Fennik: Since my trip to Nivet, I'm not uncomfortable around Simes using their tentacles naturally.

Fennik is only exaggerating somewhat, and he's not really aware he is.

Seruffin: So I zlin. You've made remarkable progress in becoming comfortable around Simes. If Fridda does decide to visit you here, she should be comfortable enough with you, although the journey will be wearing.

Fennik: The journey, and the other Gens she'll have to zlin. I'd hate for her to feel barricaded, under siege, in her own home.

Seruffin: This house is solidly built. There isn't much nageric leakage. I believe she'd be comfortable enough here, although an extended visit might be more difficult.

Fennik: Of course, until Ruthven relaxes a bit more about the issue, it would be a real slap in the face for him if I were to invite Fridda here. He's still hoping to keep her survival a secret.

Seruffin: Yes, it would be difficult for him. Personally, as well as politically, I expect. He must want to see her, too.

Fennik: I get mixed signals from him, even without zlinning.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I don't know if he, himself, knows how he feels about Fridda.

Fennik smiles wryly.

Fennik: I suspect you're right. Of course, it's a lot harder for him to change his attitudes, since he's in the public eye.

Seruffin: Indeed. He has obligations to the people he represents, and he's an honorable man.

Fennik: But please, have a seat. I'd like to offer you a drink, but don't know what you'd prefer.

Fennik gestures to the sofa.

Fennik: I have some lovely brandy here, but perhaps you'd prefer something else.

Seruffin moves to the sofa and sits down.

Fennik describes what he has available.

Gerrhonot sits close to his channel and eyes the tray of food. He's not particularly hungry, but could get so if the talk goes on long enough.

Seruffin: I'd be happy to try your brandy.

Fennik: And you, Sosu?

Gerrhonot: Just some water, please.

Gerrhonot avoids alcohol. He figures he doesn't need to get any stupider, even temporarily.

Fennik fills a crystal goblet with water and adds some chipped ice. He pours brandy into two balloon glasses, serves his guests and sits in his comfortable leather chair with his own snifter.

Seruffin accepts a snifter from Fennik and cradles the bowl in his hands to warm it, releasing the aroma.

Seruffin: This is good brandy, indeed.

Fennik: I wasn't sure whether Simes drank brandy. ~~ pleased ~~

Seruffin: Simes are much like Gens, in that respect: most can't afford to develop a taste for it.

Fennik: My father was quite the connoisseur of brandies. I suppose I learned the taste from him.

Fennik cradles the glass and inhales the complex fragrance.

Seruffin: You must have an exceptional cellar, if it's been stocked for generations.

Fennik: My wife and I used to entertain a great deal. There's a good assortment of red wines, sherries and ports left from those days, as well as a few bottles my father laid down. I'm afraid I've gone through all of the brandies he left, though.

Seruffin: If they're as good as this one, I don't blame you. Do you miss entertaining?

Fennik sips and thinks about it.

Fennik: My wife loved it, and she was very good at it. I enjoyed it very much, then. But since I lost her... it wouldn't be the same. I don't have the talent for it.

Fennik would like to know whether Seruffin is married or widowed, but feels it would be inappropriate to ask. Better to let him bring it up if he chooses to.

Seruffin: You've had a solid family, all your life. I envy you that.

Seruffin takes another sip from his rapidly-emptying snifter.

Seruffin: My family, what there was of it, was displaced by the droughts before Unity. My mother and brother managed to settle in Shen after the war, for at least a while, but I seldom saw them.

Fennik: You would have been away, training as a channel?

Fennik gets up and replenishes the snifters.

Seruffin: Yes. That first decade, there were far too few channels, and the ones who lacked a Householding affiliation tended to be sent far and wide, trying to keep the selyn moving.

Fennik completed preparatory school, university and graduate school during that period, and at last landed his current position.

Seruffin: That's how I ended up a diplomat, actually.

Fennik wonders if disrupted conditions after the war required Seruffin to cut short his formal education in order to work. ~~ inquiry ~~

Seruffin: The new Sime Centers that were opening up in New Washington Territory as a result of the Unity Treaty weren't exactly considered plum positions.

Gerrhonot listens with ~~ interest ~~, which he's careful to keep unobtrusive. Seruffin almost never talks about his past, and Gerrhonot knows less about it than he'd like. He wonders whether the brandy is loosening the channel's tongue.

Seruffin: I didn't have the seniority to get a more desirable assignment, and I'd picked up enough English to get by. I did well enough to attract the attention of my superiors, and eventually they decided to make more direct use of my knowledge of your culture.

Fennik: I imagine the level of hostility to Simes was much higher then.

Seruffin: It was. There were a number of channels -- and their Donors -- who were murdered, in the first years.

Fennik reacts with ~~ shock ~~ followed by ~~ chagrin ~~.

Seruffin: That was before it became widely accepted that a Sime wearing retainers really was harmless.

Fennik: Forgive me, Hajene. I don't have very good control, and I'm over midfield. ~~ embarrassment, quickly and inexpertly stifled ~~

Seruffin: You're making good progress in learning to control your nager, even without Simes around to provide feedback.

Fennik had a bit of brandy while he was waiting for his guests, and realizes that it isn't helping his control.

Fennik: Thank you. ~~ pleased ~~

Gerrhonot has been providing his usual ~~ steady reliable support ~~ to Seruffin. He doesn't expect any real problems from Fennik.

Seruffin doesn't, either, or he'd never have accepted that second glass of brandy.

Fennik is feeling good, and a bit high, and comfortable with Seruffin, but the one thing annoying him is his promise to Ruthven. He decides to be completely open about it.

Fennik: Hajene... Ruthven wants me to ask you for some information about hiring practices in-T. I agreed, somewhat under duress. He refuses to use the normal methods with the Embassy.

Seruffin: That would be awkward for him, given his opposition to most of what the trade liaisons have been trying to do, lately.

Fennik: Indeed. It's also awkward for me, being maneuvered into using our acquaintance to serve his purposes. ~~ resentment ~~

Seruffin: What does he wish to know?

Fennik sighs.

Fennik: One of the results of having that Tecton team sent to the Cordvain Valley is that the Sime members zlinned some unexpected recoverable metals in the ruins. There may be enough to keep the operation going for some time, but we need Simes to survey the site, and if it's feasible to exploit, a permanent presence of Sime workers to locate deposits for other employees to recover.

Seruffin: Ah. And General Metals has no experience in hiring Simes?

Fennik smiles ironically.

Fennik: Apparently the company has sent recruiters in-T, but they're having no success. Ruthven insists that they're offering more than adequate wages, and good conditions on site, but there have been no takers.

Seruffin: How much information about the company have the potential candidates been given?

Fennik: Ruthven tells me it was fairly complete -- that they'd prepared a detailed presentation.

Seruffin: I haven't made a study of General Metals, but am I assuming correctly that its employment policies are pretty standard for a large New Washington firm?

Fennik: I imagine so. I did tell Ruthven that Simes pay very high taxes and would expect their wages to more than cover them, and that they'd certainly regard any job out-T as a hardship post. He insisted that the company's offer took that into consideration.

Seruffin: Hasn't General Metals been having some labor trouble? I'm wondering if the deciding factor for the Simes wasn't how General Metals treats its Gen employees.

Seruffin is being slightly disingenuous, as he was personally responsible for some of the recent trouble.

Fennik: As I understand it, there have been efforts to form a union, and the organizers have been stirring up the workers. I believe it was the union that arranged for the Tecton to send in its team. They had some idea of getting around company policy against Sime Centers. Apparently the idea was to use income from donations as a strike fund.

Fennik smiles wryly.

Fennik: Remarkably clever of them, wasn't it?

Seruffin: Indeed. However, there are several things in that situation that would make a Sime very cautious about accepting work with General Metals.

Fennik: Yes? ~~ attentive ~~

Seruffin: You must remember that Simes tend to be paranoid about the security of their selyn supply, and that this gives us a different perspective on labor relations. For instance, there's no permanent Tecton presence in the Cordvain Valley. Once the Tecton team leaves -- and it will -- they would be at the mercy of the trains to get transfer on schedule.

Fennik: Oh, Ruthven intends to make a concession to the workers, there -- to allow a permanent Sime Center. The whole issue -- the Sime Center as well as employing Simes on site -- is quite the public relations headache for him. ~~ a little schadenfreude ~~

Seruffin: That will help your efforts. However, then their attention will turn to the ability of General Metals to nurture a population of reliable, healthy Gens to donate.

Fennik: Well, there appears to be no shortage of willing and able donors there right now.

Seruffin: The question, from a prospective Sime employee's point of view, is whether they will be willing to stay, long term, and whether they will be in sufficiently good condition to donate.

Fennik: They've been there for over thirty years, and will no doubt stay if the jobs stay. Quite a few are donating already. As I understand it, the company would be hiring a half dozen Simes at most, so there should be enough donors for them, no?

Seruffin: Perhaps, although General Metals is having labor trouble, and living among unhappy Gens isn't pleasant for a Sime.

Fennik thinks about this, and sips his brandy.

Fennik: Ruthven claims there's good well-insulated quarters for them, and surely not every Gen in Nivet is happy all the time?

Seruffin: Not at all, but they do have better control, and that counts for a lot.

Fennik: Indeed.

Fennik hopes his own control is adequate for Seruffin's comfort. But then he does have that Donor with him, even though he doesn't seem to be doing much but sitting quietly.

Seruffin: In addition, Gens living in Sime Territory seldom do heavy physical labor of the sort which leads to regular injuries, and they have excellent medical care.

Fennik: That would worry them, wouldn't it. That they might be nearby when a Gen is injured.

Fennik thinks it would be in execrable taste to ask about the effect of Gen pain on Simes, the risk of being driven to kill, and so forth, although he'd like to know more.

Seruffin: Yes. Simes tend to be very protective towards Gens. Perhaps too much so, at times, but you're more fragile than we are, and we depend on you so much...

Seruffin reaches out a hand to rest on Gerrhonot's arm.

Gerrhonot smiles at his channel. ~~ devotion ~~

Seruffin: Gerrhonot is remarkably tolerant, but I'm sure it's inconvenient for him, at times.

Gerrhonot: I don't mind. I know you mean well.

Gerrhonot ~~ appreciates ~~ Seruffin's advice and direction far more than most Donors would.

Seruffin spreads his hands in a "see what I mean?" gesture, forgetting and adding the tentacle part of the gesture.

Fennik isn't sure what to think of the Donor, but Seruffin seems comfortable with him.

Seruffin: Gerrhonot accepts being a bit more cautious than perhaps he thinks strictly necessary, as part of the price of living with Simes.

Gerrhonot: Well, when they're zlinning me, I guess. ~~ humor ~~

Seruffin: Your mine workers can't be that cautious, or they can't do their jobs. That would be nerve-wracking for a Sime.

Fennik: Hm. So potential Sime employees would want guarantees that they wouldn't be required to work near Gens doing anything dangerous?

Seruffin: It's not that simple. Yes, it would be necessary to make sure that the Simes are as far as possible from any Gen injuries. However, a Sime is going to be unhappy about any Gen who's put at unnecessary risk, or doesn't get sufficient food, or is cold, or tired, or unhappy and insecure.

Fennik: I suppose the team that's in there now would be more willing to put up with that sort of discomfort, wouldn't they? A more dedicated group, sent by the Tecton.

Seruffin: Yes. Householding Dar specializes in physical combat, so their Simes are much more used to zlinning Gens who are taking risks.

Fennik spreads his hands.

Fennik: Well, Ruthven coerced me into asking you, and I've asked you. It sounds more complicated than I expected. Perhaps he'll just have to get the personnel department to talk to people at the embassy for assistance, as I suggested, even if he's none too happy about asking.

Fennik is feeling the brandy.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: Yes, I can see how that might be a bit awkward for him, just now. But really, the trade liaisons are the people best qualified to answer his questions.

Seruffin: Now that we've fulfilled our obligation to your brother-in-law, we are free to pursue a congenial conversation.

Fennik: Indeed.

Seruffin takes another sip from his snifter.

Seruffin: This really is excellent.

Fennik: May I offer you more?

Fennik refills Seruffin's glass and his own.

Fennik: Sosu, can I offer you anything?

Gerrhonot: No, thank you. I'm all right.

Seruffin leans back, and looks around the study.

Fennik relaxes further in his comfortable leather chair, feeling a bit ~~ smug ~~. If Ruthven has painted himself into a corner, so be it.

Seruffin: This room has such an air of permanence. As if it's always been here, and always will be, and the family which owns it will be there, too. That's very rare in Sime Territory.

Fennik: The furniture is mostly my grandfather's. My father was a lawyer, and I moved his books out and replaced them with mine. Of course there are quite a few that have been here longer than that, the classics. They are what first aroused my interest in Ancient literature.

Fennik looks about fondly.

Fennik: You said your family was displaced by the droughts?

Seruffin: Yes. My mother was an artisan, fortunately, so she was able to support my brother and me even after we had to abandon our land.

Fennik: Had the land been in your family for a long time?

Seruffin: Not by Gen Territory standards. My grandfather bought it just before he died.

Fennik: Ah. Your father was a younger son, then.

Fennik imagines that Seruffin's grandfather bought the land to give to Seruffin's father, because the older son would get the longer-held land.

Seruffin: I don't know much about my father's side of the family. My mother was an only child. Or perhaps it was just that she was the only Sime child; I never knew. The land fed us, at least until it dried up and blew away. My mother's work paid her Pen taxes.

Seruffin doesn't apologize for his junct family; there's no point in trying to hide it.

Fennik thinks about this.

Fennik: I suppose... channeling wouldn't have been a respectable profession then.

Seruffin: It wasn't. And Simes who used channels to avoid killing were viewed as perverts, not respectable at best, and dangerous at worst.

Fennik: Dangerous? ~~ surprised ~~

Seruffin: Yes. Every junct community lived with the possibility that there would be some disruption in the supply of Gens to the local Pen. Or an economic disruption that prevented people from paying their Pen taxes; it amounted to the same thing.

Seruffin instinctively leans a little on Gerrhonot's field, reassuring himself that his selyn supply is secure.

Gerrhonot is getting a little ~~ concerned ~~ about Seruffin, who's dumping all this painful history on Fennik, who doesn't understand it. It seems like he's hurting himself, somehow. ~~ comfort ~~ love ~~ protection ~~ devotion ~~ all my selyn is yours ~~

Seruffin: On occasion, Simes who could not get Gens would attack and kill another Sime. It didn't happen often, but it was favorite topic of cheap novels -- you know the kind I'm talking about.

Fennik: ~~ horror ~~ I didn't know that was possible!

Fennik now has another thing to feel protective of Fridda about.

Seruffin: Yes, it's possible, although it was rare even then. You can see, then, why Householding Simes, who preferred to receive their selyn from another Sime, were regarded as a menace to society. It was a visceral response, that had nothing to do with logic.

Fennik learned about the depraved murderous life of Simes in Nivet as a child, but by the time he was really thinking for himself, Unity had intervened, and for the past decade or two he hadn't thought much about life in Nivet at all, except that Fridda would live there in the unlikely event that she changed over. Since she approached sixteen, he'd pretty much stopped thinking of Nivet as anything but just another foreign country, not too much different from his own.

Fennik is also not thinking too clearly, through the brandy. Now he's realizing that Seruffin grew up among those depraved, murderous Simes, and two of them were his parents.

Seruffin: I suppose it's not all that much different from the Gens out here who distrust channels because we're Simes.

Fennik: I... I had forgotten what it must have been like when you were a child, in Nivet. ~~ appalled ~~ sympathetic ~~ confused ~~

Fennik realizes what his nager must be doing and tries to rein it in, but he's still ~~ appalled ~~. How could he have imagined that Seruffin's background was like his own?

Fennik: Forgive me. My nager must be unpleasant for you.

Seruffin waves the apology away with a gesture that has a bit less Sime precision than usual.

Fennik's inhibitions are down.

Fennik: It must have been terrible. ~~ sympathy ~~ horror ~~

Seruffin: Oh, I can't complain about my childhood. Most of the time, we were happy enough. I worried about what might happen if I turned out wrong, of course. But then, I expect you did, too. Am I right?

Fennik: Yes, but... I don't know if I ever really believed it could happen to me. And I never saw the deaths... we never talked about them. But you... all around you... your parents, too... ~~ revulsion ~~

Fennik, in an uncharacteristic bout of imagination, pictures his mother and father as routine murderers, killing every month. ~~ shudder ~~

Seruffin: My mother took care to hide the more unpleasant facts of Sime life from me and my brother. I expect your own parents took equal care to shield you from any direct experience of their willingness to murder changeover victims.

Fennik: Yes, we were taught in church what we were to do if it happened. But my parents never had to murder... certainly not every month.

Seruffin: It wasn't considered murder, because Gens were believed to be animals. Do you feel like a murderer when you eat part of a cow or pig?

Fennik waves this away. It was murder, regardless.

Fennik: Still, they and you must have known what it was.

Seruffin: No. The true horror of the situation was that we didn't. We couldn't let ourselves, or we'd have gone insane. Very few human beings can live with the knowledge that they are mass murderers.

Fennik: I can imagine.

Fennik actually can't imagine what it would really be like, and finds it ~~ chilling ~~ that Seruffin is using "we" rather than "they".

Seruffin: It did make it easier to believe that we wouldn't turn Gen. After all, we knew we weren't animals, so how could we? I suppose you grew up believing that you couldn't turn Sime because you knew you weren't evil?

Fennik smiles ~~ wryly ~~.

Fennik: And well-behaved, as well.

Seruffin chuckles.

Seruffin: I had the advantage of you there: mischief wasn't believed to cause establishment.

Fennik: What did they tell you about establishment?

Seruffin: My mother told us that there had to be Gens so that Simes could live. I found out that normal children could turn Gen from my brother. I don't know where he found out. We drastically underestimated the odds of it happening to one of us, of course. Did your parents tell you that you had a one third probability of changeover?

Fennik: I don't think so. It didn't seem more of a risk than dying of a fever, I suppose. Less of one, perhaps, because we had this notion about good children being safe. I don't remember my parents telling me that, but I think all of us children believed it.

Fennik thinks about it.

Fennik: My wife and I never used that threat to make Fridda behave, but she must have picked it up from other children. It's a comforting thought for them, I suppose.

Seruffin: Yes. Just as for us, it was comforting to know that we had human intelligence, so we couldn't turn Gen. It didn't seem like a looming danger, most of the time. I didn't realize how much it shaped me until I met people who'd never worried for a moment about what they might became when they grew up.

Fennik is ~~ puzzled ~~. They couldn't have been Genlanders.

Seruffin: Householders. In the Householdings, it genuinely didn't matter what a child became.

Fennik: Ah. The Householdings, of course.

Seruffin: They bought that security for their children by giving up much of their freedom, of course.

Fennik: They were seen as perverts, you said. But after the war, everyone in Nivet and Gulf became a pervert, by the same reasoning, no?

Fennik is ~~ pleased ~~ with his clever phrasing. He has another sip of brandy.

Seruffin: Not willingly, and not for long. A Sime who has killed for more than a few months doesn't do well on channel's transfer. Apart from the Householders, every adult Sime alive at Unity was dead ten years later. Many of them didn't last that long.

Fennik: Even though they could still kill Gens sometimes? I remember that scandal, that the Tecton still allowed Simes to kill for some years after the end of the war.

Seruffin: I know. It almost cost the world Unity, but without it the Tecton would never have survived to wean the rest of Simeland from the kill. As it was, once Gens were permitted to act as people, many of the Simes learned to perceive them as people, and chose to die rather than kill again.

Seruffin lifts his glass in tribute to those who made that choice, including his own brother.

Fennik: Perhaps that... sweeping away... of the older generation made the new society I saw in Nivet possible.

Seruffin: Yes. There wasn't anyone from the older generation left.

Fennik is content with the poetic image of sweeping away, and doesn't think of imagining the horror of the slow miserable deaths of much of the population in a few years, much less the direct role Seruffin, as a channel, must have played in it.

Seruffin has learned to live with the horror, by focusing on the genuine heroism of many of the individuals involved. He also has the consolation that a genuinely kinder, better society did arise from the ashes of junct society.

Gerrhonot has moved closer to his channel, and gently strokes his hand. ~~ comfort ~~ devotion ~~ love ~~

Fennik gets up, a bit unsteadily, and refills the glasses.

Seruffin turns his hand to squeeze Gerrhonot's in thanks, then lifts his glass in a toast.

Seruffin: To our ancestors: may we honor them for doing what they had to do, and for leaving us a kinder world than they had.

Fennik also lifts his glass.

Fennik: And to our descendants: may they make an even better world than their ancestors did.

Seruffin: Indeed.

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