D'zoll: Look, it's perfectly safe. We've even been invited to bring the Sime Territory sign, so stop being such a Gen worrywart and let's go. It's not like this is going to be some kind of raucous party, you know, with whatever the out-T equivalent of porstan and shiltpron is. Just a little sedate conversation for an hour or so.
Shorsh: Well, having survived the Gumgeeville saloon, we can probably survive a tea party with a couple of women.
D'zoll: Okay, fine.
Shorsh wonders if D'zoll is going seriously stir-crazy, trotting out all these arguments before Shorsh even had a chance to open his mouth.
D'zoll is secretly surprised that Shorsh's natural objections collapsed so quickly; he had fully expected to have to argue for many minutes.
Shorsh: It'll be good for you to get out of here for a while.
D'zoll: Exactly! So let's go. I think I follow these directions....
Shorsh: Put on your retainers first. ~~ teasing ~~
D'zoll: Okay, fine, fine.
D'zoll starts to put them on.
D'zoll: [teasing back] I thought it was a Companion's duty to jump in front of speeding bullets aimed at his channel, anyhow.
Shorsh: I already did that once.
Shorsh glances out the window.
Shorsh: Hm. And your new raincoat. I can't intercept all the raindrops.
D'zoll: Don't push your luck, Shorsh Farris. After you.
D'zoll gestures at the barn door.
D'zoll: A little mist is good for a Farris hairdo. After all, you don't think I'm going to catch cold, do you?
Shorsh: Okay, no raincoat. A good head cold will make the pig odors less objectionable.
Shorsh puts on his own cape, and heads out the door.
D'zoll can't help laughing at this one as he follows Shorsh out the door. He and Shorsh walk through the really rather modest rain to Virla's door.
D'zoll: Umm, what do you say at an out-T door to get let in, since they can't zlin that we're here?
Shorsh: They usually hit the door with their knuckles, but this door has a knocker, so you don't have to go hypoconscious while I follow local custom.
Shorsh uses the knocker. He knows D'zoll knows he could keep quite a lot of pain out of his field if necessary.
Zinnia looks up from where she's unnecessarily rearranging the tea cakes on a three-tiered muffin stand.
Zinnia: They're here, Virla.
Virla: Oh, I'm so glad. Just between ourselves, I was far from sure. ~~ relief nervousness ~~
Zinnia: I do hope they like tea cakes. It's hard to be sure; the etiquette books certainly don't say what foods to serve a Sime.
Virla walks to the door and opens it.
Virla: Come in, come in, Hajene D'zoll, Sosu Shorsh.
Shorsh: Good afternoon, Miz Virla. Thank you for inviting us.
D'zoll waits for Shorsh to go in first; the ambient is uncontrolled even though friendly, and he can use Shorsh's field as a damper.
Shorsh enters, takes off his damp cape and hangs it on a hook as he smoothly takes control of the ambient and establishes a protective screen around D'zoll.
D'zoll follows suit: channel see, channel do.
Virla: Do come in and sit down. I've made some little cakes and we have some wine.
Shorsh follows Virla into the parlor.
Virla: Do sit, and help yourselves to the tea cakes.
Shorsh: Thank you. The tea cakes look delicious.
D'zoll sits, takes a tea cake, and nibbles on it. It's a big improvement over channel chow or meat stew.
Zinnia smiles a bit ~~ timidly ~~ from her seat on the other couch.
D'zoll: They are. Go for it.
D'zoll smiles at Virla, attempting to exercise his Farris charm.
Shorsh takes one and tries to eat it politely and slowly. It's made with real butter. It's the best thing he's eaten in weeks.
Zinnia is not as confident with Simes as Virla, and some of the stories about this one, and a noise or two she's heard about from the Gegg barn, have raised concerns.
Shorsh: Hello, Miz Zinnia. We're delighted to meet both of you.
Zinnia: Likewise, I'm sure. Virla and I realized that no one's invited you over to get acquainted yet. You must think we're mannerless bumpkins.
Shorsh makes a dismissive gesture.
D'zoll: Not at all, I assure you. We were sent here primarily to do a job, after all.
Shorsh: We didn't expect the community to be delighted to have us here. So it's a pleasure to accept your invitation.
D'zoll: Yes, indeed.
Zinnia sets out wine glasses.
Zinnia: I admit, we've all been rather curious about just what sort of a job you're doing. Some of things I've heard have been a bit, well, alarming.
Zinnia is indeed ~~ unsettled ~~.
D'zoll: Essentially, we're here to help Mr. Gegg come to terms with his past, so that he can look forward to a better future.
Virla: Dealing with the past can be a very painful business, as I well know.
Zinnia: I wouldn't know, myself, but it certainly sounded like Mr. Gegg was in pain, the other day.
D'zoll: Emotional pain only, I assure you! But that can be just as unpleasant as the physical kind.
Zinnia is ~~ very concerned ~~, ~~ apprehensive ~~ at the possibility that D'zoll and Shorsh might really not be up to any good, as well as ~~ curious ~~ about what's being going on behind the closed doors of the Gegg barn.
D'zoll: I can see that you're concerned for Gegg's well-being, and I assure you, so are we. Unfortunately, there's not much we can tell you about the work he's been doing, because of privacy restrictions.
Shorsh: We're also here to monitor Miz Gegg's pregnancy.
Shorsh figures that's a topic of considerable interest to the women of the town.
Zinnia: Toria does seem to be having a hard time of it. She's not young any more. And with twins and all...
D'zoll: Quite so. In addition, if her babies do turn out to be future channels, she'll need additional support.
Zinnia: Why is that? A baby's a baby, right? Channels aren't born with tentacles. At least, Mik didn't have them.
D'zoll: Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, especially with twins. Future channels can drain a woman's selyn dangerously low, and two of them even more so. It's an extra risk that nobody should take.
Zinnia: It sounds like channels start their careers early.
D'zoll: In a way.
Virla: In any event, whatever may be the case for other people in this town, I can assure you that our Church of Unity branch supports your presence fully. ~~ sincerity ~~ So you do whatever will best help poor Gegg and Toria.
Shorsh is ~~ surprised ~~. He didn't get the impression from the fathers of the donors he recruited that anything other than a fairly conservative Church of the Purity sect was active in town.
Shorsh: There's a Church of Unity branch here?
Virla waves her arms to include Zinnia.
Virla: We are the Church of Unity in this town. I wrote away for some of their literature in English, and their doctrines agree with our views to perfection. Or not quite perfection, but certainly well enough. Our group is small -- just four so far -- but dedicated.
D'zoll is a bit boggled by this unexpected turn of events, but Virla certainly zlins ~~ sincere ~~ throughout.
Zinnia nods firmly in ~~ support ~~.
Shorsh isn't sure what to say. He's never felt the need for a religion, but knows how important it can be out-T.
Shorsh: The Church of Unity is popular with many immigrants to Nivet.
Virla: Well, if you've become Sime, you certainly can't still be in the regular Church, can you? Not even the more liberal branches like the one here.
Shorsh is a bit boggled that the local church is regarded as liberal.
Zinnia: Reverend Kallan is a compassionate man, but he can't bend quite that far.
D'zoll is interested to hear this.
Shorsh: How did he react to Miz Virla's daughter being... rescued?
Virla: Well, the usual: her soul is lost forever. Which is just ridiculous. I mean, I do believe in souls, but it's perfectly plain to me that my Magit has as much of a soul as anyone.
Shorsh: It certainly seems to me that Simes have souls as much as Gens do.
Virla nods vigorously.
Virla: Of course.
Shorsh doesn't add "whatever you think a soul is".
Zinnia: Reverend Kallan didn't go that far, but he didn't denounce Virla and her father as evil for allowing a Sime child to live.
Shorsh: And Mik? And wasn't there another child?
Zinnia: He didn't approve of Gegg and Toria sending their child to Hannard's Ford prematurely -- he felt it reflected a lack of faith in God's ability to determine which children will be Sime. The other girl wasn't from Gumgeeville, so her parents aren't part of Reverend Kallan's congregation.
Virla: But I'm sure it would have been exactly the same story. ~~ disgust ~~
Virla: Oh, I'm sorry, Hajene. I guess my, ah, field was upsetting?
D'zoll: Think nothing of it, Miz Virla; Shorsh's field far outshines yours.
Zinnia: He was less forgiving of Jed Mullins' stunt with Ukoh, but that's understandable.
D'zoll: What stunt was that? ~~ confused ~~
Zinnia thinks Jed acted irresponsibly, and there was an injury, even if it was only the crazy girl from Simeland.
Zinnia: Ukoh asked Jed Mullins to take him to Hannard's Ford when he went into changeover. They didn't make it.
Shorsh: Layna ambrov Dar, Nattin's student, served him and got a bad burn, D'zoll.
D'zoll slaps his forehead.
Zinnia: Yes, that crazy girl.
D'zoll: Oh yes, of course. I was thinking of that as Layna's stunt, though. I don't suppose Kallan cares much what happens between two Simelanders.
Zinnia: He doesn't blame that poor girl for not knowing any better, but Jed Mullins is old enough to act like an adult.
Zinnia's definition of responsible adulthood has expanded to include getting help for changeovers where help is available, but one must keep an eye on public safety.
D'zoll: She may look like a girl, but if Layna weren't an adult, Sectuib Dar wouldn't have sent her out here.
Virla: Adult is as adult does, that's what I say.
Zinnia: Yes. And while I suppose Mr. Shorsh there could handle a changeover without breaking into a sweat, Layna couldn't. And she ought to have known better than to try.
Shorsh agrees heartily.
Shorsh: It was a terrible risk for someone without suitable training.
D'zoll: You'll get no argument from me. By the way, we did bring the Sime Territory sign you mentioned. Would it be all right if Shorsh posted it and I removed my retainers?
D'zoll zlins Virla first, then Zinnia.
Virla: Of course, of course! ~~ sympathy ~~ You must be suffering in those awful things.
Zinnia is not overly alarmed at the prospect, although she is a touch ~~ nervous ~~. She's not all that used to Simes, and D'zoll is more intimidating than Bibi.
D'zoll: You're all right with the idea as well, Miz Zinnia?
D'zoll technically only needs to ask the owner, but he's trying to be polite as well as avoiding a scandal.
Zinnia: Please, go ahead and make yourself comfortable.
Shorsh: Thank you, Miz Zinnia.
Shorsh takes the sign from his satchel and tapes it to the parlor door.
D'zoll unlatches the retainers -- clunk clunk
Shorsh returns to the sofa and assists D'zoll in removing the retainers.
D'zoll retracts his laterals, but decides to leave his handling tentacles in a natural position as an experiment.
D'zoll: Thank you so much. It's quite a relief to be unconfined for a while, other than in Gegg's barn.
Zinnia: It really is unfortunate, that the Geggs put you in the barn. They do have an extra bedroom with Mik gone, after all.
Zinnia ~~ disapproves ~~ of this rudeness.
D'zoll: Excuse us while Sosu helps me adjust a bit.
D'zoll rubs his non-slimy tentacles all over Shorsh's hairy arms before taking a proper grip and releasing it almost immediately.
Shorsh is ~~ amused ~~ by D'zoll's tentacular exhibitionism.
Zinnia watches with some ~~ curiosity ~~, as Bibi is much less of an exhibitionist.
Shorsh: It would be difficult for them to have such exotic strangers as us sleeping under the same roof, I believe.
Virla: In all fairness to the Geggs, Zinnia, they do have to pay some attention to public opinion.
Zinnia: Those who disapprove aren't going to modify their opinion just because the Sime in question isn't living in the house.
Virla: It's a small concession -- though I suppose it may not seem so small to the two of you!
Shorsh: We brought along a sort of portable living space, so we're pretty comfortable.
Shorsh eyes the tea cakes and his mouth waters. He decides it wouldn't be gauche to have another, and takes one.
D'zoll: I haven't actually seen the Gegg's guest room, but I bet the mobile unit is actually a bit larger.
Virla: Do help yourself to the cakes. They're simply going to waste, and surely Hajene D'zoll can't be expected to eat more than one more.
Virla looks at D'zoll expectantly.
D'zoll has finished his tea cake without really noticing, and takes another one.
Shorsh: They're the best thing I've eaten in Gumgeeville, Miz Virla.
Zinnia is ~~ flattered ~~, as she was the baker.
D'zoll: We've been subsisting on, er, emergency rations for the most part. Nutritious, but very boring.
Shorsh: And the produce of the Geggs' garden as well.
D'zoll: Yes, of course.
Shorsh: But really, we're not much as cooks.
Virla: [comfortingly] Well, one can't learn everything in one lifetime, can one.
Zinnia: Well, few men are. My Stin can hardly boil water without burning it.
D'zoll: "Burning it." That's a good one. But in Sime Territory, there are plenty of men who cook, you know.
Virla raises her eyebrow.
Shorsh: It's usually the Gens who do the cooking, both men and women.
Zinnia: I've heard that few Simes are interested in food?
D'zoll: For most of us, eating is just something we need to do to keep ourselves healthy, like washing. But there are a few Sime, umm, what's the word, Shorsh?
D'zoll: That's it. People who like to eat unusual foods for the enjoyment of it. In small quantities, of course!
Zinnia: Are you one of those gourmets, Hajene? I heard you'd even sampled Henree's stew.
Shorsh keeps a straight face.
D'zoll: No, but I was curious about it. I didn't eat the animal parts, of course.
D'zoll gestures expansively.
D'zoll: Of course I couldn't have done it without Sosu's help.
D'zoll twinkles. He's practicing his jocose lies.
Shorsh: Well, not in that case, but one of the reasons that being around Gens is good for Simes is that zlinning a Gen who has a good appetite and is enjoying food helps the Sime eat well, too, which is good for his health.
D'zoll: Quite so
Zinnia looks at Virla with an "I told you so" glance.
Zinnia: It's like you said, Virla. Simes and Gens are meant to help each other.
Virla: Just take a look at our guests and you can see that right away, can't you.
Virla: Won't you take the cakes with you, Sosu Shorsh?
Shorsh: Thank you, Miz Virla, I'd be delighted to.
Zinnia starts selecting a plateful of the best tea cakes.