Pinecone: But I do not understand, Marvin. How does the steam make this -- house -- go?
Marvin: Pinecone, I have absolutely no idea. It just does, somehow. One of the problems with being a Town Person is that you have to get used to the idea that there are always going to be a lot of things that you use but don't really understand. Anyhow, it's a train, not a house. Houses stay put. Trains move, except when people get on or off them.
Pindor relaxes, listening to Marvin and the new Sime. Pinecone is much more of a rube than most of the offspring of Wild Gens he's helped escort to Nivet.
Marvin: ~~ whimsical ~~ You could get off the train while it's moving. But you'd probably get hurt, so let's not try.
Pinecone: Of course not, Marvin.
Pindor pulls out a bag of peanuts and offers them to the Simes.
Pindor: You two want some?
Pinecone takes a few peanuts with his fingers and eats them.
Marvin: You rode trains to get to Virla's house, didn't you?
Pinecone: Yes, Marvin. But Nick and Katsura are not explainers, as you like to be.
Pindor cracks a peanut and eats the contents without the shell.
Marvin: I've had a lot of practice. But you are the most different person I've ever met, Pinecone. By the way, you are supposed to take the nut out of its shell.
Pinecone: ~~ embarrassed ~~ Oh. I didn't know. I am sorry, Pindor.
Pindor demonstrates cracking a peanut and offers another to Pinecone.
Marvin takes the opportunity to get several nuts for himself, which he eats in the conventional fashion.
Pinecone takes the peanut and attempts to crack it, but the peanut winds up pulverized.
Pinecone takes another peanut and tries again. He succeeds this time.
Pindor isn't surprised. Simes quickly learn how to moderate their strength.
Pinecone: Ah. That tastes much better. Not so dusty.
Pindor: You have more to learn than most, but you learn quickly. ~~ encouragement ~~
Pinecone: Yes, that is true. The Elders always said so.
Pindor: So, tell us about your experiences traveling with the other channel and her Donor.
Pindor has a ~~ prurient interest ~~ in Rogue Tales.
Pinecone: It was very hard for me to understand it all. After she gave me transfer for the first time, we hid for a while, but it was too dangerous. Nick had to go to town to get supplies, and that meant we were in danger from the Town People.
Marvin: I'll bet, without retainers.
Pinecone: The one man Jardyce came to stay with us for a while because he hurt his leg falling through the blind, but Hajene Katsura healed him and he went home. Then I said we must find a new place to go, and we rode the trains to Virla's house, and then it was time for me to ride the train with you.
Pinecone is ~~ aware ~~ that he's telling the story badly, but he's not used to telling stories about himself.
Pinecone: When Jardyce was with us, he said that he used to "camp out in the woods". This "camp" you are taking me to, it is in the forest?
Marvin: I don't know. Probably not.
Pindor wonders how he can get Pinecone to talk about rogue activities, when the young Sime doesn't know what non-rogue activities are.
Marvin: Anyhow, Katsura wanted you to go to her Householding first. Then they can decide which camp you will go to.
Marvin knows this isn't the whole truth, but figures Pinecone will be properly briefed by the Sat'htine People.
Marvin ~~ chuckles inwardly ~~ at the thought.
Pindor: You're very fortunate that Sat'htine is taking an interest in you. It's a very prestigious House.
Pindor thinks that if Pinecone is going to live in a Householding, he'd probably be happier in one that's in the middle of nowhere, like Mountain Bells.
Pinecone: I do not know that word, Pindor.
Pindor: It means an important place, one that people respect, that has a good reputation.
Pindor is used to helping new Simes with Simelan, not Genlan.
Pinecone: Ah. That is good, then. Their Elders must be wise and their Hunters -- or I should say Healers -- successful, then.
Pindor: Quite wealthy, too. It's been there for a long time. Hundreds of years. ~~ faint envy ~~
Pinecone nods, though he is ~~ confused ~~.
Pindor can see the confusion, even if he can't zlin it.
Pindor: What is it that you don't understand, Pinecone?
Pinecone: Hundreds of years? How is this known? And why is the land not worn out?
Pindor: They keep track of things like that. They record everything. The land is still good because they've taken good care of it.
Pindor has seen the ruin Genfarmers made of the fertile plains of central Nivet in the years shortly before Unity. He was raised at a small poor Householding, with not much in the way of arable land or other resources.
Pinecone: I saw much damaged land in Gumgeeville. Have they not taken care of it so well?
Pindor: I don't know. Maybe it wasn't good to start with, or maybe it was ruined by the Wasters in Ancient times.
Pinecone: The animals and birds that should have been there, were not. And of course the trees were gone too.
Pindor suddenly realizes that Pinecone can't distinguish between good farmland and desert. Of course, it is the dead of winter, and it would all look pretty much the same under a meter of snow.
Pindor: Ah. No, the people in that village have cleared away the trees to grow crops and graze animals. Perhaps they are good farmers and have kept the land fertile, or perhaps they aren't.
Pinecone: But the animals were gone too. Except the very few I could smell in the animal houses.
Pindor: Well, there would probably be plenty of deer -- they like the edges of cleared land.
Pinecone: That is so.
Pindor: And some animals would be sleeping the winter away, and most birds would have flown south.
Pinecone: That is also true. But not all.
Pindor: And of course, you stayed in the village. Wild animals avoid villages. If you'd gone into the forest on the mountain sides, you'd probably have seen plenty of tracks.
Pindor hopes Pinecone won't offend the ambrov Sat'htine -- the Householding is in an intensively farmed, densely populated area of rich land.
Pinecone: I see. How sad for the Town People, that there are no animals near their homes, that they must go far away to see them.
Ozmand jogs briskly towards the back of the train, carrying a wooden case protectively. He's glad to find the next-to-last car empty, except for an elderly gentleman dozing in one seat, and snoring loud enough to wake the dead. He wishes the man sweet dreams as he scoots through the car.
Marvin zlins a Gen walking rapidly toward the baggage car, but doesn't think much of it: the Sime Territory sign will surely stop him.
Ozmand is about to duck into the washroom when he spots the warning sign on the baggage car.
Ozmand: Danny boy, your lucky stars are with you tonight!
Ozmand brushes a bit of dirt off his cuffs, settles his case more firmly against his side, and opens the door with a ~~ flourish ~~
Ozmand: Good afternoon, good people!
Pindor moves next to Marvin, with Pinecone behind him. ~~ protective ~~
Marvin is used to thinking fast on his feet.
Marvin: Good afternoon, sir. You know there are two Simes here? ~~ surprised but in control ~~
Marvin: I am a channel, and the boy here has never killed, so you are in no danger from us.
Ozmand: And glad I am to hear it, too.
Ozmand can't say the same about certain other passengers on the train, alas.
Ozmand: Allow me to introduce myself. I am Professor Ozmand, inventor of Ozmand's Invigorating Elixir, a tonic with astonishing properties that no household should do without.
Ozmand bows flamboyantly.
Pinecone is ~~ bewildered ~~ but trusts Marvin and Pindor to take care of things, as he trusted Nick and Kat.
Marvin: ~~ skeptically ~~ I see. And what does it invigorate?
Ozmand is keeping a prudent distance from the Simes, just in case, but is not particularly alarmed.
Ozmand: Why, the mind, the body, and the spirit.
Pindor is letting Marvin handle it.
Ozmand: Alas, in some instances it has invigorated the body politic, as well.
Ozmand casts a nervous glance towards the door.
Marvin laughs wholeheartedly.
Marvin: I see. Some of your customers set the cops on you, is that it?
Ozmand: I almost wish they had. That might have delayed them a bit longer. As it is, I noticed three rather stout gentlemen in the dining car, and decided that it would improve my health to take a stroll.
Ozmand looks at Pindor.
Ozmand: Sir, you appear to be suffering from a small cough. Might I offer you a free sample of my Invigorating Elixir?
Ozmand makes as if to open the lid of his case.
Pinecone: That is not a cough, sir. It means that he does not believe you.
Pinecone is ~~ glad ~~ to find something he can be helpful about.
Pindor smiles and nods. ~~ amused ~~
Ozmand looks ~~ wounded ~~.
Ozmand: And how could he disbelieve such an innocent face as mine?
Pindor: Simes can zlin these things, you know.
Ozmand: Yes, but sir, if you will forgive me, with those unseasonably short sleeves you are wearing, it's apparent that you are no Sime.
Pinecone: He is not a Sime, but I am.
Pindor: Ah, but I'm a Giant Killer Gen. We can tell what the Simes are thinking, right, Marvin?
Marvin: Absolutely, sir. You have my word on it -- as a Sime.
Marvin: Well, I don't zlin anyone pursuing you at present, but luckily it's a Sime instinct to protect the nearest Gen, isn't it, Pindor?
Pindor: Of course.
Ozmand gives another theatrical bow.
Ozmand: Thank you kindly, all of you.
Ozmand makes himself at home on a convenient crate, carefully setting his box down where he can steady it between his feet.
Ozmand: Have you gentlemen been on the road for long?
Marvin: Most of my life, it seems.
Ozmand is ~~ sympathetic ~~.
Pinecone says nothing.
Ozmand: I know the feeling. The only thing that keeps me on the road is knowing that staying put is worse. I mean, once you've seen the back end of one horse, and its byproducts, there's not much new to discover, if you get what I mean.
Marvin: I don't have that much choice. "Retired channel" is not a long-term job prospect.
Ozmand is ~~ interested ~~.
Marvin: Let's say it wouldn't be good for my health.
Marvin lets Ozmand take that however he likes.
Ozmand: A jealous guild, are they?
Ozmand naturally assumes that the Tecton has a retirement policy similar to that of various underworld organizations.
Marvin raises an eyebrow.
Marvin: You might say that.
Ozmand: Ah, well, it's not a perfect world, and we all must make our way as best we can.
Pindor fishes out his bag of peanuts and offers them around.
Ozmand: Why, thank you.
Ozmand accepts a few with the ~~ appetite ~~ of a Gen whose meals have not come regularly.
Pinecone deftly cracks and eats his peanuts like an old hand.
Ozmand: And if you'd like to wash it down, I have a bottle in here that might interest you.
Ozmand produces a half-full jug of mid-quality brandy and offers it to Pindor.
Pindor waves it away. He's not fond of hard liquor.
Pinecone wrinkles his nose at the overwhelming smell of spoiled fruits.
Ozmand: You, sir?
Ozmand offers it to Marvin.
Ozmand: I assure you, it's only brandy. It's the other bottles that have the... er, other ingredients.
Marvin: Well, perhaps a small one.
Marvin drinks from the jug, aware that Gen germs can't infect him -- if any can survive near the stuff.
Marvin: Whoo. Strong. Thank you.
Marvin returns the jug to Ozmand.
Ozmand: You're welcome.
Ozmand takes a nip of his own, to be companionable, then returns the bottle to his case, from which it will be carefully rationed out, diluted, and mixed with a few herbs to make "Invigorating Elixir".
Marvin: Tell me, Ozmand. You strike me as the kind of person who enjoys watching a bit of harmless manipulation of the cards. Would that be the case?
Marvin deliberately imitates Ozmand's florid speaking style.
Ozmand: Why, now that you mention it, I do have a certain interest in watching a skilled artist at work.
Ozmand is always ~~ eager ~~ to pick up a few pointers.
Marvin opens his bright orange bag and takes out the silk-wrapped deck of cards in order to demonstrate.
Pinecone is ~~ puzzled ~~ once more, but figures Marvin will explain later. He is an explainer, after all.
Ozmand leans forward to view the presentation.
Marvin holds out the deck to Ozmand.
Marvin: Take one card from the deck, if you please, and memorize what's on it and put it back in the deck....
Pindor settles back to watch Marvin out-flimflam the flimflam man. ~~ amused ~~