Gyle ambrov Frihill has been lucky enough to nab one of the benches in the little conservatory outside Sat'htine's conference center during the lunch break. He's enjoying a little peace and quiet before returning to the seminar on the latest channeling techniques for maintaining optimum efficiency in the Tecton's primary task: selyn collection and redistribution. He sent his Companion over to eat with some friends, and then escaped, figuring dinner will be soon enough to get his mandatory nutrition for the day.
Hiram looks around the room with a satisfied smile. The conference on channeling efficiency is off to a good start, and for the moment there's nothing that he. as host, must hurry to do. He wriggles his dorsals to loosen them up a bit, and steps outside for a bit of fresh air.
Hiram zlins one of his fellow Heads of House and crosses the walkway to say hello.
Gyle: Frihill offers respect to Sat'htine. It's good to zlin you again, Hiram.
Gyle offers tentacle-tips.
Hiram: Respect to Frihill, my friend. It's been too long.
Gyle: Yes. I don't get out nearly often enough.
Hiram lightly brushes tentacle-tip to tentacles-tip and smiles.
Hiram: We should find more excuses to do this.
Gyle: If we did, someone might start asking awkward questions about how much of the time we spend gossiping.
Hiram looks offended, without letting the expression spread to his nager.
Hiram: It's not gossip, it's networking. Very important.
Hiram grins and puffs up his nager in his best stuffed-shirt imitation.
Hiram: We must confer on important and confidential matters, don't you know.
Gyle: Yes indeed. For instance, it's solely to pursue important and confidential House goals that I ask, what is this reputation you seem to be building as the House of the Wild Killer Gen Tamers? I would have thought that was a specialty that would be much less interesting, post-Unity?
Hiram assumes a modest nager.
Hiram: Sosu Delia was hardly wild. And she didn't really require taming.
Gyle: She did kill, however.
Hiram: The circumstances were scarcely likely to recur.
Gyle: And I heard that you imported a Simephobe with Companion potential from Gen Territory.
Hiram: Too late in life to make him a Companion, I fear. We helped him overcome his phobia, and sent him home. A shame, really. He would have made an extraordinary Companion. Perhaps his children will go where he can't, though. His oldest son is already training as a channel.
Gyle: Ah, after new blood, were you?
Hiram puts on an air of ~~ offended innocence ~~ .
Hiram: Are you suggesting we had ulterior motives for offering our help?
Gyle: Do you mean to tell me you didn't? If nothing else, it was a chance to turn young D'zoll loose and see what he could do.
Hiram: You know me too well, Hajene.
Gyle: And how well did he survive life among the Wild Gens, surrounded by guns and uncontrolled nagers?
Hiram: D'zoll is actually shaping up as a very impressive young channel. He did far better than I would have at his age. ~~ warm approval ~~
Hiram: In fact, he may have done better than I did this time. I don't do well, out-T. And I definitely didn't enjoy sharing accommodations with Petunia.
Gyle: Petunia? I've always rather liked them, particularly the red ones.
Daisetz, Sectuib ambrov Dar, approaches the conversation under a mental cloak that conceals his nager even from a Farris.
Hiram: This Petunia was a fine and devoted mother... of a bunch of squirming piglets.
Daisetz: Piglets. I can understand, in that case, Hiram. It's the Farris nose, eh?
Gyle tries to keep a straight face and disciplined nager, but they gradually crumble into ~~ laughter ~~.
Hiram: We were living in the patient's barn.
Hiram is able, at this remove, to laugh at the situation.
Hiram: A fine and powerful odor, it was. Truly a First-Order stench.
Daisetz: It's been too long since you did your share of pitching shit.
Daisetz's eyes flash.
Gyle: Why the barn? Couldn't they have found you a room somewhere?
Daisetz: Those out-Territory villages adhere to the minimalist tradition in house-building, I believe.
Hiram: Under the same roof with a powerful Simephobe? Uninsulated?
Daisetz: Or in the same room, who knows?
Hiram: The house was a bit bigger than that.
Gyle: Well, then, what was the problem?
Hiram: The patient was so terrified, in the beginning, he wouldn't have slept knowing I was in the house. And neither would I, having to zlin that.
Daisetz: Farrises. So brittle. You can knock them over with a tentacle tip.
Daisetz knocks Hiram over with a tentacle tip, then catches him before he can hit the ground.
Daisetz: As I was saying.
Hiram allows himself a private smile. With his reflexes, he would never actually have fallen.
Daisetz restores Hiram to verticality.
Hiram: Yes, yes, so brittle we are.
Gyle: And yet you keep jumping in where others fear to tread.
Daisetz: You know what that makes him, eh?
Hiram flicks his nager playfully at Daisetz.
Daisetz pretends to be staggered by Hiram's flick, then recovers quickly.
Gyle plays the straight man.
Daisetz: Oh, I shouldn't like to say. Not in front of a Farris.
Gyle: I'd say "whisper it in my ear", but he'd zlin your vocal cords.
Daisetz: He can probably zlin the brains in my head. Until I do this.
Daisetz resumes the mental cloak.
Hiram zlins thoughtfully. Maybe Kat could zlin through that, but he can't.
Hiram: Not bad, Daisetz.
Daisetz drops the cloak.
Daisetz: Thanks, Hiram.
Gyle: You'll have to give me lessons. Hiram wiped me out at poker the one time I was drunk enough to play him, and I've always wanted revenge.
Hiram's voice is dangerously soft and silky, while his nager is playfully ~~ skeptical ~~ .
Gyle: Indeed. I figure you owe me a good deal on training a few of my naztehrhai, at a minimum. After all, my head librarian was tied up for a whole week answering your questions.
Hiram: Hmm. I'll tell you what. I'll train a few of your people, if you'll help me keep an eye out for some good opportunities to stretch Hajene D'zoll's talents a bit more.
Gyle: Oho. You want to get him even more of a reputation as a Gen Tamer?
Hiram: He's the one who did the real work, in both of those cases we were discussing. He deserves a chance to stretch his leadership abilities, but I don't have a House to give him. It's almost a shame we're past the days of starting up a new House every time a talented young channel is ready to move up.
Daisetz: True. Of course, you know the way the Sectuib's position changes in Dar, don't you?
Hiram: It's not hereditary, I know that much.
Gyle: Armed combat?
Daisetz: Armed? Shen, no. The Sectuibship would change every other day. Unarmed formal challenge.
Daisetz: [musingly] Of course, sometimes it's more formal than other times.
Hiram raises an eyebrow. ~~ tell me more ~~
Daisetz: In my case, for example, I approached Sectuib at the appointed time and he tapped out on the spot. Of course, he'd been grooming me for the job for twenty years.
Gyle: I suppose he didn't want to injure his handiwork?
Daisetz draws himself up.
Daisetz: Between him and me there was no question of injury. At that stage. On the other hand, there was that foolish child who challenged me -- not for Sectuib, just for my judgment -- after she gave transfer out-Territory. I gave her an old-fashioned look and asked her "Have you eaten your rice?"
Hiram: She gave transfer out-Territory? She was a Companion, then?
Daisetz: Hardly. She was an idealist.
Gyle: I suppose it messes up the schedule, but surely there was a necessity defense?
Daisetz: Of course there was a necessity defense! That's why I told her to go wash her bowl.
Hiram: All Companions are idealists. Otherwise, they'd never put up with us.
Gyle: Everyone knows they don't do it because of our charming personalities.
Daisetz: Not even in Frihill?
Gyle: Well, I happen to think I'm always charming, but I can't even get my wife to agree with me.
Daisetz strokes Gyle's cheek.
Gyle: It's sad but true. Only last week, she called me... well, I won't go into that. Doesn't show quite the proper respect for the exalted office of Sectuib, you know.
Daisetz: What did she call him, Hiram? Can you zlin it?
Hiram makes a great show of zlinning Gyle, then recoils in mock shock.
Hiram: Oh, my. Out of respect to Frihill, my lips are sealed.
Gyle: Thank you.
Hiram gives a broad nageric ~~ wink ~~ .
Gyle: On the other hand, I hope you will unseal your lips long enough to tell me the truth of a rumor I've heard about another problem Gen?
Hiram makes a great show of keeping his lips closed.
Daisetz points to two spots on his jawline.
Daisetz: If you want to get his mouth open, Gyle, press here and here.
Gyle inspects the two pressure points on Hiram's jaws with ~~ interest ~~.
Gyle: I've heard that you're attempting to tame the Notorious Rogue Donor of the Last Audnes Rebellion.
Hiram: One hears the oddest things, doesn't one?
Gyle: Would there be any truth to the rumor?
Hiram: It's true that Sosu Nick Reckage is now Sosu Nick ambrov Sat'htine. It's not true that he requires taming.
Hiram makes a mental reservation in re the matter of taffy pulls.
Gyle: You've pledged him? I'd heard you had him for retraining, and examination of his loyalties.
Hiram: He taught us at least as much as we taught him. And his loyalty to Sat'htine is unquestioned, or I never would have taken his pledge. ~~ firm ~~
Gyle: Still -- he doesn't exactly have a reputation for making good choices and sticking with them, from what I've heard. On the other hand, I hear his nager is something special.
Daisetz: Are you suggesting that pledging Sat'htine isn't a good choice, Gyle?
Hiram raises an eyebrow at Frihill's Sectuib.
Gyle: I don't know the Gen, so I don't know how good a fit he is for you. I do know that his past history suggests a problem in the making. Look at what happened to Zeor, when they adopted a Houseless Gen as their ranking Companion.
Daisetz: Almost wiped out the Sectuib line, as I recall. That might have been quite an opportunity for Sat'htine, eh?
Hiram scowls, then decides to make a joke of it.
Hiram: I'm not quite that eager to give D'zoll a House of his own.
Daisetz: He wasn't old enough yet anyway.
Hiram: He wasn't even born. I can see the headlines now: "Fetal Sectuib Agitates for Better Amniotic Fluid."
Gyle: Well, he was probably allergic to the regular fluid.
Hiram: Wouldn't really have mattered. He was still just a sperm and an egg.
Hiram hopes he's diverted the talk sufficiently from Sosu Nick.
Gyle: Seriously, is your new Naztehr a find that you're going to be boasting about for years? Or a potentially expensive loose cannon?
Hiram: No one is born with perfect judgment. If a child is lucky, he's sheltered and nurtured, and given a chance to learn from small, harmless mistakes. If he isn't, he makes large mistakes, with major consequences, before he learns.
Daisetz: Good judgment is a matter of experience, and experience is a matter of bad judgment, in short.
Gyle: In that case you must have gotten a paragon: your Sosu Nick has made mistakes big enough to start a war, or close enough.
Hiram: He's an intelligent man, and he's surrounded by good people now.
Hiram scowls in ~~ frustration ~~ .
Hiram: My only fear concerning him, now, is that despite the way he's grown, people will refuse to let him leave his past behind.
Daisetz nods ~~ sympathetically ~~.
Hiram: Don't go by rumor. He's at this conference. Meet him. Get to know him. I think you'll understand why Sat'htine chooses to stand behind him.
Daisetz: Nothing like drinking water and knowing yourself that it is cold.
Gyle: I will meet your Gen, definitely. But Hiram, I think you should also remember one of Frihill's fundamental principles: You can't leave the past behind. It's always a part of you, for good or ill.
Hiram: True. But I'm not a politician, I'm a healer. I know what it is to see a gaping wound, and then to see that it has been healed. And yes, it leaves scars. But the body returns to health and function, and can go on to accomplish amazing things.
Gyle: Sometimes. And sometimes you end up with a patient who's permanently twisted.
Hiram: A healer has to take risks, my friends. One learns to judge which risks are worth it.
Daisetz: There's a Dar teaching story: "Once a fisherman let his net fall in the lake in which his boat was floating. He scrabbled around in the bottom of his boat for quite a while looking for it."
Daisetz looks at each Sectuib expectantly to see if they will play straight-man for him.
Hiram isn't in the mood to play.
Daisetz: Oh, very well, you bunch of grumps. The student is supposed to ask "Why in the bottom of the boat?"
Daisetz: "Because the fisherman could not swim."
Daisetz makes a ba-dump-bump gesture with his tentacles.
Hiram makes a ~~ puzzled ~~ gesture.
Gyle: Ah. I thought perhaps the boat sank when he left off bailing to hunt for the net...
Daisetz: It probably did.
Daisetz smiles at Gyle.
Hiram: So your point is...?
Hiram much prefers case studies to parables as teaching tools.
Daisetz: Hiram, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't dare try to explain it. It's got something to do with trying to solve the problem you know how to solve rather than the one that you've actually got.
Gyle: He's got a point, Hiram. You've collected quite an expertise in old style Gen taming. Are you sure you're not applying it indiscriminately?
Hiram: And here I thought you were accusing me of too much leniency, not too little.
Daisetz: Well, you see, I have this card.
Daisetz takes a small card out of an inner pocket of his Dar cloak.
Daisetz: On this side it says:
Daisetz holds up one side of the card, which reads:
There are no friends anywhere
Daisetz: And on this side it says:
Daisetz flips the card to expose the other side, which says:
There are no enemies anywhere
Daisetz: I'm always prepared to argue either side of an argument, depending.
Hiram: Hmm. Have you considered splitting that card between the layers of paper, to find some more balanced midpoint?
Daisetz: Well, let's see.
Daisetz splits the card into two faces, and exposes them jointly. He takes a brush and ink bottle out of another pocket and unstoppers the bottle, writing quickly in ornate Simelan calligraphy.
Daisetz holds up the resulting card-halves, which now read
There is no sectuib anywhere
Gyle: Is that the one you show to the children, so they'll feel free to misbehave?
Hiram: No, I think it's the one he invokes in order to make himself vanish in a puff of dust.
Daisetz: Now now now. I just invented that one. It takes centuries to work out what these things mean! You can't expect me to know right away.
Daisetz returns stoppered bottle, split card, and brush to their pockets.
Hiram: Gyle, do you remember that Ancient story you told me?
Gyle: Which one was that?
Gyle has a well-deserved reputation for boring his colleagues with such tidbits at length, given the slightest opportunity.
Hiram: The one about the philosopher noted for having declared, "The fact that I can think is proof of my existence"?
Gyle: Ah, yes. The eternal skeptic-of-everything.
Hiram: A colleague asked if he could borrow his pen. He said, "I think not," and promptly ceased to exist.
Daisetz: It's a silly proof anyway. At most he proved that there was some thinking going on somewhere. Like the dying patient who was asked whether she was in pain: she replied "I think there's a pain somewhere in the room, but I could not positively say that I have got it."
Hiram: She must have had a good channel with her.
Daisetz: Why, thank you.
Hiram: However, a better channel might have kept her alive. ~~ teasing ~~
Gyle: There speaks the Farris.
Hiram: And then she would have survived to endure many future pains. So was it better to help her live, or ease her death?
Daisetz: The first lesson and the last of all the healer's lore, you told me once, is this: Heal the wound and cure the illness, but let the dying spirit go.
Gyle: The trick has always been to zlin the difference.
Hiram: Precisely. For which there is no rulebook. And two different healers might make a different choice.
Gyle: And both could be correct, depending on the differing abilities of the healers.
Hiram: You might have made a different choice regarding Sosu Nick than I did. But then, that's why there are different Houses, is it not?
Gyle: True. And like you, I'm content to let the more extreme Gen-taming techniques become interesting historical oddities. I lost my taste for them long before Unity.
Hiram: I don't think I ever had a taste for them. They were the tools of desperate times, not of choice. Still, they should be remembered, in case desperate times return again. That's part of Frihill's job, isn't it?
Gyle: Yes. And they are preserved in our archives, and Kimber's too. That's a little different than maintaining them as active techniques, I admit.
Daisetz: Those who don't remember their history are doomed.