The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 36: Les Cartes Blanche
Mannie, Eïr, and Teller head out to our meeting with the Captain of the
Gate, after stowing the rope. Eïr keeps a watch out for snakes on the way.
There is a carving of a snake on a post outside a shop. Eïr notices that
the eyes on it are following them. The Vibes she feels from the snake
extend to the clothing shop behind it. As they pass the building, the eyes
seem to stop watching them.
Soon, as they continue on, they encounter a large bolt of sky-blue cloth, being carried by Finwë. We chat. Finwë asks Khazad is it's about time. Well, if we hurry, we can get to our appointment before Khazad has to go to prayers. Since everyone else's attention is forward, Eïr sneaks a quick look behind her. Yes, the snake is watching them again.
Teller can see Eïr watching, and so he starts looking around, using Third Sight. (As the prayer session wears on, Eïr is sure that something strange is still going on, only more so.) Meanwhile, Mannie calls Bavör over, and informs the other dwarf that Eïr is acting strangely. Mannie asks Bay to trigger Mannie's psi battery for him, so he'll feel better, and can keep an eye on Eïr. That works, and Mannie realizes he had actually lost track of the little hooded person. With a firm exercise of assorted skills, Mannie realizes where she has to be. At the same time, she watches Khazad getting more… more watched by serpents.
We arrive at our destination, and are permitted entry. The steward gestures us over, and Kahjad says, "You appointment is still scheduled. I shall lead you to the Captain of the Guard." We follow him down the corridor, which is the middle of the city wall. The captain brings up the telepathy net. Eïr tell him, "They're watching us, you know." "I assume they're always watching. That is why we must always be on our best behavior." Mandorak tells him where Eïr is - "there, in front of us." Teller says, "the columns are watching us now."
We reach our destination. We now see the smallest person - outside our party - we've seen since leaving home. It is wearing elegant black robes with a hood. The garments are embroidered with serpents. Of course. We pass through a beaded curtain so thick it is opaque. Sitting on a short throne is the Captain of the Guard. To one side of him stands an officer of the guard, dressing in black enameled and silver scale armor. On the other side is a row of decorative women. We are gestured in and down onto the rich cushions.
He conveys that he understands that we have business. Captain Finwë takes the lead. He is about to present the Captain with another gift, but Khazad looks shocked. "He has brought up business." Ah. No more presents. Finwë demonstrates being flustered. He then explains that one of his two lovely daughters was, after we embarked on our voyage of exploration, shipwrecked. He works hard at being upset, but sincere. He explains his hopes of finding her in the welcoming arms of Darkholme. The Captain responds by suggesting that we had deliberately insinuated this member of our party into his society before our ever-so-suspicious arrival.
Finwë jumps on this. He points out at great, convoluted, and distressed length that Sara is but a thirteen year old girl-child, who doesn't even understand the language. He then turns to Sam, and explains the situation. Regrettably, Sam fails to look shocked. She does look hopeful, though. Khazad tries to translate it all. The Captain continues his suspicious appraisal. Eventually, he decided that even we would not use a child as our first spy.
Finwë explains that we would like to know if any younglings have been discovered or found washed ashore. If it is not within the Captain's purview, he hopes that the Captain can direct him to someone who would know.
As Khazad explains, such persons or goods found washed ashore would be the business of the Prefecture of the Harbor or of the Prefecture of the City, so these prefects might know, but he wouldn't. Finwë asks which one we should meet with first, or if we should meet with the Steward. Khazad intercepts and suggests the Steward is best. Finwë suggests that Khazad ask the Captain for his opinion. The Captain explains that she would remain outside if her value (?) were low, but would be brought inside the Gates if her worth (?) were high.
We know she's inside, so Finwë can be firm in his belief that her value is so great that of course she would be taken inside. He thanks the Captain for spending his valuable time, and says that we won't take up any more of it. The Captain admits that it would seem that Sara could not, at least, have been taken for a spy. We take our leave.
So, we need to take to the Steward of the City, who is inside the city, and we don't have a pass. We need to talk to the Steward of the Gate. In fact, we are headed in this direction. Obligingly, Khazad leads us to the Steward. Finwë explains the situation through Khazad, and smiles winningly. The Steward write something on a piece of paper, marks it with his ring, creases it, and hands it to the elf. We thank him, and start to leave.
Behind us, we hear, "Khazad!" Our translator turns back to converse with the Steward. We wait for him outside. "Is everything… all right?" asks Finwë. "Oh, yes. I am to continue to assist you." We hope he enjoys keeping an eye on this bizarre group of putative spies. Khazad points out that he has learned that our ways are very different from those of his people. Finwë admits that, because of his distress, we may have seemed even more oddly behaved than in a more normal situation.
He then asks how quickly we can see the Steward of the City. Our paper is good for three days, and we resolve to have our meeting as soon as possible. We head up the stairs to the City Gate. Khazad speaks to the guards. They pull back their halberds and we enter. Khazad softly informs the captain that we have not yet begun to do business with the Steward of the City. Finwë decides on another silver stickpin as the appropriate gift. We present ourselves, and soon receive the assurance, "The Steward will see you now." Khazad warns us of the functionary who kept us waiting: "He is being particularly officious today. This is unusual."
The Steward is at his desk, and gestures towards us. We surge forward. He looks nonplussed, and Finwë holds us back, stepping forward alone. The Steward addresses Khazad. The translator turns to us. "It's the Steward who's having a bad day. He wants to know what your business is." Business has not yet begun, so Finwë presents the paper box with the stickpin. It is accepted, and examined, and the Steward looks marginally less sour.
With our advice to keep it short, sweet, and direct ringing in his brain, Finwë gives the spiel about his daughter, and assures Khazad that he may use the "value" word. Khazad translates. The Steward asks why we think she might be here. Finwë explains that we are fay, and have used our arcane methods to learn that she is within the City of One Hundred and One Temples. Khazad translates at length again.
The Steward looks resigned and put-upon. He writes us some paper, seals it with his ring, and hands it to Khazad with a few words. Khazad folds and creases it before passing it to the "chazadi h'lanthili." Khazad asks us if we will need more help in the City. Oh, yes. He suggests that we should go to the Captain of the City, and get any additional permissions from him. Finwë agrees, and formally asks Khazad to ask for that. We get the paper. We leave, back down the corridor lined with snakily carved columns. (They don't bother Eïr as much now.)
Khazad informs our captain that the Steward's last note, to the Captain is a bit… snippy. (He had to decide which elvish word for snippy was the most appropriate one.) We go back through the bead curtain, turn down a new corridor, and pass down a short entrance way. Khazad leads us with a grand gesture of command. Finally, we see a desk-level desk, with an official sitting in a chair. There are no anxillary personnel. He smiles at us. Finwë smiles his most winning smiles. "Present?" asks Khazad softly, without moving his lips. "Of course," the elf responds similarly. He hands over a paper box. The official opens it with a quick flick of his boot knife.
Khazad speaks, mentioning the term "chazadi h'lanthili" again. Apparently it means "Lord of Lanthil." Finwë again speaks of our official business, and that, while we await the pleasure of the Serpent Prince, we are searching for his young daughter, lost at sea, etc. The Captain assures us of his willingness to make our way easy, and asks for our pass. We hand it over. He smiles, sets it aside, and writes us another, apparently nicer one.
The Captain begins, "A shipwrecked girl-child, perhaps brought by traders…" He stops and asks Khazad a question. Khazad explains that the question is about slavery. "You people do not have any such institution, do you?" Finwë says that we don't, but that his is not unfamiliar with the practice, and had considered that such a fate might have befallen his daughter. He would not blame anyone for simply following the customs of his own land. Khazad relays this information. The Captain says (in translation), "This indeed may have happened. In your searches, when you encounter the Master of the Servant of Serpents, you may need further assistance." He hands us a second paper, marked with a "II." We understand that we should not show this paper unless it is absolutely necessary.
"You have made this father's heart very happy," says Finwë, assuming that we are about to leave.
"Do you have lodging within the City?"
"Oh, no. We are staying on our ship in the harbor, as is the custom for people new to Darkholme."
The Captain of the City says, "Khazad tells me that you are the captain of your ship. It may be your custom to not leave your ship while in the harbor, but perhaps, as one awaiting the pleasure of the Prince, perhaps a residence within the city would be more convenient."
"It is not strictly our custom to say on our ship. As you may know, it is good to be free of the sea for some time. It would be an honor to stay in the City of One Hundred and One Temples."
A paper marked with a "III" is generated. "Khazad tells me that you have two more days to await the the Serpent Prince. I have written paper so you may reside in the quarter of Merchants and Mariners persons for three days, and it can be extended to the full ten days."
Our captain produces an extensive thank you and takes our leave, with another winning smile.
In the next room out, there are four functionaries awaiting us. We get part way out, when Khazad turns left, and we all follow him. The functionary eventually notices that we are not following him.
We have entered the City. There is a nice view here. "I hope, chazadi, that you understand that I took a small risk in there, in that he too might have been in a bad temper." Finwë assures Khazad of his appreciation, and discretion. He then asks about the similarity of his new title to Khazad's own name. The translator explains that, as a member of the nobility who is still learning the ropes, he is called Lord, rather than by his own title. We ask, and he explains that he can be identified as Khazad, Translator of the Gate.
He thanks us for taking him into our confidence. He then gives us more advice. The Captain has an Aunt Vigilashi who rents lodgings in the Mariner and Merchant Quarter. This would be a small, acceptable way to repay the Captain.
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.