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Esaiyasar: Sirene - Chapter Two

Msg#: 50               Date: 05-05-96 
From: The Welcome Rain #18 
Subj: TWR proceeds down a nearby alleyway
in the company of his recent opponent. They accompany their speech with their gangas, from which others may infer that they are old friends. They discuss tactics, supplies, rumors.

The alley, TWR notices belatedly, is far too crowded. The esteemed Blue is there with a strangely bloodied salad-tree chopper-why put blood on an agricultural instrument, The Welcome Rain asks himself? There is also a female charlatan pressing her attentions upon a bloodied and unresisting corpse.

"A necrophiliac as well as a fake, I see," The Welcome Rain sneers as he passes by her to talk to the wearer of the Blue.

Another body? Yes, but no blood on this one. With a chuckle, Kwangpard identifies him as the delusional maniac who believes himself invisible, omnipotent, and frightening. "He lives on sufferance," the Dolorous Folly notes. "What strakh is there in duelling a man who has none?" This last remark is directed at Blue, whom they finally approach; accordingly, KDF switches to the crebarin, an instrument of respectful cordiality.

Blue stiffens. "Do you criticize my actions? In any case, I did nothing to him. He ran into that wall."

"Ah, yes," sings The Welcome Rain. "His famous 'dematerialization' technique. A wonder it hasn't killed him yet. Perhaps he does in fact possess the powers of which he boasts!"

Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly coughs. "All very well, but why is there blood on your salad-tree chopper?"

"This?" Blue hefts his battleaxe. "An offworld weapon, not very effective against an expert swordsman, but adequate for rubbish like Darden."

TWR and KDF stand stock-still in amazement.

"Do you know, I believe that would work," Kwangpard murmurs. "It has heft, an edge, balance. A weapon of surprise!"

"Let's put it to the test," replies TWR, and hefts the salad-tree chopper.

He swings it down judiciously near Darkwalker, detaching two fingers from his left hand. Not neatly.

"That was no test," Kwangpard rebukes him. "He is unconscious. The chief advantage of this weapon is its unconventionality. Your fellow duellist waits for you to draw your sword, stares as you swing the salad-tree chopper, and there is an end to it."

"As you wish," The Welcome Rain trills cheerily, and heads toward the false sorceress. But Kwangpard divines the essence of his thought, and grips his shoulder firmly.

The Welcome Rain turns only his head to face the Folly. "She is a faker and a menace. She offers hope where there is none and endangers all who come to her for treatment."

"That is why she is only approached by hopeless cases," KDF replies reasonably. "She therefore does no harm. Better to leave her here in Fan. We depart tomorrow; this is no time to develop an inconvenient civic pride."

The Welcome Rain sighs at length and relaxes; only then does Kwangpard release his grip. "You are correct," he acknowledges with a mock-sad chord progression on his ganga. "Nonetheless, I intend to test this new method." He hands the axe back to Blue, who hefts it gracefully (in distinct contrast to TWR, who handled it like the agricultural implement he thought it to be).

"I shall procure another," The Welcome Rain declares. "I have some time to kill before we depart." With that, he leaves the alleyway, sparing no glance for the sorceress he almost killed.

Msg#: 51               Date: 05-05-96 
From: Blue #21 
Subj: An explanation 
"...and so in two days time, we sail for Zundar." He who wears the mask of Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly sings in explanation to the Blue Mask.

"Those that I seek may be in Zundar as well." he replies. "My mind is heavy with the burden of the tragedy that has befallen my family. My mother murdered, my sister, a girl of fourteen, abducted. I know not if she is alive or dead, It could be that as we speak she suffers the torments of the cutthroat band that pillaged my home."

The Blue Mask changes from the Zachinko to the ganga. "I would journey with you, perhaps together we may resolve these matters. I have resourses you might find usefull."
Msg#: 52               Date: 05-05-96 
From: Dragon Sorceress #37 
Subj: Th Sorceress
And a rather adept herbologist,notices TWR's near attempt to test out his salad-tree cutter.'The man has yet to learn that it is honorable to save a life that could of ended if you hadn't been there,to gibve someone hope for the future or a reson to live.' Shrugging,she goes back to stitching and hums a melody that sends her patient to sleep.Once done,she hands over the person to their family,sighing softly,then heading into the allewyway to track the murderers....

Coming upon a smeared puddle of blood,she squats,pulling out a pouch and spilling it's white contents onto the blood.Muttering to heself,she thinks "Just what I thought...and more..." she shrugs and steps into the shadows,blending in and soon nigh-invisible.Creeping through the alleways she finds a coin with the face of a mask portrayed on one side and the name of the maskmaker on the other side.DS recalls having heard that name before...said by KDF...'intrigueing....'

DrAgOn Sorceress

Why Jonny can't Smurf
Msg#: 53               Date: 05-06-96 
From: Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly 
Subj: Across the Esplanade...
The dazzling pageantry of Sirene's night sky is folowed closely by the velvet thunder of the dawn; Mireille rises in bands of green and yellow, stirring the ocean mists into wraithlike streamers that stride among the houseboats like the legs of giant ghosts.

The Night-men have finished their depredations ashore; it is time for all true humans to reoccupy their city. The first houseboats begin their return; the dock murmurs and awakes; the clatter of quick feet and the shouts of robust slaves making fast the moorings stirs the morning mist of Fan.

A quiet and unpretentious raft makes fast; its owner, slaveless, climbs the mooring ropes himself, and draws forth bundle after heavy bundle from his modest home. He is followed by many others of his sort-mild and unassuming artisans who ply their simple trades in the Area of Small Purveyances along the Esplanade. Soon that broad concourse echoes with the rattle of tent poles, rustle of canvas, and the first notes of proclamations-fine wares are available!

___ Blue Wave/QWK v2.1
Msg#: 54               Date: 05-06-96 
From: Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly 
Subj: 80 lines say not enough- 
One old man, wearing a Stolid Craftsman mask and naught else but a breechcloth, takes his usual place on the street, sets up a miniature anvil and assembles a battered portable forge. Transactions are rare for this man; many days he bothers not to assemble his cumbersome equipment, instead foraging among the abundant food-giving jungle plants of Sirene for his daily needs, using tools that he himself has made. The long gripping-pruning shears for fruits and cereal pods, the fine-toothed pitching forks for harvesting grass-nuts, the broad cutters so admirably designed for cutting free the edible external bark from the Salad-tree... these implements he brings forth from various bundles with a sigh, displaying them before his ragged canopy. Little prestige indeed remains in his craft! The items are made well, so well that rare is the need to procure anew-and when replacements are necessary, many choose to augment the prestige of a more-respectable metalsmith, rather than risk losing even a small amount of strakh in a transaction with such a shabby purveyor... Ah, the shame he suffers when uncaring gentlefolk send their lowest slaves to request his merchandise!

Inspecting and polishing his wares critically, the old man sets the forge to warming, and settles himself cross-legged to sharpen and straighten the tines of a pitching fork, when a shadow falls over him. He looks up to a man dashingly dressed, wearing a mask recalling the exploits of the hero Kwangpard, who once posed as a harvester slave in order to befuddle and cuckold a Storm King wearer. The Stolid Craftsman stands bolt upright, fumbles for an instrument...

The wearer of the Kwangpard mask produces his zachinko (!), and sings crisply:

"Good craftsman, he who sings requires an instrument of quality, built to last the discordant seasons; permit him to make a selection from your work."

The stunned metalsmith takes hold of his careworn and oft-repaired double-kamanthil, bows deeply, and responds, "N-noble Sir! The humble and honest craftsman places his simple yet sturdy wares at the Noble Sir's disposal!"

The Kwangpard wearer inclines his mask slightly, then bends to take hold of a sharp, gleaming Salad-tree cutter with harvest scenes engraved on the blades and a firm grip of durpa-leather, an item that the old man was proud of, but which was invariably passed over by dullard slaves seeking spartan, functional implements.

"Good craftsman, he who sings considers this item to be not inconsonant with his appearance, and requests the good craftsman's opinion in the matter."

In a dreamlike tone, the man replies: "Noble Sir, the item was crafted with utmost care, consuming six weeks of my life, from gathering ore to tanning skins; each hammer stroke, each engraved line, was placed with attentive skill. Please be assured that it will reflect no ill upon your prestige."

"I shall accept your assurance, Craftsman. Be likewise assured that the item shall be used effectively, in the most valorous of circumstance, and that it shall be well cared for. He who sings wishes you a good morning and resumes his own business."

The old man stares after the one in the Kwangpard mask, bewildered and full of thought. The phrase "most valorous of circumstance" is usually applied to transactions involving weapons... He is startled by another presence.

"Effective Artisan," says the Welcome Rain, "allow me to examine your wares..."


The morning grows apace; Mirielle climbs higher in the sky, warming the streets and chasing the last of the mists into the wind-swept sky. The man in the Stolid Craftsman stands deep in thought. Four gentlemen of undisputed strakh had come that morning to select from the finest of his Salad-tree cutters. He had spent the intervals between customers polishing and resharpening the remaining cutters. It seemed that some sort of fashion was on the rise...

Casting a look about him, the old man grins broadly beneath his mask, and strides diagonally across the Esplanade to the gaily-pennanted stall of a fabric weaver. The purveyor at the stall pauses in working her loom to cock her mask critically at him, but he brings forth his wheezy, antiquated zachinko and sings with pride: "This morning have I satisfied the requirements of a Dolorous Folly, a Welcome Rain, a Forest Goblin, and a Prince Intrepid! I cannot but think that these clothes would suit me better, and that this brightly-colored and knot-edged canopy will rest well upon my tent-poles..."

___ Blue Wave/QWK v2.1
Msg#: 55               Date: 05-07-96 
From: Blue #21 
Subj: The Swordmaker's Shop 
The swordmaker looks up from his work as the Blue cloaked figure enteres the shop. He wonders at the unfamiliar mask, could this be some variation of the Exo Cambian cycle? The stranger stops just inside the doorway and plays the Krodatch. "Shopkeeper, what do you know of out-world commerce?"

The swordmaker is struck by the magnitude of the insult. To address one who manufactures weapons and wears the Fire Snake as a mere shopkeeper could be an error of manners, but not when accompanied by the Krodatch. Why does he mention out-worlders?

The swordmaker sounds his duel gong, "A stranger of unknown visage enters with no regard for the craftsmanship around him and speaks nonsense, he shall receive his answer on the dueling grounds." He picks up a fine rapier and advances.

The Blue Mask draws his own rapier and executes the first, third, and seventh arcs of the Vasa swordmen. Once again he plays the Krodatch, "We shall conduct our business here. I have no need of more weapons, only knowledge, for your mask is stained with out-world gold, and you know of the one calles Darden." The Blue Mask puts away his Krodatch and holds up a folded letter.

The swordmaker hesitates. How does this stranger come to have evidence of his dealings with the out-worlders? Of course the out-worlders offer gold, they know no other way. His Fire Snake mask will lose all prestige if word of this gets out. But the Blue Mask implies that it is to be discussed here only.

The swordmaker consideres the straight bladed rapier the Blue Mask holds; yet he handles it in the way of Vasa, offering the greeting of master to student.

He decides to acquiesce. He puts away his sword and plays the Slobo, "I shall relate to you the information you require."
Msg#: 56               Date: 05-07-96 
From: Dragon Sorceress #37 
Subj: Dragon Sorceress wanders 
[allright:clarification:not a sorceress,my charcter is more like an herbologist

with a touch of extreme mystic thrown in......]

[oh,and a little bit of alchemy,too....]

The lady paces around the smear of blood,eyes narrowed,then sighs wearily,accepting what she must do.She goes back to the square and sings,accompanied by an anonymous instrument that seems to signify an announcement with it's eager tones:"Is anyone interested in helping me find a recent batch of murderers which may or may not be linked with a greater force? i cannot promise gold in repayment,but adventure may come." She shrugs.

-=Dragon Sorceress=-


"It's hard to work in a group when you're omnipotent"-A vampyre on the 'Net
Msg#: 57               Date: 05-08-96 
From: The Welcome Rain #18 
Subj: Near the Titanic littoral 
The Welcome Rain and Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly stride jauntily along the shore of the Titanic, the tide sussurating in the sand beneath them.

"Only three hours left before we depart," The Welcome Rain sings with a complaining twang of his ganga, "and I have done nothing but bloody my salad-tree chopper. I shall barely have time to procure supplies."

"I am in a similar situation," the Dolorous Folly admits. "The novelty of this weapon has allowed me to settle several scores with men whose fighting talents had previously made retribution a chancy matter to consider."

"I had not thought of that aspect of the situation at all," TWR replies with mock solemnity. Both of them trill merrily on their gangas, the Sirenese intimate laugh between old friends.

"Then what was that business with the liquor vendor along the Esplanade?" the Folly chides his friend.

"Oh, that was nothing. I could probably have killed him at any time. He had been giving away unadulterated mead to those unworthy of it, and in consequence his strakhless customers had become even more obstreperous than before. He will not break the delicate code of strakh again!"

"Hard words," says Kwangpard judiciously. "And what of the deed?"

"Oh, the deed was easy enough."

A few seconds pass while they survey the horizon, watching the gaily-colored sails glide back and forth along the water.

The Welcome Rain breaks the silence. "One seller of agricultural implements has added a hilt to his salad-tree cutters. This variant is selling well."

Kwangpard thinks that over. "A useless addition," he decides. "The salad-tree cutter is not a graceful parrying weapon. Indeed, without surprise, it possesses no advantages at all against a rapier."

"Well, but these craftsmen are new to the making of weapons, and one may expect such foolishness from those inexpert in hoplology."

"Are the weaponmakers not turning out any salad-tree cutters, then?"

"Why should they?" The Welcome Rain snorts. "They do not wish to tarnish their reputations by making harvesting tools! In any case, most of them see its disadvantages just as you do, and have correctly concluded that it is a passing fad. Those who buy salad-tree cutters now are in for a nasty surprise when they try to spring a surprise on some alert swordsman."

"A pity," the Dolorous Folly sighs, "that the tactic's usefulness was so ephemeral. We are not leaving the city a minute too soon! The bloodletting shall shortly die down-infelicitous phrase, that-and I do not wish to answer for it."

"That is not the worst of it. Consider the craftsmen who have elevated their strakh in the last two days! How will that turn out, I wonder?"

"Matters will doubtless right themselves," Kwangpard replies. "That is the beauty of strakh - it requires no arbitrary legal entities to enforce it! What other world can say as much?"

"Still, I feel we have done nothing good," The Welcome Rain says.

"Consider, too, our expedition. Who ever heard of Sirenese uniting to do anything? And yet here we are, fielding an armada. By what right? We have acted irresponsibly, disturbed the natural order." His ganga falls silent as he stares out upon the waters once more.

The Dolorous Folly examines his old friend with concern. This, he thinks, is the other side of The Welcome Rain. Most people assume the name refers to his torrent of blows in a fight, the angry thunder of his challenge-music, and think the mask is presumptuous braggadocio. But there was more to it than that. The mask's storm-clouded brow reflected its wearer's tendency toward worrying and brown studies. Kwangpard has wondered in the past if The Welcome Rain understood the aptness of his mask. But now he needs something to shake his companion out of the doldrums.

"I suppose," he sings casually, "I shall have to buy a gun."

"For Fane Rampad?" The Welcome Rain comes to his senses with a start. His hands make a flicker of quick movement toward his sword; he strums his ganga roughly, as if badly shocked.

"No, no," the Folly assures his friend, having achieved his purpose. "For the Night-Men in his coterie only. Him we shall treat with every consideration he deserves. Including the investigation you demand."

"Oh, that." The Welcome Rain waves his ganga dismissively. "My opposition was for show only, as you know. I have little doubt of his guilt. But we cannot shoot him. He may run maskless among the Night-Men, but we owe him that."

"Perhaps we owe him that," Kwangpard echoes with reservation. "And to ourselves we owe better preparation. Are you provisioned for the trip?"

"I?" The Welcome Rain shrugs. "No more than you, I fear. Luckily the Titanic is calm this time of year, else we would need better boats for the open water! We should acquire water filters, skarnmasha repellent, preserved foods, fishnets..."

The two men return to the city of Fan, discussing plans.

Msg#: 58               Date: 05-09-96 
From: The Sea-dragon Conqueror 
Subj: At The Provisioner's 
The Earnest Enquirant mask carries weight here, thinks the Red-Bird as she watches him carry away choice items with no difficulty. Although she still lacks expertise with Sirenese instruments, she is gradually learning to interpret musical inflections as if they were tones of voice. Almost all of the merchants in Fan address the wearer of the Earnest Enquirant respectfully, calling his attention to their choicest wares and reacting with enthusiasm when he selects them.

He returns to his companions, strolling jauntily under the weight of a bag of preserved fruits. "A good day for us indeed," he carols merrily as he passes the bag to the Striped Durpa-Bane, who wordlessly loads it into their cart. (The Durpa-Bane is even slower to learn Sirenese music than I am, the Red-Bird thinks; though neither of us can yet dare to sing in public for fear of being exposed as off-worlders, he cannot even distinguish a challenge-cry from a meeting of lovers.)

"That finishes our, er, shopping," the Earnest Enquirant continues with an odd skittering chord-progression at the end of the statement (a humorous inflection?). "Back to our boat," he instructs the slave at the reins, who urges the durpa-team onward.

The three off-worlders relax around the kitchen table as the slaves load their recently-acquired houseboat. "I wouldn't have expected slaves here," says the Red-Bird once they are in private. "Sirenese society doesn't seem like the sort of hide-bound caste system that usually produces slaves. If anything, they're the ultimate meritocracy."

"A profound observation," the Enquirant begins to sing, then quickly puts down his strapan. "Pardon me. But the contradiction is one of semantics. 'Slave' is a very poor translation of the concept conveyed by the Sirenese 'karasko.' The slave may assume a mask, if he so wishes, although he is then bound by the code of strakh. If someone finds his actions presumptuous, he can be killed like any other Sirenese."

"Catch-22," the Red-Bird notes sardonically. "You are free to leave your slavery, but if you do, you get killed."

"Not necesarily." The Earnest Enquirant traces a complex pattern on the fine wood of the table. "Some heroes began as karasko, although this is rare, since the sort of person who chooses to become a karasko rarely rethinks the decision."

"DECIDES to become?" the Striped Durpa-Bane bursts out.

"Exactly," the Enquirant replies, apparently satisfied with the reaction.

"A karasko is one who exists outside of the Sirenese honor code, mostly. His strakh is considered so low that he is at no risk from a masked Sirenese. Who would dirty their weapon with a karasko's blood?"

"An odd sort of mercy," remarks the Red-Bird.

"But a necessary one. Even on Sirene, not every child born can become a hero, and not all of them want to try. Instead they accept service with a master and hope to prosper if his fortunes prove sound. I would guess that more than half of all the Sirenese are karasko, not counting the island-dwellers."

"I suppose you'll explain that," the Red-Bird drawls lazily as she peels the skin from a blood-orange.

"Ah, this is a good story. It starts about eight centuries ago. The first expedition from the Oikumene to explore Sirene after the Collapse knew that they'd find humans here from the Confederacy's previous expansion. However, their ships were of an early post-Reconstruction make, and they crashed onto some uninhabited islands in the Titanic.

"Naturally, these were civilized human beings, the flower of creation and the hand-picked representatives of the Oikumene. Unfortunately, the only survivors of the crash were the diplomats and the administrators. All of the practical fellows were dead. Within a month, they had been reduced to cannibalistic savagery.

"You've probably noticed that many of the karasko here have Earth names- Rex, Toby, et cetera. That's why. Believe me, anyone who can escapes the islands. They are accepted only as karasko in Sirenese society, and if one of those savages dares to disobey an order or assume a mask, they are threatened with a return to their home islands. If there are any real slaves on Sirene, they are the islanders."

"Lovely tale," the Red-Bird says. "But getting back to the voluntary karasko, why don't they try a mask on for size, so to speak, and then if things don't work out they can always go back to being karasko."

"If they survive the attempt," the Earnest Enquirant replies dryly. "But once a Sirenese assumes a mask, he can never revert to karasko status. After all, such a one would have ideas above his station! There's a saying here about that, something like the Spartan 'with your shield or on it' admonition."

The Durpa-Bane leans his head out the window to check the progress of the loading of the boat. "I think they are almost done," he says. "Are any of them seamen?"

"All of them are seamen," the Enquirant assures him. "We will need skilled hands to follow this expedition at a distance without being spotted. In fact, I think they probably will spot us, but as long as we do not interfere with them, they may assume we're heading to Zundar for our own reasons."

"We can't just join the convoy?" the Red-Bird asks.

"No, no!" The Enquirant mimes horror at the suggestion. "There are some sharp lads in that crew, and at least two off-worlders who might think to suspect our link to the Oikumene if we slipped up." If YOU slipped up, he does not need to say. "And I don't care to face any able seamen in a duel at sea. Especially not The Welcome Rain, whose refusal to take slaves and frequent trips across the Titanic make him a good sailor of necessity."

"The decision is yours to make," the Red-Bird sings with a passable attempt at an acquiescent tone.

"Good!" The Earnest Enquirant strums quickly on his zachinko, an obvious sign of approval. "We'll start you on instruments quite soon, I think. As for you," he addresses the Striped Durpa-Bane, "more practice is in order. Luckily, we will have little to do on this voyage."

The Durpa-Bane replied cheerlessly: "If you think it necessary."

"I do," the Enquirant said firmly, emphasizing his words with a knock on his zachinko. "Who knows? A sad accident might befall the both of us, leaving only you to find Fane Rampad!"

"A sad accident indeed, if only he survives," intoned the Red-Bird. The Durpa-Bane shot her a look, the efficacy of which was dispelled by the concealment of his features.

"I believe," the Enquirant said airily, "that the supplies are now aboard.

The slaves-excuse me, the karasko will shortly serve a cold collation prefatory to the evening meal. I must retire briefly to my quarters; I suggest you do the same, as it is supposed to be beneath us to observe our servants at work."

The three of them filed out of the kitchen to the cabins they had picked earlier in the day.


This is The Syntactical Disruptorize. You Have Been Warning.
Msg#: 59               Date: 05-10-96 
From: Little Egypt #40 
Subj: Many Years Later 
A very very old woman is sweeping the temple she has for so long a time called home. It's spring, and she is cleaning.

While going through an old trunk, she runs across a scroll, half eaten by silverfish (otherwise known as strakh-biters). Ancient Egypt unrolls the scroll. "Ah yes, I remember those times," she smiles...

(it's a good thing she can remember them, for the ink is all faded now, and the silverfish seem to have eaten off half the runes...)

Something about a Boys'Club, or was that a Tree House. Anyways, didn't it have a sign on it that said "No Dragons Allowed" ? What childish folly, she thinks to herself. If wrinkles weren't included, maturity would be welcome...

She gazes off into the blue, and resumes her sweeping.

[This post struck off a flame war, which was transferred to the Docks (Sirene's flame sub.) This, and the actions of one user who went back and deleted several posts, caused the break in the numerical sequence of the posts.
Msg#: 53               Date: 05-11-96 
From: Dragon Sorceress #37 
Subj: Allright,we'll see what we can do about shaping up DS 
Brief history:an offworlder,part-time alchemist and an herbologist. She befriended some Native Sirenese and is somewhat disturbed by their manner of death,that murder wasn't a big issue.The Sirenese who she had tended to were slight aquintances,but there had been killings before that,of close friends. She feels a need to avenge their deaths and potect her friends from further decimation of their ranks.
Msg#: 54               Date: 05-11-96 
From: Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly 
Subj: Some clarification... 
It appears that I was not sufficiently specific in my introductory post. I assumed that, as this is a BBS based on Jack Vance's story _The Moon Moth,_ and the initiators of the story have been posting in the style of that story, that other participants would get the idea.

Below, I present a few quotes from _The Moon Moth,_ for benefit of those who can't locate the story, or who may have overlooked some details. (I've noticed, for instance, that people keep referring to gold as if it has some value; it, and any other precious metal or coinage, is worthless on Sirene.)

"The population of the Titanic littoral is highly individualistic, possibly in response to a bountiful environment which puts no premium upon group activity. The language, reflecting this trait, expresses the individual's mood, his emotional attitude toward a given situation. Factual information is regarded as a secondary concomitant. More over, the language is sung, characteristically to the accompaniment of a small instrument. As a result, there is great difficulty in ascertaining fact from a native of Fan, or the forbidden city Zundar. One will be regaled with elegant arias and demonstrations of astonishing virtuosity upon one or another of the numerous musical instruments. The visitor to this fascinating world, unless he cares to be treated with the most consummate contempt, must therefore learn to express himself after the approved local fashion..."

"There is everywhere and at all times a plentitude, not to say, superfluity of food, and the climate is benign. With a fund of racial energy and a great deal of leisure time, the population occupies itself with intricacy. Intricacy in all things; intricate craftsmanship, such as the carved panels which adorn the houseboat; intricate symbolism, as exemplified in the masks worn by everyone; the intricate half-musical language which admirably expresses subtle moods and emotions, and above all the fantastic intricacy of interpersonal relationships. Prestige, face, mana, repute, glory: the Sirenese word is strakh. Every man has his characteristic strakh, which determines whether, when he needs a houseboat, he will be urged to avail himself of a floating palace, rich with gems, alabaster lanterns, peacock fačence and carved wood, or grudgingly permitted an abandoned shack on a raft. There is no medium of exchange on Sirene; the single and sole currency is strakh..."

"Masks are worn at all times, in accordance with the philosophy that a man should not be compelled to use a similitude foisted upon him by factors beyond his control; that he should be at liberty to choose that semblance most consonant with his strakh. In the civilized areas of Sirene - which is to say the Titanic littoral - a man literally never shows his face; it is his basic secret.

"Gambling, by this token, is unknown on Sirene; it would be catastrophic to Sirenese self-respect to gain advantage by means other than the exercise of strakh. The word 'luck' has no counterpart in the Sirenese language."

___ Blue Wave/QWK v2.1
Msg#: 55               Date: 05-30-96 
From: The Welcome Rain #18 
Subj: Shortly Before the Depart 
The Welcome Rain concludes his transaction with a fruiterer. This is the final stop on his last-minute provision run; if the storekeepers have noticed his most un-Sirenese hurry, they have wisely concealed their amusement. A few have wished the Rain and his companions well on their journey, which is naturally no secret. TWR had hoped as much, for the norotiety might attract a few more to his makeshift armada.

The fruiterer's slaves deposit four sacks of blood oranges, coelacoid grapes, and nut-grass on a large pile of similar packages, the merchandise the Rain has already acquired. This pile presents little temptation for Sirene's few surviving thieves, since there is nothing small or valuable in the lot. Besides, one could never be sure when its irascible owner would return with another sack...

The Welcome Rain stands lost in thought before the pile. He is greeted by a Sophist Abstraction, who immediately apprehends his plight: He keeps no slaves for love of solitude, but he does not care to carry his copious supplies to his boat. The two discuss the matter at length, but can agree on nothing save the tragedy of allowing so much good food to rot in the sun. With a final rueful flourish of his kamanthil, the Abstraction bids the Rain good day.

However, the matter presently resolves itself when a lowly Tarn-Bird wearer appears with two strong slaves in tow. The Welcome Rain advances upon them and slaps out an abrupt rhythm on his hymerkin: "Your services are required at once! Twenty sacks of fine viands suffer in the heat; you will carry them to my ship-and take care to damage none!"

The slaves examine one another, then the Tarn-Bird, who draws in a deep breath. The Rain slowly turns to face him, and he suddenly seems unable to grasp an instrument or sing a note.

The Rain strums flatly on his strapan, barely bothering to play a tune:

"Wait here. Your slaves will shortly be returned to your custody!"

The slaves correctly take the Tarn-Bird's silence as glum acquiescence, and shoulder the first of their sacks. For the next hour, at least, they may enjoy the sponsorship of a Sirenese of strakh.

Msg#: 56               Date: 05-31-96 
From: Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly 
Subj: That evening... 
It is twilight in the city of Fan; what on other worlds, at other times, would be a period of introspection and digestion, is on Sirene a directed chaos; an exvoluted whirl of common goals and diverse means, as the Sirenese prepare to abandon their city for another night.

Amid the exodus is a man in a checkered mask woven of reeds; he makes his way along the discordant pier to his own houseboat. He unstraps his hymerkin and rattles it stridently. A moment later, a ladder is thrown down; he ascends.

Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly casts his eyes over his bustling little houseboat. On the broad deck astern, sails are being sewn and ropes coiled by sturdy fellows in the black masks of kirasko; stacks of provisions rest near a hatchway and pulley. Nearby stands another, bare to the waist; he who lowered the ladder.

Kwangpard flickers the hymerkin. "The dawn of change is near; how go the preparations?"

"Long is the list of instructions you have given; much has been accomplished. The planking has been scraped below and polished above; provisions for several weeks have been gathered and stored; equippage has been repaired. The fumigant of Ser Aiko the sea-hostler has proven effective in reducing the gill-rot among our dray-fish. Sailcloth of festive and purposeful color has been procured, along with streamers of metalflit and jangle-discs."

"Does that complete the list?"

"In addition, the deck of the houseboat of the Welcome Rain has been piled with provisions. It is sure to come as a surprise, as the food is not visible from dockside. The piles have been arranged to form the ideogram for "Self-Reliance Thwarted by Actions of the Generous."

Kwangpard scratches at his hymerkin in dry amusement. "That is not strictly accurate, but it will amuse him nonetheless. That was your embellishment, Racsa? You shall have to be careful with your wit, else you will be assuming a mask of your own before long..."

Racsa clutches at his slavecloth in a frivolous pretense at horror. "I could not leave your service! So accustomed am I to wringing performance and comfort from this ridiculously-designed, steat-arsed craft that my skill at handling a normal houseboat has been permanently ruined..."

Kwangpard taps his hymerkin cheerily, then returns to strident seriousness. "I have completed a transaction with Ser Mika Hafu, wearer of the Ebon Journeyer, in the Alley of Chidents and Cozenments in the Street of Effulgent Purveyors; send Bonze and Haral with carts to fetch several crates from her. On no account are these to be dropped; they must be stored securely and guarded from all possiblity of damp-see to this last part yourself.

"I go below now to refresh myself. Once the crates are aboard, commence departure! We dock tomorrow at Destiny Written in Flame-Mist of Dawn, there to begin the expedition..."

__Blue Wave/QWK v2.1
Msg#: 57               Date: 06-08-96 
From: A Contradiction Of Terms 
Subj: A conspicious-looking old man 
RE: That evening...
Y: Kwangpard's Dolorous Folly #11

>"I go below now to refresh myself. Once the crates are aboard, commence
>departure! We dock tomorrow at Destiny Written in Flame-Mist of Dawn, there
>to begin the expedition..."

<later in the night>

<see title>..creeps towards the houseboat with more skill than one of his age would usually have.His mask has two sections,one painted green,of a vibrance that suggested spring and the other of a wron-out gray suggesting old age. The man is wearing clothing of deep hues and his shoes do not squeak as he travels.Upon reaching his destination,he looks up at the boat,a look in his eyes that suggests a plotting mind behind the seemingly frail frame.He heads towards another boat.A man comes out of the cabin at the man's soft whistle and is seen with a mask that has a veil at the bottom.The old man gestures,and th eother man,younger,goes to fetch another person to help.They lift the man up onto the boat and take him inside and below deck.The old man throws off his burdensome cloak,his body seeming taht of a man half his age as he walks up to the map table and takes note of certain notations ...

A Contradiction of Terms

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