Tuesday, June 28, 2011

513 - Not Much Roe in Me

The river was a great deal warmer than the one I’d been flung into in Yeola-e, but the shock was much harder.  It felt like my whole behind and back stung and then there were the bubbles.  I spread my arms out and paddled for the surface and the boat that was standing by.  Shen.  Shen.  Shen. Shen.  It was all bubbles and foam and the fikken harness that I couldn’t strip out of.  A twitch, a jerk.  Someone had caught one of the cables still attached to me and they hauled me out of the Arkan river like some outsized and flopping fish.

I coughed for a moment then managed, “I don’t have much roe in me.  You’ll have to throw me back.”  The solas who had just pulled me out mostly laughed, there hadn’t been good roe-fish in the Arkan for five hundred years.  I knew the men from the elite, from training on the roof.  Of course they would be on the boat if there was any danger of me going in.  There weren’t enough Mahid to have them there.  I hadn’t thought to arrange any of this security, so Joras must have.

I glanced up just in time to see him and his hurler launch.  As I was rowed back to the bank and to the waiting horse to ride back up to the Rim, I watched as they spiraled up.  One of the solas offered me a bath towel to begin drying off.

“Not to be worried about the Exalted’s performance,” he said with just this amiable look on his face.  Not laughing at me, just being with me.  “He’ll land in the water a time or two.  Just watch.”

And even the diligent and perfect Joras missed his first two attempts and then did end up falling.  “Did I grab at the cable like that?”  I asked my new solas friend.

“With just the one hand, Exalted.  Not waving at it like that.”

“Oh.  And it’s just Minis, please.  I get uncomfortable with titles now, and you and I have trained together on the roof.”  His name was Linfias if I recalled.  Linfias Nefas.  “Linfias, is it?”

Now he did smile as he stepped out of the boat to escort me up to try again.  “Yes… M… inis.”

I was so glad to find that Ky wasn’t on the Rim when I got up to the launch site again.  Maybe she didn’t see me go into the river at all.  I could hope.  Strapping into the wing again, with wet leathers wasn’t very comfortable but until I got this, I wasn’t going to stop and change my clothes every time I went in.  I took a deep breath.  “Would anyone like to bet I go in with a belly hurtle this time?”

There was a heartbeat of silence before someone snorted.  “I’ll take you up on that,” a solas whose name I didn’t know said.  The chuckle that ran around the group was, thank the Ten, unforced.  A pack leader can be silly without losing his status, Tanifas said.  As long as he chooses to be silly actively.  You are not helpless in the face of someone else’s laughter.


I think I ingested half of the river that afternoon.  By the time we rode around to the Marble Palace laefetas, I was sodden inside and out, my lungs felt like they were hollow somehow.  I wondered if I had damaged myself somehow and resolved to go to get checked out if it wasn’t better in the morning.

“Thank you for your careful escort,” I said to my guard and handed Linfias and Rohad their copper chains.  I’d lost a couple of silly bets.  “I’ll know better than to bet anything with you all in the future.  I’ll see you all tomorrow morning in training.”

I went into the lift building and sank down onto the padded bench.  My whole back was tender.  Not sore exactly.  Not bruised, just… sensitive.  My front wasn’t as bad since I’d only landed on it twice.  But I did know how to relay now.  Ky got it before I did.  And she doesn’t have hands and arms as strong as I do.  It’s a timing thing.  But she didn’t see anything but maybe the first time I’d gone in.

The lift clicked to a stop at the bottom and I levered my way back up to my feet.  I felt as if I were an old man, wheezing and gurgling.

As the door was opened by the guard outside a howling parade went shrieking by.  Ilesias must have gotten a long head start on those chasing him, since they were gaining so quickly. “… GIVE US THAT DISC BACK!  WE ARE ALLOWED!  EVEN IF THAT ONE IS THE CORONET REGAL, WE ARE ALLOWED!”

His face was both gleeful and a little nervous. “I got it, Ailadas’s gone home and I got it!  You can’t play faib  if you can’t catch me—eep!” He flung a look over his shoulder and scrambled away even harder on his skates.

I blinked and looked at the guard who looked at me blandly as three girls on white Mahid faib skates, one with a bloody shirt and face, went tearing past chasing Ili who had a faib disc clutched in his hands.

“Did I just see and hear what I think I saw and heard?”  I asked him.

“This one most assuredly saw and heard absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect.”

I nodded and turned to go off to my rooms.  “Oh, good.  I was certain I’d seen exactly the same, thank you.”

“You are most welcome, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect.”


  1. bwahahahhaha

    “Did I just see and hear what I think I saw and heard?” I asked him.

    “This one most assuredly saw and heard absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, Spark of the Sun’s Ray Elect.”

    I nodded and turned to go off to my rooms. “Oh, good. I was certain I’d seen exactly the same, thank you.”

    that knocked me of my chair in laughter hehe

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Re: "A pack leader can be silly without losing his status, Tanifas said. As long as he chooses to be silly actively. You are not helpless in the face of someone else’s laughter."

    I hope Minis isn't making the grave error of mistaking dominance for leadership, or his degree of self-esteem for his amount of power.

  4. ^Let's see... When has Minis ever asserted dominance? If you mean dominance in the sense of acting as if you are not only in control, but appropriately more powerful than someone else? It has always seemed more like respect to me, and acknowledgement of the deference he is assumed to deserve by those he interacts with. And by the second statement do you mean that Minis should not mistake his real power for his more subjective, malleable self-esteem? Or that his self-esteem is no substitute for appropriately wielding his power?

    Or are you implying that Minis is playing at being a pack leader without the... maturity?

  5. Well, in part I made the comment in the hope of triggering an interesting discussion, so thanks, GV, for taking me up on it ;-)

    My main argument, really, is with equating human social behaviour with canine social behaviour. Tanifas’s teaching, that Minis is echoing, is based on exactly that. We know that Tanifas’s greatest expertise is with dogs, and he uses the terms “pack leader,” and “status” in reference to the pack leader’s position in the pack. Among dogs, co-operative action is enabled through a natural tendency to emotional bonding that makes the dogs stick together, combined with dominance, which causes the other dogs in the pack to follow one.

    Human social behaviour, however, is much more variable, since due to our sentience and linguistic ability, we have much more choice in the matter, which is why you see different social structures ranging from brutal dictatorships to democracies to utterly egalitarian tribes. My feeling is that the decision-making process with which people are happiest, and therefore is closest to whatever is “natural,” is discussion, persuasion and consensus. If you have, say, five friends deciding which restaurant to go to for dinner, you’re unlikely to see one just head in the direction of their favourite place and the others wordlessly follow. What is likeliest is something dogs simply cannot perform: a discussion in which some of the group emphasize the good points of their favourite restaurant in an attempt to convince the others, possibly make deals to get their way (“Next time we’ll go to your fave”) while others are undecided and so will go along with the decision. There is an unspoken imperative to respect everyone’s opinion. If one person inflexibly insists on having their way, or dismisses the points of others, they will be considered rude and are less likely to have companionship on the next outing. Even if one has superior status in another context—e.g. a boss with four employees—he will be admired and appreciated by the others for acting in an egalitarian way in this non-work situation, if he does.

    Thus for humans, co-operative action—which is every bit as crucial for human survival as it is for canines—can be enabled in more than one way. Discussion and consensus ceases to be feasible in larger groups, such as nations, so that other structures to mimic it must be put in place, such as democracy, in which the imperative of all opinions being respected is translated into the structure of “one person, one vote.” Dominance is another way of enabling co-operative action, and you will see it artificially created in organizations in which speed of action is crucial and therefore time for discussion is limited, such as armies. But even there, unhindered dominance is not the most effective way. A general who does not consult with his subcommanders re plans is going to be defeated by one who does; and imagine how effective a pre-battle speech is going to be that goes like this: “You should all follow me because I’m better than you! We’re going to win because I’m so great! You inferiors must do exactly what I say because I’m so smart!” The effective general knows that the pronoun to use is “we,” and the feeling to promote in his soldiers that will best lead to victory is belief in themselves, loyalty to each other and the army as a whole, and devotion to the goal of the battle, whether it be “protecting our loved ones” or “winning our freedom” or “for the glory of the Empire” or “in the name of our God” or whatever. This option is not available to dogs.

    To be continued, as I haven't answered all your questions but time constraints make it impossible, probably until Monday if then.

  6. I should direct people to Cesar Milan who 'Rehabilitates Dogs. He trains people.' The idea of calm, assertive energy entirely sidesteps a lot of how people get messed up and overthink things. Calm and assertive rather than overwrought and hysterical, fearful, submissive... over emotional at all. If you are calm first and foremost, everything else tends to fall into place more easily.