She was dressed in the Channel style. She wore a short wraparound bluegreen skirt and a loose sleeveless white shirt draped over her shoulders and breasts, almost long enough to hide her belly. She wore sandals on her feet. Resting on her hips was a silver chain belt, with a small black purse attached on the right and a Paradisan halfsword in a maroon felt covered scabbard on the left.
The halfsword had a ruby set into the end of the hilt, signifying that it had been used to kill a person. Her mother had placed it in the heart of a Berenician man who had not taken her seriously when she'd told him she wanted to be left alone. She herself had only drawn the sword in anger once. Only two months after she had started wearing it she and her then oneboy's ex-onegirl had both unsheathed their swords in an argument, but others at the scene had calmed things down and no one had been cut.
Her hair was blonde, curled, and just long enough to touch her shoulders. The curls were affected, but the color was real. She did not shave, though being blonde her leg and arm hairs were just a yellow sheen on her golden skin, and she had no armpit hair due to a genetic tweak of her great-grandmother which she'd inherited.
She had several scars, small and hard to notice except for three long ones running down the inside of her left forearm from a time when she and another oneboy had been in the woods for some afternoon sex and they'd been attacked by a rasger. She had been lying on a blanket half naked when the rasger leapt on top of her, a sudden fury of claws and scales. She'd tried to fend it off while her oneboy grabbed his fullsword from its scabbard on the ground next to him and killed the beast with it. He called out a medical emergency and then carried her, shirtless and bloody, to a clearing where the ambulance could land. She'd lost a lot of blood but besides the scars there was no permanent damage. She and the oneboy both assumed that this experience had bound them together spiritually for life, but two years later they had to admit that it hadn't, and parted ways.
She was 29 Paradisan years old, still seven years shy of full citizenship.
Her name was Suprastella Callidardin. Her parents called her Ellie. Her friends called her Soupy.
She was in Reckless Brook Park, in the wooded low hills west of the Main Channel near the equator. She was sitting on a backless stone bench with her friend Beverly Alare, who was dressed much the same as she was except all in black, with long black hair and gold loop earrings which matched the hilt of her sword.
Reckless Brook Park was a network of lawns cut out of the forest and connected by short footpaths. They were sitting at the edge of one of the smaller lawns, talking with those they knew who passed by, or between themselves.
A young man came into the lawn dressed in loose pants and a tight shirt, both white, with a fullsword in a brown scabbard and a long thin beard coming out of his chin.
Beverly said, "That's Merrill Shoobert, isn't it?"
Soupy answered, "I believe it is."
They both watched Merrill as he made his way over to them. He stopped and, with a bow, said, "Good after, ladies."
They answered, in unison, "Good after, Merrill."
"And a lovely after it is," he said. "This is my favorite time of the year, I think. The rains have ceased but the world is flush with their consequence. The falls are roaring, the trees are full of new leaf, and the sunkisses are in bloom. If the congress were truly wise it would set the whole month to state vacation, since so many workers treat it as such anyway."
Beverly said, "Well, you know, we are on vacation. We're in studies still."
"As am I," he answered, "but it seems a pity that anyone is confined on a day like today."
Soupy said, "We must make the most of our youth while it is still upon us, I suppose."
"Which is precisely why I am here," he replied. "I am now on my way to the Masoline feast on the Great High Lawn. I would be honored if you wished to accompany me."
"The Masolines are having a party?" asked Beverly, "Are you certain?"
"Quite. I spoke to the feastmaster himself."
"Is it open?"
Soupy said, "It's in the park, Bev," reminding her that parties in the park were by custom open.
Beverly asked her, "Do you want to go?"
She answered, "No, I think not."
"Do you mind if I go?"
"Not at all. Enjoy yourself. I'm content."
Beverly got up, saying, "Thanks. Maybe you can drop by later."
"I might do that. I'll find you tonight anyway, there or elsewhere."
Merrill bowed to Soupy, and said, "a pleasure as always, Soupy."
She sat and watched as they walked across the lawn and disappeared into the forest. She then got up and walked the other way, with no real destination in mind, except to avoid the Great High Lawn, at least for the time being. She went into the woods along a path she didn't recognize, although she had a general idea of where she was going, having spent so much time in the park over the years that she could never really get lost, even without using the node in her purse to invoke a map.
Not long after she entered the woods she could hear the burbling of a stream. She soon came to it, and even though it was swollen with the recent rains it was still narrow enough to easily step over. However, just as she was about to do so her eye caught a sparkle where a patch of sunlight fell upon the stream which, for reasons she would not have been able to explain, did not look like the sparkle of sun on water. She stepped over to where the patch of sunlight was and squatted down. At first she couldn't see anything but then she noticed what looked like a small piece of glass on the stream bed. She reached into the cold water, putting her left hand on a rock for balance, and picked it up.
It was a diamond, or at least some sort of clear gem. It was about a centimeter wide and cut in a circular polyhedron, with a wide facet on one side and a dull point on the other. She dried it off with the end of her shirt and put it in a small compartment of her purse. She then stepped over the stream and continued on her way, feeling lucky.
She eventually worked her way over to the Great High Lawn, arriving just after sunset. The party was shifting into a new phase, with the great fires being lit where the meat would be cooked, people who had other plans for the evening leaving, and people who had this planned for the evening arriving. Being an official Masoline event, the members of the Masoline order were wearing their blue and white robes and there was a shining image of John Masoline in the center of the lawn, talking of good and evil and the future of humanity, but with the sound turned down so that it could only be heard by those standing next to the image, making it seem like just one of the somewhat more unusual of the many unusual characters milling about the lawn.
Soupy milled about herself, saying hello to people she knew and picking at the food laid out, watching the sky turn blue-purple and then black, revealing the Seraphim Cluster, which was directly overhead stretching almost halfway to the horizon.
The people there tended to segregate themselves by age, the young women wearing short skirts and halfswords with the young men wearing long pants and fullswords, the older women wearing long skirts and elaborate hats with the older men with their robes and beards, and the children of both sexes in short pants running from one end of the lawn to the other and back again.
Soupy found Beverly before long, talking with a knot of students they knew. She hooked her arm around Beverly's and said, "Hey, Bev."
Beverly touched her arm with her other hand and said, "Soupy, you made it. Do you know everybody?"
"Oh, yes. Hello, all."
The men all bowed and one of the women said, "hello, Soup."
They stayed there for half an hour talking and joking, with people leaving and joining the group, or just stopping by to say hello, including Merrill Shoobert and two former oneboys of Beverly's. A Masoline adept came by with a bottle of dark biting wine which they all drank from.
Then, suddenly, remembering, Soupy said, "I found a diamond today."
Beverly asked, "a diamond? where?" as Soupy fetched it from her purse.
"In the park, soon after we parted. It was in a stream." As everybody moved in for a closer look she added, "At least, I believe it's a diamond."
One of the men, an older student, said, "You should have it checked."
"Yes," she answered, "I should. I can have it set, too. Do you think Raimmun's is open?"
Beverly shrugged. No one else volunteered an answer.
Soupy tapped her left ear twice, which activated her phone implant. She said, quietly, "Raimmun's Jewelry." As she waited for an answer she held the diamond up above her and looked at it against the background of the Seraphim Cluster.
A woman's voice in her ears said, "Raimmun's Jewelry."
"Hi, Miss Raimmun? This is Soupy Callidardin."
"Oh, hello, Soupy. How may I help you?"
"Are you open?"
"Good, I'll be right over. I have something to show you."
"I'll be expecting you."
She tapped the phone off and said to Beverly, "Want to come?"
"I'd rather stay. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all. Besides, I'm leaving you this time. I may come back afterwards, or maybe not. If not, I'll overtake you tomorrow."
"OK, until later. Call me if you're coming back."
On the way out of the lawn Soupy passed by Hadrian Rashid, the ex-oneboy who had killed the rasger, who was talking with a woman she didn't know. As she passed him she reached out and touched the hilt of his sword, as was her habit, since it had saved her life. When he felt the touch he turned to see who it was and they both smiled at each other, but he kept talking to the other woman and she kept walking.
Raimmun's Jewelry was within walking distance of the park, in the Edwar Halls, a sprawling building composed of long two or three story sections just wide enough for a room on each side and a generous hall in the middle, which branched, curved, and looped such that even though the whole building was less than a kilometer between its most distant points the first floor halls covered over five kilometers of distance. Soupy's primary home was in this same building. The jewelry store was in a branch which terminated within shouting distance of the park boundary.
Unlike most shops, which had an entire wall open to the hall, Raimmun's had but a door, black against a black wall, with soft and glowing white writing above it, saying, "Raimmun's" in Roman letters and "Nrau melmuot nlamrat." ("This is a jewelry store.") in Gladilatian glyphs.
The only light inside the store was that which shone on the displays which lined the walls and pillars, but there were enough of these that the reflected light made it easy to see one's way around.
Shell Raimmun was an old woman, at least by Soupy's standards. She wore a long white dress and a silver necklace studded with red and blue gems. She wore no sword, but had a halfsword hung on the wall in the most elaborately decorated scabbard Soupy had ever seen.
When Soupy entered she said, "Soupy, my dear, what have you got for me?"
"A diamond, I think." She retrieved it from her purse and handed it to her.
Shell took it and made a click with her mouth which caused a light to shine directly on it.
"Yes, I think it is," she said, "Let's have a look at it."
She clicked off the light and walked over to a counter where she put the jewel into a small black box.
While she was doing this Soupy said, "I found it in the park."
"On the ground?"
"No, in a stream."
When she closed the box's cover a meter wide image of the stone appeared over the counter along with green letters glowing on the countertop.
"Yes, it's a diamond, well enough. Did you find a setting with it?"
"No, just that."
Shell just said, "hm." She held out her hand and turned it to various orientations, which the image tracked.
"It has no identifier," she said. She leaned over to look close at it. "You know what I think? I think this is a mined diamond."
"A mined diamond, a natural diamond, a diamond which was dug out of the ground."
"I believe so. The impurity is greater than you'd ever find in a manufactured gem, and it has no identifier." She looked at Soupy. "It's probably quite old. There hasn't been a working diamond mine in centuries."
"Wondrous. Do you think it's been in that stream all that time?"
Shell shrugged. "It could have gotten buried and been washed out by this year's rains, or it could be an old heirloom that somebody lost yesterday, although if it is they haven't reported it lost or it would've been noted on the report." She waved her hand at the writing on the countertop, which caused the image to rotate on its side.
"Could you set it for me?"
"Certainly. What would you like?"
"A necklace, I think. A silver necklace, so that the diamond is here." She tapped her chest just below her neck.
"Would this be good?" Shell pointed to a necklace on display, which had a diamond in small silver circle hanging from a thin silver chain.
"Yes, that would be perfect."
It only took her a couple of minutes to fix the diamond onto a necklace. When she was done she had Soupy turn around and clasped it behind her neck. She then snapped her fingers and a mirror appeared on a wall while a light shone on Soupy. Soupy put her left hand on the hilt of her sword, shifted her weight to her right leg, and struck a pose. Then she smiled and said, "splendid."
Soupy returned to the feast after she left the store. Beverly was no longer there, having reportedly gone off with a man whom no one recognized. Soupy didn't even bother trying to call her. Soupy milled about some more, showing her diamond to everyone she talked with and telling them how she came across it. She ate enough samplings of food to serve for supper.
When the dancing began she danced a half dozen dances with a half dozen different men. She decided to go home then, placing a gold coin at the feet of John Masoline's image as she left. This was not a Masoline ritual, but a Channel custom. When the Emmists held a feast guests would place a coin by a statue of Emma. For a Resumptionist feast a coin would be placed in a ceremonial bowl.
Soupy lived mostly in a second floor apartment in the Edwar Halls. On the way, though, she stopped off at the public baths on the first floor, almost directly below her place, and soaked in a hot stream bath for half an hour. Then she went upstairs and to bed, hanging her new necklace from the hilt of her sword, which hung, as always, from her bed's right headpost.
The next day she spent mostly in bed reading. She didn't even get dressed until it was time for supper. Then she decided to wear light blue, her shirt and skirt both loose and short, along with her sandals, sword, purse, and diamond.
She ate in a dining hall near her apartment and then walked across the Halls to where she and her brother Eagle rented a protean room. A second level party was being cast that night and she had arranged with Beverly to watch it. She was no longer sure if Beverly planned to come until she entered the room and saw that Beverly was already there.
The room had a circular black stone bench in the center, open in the middle to accommodate swords. When Soupy entered Beverly was sitting on the bench, dressed in pale pink, making string figures to pass the time. The room was very high quality; it was set to a view from a ledge on some wooded mountain, and if she didn't already know she was in a protean room she would have had a hard time telling she wasn't on a mountain ledge, unless she looked down and saw that her feet were not quite touching the rock, since the rock was not perfectly flat and the room's floor was.
When Soupy entered Beverly put the string in her purse and said, "Hi! Sorry I disappeared on you last night."
"It's quite alright. I wasn't sure I was coming back anyway."
As Soupy sat down next to her, Beverly said, "So let me see your setting." Soupy turned so Beverly could see it better and Beverly said, "very nice."
"Miss Raimmun says it's a mined diamond, taken from a diamond mine back when there were such things."
"Really and truly."
"How did it get in the stream?"
"There's no way to tell."
Soupy looked out across the valley and said, "When's the cast?"
"Oh, it should be soon, now. I have it set to jump over when the party starts."
A few seconds later Soupy asked, "Who was it you left with last night? No one who saw you leave recognized him."
"Oh," Beverly smiled, a little embarrassed, "his name is Mzetop, and he runs a factory over near Anderson. I mean, he runs the whole factory, he's the president or something."
"How old is he?"
"Well, he first told me he's thirty-six, but it turns out he was using Earth years; he's really fifty-two."
"But he's real nice. I'm going to see him again tomorrow. Maybe you can meet him."
"There's one thing, though."
Soupy rolled her eyes upwards, "Beverly, ..."
"I know. But there are marriages and there are marriages."
"Is he living with her?"
"Bev, why would you do this? You can't get listed."
"Actually we can. I checked and he and his wife never listed."
"You miss my point. Even if you can get listed he's not really your oneboy, is he? You're certainly not really his onegirl. He has a wife."
"I know, but, I just spent one night with him anyway. I'm not thinking about the couples' list yet."
"Then why did you check if he and his wife were listed?"
"Oh. Well, I guess I was thinking about it some."
"I guess so."
They both sat in silence for a while, not wanting to get into an argument.
Soon Eagle came in, dressed in loose black pants, tight red shirt, and his fullsword in a scabbard with the same maroon felt as Soupy's. He also had blond hair, which he combed straight back.
"Ladies," he said with a bow, "are you here for the evening's party cast?"
"Indeed we are," answered Soupy.
"Good," he said with a smile, "there's no need to fight over the room, then."
He sat next to Beverly, who asked, "Did you see Soupy's new diamond?"
"No," he said, leaning over to look, "let me see."
As she turned to show him she said, "I found it in the park, the diamond, not the whole necklace."
"Did you check if it's been reported lost?"
"Miss Raimmun did, when I brought it in to be set. She said it's a natural diamond, from a diamond mine."
"I didn't know there were such things any more."
"Yes, it is." As she said this the room started fading to black. "It's a stone with a history, even if that history must remain silent."
A single light appeared, shining down on a woman in a white robe with a red belt and a red feathered hat standing in front of a large white Resumptionist ceremonial bowl.
She said, "I welcome all my guests, both seen and hidden, to the house of the O'Neills. We are where we ought to be." She then took a small white cup, filled it with water from the bowl, and, leaning her head back, poured the water on her face. Where it spilled on her robe the robe turned pink. Soupy, Beverly, and Eagle all touched their foreheads with their right index and middle fingers when she did this. Even though they were not Resumptionists they, like most Paradisans, knew and followed the more basic Resumptionist rituals.
The hostess, water dripping off her nose and chin, then said, in careful human phonemes, "Fmase fyhyazep napu u," which is a standard Gladilatian welcoming phrase, literally meaning, "You may use our storeroom."
Then the lights came up. The room, which they knew from many previous casts, had a deep purple ceiling, wooden floors, and a simple vertical design in various shades of purple on the walls. For this cast there were golden vase stands overflowing with large red ribbon flowers arrayed throughout the room, along with tables for food and drink and a raised platform for the ceremonial bowl, next to which the hostess was drying her face with a towel. It was well lit, by thousands of tiny lights in the ceiling which gave it a sparkly look.
There were over forty people in the room, dressed mostly in expensive variations of the Resettlement Bay style, the women in one piece dresses, either very short or very long, and the men in close fitting pants and shirts, with elaborately decorated coats or vests. Most of the men wore fullswords and over half the women wore halfswords. They were standing in small groups, facing the hostess. Most bowed to her and touched their foreheads when she finished and a few of those closest reached into the bowl and dabbed a little water on their foreheads. Then they all resumed conversations which the ceremony had interrupted, trying to look unaware that millions of people across the planet, if not beyond, were eavesdropping.
Eagle pointed across the room and said, "There's Annie Crole! Let's go there." Although they could get up and walk around as far as the protean room's real physical limits, to move any farther they needed to reset the room's viewpoint, which courtesy required them all to agree to.
After glancing at Beverly, Soupy said, "Sure," and Eagle made a hand gesture which moved their viewpoint over to within a meter of Miss Crole, an actress whom Eagle had long been entranced by.
Annie Crole was wearing a pure black dress with long sleeves and a short skirt, white wrist scarves, and a halfsword in a white scabbard on a white belt which hung so low on her hips that it looked like it might slip off at any moment. She was talking to a tall man with a pointed beard and a braided ponytail, swordless and wearing a one piece Havversunner suit, blue with silver embroidery.
As they got there Annie was saying, "Do you miss it?"
"What," he answered, "the canyons?"
"No, Havversun in general."
"Not really, I haven't been gone that long. Besides, I keep in touch with home."
"So you keep up with your friends."
"And vice versa. Havversunners are fascinated by Paradise, and they assume that since I've spent several months here I'm an expert on you now."
Annie smiled at that. She said, "What sort of things do they want to know about us?"
"'Why do they all wear swords?' is probably the most common."
"But that's just fashion."
"You're begging the question. Fashion is not a force of nature."
"What do you tell them then? Why do we all wear swords?"
"The most common theory, at least on Havversun, is that, being Resumptionists, you wear swords in mimicry of gladifers."
"Do gladifers use swords?"
"No, their horns. Their horns resemble swords. That's how they got their name."
"Oh, right. Of course."
Soupy asked, "Who is that man?" Beverly just shrugged. Soupy said, "Room?" and the room answered, "Jon Minnibee."
As this was happening Jon was saying, "I don't think that's correct, myself, although it might have had something to do with how the custom got started. Nobody on Paradise makes the connection, though, and other cultures just as obsessed with the gladifers don't either, although the Nsawans wear those hats."
"Who are they?"
"They're a small sect on New Hawaii. They wear hats with horns sticking out of them. Some of them have horns surgically welded to their skulls."
"But you haven't answered my question. Why do you think Paradisans wear swords?"
"Well, look at what you've got here, at how appropriate your planet's name is. You have ideal climate over a huge portion of your land mass. You have a gorgeous night sky. You have what is in my humble opinion ideal gravity and ideal length of day. You have an economy so healthy that someone could live comfortably without having to lift a finger and a culture so used to affluence that he could do it with no stigma attached. What don't you have?"
Annie thought without answering for a couple seconds and Jon continued, "Danger. Risk. I think you wear swords because the perfection of your environment makes you yearn for some danger, and wearing swords means that you're always in a situation where you might find yourself on one side or the other of a killing."
Annie clearly thought that was ridiculous, 'We don't go around slicing each other up!"
"No. You'll probably go through your entire life without getting into a sword fight and if you do most wounds which were fatal back when swords were state of the art are treatable now, but sword fights are possible and they sometimes happen and they can be fatal and when they are they're big news."
"Why don't we just wear pellet guns then?"
"Because they're too dangerous, not to mention illegal. You want getting killed to be a theoretic possibility, not something that actually happens."
Annie laughed and Jon said, "You disagree?"
She answered, "It sounds like the theory of someone who's been asked a question too often and feels he has to come up with an insightful answer."
Now Jon laughed, "Perhaps, perhaps it is."
"Come," Annie said, putting her arm around his, "there's Zuza. Let me introduce you."
She led him right through the spot where they were sitting, which caused the image to break up and reform on the other side of the bench. Normally they would have gotten out of the way, just to preserve the illusion, but this happened too fast for them to react.
When they were past Beverly said, "I think she's right. I certainly don't want to get into a sword fight. I wouldn't know what to do if I did."
"I don't know," said Eagle, "if they were just fashion they wouldn't be made so functional. Men, at least, consider them weapons. We all fantasize about collapsing in a woman's arms weak from the loss of blood we incurred during the fight in which we slayed some villain in her defense."
"So they're functional for men but fashionable for women?"
"If you consider aiding a fantasy to be functional, yes. That would explain why women wear halfswords. They can't be nearly as useful in a fight."
"Except," said Soupy, "in close quarters, where they would be an advantage. And close quarters is precisely where a woman needs a weapon. Don't forget our dear mother, who didn't happen to have a heroic man handy when she needed defending."
They next spent some time watching the artist Valen Cler, who was better known for being witty at these parties than for his art, charming a young poet none of them had heard of named Lissa something, who was obviously amazed at her luck at being noticed by Cler and therefore a sizable part of the audience.
After a while of that they moved to where a knot of people were listening to the explorer Vlammir Harold describe an expedition he'd led through the jungles of Left Shoulder 1117, an uninhabited world with plenty of native life. Vlammir was famous for telling exciting stories of his adventures in a matter of fact manner. His calm, slightly nasal voice was a favorite of impersonators. The most interesting part of this expedition involved the discovery of a segmented animal, each of whose segments was about the size of a human. When they discovered that each segment was genetically distinct they searched for juveniles, trying to discover how and at what age the segments joined together, until it dawned on them that the occasional malformations they observed were not the withered remains of damaged segments.
Soupy noticed a change in the room's atmosphere before she noticed glances being stolen off to her right in a way calculated not to be rude to Vlammir. When she looked herself she saw that a gladifer had entered the room. Beverly and Eagle noticed as well, and were ignoring the explorer, so Soupy moved the viewpoint over without bothering to ask. She then walked up to him and stood close enough that she could have touched him were he really there.
Although she had seen images of gladifers all her life, some as detailed as this, it still surprised her how short the gladifer was. His equit looked so much like a horse's trunk and legs, and his torso looked so much like a human torso, that she expected them to be the same size, like the mythological centaur. As it was, the height of the gladifer's shoulders was a little less than that of her own, although the long stalk of his capit brought his eyes above hers, and the horn arising from the back of the capit meant that he wouldn't have fit through most human doorways without bending. This gladifer's fur was dark brown and his capit was gray and rough, which made Soupy suspect that he was male. His only clothing was a silver apron with blue designs on it, showing the leaves of some Gladilatian vegetation. He also had a translator attached to his horn just above his breathhole.
A small crowd of people had gathered around him, including the hostess, who was exchanging greetings and pleasantries with him, she speaking in Paradisan and he in Gladilatian, translated into Paradisan after each sentence. He hesitated before replying, no matter how simple the hostess's statement was, which made it seem like he was unsure of himself, although Soupy knew that he was only waiting for the back translation into Gladilatian, which went to speakers inside his ears, to finish.
Soupy asked, "Room, who is the gladifer?" and the room answered, "sa Mrenep sa hreLaxreot Lelemle sa Lele we Nmusysy," which told her that he was indeed male and that he was a member of the Lelemle family, which was the gladifer ambassador family to Paradise.
He raised his right arm, which surprised her with its length, although, again, she had seen enough gladifer images in her life that it shouldn't have, and said, "Hello, Jon Minnibee. We're harmonious."
The Havversunner, who had just joined the group of people gathered around the gladifer, said, "Indeed we are."
Mrenep said, "I was aware of a recording of your sister's wedding, which was very proper."
"Thank you. I think it will be a proper marriage."
"Since you are on Paradise are you happy?"
"Yes. It's a fascinating world."
"Why is a human world fascinating to a human?"
"Because of the other humans on it, of course."
A woman in the group laughed and while Jon was explaining to Mrenep that he wasn't intentionally joking, Eagle asked, "What did he mean by 'harmonious'?"
Beverly answered, "He's wearing silver with blue, and the man's wearing blue with silver."
Eagle asked, "Are you sure?"
"Yeah! Didn't you have to read that story about the two jugglers when you were a kid? They were always zvrna, which I assume is the word he used, and that included dressing like, you know, blue with silver and silver with blue."
The hostess had somehow inserted herself into the conversation between Mrenep and Jon. Soupy said, "Yes, I remember. It was one of those gladifer stories where I didn't quite see the point but I liked it nonetheless."
"I think the point was to teach us the meaning of zvrna."
"That was the point of teaching it to us. I meant the point of writing it in the first place."
"Oh, who knows? It's hard enough to understand human art."
The hostess was now introducing Mrenep to those who had gathered around, in an order which would be excessively analyzed over the next day by those who cared about such things. Remembering what the Havversunner had said earlier Soupy drew her sword and held it up next to Mrenep's horn. The sword was shinier and sharper, but the resemblance was clear. She wondered if that was in fact how the fashion got started.
The next afternoon Soupy and Beverly were again in the park, sitting on a long curved bench which faced a statue of the settler Crisn Keeler, which was surrounded by a scale model of New New Haven, as it was in Keeler's time. Soupy and Beverly, both dressed in loose green clothing, were seated underneath a pebblenut tree, trying to toss nuts into one of the model's parabolic antennae.
Soupy heard the beep of an incoming call and when she tapped her ear to listen to it she heard, "Soupy? This is Shell Raimmun."
She was surprised at first that her phone had put her call directly through, until she realized that it was because she had just called Shell a couple days earlier.
"Hi," she answered, "what's the event?"
"I found out where your diamond came from."
"Actually a patterner did. Whenever I scan a gem it goes into the planetary memory and a patterner matched it with another."
"I thought you already checked that."
"I only checked it against what was reported lost or stolen, and this wasn't, not really."
"What was it, then? What matched?" She looked at Beverly and touched the diamond, so Beverly, who could only hear Soupy's half of the conversation, would know what they were talking about.
"Have you ever heard of the Adelaide Bowl?"
"It was the Resumptionists' main ceremonial bowl when they first came to Paradise. It's what they used for the planetary dedication. It was destroyed during the Cleansing Reformation, and all of the jewels set in it were put into storage. They're now on display in the Pleasant Bay Temple, except for one diamond, which got lost somewhere along the way."
"And that's the one I found?"
"Yes, indeed. They'd scanned it when the bowl was destroyed and it's an exact match."
"So who owns it?"
"You do. It's been lost for at least three hundred thirty-nine years, and by Paradisan United Law anything lost over a hundred forty-five is an archeological relic and belongs to the finder. You just have to give the park service half its price if you ever sell it, since you found it in the park."
"Well, I never would have thought it had quite so historical a provenance. Thank you for your research."
"It was no problem. Would you mind if I mentioned this to the news services? It would be a nice bit of publicity for the shop."
"No, not at all. Go right ahead."
"Thank you. I'll say goodbye, then."
"Goodbye." The call was cut.
Soupy looked at Beverly and said, "It's from Earth."
"Yes. It was on the Resumptionist bowl used for the planetary dedication. The bowl was destroyed in the Cleansing and the diamond became lost."
"But the Cleansing was centuries ago."
"I don't know that it was lost during the Cleansing itself, but it was long enough ago that it's considered an archeological find."
"You have a charmed life, Soupy."
"Perhaps I do."
Soupy and Beverly stayed in the park until sunset, when Beverly went off to meet Mzetop, her married friend from the Masoline party, and Soupy went to eat dinner at an outdoor restaurant in the forest just outside the park boundary. Afterwards she didn't feel like walking back so she had a car drive her to the Edwar Halls.
She intended to spend some time in the protean room experiencing something yet to be chosen but stopped off first at her primary home to check her calls and trips. There was one of each.
The trip was from the couples' list. Her former oneboy Hadrian Rashid had listed again, with a woman whose name she didn't recognize. She sent him a message saying, "Hello, Hadrian, I see you've rejoined the list. I send you both my best."
The call was identified as being from I.E.I.E., which she didn't recognize. Fearing it might be an ad which got past her filters she called it up and was surprised to see Ish Ester appear on her wall, seated on a wooden stool and wearing a red Resettlement Bay style dress, with a halfsword in a red scabbard and her famous blonde hair cascading down past her shoulders.
"Hi, Miss Callidardin?" the image said, "I'm Ish Ester, of Ish Ester Interviews. We came across a newsfact about how you found a diamond which had been lost for centuries? If that's true we'd like to interview you for casting. If you live reply to this you'll get one of my aides and she'll make all the arrangements. Hope to see you soon!" Her image froze in a smiling pose.
Soupy said, "Live reply."
Her wall read, "calling I.E.I.E." in white letters on black for a few seconds and then a woman, in a velvety blue dress but swordless, appeared on her wall.
"Miss Callidardin?" she asked.
"Yes, this is me."
"Hi. I'm Nella Mark, Ish's personal assistant. Are your familiar with our show?"
"Is that the diamond?"
"Ish would very much like to do an interview, if you're agreeable. You'd be paid three thousand minimum, and more if it's popular. We could record it tonight, and have it in the regular set right after."
"I'm honored. I would very much like to appear on your show."
"Good, then. The nearest studio to you is in Anderson. Just have a car bring you to the Amber Dot Studio. They'll be expecting you."
"Will Miss Ester be there, or ..."
"No, it's a protean studio. She'll be here in New Sydney but you'll have a protean image of her."
"OK, I'll be there soon, then, probably within an hour."
"Just remember to wear the diamond."
She dressed in the best outfit she had, a short skirt and a sleeveless top both close fitting and variable in color. For this night she had them set to the same yellow as her hair. The top only extended down to just below her breasts, and she wore a ruby plug in her navel. She also wore yellow sandals, her sword in its red scabbard, her silver belt, her black purse, and the diamond on its necklace.
There was a car available in the Edwar Halls' carport and she arrived at the studio well within her hour estimate, after a ride through the night forest during which she watched some of the current Ish Ester Interviews segments.
The studio looked like a home, a small one story building surrounded by forest at the end of a footpath marked by a string of ground lamps spilling pools of light.
There were two people working there, men not much older than Soupy, dressed in the Channel style except without swords, although Soupy saw a fullsword hung up on a wall.
They led her past the sparsely decorated and apparently seldom used anteroom, through an engineers' room with more equipment than it was designed to hold, and into the studio proper. They had Soupy sit where she would be sitting during the interview, on a high wooden chair in the middle of the studio. Although the chair was very well lit, she couldn't see anything else in the room; it was pitch black in every direction.
She crossed her legs, clasped her hands and rested them on a knee, and held a pose, too anticipatory to not be posing.
Not much later Ish Ester faded in on her right, wearing the same clothes as when she'd left her message and sitting on the same sort of chair as Soupy.
Ish smiled and said, "Miss Callidardin?"
"Yes. Miss Ester."
"We'll be starting the actual interview soon. Did I pronounce your name right?"
"And do you prefer 'Suprastella' or ..."
"Soupy. OK. You can just call me 'Ish' if you'd like. Now, when we start I'll give a short introduction and then we'll just start talking. OK?"
"Oh, is that the diamond you're wearing?"
"Yes it is."
Ish looked off to her right, at somebody in the studio in New Sydney, invisible to Soupy. She said, "Are we ready?" Soupy couldn't hear a reply, but Ish said, "OK", turned to Soupy, said, "Here we go," looked straight ahead, smiled wide, and said, "Hi! This is Ish Ester with an Ish Ester interview. My guest is Soupy Callidardin, a student in the West Channel region. You'll notice that Soupy is wearing a diamond set in her necklace. It is not an ordinary diamond." She turned to Soupy. "Soupy, how did you come to wear that diamond?"
"It's a found thing," Soupy answered, "found on the bed of a stream tributary to the Reckless Brook."
"It was in a park, was it not?"
"Yes, the Reckless Brook Park. I am a common sight there this time of year."
"And did you find out how it got in the stream?"
"Not directly, but the jeweler who set it for me discovered something of its history. It's a mined diamond, taken from the soil of Earth back when Earth's soil yielded such things. It was set in a Resumptionist bowl before the Resumptionists left the motherworld, and that bowl was used in the planetary dedication. I may even have seen its image in childhood when learning about the Resumptionist settlement, and now it rests here on my skin."
"What did you think when you learned its importance?"
"I felt smiled upon by Miss Luck."
"What are your plans for it?"
"I plan to wear it."
"Just wear it, like any other diamond?"
"No, not at all. I plan to wear it like a diamond which, when my friends see it adorning me, causes them to reflect for a moment what a strange and wondrous Paradise they live in where a piece of the great history of humanity's dispersion through the stars can be found sitting among the stones of a forest stream."
"You don't plan on returning it to the Resumptionist Council?"
"No, I don't, not that I'd really considered it. Legally, as I understand it, it's mine to own. It's also appropriate that I should wear it. The Council has not been on a holy quest these many years to recover it. They split the bowl it was on, stashing away its diamonds, with this one lost, lost and forgotten. It's vra, as the gladifers would say, it's fitting that I wear it, in fulfillment of its discovery's serendipity."
"And what happens in the years to come when your recent good fortune in finding it becomes a distant good fortune known to all?"
"I do not know. You will have to invite me back then."
Ish smiled. "Perhaps I will. Soupy, if you don't mind my asking, how old are you?"
"Why would I mind? I'm twenty-nine."
"Twenty-nine orbits? That would be, what, twenty years?"
"Earth years? Yes, that sounds about right."
"Do you have a profession you aspire to?"
"No, not really. I'm still in studies."
"What do you study?"
"Oh, a variety. This past year I studied Spanish, Linear Algebra, and Neural Mechanics."
"A variety, indeed. Nothing of History, though?"
"No, neither History, nor Resumptionist Theory, nor Mineralogy. I'm not the person a showwriter would have created for this role; I'm just a Channel girl who frequents the park."
Ish said, "which was part of the Plan," a phrase which occurs repeatedly in the Resumptionist scripture The Resumption of History.
Soupy said, "the Plan is always very good at predicting what has already happened."
"Indeed. Well, I'd like to thank you, Soupy. You've been a wonderful guest. Good luck on your studies, and on the remainder of your life."
"I thank you, Ish. It's been an honor."
Ish looked straight ahead and said, "This has been an Ish Ester interview, with Miss Soupy Callidardin. Hope to see you again soon!"
She smiled for a few seconds, and then at some unseen signal turned to Soupy and said, "OK, we're off now. Thank you again. You really have been a great guest. I don't think we'll have to edit this at all."
Soupy said, "You're welcome. It was a pleasure."
Ish looked away, apparently because someone Soupy couldn't see or hear had called her, and then vanished.
During the ride back Soupy resisted the temptation to check whether her interview had been made available yet. She wanted to watch it for the first time on the screen wall of her primary home, and not on the little screen in the car. When she arrived at her home there were five calls and one trip. The trip was the interview. The calls were all from strangers. Three of them had summaries, which all referenced the interview.
She sat down in front of her screen wall, took off her sandals, and watched the interview. It was shorter than she'd thought it would be, but she was pleased with how it had come out. She didn't think she looked as nervous as she had felt.
Short as it was, by the time it was finished she had two more calls. She played the first of the seven, from a Mark Leezhzhin. A man in his late youth in a dark red robe appeared and said, "Hi, Miss Callidardin. I just saw you on Ish Ester and I must say you did a great job." He seemed at a loss for what to say for a couple seconds. "Anyway, a great job. I just wanted to say, uh, congratulations. Bye."
She said, "reply," and, when the recording light came on, "Thank you very much, Mr. Leezhzhin. I'm happy to have provided you with some interest this night with my accidental fortune."
The next one was from a young man with long blond hair dressed in the Channel style. He said, "Lovely bit. The diamond was lovely. Your dress was lovely. You are very lovely. The whole thing was lovely."
Her reply was simply, "What a lovely thing to say."
She watched the rest of the calls without stopping to answer, knowing she would compose a single reply for these and those yet to arrive. They were all short congratulatory messages, all but one from men.
For the reply she put her sandals back on, crossed her legs, folded her hands on her lap, and said, "I would like to thank all who called their appreciation of my recent appearance with Ish Ester. My life's journey has recently brought several unexpected vistas into my view of which the succession of your kind messages has been the most pleasant. Thank you all."
She sent the reply and then called Beverly on her phone implant.
Beverly asked, "Soupy, hi. What's the event?"
"Have you invoked Ish Ester recently?"
"Yes, just last night. Why?"
"You should again."
"Any interview in particular?"
"It'll be obvious when you see the list."
"OK, if you say. Call you later."
Soupy took her sandals back off, hung her sword on her bedpost, and changed into a white robe, still wearing the diamond. She then made herself a cup of black tea and sat crosslegged in a soft red chair with table arms, drinking her tea and waiting for Beverly's return call, which was not long in coming.
"Soupy! That was marvelous! I couldn't believe it! Ish Ester! You were elegant, Soupy. You made me proud."
"Why didn't you say anything? When did this all happen?"
"The whole affair, from first contact on, happened since I left you in the park this after."
"Wondrous. So what is Ish Ester like? Did you talk to her much outside the interview?"
"No, not much. She asked me how to pronounce my name. We weren't even at the same location, really; it was a protean studio."
"Well, tomorrow you must tell me the whole story. I'll come by midday."
"Good. I'll see you then."
"And Mzetop says to congratulate you for him."
"Send him my thanks."
"OK. See you tomorrow."
Soupy sat in her robe in her chair drinking her tea and watching the list of incoming calls grow. When her tea was finished she went to bed, leaving the viewing of the calls to the morrow.
The next morning she dressed in a shirt and a skirt which were both short, loose, and lavender, along with her usual accompaniments, which now included the diamond.
She had 56 calls queued up when she sat down to watch them. Most were congratulatory messages from people she didn't know. She sent them the message she had recorded the night before. Some were congratulatory messages from people she did know. She sent them short individual thank yous. Two were not congratulatory.
The first she didn't even understand when she played it. It was a voice only message from what sounded like a young woman, saying, "Well, you know, you have your rights and all, but is it really necessary to display it to the whole planet? Would it have killed you to keep this among you and your friends? Or do you think we have nothing better to do than to watch you decorate your chest?"
The other was more to the point. It was from a thin man with a thick mustache named William Arrow. He was just starting to go gray at the temples and was dressed in a rather subdued variant of the Resettlement Bay style. He said, "I saw your appearance on Ish Ester, and while you may be correct about your legal status, you must know that the Adelaide Bowl is sacred to Resumptionists, and it was only dismantled during the Cleansing. There was never any intention of abandoning its stones. I beg you to reconsider and return the diamond to its rightful owners. To you it is a piece of jewelry, to us it is a sacred object."
Soupy thought about that for quite a bit before answering, "Thank you for your suggestion, but if the remainder of the populace were bound by Resumptionist sanctity then we wouldn't even be here, would we? I will honor the vraot of this event, and, while I am aware that you believe that to be a lesser honor, nevertheless that is my choice."
Beverly arrived around noon, wearing blue, and after Soupy had recounted her adventures of the night before they left for the park.
As was their habit, they wandered the park at first, seeing who was there already and being seen in return. A surprising number of their acquaintances had seen the Ish Ester interview and were all impressed with her good fortune.
While walking down one of the straighter and wider paths from one lawn to another they saw Soupy's old oneboy Hadrian coming the other way with a woman on his arm, the same woman Soupy had seen him with the day she'd found the diamond. They were both dressed in white with blue trimming.
No one said anything as they approached. When they reached each other Soupy presented her cheek, which Hadrian kissed. Soupy touched the hilt of his sword as he did so.
He said, "Soupy, Beverly, may I introduce you to Lana Merf, my new onegirl."
Soupy smiled, "A pleasant position to hold, I can assure you."
"Lana, this is Soupy Callidardin and Beverly Alare."
"My pleasure. I've heard a great deal about you already, Miss Callidardin."
"In fact," said Hadrian, "we saw you on Ish Ester just this morning."
Soupy said, "Ish Ester has proven to be more popular than I would have thought."
"In our case it was because someone sent me a message 'cause he'd seen you and looked you up in the couples' list archives."
"Really? I've already gotten some offers to be my oneboy. I hadn't realized they were researching the role."
"This one wanted advice on how to win your affections. I replied that slaying wild beasts had always worked for me."
"You'd won my affections well before the beast was slain."
"Yes, well, I didn't mention that."
"If men start appearing at my door bearing dead rasgers I'll know whom to blame."
"If that becomes a popular ploy to capture your heart then I fear for the rasger population."
"Thank you. Your tongue is as sweet as ever, Hadrian."
"Well, I'm glad you're finally getting the attention you deserve."
Beverly said, "Oh, you have no idea. She's had scores of calls already from people who've just seen the show, and it hasn't even been a full day."
Soupy said, "Yes, but that's a very small portion of the total viewership of the Ish Ester Interviews, I'm certain."
"Nevertheless," Hadrian said, "I'm sure you're now better known than anyone else I know. And that's the best known gem on the planet right now."
Soupy reached up and touched the diamond, "Yes, it probably is."
No one said anything for a second. Then Lana said, "You wear it well."
Hadrian bowed, "Indeed you do. It was a pleasure running into you again, both of you."
"As here," Beverly said.
"As always," Soupy said.
Hadrian said, "Keep in touch," as he and Lana started walking.
Beverly said, to Lana, "Nice meeting you," as she and Soupy also continued their walk.
When they reached the next lawn Soupy stopped and looked back along the path. Hadrian and Lana were not in sight.
Soupy said, "Sometimes I think it was a mistake to break the listing."
"Seeing him with a new onegirl will do that."
"No, it's what he said, about getting the attention I deserve. Most men would say that just to be polite, but he meant it. He really thinks I deserve extraordinary attention."
"Are you sure?"
Soupy and Beverly spent most of the afternoon sitting on the edge of the Grand Fountain, an imposing structure in the form of a school of Paradisan sea dragons. They had no shortage of visitors, as word of Soupy's appearance on Ish Ester had spread among their friends and acquaintances, so people who would normally just exchange greetings stopped to talk. It became a surprise to meet the occasional friend who had not heard of what had happened.
It was nearing sunset when Soupy received a call from her brother Eagle. "Soupy, guess what? You're on Verity News. You should come see this."
"Where are you?"
"I'm in the room."
"We'll be right over." She turned to Beverly and asked, "Would you like to see me on the news?"
When they arrived at the protean room Eagle was watching a young woman eating tiny peaches while reading a book. She was a jenni, a person whose entire life is broadcast for anyone to see.
When the women sat down he said, "Room, replay the last news." The jenni was replaced with an image of Xresohop Baldwin, a well known news announcer. She was an older woman with gray hair, swordless and dressed in a long dark blue dress. She was seated in a cloth covered chair and there was a still image of Soupy from the interview behind and above her left shoulder.
Xresohop said, "Three days ago in the Reckless Brook Park in the West Channel region a young woman named Suprastella Callidardin discovered a diamond lying on the bed of a stream." The image of Soupy zoomed in on the diamond. "This diamond, it turns out, came to the planet embedded in the Adelaide Bowl ..." The diamond's image shifted to that of a white ceremonial bowl with silver trim and a ring of diamonds on the outside below the brim. "... which was used for the planetary dedication." The bowl's image zoomed out to reveal that it was part of an image of the dedication, with Richard Stillman, the Resumptionist leader at the time, standing behind the bowl with his arms raised. "Although by Paradisan United Law the jewel is hers, William Arrow of the Resumptionist Council ..." The dedication's image changed to that of the man whom Soupy had replied to that morning. "... has issued a formal request that it be returned to the council." The still of William became a moving image, saying, "To her it is a piece of jewelry, to us it is a sacred object. She follows the letter of the United Law, but not the spirit." Xresohop continued, "but Miss Callidardin has refused. William's image shifted to Soupy's, from her reply to William, saying, "... if the remainder of the populace were bound by Resumptionist sanctity then we wouldn't even be here, would we?"
The whole scene faded to black, and Eagle said, "That's it. It's on the long cycle but not the short."
Soupy sat still for a while, considering. Then she said, "Room, do I have any messages from Verity News or Xresohop Baldwin?"
"You have a message from Xresohop Baldwin received this after."
An image of Xresohop appeared, wearing a different blue dress. She said, "Miss Callidardin. I'm Xresohop Baldwin of the Verity News Service. I saw your interview with Ish Ester. We're about to do a newsbit about the Resumptionist Council's request for the diamond you found and we'd like to record a statement from you for it. Just live reply to this message. There'll be someone to receive it continuously. Thank you in advance."
Soupy said, "If you'll excuse me," and Beverly and Eagle both got up and moved to the side so that Soupy would be alone in the image sent with her reply.
Soupy said, "Live reply."
After fifteen seconds of waiting an image of Xresohop Baldwin appeared, in yet another blue dress. She said, "Miss Callidardin, I'm sorry I wasn't able to get hold of you earlier. We've already released the newsbit."
"I know. I've just seen it."
"If you have a statement to make now we can attach it to the bit, for people who request further information."
"OK, whenever you're ready."
"It is true that Mister Arrow suggested to me that I relinquish my diamond, although he never identified himself as a member of the Resumptionist Council. It is true that the image of me at the end of the newsbit was part of my refusal of his request, although I never gave him permission to make it public. It is also true that this diamond, which you see on my chest, is adornment to me and sanctity to the Resumptionists. It is, however, not true that I honor the letter of the United Law at the cost of its spirit. The spirit of Paradisan United Law is precisely the prevention of the application of religious principles to the lives of any who do not voluntarily submit to them. I told Miss Ester that I wear this stone because it is vra. Because of the council I now also wear it because it is ye."
After a few seconds, when it was clear she was done, Xresohop said, "Thank you. We'll put that on file. We may even put some of that in a newsbit if we make a followup."
"By all means do."
"OK. I'll be in touch if I need anything more."
"OK." Xresohop's image disappeared.
Eagle said, "Ye?"
Soupy answered, "'Proper'. Vra is 'fitting'. My use of those words fit my understanding of them, but I'm not really sure any human truly understands them."
Beverly said, "Well, I knew what you meant, for what that's worth."
"Thank you. Hopefully others will too. I doubt, in any case, that many will pay attention. It's just an attachment to a short newsbit about a momentary curiosity."
The three of them stayed to watch a protean drama, a variation on the popular theme of a rejected suitor whose rejection causes him to find greatness within himself, along with a more deserving lover. Afterwards they ate at a dining hall. Then Eagle went off on his own and the women went to a public bath together. After the bath they went to Soupy's for tea and candy. Not much later Beverly went home and Soupy dealt with almost 200 messages before going to bed.
The next morning she wore the same white shirt she had worn the day she'd found the diamond, along with another short wraparound skirt, this one the same maroon as her scabbard. The first thing she did, after breakfasting, was to create a patterner to deal with all of the messages which continued to pour in. The patterner identified congratulatory messages and sent them the reply she had recorded, identified supporters of William Arrow and referred them to her reply to his message, and saved messages which were personal or interesting by various criteria. One such message was identified as being from the Resumptionist Council itself. When she played it she saw William Arrow, dressed all in black in the Resettlement Bay style, with a fullsword in a black scabbard, standing against a pure white background. He bowed and said, "Miss Callidardin. It has come to my attention that during our recent exchange of messages you were unaware of my position in the Resumptionist Council. Therefore, as a representative of and under the authority of the Resumptionist Council I am officially reminding you that the diamond you found is historically, ethically, and morally the property of the Resumptionist community and as its representative the Resumptionist Council asks and demands its return as soon as is possible." This was followed by an image of black Gladilatian glyphs on a white background. Soupy started translating these to herself until she realized it was just a translation of William's words into Gladilatian.
Soupy sent a reply to his message, saying simply, "Thank you for your clarification, but my answer remains the same."
Then she checked the fifteen trips she had. One was the Verity newsbit, and most of the rest were public discussions triggered by it, between Resumptionists who were amazed that she didn't just hand the diamond over to the Council, and non-Resumptionists who were amazed that the Council would even ask for it. One, however, was a shrine. A man named Alo Mercado had created a shrine to her in the planetary memory. Along with a copy of the Ish Ester interview and dozens of images taken from there, there were images from her twenty-fourth birthday party, when she had become a legal adult, a short but flattering description of her beauty and intelligence, old newsbits on the rasger attack, and an account of her times on the couples' list, with the commentary "currently unlisted!". She was slightly less flattered by this when she discovered that he had created similar shrines to 62 other women who were famous to a greater or lesser degree. She checked further and discovered that he had previously sent her an enthusiastically appreciative message and had received her standard reply, and she decided that it was best to leave it at that.
She spent most of the day in the park with Beverly. Beverly was impressed that Soupy had a shrine, but when they met Eagle and mentioned it to him he started describing the shrines he'd seen to Annie Crole, some of which went far beyond Soupy's in size and detail.
They continued to meet people who congratulated Soupy for her appearance on Ish Ester, but the number diminished as there were fewer people she knew whom she hadn't already met since the interview appeared.
At one point they came across a distributed play, which was a play where several different scenes were performed simultaneously, in this case at different corners of a lawn. The play was The Demon's Bride, a familiar enough story that most of the audience had no problem following the plot even though no one saw all of the scenes. The actor playing the Summoner was a man whom Soupy knew, but not well. Still, when he delivered a monologue bragging about how great and powerful a magician he was, he adlibbed the line, "and I fetch enchanted gems hidden for centuries by spells of forgetfulness and strew them in the paths of deserving young maidens," while gesturing towards Soupy's diamond.
Later that evening, while Soupy and Beverly were in the protean room, Soupy checked her trips again and found that she'd been mentioned on The Sixth Finger, a popular lecture series on gladifers and Gladilatian by the famous gladiologist Ulaop Mercedes.
Ulaop was a middle aged man, starting to go bald, dressed in a light blue vest over dark blue pants and shirt. He said, "I recently came across a curious example of a human attempting to use the concepts of vraot and yeot. A Miss Suprastella Callidardin stumbled across a diamond which had once been part of the Adelaide Bowl. She claimed to wear it because it was vra to do so. After its origin was discovered and the council asked for its return she refused on the grounds that it was now ye to wear it. Well, that's not quite right. Vra and ye are usually translated as "fitting" and "proper", and often when Gladilatian words are misused it's because the common translations mislead the speaker, but in her case the Paradisan doesn't really match the situation either. Actually, her initial claim of vraot does make some sort of sense. It's not something I would think of as vra but I have found examples in the literature where vra is used to describe the keeping of found things. Her claim to yeot for refusing to return the diamond, though, is about as wrong as it can be. There is little I can think of that would be more ye, or, indeed, more proper, than returning the diamond to its rightful owners."
He then went on to other subjects. Soupy looked at Beverly and said, "Perhaps I was wrong."
Beverly answered, "Oh, don't be so sure. I distinctly remember my Gladilatian teacher Mister Laramie going on and on about how one's perception of yeot is dependent on one's point of view, or, ..." She thought for a second. "... fluvyk. I suspect your fluvyk differs quite a bit from Ulaop Mercedes'."
Later, after Beverly had gone home and Soupy was about to do the same, she checked her mails once more, and was surprised to see one from Daivvid Mor, the Emmist overpriest. Daivvid was old and thin with a long white beard, but when she played his message his voice was as strong and clear as that of a much younger man. He was dressed in a white robe and sitting in a stone chair. He said, "Miss Callidardin, I have been following the news stories about you with much interest and I would very much like to talk to you. Reply to this any time of day or night."
Even though he was in the New Uruguay region, and it would be even later for him than it was for her, she took him at his word and live replied to his call. She got a message saying that he was unavailable. She was going to leave the matter until the morning, but about a minute later he called back.
He was dressed in a shiny red robe this time. He said, "Miss Callidardin, first let me congratulate you on your find and tell you how much I admire the resolute way you have stood up to the Resumptionist schemes to deprive you of your lawful property."
"You know why they're doing this, I hope. They don't care about the diamond itself. They want to reassert their privileged status and show that they can thwart the will of the democratic majority whenever they want to. I know how we can stop them, though."
"I'm on the senate of a nondenominational historical society called the Monterey Association. If you make a donation of the diamond to us we'll have the best legal and political resources on the planet fighting to keep it out of the hands of the Resumptionists. Best of all, the current director is a gladifer! If they want it back they'll have to make demands of a gladifer, which would once again expose their claim to be the conveyers of gladifer knowledge to humanity to be a sham."
"But then it would no longer be my adornment."
"Oh, well, we could lend it back to you, I suppose. You could still wear it, but it would be the property of the Monterey Association."
"I prefer to have it as a piece of my personal jewelry."
"But why? It would be much more vulnerable that way. We could compensate you, if you want."
"There are two reasons why. In the first place, although I never much thought about it until recently, I am in favor of the preservation of Paradisan United Law, and it seems to me that you are opposed to it just as much as William Arrow is, only from the other direction. In addition, it feels right to wear this, as my own. Whether it's the expression of deep gladiological principles or just a young woman's vanity my instincts tell me to own it and wear it, and that is what I intend to do."
"OK. It is of course your right. But if you ever change your mind, don't hesitate to get in contact with me."
"Thank you. I will keep you in mind."
"May your harmony remain unbroken."
Soupy recognized this as an Emmist farewell, but she didn't know the response, so she just said, "May yours as well."
When she stepped out of her home the next morning, wearing a close fitting black skirt, a loose gray shirt, and a silver navel plug, she was surprised to see a man she didn't know sitting in one of the chairs she had in the hall by her door. He was young and dressed in the Channel style, with a fullsword at his side and a mobile recorder in his hand. He jumped up when he saw her and said, "Miss Callidardin, would you mind if I asked you a few questions?"
"Perhaps. Who are you?"
He bowed and said, "Cliss Monaco, of the New Herodotus News Service."
"In that case I would be happy to answer your questions. You may walk me to the park, if you wish."
"My honor and my pleasure."
Soupy started walking down the hall with Cliss beside her. He asked, "Is that the diamond there?"
"Yes it is."
"It looks good on you."
"Do you mind if I get a close shot of it?"
"I suppose not." She stopped and struck a pose.
Cliss held up his recorder, aimed it carefully, and said, "Thank you."
They began walking again. Soupy said, "It's no trouble. I've been posing with the diamond for my friends quite a lot recently."
Cliss asked, "Do you have anything personal to say to William Arrow after his comments this morning?"
"Which comments would they be?"
"He called you ignorant and naive, was the gist of it."
"I was not aware of that."
"Do you have a response to his accusations?"
"No, I do not."
"You will let his statement stand, then?"
"I will let it stand until I have actually heard it, at least."
"People will interpret your silence as agreement."
"If they do then their misunderstanding is no one's fault but their own."
Cliss pulled a node from a pocket, saying, "I could play you his statement here."
Soupy stopped and watched the statement. William had apparently been corralled by a reporter just as she had and had made a statement which included the opinion that she was "ignorant of Paradisan history." There was no use of the word naive at all.
Soupy said, "It seems that Mr. Arrow is missing the point. This is not a historical matter."
"So your position is that Arrow is misrepresenting this matter for his political advantage?"
"No. My position is what I said it is." She resumed walking.
Cliss caught up to her and said, "So your position is that Arrow doesn't know what he's talking about, then?"
"No. My position is what I said it is. In his statement this morning he simply missed the point."
"But why did he miss the point? What was his motivation?"
"You will have to ask him that. I suspect he was being badgered by a reporter."
"But you are saying that Arrow is trying to divert attention from the real issues by bringing up irrelevant matters?"
"No, I am attempting to avoid any speculation of Mr. Arrow's motivation."
"Is that because any such speculation would be antagonistic?"
"Mr. Monaco, I appreciate that you're fulfilling your professional duties, but I believe the useful part of this conversation is past."
"But Miss Callidardin, you haven't really given me much to go with, here. Perhaps ..."
He was interrupted by a man's voice behind them, saying, "Soupy?" They stopped and turned. It was Merrill Shoobert, dressed in white and brown, a dozen meters behind them. He walked up and asked, "Is this man disturbing you?"
"Yes," she answered, "as a matter of fact, he is."
"I assure you," Cliss said, "I'm perfectly harmless."
"Nevertheless," Merrill said, "you must leave Miss Callidardin be."
"This hall is a public space; I have a right to use it."
"Nevertheless," Merrill put his hand on the hilt of his sword, as if to draw it, "you must leave Miss Callidardin be."
Cliss put up his hands, "Look, look, I'm just a reporter. I'm just doing my job here." Neither Soupy nor Merrill said anything, nor did Merrill move his hand. Cliss said, "We were about finished, anyway." He bowed to Soupy and said, "Thank you, Miss Callidardin. You can get ahold of me through the New Herodotus News Service." He looked at Merrill, said, "Good day," and walked back down the hall, not looking back. When he was out of sight Merrill took his hand off his sword.
Soupy said, "Thank you, Merrill."
"You're welcome. I'm glad I could help."
"I believe that's the first time a man ever offered to fence another on my behalf."
"It's also the first time I've ever made such an offer, at least seriously."
"Were you headed for the park?"
"Yes, I was."
"Would you like an escort?"
"Certainly." She put her arm around his and they walked to the park, where she told everyone she met of his defense of her, freeing him to act modest, which she knew was the best way to thank him.
The park that day was much the same as the day before, except that Beverly did not show up until the middle of the afternoon. Merrill excused himself and left after a couple hours. Soupy had wondered if he was going to explore the romantic possibilities of the morning's incident, but apparently he was content with his momentary fame, which was just as well with her.
She kept hearing rumors about herself and her situation throughout the day, that the Resumptionist Council had voted to introduce a law which would make the diamond theirs, that Daivvid Mor had denounced that law on the floor of the congress before it was even introduced, that several Resumptionist communities had passed laws which would result in her arrest if she ever visited them.
No reporters found her, although several of her friends told her that one had been looking for her.
She had lunch delivered to her in the park. At that point she was still wandering about alone, but by suppertime Beverly had shown up and a half dozen others were more or less attached to them, so they all went to a dining hall which was in its own building near the park. While she was there she called up her brother.
"Eagle, are you in the halls?"
"Could you do me a favor?"
"Could you walk past my door and see if there's anyone waiting outside? Don't say anything to them, just see if they're there."
A little while later he called back. "There are three women and one man waiting for you. They all have mobile recorders."
"Do you want an escort home?"
"No, I'll just go somewhere else."
"OK, let me know if you change your mind."
"I will. Thank you, Eagle."
When supper was done, therefore, she went to a secondary home she had, a small two room building nestled in the forest not far from the park but opposite the Edwar Halls. Beverly had gone off to see Mzetop again so Soupy was alone. It was past dark when she arrived but she had phoned ahead an order for the building to turn on the door light.
When she got inside she took off her sandals, made herself some black tea, and checked her calls and trips. There were 83 trips. About a quarter of them seemed to be from news services and the rest from public discussions of the news. There were eight just from Verity News. She watched these first. One was the statement by William Arrow that she'd already seen. One was the statement she'd made to Xresohop Baldwin, which Verity had made into a newsbit. The others corresponded to the rumors she'd heard during the day, but not precisely. The Resumptionist Council was expected to vote to introduce a law making the diamond theirs, but had not yet done so. Daivvid Mor had denounced the proposed law, but not from the floor of the congress. Several Resumptionist communities had passed resolutions supporting Arrow's position, but none with any legal force.
She only watched a few of the other services' newsbits, as they were all basically the same. She then scanned down the names in the list of calls that her patterner hadn't automatically answered. One name immediately caught her eye. It was sa Mrenep we Lelemle, the gladifer she'd seen in the party cast.
She played his message first. He was sitting, with his legs tucked under him and his hands resting on the floor. He wore a white apron. He spoke in Gladilatian and after each sentence a Paradisan translation would appear written on the screen beside his capit.
He said, "Hello, Suprastella Callidardin. I am sa Mrenep sa hreLaxreot Lelemle sa Lele we Nmusysy. I want to question you."
That was it. Soupy wasn't sure what to make of it. She replayed it, listening carefully to the last sentence in Gladilatian to see if any meaning had gotten lost in translation, but the Gladilatian was "Mnefmu fmu mzanapu fetrzot nvet," literally meaning, "I am desired by myself to be a creator of inquiries directed to you," which told her nothing new.
She live replied to the message and a human appeared on her screen. She was a woman in a blue tunic, thin with white hair, which was cut very short but nonetheless looked quite soft.
She said, "Miss Callidardin, I am Cornelia Whitney. I am the Lelemle family's human liaison. Mrenep is busy at the moment, but he wishes to interview you."
"To what end?"
"To understand humans better. He does this quite often, sometimes with people mentioned in the news services, sometimes with people who said something interesting in a public discussion, sometimes with people chosen at random."
"I would be happy to oblige him, then. He may call me any time this evening."
"He should be free within the next couple hours."
"That would be fine."
"I'll let him know. Goodbye, then."
Soupy washed her face, and then let her feet soak for a while in a cold shallow stream bath. When they had soaked enough she put her sandals back on and started dealing with the rest of her messages, so she wouldn't be just waiting for the gladifer's call.
When his call came Soupy was already seated in front of her screen so she took it immediately. He was sitting in the same position and wearing the same apron as when he'd left the earlier message. He sat so motionless that for a moment she wondered if she was looking at a still image, but then she said, "Hello, sa Mrenep we Lelemle."
He answered, "Hello, Suprastella Callidardin. I want to question you." As before, he spoke in Gladilatian with the Paradisan translation appearing as text on the screen.
She said, "By all means, do."
He asked, "Were you searching for a diamond?"
"No. I had no idea there would be a diamond in that stream."
"Were you searching?"
"No. I was just walking through the woods."
"Did you carry a diamond in the past?"
"I have a necklace I used to wear which has several diamonds on it, but I never wore it as regularly as I now do this."
"Why do you habitually carry this diamond?"
"Because it continues the journey I embarked upon when I lifted it out of the stream. It is not a chosen journey, but nevertheless it is one which, finding myself upon it, I cannot abandon without that abandonment becoming a detour in my life as great as the journey itself, as great but without its coherence."
Mrenep didn't say anything at first and Soupy was wondering if she'd made herself clear when he asked, "Is that the meaning of this?" and reached offscreen with his hand.
A small image of Soupy appeared on the corner of the screen. It was from the Ish Ester interview, and said, "It's vra, as the gladifers would say, it's fitting that I wear it, in fulfillment of its discovery's serendipity."
"Yes," Soupy answered, "precisely."
"Is your right hand primary?" Soupy didn't understand this question at first, but then she realized he was asking whether she was right handed.
The next question she understood from the Gladilatian before she read the translation. "Nynr napu?", "Are you beautiful?"
"I don't know. It's hard to judge oneself. I seem to have no trouble attracting men."
"What is the story of humanity on Paradise?"
Soupy wasn't sure how to answer this, given that Mrenep undoubtedly knew more about the subject than she did. She decided to give an overview and let him ask for what details he wanted.
"When the gladifers first offered humanity the gift planets the initial reaction of most was to wonder what the catch was. The Resumptionists, however, had no such qualms. The Resumptionist religion had been founded upon the revelation that the development of humanity had once been guided by an alien species who had been forced to abandon the project during antiquity, but who would soon return to resume their task, rescuing us from a battered Earth and leading us to a far better world.
"When the gladifers first made contact with Earth the Resumptionists took it as the fulfillment of their prophesies. Many others did also, swelling the Resumptionists' ranks. When the gladifers offered the gift planets the Resumptionists were certain that their new home was among them. So, while the Unified Human Representative Committee was still debating the process by which decisions regarding the settlement of the planets would be made, the Resumptionists picked one out, named it 'Paradise', and simply went. In those days the Earth/Paradise port was still being run by gladifers, who let anyone through who showed up at a port, because, as I understand it, they had no desire whatsoever to get entangled in human politics.
"The Committee was quite upset by this development, and authorized the emigration of a large number of non-Resumptionists to Paradise. The Resumptionists settled in the Resettlement Bay region and the others in the New Uruguay region, but still they managed to find ways to come into conflict. The history of this planet has been the history of that conflict. It came to open warfare only once, over five hundred years ago, the end result of which was Paradisan United Law, which has been in place so long that it has acquired a sanctity of its own."
She stopped, unsure of whether to go into the history of the various regions, when Mrenep asked, "Will you be a mother?"
"I do not know."
"Will there be your wedding?"
"I do not know."
"Are you aware of your future?"
"No one is either completely aware or completely ignorant of her future. I feel that since I discovered this diamond my future has become more obscure to me, although, at the same time, it also seems more determined. It is as if I used to tread a city street and now tread a forest path."
"Do you want to question me?"
"Yes. I would like that. Why did you ask me a question whose answer you already knew?"
"Because of this I am aware of which word you use."
"Why did you join an ambassador family?"
"My birth family is Laxreot. The place of the Laxreot is Right Foreleg Fifty-four. There is not a port for both this planet and a human planet. At the time of my birth the chance of my seeing a human was small. I was aware of humanity. Humanity was not interesting to me. At a time when I was female I traveled on a random journey of my region." Although she didn't catch the word, Soupy knew he was referring to a lyvosa, a trip to a randomly chosen location, in this case restricted to a given region. "The place of the random journey is in the wilderness. At a time when I was thinking I became aware of a human. Something I don't know is why the human is in the wilderness or on Right Foreleg Fifty-four. I talk to him or her. He or she talks to me. We two speak Gladilatian. We two talk about many things. We two talk about wind. We two talk about juggling. We two talk about statuary. We two even though young talk about being old. He or she wants to be the only first human which a gladifer is aware of. I almost understand him or her. Two years after the random journey I became male. Immediately after my departure ceremony I was traveling off planet for the first time. I am traveling to Paradise. Because the ambassador family to Paradise is Nmusysy I am traveling to Paradise. I become Lelemle."
Soupy asked, "because it's the ambassador family to a human world and you wanted to understand humans better?"
"It is because I want to be one who studies humans, therefore I become Lelemle."
"So it's the learning you seek, more than the knowledge."
"And you wanted to remain in the Nmusysy culture?"
"Was it difficult to be accepted into the Lelemle family?"
"I used very little energy. Even though this is true there are no sponsors for most who want to be Lelemle and some for which there is a sponsor do not have acceptance."
"Are you a mother?"
"Is your child male yet?"
"This is not true. He or she is sa Fesnemet we Laxre."
"Would you like her to join Lelemleot when she becomes male?"
"No." Soupy expected him to continue, but he didn't. She realized that if he'd said, "Yes," she wouldn't have expected him to continue, since that was the obvious answer, and she wondered if the answer he gave was the obvious answer among gladifers.
As she was considering this Mrenep asked, "Will I be able to question you?"
"Some other time, you mean?"
"Certainly. May I question you as well?"
"This is true. I want you to be happy."
Soupy recognized this as a standard parting phrase, and replied, "I say goodbye, then. It's been a pleasure." She then made a hand signal which broke the call.
While Soupy lay in bed the next morning just awake she became aware of an odd sound. She saw the entry request light lit above her door and realized the sound was the collective voice of people just outside her walls. The windows were all set to opaque, and she had no wish to be seen, so she displayed the view from her door on a wall screen. It showed four men she knew, including Merrill Shoobert, standing between her door and a group of nine people, mostly women, who were all evidently reporters. There was nothing confrontational about the scene; they were all just standing around chatting, passing the time until she made her appearance. She washed herself, ate two goose eggs, dressed herself in tight blue clothing, and put in her eyes drops of a liquid in which were suspended tiny discs which were too small to see but which would catch the sunlight and make her eyes sparkle. She then stood directly in front of her door, put her left hand on the hilt of her sword, and said, "open".
When the door slid open everyone stopped talking and turned towards her. Then her friends backed up a little to give her room and she stepped over the threshold, the door sliding shut behind her.
The reporters then all began shouting, "Miss Callidardin! Miss Callidardin!" and Merrill leaned over and said, "We thought you might need an escort."
Soupy said, "Thank you," and then raised her voice to tell the reporters, "I will answer one question from each of you."
She then pointed to a woman near her, who asked, "Miss Callidardin, the Masoline bishop of New New Haven has called for a compromise where the diamond is owned by the Resumptionist Council but remains in your possession. What is your reaction?"
"To what end should we compromise? The Resumptionist Council is attempting to alter Paradisan United Law. If they succeed they will have no reason to compromise. If they fail I will have no reason to compromise."
The woman who had asked the question attempted to follow it up, but Soupy pointed to another, who asked, "Miss Callidardin, wouldn't acceptance of the compromise spare the planet the anguish of confrontation on the floor of the congress?"
"I have never subscribed to the theory that settling an issue involves more anguish than letting it fester."
The next reporter she pointed to, a man, bowed and asked, "Do you have any plans to meet with Daivvid Mor?"
The next asked, "Is it true that you've had an interview with the gladifer sa Mrenep we Lelemle?"
"Yes, it is."
She asked, "What was it about?" but Soupy pointed to another man, who bowed and asked, "Miss Callidardin, what did Mr. Lelemle ask?"
"It was a private conversation."
She pointed to another woman, who asked, "Getting back to the bishop's compromise, what issue is it that you think would be festering?"
"The issue of whether or not this planet is still ruled by Paradisan United Law."
She pointed to another, who asked, "Any plans for introducing Suprastella Callidardin Brand Fine Jewelry?"
Soupy smiled, "No, no plans of that sort.""
The next asked, "Miss Callidardin, what is your religion?"
"I suppose I'm agnostic. None of the arguments I've heard from any side of the issue have been particularly persuasive."
She then pointed to the last reporter there, the same Cliss Monaco whom she had met the day before. He bowed and asked, "Miss Callidardin, will you be attending the upcoming O'Neill party cast?"
"I wasn't aware I had been invited."
"According to my sources you should have received an invitation last night."
"I have not yet checked this morning's mails, and if I have been invited courtesy requires that I reply directly to the O'Neills, but I will state that I would consider such an invitation to be a great honor.
"Now, if you will all excuse me." She started walking, her four friends joining her, two on each side, forming a square with her at the center. The reporters kept pace on either side, shouting questions and holding up their recorders. As they walked through the park they gathered the attention of all they passed. Friends of hers waved, or joined the inner group around her. People she didn't know joined the procession out of curiosity and thus became objects of curiosity themselves. Some children, familiar with wedding processions, asked the men escorting her for candy, which, as luck would have it, one of them had. The crowd stratified itself naturally, with no jostling or shoving. Soupy was in the center, with her friends around her, the children around them, the reporters in two groups on either side of them, and the rest of the people on the outside. Four flutists who had been playing while sitting on the grass placed themselves at the head of the group, playing a march. No one guided their progress. They kept to the major pathways between lawns; they wouldn't have been able to fit through the smaller ones. It was all in the general direction Soupy would have walked anyway.
When they came to the lawn of the Grand Fountain they headed straight for it. Soupy caught glimpses of someone seated on the fountain's edge facing the crowd, and when they got close enough she saw that it was Beverly, also dressed in blue. Whether it was because most of the crowd recognized Beverly or because the minority who did controlled its path, they split in half when they reached the fountain, with people gathering on each side until Soupy found herself in front of Beverly. She turned and sat next to her and they both waited quietly while the crowd arranged itself around them, with her self-appointed guardians near them and facing out and the rest of the people all around facing in, quiet as crowds go, watching the two of them.
Soupy was wondering what she should do next when Beverly turned to her and said, "Friends of yours?"
Soupy tried to keep from laughing, but failed.
Soupy and Beverly sat on the edge of the fountain for a while, aware that having an ordinary conversation was impossible but not sure what else to do, when Beverly said, "Let's go to my place."
Soupy responded, "an excellent idea." So they went, the procession following them as it had Soupy until they got to where they could call a car.
Beverly lived in a stone building atop a small hill built to look like a castle in preapocalyptic Europe. Its name was "Hillstone", but everyone called it "the castle". Its advantage over either of Soupy's places was that the common areas of the building were not open to the general public.
When they got there Beverly served tea and Soupy told her about the talk with Mrenep the night before. She continued with an account of the morning's events until she mentioned the possibility of being invited to a party cast, when Beverly insisted that she check her mails immediately to see if it was true.
So she checked her mails from Beverly's place, and it was true. There was a mail from Zanna O'Neill, who, when she played it, turned out to be the woman who'd hosted the cast they'd seen a few nights before.
Zanna was dressed in a long black dress and seated in a large wooden chair. She said, "Miss Callidardin, I will be hosting a broadcast celebration in a couple of days and I would be honored by your presence. I realize this is awfully short notice, but if you could possibly make it we would be happy to have you."
Soupy live replied, and was greeted by a young woman, dressed in black in the Resettlement Bay style, who said, "Miss Callidardin, a pleasure to hear from you. Will you be attending the party cast?"
"I would like to. Is it tomorrow?"
"It's tomorrow after, Landfall time, which would be tomorrow night, your time. If you're coming I would recommend flying in today or tonight. If you've no place to stay in Landfall the O'Neills will be happy to put you up."
"Thank you, I'll accept your hospitality. I'll call back after I find out exactly when I'll arrive."
"No need. Just get a car in Landfall and tell it to take you to the O'Neill compound. You'll be received any time of day."
"I'll do that then. Thank you."
"You're most welcome. See you soon!" She made a hand signal to cut the call.
Beverly said, "Soupy, I don't believe it. First Ish Ester, and now an O'Neill party cast. Plus you're on the news, and the Mango Troupe even did a comedy skit about you."
"Yes, I'll show you. Wall, show the Mango Troupe bit I watched earlier."
The wall screen showed the skit, featuring an actress with Soupy's hair dressed as Soupy had been for the Ish Ester interview. She was visiting some man's home and kept picking up things which were obviously his personal effects and claiming that they were hers by Paradisan United Law. When there was nothing more left in the room for her to appropriate the entry request light by the door lit, and the visitor was an actor playing William Arrow, who proceeded to claim that the things she had taken were sacred to the Resumptionist religion. When she had given him everything she'd taken he continued to make claims on her sword, her sandals, and finally her clothes, until she was carrying nothing and wearing only her diamond. When he claimed that she refused, saying it was an archeological relic, and that giving it up wouldn't be "vra or ye or something like that." Whereupon the first man said, "but Soupy, by Paradisan United Law every Mango Troupe skit has to end with a completely naked woman." So she took the diamond off, tossed it to the Arrow character, and then bowed to the thunderous but obviously recorded applause.
"I suppose," said Soupy, "that that's about what one can expect from the Mango Troupe."
"I know it's crude, but I thought it was funny the first time I saw it. That actress does have your voice accurate."
"What else is there?"
"Let's take a look."
They spent the next little while watching newsbits, opinion bits, and discussions about Soupy, the Resumptionist Council, and the diamond. They came across the shrine Soupy had seen before, as well as an art work which was an image of the Adelaide Bowl with a diamond replaced by a bleeding wound.
The most interesting, to Soupy, of the things they saw was an interview by Xresohop Baldwin of Jack Melon, a former congressman. Xresohop was wearing yet another blue dress, and Jack was dressed in a gray robe. His hair matched the color of his robe, although his eyes were bright blue.
Xresohop asked Jack why he thought William Arrow was making a big issue of this, and he answered, "You have to understand William's philosophy, what he's been trying to do for the past several years. Will believes that Resumptionists have lost their way, that we have forgotten our special role in the settlement of this planet and, indeed, in the history of the species, and are beginning to consider ourselves to be just another religion. To counter this he has been encouraging, and persuading the council to officially promote, the study of the struggle of the founders to settle this planet and preserve the Resumptionist nature of the original settlements. And while I don't think he mentioned the Adelaide Bowl before this all came up, it fits right in with his themes, and to see it reenter the planet's attention because a piece of it is being worn by a non-Resumptionist must really stir his blood, especially since she's claimed a right to it by gladiological principles such as vraot. William, you know, is one of the most prominent gladiologists on the planet, and I think he understands the concept of vraot a bit better than this Channel girl. You also have to realize that William really believes that his claims on the diamond are in keeping with the spirit of Paradisan United Law, if not its letter, in that the law gives every religion authority over its internal matters, and the Adelaide Bowl is a Resumptionist internal matter.
"So," Xresohop asked, "you think Miss Callidardin should give the diamond back?"
"Well, she apparently believes that she is preserving the spirit of the United Law herself, because it denies any religion authority over anyone who's not a follower, and, unfortunately, she has the letter of the law on her side."
"So what do you think will happen?"
Jack hesitated before answering, "I'm afraid that William is going to provoke a planetary crisis, perhaps by persuading the council to boycott the congress. He wouldn't do this because he thought he would prevail politically, but because he thought it would rally the Resumptionists who are now, in his opinion, too apathetic."
Jack then held up his hands and said, "This is all speculation on my part, though. William hasn't said anything to me about this."
"Well," said Beverly, "if he does rally the Resumptionists let's hope he doesn't do it until after your trip to Landfall, or you just might find yourself walking into the dragon's mouth."
"There's no need to worry. I'll be a guest of the O'Neills while I'm there. I won't be taking a stroll along the bay. In fact, judging by today, I won't be taking many strolls anywhere in the near future."
Soupy spent the evening at Beverly's, going to sleep there early and waking halfway between midnight and morning to start her journey. She hoped to avoid notice that way, and succeeded. There was no one waiting outside her primary home when she arrived. Indeed, she saw no one at all in the Edwar Halls. She packed for the trip in a walking suitcase and changed into brown clothes, a loose shirt and a snug skirt made of heavier material than she usually wore.
She took a car to an airport a little more than an hour's ride away. The halls of the airport were wide but mostly empty, with caverns of darkness where dining halls and sitting rooms were shut down until morning. A plane for Landfall was accepting passengers when she arrived, so she got right on, and only had to wait a few minutes before they were in the air. No one seemed to recognize her in the airport, but on the plane two girls about half her age kept stealing glances at her and whispering to each other. The plane was not at all crowded, and she was able to convert her seat into a bed, where she lay for several hours, listening to the rhythms of people's conversations before finally drifting off to sleep. It was dark outside the whole journey; they were traveling west, fleeing the approaching sun.
The descent of the plane to Landfall woke Soupy. She could see out the window that the edges of the sky were beginning to lighten. When the plane landed and finally came to a stop it was inside, in a bare white room. The passengers departed along a black plank into black cars which sped off with each passenger or group of companions, replaced almost immediately by the next car.
When Soupy and her suitcase entered a car it began moving before she had even sat down. It quickly entered a pitch dark passageway, and asked her, "What is your destination, Miss Callidardin?"
"The O'Neill compound."
"The one where I might find Zanna O'Neill."
"Yes, Miss Callidardin."
The ride took longer than she'd expected. It was completely black outside the windows the whole way; they were apparently underground. Then, suddenly, the car lifted upwards and came to a stop in a circular room of green, blue, and gray marble. Waiting for her there was the same woman she'd talked to when she'd replied to Zanna O'Neill's message, dressed in the Resettlement Bay style, in a dark blue dress with long sleeves and a short skirt, wearing a halfsword in a silver scabbard.
As soon as the suitcase stepped out of the car behind Soupy the car sank into the floor and the hole it made was filled with a slab which left no visible seam.
The other woman said, "Welcome to the house of the O'Neills, Miss Callidardin."
Soupy replied, "Thank you. I don't believe I learnt your name when we talked before."
"I am Cole Errit. I am your host for today."
"Are you an O'Neill then?"
"Not officially. I'm an agent of the Landfall Broadcast Collective, although I act under O'Neill authority. If you'll come with me, I have a room ready for you. You can rest, if you like; the cast isn't until this after."
Soupy said, "thank you," and they walked through a series of passageways, all marble, some with closed doors on the sides, some with small sculptures on pedestals lining the walls, until they came to one with a plain wall on the right but only a few pillars on the left separating it from the dawn sky.
Soupy walked over to a space between the pillars. They were on a small but steep hill overlooking the city of Landfall. It was not long before sunrise now; she could clearly see the roofs and atria of the buildings below, and the narrow streets between them. The city was still, with muted colors, mostly blue and green. Not far beyond it was the beach, and beyond that, stretching out to the horizon, was Resettlement Bay. The sky looked both dim and pale, with the planet Galadriel a lavender jewel shining above the bay. At first she did not see a sign of movement anywhere, even the few ships out on the bay looked motionless, but then a small flock of red birds rose from somewhere hidden, flew across the scene, and landed behind a building, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared.
Cole said, "It's quite pleasant this time of day."
Soupy didn't know if she was referring to the scene before them, or speaking of dawn in general, but she just said, "Yes, it is."
Cole took her to her room for the day, where they shared a sweet rice breakfast. Cole then left while Soupy tried to take a nap. She was not as sleepy as she thought she would be, though, and ended up watching more newsbits about her and the diamond. The major development since she'd last checked the news was a declaration by the Emmist dominated Planetary Archeological Service that an object's status as an archeological relic always takes precedence over its status as a religious object and the subsequent resignation in protest of one of its Resumptionist members.
Lunch was delivered to her room. After she'd eaten she washed herself with a shower and dressed for the party cast. She wore the same clothes she'd worn for the Ish Ester interview, the shirt and skirt both short and snug, except white this time, along with silver sandals, a silver navel plug, her sword, her purse, and her diamond. Then she sat on a stool and recited poetry she'd memorized as a child under her breath, to keep herself from getting too nervous.
Cole eventually appeared, saying, "we'll be starting soon. Are you all set?"
Soupy stood up, "I believe so."
"I'll be taking you directly to the casting room a few minutes before the cast starts. Have you watched an O'Neill party ever?"
"Yes, many times."
"Then you already know where the clean room is and all that."
"Good. I would recommend suppressing your phone implant during the cast."
"I've already done so."
After a moment of silence Cole asked, "Nervous?"
"Yes, a bit."
"You'll do fine. I saw you on Ish Ester and you were very smooth."
They stood there a short while longer, waiting, and then Cole's face became more alert, apparently because she was listening to something on her phone implant, and she said, "OK. It's time. Follow me."
She led Soupy down a hallway which a short distance away joined another, along which several clusters of people walked, some silent, some chatting among themselves. They soon came to a small room, with an open door beyond which Soupy could see the familiar walls of the cast room. At this doorway one person out of each group stayed behind while the others went in, the ones remaining all women who looked like Cole.
When she got to the door Cole said, "They'll be starting the actual cast as soon as everyone's settled. Good luck." She stepped aside and Soupy walked into the room.
The room looked no different from the many times she'd seen its protean image. It had a row of white pedestals down its middle, each with a vase of purple flowers on top, and the usual ceremonial platform and food tables. It was quickly filling up with people, all of them dressed up, mostly in the Resettlement Bay style. Soupy was the only one there whose midriff was bare.
Soupy recognized many of her fellow guests from casts she'd seen, some by name, some by profession, and some just as familiar faces. Many of them knew each other and started forming small groups. Soupy tried to remember what first time guests did at party casts, but she couldn't recall any who didn't already know someone else there.
Then she noticed the tall, bearded man standing just to her left. He was the Havversunner she'd seen when she'd last watched a party cast. He was dressed in Paradisan clothes this time, black pants and vest with a white shirt, although he still wore no sword.
She said, "Jon Minnibee!"
He replied, "Soupy Callidardin!"
"You know my name."
"And you know mine, which is more surprising."
Before Soupy could respond the lights began to dim. As soon as it was completely black a single light appeared, shining down on Zanna O'Neill, who was standing in front of the ceremonial bowl wearing a red robe with a white belt and a white hat.
Zanna said, "I welcome all my guests, both seen and unseen, to the house of the O'Neills. We are where we ought to be." She then took a small white cup, filled it with water from the bowl, and, leaning her head back, poured the water on her face. As she did this Soupy touched her forehead with her right index and middle fingers. She realized in the middle of doing so that it was essentially a Resumptionist custom, and wondered how people would interpret her doing it.
Zanna said, "Fmase fyhyazep napu u," and the lights came up full again. Soupy glanced about the room, acutely aware that there were people who would analyze recordings of this cast and compile lists of who and what she looked at for how many milliseconds.
She turned to Jon, who was still standing near her, and said, "I spoke with a friend of yours recently."
"Really? Who would that be?"
"Sa Mrenep we Lelemle."
"Mrenep! How is he?"
"He is always curious. Have you known him long?"
"No, not at all. He called me completely unexpectedly a few days ago and requested an interview."
"It was nice of you to oblige him."
"It was nice of him to ask. I had never spoken with a gladifer before."
"Never? I didn't think gladifers were so rare on Paradise."
"Perhaps not in Landfall, but they are in the Channel."
"Do you live on the Channel itself?"
"No, I'm quite a bit inland, although I'm close enough that it rains ash if the wind's just right when Mount Robespierre erupts."
"Really? Does that happen often?"
"No. Only four or five times in my life, and only once when it was more than a light dusting. I was twenty years old, twenty Paradisan years, and suddenly the world transformed. We weren't allowed outside, but my brother and I spent the day sitting by the window watching the whole world turn gray, land and trees and sky. We might as well have been on another planet. Then it stopped, and then it rained, and the green world slowly came back. It never seemed quite the same, though. A lot of plants died and were replaced by other kinds of plant, and the butterflies in the forest near our house changed from yellow to red, for some reason."
"I usually think of Paradise as a place where nothing ever changes. I forget sometimes how active it is geologically."
"The changes did not amount to very much, really. You must remember that I was twenty at the time, about fourteen Earth years, and at that age change is the theme of everything that happens."
"I understand that change has been a theme of your recent life as well."
Soupy smiled, "Indeed it has. I am not usually found in Landfall, or in protean rooms throughout the planet, or, for that matter, in conversation with a Havversunner."
"What did you do, before you stumbled upon fame?"
"I'm in studies. This is vacation now. If I were not here at this party I would likely be watching it in my protean room."
"So that's how you knew my name."
"You know, I've been to three of these parties now, but I've never actually watched one. How do you decide where to situate yourself?"
"It depends." Soupy looked about the room to see if there was any group she could use as an example. What she saw was William Arrow. He was dressed in steel blue pants and a matching vest with a white shirt and a fullsword in a black scabbard. He was in the middle of a group of five other men, the same age as he or younger, all dressed in a similar fashion. They were all looking at Soupy when she noticed them.
As soon as he saw that Soupy had seen him William walked over to her, with his companions close behind. As he was doing so Soupy said to Jon, "For instance, right now I think I'd be watching us."
Conversations faltered throughout the room as people's attentions were diverted to the impending meeting. Some of the closest people dropped all pretense of being interested in anything else and turned to watch, as if they were the audience in a protean room and not guests themselves.
William walked up to Soupy, and, with his followers to either side of him and Jon still on Soupy's left, bowed, saying, as he did so, "Miss Callidardin."
Soupy said, "Mister Arrow."
"That's a lovely diamond you're wearing."
"Do you know its history?"
"I know its recent history very well."
He smiled, "undoubtedly, but most of its history is not recent. On our mother Earth in its year Twenty-three Eighty-five Richard Stillman commissioned Robert Wu to create a ceremonial bowl, a bowl which was to symbolize the unity of humanity in its reception of the gladifers' beneficence, a beneficence which Stillman himself had foretold. Wu made that bowl, in Adelaide, Australia, out of marble, silver, and sixteen diamonds, diamonds which were dug out of the soil of Africa and cut in the city of Mandela. When the gladifers gave us this planet to nurture our species' revival, we used that bowl, we used those diamonds, to pledge our gratitude. The planet has since been populated by many who do not share our gratitude but who, for the most part, respect it." He waited, apparently for Soupy to say something, but she, as well as the rest of the hall, was silent.
"Miss Callidardin," he continued, "you yourself have conceded that that diamond is sacred to our religion. I beg of you, do the right thing. Give us the jewel."
Everyone's attention turned to Soupy. She glanced at the onlookers, looked back at William, and said, "It is precisely because it is sacred to you that I cannot give it to you. I have considered your claim, but I have been unable to figure out how to honor it without acknowledging its legitimacy. The history of this planet, and, indeed, of humanity, has amply shown the dangers of giving religions secular authority."
William's face took on a sterner look. "I will not, I cannot, allow a relic of the resettlement, touched in reverence by Richard Stillman himself, be paraded about as some girl's bauble. That diamond is ours and we will have it!" He then, so suddenly that Soupy couldn't react, reached out, grabbed the diamond between his thumb and index finger, and, with his other fingers wrapped around the chain, yanked.
However, the chain held.
Soupy was pulled forward. She planted her right foot in front of her to keep from falling over, threw her hands up in the air, and let out a yelp.
William let go of the chain and stood with his hand still partly raised, looking almost as surprised as Soupy. Soupy stepped back to where she had been, regained her balance, and drew her sword.
Several people instinctively backed up a step, but William held his ground. One of his companions put his hand on the hilt of his sword, but did not draw it. Soupy held her sword to the right of her, pointing upwards, and said, "Get away from me."
William did nothing, apparently unsure of what to do. The men around him did nothing, looking to him for guidance. The rest of the guests did nothing, waiting for the drama to continue.
Soupy, her hand turning white from gripping the hilt of her sword so tightly, said, louder than before, "Get away from me!"
William spread his hands apart, smiled, and, saying, "Now, Soupy ...," took a step forward.
Soupy cut him. In one quick motion she turned the sword horizontal, with the point away from her, and slashed across his stomach. She sliced through his shirt and into his skin, not deep, but enough to draw blood, which quickly soaked the bottom of his shirt.
A woman yelled, "No!," and two of William's companions drew their fullswords. Soupy took a step back, holding her sword by her side, pointing forward. Jon stepped between them, raising his hands and saying, "Wait, wait!" William looked down at the wound, as if he couldn't quite understand where all the blood was coming from.
Zanna O'Neill, who had joined the guests near the scene without Soupy noticing, said, "Stop, all of you! Sheath your swords!" After a moment's hesitation the men did as she said. Soupy looked at her sword. She wiped first one side and then the other on her right hip, leaving crossed bloodstains on her skirt, and then put it in its scabbard.
William looked at Soupy and said, "This was not ... This was not ..." He seemed to slump a little and two of his friends each took one of his arms.
Zanna said, "Take him out the south door. He'll be mended." William, supported by his friends, walked towards the opposite side of the room from where Soupy'd entered. On the way he looked back with an expression which could have been either anger or surprise.
Zanna then turned to Soupy, and said, "I think it would be best if you left."
Soupy replied, "I think it would have been best if I hadn't been invited," knowing that most of the audience would be aware that it was Zanna O'Neill who had invited her.
Jon, who was still beside her, said, "I'll walk you out."
She said, "Thank you, Jon," and took his arm. They walked to the door without saying anything, past guests who readily made way for them.
When they got to the door Jon said, too quietly for the other guests, but, of course, hearable by the audience in protean rooms throughout Paradise, "It was an honor to meet you, Soupy Callidardin. It's a shame you were set up so."
Soupy said, "Thank you," and took a gold coin out of her purse. "It's a Channel custom to leave a coin behind at a party. I was going to leave this in the ceremonial bowl, but under the circumstances I don't think that would be wise. I'd like you to have it instead."
Jon said, "Thank you," as he took the coin. "Take care of yourself."
Soupy said, "I'll try," and went out the door.
Cole Errit was waiting on the other side. As soon as the door was shut she said, "We have to get you out of Landfall."
Cole carried on a series of low, short conversations through her phone implant while they walked to the room where Soupy's things were and Soupy packed. Soupy did not bother changing her clothes. When she was all ready she stood with her arms folded waiting for Cole to finish.
Before long Cole looked at her and said, "OK, we're all set now. I've got you a private plane. You'll travel by car, plane, and car, and shouldn't meet another person the whole way."
"Is that really necessary?"
"I'm not sure what's really necessary. You cut a member of the Resumptionist Council. I can't remember that ever happening before. I know I'll feel more comfortable the less people you come in contact with while you're still in the Resettlement Bay region."
"OK," Soupy said, "let's do it, then."
Cole led her down a different series of hallways than what she'd come in through, to another room with another black car in the middle. Cole opened a door and Soupy stepped in. As her suitcase was entering after her she turned to Cole and said, "I want to thank you for all you've done for me. You've been very kind."
Cole hesitated before answering, "As a host my responsibility is to meet the needs of my guests. Right now your greatest need is safe passage to the Channel region. I have provided that. That does not mean I approve of what you did." Then she closed the door.
The windows of the car were opaque, but Soupy could feel the car drop before it sped off. After a shorter trip than the one that had brought her to the O'Neills' the car stopped and the door opened to a ramp to the open door of a small black plane lit by a spotlight in an otherwise dark room. After she and her suitcase got on its door closed and it started moving. The plane had seats for four people, but she was the only one there. She wasn't even sure if it had a human pilot.
The plane's windows were also opaque, but she could feel it taking off and rising into the sky. After it had leveled off the windows became transparent and she could see rectangles of farmland splattered with cloud shadows below.
She considered watching the remainder of the party cast. The plane did not have a protean room, but it could display a flat version. She considered watching the news, knowing the confrontation would be on it soon, if it wasn't already. She considered calling Beverly, or Eagle, or her parents, who must all have watched the cast, or just removing the suppression on her implant, so she would receive their calls. She did none of these things, however. Instead she looked out the window, and watched the farmlands give way to forest, with the shadows of the hills growing longer and longer, until she realized how tired she was. Although it wasn't very late in the evening Channel time she hadn't gotten much rest the night before, so she turned her seat into a bed and went to sleep.
Once again, the plane's descent woke her. It was dark, but she could see stars above and the scattered lights of humanity below. The plane landed on a brightly lit runway and its door opened just as another black car was coming to a stop alongside it. In between the plane and the car Soupy stopped and looked around. She could see the outline of a dark building, but otherwise the runway was surrounded by forest. There was no sign that there were any other people anywhere near.
When she and her suitcase stepped into the car the runway lights went out and the car asked, "What is your destination, Miss Callidardin?"
"How long would it take to get to the Edwar Halls?"
"About two hours."
"Yes, Miss Callidardin." The car's headlights came on, and it drove off.
Soupy checked the news. As she expected, she was on it. To her surprise, there was little else. The incident at the party cast filled the entire short cycle and most of the long cycle. There were dozens of newsbits each of political, legal, and physical analyses. There was a continuous quarter speed replay of the incident and accompanying text and graphics showing the main participants' gazes, centers of balance, and breathing, along with a running calculation of the distance between Soupy's sword and William's skin, negative during the actual cut. There was an analysis of the stresses on Soupy's chain when William pulled it. There were shots of a woman at the party who had burst into tears soon after Soupy had left and who couldn't stop herself from crying. There were replays of the Imardo/Kim swordfight of twenty-three years ago, the last time blood had been spilled at a party cast. There were reports on William's condition, which, as Soupy expected, was good, and much speculation on just where Soupy was.
One of the newsbits Soupy found especially interesting was an interview by Xresohop Baldwin of Richard Flores, an expert in legal matters who looked not much older than Soupy but who was dressed in a black robe.
Xresohop's first question was to the point, "Why has no one been arrested?"
Richard answered, "Presumably neither Mr. Arrow nor Miss Callidardin has filed charges because if one does then the other will also, and there's a very real chance that they would both be convicted. According to our trial simulations Arrow would almost certainly be convicted, and, although there's a chance that Callidardin would be acquitted due to the provocation, she would face the more serious charge. I also presume the Landfall Security Authority would not file charges without Arrow's OK."
"Your mention of simulations brings up an interesting question. William Arrow could easily have run a trial simulation before the incident. Why would he attempt to seize the diamond if he knew he could be convicted of assault?"
"Presumably it was a price he was willing to pay. In fact, my guess is that he expected to be indicted for both assault and theft, assuming he actually got the diamond, and he would concede the assault charge and use the theft trial to challenge United Law itself."
"There's a related question which is perhaps outside your expertise but which everyone, I think, has been wondering since this incident happened. Why would William Arrow assault someone who's armed?"
"You're right that this is outside my expertise, but I know a lot of Landfallers of Arrow's age and status, and I think I can answer this. To someone like William Arrow, a woman's sword is a piece of jewelry, something to emphasize her hips. It probably never even occurred to him that she might use it as a weapon. Even after she drew it, he seemed to treat it as a symbolic act, and not a threat to defend herself with violence. Miss Callidardin, of course, had other ideas."
Soupy continued to watch for about an hour, going from interview to analysis to background, coming across, among other things, a history of her sword, an indepth discussion of the exact legal meaning of "approach", and Beverly.
The interview with Beverly was very short. Beverly mentioned that Soupy had left for Landfall from her place and that she didn't know where Soupy was. She looked worried, more worried than Soupy would have thought. Soupy took the suppression off her phone implant.
Even though it was late at night and only her friends would be able to get through even without the suppression, calls were not long in coming. Apparently several people had launched periodic calling, including her brother and her father. She declined them until one came, as she'd expected, from Beverly.
She took the call and said, "Hi, Bev."
"Soupy! Soupy, is that you?"
"You called me, Bev."
"Soupy, are you alright? Where are you? We couldn't get in touch with you."
"My apologies, I needed to be detached for a while. The cast did not unfold as I'd anticipated."
"I'll say! My lungs froze for a minute there. You walked into the dragon's mouth just as he decided it was time for dinner. Where are you now? We've been trying to get in touch with you ever since. The O'Neills wouldn't tell us anything, not even to your parents."
"I'm back in the East. I've been in flight most of the time since the cast. At the moment I'm in a car headed home."
"Did you arrange an escort?"
"Is that necessary?"
"Oh, yes! the halls already have badgemen in front of your place just to control the crowd. You'd better warn them before you show up, or else come to the castle. I'll put you up until this dies down."
"Thank you; I'll do that, for tonight at least. This might take a while to die down, but at least I can wait until I've slept in a real bed before I confront it."
When Soupy arrived at the castle she rode past a woman by the entrance with a bright light and a recorder calling her name. She wondered whether her location had been discovered or if the reporter had been doing that with every car which entered the castle. She did not stop to find out though, but went straight to Beverly's home.
When Beverly opened the door she was dressed in a white robe, barefoot and swordless.
They embraced, and Beverly said, "Oh, Soupy, I was sure they'd arrested you or something."
"No, the O'Neills were mostly concerned with safely getting me out of their responsibility."
"Did you eat? Do you need anything?"
"What I need now mostly is sleep."
"OK. Your bed's all set up. We'll talk in the morning."
It did not take long for Soupy to get to sleep once she was in bed. It was a familiar place, even though it wasn't hers, and it felt like she was home again.
The next morning Soupy dressed in a tight blue clothing, the skirt dark and the shirt light, while Beverly dressed similarly in green. After breakfast Soupy started contacting people who had been trying to get hold of her, her parents, her brother, Merrill, Hadrian, and dozens of others. By the time she was done she'd developed a spiel which she was repeating almost verbatim, assuring them that she was unharmed, not under arrest, and back in the Channel region. The most common question she was asked was whether she'd been afraid, which she answered "yes". None of them asked her why she'd cut William when he'd made no movement to draw his sword.
Before she was done the news services had discovered where she was, and were waiting in force just outside the castle. Beverly had opaqued the windows because she'd noticed Soupy on a newsbit in an image which could only have been taken through the window by an airborne recorder.
They kept Beverly's wall screen on continuously, with instructions to grep the news for mention of Soupy. They were eating lunch and discussing how Soupy should make her reappearance in the public eye when William Arrow made his. He was interviewed by Xresohop Baldwin. Xresohop was wearing a long blue dress, and William was wearing a beltless white robe, such as one might wear when recovering from an injury. They were both seated in large black chairs.
Xresohop began, "William, thank you for coming. I hope the reports on your recovery have been accurate."
"Yes, thank you. I've been assured that I will fully mend."
"William, you and Miss Callidardin have been locked in a dispute for several days now, and people expected that you would soon stop just talking about it and make concrete steps to recover the diamond, but no one expected that when you finally did so you would use force. Why didn't you take her to court or appeal to the congress?"
"Miss Callidardin wore our diamond to a fully protean broadcast, in front of some of the planet's leading citizens, right in the center of Landfall. It was a provocation I could not let pass. To do so would have been to concede her right to wear it. I'm sorry I made her lose her balance, but the 'force' I used is hardly comparable to drawing a sword and slicing someone's skin."
"You say it's your diamond, but Paradisan United Law says it's hers. Wasn't your attempt to seize the diamond an attempt to nullify United Law itself?"
"My attempt to seize the diamond was an attempt to right a wrong. If Paradisan United Law would preserve the wrong, then it should be changed."
"But you know you don't have the votes to change it; that would require a majority of the non-Resumptionists in congress. You didn't grab the diamond in order to change United Law, so my question remains. Did you grab the diamond in order to nullify United Law?"
William hesitated before answering, "Let's just say that at this point preserving United Law is not a high priority of mine."
"Is that the official position of the Resumptionist Council?"
"No, but my sense of the council is that it could be."
Those last two questions and their answers immediately became the lead story in the news cycles, followed by various people's reactions, followed by the statement, "we have not been able to contact Miss Callidardin."
After hearing that for the third time Soupy turned to Beverly and asked, "Want to be on the news?"
When Soupy contacted the Edwar Halls Traffic Authority to arrange her arrival she found that they had already planned out several scenarios. So, even though it was just a quick car ride, Soupy and Beverly were able to leave right away.
They emerged from the car in front of the Edwar Halls main entrance, an arched opening four times as tall as a person in a stone wall under carved Gladilatian glyphs saying, "Nrau Etwar".
There was a small platform in front of the car when they emerged, surrounded by six badgemen in their billowy uniforms and hard wigs. They were standing in a semicircle separating the platform from a crowd which filled the small courtyard in front of the entrance. Those in the front of the crowd were mostly reporters; many of the rest were people Soupy recognized.
As soon as she appeared the reporters all began raising their hands and shouting, "Miss Callidardin!". Some of the crowd let out a cheer when she stepped up on the platform and many of them shouted words which she could not make out.
Beverly stood to the side, off the platform. One of the reporters shouted, "Miss Alare!" a few times, but Beverly ignored her.
Soupy said, "Hello, all," and the crowd cheered. Her voice, as she'd expected, was amplified, although she could see neither where her own voice was gathered nor where the amplified voice originated.
She continued, "I've been away," - there were some shouts - "to a distant land, where I was accosted," - a man not far into the crowd to her left began screaming at her - "but managed to defend myself." - there was some laughter and more cheers, and the screaming man was joined by some others near him. She thought she heard one of them repeatedly call her a "quickdart", which is a small, poisonous Paradisan snake. "I'm back now" - more cheers - "and eager to sit in my home, but I have time to answer a few questions first." At this the reporters started calling her name with renewed vigor.
She looked at one, a woman who had been in front of her other home two days before, and said, "Yes?"
"Miss Callidardin, why did you cut Mr. Arrow when his sword was still sheathed?" Her voice was also amplified, although again by no apparent means.
Soupy replied, "He approached me after having forfeited the right to do so." The voices of those hostile to her got louder and she could see some jostling in that direction.
The reporter asked, "forfeited how?"
"Forfeited by assaulting me on his previous approach." The noise got even louder and she could hear arguments shouted between those angry with her and others around them.
"But," the reporter continued, "he had not drawn his sword."
"He was carrying a fullsword. I was not about to fence him. I gave him fair warning." The crowd to her left surged forward a little but was blocked by the pack of reporters. Soupy pointed to another woman reporter, and whatever was controlling the amplification noticed, because the first reporter asked another question which even Soupy couldn't make out.
The second reporter asked, "Miss Callidardin, is it true your mother killed a man with that same sword?" As she was asking this there was another surge by the crowd, pushing the reporters forward so that the badgemen had to link arms to keep them away from the platform. The shouting continued, but except for a few men pointing fingers at her and chanting, "quickdart! quickdart! quickdart!" it seemed more excited than angry.
Soupy said, "Yes, you know that. It's a public fact," and looked at another reporter.
This woman asked, "Miss Callidardin, why didn't you just point the blade at him if you wanted him to stop approaching you?" Something small and dark sailed over her head; some one had thrown something at her and missed.
She answered, "I do not know. I did not really have the time to weigh my various options." She was about to add more to this when the first swords were drawn.
Quickly there were dozens of fullswords held high in the air, flashing in the sun. Soupy said, "Please, sheath your swords." She realized that the greatest danger was from accidental cuts. Although many of them would have taken fencing lessons, no one would know how to handle a sword in a crowd. The crowd got louder, and pushed the badgemen back a step. Soupy was about to say something more when a wave of dizziness came over her. She bent over slightly, trying to remain aware of the situation around her, realizing that the badgemen must have released a gas to control the crowd. A strong hand grabbed her right forearm. She looked, and it was a badgeman, saying something she couldn't make out and pulling her toward the car, which was still parked behind her.
The badgeman carried her as much as guided her into the car, where she lay down on a seat and curled up, trying to fight the panic of not being able to think straight when thinking straight was required. She noticed Beverly on another seat, sitting down but bent over with her head in her hands. Soupy suddenly thought that her diamond was missing, but reached up and found it still on its chain. She grasped it tightly in her hand as she breathed deeply to clear her lungs of the gas.
The car began moving not long after she was put in it, at first very slowly, and then at what felt like full speed. Soupy and Beverly were the only ones in it. After a while their heads began to clear and they both sat up in their seats.
Soupy said, "Are you alright?"
"I guess. What happened there?"
"They gassed the crowd."
"I know, but what happened then? How did I get back in the car?"
"I didn't see, but a badgeman brought me."
They sat quietly for a while, still not completely recovered, when Beverly suddenly said, "Soupy! They wanted to kill you!"
"Perhaps. They certainly meant me no good."
"Oh, Soupy, that was scary. You'd better stay at my place for a while. Eagle can bring you anything you need from your homes."
"I think you're right, and I appreciate your hospitality. I just wish I knew how long 'a while' will be."
They arrived at the castle not long after that, although when Soupy stepped out of the car she realized that she'd been assuming the car would return to the castle without having any reason to know that for sure.
When they were once again in Beverly's home they took off their sandals and drank black tea. When they felt they were fully recovered from the effects of the gas they had the wall screen show the news. The incident in front of the Edwar Halls, which some news agencies called a "disturbance" and some called a "riot", was the lead story in all the cycles. They saw that Beverly had partially drawn her sword when the gas was released, something which Beverly didn't remember doing.
One newsbit they watched showed Daivvid Mor addressing a crowd in Rachel City. It had been recorded that morning, before the incident at the Edwar Halls but after the party cast. Daivvid was giving a list of reasons why the Resumptionist Council should be considered a "criminal organization". He was talking from a permanent pulpit overlooking a large plaza in the middle of the city, with an enthusiastic crowd in front of him and a large white banner with an irregular red "X" on it behind him.
Soupy asked, "What's that banner?"
Beverly looked at it for a couple seconds, and then said, "It's your skirt."
"It's a copy of your skirt, from the party cast, after you wiped your sword on it."
Soupy sat still for a while, looking at the banner. Then she said, "stop the news," and the wall went dark and silent.
Soupy closed her eyes and said, "Beverly, I don't know what I'm going to do."
Beverly said, "Well ...," but didn't continue.
Soupy opened her eyes, looked at Beverly, and said, "Maybe I should have just given them the diamond when they first asked for it. I truly believe that they don't have a right to it, but what right do I have instead? I just found it lying around. Of course, I can't give it back now; it would be a major vindication of a principle I don't believe in. But I don't want to be one of Daivvid Mor's troops, either; that man has too much power as it is. I can't do anything at all without it being a major news story, and now I'm bloody sword girl. I'm the one who took a philosophical debate and started arguing with weapons. At the rate I'm going I'll end up starting a new civil war. I was so happy when we were sitting in the park and everybody was telling me they saw me on Ish Ester, but I can't sit in the park any more; I can't even go to my own home." Her eyes suddenly welled up when she said this and a tear trickled down her left cheek.
"I can't be what I once was, Bev, but I don't know what I can be instead."
They both sat silently for a while, and then Beverly said, "I met the wife yesterday."
"I met the wife, Mzetop's wife."
"Did she know who you were?"
"Yes. In fact, she gave me detailed instructions on when I can and can't be with Mzetop, and where I can and can't be seen with him."
"It could have been worse, I guess."
"One of the reasons I got involved with Mzetop is because he's married. It gave me a chance to do something exciting and illicit. I imagined myself pumping him in the washroom while his wife is entertaining guests in the mainroom. But that's not going to happen. Instead, I might as well be one of his employees."
"Your point, I guess, being that things don't work out the way they want for a lot of people."
"No, not at all. My point is that some of us go out of our way to get what we want, and it doesn't work out, while others take a walk in the park and end up getting pretty much everything they ever wanted."
"Beverly! Have you been listening? I can't even go home."
"Soupy, what is it you want? What is it you've always wanted?"
"I don't know. I don't usually want for much of anything."
"You want to be extraordinary. You want to be dramatic. You want to be the central character of some great story. You didn't necessarily want to be famous, but you wanted everyone you met in the park to know it's not just an ordinary woman in their presence. And now you're the least ordinary woman on the planet. Your finding this diamond was perfect; it was so vra it could have been one of those Gladilatian stories you read in studies."
"I think you have it backwards. The drama has wanted me, not I it."
"Soupy, why do you have those scars?"
Soupy looked at her arm. "The rasger scars? I was attacked."
"Why haven't you had them removed? Most women would have had their skin completely smoothed."
"I don't know. It cost money."
"You know that's not why. It hardly costs anything. You haven't had them removed because you love being the woman who was attacked by a rasger and whose life was saved by her oneboy. And as long as you have those scars the story won't be forgotten. Anybody who meets you will ask someone about the scars and hear the rasger story."
"You read too much into this."
"No. You always go for the dramatic effect. Otherwise why would you wipe the bloody sword on your skirt? Why have you worn that diamond every waking second since you found it? Why did you cut William Arrow? Why did you draw your sword in the first place? Why haven't you brushed that tear off your face?"
"That tear. You shed a tear a while ago and it's still on your cheek. Anybody else would have wiped it off, but you never do. Every time I've seen you cry you never wipe away your tears."
"Do I really do that?"
"It's not by intention."
"I know; it's by nature. Nevertheless, it happens."
"So what would you have me do? Hermit myself somewhere, never going out, never answering calls, watching my name dwindle away on the news until I'm a historical curiosity, and then emerge, a stranger to the park?"
"No, not at all. I didn't say you were wrong to be the way you are. Your problem is not being that way, but not realizing how essential being that way is to you."
"You've lost me."
"Sorry, I never had your way with words." Beverly thought for a moment, then said, "You said before that you can't be what you once were, and that's true; you can't go back to sitting on a bench in Reckless Brook Park talking to your friends about who's on the couples' list. But you weren't going to do that for the rest of your life, anyway. You're facing a fundamental change in your life, like a gladifer turning male, and your problem is that you haven't figured out where you're going to end up. I don't know either, but I guarantee you that however you end up you won't be ordinary."
"No, I guess that's not a danger anymore."
"No, but before you'd found the diamond it had been a danger, and one I'd worried about, even if you were unaware of it."
"Thank you, I guess. If that's the case, though, why am I not content? My life could scarcely be more dramatic, but I don't feel like I'm getting everything I ever wanted."
"That's because this is your big moment. This is what you'll be remembered for for the rest of your life. Years from now people will hear your name, think for a second, and say, 'You're that woman who found that diamond and ...'". She held her hands palms up and gave a questioning look, then continued, "The drama of this affair is still unresolved, and you know that its resolution will have a tremendous impact on the rest of your life, and none of the resolutions you can foresee have the necessary ... I'm not sure what the word is."
"Yes. Nothing is vra, nothing seems fitting to you. For most people, when they learn the meaning of vra it's a glimpse into an alien mindset, for you, I think, it named something which was already part of your thinking."
"No, not at first, at least. I can remember, though, translating a tale when I was fifteen or so and suddenly the meaning became clear. I don't know if my conception was really accurate, but it was clear. And you're right, I have tried to live a vra life, in some sense, and neither defying nor cooperating with the Resumptionists seems to qualify. I guess it's not so much that I can't be what I once was as it is that I don't know what to be instead."
"Which is what you've been telling me, I know."
"Thank you. Talking to you has always been a great help when my mind is unsettled."
"I do what I can."
They didn't watch the news any more that day, but Soupy did check her messages.
There was one from the gladifer Mrenep. When she had it played Mrenep appeared wearing a white apron with "Lelemle" printed on it in blue Gladilatian glyphs. He said one sentence, translated as "The future you is not possibly the former you."
Soupy said, "Replay that message." She listened to the original Gladilatian, and repeated it using human phonemes, "'Srenapu mrfyfreknapu.' How would you translate that?"
Beverly thought for a moment, and said, "You can't be what you once were."
The town of Takent was in the Warren region, far from any densely populated area. It was on the Tuck River, at a place where the river valley widened a bit and the mountains to either side did not seem to be right on top of you. Just outside of town was Birch Hill, miniscule compared to the mountains, but the tallest thing on the valley floor. On top of the hill sat a cluster of white buildings, one or two stories high with flat roofs and long, deep porches, mostly connected at the corners or by walkways. This was the home of the Lelemle family. The buildings were surrounded by an extensive lawn, which also contained scattered groves of trees, pools, statuary, and stone slabs whose purpose Soupy knew she should know but couldn't remember. The whole thing was surrounded by a low black wall covered with white Gladilatian glyphs. On the morning after being gassed at the entrance to the Edwar Halls Soupy was standing with her suitcase in front of the entrance to the Lelemle compound, which was just a gap in the wall, looking out over the valley and mountains. She was thinking that she had chosen the right color for her clothes, a green just a little darker than the forest which covered everything except the town, the river, and the peaks of the mountains, if not the right material. Although her shirt and skirt were both snug they were not thick or long and, even though the weather was warm by Takent standards, it seemed chilly to someone from the Channel region.
When she looked back toward the compound she saw Cornelia Whitney, the human liaison she had spoken to before the interview with Mrenep, walking down to meet her. Cornelia was wearing a long and loose blue and white dress which looked to Soupy like an offworld style, although she realized she knew little of Warren region fashion.
When Cornelia got to the other side of the entrance, Soupy said, in Gladilatian, "I am a visitor."
Cornelia answered, in Gladilatian, "You may use our storeroom."
Soupy said, in Paradisan, "It was kind of you to let me come on such short notice."
"It was no problem at all. In fact, Mrenep had said that you might be coming here soon. He's waiting for you now, if you'd like to see him."
"Yes, thank you."
Cornelia produced two small objects from a pocket in her dress. One was a black disc and the other silver and conical. She said, "I don't know how comfortable you are with Gladilatian. All of the adults here will understand human phonemes if you use them, but you may want to use this translator."
Soupy's Gladilatian was good enough that she could have managed without the translator but poor enough that she couldn't have done so easily. She said, "Thank you, I will.," and put the cone in her right ear and the disc on her dress below her left shoulder.
Cornelia led Soupy up a pathway which looked like stone but felt softer. Soupy noticed that the lawn consisted of Terrestrial grass, and not one of the Gladilatian equivalents. An adult gladifer with three gladifer children came into view from behind a building, running on the lawn. Cornelia and Soupy walked to the nearest building and stepped up onto its porch. As Cornelia did so Soupy saw that she was barefoot. They went through a wide opening into a small room which had three walls covered with an ivy which seemed to grow out of the floor and the fourth mostly taken up by the entrance they had come through.
There was a gladifer there, standing and wearing a green apron, whom Soupy knew was Mrenep. She was a little surprised at this knowledge, as she had always considered gladifers with similar coloring to be difficult to tell apart, but she was sure this was he.
He said, "Hello, Suprastella Callidardin."
"Hello, sa Mrenep we Lelemle."
Cornelia said, "Mrenep knows how to contact me if you need me. Should I take your suitcase to your room?"
"Yes, please. Suitcase, follow the other human."
After Cornelia and the suitcase had left Mrenep asked, "Why are you here?"
"You sent me a message. I would like to discuss it with you."
Mrenep did not respond at first. Then he said, "For what reason are you at this place?" Soupy realized that he had spoken the same Gladilatian sentence as before, but the translator had translated it more literally. She wondered if the translator did that automatically for repeated sentences or if Mrenep had somehow made it do so.
She said, "If you mean why didn't I just talk with you from where I was, I'm not sure. I was going to do just that when I called, but when I saw Miss Whitney I asked if I could come here, without really knowing why. It was at least partly because visiting a gladifer compound is an opportunity few humans have, but I think it was mostly because getting away from human society for a while seemed very appealing."
"Is humanity not pleasing to you?"
"I have no problems with humans, for the most part, but lately human society has been less than pleasant."
"I want us to be walking."
"Certainly. I'd like to see some of the compound."
They went out of the room and turned left, walking along the porch. There was a regular series of columns to their right holding up the porch roof, and a variety of openings in the wall to their left, all rectangular but of many sizes and positions, showing rooms either empty or sparsely furnished, with walls either pure white or completely covered with images painted in any of a number of styles.
After walking in silence for a while Mrenep asked, "Why were you making an injury to William Arrow?"
"Did you see the cast?"
"He approached me. Normally that would have been a trivial thing, but I had displayed my sword and told him to leave my presence. For him to step towards me at that point, it was very improper; it was mrye. In fact, it was lrye, the opposite of proper. It would have been mrye for me to not respond. Do you understand? It's hard for me to explain."
"A Nmusysy does not habitually carry a weapon. I understand the impropriety of nonsubmission to someone to whom an impropriety was under the control of the nonsubmitting one."
"Yes, but I'm not sure Mr. Arrow realized that what he'd done was improper." They rounded a corner, and Soupy could see where the next corner of this building was joined to a corner of a catercorner building by a square pool, shaded by a roof which was an extension of the buildings' porch roofs.
Soupy stopped walking. Mrenep stopped beside her. Soupy looked at him and said, "Actually, I'm not sure that's true. He probably did it because he thought it was vra, and in spite of the fact that he knew it was not ye, or at least not ye as far as the planet at large is concerned." She thought some more and added, "I'm not sure."
"You are uncertain with respect to what?"
"With respect to all of that. I'm not sure what Mr. Arrow thinks. I'm not sure whether he even considers gladiological principles when he acts. I'm not sure the planet at large, whatever I mean by that, thinks he was mrye. And, most of all, I'm not sure my use of Gladilatian terms like vra and ye correspond at all to how gladifers use them."
"There isn't someone completely understanding the meaning of another's words. There were many words of the Lelemle because of the method using which you talked about the words ye and vra of your carrying the diamond."
Soupy didn't understand that last sentence at all. The Lelemles' automatic translators were set to give fairly literal translations, because for an ambassador family it's better that the listener not understand than misunderstand. Soupy gave a subvocalized command which caused the untranslated Gladilatian to be played in her ear. Mrenep had meant that there'd been much discussion among the members of the Lelemle family concerning the way she'd used the words vra and ye when talking about wearing the diamond.
Soupy said, "Really?"
"It was because of this method that I wanted words used by us."
"The first time we talked, you mean?"
"You were possibly knowledgeable of the appropriateness of gladifers."
"Meaning the gladifers' understanding of the various ways something can be appropriate?"
"Is that unusual?"
"And what did you conclude?"
"The one of us can understand the other."
"I hope that turns out to be so. I don't as yet understand your last message to me, though."
"'The future you is not possibly the former you'?"
"Because I want a curious you, therefore I gave this."
"You wanted me to come here?"
"Why didn't you just invite me?"
"I wanted a curious you." He started walking again, so Soupy did also.
After a few seconds of silence Soupy asked, "Why?"
"I want you to be curious about the point at which you are with respect to life."
"There was no need to send me a special message for that. It'd been on my mind quite a bit even before your message came."
"Because you are famous and you are a symbol therefore the necessity of change of life seems probable to me."
"Yes, it is that. My friend Miss Alare and I were discussing that very necessity when your message arrived. Miss Alare compared me to a gladifer who had just turned male."
"The words which the woman Alare used are true. You are very similar to a male not yet in his joined family. This is the primary cause of my invitation to you."
They had come to the pool. Its bottom was painted black and it had a few dozen small blue and green eellike animals in it. They stopped and Soupy looked at the animals for a while before she realized the significance of what Mrenep had just said. She looked at him, trying to read his expression, but a gladifer's expression is in the tilt and twist of his capit and hard to read for a human who does not see one every day. She almost asked him to explain what he meant, but decided that the best way to get a clear answer was to ask a direct question.
"Are you asking me to become a Lelemle?"
Soupy did not know what to say. She had never considered this possibility. She had not even known it was a possibility. She had never heard of a member of any other species joining a gladifer family. She asked, "Why?"
"During many years Lelemle are searching for a human who can be a male not yet in his joined family. Lelemleot is an ambassador family. We all want knowledge of humanity. A human family member is the most efficient method for this. We search for an efficient human. An efficient human has an efficient age. It seems likely to us that if there's an efficient human there's a human who's a student of which is the end."
"A student at the end of her studies, you mean?"
"I'm still in studies, though."
"Yes. You are younger than the expected one. Even though you are that still you are intrinsically changing."
"But there must be thousands of Paradisans who would do just as well."
"Yes. These ones are not known to us. You are known to us."
Soupy turned to face him. "You would be my sponsor?"
"What are the chances that the females will accept me?"
"Certainty. There were many words of the females about you."
"I'm not male, you know."
"Masculinity for a human is not similar to masculinity for a gladifer. Masculinity for a human is only significant with respect to sexual activity."
Soupy smiled, "I can see I'd have a lot to teach you if I do accept your offer."
Soupy sat on the grass contemplating the statue before her. It showed a gladifer giving birth to an adult gladifer, who, still only partially born, was giving birth to another adult gladifer, who was giving birth to yet another, continuing across the lawn with the front halves of gladifers emerging from the front halves of gladifers until the eleventh gave birth to a baby. She was thinking about gladifer families, which can trace their histories back hundreds of thousands of years, but which no one belongs to for a complete life. She thought that if she did join Lelemleot as a new male the biggest difference from a normal joining would not be that she's human or that she's female, but that she had nothing equivalent to a gladifer family to leave, forming a link between her old and new families, strengthening the web of families which held any gladifer culture together. Perhaps, she thought, the gladifers thought of the whole human species as her family, and thought humans were finally ready to join the web.
She thought about her future. She thought about being the first human to join a gladifer family, and had difficulty imagining what her life would be like. She thought about spending her life as someone who'd had a chance to be the first human to join a gladifer family, but who'd turned it down, and then her choice seemed clear. Beverly had been right, she'd always wanted to be dramatic, to be the central character of some great story, and this made the whole affair with the diamond seem to be a minor curiosity. She did not get up to find Mrenep and accept, though. She still needed to decide what to do about the diamond. She sat, thinking about the different possibilities for close to an hour, until she realized what she was going to do. It surprised her that it took her so long to think of something that seemed obvious in retrospect. She got up, brushed some grass off her skirt, and walked up to the porch of the nearest building, where Mrenep was standing, waiting for her.
The Lelemles made Soupy a new outfit. It was a skirt and a shirt in a close fitting Channel style, but it was covered with a design of frywyt berries, purple stems and berries with green leaves on a white background. Frywyt berries were a Nmusysy symbol of males who had not yet joined a new family. She wore it into a large hexagonal room in the middle of the building at the very crest of the hill. The seventeen females of the Lelemle family were there, sitting in a semicircle facing her, all wearing white shirt and apron combinations, each with a different blue design on it incorporating in some way or another the Gladilatian glyphs for Lelemle.
The three walls of the room behind the gladifers were painted in variations of the same scene. They each depicted a field covered with some dark yellow vegetation and a few dark green bushes, rising to the right, with mountains in the distance rising from right to left. The sky was a deep blue. Each wall was framed on the sides and top by the trunks and limbs of gray leafless trees. Most of the differences were subtle, in the shading of the vegetation or the few clouds in the skies, but one difference was obvious. The left wall had a line of distant black birds in the sky stretching from one end of the wall to another, and another red bird with a long flexible tail much closer, so that its tail crossed the line of black birds. As she knelt on the pillow provided for her the significance of the paintings became clear. The trees, the horizons, and the birds formed the strokes of the glyphs for Lelemle, from right to left. She looked behind and to the right where she saw a wide tailed comet in space resembling the start of text punctuation, and behind and to the left where she saw a planet in space resembling the dot at the end of a word.
She looked at the female directly in front of her, who had light brown fur, and introduced herself in Gladilatian, using the name sa Asawehesnekar Snauop sa hreFsuhfenaopot Masrzo sa hreHaop Snau we Esnfe, which meant, "Suprastella from Callidardin between families, from Paradise a human."
The gladifer answered, "I am sa Znrananet sa Lelemle sa Lele we Nmusysy."
Nobody said anything for a while. Then a young black gladifer to her left asked, "Where will you reside?"
"I will reside here. Won't I?"
The young gladifer answered, "What I meant was, 'In which room will you reside?'".
"I do not know about that."
Znrananet said, "You will be aware of several rooms and have a choice."
"That is pleasing to me."
After a few seconds a dark brown gladifer to her right asked a question, but Soupy didn't recognize one of the words. She'd been asked if the adjective afrevmo applied to her. Even though Soupy had decided to conduct the interview in Gladilatian without an active translator, she still kept the translator in her ear, for cases like this. She subvocalized a question and the translator told her that afrevmo meant "swimming". She'd been asked, "Do you swim?"
She answered, "I do swim, but not habitually."
Another black gladifer asked, "Will you teach Paradisan to us?"
Soupy answered, "Yes."
The same gladifer then asked, "Will you be reading to us in Paradisan and teaching the meanings of the stories?"
"Yes, if that happens I will be happy."
Then, after a few seconds of silence, Soupy asked a question, "Will you sit with me and talk to me?"
Several gladifers answered "yes" at almost the same time.
Soupy asked, "Will you teach me the connections in a family of more than thirty-six members?" Since Gladilatian uses base six, thirty-six was meant to be a round number.
Znrananet said, "We will try."
There was another silence for a few seconds, and then Znrananet said, "I regret I do not ask the fundamental questions. I am not aware of the fundamental questions."
"Neither am I. It is because of this that I am here."
"We must decide now."
Soupy said "yes." She stood up, said "thank you" in Paradisan, and left the room.
It was only a few minutes after she left that the females emerged and announced that she'd been accepted. As was traditional, she was not told what the exact vote was. Soon afterwards the Lelemle family made its official announcement. This made no note of the unusual circumstance but the Gladilatian version had "human" as part of her name, and the official translations into human languages identified her as "Suprastella Callidardin". It immediately became the lead story for all of the Paradisan news services. The news stories all began by noting the historical uniqueness of the event. As Soupy had thought, this was the first time a human had ever joined a gladifer family, although members of other sentient species had done so in the past. The stories then proceeded along one of two related lines. One was speculation as to why Soupy, neither male nor a gladiologist, was chosen for this honor (as it was invariably called) and the other was speculation as to how this would affect the political struggles between the Resumptionist Council and its opponents. Most news services also carried an explanation of the rozo, the Nmusysy arrival ceremony for new males, and speculated on how it might be adapted for a human, especially the final part, where the new male has sex with the oldest female.
The Resumptionist Council did not send its customary congratulatory message at first. Instead it went into irregular session, emerging three hours later to issue the customary message, with no further comment.
Soupy had surprisingly little to do to get ready for the rozo. Her main task was to memorize the names of the sixty-seven current members of the Lelemle family. She also sent invitations to her friends and family, had polite conversations with various Lelemles in Gladilatian with occasional help from her translator, and greeted the various elderly male Lelemles who lived offplanet as they arrived for the ceremony.
She wore her frywyt berry outfit continuously during the three days from the interview to the ceremony. She had a three dimensional image of herself wearing it made and sent to the news services, but otherwise did not respond to any of their requests.
Beverly, at Soupy's invitation, came a couple days before the ceremony. When she arrived, wearing white, Soupy met her in the same room where Mrenep had first met Soupy.
Beverly said, "Soupy, I thought you were finished with amazing me. What's next? Are the Leshiind going to declare that you're the reincarnation of their storm goddess?"
Soupy smiled, "I hope not. I'm having enough trouble handling the attentions of two species without adding a third."
"Oh, I don't know. You seem to be doing fine so far."
"Yes. I have to admit that things are turning out well. Even though I can see many ways in which I will eventually come to regret this decision, it still feels like the right thing to do."
"It's vra, then."
"Yes, indeed; it's dripping with vraot."
Soupy gave Beverly a tour of the compound. While they were walking along the porches Soupy asked if Mzetop would be coming, and Beverly replied, "No, we're not together anymore. I told him that if he wanted me to act like his onegirl we'd have to get listed, and he refused. It's just as well, I wouldn't really be his onegirl anyway."
When they got to the lawn where the rozo would be held Beverly asked, "What happens in the rozo exactly?"
"It's what we learned in studies, basically. First Mrenep, my sponsor, makes his formal recommendation. Then Znrananet, the oldest female, makes her formal invitation. Then I make my formal acceptance. The whole ceremony will be in Gladilatian, of course. Then I change from these clothes into clothes with the Lelemle glyphs on them. I'm declared a Lelemle, I declare myself a Lelemle, I perform an official act in the family's name, and then we go into the se for the private part of the ceremony, which involves eating some food and having sex with Znrananet, although that, of course, will be only symbolic in my case."
"Don't say 'of course'. There's been a lot of speculation about that, mostly involving prosthetics."
"No, it's nothing like that. It involves pouring water."
"Are you going to tell the news services that?"
"I don't plan to. It's part of the private part of the ceremony. It wouldn't be ye to discuss it in public."
A little later Beverly asked, "What is your Gladilatian name going to be?"
"Sa Asawehesnekar Snauop sa hreFsuhfenaopot Lelemle sa Lele we Nmusysy."
"Asawehesnekar, 'beyond the stars', that would be Suprastella. What was the birth family?"
"'Double Name'. Callidardin was originally a hyphenated name, Khalid-Hardin."
"I didn't know that."
"Neither did I, before yesterday. Mrenep had researched it."
Not long after they started walking again Beverly asked, "Are you going to completely undress during the clothing change?"
"You'll be naked in front of the entire planet, in front of the entire species, really."
"I know. Don't forget there are pictures of you naked in the planetary memory; this won't be any different."
"Yes, but those pictures are there because I entered some beauty contests, contests which you refused to enter because you didn't want to have nude pictures of yourself readily available."
"That's because I didn't like the idea that there would be men who think of me primarily as a naked body, but there's not much chance of that now."
"No, I guess not."
"More and more since I first appeared on Ish Ester, and especially since I came here, I cease to think of how I appear to someone I might meet in the park, and instead think of how I will appear to history."
By the time Soupy first checked the news on the following day, the day before the ceremony, she was the lead story in all of the major interplanetary news services, both human and gladifer. She had received congratulations from the heads of many states and all of the major Terrestrial governing agencies. Her pose in her frywyt berry outfit was the most popular request on image servers throughout the galaxy, and the most popular request on the Argentine music servers was an uptempo song written the day before called "Suprastella el Gladifero."
Soupy walked to Mrenep's room in the middle of the day, just to see how things were going. Beverly had become occupied teaching string figures to some Lelemle children, adapting them to their differently shaped hands. Mrenep's room was an interior one, with no windows. It was lined with shelves crammed with small sculptures, both human and gladifer, except for the wall he used for messages, which was set to a view from a camera set in a distant Paradisan forest when not in use.
When she approached his door, which was open, she heard him say, "I want you to enter." When she did so she saw that he was not alone. William Arrow was there, without coat or vest but with his sword.
She said, "Mr. Arrow," in Paradisan.
He answered, "Miss Callidardin," but did not bow.
She asked, in Gladilatian, "Are you here because of the rozo?"
He answered in Gladilatian, "Of course. I attend all Lelemle rozos."
Soupy said, "I am happy you are here", which was a standard greeting she had been using for arriving gladifers.
He walked up to her, close enough that she had to resist the urge to put her hand on her sword, and said, in Paradisan, "I apologize for attempting to take the diamond by force."
"I accept your apology."
After a few seconds he said, "Now is when you apologize for cutting me."
"No, it is not."
He sighed, "Miss Callidardin, you wear your arrogance like a sash of honor. I keep waiting for it to cause your downfall, but I fear it comes too naturally to you to make you stumble." He turned, went to Mrenep, and asked, in Gladilatian, "Why this one? She has made nothing. She understands nothing. She merely found a diamond. She is no more aware of gladifers than the average human."
Mrenep answered, "Someone who is more aware of gladifers than the average human is not what we want. We want someone who will in the future become more aware of gladifers." The last sentence was ambiguous in Gladilatian, and could have meant, " We want someone who will in the future become more aware than gladifers."
William said, as much to himself as to Mrenep, "I don't understand. I don't understand." Then, more forcefully, "She's not male."
Mrenep answered, "You were not a former female. Neither of you are like gladifers."
It took Soupy a few seconds to realize the implication. She said to William, in Gladilatian, "You wanted to become a Lelemle."
He answered, "Yes." He took a step closer to her, and said, "This goal was known to me when I was a child. I became a gladiologist. I became an expert on Gladilatian. When I was thirty-six years old I made the request to Mrenep. He said, 'no'. My studying came to nothing."
"No," Mrenep said, "your request became the cause of the search for a human Lelemle, the search whose result is facing you."
William did not say anything for a while. Then he turned to Mrenep, said, "I will see you tomorrow," and left the room.
The day of the rozo was sunny and breezy. As midday approached the 67 members of the Lelemle family gathered at the western end of the lawn where the ceremony was to take place. They all stood, facing east, with the 30 males in the back, the 17 females in front of them, and the 20 hornless children in front of them. In front of the children was a low table with folded blue and white human clothes lying on it. Behind the males was the large white building containing the family's se, or storeroom.
On the eastern side of the lawn, facing west, were the guests, 261 humans, including news agency staffs, and 63 gladifers. There were long wooden benches for the humans; the gladifers sat on the grass. In the front and center sat Soupy's brother and parents, along with Beverly. To their left, in their usual spot, sat the Resumptionist Council, including William Arrow, who sat next to Beverly. In the seats behind them were Merrill Shoobert, Hadrian Rashid, and many other of Soupy's friends from the park. Also among the humans were Jon Minnibee, Soupy's grandparents, and many of Soupy's uncles, aunts, and cousins, some of whom she hadn't seen in many years. The gladifers included several former Lelemles, as well as sa Hsluvyne we Hy, the closest thing gladiferkind had to a Minister of Humanity.
The Lelemle adults were all dressed in blue and white with the Lelemle glyphs somewhere in the design. They all wore aprons, and many also wore shirts or backcovers. Several of the older males had horns painted white. Many of the younger children were naked, but some had circular designs painted on the top of their capits.
Both the humans and gladifers among the guests were dressed in formal attire, as that was understood in their various cultures. For Beverly that meant a tight red skirt, with a matching shirt, ruby earrings, and a ruby navel plug. For William Arrow that meant black pants, a black coat, and a white shirt, with silver borders on the pants and coat.
With no signal Mrenep walked east to just in front of the table with the clothing, turned around, and said to the rest of his family, "Nyotma, Snepono, ..." listing the other 66 members, males, then females, then children, ending with "..., Wnama, I am aware of you." Wnama was born just ten days before and was standing on all six limbs.
Znrananet answered, "Mrenep, we are aware of you."
Mrenep said, "I want sa Asawehesnekar Snauop sa hreFsuhfenaopot Masrzo sa hreHaop Snau we Esnfe to be a Lelemle."
Znrananet answered, "We want sa Asawehesnekar Snauop sa hreFsuhfenaopot Masrzo sa hreHaop Snau we Esnfe to be a Lelemle."
At this point Soupy, wearing her frywyt berry clothes, appeared from a small white building a little ways down the hill to the east. She walked through the assembled guests and stood next to Mrenep, facing the Lelemles. She said, "Nyotma, Snepono, ..." listing the family members, with Mrenep's name included, "..., Wnama, I am aware of you." She'd had her implant ready to prompt her if she'd needed help with the names, but she didn't.
Znrananet said, "We want you to be a Lelemle."
Soupy replied, "I want to be a Lelemle."
Soupy then removed all her clothing, first her sword and belt, then her sandals, diamond, shirt, skirt, and underpants, laying them neat and folded on the table. She then put them on in reverse order, substituting for the underpants, skirt, and shirt the blue and white pieces with the Lelemle family glyphs on them. As she was doing this she thought that she would have been as uncomfortable about being naked as Beverly had suggested if she'd had to stand around that way for any length of time.
When she was done Znrananet said, "You are a Lelemle."
Soupy replied, "I am a Lelemle."
"You are sa Asawehesnekar Snauop sa hreFsuhfenaopot Lelemle sa Lele we Nmusysy."
"I am sa Asawehesnekar Snauop sa hreFsuhfenaopot Lelemle sa Lele we Nmusysy."
At this point in a Lelemle family rozo the Paradisan humans who were regular guests had developed a tradition of applauding. They did so for Soupy, and Soupy's friends and relatives joined in, making it a much more enthusiastic applause than usual.
The next part of the ceremony was her first act as an agent of the family. As was traditional, its nature had not been revealed beforehand. She turned and walked towards the guests. Beverly thought at first that she was walking to her, but she stopped in front of William Arrow. Soupy stood in front of him with her white and blue Lelemle clothing shining in the sun and the wind playing with her hair, her hand on the hilt of her sword and her eyes locked with his. She reached back behind her neck and unclasped the chain holding the diamond. She leaned over, attached the chain around William's neck, and said, in Gladilatian, "This is a gift from the Lelemle family to the Resumptionist Council."
Then she turned around, and, with the members of her new family, walked into the se to eat a cake, pour some water, and enter the histories of two species.
- Dennis Paul Himes