Sense Chapter Twenty Two - Dissemination
Nearly an hour later, the music finally came to a halt and sweaty bodies collapsed gratefully onto the couches they’d been eating at before. While almost everyone there was in decent shape, there was a difference between normal exercise and dancing. “I forgot how much I hate dancing. If I didn’t get these muscles from training, why should I need them for prancing around at a ball?” Jackson’s voice wheezed out mournfully as he draped over the couch armchair next to her.
Jade was actually in slightly better condition than those around her, but that was mostly because her fitness level was so much higher than theirs. Even she felt the pleasant ache that came from a good workout. The dance of this world reminded her of ballroom, though the steps were way different from what she’d seen on all of the dance shows she used to watch. She wasn’t sure if that was because the people from tv were showboating or because dance had just developed so differently here. It actually felt more like an intricately orchestrated combat.
Still, learning the steps made her feel somewhat like she’d stepped into an old Disney princess movie. You couldn’t be a disney princess unless you knew how to dance. It was like princess 101. Must be able to dance and sing and then maybe sleep for a hundred years until the prince got here. Although it did seem that they had upped the requirements as the years went on. The shift from wait for my prince to save me to I can save myself wasn’t all that bad, after all. They’d even started to make fun of themselves, what with the whole questioning the morals of people who got married after knowing each other for a day.
She had to laugh at that. Who fell in insta-love? Disney perpetuated this idea that once you overcame whatever obstacle X was, you got married and lived...happily ever after. But really, that’s when most stories actually started. It wasn’t all peaches and cream. It was hard work to keep a relationship going, especially when kids came around and turned your life upside down by having to be hospitalized 24/7. It had been interesting at the hospital. She saw all the different types of families come through.
There was the old lovebirds, where you could tell that as soon as one went, the other was sure to follow because they were just THAT into each other, even after decades together. They told awesome stories of love letters and keeping their love’s picture close to the heart during the war. How they knew they had to survive, because they wanted to go home to their heart. Then there were the struggling couples. The ones who couldn’t handle their other being sick, and sometimes blamed them for making life hard. They were so angry, not always at the person, but sometimes at God or at the doctors for not being able to do anything. Those ones were the hardest to watch, mostly because she saw the happy faces they tried to portray to people, and the silent rage that came after when they didn’t think anyone was watching. They had the same faces as her parents.
They had tried so hard to be cheerful for her… “Jade, you in there?” Fingers were waving in front of her face, and she startled back, looking with wide eyes up at Camille. One she realized she had Jade’s attention, she gestured to a man who was standing in front of the group looking at them with disapproving eyes as they slumped on couches. Camille plopped down next to Jade, whispering, “Etiquette time.”
Sinking back to the couch in understanding, Jade made herself comfortable as she studied the man in front of them. He looked vaguely familiar to her, though she wasn’t sure why because she was certain she’d never seen him before. He was tall and reed thin, and his light brown hair was severely combed into place and held there so perfectly she’d have called him a helmet head made of gel if it’d been on Earth. He held himself rigidly in his perfectly wrinkle free clothing, and his chin never lowered in the slightest as he looked down on them.
It was the self-righteous air that finally made it click in her mind, and an image of a self important girl declaring her father was the minister of trade appeared in her mind. It seemed she had found Samantha’s father. It was just her gut feeling, but his words proved her right a moment later.
“For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’ll introduce myself. I am the Minister of Trade, Alejandro Castillo. Now as you know, we have three very important delegations arriving tomorrow, all of which Caoi trades with. Because we have long standing relationships with these countries, it’s imperative that they are treated with respect for their customs.” He had an assistant with him who was hastily putting up a large map that she recognized from her geography class the week before.
Pointing up at the islands in the north, he began. “The first delegation we’ll talk about come from the Islands of Niloi. Their capital, Leanoi, is on the furthest island and completely closed to outsiders. Osilanus and Sluaich are only slightly more welcoming, with Aillte serving as the main trading headquarters on the mainland.” He paused, his lip curling only slightly in seemingly disgust, as if something rotten had just been placed beneath his nose.
“The Niloi are a matriarchal warring society, ruled by their current queen, Zenobia. She has been queen for the last two years, ever since she fought and won against the previous queen, Aylin. She will remain queen for the next eight years, barring any accidents. The queen trials, as we call them, occur every ten years. Aylin will be the one coming, as the old queen becomes the next ambassador to the outside world. The correct term of address for her is Ancestor Aylin. Don’t let the title fool you; she’s still young, but you will accord her with respect.”
He glared at them for a moment as if he thought they were going to make some huge social faux paus and treat Aylin like a child. Just how old was she if he had to warn them about it? With a sense of resignation, he went on to his final explanation for this delegation. “The Niloi delegation consists mostly of people your age. They are highly competitive, but perhaps the most important thing to know about them is that they do not believe in marriage. They may choose a partner for a time, but usually they view it as choosing the best partner for creating the next generation. If you prove to be strong enough to impress them, it’s quite likely they will proposition you. They know our customs are not the same, but if you accept such a proposition, you should be aware that they are attempting to create a child with you to take back to their land. Customs dictate that the mother has full power concerning the child, and the father has no say in how the child is raised unless it is given by the mother. To be propositioned is the highest form of a compliment that they can give, because it designates you as worthy to seed the next generation.”
The distaste on his face as he spoke of their customs was obvious, and Jade couldn’t help but label the Niloi as some sort of Amazons in her head. Maybe they weren’t on an island surrounded by magical clouds that could live forever and were the children of gods...but hey, it seemed at least half of the customs were similar. Lost in comparisons, she almost missed the next part. “They are highly skilled in polearms, water magic, and hand to hand combat. Their home is also one of the only places that has found platinum. Aside from that, their major exports are the bounties of the ocean and the insect chitin from their native monsters, as it has proved to be one of the strongest and most malleable forms of armor we know. Do not underestimate them, and never suggest that the women aren’t fully capable of doing anything.” He almost looked a little green at that, like he’d had a bad experience with that.
Sighing, he pointed to the western part of the map, tapping the capital city on the other side of the mountains. “To that end, we try to keep them away from the Resaigh delegation as much as is humanly possible. The Resaigh are the plains people, and the guardians to the western continent. From their capital of Carraigh, they control both passes through the mountains through their cities Racstra and Cagleann. They also have Chlaidaigh at the coast and Fanaichta as the last stop before entering the Forest of Madul.”
Tapping on Carraigh, he went on, “While they have permanent cities, they are mostly underground while aboveground is reserved for their tamed animals. From a distance, it looks much like an enclosed city of tents until you find an underground entrance. The reason they must be kept separate from the Niloi is because it’s a patriarchal society, and women are treated as lesser beings who live to serve their men. One man will usually have several wives and concubines who are expected to take care of the house chores and raising children. The men are fierce fighters, but you must always remember that above them all is their ruler, Udar Akil Faris. Udar is the official title, and the Faris family has been in power for hundreds of years. They rule their people with an iron fist, and any achievement is an achievement of the Udar.”
He glanced at Jade and the other girls in the room as he went on quietly. “In their culture, it is customary that the women do not speak unless spoken to. If a woman is allowed to eat with the men, it is considered a high honor to her. Again, they know that their customs are not valid in our country, but it would be wise to not strike up a conversation with them or eat if one of them are trying to talk to you. It is also best you young women do not find yourself alone with any of the men of their delegation. There is some safety in numbers.”
Jade was sitting stiffly on the couch right now, and it was only Camille’s gentle hand on her arm that caused her to relax slightly as she looked at the older girl. Camille muttered to her, “They’re pigs, but we have to play nice, and so do they. We can only trade with those beyond them if they pass through the plains.”
It seemed Alejandro had heard at least part of Camille’s comment, because he went on sharply, “They are most known not for their own wares, but for the trade they do. As I mentioned before, they control access to the west, and they are very good at trade. Unless they escort a caravan through the plains, it does not make it. They are very adept at contractual magic, and supply many beasts to our farms, as well as some of the finest weaving we know. Racstra and Cageleann are also very successful mining towns, with their proximity to the mountains.”
Glancing over at Camille, Jade shook her head. “They sound horrible.” Camille just patted her hand reassuringly and nodded.
“A’Udar Jamil Faris, the eldest son of Udar Faris, is leading the delegation. You will address him only as A’Udar Faris unless he tells you otherwise.” He paused, again looking at the girls. “While A’Udar does have several concubines, he does not yet have a main wife, and it is likely he seeks to strengthen ties with us by making a political marriage.” Well that was a warning and a half, and Jade vowed to stay as far away from the A’Udar as was physically possible. The Nihoi might be matriarchal and a little behind the times on letting the woman have full control of the kid, but at least they didn’t seem to totally treat the men as second class citizens. She supposed only time would tell, and was especially grateful that of all the countries she could have been sent to...she was brought here.
Tapping the map, he pointed south to the other side of the Basaigh Woods. “Saibreh culture is the closest to what we have here. The capital city of Kathaire is deep in the Forest of Draiocht, while Idir, Tranglam, and Abhanna are situated around the edges of the forest. They also have Onnas at the base of the mountains, which is where most of their metal supplies come from. The Saibreh people are ruled by King Collin Kearce and Queen Teagan Kearce. They’ve got three children, and their oldest son is Prince Liam. There’s not much you have to be aware of from them, their culture doesn’t differ much from ours. However, their specialties are excellent woodwork, teas, and alchemy. They have quite a few nature mages and a very large respect for plants. They value respecting nature above most things.”
Clapping his hands, Jade was surprised he was stopping there. “There are plenty of books at the library explaining more on these countries, but that’s the basics of what you need to know. I do suggest you do some reading before Wednesday. You’re dismissed.” That was obviously addressed to just about everyone but her. She was going to be expected to be in the thick of things, most likely. People were getting up and stretching, a good deal of them nodding or waving to her as they started drifting out.
Turning to her, Camille spoke softly enough that the other students wouldn’t overhear, but Jade had no problem picking out the worlds. “What he didn’t say is that they’re all coming for you. We know they have spies, and Saibreh have an oracle. They’ve gotten word of you and your exploits, so don’t be surprised when they cajol, bribe, challenge, or proposition you. Any country with a traveler always advances faster than any of its neighbors, so they won’t like the fact that you’re here and not in their countries. They’ll try to change that.”
“Understood.” She wanted to reassure Camille that that wouldn’t happen, that she’d stay there...but she couldn’t. She wanted to see the world! Sure, she’d probably come back. No one wants to wander forever, and this is where she was setting down her roots. But traveling...that was on the docket for sure. She’d always wanted to see the ocean, to swim with dolphins. She wanted to know if a city in the forest was like one of those old fantasy movies where they made their homes in the trees. She was even a little curious about the underground city and how they made it work, though she wasn’t actually all that keen to visit that one. No need to put herself in a situation where she might get trapped or kidnapped.
Camille seemed to get that that was all she could offer for the moment, and instead chose to move on. Brushing off her spotless dress, she stood up and gestured to the side, where Jade could see that Sharon and Tina were setting up. Camille smiled as she said, “Well then, Sharon is here to do some last fittings for your dress and the rest of the clothes we commissioned, since you seem to be staying about the same size these days.” It was true. Her overall body shape had stopped making drastic changes, leaving her at what she would have called her own ideal. She was pretty sure the only reason Tina hadn’t come bounding over was because Tisha was already bombarding them with questions and a flurry of excitement.
Laughing softly, she nodded and the two of them walked over to the trio, most of the rest of the room having filtered out, save the servants who were cleaning up. Jade was still going over the massive dissemination of information that had just occurred when she greeted Sharon. “Hello my lovely ladies!”
“Jade!” Tina rocketed from Tisha’s side with her normal fervor, throwing herself into Jade’s laughing arms as she scooped her up. Settling the little girl on her hip, Tina started babbling, “Isn’t it pretty here? Mommy said we can go see the flowers after!”
Jade nodded to the little girl happily. “The flowers here are lovely. Hi Sharon.” She smiled at the little one’s mother, who grinned and bobbed a little bow to her before coming closer and kissing her on the cheek.
“Hello, Lady Jade. You look absolutely stunning. I’ve got your dress here, so we just need to make sure it fits or if I need to make any final alterations…”
It was time to play dress-up, it seemed.
Bio: I'm generally a fairly busy person. I work two jobs, one at a university assisting deaf students and the other as a professional editor. ^_^ I edit several webnovels being produced on RRL, WW, Volare, and QI, and now I've just started writing my own for kicks and giggles.