"It's your son, Burfohn," Moerv said.
"Fo, it isn't!" Matann exclaimed, alarmed. "That isn't Burfohn's voice! Burfohn and Opumohn are at the Ealdlazay Fair. Who is it? What do you want?" She picked up a zhat in the dark.
"Dacoar, Burfohn is - " Moerv began, but he was interrupted when the zhat, thrown with surprisingly good aim at the sound of his voice, broke with an explosion of pain on his forehead.
"Prahnumpa! Are you all right?" called an anxious Burfohn on hearing the crash.
"Burfohn! Is that you? Where are you?" Matann went toward the sound of his voice in the dark.
"Dacoar! I'm here, by the table."
Prahnumpa and son found each other and embraced. Moerv staggered back onto his feet from his knees where he had found himself in the doorway. He shook his head hard enough to rattle it.
"Burfohn!" Matann whispered urgently, hiding behind her large son for better protection. "Someone is in my hut!"
"I know," Burfohn began to explain.
"It's all right," Moerv said reassuringly, although the feeling in his head belied his words.
"Get him!" Matann suddenly shrieked in Burfohn's ear, and she pushed him in the back with all her strength toward the voice in the doorway.
Moerv had almost gathered his bearings again when Burfohn, lurching off-balanced under the impetus of his prahnumpa's unexpected, and unexpectedly forceful, shove, drove his head squarely into Moerv's stomachs, and they tumbled back out through the open doorway in a tangled heap.
"Did you get him?" Matann screamed at Burfohn.
"He got him," Moerv commented drily.
"Er, dacoar, prahnumpa," Burfohn answered, a little awkwardly.
"Who is it?" she asked breathlessly.
"Who is it?" Burfohn repeated stupidly, as if he didn't understand the question.
"It's Moerv," said Moerv.
"It's Moerv," said Burfohn.
"Moerv?" queried Matann. The name sounded familiar.
"Moerv." Moerv confirmed it.
"It's Moerv, prahnumpa."
"Moerv!" Matann remembered where she had heard the name. "Oh, Moerv! Poor Moerv!"
"Poor Moerv?" Burfohn dazedly muttered to himself.
"Poor Moerv?" Moerv mumbled. The tiny bit of sympathy implicit in the words cut like a knife through the massive construction of the horror of his day.
"Oh, he knows!" she wailed mysteriously.
"Do you know?" Burfohn whispered to Moerv.
"I don't know," Moerv whispered back. "What am I supposed to know?"
"I don't know," Burfohn admitted. "Prahnumpa, what is Moerv supposed to know?"
"Oh, he doesn't know!" Matann wailed in louder anguish.
"I don't know, I might know," Moerv equivocated, then whispered urgently to Burfohn. "Burfohn, is your prahnumpa, you know, all right?"
"I don't know," Burfohn said anxiously. "Prahnumpa, are you all right?"
"Dacoar," she said, puzzled. "Are you all right, Burfey?"
"Burfey?" ejaculated Moerv.
Burfohn winced. "Dacoar, prahnumpa."
"Why did you ask if I was all right?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?"
Moerv couldn't stand any more of this conversation. "Look," he said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't know what we're talking about. Burfey and I just got back to Todymody. We came straight here from the mezzohnmohr."
"Then you do know!" Matann burst out, crying. "Oh, poor Moerv! Such a way to find out!" She ran to Moerv, still just outside the door, drew him into the hut by the hand, and shut the door, not realizing in the utter darkness that Burfohn was still outside.
"Poor Moerv!" spluttered an irritated Burfohn, re-entering the hut and slamming the door shut.
"Dacoar, poor, poor Moerv!" She wrung his hands tenderly.
Moerv had a sudden thought. "Matann, do you know about the mezzohnmohr?" he asked softly.
Burfohn took his prahnumpa's hands from Moerv. "Prahnumpa, do you know about the mezzohnmohr?"
Matann wrenched her hands away from her son and reached out and grasped Moerv's again. "Dacoar," she said, stroking his hands sweetly. "I know. And now I know that you know, too."
"I know," said Moerv, "but I don't know how you know. Burfey knows, of course; but no one else knows. How do you know?"
"You can't call me 'Burfey,'" Burfohn said to Moerv with irritation. "Only she can call me 'Burfey.'"
"Be quiet, Burfey," said Matann aside to her son. "Why, what do you mean, 'no one else knows'? Everyone knows! Everyone in Todymody has known for two days!"
"Known what for two days, prahnumpa?" asked Burfohn anxiously.
"Known that Moerv's prahnumpa Sazy dropped like a stone in the shoz two days ago, as dead as dead!" she shot back peevishly at Burfohn. "Haven't you been listening?"
"Prahnumpa?" Moerv whispered hoarsely, then collapsed in a heap.
"What are you talking about?" demanded Burfohn thickly.
"What are you talking about?" Matann returned hotly.
"We're talking about Opumohn."
"Opumohn? where is Opumohn?"
"At the mezzohnmohr, prahnumpa."
"At the - is he, is he..." Matann groped for a stool. She felt suddenly chill and light-headed.
"Dacoar, prahnumpa. He's dead."
She gave a sharp little gasp, as if wincing as the hot blade pierced her heart, and released that pent-up flood of grief reserved by every prahnumpa against the realization of her darkest fear. Burfohn did his best to console her, but there was no solace possible from the ultimate tragedy; the loss of her child. She cried the bitter tears and wailed the haunting lonely wail until finally, stretching out her legs, she accidentally kicked Moerv's unconscious face with her foot. "A shainu should be alone at a time like this!" she squawked bitterly. "What is he doing here, anyway? Drag him outside!"
"A lot of help you've been!" Burfohn grunted in disgust as he dropped Moerv in the alley.
Todymody was the Laizuvrian capital and fortress. She stood astride the wide Luhvluhv, two great hives of activity and industry, left and right, connected by a constant stream of boats and barges, with narrow alleyways fanning out in all directions from the central hubs along the river, the quays. The long, low mounds of the huts were packed together hodge-podge, squeezed in wherever there was room, and the eaves of the shoam-thatched roofs oftentimes touched and overlapped. It was almost possible to travel through the city in a rainstorm without getting wet: the projecting roofs covered that much of the narrow alleys.
The city was broken into a larger network of randomly-shaped sections. A series of long, winding mounds encircled Todymody and divided it into neighborhoods according to the age of each area: as the population grew, it became necessary for the city to expand, and their defenses necessarily had to be expanded to accomodate the growth. These mounds also proved to be convenient, if at times roundabout, highways between parts of the city: their rounded tops were just wide enough for two carts to pass.
Nearly the entire Laizuvrian population lived inside the protection these mounds afforded. They would walk or take their boats out to work the shoz, which at times was quite some distance, but very few dared to face the peril that living outside the walls hazarded.
That is, the flooding.
The Luhvluhv, their great benefactress, was also their greatest enemy. Almost every season she could be counted on to overflow her banks and cover the shoz with five hands or more of water for a hand-day or so. At these times the Laizuvrians would patrol the dikes ceaselessly, watching for signs of failure, and the two halves of the city would be completely cut off from each other. The receding of the Luhvluhv was always cause for a brief celebration as the two sundered populations reunited, and the shoz would be refreshed with a new rich layer of silt left by the retreat of the flood.
But now, during the dry part of the season, the mounds almost seemed ridiculous.
The next morning, half of Todymody buzzed with the rumor of Opumohn's death. His body had mysteriously appeared overnight beside Sazy's in the left mezzohnmohr, wrapped in an unusual material, and once they had been able to identify him, which had entailed calling in several ums and numpas who then took the rumor all over the left half of the city, they sent to Matann for verification, and the story came out. Many who later heard the real explanation for Opumohn's appearance stubornly chose to prefer the mysterious rumor: it made a much better story; and so the shainus chilled their children's dreams for many seasons with the dark evening tale of the mysterious corpse.
Moerv was revived by morning passers-by from the peaceful sleep his blackout had eased into. He had spent the whole night, it turned out, in a rather uncomfortable sprawl across the alley, and he hobbled stiffly, rubbing an aching neck and gingerly touching a red spot on his forehead, as they led him to his old prahnum's hut. He seemed not to be surprised at all when, later in the day, he was told that his batohvahn was not to be found anywhere.
The children, both left and right, were out in force on the upstream dikes. It was something of a point of honor with them to be the first, or at least among the first, to see the fleet returning from the Ealdlazay Fair each season. Even the usually busy quays had seemed dull and boring while the traders had been away, and they always looked forward with great anticipation to the spectacle of the river full of boats. They felt somewhat cheated when they heard that a batohvahn had come in after dark in the night, and they were determined not to let another elude their vigilance. The fact, repeated by nearly every prahnumpa in the city, that the boats were not due to appear for another two days did nothing to dissuade them, and they noisily played, fought, argued, rolled one another down the embankments and climbed back up again all day long.
There was some new activity on the quays, too. Shainus were bringing their carts to help with the unloading, and a marshmancay was assembled at each quay to accomodate the flurry of trades which would erupt as soon as the boats were unloaded. To those shainus who had members at the Ealdlazay Fair, it had seemed that they had been gone much longer than a couple of hand-days, and the rumor of a shoz-fire there was very troubling.
But the children on look-out were disappointed: no returning boats that day. A few, remembering that one had come back in the dark, had to be led away forcibly by lecturing prahnums and prahnumpas at dusk. Not quite so many of them were there the next day (the boats are not due yet for another day! the warning had sounded), but the day after that the levees were crowded with eager eyes. They didn't have too long to wait, then: a few vahnsacks soon appeared in the shimmering haze of the distance, and then a few more, then the batohrams, and it was official! They were back.
They counted the boats as they appeared on the river (two hand-hands-and-three! Fo! Two hand-hands-and-four, you missed that little batohram. Fo, I didn't! You counted it twice! Fo! Dacoar! I counted three hand-hands! and so on), until the boats were close to the quays. Then the children lost all interest in counting, and they ran along the dike down to watch the unloading begin at the docks. Friends their own age who were lucky enough to be taken along were immediately sought out and lionized. (Did you see any Zhonoys? Dacoar! Nuzhunpa brought one right into camp! really? Were you afraid? Fo; it wasn't so big! Who's Nuzhunpa? What's a Zhonoy? I bet you never saw one! What did you get at the Ealdlazay Fair? What's that?)
Their shainus were engaged in pretty much the same conversations. They had slept not far upstream, and so came to the unloading well rested, and they energetically greeted friends and eagerly engaged in an amicable bartering of their treasures. As the day wore on and more and more boats unloaded the quays became very crowded indeed, and by the middle of the afternoon the heat of the sun had made the whole atmosphere most stiflingly pressing. But the Laizuvrians seemed to enjoy it all the more. Some of them even began crossing the Luhvluhv with their wares and trades, to try their luck in the other marshmancay, and soon the jostling of crafts in the water rivaled the jostling of numpas and ums on the quays. But eventually the boats had stopped coming in, and the sky became quite dark, and the carnival enthusiasm gave way to a more sensible resolve to get some rest and return the next day.
The whole circus was repeated beginning shortly after daybreak. More boats unloaded, more trades were made, children ran screaming to find their friends, and the surface of the Luhvluhv bobbed with boats. Shortly after mid-day, though, the last of the smaller crafts straggled in to the quays with the numpas and ums from the marshmancay and their shainus, and by evening the activity had died down to some scattered die-hard hawkers and a few bedraggled-looking latecomers. The quays were gradually cleared, the marshmancays were concluded; and the next day would bring a return to real labor again. The sharbohn vaisohs would begin drifting in, probably, and unloading them was always a long, hard, grueling task.
Monwyrt slipped over the fargs into the Luhvluhv as discreetly as he could in the pre-dawn mists. Nuzhunpa and Zholybet were still asleep, and he saw no reason to awaken them. Nuzhunpa had said the night before that they may not push off on the last short float to Todymody until well into the morning. He seemed to be in no great hurry to get there.
Zholybet obviously felt differently. She had showered Monwyrt with a constant stream of information about the city. He had politely listened as long as he could, but his eyes soon glazed over, and he felt much the same way he had during Snecchen's diatribes on lore, and he began to feel an itching claustrophobic desire to get out of the city even before he had ever seen it. Zholybet remained blithely unaware of the deepening stupor her lecture was inducing in Monwyrt's mind, and eagerly craned her neck as they rounded each meander of the river for the first glimpse of Todymody, without moderating her enthusiastic prattle.
So, this morning, Monwyrt resolved to let her sleep.
The rest of the flotilla was still silent, too, as far as he could see through the haze hanging over the river, and he quietly waded a little way upstream, then confidently pushed head-first into the cool current and swam a few awkward but effective strokes underwater.
There was something strangely satisfying about swimming underwater.
Zholybet had been quite surprised at his ability to do it: it seemed to be something the Mocwalwians particularly dreaded doing, for some reason. Once, he had found himself surfacing on the other side of the vaisoh from her, and she had become almost frantic looking for him by the time he had made his way around the bow to her again. His insistance on repeating the trick brought an abrupt end to the swimming lessons. Zholybet had silently glowered in the bow of the vaisoh the rest of the day, to Nuzhunpa's consternation and Monwyrt's signal amusement. But as time went on and she showed no signs of softening, he became worried himself, and he asked Nuzhunpa what it was about swimming underwater that was so disturbing.
"We have the fear of drowning driven into us by our shainus beginning almost at birth," he had answered, eyeing Monwyrt with a look the Traeppedelfere didn't understand, and concluding mysteriously, "but that's only part of it, I'm afraid." Monwyrt could not get him to explain further.
He daringly swam a little way out into the river, underwater again, but found that he could not stand where he came up; it was too deep already. After a brief instant of alarm, he knew what to do, and returned, underwater, to the sand bar again. He stood, shaking the water from his eyes with a sort of triumphant snort, and smiled to himself.
He felt good. Day by day his strength had returned, his appetite had amazed the Mocwalwians, and he had become restive and fidgity with nothing to do in the vaisoh. The strange and wonderful episode with Zholybet had left him with a sort of permanent inner zeal which was entirely alien to his experience, but pleasant nonetheless. He tried to place it, and the closest he could come was the recollection he had of his first run, but that wasn't it, either. That had filled him with a sense of freedom, and this feeling was just the opposite, sort of. It was like being a part of the forest: of belonging. It was confusing, that's what it was. But he felt good.
Monwyrt climbed out of the water and up the bank, and found he could see over the top of the thin mist. The vaisohs (even the river itself) were entirely hidden by it, and he slowly turned a full circle as he gazed in awe.
It was the eeriest sight Monwyrt ever beheld with waking eyes. The vast plain stretched out in every direction, endless, a colorless dun in the pre-dawn glow, without a single feature to help guage distance or direction. The cool dim mist around him melted seamlessly, indistinguishably, into the shoam slowly rising out of it in the plain, and the distant horizons of dull grey melded just as seamlessly into the blank early-morning sky. Monwyrt blinked. The air above the haze was clear, the sky cloudless; there was simply nothing to see. No hill, no mountain, nobody, no color; nothing.
He began to be a little apprehensive when he noticed that there was not a sound to be heard, either. He realized how much he missed the early riot of the forest: there were no treowdwellans in the plain. The morning fog seemed to muffle the quiet murmurings of the Luhvluhv, and the shoam-rattling breeze that always picked up a little with the rising sun had yet to arrive. But soon the voices of the awakening Laizuvrians began to cut through the moist air; and the sharp edge of the sun bit the horizon; and the breeze took its cue and gently stirred the plain, mixing the sediment of fog with the clear, quiescent air above. Like goety the veil was lifted; the river appeared, and colors returned. Monwyrt made his way back into the water and down toward the vaisohs.
The party was already wide awake and raucous. Faaloh was whipping up Groanyard's ire with a series of cutting (but accurate) remarks about her propensity to snore loudly, and his mimickry was roundly admired and appreciated by the cheerful group. Anyogatoh and Feeshare were engaged in a discussion about their shainus at home, and everyone was generally fresh and eager to end the long journey. Only Nuzhunpa seemed thoughtful: no more so than usual, to be sure, but seemingly so now in such marked contrast to the others.
Zholybet's first words upon awakening, "Where's Monwyrt!?" were said with an urgency that Nuzhunpa could not fail to notice, and he frowned.
"The Zhonoy hunter rises before the sun; he is well, now, and has begun to resume his old routines. I suppose he is running in the shoam, or perhaps," he added almost maliciously, "he is swimming underwater again."
Zholybet knit her eyebrows and looked anxiously out across the wide river.
"Zholy," Nuzhunpa said softly, almost against his will, "why?"
She bowed her head, hiding her eyes from him. "Oh, prahnum," she said emotionally, "what am I going to do? I'm so ugly, I'll never have an um! Fo, don't say anything; I know it's true; I know what they say about me, I have ears!"
Rokay, three vaisohs downstream, turned his head away in shame. Nuzhunpa put his arm on her shoulder and tried to silently comfort her.
"I nursed him back to life," she went on, in a low but expressive voice. "I taught him to swim, like he was my own child! And he likes me, prahnum; he thinks I'm pretty, not like you do, but really pretty, and I think - " She stopped suddenly.
"What do you think, Zholy?"
"I don't want to say, not here, not yet." She looked up, and there were tears in her eyes. "Oh, prahnum, why does he have to be a Zhonoy? Why does it matter so much? What am I going to do?"
"We'll talk about it when we get home. Maybe things will seem less confusing there. All right?" He squeezed her hand in his.
"Where will Monwyrt stay?" she asked, with a dreadful anguish in her eyes. The question had been on her mind for several days. "What will Paisohnprahn do with him? Where will they put him? You know how we - how they talk about the Zhonoys! What's going to happen to him, prahnum?" She searched his face pleadingly.
Nuzhunpa had wondered about that very point, too. He had debated in his mind since the return cruise began how best to bring a Zhonoy into Todymody, and had come up with two possibilities. The easiest way involved sacrificing Monwyrt to the public outcry which was almost sure to arise. The other, more risky way, meant befriending him, and perpetrating something of a hoax on their fellow citizens. Nuzhunpa read the plain tale written on his daughter's face, and sighed. He knew where his first loyalties lay; and even if it meant violating the sensibilities of the entire population of Todymody, he knew then what he had to do.
Zholybet slapped Monwyrt's face quite soundly and chastised him severely when he burst unexpectedly out of the water a few moments later, but she turned to her prahnum and smiled. A hurt Monwyrt quizzically looked at Nuzhunpa, as if to say, "what did I do?" and old Nuzhunpa could not keep from smiling, himself.
"Look!" Zholybet practically squealed with excitement, pointing ahead. "Todymody!"
It was nearly mid-day, and they had taken their customary place at the end of the party. Nuzhunpa nodded noncommittally at her observation, and Monwyrt, curious in spite of his satiation of matters Todymodian, squinted downstream.
"Where?" he asked.
"There!" she pointed insistantly. "Don't you see those huge mounds on both sides of the Luhvluhv?"
Monwyrt saw something that looked like a slight rise cut in two by the river in the distance. "That's Todymody?" He was singularly unimpressed.
It seemed to Zholybet that the river had stopped flowing altogether, so slow was their progress toward the city. Monwyrt began to have visions of great masses of Mocwalwians madly writhing through cramped corridors, and it suddenly seemed to him as though the river was rushing them down at an absolutely giddy rate. Nuzhunpa ummed the pairsh, silent.
When the first of their party had reached the quays, he handed the pairsh to Zholybet. "Bring us in slowly," he told her. "I need to talk to Monwyrt."
"Monwyrt," he said, while Zholybet listened intently from the bow, "we will soon be in Todymody. You know something of how Laizuvrians regard Zhonoys already; I want you to be prepared to be treated like a beast! Do not blame them; they don't know you as we have come to know you; just listen to me and be quiet!"
"Dacoar, I'm listening."
"Good." Nuzhunpa glanced up to see how close they were getting to the quays. "First of all, I don't want you to speak any Laizuvrian for a while. It would be a great surprise to all those who see you for the first time."
"But if they think I'm some sort of beast," objected Monwyrt, "wouldn't they change their minds if they knew I spoke their language, at least?"
"I don't want them to change their minds!" Nuzhunpa said, to Monwyrt's surprise. "Not right away, at any rate." He looked up at the quays again, and pulled out a thick rope. To Monwyrt's amazement and indignation, Nuzhunpa began to tie his hands behind him.
"What are you doing?" Monwyrt shouted, enraged. He pulled his hands free before Nuzhunpa could tighten the knot.
"Be quiet!" Nuzhunpa hissed. "You are a beast, do you understand? How are we supposed to get a beast of a Zhonoy safely through the alleys of Todymody to our hut unless it is securely tied?" He reknotted the rope around Monwyrt's wrists.
"To our hut?" cried Zholybet joyously.
"So your kind treatment has been a trick to get me to your foul city!" Monwyrt blurted, furious. "I won't do it! Give me my pack, and you won't be troubled with me any more. I can't believe you were so, so triewthnawiht!"
"Shut up and listen, you sahnsaervoh, you - " Zholybet groped for the word, then remembered it. "You cnawannawiht!" she said, triumphantly. The use of his native tongue jerked Monwyrt's attention away from his hasty plans for escape, and he quieted himself.
"How do you know that word?" he asked in wonder.
"She'll tell you later," snapped Nuzhunpa. "We don't have the time for it now. If you don't trust us yet, you are far more stupid than I thought! Now shut up, and stay that way, and let me tie you up before those on the quay see us!"
"But why?" Monwyrt didn't understand in the least.
"You will soon see," Nuzhunpa said. "Just remember; you are a slow Zhonoy, so act the part. Just don't get loose, do you understand? and one more thing: the very sight of beckyrev terrifies you!" He looked at the approaching docks and lowered his voice.
"That's not far from true, at least," Monwyrt commented, still confused.
"Ssssh!" Nuzhunpa hissed, and continued in a whisper. "No more talking until we are safely in our hut!" Monwyrt frowned. He wished Nuzhunpa would just tell him what was going on.
The ums and numpas of the advance party to the Ealdlazay Fair were joyously reunited with their shainus and friends as they arrived at the quays. They, at least, were excused from the chore of unloading: they had done their share of handling the heavy sharbohn already, and were free to go. By the time Nuzhunpa and Zholybet had tied their vaisoh to the dock and escorted Monwyrt the few steps up to the quay most of their party had dispersed, but the presence of the Zhonoy still attracted a great deal of attention amongst the other dockworkers.
"Here we go!" muttered Nuzhunpa under his breath to Monwyrt, as a large number of Laizuvrians approached. "Be careful!" he shouted to them. "Don't get too close!"
"Why not? What's that doing here?" They were pointing at Monwyrt.
"We got it at the Ealdlazay Fair," answered Nuzhunpa. "Stand back!"
"What do you mean, you 'got' it?" said one, suspiciously. "What do you want it for?"
"We traded for it," said Zholybet, warming to the charade.
"Dacoar," said Nuzhunpa, "and it's going to work for us!"
Monwyrt was chafing considerably under all this conversation, and at this last comment of Nuzhunpa's he whirled and faced him. "What you say?!" he demanded in Traeppedelferean.
"You one season work as Laizuvry, do as Paisohnprahn say!" Nuzhunpa responded in kind, reminding Monwyrt of the deal he had agreed to in order to come along rather than be revealed to Snecchen.
"Um," Monwyrt grunted. He had forgotten.
By now a fairly large crowd had gathered. "Get back!" Nuzhunpa warned them, jerking on Monwyrt's tether which was binding his hands behind his back.
"Arrrh!" Monwyrt roared suddenly, and the curious Laizuvrians suddenly jumped backwards. Zholybet had to stifle a smile, and Nuzhunpa was pleased. Apparently Monwyrt had figured out the game.
"Hey!" said one startled um. "How do you control that thing?"
"Dacoar, be careful!" cried another. "Do you know what you're doing?"
"Dacoar, I know what I'm doing," said Nuzhunpa smoothly. "I'm going to make a Laizuvrian out of this Zhonoy!" Wild laughter erupted at this ridiculous boast. What an idea! Nuzhunpa was going to be the butt of many a joke for many nights to come, they all thought.
They backed up again and instantly quieted down. "That Zhonoy's dangerous, Nuzhunpa!" said one numpa. "What makes you think you can control it at all, much less teach it anything?" The crowd nodded their heads and buzzed in agreement with this sentiment.
"For one thing," answered Nuzhunpa, "it's pretty smart." They looked at Monwyrt doubtfully. "For another, do any of you know - " he lowered his voice to a loud whisper, "what beckyrev is?"
That drew a blank. Then, after a moment, one of the numpas in back spoke up. "Isn't that some kind of poison?"
The crowd murmured uneasily.
"Dacoar!" said Nuzhunpa, "and this is what it looks like!" He drew something out of the bundle he had dropped beside him, careful to hide it behind his hand so that Monwyrt could not see what he had, and he showed it quickly to the attentive throng. There were some sharp gasps before he stuck it back into the bundle.
"So what?" asked the um in front again. "What's that thing supposed to do? What's to keep that Zhonoy from..." he looked around himself uncertainly, "er - doing something?"
"Dacoar, what?" asked several voices at once. Nuzhunpa closed his eyes and shook his head. He was obviously carrying on some momentous debate within himself. Finally, he looked at them, frowning.
"All right! but just this one time!" he began, mysteriously. "It takes more than a day for the Zhonoy to recover! But if it will prove to you that it works, and that the Zhonoy will be no threat to anyone, I'll do it! But only once, you understand!" He squinted at the faces of the crowd, as if still unsure whether he should take this drastic step. Some of them swallowed hard; the um in front turned a little pale, and leaned back slightly. They silently nodded their heads that they understood, and watched with fascination while Nuzhunpa drew the pod out of the bundle again.
Monwyrt felt this would be a good time to reiterate his speech, and he was well rewarded for his timing. Just when all eyes were glued on Nuzhunpa's bundle, he roared out again, louder and fiercer than ever.
They fell over each other in their haste to back away, and some of them actually screamed, to Monwyrt's everlasting pleasure. Nuzhunpa took advantage of this sudden wild outburst to demonstrate the beckyrev, and he brandished the little pod in Monwyrt's face with a flourish, crying, "Watch! Zhonoys hate beckyrev!"
Monwyrt's face was immediately contorted with apparently excrutiating pain, and he groveled on the ground, throwing himself about and curling up in a ball, shivering uncontrolably.
"Do you see what you made me do to it?" Nuzhunpa shouted accusingly to the mob. "Now, it will hardly be able to walk! I hope you are satisfied!"
Some of them tentatively approached the helpless slow. Dacoar, they were indeed satisfied. That was incredible! What backward beasts the Zhonoys must be! The spectators buzzed amongst themselves excitedly as they went back to work or to their huts: this was definately a new development! No one had ever dreamed of putting the wretched Zhonoys to work before, and Nuzhunpa's reputation rose considerably just at the attempt. If it would prove to be possible - why, what a change in their lives it could bring!
The verdict was definitely not in yet on whether Nuzhunpa's boast to make a Laizuvrian out of that slow was possible. While his control over the brute could not now be questioned, his faith in its alleged intelligence was not widely shared, and the Laizuvrians chuckled to themselves at what they unanimously believed to be Nuzhunpa's folly. The news of the scene at the quays spread though Todymody, left and right, like a flood.
At last Zholybet leaned against the door inside their hut. Monwyrt had played his part a little too convincingly, she thought: he shouldn't have made them drag and carry him all the way through the city like that. She was exhausted by it, and she knew her poor prahnum must be nearly overwhelmed. Nuzhunpa wearily sat down on a stool beside the grate and began to lay a fire, while Monwyrt looked around himself with curiosity. Finally, he addressed Nuzhunpa.
"Well," he said, mulling over the recent sequence of events, "I hope you know what you're doing!"
Nuzhunpa meditatively looked over at his daughter.
"So do I!" he said.